Even advocates for more responsible, environmentally benign ways of life harbor misunderstandings of what “sustainability” is all about.
Recently, Scientific American posted an interesting and well written article on the Top Ten Myths about Sustainability written by senior science writer Michael D. Lemonick.
When a word becomes so popular you begin hearing it everywhere, in all sorts of marginally related or even unrelated contexts, it means one of two things. Either the word has devolved into a meaningless cliché, or it has real conceptual heft. “Green” (or, even worse, “going green”) falls squarely into the first category. But “sustainable,” which at first conjures up a similarly vague sense of environmental virtue, actually belongs in the second. True, you hear it applied to everything from cars to agriculture to economics. But that’s because the concept of sustainability is at its heart so simple that it legitimately applies to all these areas and more.
Despite its simplicity, however, sustainability is a concept people have a hard time wrapping their minds around. To help, Scientific American Earth 3.0 has consulted with several experts on the topic to find out what kinds of misconceptions they most often encounter. The result is this take on the top 10 myths about sustainability. And after this introduction, it’s clear which myth has to come first….
Myth 1: Nobody knows what sustainability really means.
Myth 2: Sustainability is all about the environment.
Myth 3: “Sustainable” is a synonym for “green.”
Myth 4: It’s all about recycling.
Myth 5: Sustainability is too expensive.
Myth 6: Sustainability means lowering our standard of living.
Myth 7: Consumer choices and grassroots activism, not government intervention, offer the fastest, most efficient routes to sustainability.
Myth 8: New technology is always the answer.
Myth 9: Sustainability is ultimately a population problem.
Myth 10: Once you understand the concept, living sustainably is a breeze to figure out.
By Michael D. Lemonick is a senior writer at Climate Central
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