Emergence, Rules, and Sustainability

I spent a few days this weekend teaching my course on “Exploring Sustainability” at the Marlboro College Graduate MBA in Managing for Sustainability. I’ve written about this terrific program many times now, but I am always impressed what the combination of an enlightened faculty and a group of committed students can produce. I have only limited time allotted to my course in a very busy weekend. It’s an important moment as it’s the only chance for me to meet the students face-to-face rather than read their posts to the program pedagogical website. We are reading my book as the text this term, and the latest assignments focus on complexity and… Read More

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Chemotherapy for Climate Change

With the likelihood of any significant agreement on lowering greenhouse gas emissions coming out of Copenhagen small, attention to geo-engineering has taken a big jump. More than merely refocusing attention, this turn of events has catapaulted geo-engineering from the fringe smak into the center. I find this disturbing and fraught. In an article in Greenbiz, David Keith, one of the more level-headed people in the area of climate change, is quoted: Geoengineering, says scientist David Keith, “is like chemotherapy. It’s something nobody should like.” But if you can’t avoid cancer, chemotherapy may be your best option. And, if it becomes evident that the earth can’t avoid the catastrophic impacts of… Read More

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From Washing Jeans to Caring for the Planet

In my last post, I wrote about a survey comparing public perception of a firm’s greenness and their rated performance toward climate change. Of the nearly 100 companies in the survey in all sectors the public perception leader was Levi Strauss with a score of 86 out of 100, compared to their “actual” rating of 58. To put this into perspective, Liz Claiborne got a 42 in the perception and only a 7 in actual performance. As happens so often, I came across another article about Levi Strauss at about the same time. Green Design had posted excerpts from a speech by John Anderson, Levi Strauss CEO, given at the… Read More

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Perception Is Reality Except for Green Business

I read a very interesting report recently about differences between the way the public perceives the “greenness” of companies and the reality of their green activities according to some “objective” scale. The report is the second published by Maddock Douglas, a Chicago-based business consulting firm. Here is the preamble to the report. A sustainable image can be a brand’s best source of competitive advantage. Although there are benefits to adopting sustainability measures for other reasons (efficiency or compliance, for example), building sustainable consumer-facing brands can provide real differentiation in increasingly commoditized consumer product / service markets. Change’s first MapChange study in 2008 showed a significant difference between brand perception and… Read More

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Green Valentine’s Day?

This post is partly a reminder to me to remember that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and that calls for some loving act. Valentine’s day, like Christmas and Hanukkah, has become little more than a secular commercial excuse to spend money on a lot of stuff. The origins of the celebration are obscure, but most of the [explanations](http://www.islandcrisis.net/2010/02/what-is-valentines-day/) go something like this: > Valentinus was a priest in Rome during the 3rd century and at that time rules by emperor Claudius II. It is said that Valentinus was executed because he disobeyed an order of the emperor. In fact Emperor Claudius wanted to abolish marriage and convince males to not have… Read More

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Flourishing and Justice

Conversations about sustainability often divide into two streams. One revolves mostly about maintaining the conditions on the Planet to support continued human development. To the extent other creatures are considered, it is usually related to some value directly or indirectly tied to their [economic] utility. Whatever normative content is present is folded into the economic framework reflected in individual (wealth) and collective (GDP) measures of well-being. Flourishing is reduced to a quantitative index. There is little in this conversation about the inherent values of life and the inanimate parts of the Earth. Normative policies are based primarily on mathematical representations of the material economy which also are devoid of the… Read More

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Seeing Nature’s Design in Snow

I came down to Washington DC yesterday to visit family and go to a Bat Mitzvah, and figured I would leave my blog alone for a few days. An epic storm changed my plans. Here we are Saturday noon and it is still coming down. I haven’t seen anything like this since the Blizzard of 78 up in Boston. It looks we are stuck in the house until, hopefully, Monday when I am due to return. The photo shows a big broken branch resting on my daughter’s car. Yesterday the grocery stores looked like an army of looters had swept through with many shelves completely devoid of anything. Nothing much… Read More

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Good Hair Day for Geezers

Most of the days I am hard pressed to feel good when I start to plan my blogging entry. (Disclosure: I have very little hair left.) David Brooks, writing his column in the NYTimes, is very reassuring to folks at my stage of life. Contrasting recent findings to the threatening ideas of Freud, Walt Whitman, or Shakespeare, Brooks paints a much rosier picture of the seventh stage of man than Jacques paints in his famous monologue: “Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” Developmental psychologists, when they treated old age at all, often… Read More

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A Serious Effect of So Much Screen Time

More consequences of the extensive time spent in front of screens by children keeps showing up in the media. The Boston Globe today ran a column decrying the state of children’s health. The author, Terry Schraeder, a physician, points to data showing increasing signs of disease and poor health in children. Specifically, he picks out very high lipid levels–symptoms that traditionally belong to older people. This condition bodes poorly for these children because, he noters, “We know that untreated cholesterol disorders in children are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.” The most striking and disturbing piece in the column was the tale of his experience tending… Read More

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