Standing in Line for a Nike Air Yeezy

On Thursdays I go into Cambridge to attend class at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. Today as I was walking from the T stop, I passed a small crowd gathered in front of storefronts along the way. They had arrayed camp chairs and sleeping bags at the edge of the sidewalk. I thought at first that they were picketing a leather goods store and stopped to ask one of the crowd what was going on. They were waiting in line for the chance to buy a pair of [Nike Air Yeezy](http://www.nike.com/nikeos/p/sportswear/en_US/view_post?country=US&lang_locale=en_US&blog=en_US&post=en_US/2009/04/02/nike-air-yeezy) sneakers. They has been there since Wednesday afternoon and would wait until the sneakers were available on… Read More

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Shades of Green

One of my former PhD students, Andy Hoffman, now at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan is authoring a series of columns this week on the [OurValues website](http://www.readthespirit.com/ourvalues/2009/04/hoffman1-are-you-green.html). The topic is the competition, not always friendly, between what have become called the “bright” greens and the “dark” green. The first of his columns opens with: > There’s a schism emerging between two camps within the environmental movement. > On the one extreme, the dark green groups—such as Greenpeace USA and Friends of the Earth—seek radical social change to solve environmental problems, most often by confronting the corporate sector. As Alex Steffen explains it, they tend to… Read More

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Misplaced Social Science

I came across this intriguing item today. Climate Feedback [reported](http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/04/ihdp_should_90_of_climate_chan.html) on the Open Meeting of the [International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change](http://www.ihdp.unu.edu/) (IHDP), a research arm of the UN. > One of today’s opening keynotes was from Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research. After a daunting rundown of climate change threats, Schellnhuber – a physicist in a sea of human-dimensioners – urged social science to take the front seat on the problem. “Speaking as a natural scientist,” he said, “I think 90% of research [on global change] will have to be done by the social scientists.” > > Physicists, he told me at the… Read More

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Obama, Science, and Consumption

President Obama [spoke](http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-the-National-Academy-of-Sciences-Annual-Meeting/) to the National Academy of Sciences reversing the isolation of science from the Bush White House. One notable line was the ad lib addition of a caveat to the young to be more than consumers. The cause for sustainability and a shift from our hyper-consumerism would be greatly enhanced if President Obama would address this topic with more than an aside. Without some major shift in the culture, all the science in the world cannot reverse the growing unsustainability. While global climate change is arguably the biggest issue, it is only one of many. Science can do little to satisfy the existential concerns of humankind, without which… Read More

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Escaping from the Academic Iron Cage

Universities play a major role in adding new beliefs and norms to the cultural structure that drives society. They have been largely responsible for maintaining the Cartesian model of reality and the scientific method by which we create knowledge. This centerpiece of modernity has been credited with much of the progress generated over the past 3 to 4 centuries. In more recent times this central belief has come under fire for several reasons. The most critical is that it is not up to the task of understanding the world in all of its complexity. The second is derivative of the first. The failure to appreciate this complexity and act accordingly… Read More

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A New Book: “Design is the Problem”

Industrial designer Nathan Shedroff has recently published released his latest book, [Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must Be Sustainable](http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/sustainable-design/). He explores many of the ideas and themes in a [long interview](http://www.core77.com/blog/featured_items/design_is_the_problem_an_interview_with_nathan_shedroff_13049.asp) with [Core77](http://www.core77.com/)’s Editor-in-chief Allan Chochinov. Chochinov raves about the book. > Filled with insanely pragmatic advice, persuasive argument, and impassioned calls for action, Nathan’s book is essential reading for all designers, design students, business people, business students, innovation specialists, and advocates of all stripes. Shedroff clearly does understand the power of objects to affect people’s beliefs and values. > Connecting to people’s values and meanings is going to be critical in order to change behaviors and… Read More

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More Financial Woes

The NYTimes is running a [series of vignettes](http://projects.nytimes.com/living-with-less?hp) about the impact of the recession on people. I thought this one about “What’s a Necessity” was interesting. It focuses on a bunch of everyday devices we all use. The data come from a poll by the Pew Research Center. Here’s a few pieces of the data. > The response that most impressed me was to the question of whether home air conditioning was a necessity. In 2006, 70 percent deemed it a necessity. This year the figure was down to 54 percent. Dishwashers, clothes dryers, microwave ovens and television sets are also seen as necessities by fewer people now than in… Read More

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Plugging In to the Right Socket

Finding that life doesn’t hang on some piece of consumer electronics is a rare event in today’s busy world. But some do manage to discover the satisfaction available from engaging directly in the world without the filters that gadgets place in front of you. Bella English has an [article](http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/articles/2009/04/25/wired_differently/?page=full) titled, ‘Young and Unplugged,’ in the daily magazine section of the Boston Globe. She pictures a young couple living without constantly “plugging” into TV, iPods, mobile phones, etc. They are among a small cohort of their age group that lives without such devices. > “Worshiping at the church of the pixel comes at the expense of real-life experience,” says Alan, who… Read More

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EARTH DAY 2009–Just Before Logging Off

I went by train today to New Haven to visit my International Society for Industrial Ecology office at Yale. To my surprise and delight, the cab driver turned to me before we pulled away from the station and handed me a tote of recycled materials and a well-designed information card. The tote carried an Earth Day logo and the company name, Metro Cabs. Nice way to start the day. On the positive side, the day continued with a highly complimentary note from a faculty member at Penn State who had just read my book. Such feedback always makes my day, but coming on Earth Day, this seemed extra special. Then… Read More

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Earth Day 2009–Still Stuck

It is easy to find much written this day by people deeply involved in environmentalism and the greening world. I found an unlikely source with a highly relevant lesson for this day. One of the most respected management gurus and teachers, Henry Mintzberg, steps out of his usual role and delivers a powerful critique of business. His words ring far beyond the world of MBA’s who take the brunt of his blows, reaching to the core of our stuckness in unsustainability. Mintzberg is seeking the roots of the financial crisis and lights on management. Citing an analysis he and colleagues did tracking a group of “star graduates” from the Harvard… Read More

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