Grey Areas

During Angelina’s lecture on Tuesday discussion of the Amish people and their lifestyle led to a dialogue on the differences between technologies and tools. From my interpretation it was generally concluded that it was a grey area where depending on your definition, and context it could be either. Personally, I came to the conclusion that in such grey areas the definition that matters is that of the individual living in the situation. So if an Amish using a plow does not see it as technology then it is not technology(at least for him in the context he uses it). Although this way of defining leads to more ambiguity then clarification, I feel it holds some value in a world with so many differing experiences and understandings.


Later on in the lecture we were presented with a graph depicting the perceived sustainability of individuals and their countries as a whole. It was at this point where we got into another discussion of how do we define sustainability and how did each individual define it when assessing themselves? This was generally concluded to be a grey area as well with many different means of assessment and understanding. In relation to my previous conclusion I might argue that a sustainable lifestyle is one in which the person living it believes they are sustainable.


However this way of thinking leads to many issues. As the graphs depicted more then half the people in western societies believed they themselves were sustainable. Empirical evidence may suggest otherwise. This brought up the point that individuals often overestimate their own positive attributes while discounting the negatives. So in a world where sustainability is subjective to individual assessment and individuals tend to assess themselves more positively then is necessarily true, we end up in an unsustainable world filled with “sustainable” people.


This way of thinking allows for people to externalize the problem as someone else’s(seeing as they are “sustainable” so it’s others who must do more. In my opinion the remedy for the situation we live in is education and government. Education needs to take many forms and this is where I think marketing could have a big role in sustainability. However this is not enough, all of us in the class understand, at least to some extent that air travel is extremely negative but I would be very surprised if anyone will change their habits. I know I won’t. In short I think this is because all or at least most negatives are externalized. I receive the benefits of being able to travel while the costs remain relatively invisible. This is where I believe governing bodies must play a role. They represent the interests of societies (at least in theory) especially the ones individual actors may be too short sighted to see themselves.


Overtime, educations and laws will be internalized by individuals shaping societal norms and values. This process will lead to a differing contextual definition of sustainability then we have today and hopefully result in a society that is defines sustainability in a way that the earth can sustain.


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