Every Journey Begins with the First Step

Welcome. This is my very first post to this new website where I hope can convince you to start thinking about sustainability in an entirely new way. By way of introduction, I am a former MIT professor, who, after 30 years of using my MIT PhD in chemical engineering to solve environmental problems, followed by a presidential appointment to plan water policy for New England, has now focused my energy on how to produce long-term sustainability. I am building on and leveraging my past experience with several foci: environment, sustainability and technology. I have spent almost all of my now very long professional life doing research connected with the environment and applying whatever I learned to improve the way businesses and governments act towards it. Also, as a parent, and grandparent, I can’t but help become increasingly concerned about the long-term human impact of current trends, and am more personally committed to making change for future generations. In these last few years, having much more time to reflect, I have put my thoughts into a book, which, of course, you can purchase through this site.

Now that the book is soon to be available, I plan to use this website to continue to talk about these ideas as they mature and change. Some of the themes that you will read about repeatedly might appear as being critical and negative about the very subject I care most deeply about. That is definitely not the case. I am being critical in the philosophical or sociological sense, digging deep into those beliefs, values, and norms that drive our individual and collective societal activities, always trying to understand why so many of these underlying cultural forces fail so badly to get us what we strive for. My hope in this undertaking is to open up our thinking to wholly new ways of addressing the continually worsening unsustainability manifest in both the state of the natural world and our own human condition. I have been inspired to undertake this route by Einstein who said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

For me sustainability is not the same as sustainable development. My definition of sustainability

Sustainability is the possibility that humans
 and other life will flourish on Earth forever.

invokes a positive vision in place of the process-based notion of sustainable development. Flourishing in the key. It is a metaphor for all of the attributes humans have been aiming towards from our earliest times on Earth: health, goodness, loving relationships, authentic satisfaction, and many more. In our misdirected efforts to get there, we are merely putting Band-Aids on the wounds to nature and ourselves that are being created by the very ways we live in our modern world. The Band-Aids are important steps towards reversing the ominous trajectory we are on, but only can reduce unsustainability. Doing less damage is necessary, but is not the way toward sustainability.

In periodic posts to this website, I will continue to comment on my own ideas as well as those showing up on the web, in news media, and elsewhere. You may find some “answers” here, but that is not my intent. Many other websites offer up such answers. I believe it is the questions that are key. If one does not ask the right questions, the answers that float into view are very likely to be ineffective or worse: they may make the situation at hand more problematic and difficult. Another variation of Einsteins’s insight above. Again welcome to the world of sustainability as flourishing. Your ideas and comments are always welcome.

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