TED Conversations

Nicholas Lukowiak


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Western culture is wasteful. Is it fair to suggest that most people have to ask themselves what is worth more: luxuries or the future?

Phones last up to a year, rarely fixed to be reused.

Most restaurant franchises and corporations supply more waste than small countries.

Car companies come out with new models every year.

Oil... enough said

Recycling is more of a fade then it is a requirement.

When is enough damage enough?


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  • Mar 26 2011: Fifty years ago, mankind had no ability to see the whole picture, to understand the full effects of our actions on other people, on society and on the planet. Now, we can. Measurements and computer analyses of the health of every aspect of society and the planet are readily available.
    Those of us who are aware of this window into the future, are like new parents, suddenly faced with the responsibility for taking care of other people, For some, this is a thrilling opportunity. For others, it is so terrifying that they retreat into shells of denial.
    As we mature, we will develop ways to manage our choices, in light of this breadth of information. We have two challenges: first, to honor basic equality and ensure that all people have access to the necessities of life, and second, to honor sustainability, to avoid damage to the Earth and its systems that support life.
    Until all people have access to food and water, no one should be using food for entertainment. Until everyone has basic preventive medical care, no one should get vanity cosmetic surgery. Until everyone has basic shelter, no one should have a second home. Until everyone is clothed, no one should have collections of shoes and games.
    In a sustainable world, widespread availability of clean energy gives people new employment opportunities and strengthens their access to basic rights, such as the right to plan their families. Appliances, clothing, and electronics are made to last, and to be totally recycled; there is no waste. We can envision this better world.
    Today, we are spiraling toward destruction of our basic resources. Individuals who live lightly on the Earth certainly help. However the problem is systemic, and demands systemic solutions.
    Society, through governments, must require the preservation of forests, the end of burning fossil fuel, and reductions in energy use with public transportation and efficient design.
    Your question is indeed fair, and important.

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