Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sustainability is a Misused Term

The following is from Congressman Rush Holt's newsletter

Sustainability is an often misused term. Many companies and organizations advertise their commitment to sustainability even as they make only a token nod toward environmentalism. As a society we need to take a hard look at each of our practices – in energy, building construction, transportation, manufacturing, and household activities—and ask ourselves if those practices can be sustained for decades, for generations, for centuries. If the practices cannot be sustained, then we should not pretend they are sustainable.

One simple way to evaluate a practice is to ask - is there a waste stream? If there is, the buildup of that waste makes the practice unsustainable. Not much of what we do is sustainable by this measure. We used to think the land and the oceans were vast enough to take our waste; now as we disrupt major ecosystems, begin to poison the oceans, and change our very climate in potentially disastrous ways, we must begin to rethink the limits of our practices. Avoiding a waste stream requires clever design, or alternatively, it requires finding complementary practices that can use what would be a waste stream as an input stream. The changes can be gradual as long as we do not thoughtlessly drift up against the limits. If we remember that unsustainable practices cannot be sustained and boldly invest in the research to understand the limits, the planning to avoid them, and the activism to bring everyone along in the necessary changes, we will thrive. This is not pessimistic thinking, far from it. Taking such an uncompromising “lifecycle” view of each of activity is not at all a prescription for hardship, for a cold, austere, deprived existence, although those who fear change will say so. The almost magical feature of trading goods and services is that economic activity is not a limited resource.


On Thursday, I met with a group of Liberian-Americans who live in Central New Jersey, and whom I invited in to discuss the discrimination the community has faced as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Among other things, my constituents mentioned that some in the Liberian-American community have become wary of identifying their ethnicity in order to avoid the stigma that has become attached to anyone from that region of the world. They are worried about some Liberians who are in the U.S. on temporary visas and may overstay their visas because of the difficulty of returning to the country where the disease is not yet under control. Mostly, they want better information about the efforts to control the disease in Liberia, about the appropriate handling of Liberians coming to America, and among the American public about the very low risk of contracting Ebola in the U.S.

Fear is overcoming common sense, and regrettably, residents in our country are feeling the backlash. Although Ebola is indeed deadly, communication of the disease requires particular, rare circumstances. We must not allow ill-informed fears to stigmatize an entire section of our nation’s population.

Looking Ahead

As you may know, my time in Congress is coming to a close on January 3. I am very pleased that last Tuesday, the voters of New Jersey's 12th Congressional District chose their next Representative: member of the NJ Assembly Bonnie Watson Coleman. The residents of the 12th District are engaged with their government more than in some districts. You know that Members of Congress should hear from their constituents more than every two years. Each year over the past sixteen years, they (you) have contacted me through many tens of thousands of letters, phone calls, and emails, some in response to these weekly electronic newsletters, ranging through almost every subject under the sun. In reading and responding to each, I have learned much about the issues that affect central New Jerseyans, and how those issues relate to your lives. I hope that the people of the 12th District will work with Representative-Elect Watson Coleman as well as you have worked with me.


Rush Holt
Member of Congress

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