No-Growth is a Reality; Not a Fantasy

Newsweek has only part of the story in a short article telling about the rise of no (economic) growth studies out of Europe in recent months. While the growing interest in no-growth is clearly evident, the reasons Newsweek gives for its rise are not the primary impetus. Newsweek says: Take the worst economic crisis in 60 years. Combine it with the erosion of the West’s predominance. Add apocalyptic warnings of climate change. What you’ll get are some radical new ideas. . . One of those now swirling through the European zeitgeist turns out to be a very old one, albeit in new garb. It’s the revival of the assertion that… Read More

Continue Reading

Hubris and Humility

David Brooks is beginning to get it. His last column [I fixed this link] is a critique of economics, but I see it as having much deeper implications–the issue of the very way we interpret and act in the world. His argument is that when we fail to understand the whole story about what it is to be human we make serious mistakes in any ‘science’ that rests on that understanding. He writes that we will have to rewrite the story we tell about economics. Act I in this history would be set in the era of economic scientism: the period when economists based their work on a crude vision… Read More

Continue Reading

Nit Picking

I have been trying hard not to complain every day about the terribly sloppy use of the term “sustainability,” but I could not pass this one by. GreenerDesign carries a story today headlined, “New Tool Assesses Chemical Sustainability.” It’s hard to find a poorer use of the word. Just what can chemical sustainability be? The tool generates a sustainability-based score, based on metrics taken from the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, including health and environmental impact of raw materials and products, energy use, waste generation, safety of processes and more. At best, a tool like this can only point to the relative merits of one chemical versus another in some… Read More

Continue Reading

Sustainability as Flourishing

In the last few days, I have had a peak intellectual experience. On successive evenings I heard Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi David Wolpe argue over God and morality, followed by Steven Pinker and Rebecca Goldstein discuss “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Morality, and the Arts.” This afternoon, I listened again to the first of 24 podcasts by Hubert Dreyfus from his popular course at Cal/Berkeley on Heidegger, and finished off by watching a video of a recent TED presentation by atheist Sam Harris called, “The Price in Human Suffering of Being Open-Minded.” I am teaching a course at my Institute for Learning in Retirement on the illusion of technique or why… Read More

Continue Reading

Creating Sustainability through Sharing Space

Today’s Boston Globe carried a [front page story](http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/03/23/cohousing_building_momentum_in_mass/?page=full) about cohousing, a word I suspect very few people know or understand. Cohousing developments are somewhere between a kibbutz and a condominium. The units are owned by the inhabitants with expanded common facilities owned in common. These development are also called intentional communities because the residents make a conscious choice to join a community-oriented living place. The attraction to many is the extended family they become part of. Neighbors step in when someone becomes ill and cannot do simple tasks like walking pets. They may provide baby sitting. The group can buy groceries in bulk to save money. Started in Denmark in… Read More

Continue Reading

The Devil’s Not in the Details

The central critique of my book, Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming our Consumer Culture, is that modern cultures create an unconsciousness in three domains essential to flourishing and thence to sustainability. Without bringing these three back into individual and collective consciousness, the culture will keep on trucking, producing a lot of road kill on the way to empty promises and the accumulation of more and more meaningless stuff. All three are forms of caring, separated only to make analysis, discussion, and action more direct. Recognizing they overlap, the three are consciousness (care) for oneself, other humans, and everything else in the world. These three completely constitute the… Read More

Continue Reading

Hug an Automobile Today

James Carroll, one of my very favorite columnists (Boston Globe), departs from his general political thread to discuss what has happened to the American love for the automobile. He starts by putting us into the historical context: THE GREAT American romance is over. The automobile has gone from being the joyous emblem of what made this nation great to being the symbol of its social, political, environmental, and economic, well, car wreck. And ends up with: Automobiles are not the same machines we fell in love with. They are computers that move, and, instead of by the savvy mechanics of the old days, trouble shooting is done by “on board-diagnostics.’’… Read More

Continue Reading

Potty Training for Sustainability

The disposal of human wastes is a practice that has, of course, been around as long as we have. As long as humans wandered about in small groups, nature provided disposal facilities everywhere. But as settlements grew, some form of technology was required to keep the wastes out of places that posed dangers to health and welfare. In modern societies, waste treatment is an essential part of the infrastructure of settled areas, and carries with it large environmental demands for water and places to deposit the residuals from treatment. Low-flow toilets came into service as water consumption started to strain existing systems. Before the 1950s, toilets typically used 7 gallons… Read More

Continue Reading

The “Green” House Effect

The NYTimes carried a story on March 10 about a controversy over plans to build a very large home in Berkeley, CA. The plans which have been approved show a total area of about 10,000 square feet, of which 3,500 are for a garage. The owner, Mitch Kapor, is the founder of Lotus and has used his ample wealth for many philanthropic ends including many concerned with the environment. Perhaps he lost so much of his money in the crash that he plans to operate a public parking lot. The controversy here rose from the designation by a city board that the house qualified as being “green.” Such designation comes… Read More

Continue Reading