Treating the symptoms of global ecological stress isn’t enough; we need to think about sustainability in an entirely different light
The developed world, increasingly aware of “inconvenient truths” about global warming and sustainability, is turning its attention to possible remedies—eco-efficiency, sustainable development, and corporate social responsibility, among others. But such measures are mere Band-Aids, and they may actually do more harm than good, says John Ehrenfeld, a pioneer in the field of industrial ecology. In this deeply considered book, Ehrenfeld challenges conventional understandings of “solving” environmental problems and offers a radically new set of strategies to attain sustainability.
The book is founded upon this new definition: sustainability is the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on Earth forever. There are obstacles to this hopeful vision, however, and overcoming them will require us to transform our behavior, both individually and collectively. Ehrenfeld identifies problematic cultural attributes—such as the unending consumption that characterizes modern life—and outlines practical steps toward developing sustainability as a mindset. By focusing on the “being” mode of human existence rather than on the unsustainable “having” mode we cling to now, he asserts, a sustainable world is within our reach.
John R. Ehrenfeld, who before his retirement was affiliated with the MIT Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development and the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering, now serves as executive director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology and is senior research scholar at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In 1999 he became the first recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Resources Institute. He lives in Lexington, MA.
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