Wheel in Copenhagen

From December 12th – 18th Wheel reporters Alice Henly, Christian Termyn and Snigdha Sur are attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is a blog about their experiences while in Copenhagen.

Photos by Snigdha Sur

Wheel: Yale Undergraduate Journal of Sustainable Development

We speak a 21st century language. Phrases such as sustainable development, climate change, energy infrastructure, food policy, public health, and social justice are commonplace. They can be heard from the struggling auto factories in Michigan to the depleted fisheries of Thailand, and from the roundtables of Copenhagen to toxic recycling depots in China.

Sometimes we use them to describe environmental problems. Other times they highlight the failures of government and markets. In reality, these words are inadequate. They fail to explain the emergent complications in global society.

To date, the media has done a poor job of communicating to the public about this discourse. Two approaches, both flawed, are generally used.

In the most popular scenario, we are told in colorful capital letters that people are going “green” and “ecofriendly.” “Greenness” stigmatizes important issues by playing up sentiment and trendiness at the expense of clarity.

In the second scenario, the reader is presented with articles full of jargon and highly technical terms, provincial to all but the well-informed expert. This type of reporting is inaccessible to a mainstream audience.

In response to our frustrations with the media, we created Wheel. This magazine represents our efforts to level these issues for an interested, but often uninformed, audience.

The wheel, an invention more than 6,000 years old, represents the foundational technology of modern society. The most important mechanical invention in history, the wheel is found in nearly every machine built since the Industrial Revolution. We are interested in the wheel and the tracks it makes—the footprint of our global society.

To discuss the nature and impact of that footprint, we need to return to the emerging vocabulary of the 21st century. Sustainable development, climate change, energy infrastructure, food policy, public health, and social justice. These concepts represent intersections of the environment, economics, and social issues. When the economy, the environment, or the social realm is seen in isolation, the quality of our actions and their indirect consequences are obscured. Only through interdisciplinary thought can we lay bare our web of relations.

We organize the magazine into three sections: GLOBAL CHALLENGES, LOCAL SOLUTIONS, and INDIVIDUAL CONNECTIONS. GLOBAL CHALLENGES outlines problems that we face on an international scale. LOCAL SOLUTIONS highlights inspiring projects and ventures that various groups, businesses, governments, communities, or other organizations, have developed. INDIVIDUAL CONNECTIONS speaks to the role played by one individual, be it the consumer, the student, the citizen, or the worker.

In the stories that follow, we do not shy away from contradiction or difficulty. We understand that there are always trade-offs and rarely magic bullets. Nonetheless, taking an honest account of our situation is the only way to move forward.

David Schlussel and Samuel Breidbart



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