Yuck! Stinky!

[This post was written by Megan Rice, Jamie Price, and Angelina Peters in response to viewing the documentary Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home]

    Yuck! Stinky!
    Honey, take out the garbage!
    Honey, let’s keep our garbage in the garage for 3 months! Huh?

Retaining the family’s garbage in the garage is not generally an option couples discuss during dinner or when getting ready for the day. However, one couple did in fact take on this task. Asked by a friend who wanted to ask a question about how much garbage do we create and where does the garbage go after it leaves the curb. All great questions, but really keeping garbage and recycling for 3 months—some might call this a little crazy but this family did just that. They even brought garbage home from work, school, and parties—either really dedicated to the project or crazy. Perhaps a little of both.

Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home tackles this issue. A bold and respectable documentary that asks a family of five to keep all of their garbage and recycling. They weighed and put their wet garbage on the curb to avoid health department calls but everything else they kept in their garage. The primary purpose of the film is to make people aware of the impact each individual has on our environment in regards to our consumption (especially in North America).

Some things that stood out in our mind when watching this film were Continue Reading »


[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Sara Scott in response to viewing the documentary Foodmatters]

The documentary Foodmatters is shocking and revealing. The film brings up several points that the public should be aware of but are not. Most people are aware that fast food and processed food is bad for them, but are not aware of how much healthier they can be with raw foods (i.e. fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds). Many people do not realize that what we eat is what is causing many diseases that several thousand people die from yearly. This documentary really puts a new spin on the phrase “you are what you eat.”

Not many people are aware how effective nutrients and vitamins can be to our bodies. Yes, some people take vitamin supplements, but do they really know what those vitamins are good for? Do people even stop to think that instead of taking supplements daily, they should instead change their diet? America’s society is so fast-paced that it is hard to be able to eat healthily. Unfortunately, our way of living is costing us our health, therefore, our lives.

The film pointed out that vitamin deficiency is most likely the cause of many ailments, so when someone takes vitamin C to help fight a cold, they are really just giving their body the vitamin it already wanted. If that person did not have a vitamin C deficiency, there is a good chance they would not have gotten a cold in the first place.

Some interesting facts: Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Sara Scott in response to viewing the documentary Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home]

The film Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home addresses some compelling issues relating to recycling and social awareness. One interesting topic that comes up in the film is the general lack of knowledge relating to what really can and cannot be recycled. In addition, there are many packaging materials that are not recyclable but should be when considering how often consumers buy products packaged in those certain materials.

Reflecting on the first point, do people really know what they can put into the recycling bin? It is frequently assumed that all forms of plastic can go into the recycling bin, or that anything that is not compostable can be reused. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case. For example, plastic wrap, plastic bags, and Styrofoam cannot be recycled. These forms of packaging are generally used to package meat and other foods.

Another significant point along these lines Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Tina Xiong, and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

One of the many topics of change that the Coalition for a Livable Future‘s Regional Equity Atlas expands on is poverty and, more specifically, child poverty. The Atlas presents a figure of 31,000 people living in poverty in the Portland metro area in the year 2000 and almost a third of that number were children. A collection of research also cited by the source provides an unsettling correlation of poverty stricken children and elevated exposure to crime and an increased chance of teen pregnancy, family problems, and a lower standard of education. In order to improve these unfortunate circumstances it would be necessary to utilize preventative and tertiary methods.

Preventative methods would aid in addressing the root of the problem rather than simply taking measures that will just move the population of poor to other areas. Continue Reading »

Lauren Wheeler wrote an interesting reflection on historian William Cronon‘s plenary talk at the 2011 American Society for Environmental History conference in Phoenix a few weeks ago. Wheeler’s reflection is titled “Reflection on Sustainability: Cronon’s 2011 ASEH Plenary Address,” and Cronon’s talk was titled “Sustainability: A Short History for the Future.”

Among other things, Wheeler has the following to say: Continue Reading »

I attended the 2011 American Society for Environmental History conference in Phoenix a few days ago. One of the sessions I attended was an interdisciplinary round table discussion, titled “Sustainability and its Discontents.” Political science professor Thomas Princen brought up a number of thought-provoking points that are relevant to our work here with the SHP.

Princen works in the arena of formulating and applying social science frameworks that are future-oriented and normative, so as to devise solutions that will help society avoid catastrophe. He sees “sustainability” as an important, if contentious, concept, on the same level as “peace,” “freedom,” “progress,” and “democracy.” Critics may claim that “sustainability” is meaningless because it can be so vague, but Princen argues that the concept, nevertheless, is essential because it helps frame a constellation of topics and issues that are essential to present and future generations. The concept of sustainability has three key elements, in Princen’s view:

    1) Provides a long-term outlook

    2) Encourages consideration of systems approach that reflects more accurately the complex interactions between nature and society

    3) Is a scalable concept that can be applied from the household level to the global level, and at all points in-between

Princen provided a clear and concise rule-of-thumb that he applies when people bring up “sustainability.” He asks: “sustaining what, for how long, and for whom?”

Princen’s final point involved asking a “dream team” of historians to provide examples to shed light on five areas he finds critical to implementing sustainability measures in the present and future. These are:
Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Foster, Grant Russ, and Tina Xiong, and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

An elevated level of equity would be ideal through the aspect of civil society as the center piece placed in between the economy, the state, and environment. From this perspective, each neighboring sphere to civil society is still necessary to keep sustainability in balance. Appropriately, though, the state, operated by the means of democratic governance, would garner the most attention since it in turn largely manages equity to civil society. As civil society becomes more of the focal point by the democratic institution it would allow such equity of access and discourse on a large body of thought and literature for the civil body to express its interest and mediation on the path towards sustainability.

Democratic institutions also allow advantages for a larger portion of civil society to take part in political freedoms and participation, which is also needed during this long enduring trek towards sustainability. Sustainability itself nearly focuses on the following three similar dimensions as of civil society: the social, the environment and the economy. Equity would naturally gravitate to this central core of dimensions and thus produce a more dynamic, growing and accessible opportunities for civil society, and sustainability.

As Gary L. Larsen puts it Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Sara Scott, Sarah Griswold, and Jamie Price, and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

Environmentalism and sustainability is a very polarizing topic. There is no shortage of literature and media supporting sustainability. That being said, one has to dig a little deeper to discover literature, or other forms of media, that argue against it. In this day and age, it seems very ‘politically incorrect,’ and even risqué, to voice opinions arguing against sustainability. Today, we will discuss two articles that critique our societal concepts of sustainability and environmentalism. The articles that we will discuss are, “Roots of Sustainability” by Glenn M. Ricketts and “Is Sustainability Sustainable?” by Daniel Bonevac.[1]

Ricketts’ article is an historical perspective of how environmentalism and sustainability grew in American culture. Daniel Bonevac’s article is a philosophical attempt to define sustainability based on our society’s various definitions. Both articles critique the concept of sustainability from two very different approaches.

Continue Reading »

[This post was written by Megan Rice and Angelina Peters and complements previous students’ analysis of the question What is Sustainability?]

This title of this post is not in reference to a toddler being told to go to bed for the hundredth time. Rather, we assert that the title should be the cry among many university and college students. When did our higher learning institutions become the 1984 versions of Big Brother? With the criticism and failure of No Child Left Behind or President Obama’s Race to the Top, why are our universities and colleges abandoning academics for activism?

Continue Reading »

One of the many kinds of sustainability enigmas involve balancing the hidden social and environmental costs to produce and dispose of information technologies with the astounding array of diverse positive benefits of these technologies.

Computers, cell phones, and other electronic tools and toys continue to become increasingly important to more people, and in more ways. Though the lives of millions of us center on computers and electronic equipment, most of us tend not to think too deeply about how these devices are created, or how they are disposed of. Here in the Portland area, there seem to be some solutions to the disposal of superseded gadgets. The Metro Regional Government provides e-waste recycling, and Free Geek refurbishes old equipment and provides them at low- or no-cost to people and organizations in need.

How do we compare and balance the obvious importance of these technologies with the very real social, economic, and environmental issues posed by the creation and disposal of this stuff?

Continue Reading »

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