When is Forever Not Forever?

I have defined sustainability as the possibility that all life will flourish on the planet forever. Each word is carefully chosen, but it is the whole definition that is important. The expression is designed to evoke an image of a positive future, but not one where everything is defined and clear. It is designed to contrast starkly with the concepts of sustainable development or greening, both of which dominate the scene and both of which are approaches to reduce unsustainability. These last two concepts are inherently tied to the past and present, but not to the future. The future is to be like the present, but without certain threats like… Read More

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Screens and Sadness

After I wrote the last post, I read the full text of the Kaiser report on media use by 8 to 18-year old children. The part describing the impact on learning and feelings was especially troubling. I know that there are many who do not buy the arguments I make in my book, based largely on psychology or philosophy, that technology has the potential to submerge one’s sense of worldliness and understanding of what it means to be human. The Kaiser study provides some convincing data that this danger is quire real. Here are the key findings. > **Youth who spend more time with media report lower grades and lower… Read More

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Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

I saw a couple of reports a few days ago that were quite disturbing. I know that children have been spending more and more time in front of some sort of screen, but I was shocked by the actual numbers involved. Neilsen Company, based on survey data, [reports](http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/tv-viewing-among-kids-at-an-eight-year-high/print/) that preschoolers, ages 2 to 5, spend 32.5 hours in front of a television screen. I guess their thumbs are not yet developed enough to allow them to devote additional hours to texting. The next older cohort, from 6 to 11, spend a little less time, 28 hours on the average. Neilsen explains the difference simply as the result of spending more… Read More

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Green Guilt

One of the underlying themes of my book is that unsustainability has arisen as an unintended consequences of our current cultural paradigm. For sustainability as flourishing to appear, the beliefs and norms that constitute that paradigm have to change. One of the critical beliefs to change is that of what it means to be human, from a picture of an individual as a consuming machine fulfilling a set of insatiable needs to a human whose existence is manifest by the satisfaction of a set of cares or concerns. One of the categories is care for the world which include most anything falling under the rubrics of environmentalism or greening. It… Read More

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Beware of Rigidity in Complex Systems

The results of the Massachusetts Senatorial election are just in. The Republican, Scott Brown, trounced his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley by about 53% to 47%. This counts as a trouncing given the demographics of Massachusetts and the recent history of this seat. (Disclosure: I am a life-long Democratic voter.) I am disappointed by the results, but that is not what I want to write about. This election demonstrates the complex nature of our political system, and the effects of rigidity on the dynamics of the system. The theory of democracy is that the majority rules unless the process would disenfranchise the minority. The founding fathers understood the resilience of this… Read More

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Learning to Live With Technology

On last Friday and Saturday, I taught a couple of classes at the Marlboro College MBA for Managing Sustainability in Brattelboro, VT. I’m teaching a course called, “Exploring Sustainability,” to both the entering class and the second-year group, but in separate sessions. I am using my book for the reader. It’s a chance to observe how the book works as a text. This weekend is the first of three “intensives” that will take place during this trimester. Except for these more traditional classes, the course is taught via the internet, using a pedagogical web program called Moodle. > Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning… Read More

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Rachel Carson’s Legacy

I’m back from Pittsburgh and a talk to the first workshop on green chemistry in a series organized by the Rachel Carson Homestead. I haven’t been to Pittsburgh for some decades and still have badly out-of-date memories of the city with its steel mills and other heavy industry. Instead I found a very clean, imposing modern city and enthusiastic attitude about the future. But some things never change. The chief topic of conversation at dinner the night before the talk was a massive project to capture natural gas trapped in the coal deposits in the region by fracturing the strata to allow the gas to escape. The process uses large… Read More

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Rachel Carson and Green Chemistry

I’m off today for a short trip to Pittsburgh to speak at a workshop on green chemistry and other topics related to green design. The event is organized and co-sponsored by the Rachel Carson Homestead Association. It’s that connection that made this an attractive invitation. Created in 1975, The mission of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association is to preserve, restore, and interpret Rachel Carson’s birthplace and childhood home; and to design and implement education programs and resources in keeping with her environmental ethic: Live in harmony with nature Preserve and learn from natural places Minimize the effect of man-made chemicals on the natural systems of the world, and Consider the… Read More

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