Thursday, October 1, 2009

the environment and its economies

One question that stands out in my mind from the question and answer session with Bob Janis is whether or not DePaul’s campus is being ‘greened’ out of concern for sustainability or because it just so happens that construction needs to happen on certain buildings and, hey, we might as well get our new building LEED certified while we’re doing this new construction.

This question directly relates to the Massive Change readings for this week, which break down certain economies- urban, market, and manufacturing- and discusses how each of these can be rethought to better suit the need for sustainability. DePaul’s role as a consuming institution can easily fit into any of these economies. Markets such as the manufacturing economy seem to be easier to navigate as an environmentally conscious institution or individual because we consume manufactured objects on a daily basis, and can choose to buy or not buy certain items. This idea is the mentality that leads to Bob Janis replace all the light fixtures at DePaul.

But other locations for sustainability such as ‘urban economies’ seem a little harder to navigate. Particularly with regard to building efficiency, how can we create an efficient urban economy without tearing everything down and starting over? I suppose that the answer comes in the interrelatedness of all economies, but complicating this is a need for a sense of urgency and the extent that reforming tangent economies can have on an urban economy. Without infrastructure, urban economies will continue to be detrimental to the urban environment.

I thought Bob Janis was well spoken an engaged in the subject of sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of DePaul, but it seems that large institutions like DePaul will have little patience for making changes unless there is an opportunity to profit. Whether this profit comes in the form of increased enrollment or favorable reviews, it is to be expected that large institutions will not change without a profit motive in mind. The question then becomes how can we put pressure on our institutions to see the urgency of these issues, or how can we create a way for them to create sustainability in a profitable fashion without using the usual annoying self-promotion tactics that we normally see. The relationship between consuming institutions’ need for economic sustainability and society’s need for environmental sustainability is a slippery slope but is one that can be navigated if we understand the needs of both.


  1. I completely agree that both aspects of economic development and conservation/sustainability need to be examined hand in hand. It is unrealistic to think that in today's world, everyone would want live more sustainably for the sake of the earth and our future as a species. Money holds more immediate power and although I don't personally agree with some of the ideas that emerge from environmental economics I think it is crucial for our future in development. Putting a price on ecosystem services makes sense to many people and if that is what needs to be considered in order to become more economically sustainable then we need to do what works.

  2. I think your post highlights one of the most important issues we have at DePaul. We are a non-profit educational institution, not a profit seeking company. As you go on to point out, it is certainly the students job to put things into perspective for the administration, we are the ones that make this institution run and we should have all an opinioin on how to make things better, mroe effecient, etc.