September 2010 Archives

Social Media--Weak Ties v. Care

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social media

Malcolm Gladwell has an intriguing article in the current New Yorker (subscription required), questioning the claims frequently made about the "revolutionary" power of social media, like Twitter or Facebook. Since it takes a subscription to access the article, I will quote some of the key parts here.

Jumping right to the main conclusion, Gladwell argues that the kind of concerted, extended action necessary to change well entrenched institutions requires strong ties, rather than the weak ties that social media create.

The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life. This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.
Gladwell presents some evidence that the role of Twitter in the Iranian demonstrations and protests in Moldava was far less than has been reported in the media. Effective evolutionary movements like those that arose during the heyday of civil rights actions require strong ties that enable the hierarchy and authority needed to hold and organize the actors over the time it takes to upset the status quo. Current social media fail to motivate people to the kind and level of commitments found in successful upheavals. The Save Darfur Coalition claims that about over a million people have "signed up," but, as Gladwell notes, have donated a paltry nine cents a piece.
A spokesperson for the Save Darfur Coalition told Newsweek, “We wouldn’t necessarily gauge someone’s value to the advocacy movement based on what they’ve given. This is a powerful mechanism to engage this critical population. They inform their community, attend events, volunteer. It’s not something you can measure by looking at a ledger.” In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice. We are a long way from the lunch counters of Greensboro.
Gladwell admits that social media have been responsible for mobilizing people in ways not possible before they became so ubiquitous. Using an example where a combination of web-based media enabled a New Yorker to recover a lost Sidekick cellphone, he quotes Clay Shirky, well known for his cheerleading stance on social media.
Shirky’s argument is that this is the kind of thing that could never have happened in the pre-Internet age—and he’s right. . . The story, to Shirky, illustrates “the ease and speed with which a group can be mobilized for the right kind of cause” in the Internet age. Shirky considers this model of activism an upgrade. But it is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. (my emphasis) If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause. Shirky ends the story of the lost Sidekick by asking, portentously, “What happens next?”—no doubt imagining future waves of digital protesters. But he has already answered the question. What happens next is more of the same. A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls. Viva la revoluciĆ³n. ?

Sustainability requires a revolution, perhaps, a quiet one, but clearly much more than what is needed to recover a cell phone. The economic institutions that must be replaced are as entrenched or moreso than those that kept Jim Crow alive. Weak ties lack the sense of caring that are found in strong ties. Real friends truly care about each other. Weak ties and the media that enable them feed the need to do something, but as Gladwell noted, the action that comes forth goes no further than conforming with societal expectations. It is not authentic.

In the language of my book, social media are little more than a technological fix to the anomie and the loss of [strong] community and personal ties that current political economic policies and institutions produce. Change in the deep-seated norms and beliefs to align them with sustainability can come only with authentic caring for the Earth, all human beings, and other forms of life.

You (Don't) Actually Get What You See

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LED lamps

Another blog in my informal series that what you see is not necessarily what you get (especially when it comes to greener goods). The Economist recently carried an article claiming that the new solid-state lamps now coming on the market will not bring the energy savings the technology promises. Titled, Not Such a Bright Idea, the gist is that these intrinsically brighter lamps will increase the demand for light as all major lighting innovations have done historically.

Solid-state lamps, which use souped-up versions of the light-emitting diodes that shine from the faces of digital clocks and flash irritatingly on the front panels of audio and video equipment, will indeed make lighting better. But precedent suggests that this will serve merely to increase the demand for light. The consequence may not be just more light for the same amount of energy, but an actual increase in energy consumption, rather than the decrease hoped for by those promoting new forms of lighting.

Don't throw away those incandescents or CFLs yet. The Economist article is based on a scientific study by a group from Sandia National Laboratories. They predict that demand for electricity created by the new lighting devices could increase by as much as a factor of 10 over the next 20 years.

This case is not the same as the paradoxical economic consequences of efficiency producing technology. Known as the Jevons (who first wrote about it) paradox or the rebound effect, the savings gained by efficiency improvements may be invested in more productive capacity, ultimately producing more, not less, demand for the commodities involved. Jevons wrote about the increase, not decrease, in fuel demand that would be created by the then new invention, the steam engine.

The lesson here is that the greenness of devices cannot be always determined by analyzing the artifact outside the context of actual practice. It's the system, stupid. For Jevons, the system was the macroeconomy. For the new lighting technology, it's the human behavioral system. And for sustainability, the significance is that we need to test, on a limited basis, major new technological or institutional innovations before throwing them into the "free" market in order to make sure that the public benefits claimed to justify their superiority over the status quo are real.

A Glimmer of Hope



I have been uncharacteristically almost depressed about what I see and hear these days. The economy has recovered somewhat, but at the expense of unemployment at levels I cannot remember having lived through before. I was born in during the Great Depression, but have no direct memories of its impact, only the remnants I saw for years later in the attitudes and behavior of my parents. The political world is filled with static and anger, leading me to try to avoid this arena which I am usually deeply immersed. Progress toward action on climate change is dormant, and, worse, is being buffeted by the efforts of billionaires and many corporations to mislead us and stymie any efforts to act prudently or to act at all.

Then I came across an authoritative article about the continuing recovery of the ozone layer.

Geneva/Nairobi, 16 September 2010 - International efforts to protect the ozone layer-the shield that protects life on Earth from harmful levels of ultraviolet rays-are a success and have stopped additional ozone losses and contributed to mitigating the greenhouse effect, according to a new report.
"Today's report underlines that action to protect the ozone layer has not only been a success, but continues to deliver multiple benefits to economies including on efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The contribution to combating climate change is one, but so are the direct benefits to public health. For without the Montreal Protocol and its associated Vienna Convention atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting substances could have increased tenfold by 2050. This in turn could have led to up to 20 million more cases of skin cancer and 130 million more cases of eye cataracts, not to speak of damage to human immune systems, wildlife and agriculture."

The news is very good. I first focused on the results described, but then my eyes lingered on the word "action." in the second paragraph. We have the power both to destroy and to restore. The destruction comes through actions we do not connect with the problem and engage in mindlessly. But the power to restore can come only from deliberate acts: first, acts that recognize the full impact of what we are doing to our home on Earth and commit us to do something about it, and, second, real on-the-ground acts in accordance with our commitment. Ozone depletion was a simple challenge compared to climate change and to sustainability in general. The causal agents were few and could be eliminated by a ban on a class of chemical agents. Not so for climate change. Although the proximate causes are only a small group of chemicals, their sources are uncountable, coming from every smokestack, tailpipe, sheep farm, and many more classes of sources.

So, with the lessons from our response ozone depletion, we know we can act properly. The path to sustainability is not so clear as that of repairing the ozone layer, but we cannot let that difference stop action. There are no NASA pictures that shocked us into action then; the impacts to our earthly home are much more subtle and difficult to establish convincingly to the skeptics and much of the general public. Unfortunately, it will be much too late when similarly shocking pictures of millions of flooded out impoverished victims and of wrecked seaside villas of the wealthy hit the media. As Pete Seeger wrote, "When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?"

The Impossibility of Measuring Greenness

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impossible square

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I am a skeptic about the ability of life-cycle analyses and all related indices or ratings based on them to allow consumers to make meaningful decisions about the products they choose to purchase. My resistance comes from two sources. The first has to do with the methodologies, and the second with the basic idea that numbers and the analyses that produce them can describe reality sufficiently to ground purely rational processes.

All composite measures of environmental and social impacts are just that--a melange of factors spanning all the environmental media in the first case, and a similar set trying to capture what makes life good for humans. The aggregation of multiple impacts into a single quantity (numerical index/score) categories requires the imposition of values applied to each of the factors involved. Kenneth Arrow won a Nobel Prize in Economics largely on the recognition of the importance of his "impossibility theorem." Arrow argues that it is impossible to combine three or more independent preferences into a single stable ranking. Although Arrow originally was writing about voting outcomes, the concept applies to any situation where preferences are used to determine the outcome. The weights applied to the importance of the individual factors in impacts metrics are inherently just preferences.

The UN's Human Development Index weighs the three factors--GDP, life expectancy or education--equally although there is great disagreement over the relative importance of the factors. Indices, like those presented in GoodGuide or the proposed Walmart Sustainability Index, aggregate tens to hundreds of single factors. The weights are determined by consensus of experts, but that does not mean they conform to consumers preferences. Now add other preferences that consumers carry into the store, and it's easy to see that there is little correlation between the indices and outcomes in the world.

The second reason springs from the general belief that we can model reality with analysis. Modern science has allowed us to do that, but only for very limited contexts. But the context that sustainability indices and social indicators pertain to is the messy world. Years ago the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead gave us the wonderful phrase, "The fallacy of misplaced concreteness." Whitehead was telling us that we have become enchanted by the idea of analysis and forget that models are only models. The mere presentation of an index, especially when measured to two significant figures suggesting great precision, is taken as real in the sense that "rational" decisions can be based on the numbers.

All this technical stuff here was inspired by reading an recent article in the Guardian. George Monbiot, a well-known British environmental journalist, recanted his former position that veganism was always greener that meat eating. Exactly how he came to that decision was not elaborated, but it seems clear it was on the basis of some life-cycle analysis. Monbiot was now saying the preferred diet is not so clear. It all depends . . . I am pretty sure the outcome rests on the choice of factors (one kind of preference) and their weights (another kind of preference). Monbiot's admission was important in getting a better understanding of the practical limitations of composite indices out into the general public.

There surely are methods that can help us make environmental and social choices. Even with my reservations above, these methods can usually show the difference between very bad choices and very good choices, but the great middle area is often the one where we live. The purported precision and even the indices, per se, convey to the consumer that he or she is doing their part for sustainability or social justice by choosing the higher scoring product or action. In reality, the Earth system depends on the absolute levels of harm inflicted. A somewhat greener purchase still adds to the total burden. Even though we should always try to make the better choice, we are still, to use a metaphor I invoked a couple of blogs ago, rearranging chairs on the Titanic.

Choosing Sustainability



I'm back after a break for the Jewish Holidays. I'll admit that being away from this blog was quite delightful, but the call to continue is strong--so here I am. Before returning fully to the "sustainability" found out there today, I am still thinking of all the calls for cleaning up my act I heard during these days of awe.

The process of atonement and asking forgiveness is one of the most powerful moments during the ten days. The liturgy makes it easy to deal with transgressions against the Lord, whether one believes or not, but not for those against other people. The Lord simply forgives all us transgressors, but requires us to clean up, by intentional action, all the hurt and harm we have inflicted on others. The power of forgiveness to clean the slate and offer a new start to relationships is very clear. The process does not promise reciprocal behavior on the other's part, but, no matter, frees the forgiver from the constraints on future behavior that memories of the past construct.

Closely related, I heard the yearly explanation from the Rabbi that the conventional use of "sin" for the hebrew word "chet" is slightly off the mark. The word is derived from a root meaning, ironically, off the mark or to miss the target, etc. "Chet" appears in the part of the liturgy where we count off the many ways we have missed the mark, and again ask forgiveness. It is meaningful that this prayer attributes the transgressions to the collective "we," not to the individual "I." It's as if the author of this prayer understood systems theory.

The idea of missing the mark is critical in understanding the messages of these High Holidays. The focus of action keeps coming back to the actor--me. A sociologist would claim that the liturgy is all about agency, the place of will or intentionality in action. Indeed, it may be that much of the ethical basis of Judaism is all about agency. Here again, this feature comes through loud and clear in the Torah portion that is read on Yom Kippur--particularly Deuteronomy 30:19:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;

This passage puts the place of agency in the most central possible place--life itself. I read this not as referring to biological life, but to life as lived or experienced. And wonder of wonders, this leads me right back to sustainability--the possibility of flourishing--of living fully. Only if everyone chooses to live in a way that creates flourishing might it come to be. No guarantee; it's always only a possibility. Others can contribute by designing the artifacts of the world we live in so as to minimize the harm we inflict on all life and on the Planet itself. But whatever these others put in play, the ultimate choice comes back to each of us.

Guilt and habit make that choice difficult and painful, but the other message of the Holidays offers a way to avoid being stymied. Forgiveness can be turned inward simply by the act of forgiving oneself for the mistakes of the past--all the times the mark was missed. Indeed, it seems essential to do this as an opening to choosing life anew. The Biblical passage refers to individuals and their seed, limiting the consequences of the choice to families, but it's only a small jump to interpret this as bearing on all life. Perhaps, knowing that we have the ability to forgive and begin again, we will commit ourselves to live differently, conscious of our connections to all life on Earth, even when we are not absolutely certain that we will hit the mark.

The Coming New Year

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Hurricane Earl spared us, but left a strong wind behind--too strong for fishing. Not a great loss considering that the fishing has been the poorest in many, many years. We're heading back to Lexington in a couple of days to celebrate the New Year. Among the many things I think about at this annual turning is this blog. I have been at it since my book was published about two years ago. I recall complaining lately how much more difficult finding stuff to write about either coming from inside my head and from the blogosphere and other outside sources.

It's not that there is a lack of stuff; the quantity of material labeled as "green" or "sustainable" has steadily increased. It's that I find it the same as it was a couple of years ago. Companies continue to boast about their CSR initiatives or their new sustainable widgets, but the state of the world keeps degenerating. The lack of serious action on the global climate change front, other than pouring money into technological research, is depressing at best. I don't know if we Americans are exceptional in this respect, but Mark Twain, an acute observer of America, said long ago that "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."

The strong signal sent by the Great Recession that our consumerist economy was both unstable and unsustainable has been either ignored or downplayed by the Great Establishment that designs and manages our economy (if an economy can, in fact, ever be managed.) The looming election promises to further destroy the functioning and appreciation of our political and governance system, no matter which party (if that is what one should call a bunch of angry, demagogic folks) wins. The measured debates of our founding fathers have been long forgotten, most unfortunately. Historians write that we have always engaged in political mudslinging--it's as American as apple pie--but the modern media have raised the level of negativity to historic highs.

Sustainability can and does mean different things to different people. I always talk about it as the possibility that human and other life will flourish on the planet forever. I don't believe that, as a whole, we in the US and most other places on Earth are flourishing at present. Certainly not, if inequality is used to measure the absence of flourishing for so many at the bottom of the economic heap. I doubt if even those at the top are truly happy. If they were, they would stop worrying about how to extract even more money from a hapless society.

The political tone seems to me to be all about materialistic and self-centered themes. The sense of community and the need for glue to hold it together has mostly vanished. An angry, unruly, shouting crowd may be momentarily held together by some common slogan, but I would not call the participants a community. They share their anger, but not themselves. Ignorance about the critical importance of rules is palpable. But rules are what, to a large extent, has made the human animal civilized. Rules are a measure of our acceptance of being a part of a community. John Donne, contemplating his own illness, wrote these time-honored words expressing this sentiment.

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

I have grow tired of scanning hundreds of blogs and blurbs every day without seeing much, if anything, of real interest. Walmart is not going to turn the tide with their Sustainability Index. GE is not going to change much at all with Ecoimagination. $90 billion to be spent on clean energy research is not going to wake us up to the need to control our energy appetite. And so on and on and on. . .

The Jewish New Year is a time for repentance and rebirth. I am not a very religious person, but find more meaning in the liturgy and ceremony of this season as I have become much older. I am going to take a vacation from this blog during the Holidays, hoping to come back refreshed and able to find new signs that we are waking up to the real meaning of sustainability and are becoming willing to admit our denial and addictive ways. As it is said every year after the opening services, L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu--May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year! I hear this as a call to flourish.

Deck Chair Rearranging on the Titanic

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The headline refers to the futility of taking meaningless steps in the face of an impending catastrophe. Much of what goes for "greening" could be described in this way. But this one takes the cake.

"Fort McMurray launches plastic bag ban" is the headline of an article in the Edmonton (CANADA) Journal. Sounds great? Yes, this is a good idea, but it pales when one realizes that Fort McMurray is the center of the Alberta tar sands project. The ban is but a minuscule effort that will reduce damage to the environment by virtually zero compared to the effects of the oil project, one that has been called the most destructive project on earth. Perhaps some exaggeration here as the appellation was given by the Canadian environmental advocacy organization, Environmental Defence, but the point still holds.

Perhaps some might argue that the ban is a symbolic act signaling local opposition to the project. The background given in the news about the ban indicates it was primarily designed to assist Fort McMurray to meet a previously set landfill waste reduction goal for 2012. For me and many others, it is a symbolic act, conveying the failure to understand the Earth system and the denial that economic promises produce. The project is a boon to a formerly relative poor part of Canada. The economic value of the project is huge says an article I found on the web, but whose source is obscure, obviously a supporter.

The Alberta tar sands, more formally known as the Athabasca tar sands, are an invaluable resource to the Canadian people are must be free of environmental restriction. These tar sands are processed for oil, which is sold, traded, used and bought from people all around the earth. These tar sands have transformed a have-not province, to one of the richest in the country, provided hundreds of thousands of jobs, made immense profits and should be allowed to continue without environmental restrictions.

This is just one of many similar situations when an action to do something "good" for the Earth and its inhabitants comes in the midst of a much larger set of problems and needs for action that are out of sight and out of the mind of the actors. Most of business greening efforts fall into this category. Green consumers almost universally fall into this bin. The actions are always touted as doing something positive, but the benefits are not large enough to offset the ultimate damage wreaked by ignoring the real cause. The Titanic did sink after all.

A tip of the hat to Anders Hayden, who pointed out the newspaper article. Anders in a member of SCORAI, a network of researchers, advocates, and academics in North America, working under the rubric of sustainable consumption

Mindfulness Again

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My last post on mindfulness elicited a comment pointing me to a recent article in the Guardian on pretty much the same idea. It was an interview with a Zen Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who has recently published a book, The World We Have--A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology.

He has a far more elaborated approach than the very rudimentary one I wrote about yesterday, but the ideas lead to the same place. I haven't had time to read the book--I will--so I will crib some squibs from the Guardian.

He discusses in the book how he sat and consulted with the Buddha for many hours and came away with the recognition that we could be facing the end of our civilisation unless we can achieve a spiritual awakening and change our individual and collective behaviour.

"In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed," he writes.

Above all else, Thay - as he is known - teaches that the world cannot be changed outside of ourselves. The answer is for each one of us to transform the fear, anger, and despair which we cover-up with over-consumption. If we are filling our bodies and minds with toxins, it is no surprise that the world around us also becomes poisoned.

He also argues that those who put their faith in technology alone to save the planet are bowing to a false god.

Thay believes that within every person are the seeds of love, compassion and understanding as well as the seeds of anger, hatred and discrimination. Using a gardening metaphor, he says our experience of life depends on which seeds we choose to water.

From what I could read in the Guardian piece, the seeds he would have us nurture are those I have come to through an entirely Western path. It leads me to believe that the process the Buddha followed is not unique, except in the depth of his reflection and separation from the noise of the world. He has collapsed his thinking into five trainings, based on the Buddha's teaching, each one aimed at overcoming behaviors that contribute to the ills of the world. One of them, mindful consumption, lines up closely with the essence of my last post and with my book's themes. Other aims are to cherish all life on Earth; practice generosity; and, also related, relieve others of suffering (caring, in the words I use).

I was intrigued by some of the disdainful comments the Guardian article drew. A few argued that Thay didn't practice what he preached because he used airplanes to get around the world to spread his teachings. They miss a key point. There is no way to know the world and speak to it except to be in it. No one, even the Buddha, stays under his or her bodhi tree forever. Eventually they must return to the world, as it is, and spread enlightenment there. The alternate--to remain in a cave or a mountain top--is to require those who would come to listen and learn to get in an airplane. I suspect a life cycle analysis would clearly opt for the efficiency of moving the Bodhisattva around.

Mindfulness Works

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As I continue to enjoy the sun-filled days in Maine for a little while before returning to Massachusetts, I am quite aware of the peacefulness it creates. I have been catching up on my summer reading and seem to be able to absorb the stories more readily than when I am cramming the texts into the cracks of my daily busyness. I become aware of the power of reflection that the quiet induces. In theory, I believe that reflection can raise hidden triggers for actions I rue later, like stuffing too many hors d'oeuvres before dinner, or spending another hour in front of the computer screen.

Most of the time I get right back into the usual pattern the moment the aura passes, but I have been able to make some changes that bring me closer to flourishing. I have little desire just to buy things because they are there and I can. This is one small area that I walk the talk about sustainability I write about about. If I want to quiet the voices in my head that are my GPS for action, I first have to be able to listen to them. Only then can I have a conversation that allows me to counter the arguments I am bombarded with.

The technique for inducing mindfulness I point to in my book is the design of everyday artifacts, otherwise the personal technology we use to do the myriad of tasks that make up our normal life. Building in features that interrupt our mindless, unconscious behavior creates the possibility for mindfulness and consciousness of what we are doing and of alternate modes of behavior. There is no guarantee that we will use the opportunity to reflect and change our tune, but there is no possibility without a break in the flow. This mechanism, like a coach's interventions in athletic training and play, comes in the midst of the action that need modification and the inner "conversation" is immediately connected to what is going on.

Other forms of inducing mindfulness, like meditative practices, lack the immediacy of interruptive processes. They can and do create a general feeling of detachment. this allows the exploration of arguments the body makes that lead to actions that produce some sort of dissatisfaction, a sense of incompleteness or inappropriateness. I suspect that a combination of the two ways to produce mindfulness would be more effective that either one can be alone. Meditative disciplines train the body to produce and perceive states that are hidden otherwise, and to explicate the general beliefs and norms that drive all actions including the ones that are unwanted. Once the actor has become aware of the value of reflection and can more easily jump from normal transparent behavior, then interruptive devices, like speed bumps, that guide appropriate behavior can be more effective in creating new beliefs and norms.

This post is, perhaps, an example. I was reading the NYTimes on line today and clicked on a column by Robert Wright, who writes weekly on culture, politics and world affairs. He was recounting his recent experience at a a silent meditation retreat. After reading it, I stopped and reflected about the idea of mindfulness in my own life, and shortly thereafter this post came forth.

I am committed to blogging and to the cause of sustainability as flourishing, but must admit that it is getting harder and harder to find the right words and to keep this blog fresh. Reading works as a sort of meditative practice for me. If I am in the proper reflective stance, I can draw out meaning from the text and also move into my own thoughts triggered by what I have just read. Many of my students, who are required to keep a journal to help them develop reflective competence, struggle with the practice and find it difficult. When they stop thinking of the process as an assignment and as an opportunity to record whatever is coming to mind, their negativity tends to abate.

I am working my way through the works of Wendell Berry this summer, something that everyone should do at some time. All my copies are filled with tabs and marginalia recording the many thoughts that are brought forth as I read his extraordinary words.