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Mohammed R Mourtaja

Although we, humans, have been here for around 12 thousand years, we are rapidly changing Earth. When I looked at earth’s history and saw that we are a very small part of its history, I was astonished. It is a small point on a big paper, but this point is ruining the whole paper. This point is humans. There were a lot of interesting ideas in this seminar. One that I totally believe in: We also have a moral obligation to the present. It also made more sense when I learned that sustainability is not only an environmental one but also economic sustainability and social-issues-related sustainability. If we cannot solve the issues of the present, how would this help the future generations? The developed world, which does not represent more than 20% of the world's population, is consuming most of the resources in the world. How do we, as humans, allow this while there are hundreds of millions suffer from hunger each day? Finally, I am quoting this from Professor Jim’s talk: The question is not if we can achieve sustainability, but will we?

Here are some things I loved from the seminar:
1- Our age is a small sheet of whole toilet paper.
2- Is the world enough? If the consumption rate is the same as the US, we Would need 5 piles of earth.
3- We have the capacity to do produce enough food, energy, and eliminate energy. We could leave the world in a better place and address the present issues. However, the question is not if we can, but will we do those things?


I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar, and I thought Julianna and her company along with the other projects W&L alumni have been working on mentioned by Professor Humston was really inspiring. It also gave me hope when Julianna mentioned the increase of demand for sustainable products like those that Terravive produces and that industries which work sustainably can not only benefit the environment and future generations but could also be attractive for firms to invest in as well. One question I had could it be profit maximizing or beneficial for the majority of firms who maybe aren’t producing sustainably to do so considering consumers will presumably pay more for products that are labeled as sustainably sourced?
On another note, it was mentioned that population is not the true problem in comparison to overconsumption because resource use by people in developed nations is disproportionate to use in developing nations. However, isn’t population growth just as much of a pressing issue as we saw from the positive correlation between the population boom and the increase in global temperature?

Kate Hannon

I really enjoyed learning about Julianna Keeling’s company Terravive, which makes compostable products as an alternative to single-use plastics. A lot of the time, it feels like sustainability, though necessary, can come at the expense of economic success or the well-being of people today. Terravive, however, has come up with several ways to “sneak a sandwich”. For example, Terravive manufactures their products exclusively in the United States, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions by lowering emissions caused by freight transport. At the same time, manufacturing in the United States allows Terravive to ensure proper working conditions for their employees and promotes American manufacturing. Overall, Keeling’s presentation made me feel more hopeful about the feasibility of implementing sustainability measures. One question I had during this presentation, however, was how scalable these sustainable measures are among larger corporations, especially considering their obligation to maximize shareholder profits? Last Spring Term I took a Business and Social Responsibility class that left me feeling underwhelmed by the ability of corporations to self-regulate on environmental protection measures. How do we apply the sustainability policies of smaller companies like Terravive to major corporations like Fortune 500 companies?

Claire Jenkins

I found the Sustainability Webinar extremely interesting and informative. I enjoyed getting a more thorough understanding of what sustainability really is and what the Anthropocene truly means, followed by an inspiring story about Julianna’s company, Terravine, that is working to promote sustainability. After the first two presentations, it made me more hopeful to hear about this growing company that is continuing to innovate in ways to produce countless sustainable products. To begin, I was intrigued by Professor Casey’s point that sustainability is a moral obligation to the future, but we do still have a moral obligation to the present. He pointed out that people often think of sustainability as solely giving up things in the present so that we can consume in the future, and that people think of sustainability often times only in terms of the environment. However, the first two SDGs are the elimination of poverty and zero hunger, which deal with meeting present needs and wants, and it is not until goal #6 that the environment is directly mentioned. The 3 pillars of sustainability deal with more than the environment; they are environment sustainability, issues related to social sustainability, and economic sustainability.

Another point that really stuck with me was one from Professor Casey’s initial presentation, and one that I remember reading about in Quiggin’s piece. As evolved humans with enormous technological capabilities in our society today, we have the capacity to consume in a way that leaves us just as well off as we are right now and leave the world in a position where it is better for future generations. However, it is not a question of if we can do these things (because we can), but it is a question of will we do these things. Professor Humston went off of this point with his statement that increasing population is not the problem, consumption is. The issue of overconsumption is at the root of irresponsible resource use. It was shocking, and very disturbing, to me that if all the world’s population matched the US per-capita consumption rate, then we would need 5 Earths to support sustainably the level of consumption across the globe.

This made me really wonder: will large companies who have profited from years of production techniques that have polluted our atmosphere actually make the switch to sustainable methods? Right now, firms don’t have to pay full costs of pollution, instead they are able to pass off those costs to the environment. What will it truly take to incentive these firms to change their ways (because I truly don’t believe they will do it out of pure concern for the environment and future generations)?

William Dantini

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the seminar. Your presentation covered a decent amount of what we have already talked about in class (environmental economics), however I think that Prof. Humston and Ms. Keeling brought a great deal of perspective on what it all the things we talk about actually mean. Prof. Humston covered the Anthropocene, a concept I remember reading and hearing about from Elizabeth Kolbert. This perspective on the past thousands to billions of years really puts into perspective the idea of sustainability in the context of our planet's history. This has led me to the conclusion that although the world may suffer now, and in the worst case scenario humanity will perish sooner than anticipated, life on Earth will continue to thrive in some way, shape, or form.
On the other hand, Ms. Keeling did an excellent job showing how business incorporates into sustainability. In class, we read some of your research on sustainable methods to maintain coastlines and beaches. This gave me the sense of how we can take an economic theory, collect data, and formulate that theory into positive action. Ms. Keeling is the next step in the business of this kind of research, because she theorized a solution to the problem presented like in your research, then used her networks and business skills to make that idea a reality.
Sustainability isn't just about what problems we face in the Anthropocene. It is about understanding the purpose of our efforts in the grand scheme of things, both past and future. It is about taking our problems and creating real, workable, and multidimensional solutions to our problems.

Josh Fingerhut

I connected with much of Professor Humston's message on sustainability. Particularly, I agree with him that there are no "silver bullets" in building a more sustainable future. What is a realistic solution for one country may not be a realistic solution for another country. I can think of many examples of this. I would categorize nuclear energy as something that may work for some countries but be unfeasible for others. Nuclear energy has numerous advantages. There are no direct carbon emissions, there is no dependence on weather conditions, and one uranium pellet can produce the same amount of energy as roughly 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. However, nuclear power has massive upfront costs. Construction of a new plant may cost upwards of $4 billion and take as long as ten years. Jobs in nuclear power often require advanced degrees, shutting lower-educated workers out of newly developed jobs. So while nuclear energy may be a solution for sustainable energy in some countries, it may not be a "silver bullet", especially in developing countries.

Another area in which sustainable solutions are needed is agriculture. One such proposed solution is the use of soilless systems such as hydroponics. These soilless solutions require far less land, water, and herbicides and protect yields from severe weather events. However, while this may make soilless systems an attractive solution in certain nations, there are barriers that may prevent widespread implementation in developing countries. Again, startup costs are high and require large indoor buildings to produce at scale. For certain developing nations, up to half of the labor force is involved in agriculture. It is not feasible to have all of these workers immediately change their livelihoods. Therefore, soilless agriculture may play some role in a more sustainable global agriculture system but is far from a "silver bullet" solution.

Allyssa Utecht

I really enjoyed the seminar and how it discussed a lot of what I learn in my environmental and economics classes in a more applicable style. The various speakers combined various topics into a really well spoken discussion that proposed a lot of interesting questions. I really appreciated the multidimensional approach to sustainability and environmental issues that not only focused on the environment, but also economics and social aspects, balancing ecological and human needs. I found Professor Humston's description of engaged environmental citizenship particularly profound, when he illustrated the dual power of individual actions and choices, and collective actions and policy. I was impressed by Julianna's company and I thought it was really interesting how she actually began developing it in high school. Because of all of her connections to the school, I wonder if it is possible for our school to replace our current compostable to go containers and cups with her company's' products.

Alice Chen

I enjoyed the seminar and noted how it related to both environmental and development economics. I found Julianna's company to be fascinating and something I've also been interested in for the past few years. I loved how she said that we chose the wrong materials in the beginning to be used for plastics since there are many substitutes that we've created with innovative techniques. Her presentation actually reminded me of a company I was researching--Carbios--which focuses on biodegradable plastics. This company focuses on using enzymes for the degradation of plastic polymers which can make PLA plastics home compostable. It seems like this technology would make composting even easier than what we do at school (in which our plastics go through an industrial composter). I'm curious how Carbios' technology differs from Terravive and how other businesses will incorporate these compostable service wares in the future. This still leaves me with some questions though. For instance, composting doesn't seem super popular in the US, so how can there be a movement to encourage composting in the US so that we still don't harm wildlife in case some of this material ends up in their habitats?

Jackson Hotchkiss

There were several points from the lecture last night that I found very interesting and would like to touch on. From the thoughts that Professor Casey touched on, I really liked the idea that it is really hard to be against sustainability. To say the least I could not agree more. I know we talked about this concept in class, but last night it really sank in. If sustainability is presented in the proper way (Which I think Professor Casey did) I think most people would be hard-pressed to not be willing to present their children and grandchildren with equal opportunities. With that said, it is important to know that we can't know exactly what the future wants, so as a society we can only do what we know is best now. With this hope, we will be supplying the future with equal opportunities.

The next idea I really enjoyed was the ideas of Professor Humston and his thoughts on the Anthropocene. It is wild to think that we as humans are just a small shaving in the earth's ecological history. It is also very interesting that as a human race we have taken hold of the world as no other animal has. Chancing the environment we live in along with many ecosystem services.

Lastly, I just wanted to note that I thought it was very inspiring and encouraging to see the work that Julianna has done with her company Terravive. I think is a clear representation that no effort is too small. While Julianna might have started the idea in high school it is now helping to create a greener tomorrow. So if you cant makes a larger impact you can change the ways you live and every bit counts.

AJ Mabaka

I really enjoyed this webinar and the discussion that was had about sustainability. I was especially intrigued by Julianna's work with Terravive (I hope I've spelled this correctly) because she exemplifies such a relatable and feasible means of making positive change for the environment as a recent W&L alum. In particular, as other classmates have commented, I loved that she said "we chose the wrong materials" from which to make consumables because there are other viable options that are not only more sustainable but equally as efficient in terms of use. Additionally, I enjoyed a point Professor Humston made that I think helps highlight the urgent need for more sustainable living/development: humans have deemed this geologic time frame the "Anthropocene" due to the extreme degree to which we have changed our planet. Additionally, as species, humans have only existed for 300,000 years which is quite a small time frame when juxtaposed with the legacy of the dinosaurs (1165 million years) or the Earth itself (4.5 billion years old). Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the conversation that was had yesterday because it's inspiring to know that not only are discussions being held about sustainability and how to live/develop more sustainably, but people (like us!) are actually helping to drive sustainable change and development.

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