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Sustainability

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Adapting to the Coming Downshift

Energy supplies are tightening. Persistent pollutants are accumulating. Food security is declining. There is no going back to the days of reckless consumption, but there is a possibility--already being realized in communities across North America and around the world--of localizing, of living well as we learn to live well within immutable constraints. This book maps the transition to a more localized world.

The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States

Recycling is widely celebrated as an environmental success story. The accomplishments of the recycling movement can be seen in municipal practice, a thriving private recycling industry, and widespread public support and participation. In the United States, more people recycle than vote. But, as Samantha MacBride points out in this book, the goals of recycling--saving the earth (and trees), conserving resources, and greening the economy--are still far from being realized. The vast majority of solid wastes are still burned or buried.

The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World

America’s once-vibrant small-to-midsize cities–Syracuse, Worcester, Akron, Flint, Rockford, and others--increasingly resemble urban wastelands. Gutted by deindustrialization, outsourcing, and middle-class flight, disproportionately devastated by metro freeway systems that laid waste to the urban fabric and displaced the working poor, and struggling with pockets of poverty reminiscent of postcolonial squalor, small industrial cities--as a class–have become invisible to a public distracted by the Wall Street (big city) versus Main Street (small town) matchup.

Race, Class, and Sustainability

Popularized by such best-selling authors as Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Eric Schlosser, a growing food movement urges us to support sustainable agriculture by eating fresh food produced on local family farms. But many low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have been systematically deprived of access to healthy and sustainable food. These communities have been actively prevented from producing their own food and often live in “food deserts” where fast food is more common than fresh food.

Nature, Technology, and the Sustainable City

When rain falls on the city, it creates urban runoff that cause flooding, erosion, and water pollution. Municipal engineers manage a complex network of technical and natural systems to treat and remove these temporary water flows from cities as quickly as possible. Urban runoff is frequently discussed in terms of technical expertise and environmental management, but it encompasses a multitude of such nontechnical issues as land use, quality of life, governance, aesthetics, and community identity, and is central to the larger debates on creating more sustainable and livable cities.

The Unmaking of America's Environment, Security, and Independence

Americans take for granted that when we flip a switch the light will go on, when we turn up the thermostat the room will get warm, and when we pull up to the pump gas will be plentiful and relatively cheap. In The End of Energy, Michael Graetz shows us that we have been living an energy delusion for forty years. Until the 1970s, we produced domestically all the oil we needed to run our power plants, heat our homes, and fuel our cars. Since then, we have had to import most of the oil we use, much of it from the Middle East.

In today’s food system, farm workers face difficult and hazardous conditions, low-income neighborhoods lack supermarkets but abound in fast-food restaurants and liquor stores, food products emphasize convenience rather than wholesomeness, and the international reach of American fast-food franchises has been a major contributor to an epidemic of “globesity.” To combat these inequities and excesses, a movement for food justice has emerged in recent years seeking to transform the food system from seed to table.

Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability

Environmental issues often span long periods of time, far-flung areas, and labyrinthine layers of complexity. In Greening through IT, Bill Tomlinson investigates how the tools and techniques of information technology (IT) can help us tackle environmental problems at such vast scales. Tomlinson describes theoretical, technological, and social aspects of a growing interdisciplinary approach to sustainability, "Green IT," offering both a human-centered framework for understanding Green IT systems and specific examples and case studies of Green IT in action.

Paths to Ecological Order

We are living beyond our means, running up debts both economic and ecological, consuming the planet's resources at rates not remotely sustainable. But it's hard to imagine a different way. How can we live without cheap goods and easy credit? How can we consume without consuming the systems that support life? How can we live well and live within our means? In Treading Softly, Thomas Princen helps us imagine an alternative.

Humanity faces immense hurdles as it struggles to define the path toward a sustainable future. The multiple components of sustainability, all of which demand attention, make understanding the very concept of sustainability itself a challenge. Information about whether global agriculture can be made sustainable, for example, or calculations of the global need for water are useless unless we understand how these issues connect to each other and to other components of sustainability.

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