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Friday, October 17, 2008

Time to broaden definition of what's sustainable


The all-electric vehicles from
Columbia ParCar offer one transportation
alternative to the internal combusion engine. (Photo courtesy of
Columbia ParCar, Reedsburg, WI.)


From an editorial in The Thomah Journal:

For all the attention the banking and insurance bailouts have received -- and anything that involves $1 trillion of taxpayer money deserves attention -- it’s only a short-term fix to what ails the American economy and American living arrangements. To solve its long-term problems, America needs a new sustainability agenda.

Unfortunately, discussions of sustainability are limited to the poor and whether it’s possible, for example, to guarantee adequate health care for everyone. That’s a very narrow definition. We need a broader view of sustainability that examines:

* Mobility. Exurban lifestyles in which people live in big houses and drive big automobiles to jobs located 30, 40 or 50 miles away impose a huge cost on the economy and environment. We need an agenda of sustainable neighborhoods that require us to drive fewer miles -- or not at all -- to meet basic needs.

* Energy. It’s unclear how much oil lies beneath the earth’s surface, but this much is beyond dispute: oil is a finite resource, and it will run out some day. It’s not too early to invest in clean, renewable energy sources and develop an alternative to the internal combustion engine. . . .

A nation that can massively subsidize exurban sprawl, non-renewable energy, corporate farms and pre-emptive war is capable of sustaining a sturdy safety net for our sickest, poorest and most vulnerable citizens. It’s just a matter of leaders adopting a new vision of what’s sustainable and what needs to change.

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