Sunday, March 6, 2011

The 5 Worst Unsustainable Practices In Society

Massive Traffic Jam on I-95 South near BaltimoreImage by fakoman via Flickr
By Chet Sisk

Some time ago, Western industrial age human kind decided that we can basically wreak havoc upon the earth to get our immediate needs met and not worry about the future. We also decided that some stuff we could do out of sheer ill-conceived politics and kick the consequences down the road.

Not good.

This unfortunate philosophical belief is not only at the center of some of the worst practices in human history (ie: slavery, strip mining, overgrazing, dictatorships, using oil as a medium of energy, etc), but also does a complete injustice to future generations. While there are so many of these unsustainable practices that are part of our modern world, there are several that seem to be particularly heinous because of their ability to rock the very foundation of civility and survivability of the human race. Let me share with you the 5 worst unsustainable practices that I've researched and how devastating they can be to us.

1. Travelling from a home in a suburb to a job in the city by automobile. The city planners who came up with the idea of suburban living while working way over in the crowded, congested city have to get the medal for the worst possible non-visionary thinking in the history of modern humanity. Short-sightedness doesn't even begin to excuse this practice that not only burns a non-renewable fuel, contributes to air pollution as well as takes away from the quality of life from those unfortunate folks that have to spend hours stuck in traffic. The good news is that more and more companies are speeding up their efforts to create telecommuting and 20 somethings have decided that living in the city where the work is makes more sense.

2. The creation of "Roundup Ready" genetically modified seeds. This unsustainable practice seems more like something that came from a bad science fiction B movie, but most folks don't even know it's happening. Monsanto, the mother of genetically modified plant biology, created something called "Roundup Ready" crops. Instead of spraying the herbicide Roundup to kill weeds that would hurt crops, farmer now only need get genetically engineered seeds from Monsanto that permit direct application of the Monsanto herbicide glyphosate.

This allows farmers to smother both their crops and crop land with the herbicide so as to be able to kill nearby weeds without killing the crops. Not only is it insane to have seeds that have herbicides built into them for consumers to ingest, but this practice has created the super weed, thus strengthening the very thing it is supposed to stop. I won't even talk about the $250 million extra income boost this practice gave to Monsanto.

3. The war on drugs. 40 years and over a trillion dollars later, the war on drugs is not only an utter failure, it is a national scandal. Why has it not worked? It's having the opposite effect of what it was supposedly designed to do. It has empowered drug cartels because of the money involved, illicit drug availability is more readily available now than ever and at a time when most nations are struggling with debts and calls for austerity, we're throwing money down the proverbial drain and nothing to show for it. I want to make it clear that this analysis is not a call for the legalization of drugs, but a re-evaluation of something that is unsustainable. There's gotta be a better way.

4. Modern day mortgages. Let's say you decide to buy a $500,000 home with $100,000 saved for the down payment or deposit. Check the key numbers:

Home price = $500,000
Deposit / down payment = $100,000
Loan = $400,000
Interest rate = 5%
Loan period = 30 years

Got a loan calculator? Got an adult beverage? Plug these numbers, take that drink, then check these number. You won't believe the following:

Monthly repayments (interest and principal) = $1,666.66
Total interest payable over 30 years = $600,000
Total amount payable over 30 years = $1,000,000

Under any other name, this would be called predatory or loan sharking. Buying a home under the modern bank loan conditions means that buying a home is not an investment, but a robbery. The current mortgage crisis means that the system, even for qualified buyers, is unsustainable.

5. Consumerism. Has any of that stuff you bought really made you happy? Or did it make you just want something else to fill in the gap? Don't be surprised. That's how it was designed. Consumerism is a social and economic order in many Western cultures that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. To be fair, consumerism happens around the world and is as old as Egyptian civilization. But when the Industrial Revolution exploded in Western societies, it turned the idea of living to consume items into a crack habit.

Advertising, mass production and efficient delivery systems made Consumerism a way of life, 24/7. The problem is that this level of consumption is requiring people to work 2 or 3 jobs today just to obtain some of the same stuff people bought just a few years ago. There is a reason there is great dissatisfaction in life and living. Consumerism is truly another form of addiction. As with all addictions, the addict will crash at some point.

For a long time, we've assigned the discussion of Sustainability over to Birkenstock-wearing tree huggers from California or Oregon. Now we're starting to reclaim Sustainability as just plain common sense. Some things we've done out of ignorance. On these 5 items, we can no longer use that excuse.

By Chet W. Sisk

Chet W. Sisk is an author, Life Coach, Sustainable Society Leadership educator and thought leader. His new book "Think This - Not That" challenges conventional wisdom that guides our society.

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1 comment:

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