Watching Summer Vanish

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Summer is not officially over for a few weeks yet, but my personal version ended this weekend when we moved back to Lexington from Maine. This season has been particularly cruel, dousing us with rain and freezing us for the first part of the summer. Then in the middle of a great streak of gorgeous weather we had to pack up and leave. I do have to admit though, the beautiful days have followed us home at least for now. September is my New Year, not January 1st. Not just because the Jewish New Year comes at this time, but most of our yearly activities start in the Fall. That’s what retirement brings.

This is my time for reflection and commitment. The political year has been positive on the whole, but not yet living up to my hopes and aspirations. It’s very hard to be upbeat about the current state of our government. The founding fathers understood the need to have disagreements, but not become disagreeable. Ultimately we all have to pull on the same oars. Obama noted this characteristic of the late Senator Kennedy, saying in his eulogy, “And yet, as has been noted, while his causes became deeply personal, his disagreements never did.

I worry much about the level of violence that is creeping into our daily lives. More and more guns in places where they are least needed either for protection against militias or for hunting. I worry about the Supreme Court granting corporations more power. They have enough already—controlling and shaping our lives by shaping the way our markets work. Consumers live out of an addiction to stuff. My last blog noted the vast amount of space available just to store stuff that doesn’t fit into the ever-larger houses we live in. The financial markets have tilted the playing field catching almost all the surplus the economy produces rather than letting it trickle down as we are mostly tricked into believing. To give them more power to sway pubic opinion in political conversations so essential to individual freedom is to make a mockery of free speech. Corporations cannot speak anyway. Only people can speak. Individuals who speak have both a right to their words and a responsibility to admit to their authorship. Whoever speaks for a company can hide behind the anonymous shield of the immaterial corporate personhood created by the Supreme Court in little pieces over the past 200 years. Maybe “management” can speak for the economic interests of its stockholders and stakeholders (customers, supplies, neighbors, etc.), but it can never speak for the collective political interests of its stockholder owners.

What does all this have to do with sustainability? In my way of speaking, sustainability is the possibility of flourishing. Flourishing at its heart is about freedom—freedom from the domination of power of all sorts: corporate speech, guns in the schoolroom, usurious credit card practices, and on and on. Flourishing is also all about living in community at many scales from family units to the Nation to the whole Planet. Communities are little more than collections of people that care about the same things and work together to attain them. The deepest level of care is for others simply by virtue of their being human. Our forefathers said this simply by referring to one’s inalienable rights. It seems we are on the verge of forgetting this. When things, including inanimate objects like firms, become more important than people, we are flirting with a great danger that our whole complex system will falter and perhaps collapse.

I find it hard these days to remain optimistic about the future that my children and grandchildren will face during their lifetimes. But I am committed to seek solutions to today’s problems and continue working to persuade others to join in bringing about the deep changes in our culture and all its sub-systems necessary to slow down the momentum towards the precipice of unsustainability and shift the course toward sustainability. I have been writing this blog for about a year now building on my book. I would love to hear from those who are following along. I am heartened by the continuing positive response to the book. It’s out now in paperback, and I am hopeful it will continue to shake up readers’ ways of thinking and acting.

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1 Comments

Jesse Grosjean said:

I'm following along.

I don't have much to say on sustainability at this point, so I haven't commented before. I'm just reading and trying to soak in the ideas. Your blog has been a great source for this, thank you.

If you are taking votes, here are some posts that I'd like to see:

★ Your book's argument condensed down into a single blog post. If you had 5 paragraphs that everyone in the world would read, what would you write? What about 1 paragraph?

★ A "best of" post. I only started reading your blog a few months ago. It would be great to know what you think are the top 5 posts that you think everyone should read.

★ More examples and critiques. The book had the two flush toilet example. That really helped me begin to understand what you were talking about. You posted a critique of sustainability indexes a while back. That was a good example of how something that's trying to help, might actually hurt. But I want more. What about Google's PowerMeter project? Seems interesting and good to me, but I'd love to hear what you think.

Thanks again for your book and blog.

Jesse