Innovate Mississippi

Pointe Innovation Magazine Summer 2014

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www.innovate.ms 9 INNOVATION WORKS The Capacity to Endure Mahew McLaughlin here are countless definitions of sustainability. Some definitions focus exclusively on the environment, while others frame sustainability in a triple-boom-line context incorporating the environment, equity and economics or the planet, people and profit into the definition. A 1987 United Nations report described sustainability as, "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." While it is difficult for me to believe that sustainability should be limited to the environment, it is equally difficult for me to believe that sustainability can be reconciled by the three components of the triple-boom-line definitions. I view sustainability in a broad sense and that it is simply the capacity to endure. On a global scale, our capacity to endure is challenged every day. Our environmental and socioeconomic ecosystems are collapsing all over the world. Approximately 1.2 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day. And while we are blessed to live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, our capacity to endure in the United States is becoming increasingly more challenging. As a nation, we live in a time of significant federal and municipal financial strain. Federal spending is declining and local tax bases have been shrinking for years, if not decades. All the while, demand for social and municipal services is increasing. We have a struggling housing market, increasing energy costs, a rapidly aging workforce, poor education outcomes, increasing health care costs and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. Relative to the remainder of the United States, Mississippi is in much worse shape. In 2012, Mississippi had a poverty rate of 26.4 percent: the highest in the United States. In 2012, 35 percent of children in Mississippi were living in poverty: the highest in the United States. In 2012, and based upon a three-year average, Mississippi had a food insecurity rate of 20.9 percent: the highest in the United States. In 2012, Mississippi's low job rate was 36 percent: the highest in the United States. In 2011, Mississippi had the fih worst business creation rate. In 2011, Mississippi had an obesity rate of 34.9 percent: the highest in the United States. In 2011, Mississippi had a diabetes rate of 12.4 percent: the second highest in the United States. In 2011, Mississippi had the third worst high school degree rate, the fourth worst two-year degree rate and the second worst four-year degree rate. In 2011, less than one in five Mississippi eighth-graders was proficient in either math or reading: the second worst in the United States. Over the next 20 years, Mississippi has $3.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs and $1.4 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs. In addition, 14.2 percent of all bridges in Mississippi are considered structurally deficient and 51 percent of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition. To summarize, we are poor, not good at creating jobs or wealth, unhealthy, uneducated and have significant infrastructure issues. We are living in a normalized state of diminishing capacity to endure. We are simply not sustainable. I believe these trends can be reversed, and that it can start with how we do business in Mississippi. First, I believe that every business in Mississippi should ask a series of questions before making key decisions: How is this decision going to impact the people in our community? How is this decision going to impact the natural resources in our community? And finally, if I make a profit from this decision, is there a way for our community to benefit? T

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