Ed. Note: We are happy to share this reader response, which is part of a series submitted by undergraduate students at Loyola University Chicago from a course called ENVS 363: Sustainable Business Management.
As a student majoring in Business Management, I have not had the chance to enroll in several environment sustainability courses. However, my current role as a social activist and founder of a nonprofit organization, whose purpose is to enhance the mental and physical health of impoverished young adults in West Africa through the means of education, medical care and supplies, rehabilitation and social reinsertion programs has helped me encounter people who face different social challenges in their daily lives. Throughout my work experience, I have noticed that social injustice or inequality occurs in our society every day.
People, despite their different educational, social, political and religious background, play an important role in our economy and can be part of a successful economy without continuous economic growth. So, when talking about economic growth, people should think about consuming wisely or less. For instance, people should stop shopping just for “fun” or avoid buying articles or merchandises that they do not necessarily need, and think about recycling or donating to those in need if they no longer use them.
In lieu of consumption, people should also stop relying on the government and start taking initiative. Because we are in an era where the population is growing faster, the government would no longer be able to care for every single citizen. Even so, it will still mean cutting more taxes from other peoples’ paychecks or income (which is already a main topic in Washington, DC) to cover those expenses. So, individuals or companies should invest in different sustainable activities of their choice such as education, energy, healthcare etc. to help other people be self-sustainable as well as advocating for ecological or environmental causes to make the world a better place.
However, due to the capitalist system, companies or institutions are more concerned about making profits than the well-being of the population. For instance, it is sometimes challenging for a student with low income to have access to good education due to high costs of tuition. Whereas, some post high school graduates prefer to put an end to their educational ambition and look for a job because they cannot afford to take out loans.
As someone who has lived in Paris for several years, I can say that the level of consumption and work time in America is higher than that in France. In America, the amount of work hours does not allow parents to spend leisure time with their kids. Worst case scenario, people living in the same household barely see each other because of their different work schedules or lack of break time. From my point of view, I can say that the level of stress or anxiety is too high, and people should think about slowing down and caring for their well-being. For instance, I have a friend who has two jobs. She generally starts early in the morning and finishes late at night (twelve to fourteen hours shifts). Her work schedule does not allow her to spend free time with her kids or socialize with friends. Her lifestyle has made her a different person because she barely has time for herself and others. She only worries about how to make money to pay for her mortgage, personal expenses, or debts. A few days ago, it was brought to my attention that she has been hospitalized due to high blood pressure and lack of exercise.
In addition, the American healthcare systems is not as accessible as the French. As French people like to say “la santé n'a pas de prix,” meaning, health is priceless and people no matter their social status or income should be taking good care of when needed and at low costs. Unfortunately, it is not the same case in America because we live in a society where businesses focus more on revenue. It is sometimes challenging for people with low income or no insurance to have access to adequate healthcare. So, according to the Center for Humans and Nature, John de Graaf on his article “Workers of the World, relax!” states,
The outcome is poor health (the worst in the rich world), time stress, greater anxiety, and diminished happiness, including a suicide rate that now exceeds that for traffic fatalities. Yet our expenditures to soften these impacts (the highest health care costs in the world, for example) mean our economy grows faster than Europe’s, where people work and consume less and devote more time to social relationships. We are hamsters, turning the wheel faster and faster but never moving forward to better lives (par.11).
Therefore, Congressmen should think about passing some laws that would make healthcare accessible to the population.
According to Center for Humans and Nature, Marina Fischer- Kowalaski points out,
A reliable social safety net, a guarantee of basic need satisfaction. If people can seriously trust that whatever happens, they will never fall below a certain threshold; they may risk change and enjoy it. They may allow others to win, and trust that who wins will be up to them next time. They can seek the rewards that are available and attractive to them now—and still believe the future may look different.” (par. 6)
Moreover, I believe that even though we are living in a capitalist society, it does not make all of us capitalist, meaning all citizens or companies are not only focused on making profits. For instance, we have company such as SoilCapital.com, which helps farmers restore arable land and educates them on sustaining regenerative agriculture through market-based solutions. Therefore, for those of us who still believe that our economy and our relationship with the environment can change for the better, they should start using their resources or knowledge to teach others about sustainability.
Consequently, we know that the absolute delay in progress puts our humanity in disorder because of economic decline and the abandonment of social, cultural, and environmental programs that guarantee a lowest aspect of life. One can imagine what calamity or failure would be a bad development quota or percentage. Just as there is nothing worse than a labor-free community, there is nothing worse than a growth-free community. Therefore, a procedure of corrosion or impairment could be to decrease or even remove the burden or pressure on the atmosphere loads that bring no satisfaction. To understand the community of placid or undisturbed collapse and to grasp it, one must get out of the economy. This means asserting his or her influence over the rest of life, in hypothesis and method, but particularly in the minds. Finally, a colossal decline in the working agenda imposed to insure a job satisfaction for all is a prerequisite.