No Pot of Gold at the End of This Rainbow

First green washing, now pink washing. What color of the rainbow is next? (RED)� products. Yellow ribbons? “Cause” marketing is big business says Joanna Weiss in today’s Boston Globe, writing about products draped in pink packaging to signify that the vendor/manufacturer is supporting the fight against breast cancer. Weiss quotes other cancer cure advocates who claim that the only big winners are the purveyors of pink products. The application of pink — in the name of raising money and steering women toward the radiologist’s office — does seem to get broader and cheerier each year. Now, we have NFL balls decorated with pink ribbons and world landmarks bathed in pink… Read More

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The Value of Values

I have been reading a lot recently about how values affect and guide choice. My focus has been largely on choices in the consumption market place: cars, food, iPods, shoes, houses and so on. I can’t, however, stop thinking about how values are playing out in the current political campaigns. In yet another case of synchronicity, I stumbled onto a new study/analysis, Common Cause, prepared for the WWF. I mentioned it a few posts ago. In that earlier post, I noted only that reliance on rationality had led progressive causes astray. The research discussed in the WWF report makes a strong case for deeply held values as the more important… Read More

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10 Big Green Ideas from Newsweek

This is the headline of the lead article in this year’s Newsweek’s green issue, replete with their ranking of the “greenest” 100 corporations. It’s all pretty underwhelming copy. The #1 big idea is that of Blairo Maggi, who previously signed on to a 2006 moratorium to stop selling soybeans from clear cut rainforest lands. (He is known as the soybean tycoon in his native land, Brazil.) His pick as #1 is based on his recent decision to extend the ban to Amazonian beef. Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of beef. Maggi, also previously Governor of the state of Mato Grosso, was an arch-villian as late as 2005, receiving… Read More

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Learning the Hard Way

A spectre is haunting Japan – the spectre of deflation. With this ironic twist on the Communist Manifesto, we are witnessing the downside of capitalism in Japan. An article in the NYTimes by Martin Fackler chronicles the recent decline in the economic output in Japan and the hardships it is creating. Caught in a business cycle with no upside in sight, the Japanese economy has fallen behind China’s. The original Asian Tiger, even before that term was in vogue, is little more than an old alley cat. The article paints a dark, painful picture of people living in a multi-storied home on only a few hundred square feet. In our… Read More

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The Power of Being Positive

This interview with Bob Costanza from the Yale “Visions of a Sustainable World” lecture series is one in their series of presentations of positive, concrete visions of a sustainable future. It echoes the basic message in my book. Sustainability, as Costanza says in the talk, has to be both desirable and long-lived. I use flourishing as the desirable quality. .

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Empathy and Weak Ties

Maybe it’s the new movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the origin of Facebook that is triggering all sorts of stories about the nature of social relationships, but, in any case, they are all over the media and the cybersphere. One of the students at Marlboro posted a podcast by Jeremy Rifkin about empathy, and today the front page story in the “Ideas” section of the Boston Globe had one, “The empathy deficit,” by Keith O’Brien. Rifkin thinks the new era of distributed computing technology, with capabilities like Google Earth, will make us more connected and therefore more empathetic. He thinks that this should make us hopeful about the future. He… Read More

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Unsustainable Consumption

Synchronicity is at work again, After posting yesterday’s entry about consumption questioning the convention wisdom about why we consume as we do, this column by George Monbiot showed up on my screen. I have posted links to Monbiot before. He is a sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued columnist for the Guardian (UK). With a backdrop of suicidal cultural/economic practices, he argues we have lost our collective way largely out of an old, deeply entrenched, but incorrect, view of human rationality and behavior. He column cribs from a recent report done for the WWF which presents a very different model of behavior rooted more in our values than in the computer in our… Read More

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Sustainable(?) Consumption

I’m teaching a course about sustainable consumption at Marlboro this trimester. Our next face-to-face meeting is coming up next weekend, and I have been getting prepared. I don’t like this the name of the subject at all. It’s not consumption that we want to sustain; it’s the possibility of flourishing. Sustainability is not about production or consumption. Sustainability depends critically on the nature of these two halves of the economic identity that says in a perfect (economic) world the two will be equal. But it is not the same, and the sooner businessmen, planners, and policy makers learn the difference, the sooner we will be able to make meaningful changes… Read More

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Plus �a Change

The reappearance of Napoleon III after the revolution of 1848 in France prompted a journalist to utter the memorable epigram, “Plus �a change, plus c’est la m�me chose.” Dripping with irony, its English equivalent is, “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” The phrase seems to fit the behavior of consumption patterns in the US as the debris from the financial crash is slowly being cleared away. The initial severe drop in consumption spending was thought by the sustainability optimists to signal a structural change. The financial straits was forcing many to look closely at their life style and, realizing the unneed (seems like a good neologism… Read More

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Dreams of Sustainability

I’ve been slowly compiling my blogs, and notice a few things about the movement of topics over time. The number of words amassed is surprising. The quantity is more than enough for another book, but the content wanders too widely. I find it increasingly difficult to grab an item out of the cybersphere and use it to base a post containing any semblance of novelty. The sameness of news and its implications for change is subtle when viewed day by day, but jumps out when looked at retrospectively. Change is central to my thesis about sustainability. If the existing culture on which we base our societal, collective actions and behavior… Read More

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