The Sunday Read: ‘What Does Sustainable Living Look Like? Maybe Like Uruguay’

The Daily

Nov 20 2022 • 57 mins

Across the world, developed nations have locked themselves into unsustainable, energy-intensive lifestyles. As environmental collapse threatens, the journalist Noah Gallagher Shannon explores the lessons in sustainability that can be learned from looking “at smaller, perhaps even less prosperous nations” such as Uruguay.

“The task of shrinking our societal footprint is the most urgent problem of our era — and perhaps the most intractable,” writes Shannon, who explains that the problem of reducing our footprints further “isn’t that we don’t have models of sustainable living; it’s that few exist without poverty.”

Tracing Uruguay’s sustainability, Shannon shows how a relatively small population size and concentration (about half of the country’s 3.5 million people live in Montevideo, the capital) had long provided the country with a collective sense of purpose. He also shows how in such a tight-knit country, the inequalities reach a rapid boil, quoting a slogan of a Marxist-Leninist group called the Tupamaros: “Everybody dances or nobody dances.”

Looking for answers to both a structural and existential problem, Shannon questions what it would take to achieve energy independence.

This story was written by Noah Gallagher Shannon and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

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