I was playing a game of Settlers of Catan (or Die Siedler von Catan) with some friends and made an observation about my playing style. I definitely tried to win, but I would avoid placing settlements on opposite corners of hexes or otherwise doing anything to harm the total productivity of the board. I also overinvested in strategies that led to greater long term production at the expense of scoring points in the short run. Another player pointed out that the only objective of the game is to achieve 10 points before any other player. It doesn’t matter if you’re producing more resources or would have been the first to 20 points because the game ends as soon as someone gets 10 points. It doesn’t matter if the board is overpopulated or not once the game ends. You’re more likely to win if you can make the board less inhabitable for your opponents, so wasteful plays can help.

In real life, I am a conservationist because I know that the world lives on once I die. I feel connected to society and want to act in ways that are collectively best for everyone. I believe in policies that work in perpetuity, not 4 years, not my lifetime, or any other end of the world. That’s what sustainability is about.

One way I practice this is at the grocery store I purchase packages that may be slightly disfigured or the milk from the front with the earliest expiration date. If everyone always reached to the back to get the freshest milk, stores would routinely have to discard the older milk that doesn’t sell. If nobody buys the disfigured packages, they get thrown out. There’s nothing good about systematically wasting food.

Which milk do you buy?

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