Until recently, I never really thought about the concept of sustainability. While some people have careers that revolve around ecological matters, others are busy students or stressed adults/parents working a 9-5 hour office job and probably rarely think about sustainability. It wasn’t until I recently tossed my plastic bottle into the regular trash can that my mother commented “well, it is your generation’s future.” That comment impacted me and resonated with me because while it is easy to quickly flash forward to what ones ideal future looks like, that picture perfect life probably doesn’t include the logistics and effort it takes to get there. How can either of us even fathom a future living in a world with our children and our children’s children if considerable collective effort isn’t met to upkeep a sustainable earth? Everything that my generation chooses to do now in terms of strengthening or weakening the economic and ecological aspects of life will impact how we all live life later on. After that comment that my mom made, I really make an effort now to complete those small but meaningful tasks that my parents have always nagged me about like turning off the lights when I’m not in the room, unplugging the outlets when I don’t need to use them, recycle the recyclables and filling up my reusable bottles. It is our world and we decide if its future is going to flourish or decline into inevitable destruction.
Sustainability is something that is taken very seriously by my family. I grew up with a garden and livestock at my house. I fully understood the concept of composting and turning waste into a producer of sustenance. However, I always had an intellectual curiousity on how one could quanitify sustainability. I am an active believer in climate change and I want to see what effects humans are having and hopefully help stop the problem and contribute to the solution. I am a history major. However, climate change is not really written about in the history books I have read. It is a ongoing study and I am both curious and excited to see what this class can teach me in order to help save the world from man made issues.
I hardly knew anything about sustainability before I came to Union. I knew as a political junkie that the issues related to climate change were sensitive, and sharply divided along political lines. But I didn’t really understand the issues themselves, nor their importance. Since then, I’ve learned so much more about sustainability than I could have imagined. I’ve learned about Climate Change and Global Warming, and the potentially devastating effects they could wreak on the planet. I’ve also learned about German society, as a German minor, and how Germans try to live in sustainable and eco-friendly ways. In my own life, I’ve tried to live more sustainably, and reduce my carbon footprint. I try to be conscious about what I can do to help save the planet.
I’d like to learn even more about sustainability, so I’m looking forward to this class. And, as a political science major, I want to understand more broadly how societies can adapt and change to this issue. To me, sustainability is passing on to the next generation the resources and beauty of the planet, keeping them in the same condition in which we found them. That takes work, especially given our current trends. I want to be a part of it.
Sustainability is a word that is used broadly and often, but it is a word that is difficult to boil down and conceptualize and can be defined and applied in many different ways. To me, sustainability refers to the development and cultivation of resources in a way that prolongs the life of our environment, ourselves, and the very resources that are being created. I think sustainability also refers to the concept of delayed gratification. Often, the easiest, cheapest and most immediately rewarding options are not good for the environment down the line. It can be tempting to operate in this way but the way to ensure positive outcomes down the line is by creating sustainable products that will have a lasting positive impact. While this costs more money and time, it is important to consider that sustainability is usually the better and more cost-effective option down the line to avoid expensive damage in the future due to poorly constructed products.
The Mathematics of Sustainability is a very interest concept for me. Ordinarily, I found math to be quite dull and linear. I enjoy looking at the world and conceptualizing various causalities for events that do not follow a simple equation. When it comes to studying sustainability however, it adds a crucial element in dissecting why various world leaders or other political actors do the things they do. For example, studying the sustainability of OPEC producing countries reveals a large percentage of these countries acting in accordance towards sustaining their oil outputs. I find this fascinating, because these economies depend almost entirely on the export of oil and natural gasses. Studying how the methodology and strategic actions taken by countries all across the world to preserve and sustain their resources and themselves, highlights a considerably important variable that would normally go unnoticed.
As we move towards 8 billion people, the calculations of sustainability become that much more critical. Resources such as water, electricity, natural gasses, Coffee, and Chocolate will all see their expanded status in luxuries or delicacies. There is no question that humanity will reach Earth’s carrying capacity (barring disease or war) so the main question that arises concerns the preemptive planning. How can humanity as a species brace for the increasing scarcity of resources? How do we choose to whom to allocate these resources too? Both of these questions represent powerful dilemmas but allude to vast importance of thinking in sustainable terms. For this reason, I am excited to pursue and educate myself on the mathematics of sustainability.
The word sustainability has been used frequently throughout my life. My father has worked in the waste business my entire life and has instilled the values of conservation and protection towards our environment. His company has always revolved around way to reduce waste from communities by picking up garbage more than once per week, as well as pushing for a stronger urge towards recycling. At a young age, my father would bring me to the transfer stations and teach me about the importance of recycling. He would take me to the landfills in South Florida to show me how waste can be broken down over time or unable to be broken down. This led to his desire to lead a more sustainable life rather than continue down an environmentally destructive path. The knowledge that my father has given me has shown me the difference that we can make, as well as the fact that there is still time to fix the mistakes that we have made. Throughout my entire life, I have tried to live with a sustainable mindset while doing my part in making sure to reduce waste.
Union has exposed me to sustainability in a way I had never been previously. Union’s commitment to sustainability has stimulated my interest in environmentalism and has encouraged me to reduce my own carbon footprint. Since coming to Union I am more cognizant of my own environmental practices and habits and I continue to recycle, compost, use a reusable water bottle, and support Octopus’s Garden and Ozone Café. While my relationship with sustainable living is a relatively new one, I am excited to learn more about how math relates to global issues such as agriculture and climate change. As a Psychology and Spanish double major, I have had little exposure to environmental studies in an academic setting, but I look forward to exploring sustainability through a quantitative lens and learning about how I can help to better the future of our planet.
What sustainability means to me has changed since coming to Union and being given the opportunity to study abroad. This past spring, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. In Florence, I lived with a host family whom was extremely environmentally conscious. Italy but also Florence in particular has severe air pollution issues, which have affected the health of many citizens. Their lack of clean air has lead to government intervention in order to regulate the amount of water households can use and the amount of time the heat can be left on. This has been done to improve some of the environmental problems that have left Florence with the worst air quality in all of Italy. Not only that, but my family made it their mission to compost, recycle, and minimize waste constantly. This is something that has also been shown to me at Union. The Students here have made it their mission to make composting and recyclying a part of our daily lives with composting and recycling bins located all throughout campus. While abroad, I became more aware of the importance of a sustainable lifestyle in order to reduce my own carbon footprint.
Sustainability to me means a functional, ongoing way for systems to work. I interacted closely with research in sustainability when I studied abroad on the New Zealand mini-term in the December of my Sophomore year at Union. I explored sustainability through the lens of energy resources, comparing renewable and non-renewable forms of energy, since New Zealand is the leader in renewable energy use. New Zealand has taken steps to use resources such as geothermal energy production, wind energy, hydro energy, and solar energy to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions, as well as to create a more sustainable way of living. I think that sustainability is something that is really commonly thought about throughout New Zealand culture, more so than in American culture, in my opinion. I think due to this way of thinking as well as due to the actions of politicians creating the Resource Management Act in New Zealand, their way of life has become very sustainable as compared to less sustainability in American culture. Sustainability is important to me to keep our society running and the Earth clean for generations to come, including and especially for my cutest cousin Grayson, seen below.
Here is the link to learn about the Resource Management Act of 1991.