Brice Bunner

You might be more like Thoreau than you think


Image ©: Trip Advisor Now, I’m not exactly condoning vandalism as a way of changing our environmental situation, but what these two activists did begs one to ask “what length am I willing to go to make a difference?”

Upon reading the article about the couple with bolt cutters, my mind immediately went to Henry David Thoreau. It seems that some more drastic action is necessary when dealing with these outrageous atrocities against mother Nature, but maybe there are some better ways…

When civil service becomes illegal

Responsible citizens know that there is a level of involvement needed to keep our communities on the healthy track. Things like not littering, keeping the peace, and helping a neighbor all go toward a community that works together toward a better future. But there are some citizens who think what is being done to the environment requires some urging to get back on track.

The problem with this kind of civil service (because, after all, it is in the interest of the community) is that it becomes civil disobedience. And while Thoreau’s day was altogether different, the principle of his thinking is sound. What is the level of responsibility we need to have when the systems that are in place are failing to keep the planet safe? It’s clear that what we’ve collectively done to the planet with our consumption has tipped the scales toward environmental disaster.

The real showstopper is sustainability

Going out of the way of what is lawful to create change, while effective at raising awareness, is really not as valuable as, say: curbing your own consumption, reusing your resources as long as possible, recycling responsibly, and lobbying congress for legislative shifts to occur. The public spectacle of getting thrown in the slammer might be palatable for some—and we can applaud their devotion, but the principle of Thoreau’s was more about taking responsibility than it was about seeking a fight.

If there are other responsible methods of making change that don’t end in incarceration, all the better for everyone. At least, that’s the stance that Sage takes. It’s why we spend every day creating solutions that can benefit businesses, communities, and individuals without exhausting the planet’s resources. Make no mistake, however; this approach does not diminish the hatred we feel about e-waste, nor does it minimize what a crime it is against humanity when the US’s toxic devices are shipped to countries who can’t protect their borders. But our hope is that it makes a more available form of responsible sustainability for everyone.

The inspiration we can take

While there will be some who move toward deviant behavior to raise awareness and start movements, the vast majority of us won’t lift a finger. In that case, there is potency we can derive from Thoreau’s message and that of the activists. People like Edward Abbey, who through acts of desperation at the injustice of how much what we consume decimates the Earth, continue to act as an inspiration to anyone who really cares about the environment.

This inspiration doesn’t need to manifest itself in emulation, necessarily, but in philosophical agreement. In fact, Abbey’s book Desert Solitaire was one of the driving inspirations for Sage’s CEO Bob Houghton to get into sustainable technology. After all, the whole point of civil disobedience is that it’s a moral stand which raises the issue to public debate. But you don’t have to be as extreme as Edward—or act in disobedience, even—to be able to do raise that awareness; you can bring the issue up with your governmental representative or, in the case of curbing e-waste, with your IT department.

With this kind of discourse, and a thoughtful approach to making an equitable solution, businesses and governments are coerced with logic rather than vandalism. In fact, we can see it's the greed that got our environment here—so why not use that greed, then?

Deny the greedy to your own detriment

Businesses continue in unsustainable practices largely because it is more profitable than doing things the right way. So, when activists and civil disobedience leads to lengthy legal battles and even more loss of revenue, they are going to be looking at their dwindling bottom line with ire, rather than interest.

If you've taken business 101 or read the news at any point, you know that financial and economic solutions are what sway corporations. So we should be introducing solutions that save them money, make them money, or provide tangible benefits as motivation to reject the make-use-dispose culture our greed has gotten us to.

Exploring these solutions is what this blog is about. These thoughtful reflections on the trends in all these areas carry with them the hope that the solutions we come up with are better for us as individuals, for the companies we work for, the communities we live in, and the planet by which we exist.

And, principally, the solutions we investigate center around ITAD since the devices we use en masse for business are uniquely positioned to be the fulcrum of sustainability. No other single concept carries with it the potential for turning the tide of environmental damage as ending e-waste. Now that's something that even Thoreau would have appreciated.

About Sage

Sage Sustainable Electronics leads the market in sustainable IT asset management and disposition (ITAD) by reusing more and recycling less. Every year, businesses retire millions of used-but-still-useful technology products, creating the fastest growing business and consumer waste stream in the world. We strategically and passionately help companies reuse more and recycle less than anyone else in the industry.

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