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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Do you need a job to be sustainable?
December 20, 2009 - 3:48pm

I have a deep-seated ambivalence when it comes to the Huffington Post. On the other hand, I have a long-time respect (to the extent that I can respect any politician) for a former Senator named Fritz Hollings from South Carolina. Hollings recently wrote a column for the Huffington Post.

It's about jobs. And about the reflexive association Americans make between jobs and big business. ("Can't do anything that might hurt big business -- we need to protect our jobs!") And about how that association has things absolutely back-asswards.

Now economic globalization may introduce some significant ecological sustainability issues, but the main problem isn't that it's global. The main problem is that it's global solely and strictly in pursuit of bigger financial profits at the expense of absolutely anything else.

And while local jobs, local industry, local sourcing can bring ecological sustainability benefits, there's no guarantee that the farmer or the factory down the street isn't just as bad an emitter as the one on the next continent. (The only guarantee is that if it's true, you're more likely to be able to find out about it.)

The impacts of economic activity, per se, are neither inherently good nor inherently bad for the economy. But the impacts of economic activity (particularly economic investment) are absolutely critical to another leg of the sustainability stool -- economic sustainability. (In a nutshell -- it doesn't matter how many miles you drive if you can't afford to feed yourself.)

Hollings has some important observations. And he was a straight-talker (by professional politician standards, at least) long before John McCain turned that into a campaign slogan. His words are worth reading.

 

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