As you can see, oil dependency has been an issue for America for over 3 decades. Yet we continue to increase our consumption and dependency on oil every year. Just think how different our American lives would be without oil? People use and consume oil every day, yet rarely think about how important this natural resource is to our everyday lives. If America were to one day go without oil, all hell would break loose.
With this in mind, you need to understand what the future looks like as of now. China, a rising global power, is continuing to grow at an exponential rate. However, this growth demands oil to keep their economy functioning. Currently, America is the largest consumer of oil in the world. This position gives America purchasing power because we buy the most. However, if China is to surpass the US in the future, America loses much of its’ purchasing power to China. Now, we would still be able to get oil, but this oil prices would start sky rocketing. Even more importantly, oil is depleting fast. As I mentioned earlier, growing developed countries are starting to demand more oil. With this increase in competition of a diminishing resource, prices will once again, sky rocket.
Since our economy depends on oil to function, the rise in oil prices in the future is going to impact America exponentially if we keep our oil consuming habits. Of the 6.7 billion barrels a year America consumes, 75% goes to our transportation sector. There lies the answer! We can find ways to reduce our consumption every day through transportation. Americans are in love with their cars more than any other nation. We have the lowest gas tax, drive the most, hell, we even invented the damn things. But our car culture has a price. We are currently seeing it now with the rising gas prices and depleting oil reserves. Wars are already being fought over this valuable resource. But we can change and I can show you how…
How many people walk down the academic quad at sunset and take the time to watch as the final rays dance across the Appalachians in the distance? or How many people walk down that same path with their heads lowered into their phones, absorbed in their texting just trying to get to the next place as quickly as possible?
Alf Siewers, at the 10am Sustainability as Concept panel, described the situation above. So many people are wrapped up in the notion that they have to get to the next place, to the next location, as quickly as possible. We are losing sight of the beauty that surrounds us, and this fast-pace lifestyle is damaging to our society and our environment. He argued the point that loss of sustainability today is correlated to a loss of meaningfulness. Our current unsustainable approach to living on this Earth can be blamed upon a failure of imagination on our part.
This panel addressed the concept of sustainability in general and also in the context of the business world. But what really is sustainable development? Well, for the most part, the term means that it is development that focuses on having enough for future generations. Sustainable development is meant to reach a balance between resources used and resources regenerated. It is divided up into three different spheres: environmental, social, and economic, in which these spheres have some overlap. The basic goal for sustainable development is to live well within our means.
Professor Hendry then spoke about her experience with sustainability within organizations. Just over that last 10 years, she has witnessed firsthand the changes that companies are making to not only be more efficient with their resources but also to transition to “greener” practices. Patagonia, along with other major companies, make it their mission to focus on sustainability and to make a product that lasts. Sustainability matters, plain and simple. The businesses that come to realize this early on, become more efficient, save money, and contribute back to the world in a positive way. Stripping the planet of its natural resources is a path that we will not be able to travel on for too long. Change is happening, but is it happening fast enough?