Bob Hoffman lectures on Economic Growth on November 9th. Photo by Alyssa DeFoe

Hoffman Declares Sustainable Living Doesn’t Exclude Economic Growth

Peace and Justice Lecture Cover

Kelsi Rippberger

Professor Bob Hoffman, assistant professor of economics, recently presented a Peace and Justice lecture about sustainable living and the role economic growth has in creating solutions for environmental problems. Mainly due to the improvement in technology over time, humans have become more efficient with the usage of our resources like energy and agriculture resulting in economic growth.

Hoffman noted that to achieve sustainable living, people need to be aware of their impact on the environment and on other people. Specifically, by putting a price on carbon people will realize the value of it as an energy resource and be accountable for their actions, which would be more effective than merely encouraging people to switch to greener energy. Introducing carbon as a commodity to the public would create a new awareness amongst people at the fiscal level since monetary gain in other capacities of greener energy garners attention.

There is logic behind this “carbon commodity” not just fiscally, but also morally. Currently no one pays for the CO2 emissions that they produce. The output of CO2 emissions are consequently costing people in various ways such as affecting sources of food, amount of water and resources available, and even human health. It makes you wonder why putting a value on carbon emissions hasn’t been instituted yet. But for this “carbon commodity” to have an impact, countries across the world would need to cooperate in order to establish that CO2 has value which would make CO2 emissions a commodity in itself. The implication of CO2 becoming a commodity is that other energy resources can compete with being utilized more broadly across countries and socio-economic levels. Cooperation isn’t just needed for carbon either, but amongst all forms of sustainable living among everyone.

There are a lot of ways to accomplish sustainable living, but no one thing will make a difference. Instead, there are numerous ways to reduce greenhouse gases in our atmosphere such as fracking, electric cars, and genetically modified foods. Hoffman agrees, “We have to accept incremental change.” The question is, how can we live sustainably as broke college students?

Despite not having heaps of cash lying around to build a wind machine, college students still have a voice and impact on the environment. Simple choices make all the difference in the
long run. For instance, swapping out plastic water bottles for reusable ones, carpooling when possible with others to reduce the imprint of our emission output, or simply conserving electricity by turning off lights when they’re not in use. Sustainable living is possible for everyone, even us, the average college students.