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Sustainability obstacles and support

In terms of the evolutionary argument I am outlining here, our ability to grasp the sustainability imperative faces two serious obstacles. The first is psychological, namely the inherited mental frameworks that reward us for the normalization and simplification of complex realities. The second is social, namely our economic and institutional arrangements designed to protect us from material wants, as well as from risk, shock, disorder and violent change. Both these psychological and social features of our lives militate against an ecological, systems-based worldview.

Luckily, our cultural institutions have evolved to offer a counterweight to the complacency and inertia encouraged by the other simple, security-focused principles governing our lives. If society is founded upon the principle of security, and promotes our complacent feeling of independence from the natural world, we might think of culture as the conscience of society. What culture does, particularly in the arts and sciences, is remind us of our frailty as human beings, our vulnerability to shocks and sudden changes, and our connectedness to the earth’s natural systems. In this sense, the arts and sciences, though we conventionally view them as opposites, in fact perform the same social function: they remind us of what lies beyond the dominant security paradigm of our societies—which tends to a simplified and binary view of human being and nature—by bringing us closer to a complex, systemic understanding of how the natural world works and our embeddedness within it. Whether by means of an essay on plant biology, or a stage play about family breakdown (like Hamlet ), the arts and sciences model complex worlds and the systemic interrelations that shape our lives. They expose complexities and connectivities in our world, and emphasize the material consequences of our actions to which we might otherwise remain oblivious. The close relation between the arts and sciences in the Western world is evidenced by the fact that their concerns have largely mirrored each other over time, from the ordered, hierarchical worldview in the classical and early modern periods, to the post-modern focus on connectivity, chaos, and emergence.

Life in the pre-modern world, in the memorable words of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, was mostly “nasty, brutish, and short.” By contrast, social and economic evolution has bestowed the inhabitants of the twenty-first century industrialized world with a lifestyle uniquely (though of course not wholly) insulated from physical hardship, infectious disease, and chronic violence. This insulation has come at a cost, however, namely our disconnection from the basic support systems of life: food, water and energy. This is a very recent development. At the beginning of the 20 th century, for example, almost half of Americans grew up on farms. Now, fewer than two percent do. We experience the staples of life only at their service endpoints: the supermarket, the faucet, the gas station. In this context, the real-world sources of food, water, and energy do not seem important, while supplies appear limitless. We are not prepared for the inevitable shortages of the future.

On the positive side, it is possible to imagine that the citizens of the developed world might rapidly reconnect to a systems view of natural resources. One product of our long species evolution as hunters and agricultural land managers is an adaptive trait the ecologist E. O. Wilson has called “biophilia,” that is, a love for the natural world that provides for us. In the few centuries of our fossil fuel modernity, this biophilia has become increasingly aestheticized and commodified—as landscape art, or nature tourism—and consequently marginalized from core social and economic decision structures. In the emerging age of environmental decline and resource scarcity, however, our inherited biophilia will play a key role in energizing the reform of industrialized societies toward a sustainable, renewable resource and energy future.

Review questions

How has the human capacity for normalization both helped and hindered social development, and what are its implications for sustainable reform of our industries, infrastructure, and way of life?

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Take an everyday consumer item—running shoes, or a cup of coffee—and briefly chart its course through the global consumer economy from the production of its materials to its disposal. What are its environmental impacts, and how might they be reduced?

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Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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