Design Thinking and Sustainability

Almost everything I read about sustainability is based on the idea that we, especially in the affluent, industrialized world, can continue to live as we have by using all the new tools that will flow from the green programs engaged in by firms with and without support from the government. Given this overwhelming view that sustainability is just a matter of more efficiency and new technologies, it is a pleasure to come upon people who see the issue as much more daunting, requiring change at the behavioral level. Chirag Mehta posted an interesting item about a form of design thinking that would aim at changing behavior. Here’s some of the… Read More

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Facebook and Sustainability

In another post about Facebook Kari Henley asks, “Are facebook friends really your friends?” The answer is by no means clear. But, in writing this column, Henley points to an important social fact–as a society, we are impoverished when it comes to relationships. > Technically then, it really doesn’t matter if you feel comforted by others online or feel nourished at church or connected at a company retreat; we all need varied experiences of friendship and community in our lives. I have written extensively about community and believe there is much to nosh on here. What’s behind the movement is essentially – we are starved for one another. That is… Read More

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Friends and Facebook

I am deeply skeptical about the benefits of social networking technology. My recent [post](http://www.johnehrenfeld.com/2009/01/a-friend-indeed.html) on the willingness of people to dump 10 friends from Facebook for a hamburger was about the value of a friend to our youth. I have read two articles by Kari Henley that talk about both sides of this issue. I’ll save the second for another post. The [first article](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kari-henley/facebook-and-kids-are-the_b_177357.html) warns against the negative impacts that the development of the brain will be overwhelmed by the experience of constant use of Facebook and other Internet social technologies. > A child’s brain reaches its full size at age six and the gray matter is actually the thickest… Read More

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Sustainable Luxury–Oh, Dear

The NYTimes ran an item linking luxury and sustainability. The reporter, at the least, recognized the irony in conflating the two concepts. > To many people, “sustainable luxury” is a term that might best be found in the dictionary under the entry for oxymoron, right alongside “postal service” and “military intelligence.” . . . After all, luxury often carries with it connotations of excess and waste, and it is associated with fashion, an industry prone to fads that change at least as quickly as the seasons. It is not just the matchup with luxury that is troublesome; it is the use of sustainable as a modifier of anything. I always… Read More

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Cradle-to-Cradle Is an Idea, Not a Trademark

This phrase, cradle-to-cradle (C2C), is a nicely put way of capturing the idea of material loop closing, a central theme in the field of industrial ecology. (Disclosure, I am the Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology) The phrase is used as a trademark by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), a firm certifying “eco-friendly” products according to a scheme the firm developed. The firm has recently come under fire for trying to limit use of the idea, says an article in FastCompany: > Last November in my article “The Mortal Messiah” I chronicled the tragedy of McDonough, the star-studded green designer who keeps short-circuiting his potentially world-changing C2C… Read More

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Really Changing Thinking

The WWF has a cute video on their website showing how much water it takes to produce a cup of latte. The theme is more than just about changing the way we think than about saving water. The message is to “Change the way you think about everything.” Sounds pretty good, but it really is not about *everything*. It is only about thinking and acting more eco-efficiently. And, as I often write, eco-efficiency can at best only reduce or slow down unsustainability, the signs of stress on us and on the world we inhabit. If you are concerned about the state of the world, then it’s good, as the WWF… Read More

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Accepting Reality

It is rare to see a political blogger, Matthew Yglesias, write about the reality of climate change behind the so-called political reality. The former is inexorable and a manifestation of Nature’s power, and is largely out of our hands to stop it in the near to medium term. The latter is a manifestation of human power and takes an instant to change. According to mythic tales, the Viking King Canute failed to stop the tide with his commands, and recognized, in this event, the power of man relative to nature, Unlike the bickering politicians we must listen to today, Canute humbly removed and never again wore his crown, the symbol… Read More

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Neurons and Sustainability

While preparing for a few presentations, I came upon a 2008 article on free will from the *Scientific American*. The article asks, if our actions are determined by neuronic structure, are we responsible for them? > Many scientists and philosophers are convinced that [free will](http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=does-free-will-arise-free) doesn’t exist at all. According to these skeptics, everything that happens is determined by what happened before—our actions are inevitable consequences of the events leading up to the action—and this fact makes it impossible for anyone to do anything that is truly free. This kind of anti-free will stance stretches back to 18th century philosophy, but the idea has recently been getting much more exposure… Read More

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Consumption and Narcissism

Connections between hyper-consumption and narcissism have been rarely reported. Slate had a [nice piece](http://www.slate.com/id/2213740/pagenum/all/#p2) today tying this personality disorder to much of our recent troubles. Here’s the lede: > The narcissists did it. Some commentators are fingering them as the culprits of the financial meltdown. A Bloomberg columnist [blamed](http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a_ac69DqFutQ) the conceited for our financial troubles in a piece titled “Harvard Narcissists With MBAs Killed Wall Street.” A Wall Street Journal [op-ed](http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123517419077037281.html) on California’s economy suggested that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desire for voter’s love (“It’s classic narcissism”) helped cause the state’s budget debacle. A forthcoming book, [The Narcissism Epidemic](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416575987?ie=UTF8&tag=slatmaga-20&link_code=as3&camp=211189&creative=373489&creativeASIN=1416575987), says we went on a national binge of I-deserve-it consumption that’s now resulting… Read More

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