To GDP or Not To GDP

Looking for something relevant to today’s turmoil in Washington, I came across a month-old article from the New York Times talking about the relevance of GDP as a measure of well-being. Unsurprisingly the article by Louis Uchitelle grabbed onto many previous critical commentaries and pointed to fairly obvious flaws in the standard accounting system used to calculate GDP. This is just another example that shows how existing economic models and theories fail badly to track reality. I got the sense today that those working out the solution were engaged in a dialogue of the deaf and looking for the solution in a politically convenient place rather than facing the underlying… Read More

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Flushing for Sustainability

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Is luxury defined by disdain for shutting off lights? It would seem so if one listens to managers thinking about adding environmental features to their hotels. Speaking about a system widely used in Europe, a master switch that is activated by your room keycard when you enter, US hoteliers expressed skepticism about the acceptance of this in the US.

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Wall Street Has a Lesson for Sustainability

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It’s Saturday and the market gets a few days off before it can awaken again to the turmoil on Wall Street and Main Street. The media of all forms is full of news about bailouts, take-overs, debt acceptance, and many other arcane terms known only to those that have created the mess we are in. This blog is concerned with sustainability, not with financial security, so what’s the connection between sustainability and Wall Street.

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Premiumization and the Lehman Brothers Collapse

If you are unfamiliar with the word, premiumization, read Roger Cohen’s oped piece in today’s New York Times. Not satisfied with merely buying more and more stuff, some hyperwealthy people are looking for special, high-priced goods that satisfy some mysterious inner need I cannot begin to understand: M&M’s with your face on each piece; Renova Black, a “fashionable” toilet paper; or bottled water from the world’s cleanest place.

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Summer’s Over

The closest thing to sustainability I know is spending the summer at our ocean-side cottage in Maine. But like so many things in life, this too comes to a close every year. Tomorrow, my wife and I pack up the car and head back to Lexington. I am always gripped by commingled feelings of gratitude and of sadness. Thankful to be able to spend another year watching the incessant cycles of nature from my office window. Not that my life in the city is so bad, but here I do get a sense of what flourishing (the subject I write about) is really all about.

The sun sets across the water just for us everyday, as the beams reflecting off the surface of the bay aim directly at our house. No day is the same as the last except that in some way they are reassuringly and paradoxically the same.

The sadness comes in anticipating a different life in the city. I write that it is possible to flourish in the midst of a noisy, evermore crowded, consuming society, but I must admit I am not always certain. I probably should not admit this feeling since I am trying to sell my new book and its ideas. But the sadness is tempered by the vision of next year that has already started to form even before this season has closed. Maybe this is what sustainability is.

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Sustainability and September 11th

On this anniversary of 9/11, it seems most appropriate to reflect on the link between that day, the subsequent seven years, and what might seem a disconnected topic: sustainability. The carnage of that day is the epitome of unsustainability–a system stretched beyond the breaking point; the failure to return to the original equilibrium state; the emergence of new patterns of behavior. The response we have created in the United States is fashioned from the very same toolbox and beliefs and values that were in play right up to the event. They are fundamentally technological and technocratic, telling us that we can prevent the next regime changing event in our world… Read More

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Energy Interdependence

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I spent a long evening yesterday taking in the Republican Convention. The political message seemed to be very simple–divide and conquer. At least now we have a pretty clear choice ahead in November. But this is not a political blog. Even so, it is often very difficult to separate sustainability from politics and last night offered such an example.
Among the many foot-stamping pauses during Sarah Palin’s speech and those that preceded her on the podium, one of the loudest and most prolonged followed her invocation of “drill, baby, drill” and a long string of just about every form of energy supply technology, except for conservation. It was not just about keeping warm or filling up at the pump with cheap gas, it was all about independence, and that’s the topic I want to comment on.

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More Linguistic Misuse

Having just posted an article about the misuse of the word “sustainable,” I found this blog entry during my daily perusal of my Google alerts on the subject. I see that others have noticed the same problem with the proliferation of sustainable X.

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