Will Consumption Bounce Back?

Dot Earth, the NYTimes environmental blog, has published a series of posts asking whether the recession-induced drop in consumption can be maintained as we climb out of the hole we dug for ourselves. Three successive posts, featuring a Nobel prize winning economist, Kenneth Arrow, an iconoclastic economist, Herman Daly, and an MIT systems dynamicist, John Sterman, leave this question largely unanswered. Arrow gives the standard economist’s response, that growth is good and the current increase in savings will provide the capital to enable future growth without mucking up the world. Daly, who has championed a steady-state economic model that recognizes the connection of the abstraction that is the economists’ model… Read More

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Strange Synchronicity

I don’t think what I write here has anything much to do with sustainability, but the coincidence is too strange to pass over without noting it. For all Apple Macintosh computer users, as I have been forever in computer time, yesterday, August 28, was the official publication of Apple’s latest operating system, OS10.6, known better by its nickname, Snow Leopard. I made sure my copy would arrive on this very first possible day. I have been planning to wait a few days to install it while I read all the reports pouring in from people who have gone ahead, as I suspect a number of my prized, but ancient, applications… Read More

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Happiness (Continued)

I have been posting an entry about happiness periodically whenever I read something worthy of comment or have new thoughts about the subject. (Stealing a line from Paul Krugman, this post is wonkish.) Today’s blog entry was triggered about the front page essay in the Sunday Boston Globe’s Ideas section. The theme is that “[m]oney can improve your life, but not in the ways you think.” The argument begins with data showing that money spent for other people is valued higher on a happiness scale than money spent on oneself. Psychologists now say about this apparent contradiction to the old saying that money doesn’t buy happiness that: > The problem… Read More

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A Third Way

A [recent dialogue](http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/aug/17/environment-climate-change) in the Guardian between Paul Kingsnorth and George Monbiot has garnered a lot of attention. Both agree that the present course of industrial societies is unsustainable, but disagree on what to do about it. I do not know much about either person. I am not a regular reader of the Guardian where Monbiot writes, nor have I read the work of Kingsnorth. But the dialogue stands on its own. The argument weaves back and forth with each responding, in turn, to a statement made by the other. It is easy, but misleading, to summarize the positions in a few words as the headline writer has done. >… Read More

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Green Campuses, Brown Students

Green campuses were all over the news today. Maybe it’s because summer is coming to a close and going back to school is on our minds. The Princeton Review recently released its ratings for some 691 schools as part of its general guide to colleges. In their own press release they called the ratings: a measure of how environmentally friendly the institutions are on a scale of 60 to 99. As I have written on numerous occasions, this way of talking should send a signal to the reader to be cautious in interpreting and accepting the results. Nothing is ever “environmentally friendly!” The ratings may be a good indication of… Read More

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You Can’t Can Fool All the People . . .

Some time ago I picked Fiji Water as the Number 1 example of greenwashing from a list of the most egregious examples of 2008 prepared by the Greenwashing Brigade. Now more than half a year later, it shows up again in an exposé in Mother Jones, by Anna Lenzer. Lenzer spends much of the article commenting on the dreadful state of the Fijian community and the dictatorial behavior of the current ruling junta. She contrasts this to the marketing line of Fiji Water Company LLC. If, as the article claims, this brand is so popular among the glitterati, including President Obama (shame, shame), many of whom trumpet their concerns for… Read More

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Linnaeus’ Lost Art

I wonder how many people could identify Linnaeus, the father of our taxonomic system for classifying all the species on Earth. I even wonder how many would know the meaning of taxonomy. Are these questions merely examples of esoterica that mean little to daily life. Carol Kaesuk Yoon, [writing in the NYTimes](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/science/11naming.html?hpw=&pagewanted=all) says no. Bemoaning the loss of interest in taxonomy, she writes: > Despite the field’s now blatant modernity, with practitioners using DNA sequences, sophisticated evolutionary theory and supercomputers to order and name all of life, jobs for taxonomists continue to be in steady decline. The natural history collections crucial to the work are closeted or tossed. > >… Read More

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Greenwashing by Any Other Name . . .

One of the best attended sessions at the Academy of Management meeting included Rand Waddoups, Senior Director of Business Strategy & Sustainability at Wal-Mart, speaking about their “Sustainability Index.” I could not go because I was a speaker in a competing session, but I heard a recap from some colleagues, One of the themes that Wal-Mart has been pushing is that this new index will reduce the effect of greenwashing. > Eventually, the goal of the index is to help the consumer navigate through misleading claims and be able see past greenwashing. Rand Waddoups, Senior Director of Business Strategy & Sustainability at Wal-Mart said recently said at a [Greener by… Read More

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Social Entrepreneurs at the Academy of Management

This subject was highlighted in quite a few individual sessions. I listened to several panelists discuss social entrepreneur courses and their underlying premises. All those I heard spoke primarily about poverty alleviation in developing countries. Micro-financing, as popularized by Nobelist Mohammed Yunus, was one of the key themes. Two had students in their class create and operate a small fund in African countries. Others focused on providing some form of appropriate technology. One example was an irrigation pump to be driven by a bicycle. The idea came a cropper because the local population would not disassemble the bikes they relied on for transportation. The professor used this to point out… Read More

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