sustainabooks discussion

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visions for a just and sustainable world

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message 1: by Meg (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:30AM) (new)

Meg (megbits) | 6 comments "Environmental, economic, and social sustainability" is a big topic - it seems strange we haven't started discussing yet!

One of the main things I've noticed about many books covering these issues is that they are primarily critiques of the status quo yet with little vision for what alternative, sustainable systems might look like. And even if they do provide a vision, there's not often strategy or tactics for how we might get there.

I think the Worldchanging book is an excellent example of something documenting the type of changes people are enacting to create a more sustainable world. I also added Cormac Cullinan's book Wild Law, because I think it does a good job of trying to picture what a central part of our society - its legal structures - would need to look like, if environmental sustainability is going to happen. One of his conclusions: right now most animals and parts of the Earth (like rivers) are 'objects' under the law, and thus, unlike human 'subjects,' cannot have rights. So a solution to having real legal protection for the environment, rather than lame regulatory protection, might be to remove oceans, trees, apes and the like from their 'object' status in the law, whether by treating them as subjects with rights or by coming up with an alternative category that provides better protection and new ways of thinking about them, other than simply as the passive recipients of human actions.

Has anyone else read anything they think does a good job of providing a vision for the future, and discussion of how to get there?


message 2: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Ryan (ryancwing) | 10 comments Mod
thats a really interesting concept presented by Wild Law. my initial reaction wonders if perhaps it's simply a semantics issue or whether it would actually present real, concrete change in how law is interpreted and/or written. i'll have to read the book and get the full argument that's presented.
another thing that occurs to me is the dread of the idea that sustainability would have to be imposed onto society by law vs. incentives for people to change the methods we currently use that compromise our world. i absolutely think law is a necessary component, but if we are to rely on writing, passing, and enforcing laws governing all action to protect the subjects (including oceans, trees, apes, etc) covered by them, it seems a stretch to think we would ever truly achieve sustainability.
a question regarding the proposal: does the author suggest how we will know if the newly protected subject's rights are violated? ie will the ocean give us a call when someone dumps waste out at sea so we can send out an emergency response team? (i realize said previous statement might come across a bit cynical, but i am serious about my question regarding the author's proposal.)
thanks for posting the first topic for our little group here! hopefully we can get some more members and get some more discussion going!


message 3: by Meg (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new)

Meg (megbits) | 6 comments I don't think that Cullinan by any means believes that we'll have a sustainable world just by creating new legal structures. But the truth is that we need something of a massive societal overhaul in order to have real sustainability, and law is a key component of our society (as you noted). "Wild Law" focuses on law, but doesn't see it as the end-all-be-all of societal change. But law can both reflect and act as a catalyst for key moral tenets of our society, and changing law to broaden who or what can have rights is definitely a way to move beyond the "oh, we'll eventually be sustainable because the free market will take care of it."
Consider how rights have been accorded to more and more people under the U.S. Constitution, and how this has both reflected changing conceptions about who counts as a person (say, when women were finally recognized as 'people' and told they could vote) or helped a large section of society make that change (as with the 13th and 14th amendments ending slavery). So we went from something like maybe 10% of the population counting as 'we the people' (propertied white men) to now, allegedly, 100% as people with equal rights. Perhaps we don't need to expand 'personhood' status to the ocean, but giving it rights could shift the mindset of how everyone regards it.

Enforcement of such law, as with every law, would obviously be a problem. Sometimes people don't speak up when they're not treated fairly under the law, either. But I think that there is a different type of language of the planet that we need to learn to pay attention to once more that will in fact tell us when we're violating the rights of an ecosystem or natural subject. When someone shows up bruised and bleeding, even if they can't speak, we might think maybe they've been assaulted right? I think plenty of natural subjects are doing that right now - showing up bruised and bleeding. Take the Klamath river in Oregon northern California: it's full of dead fish. Dick Cheney forced a decision through the Department of the Interior to divert more water from the river for farmers (in spite of law, actually!) and now the river has heated up to a point that tons of dead salmon are showing up on its banks. The signs might not be so obvious in every case, but a lot of it is just us learning to read a different type of language correctly.


message 4: by Ryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:52AM) (new)

Ryan (ryancwing) | 10 comments Mod
you've made some very good points. i really appreciate your analogy of the voter's rights amendments. well put. i'd definitely like to read this book, and don't want to comment much more until i do, as i feel without reading it i'm making comments out of a certain degree of ignorance that would likely be addressed by reading the book.

your comments about the enforcement of the law i think really show a couple of the biggest problems we have with environmental law. ie.. this administration, and other's before them, showing how law can certainly be written to allow the destruction of the environment in favor of short-term economic gains (often with those benefits showing up awfully close to the politicians own pocket book), and also how sometimes we have to wait to hear nature tell us it is damaged before we decide to legislate action to protect similar circumstances from reoccurring in the future. so, corruption and short-sightedness. two big problems with no simple solutions.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I believe a major factor is over-population but the average person really hates this idea so I have somewhat given up. I was a member of Zero Population growth for years. (zpg, does anyone remember that?)


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