Sustainability: Not JUST Living Well Within Means

Alf Siewers (gotta love the beard)

Alf Siewers and his dog (gotta love the beard)

I attended the 10am symposium in which the topic was: What is sustainability and how does this concept apply to Bucknell? The discussions were moderated by Peter Wilshusen and featured talks by Alf Siewers (English), David Kristjanson-Gural (Economics), and Jamie Hendry (Management). The talks were very interesting as each of the professors had a different take on what sustainability meant to them and the different issues surrounding sustainability based on their own definitions.

Alf Siewers spoke first and talked about sustainability from a more culture-based background. He referred to sustainability as “a story” multiple times and emphasized the need for meaning in our lives. If we care about being better people and making the world around us better, sustainable initiatives should come as a top priority for us. He encouraged us to not take for granted the sense of being in a physical world and engaging with others in a more personified way. Kristjanson-Gural (KG) was next to speak and he talked of sustainability first from a social justice perspective and then from an economic perspective. He noted that the concept of justice and the concept of sustainability are very much related but are separate at the same time. For example, you can have a system that is just but unsustainable. He brought up Nozick and the idea that equal opportunities for everyone are needed to realize human capabilities. However, as our economic system is currently set up, equal opportunities are not available for all. KG noted that capitalism is inherently unsustainable as it creates an unequal distribution of wealth. I’ve had KG for a political economy class before (he’s the man) so it was no surprise to me that he brought this up. I personally love that he challenges capitalism as a barrier to living in a sustainable world. Lastly, Jamie Hendry spoke about sustainability from a traditional, managerial perspective. Her talk related most to the discussion we’ve had in Biz/Gov’t/Society. Her message was that it is up to us, the young up-and-comers of the world, to use our creativity and innovation (that we’ve fostered at a top liberal arts institution 😉 ) to make the world a better place. Her buzz words for me were “social entrepreneurship.”  She brought up Patagonia and how it is a fine example of a company that is socially responsible and cares about the environment. For instance, each year, it donates 1% of its sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.

I was really satisfied that I chose to attend this symposium. What stood out for me were the different takes on sustainability from faculty members in different departments. Each of their stances was from a unique perspective. My definition for sustainability has always been “living well within means.” However, after listening to the panelists talk, it is clear that there are many more factors to take into consideration.



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