Thursday, July 30

"You're just a bad person" undergrad business students told me today, when I played Devil's Advocate to their Environmental/Recycling Power Point end-of-class presentation.

I adopted a hypothetical stance, and asked them, "Why should I care?" I said, I'll speak for someone who is not in the room, (of 12 or so of us today.) "Once I let go of my trash, in my dumpster behind my building in South Beach, why do I care; it doesn't affect me..." I said. If you don't care about recycling and the earth, "You're just a bad person..." they finally informed me. (I do care... but am trying to figure out more about why without sounding didactic.)

Maybe not directly, they tried to explain, do you have pets? (I do, two cats,) but students next to me said no and were honest and shared that this was how they actually felt. Why do they care? They've heard lots of lectures and lots of facts and moral high ground, and I just don't think we respond well to that......"Oh, I'll be gone by then..."one added. Apparently some of my students really do care, and maybe more than I thought. They need the reasons for caring, though, and without sermons. "Education" was mentioned, being educated about our products and what they do to the environment... so glad this statement came from them!

We talked about how some businesses are making earth-friendly choices in cases where it is more economical, for the dollar reasons; we talked about how consumers are making choices based on eco-friendly companies. I just wanted them to vocalize why it really matters, to tell their classmates WHY they should care about this topic... they said they'd get back to me, and we have another person presenting on "Green" in Business tomorrow---we'll see what happens.

By the way, I did tell them about the Rumpke Dump/Landfill I passed each time I was driving to Miami University as an Undergrad, and how it quadrupled into mountainous proportions over night... and how someone was killed working in the landfill, and about the water pollution from the dump, etc... I asked them if they had ever heard of "NIMBY", not in my backyard... they hadn't. I told them what I remembered of being 10 or so and hearing that term in the news...

The Greener Grass Organization seems to help with some answers for my students and me...: "It absolutely makes no sense to accumulate waste. GGO: 'Is zero waste really possibly today?'

LL: It’s not a matter of it being possible—it’s vital.

LL: Unless we find another planet to live on, we’ve got to do something. Frankly, in my opinion, attitudes have been changing of course, but there not going to take a sharp turn until the environment really begins to collapse. As the environment begins to collapse were going to have to re-assess what were doing and why were doing it." Lynn Landes-- Zero Waste America

That requires a really hard look at civilization that bases its decisions on what makes money and what doesn’t make money. So we have people running around trying to develop products with no thought as to their impact on the environment – they’re just thinking what will make them money, what constitutes as a job and that sort of thing. Lynn Landes-- Zero Waste America

LL: That’s not only foolish and wasteful in terms of importing clothes and food from half way around the world. Even if the transportation was ‘energy free’ on a solar ship—still this society has lost the skills to survive. So basically were becoming over time more and more ignorant of what it takes to really survive in the most basic sense and to survive in a technology world.

LL: Waste is more than just what you may think of as trash.
Zero waste is just a recognition that what were doing isn’t going to work and doesn’t make sense. You cant be a secure nation, city or town if you rely on food clothing and shelter from far away.

How would you explain to someone why to care without sounding preachy... keep in mind I teach a lot of undergraduates.... ;) I am just now starting to really connect the dots on a lot of disjointed is starting to all matter to me more than ever...


  1. We definitely need to find a more sustainable way to live, but I think that's impossible in a capitalistic society. Capitalism is based on constant growth. More people. More purchases. More money. More, more. More.

    I fear that it's already too late. We are on the brink of the sixth mass extinction, only this time it's not a meteorite that's causing it, it's people. I don't know that making changes now will stop the decline in biodiversity, but I still think we have to try.

  2. well, maybe you could adress the human rights aspect -ie that we all have the right to clean air and water. Also from the perspective of the golden rule - do unto others and you would have them do unto you. we must care for the land not only for ourselves but for our neighbor. this is simply how we will survive as a species. we are caretakers of this earth. great question!!

  3. ooooh, you definitely have your work cut out for you. i honestly don't know how i would address this w/out sounds preachy. the first thought that comes to mind in reading your post is connectedness. our connectedness to each other and to the earth. just b/c we don't see the negative effects that our actions have on others doesn't mean they aren't real (i.e. not recycling and what that will mean to our neighbors and children). that's really not so much an academic take as it is in a belief that we depend on each other in a way most of us don't recognize. good luck!

  4. On the topic of waste, what is greater waste that looking into the eyes of a classroom of young, aspiring intellectuals and engineers (our nation's future) and saying "stop"?

    The crumb that continually gets caught in the throat of those who attempt to preach the gospel of environmental responsibility and chokes the message is the use of negative action demands: "Don't", "Stop", "Quit", "less", "hate", and their kin.

    This is what sounds preachy. Afterall, what does the archtypical preacher say? "Abstinence is virtue!" The puritan worldview of progress = Satan still pervades.

    Imagine you are a young college student, full of energy,ready to be unleashed upon the world to go out and make a difference- leave your mark upon the earth. At your graduation two speakers step to the podium the first says:

    "Human beings are a scourge upon the earth! The more that they accomplish, the more they destroy. By 2050 the environment will be in such decay that the world will not be fit for natural survival! The only hope is that we can delay this, but cutting back on all modern convenience, living as our ancestor's ancestors did and perhaps the end will be delayed."

    The second speaker clears his throat and approached the stage.

    "By 2050, the world and man will have a truly symbiotic relationship. The production of our food, energy, and lifestyle will return to the earth the very elements it needs to thrive. The Earth will be jeopardized more by a decline in human population than by its growth!"

    As this young budding graduate, which speaker inspires you more to take action? To make the environment an area of focus?

    As educators, as the generation responsible for the growth of the generation that WILL HAVE to face this issue with resolve, we have a responsibility to imbue those that follow us with a spirit of innovation towards proactive, creative solutions. The doomsday crap only inspires one to bury their head in the sand. Let us instead of being the fire-and-brimstone preacher spewing a message of fear and retraction, rather choose to be the good coach who tell the team "You can do it, your will do it, now hit the field and show 'em what you're made of!"

    Regarding MJ,with respect, two questions: What are China and Russia doing for the environment? Would the Light bulb have been invented without profit motive?

    I agree that capitalism's hunger for disposable endless consumption is currently contributing to the current problem, but, ironically, it is also the only hope of solution. Free markets answer needs. Those needs exist with or with out a free market. Closed economies must still provide for the people and national security, but they do so in an environment that does not encourage innovation for new solutions.

    Inspiration comes from positive action requests


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