The Curse of Perfection

Neal Gabler, writing in today’s Boston Globe, [discusses](http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/03/31/the_new_american_dream/) what he calls the new American Dream–perfection. A DISGRUNTLED New York mother recently filed a lawsuit against her 4-year-old daughter’s preschool, charging that the school had reneged on its promise to adequately prepare the girl for an Ivy League education. Apparently the kids were playing with blocks when they should have been discussing Wittgenstein. Understandably the suit was met with ridicule as another example of overbearing parenting, but it is also an example of how many of us, especially in the middle and upper-middle classes, not only aspire to be perfect; we expect perfection. Dreams can be very powerful in creating images… Read More

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Back to Basics 5: The Sustainability 2×2 Matrix

No MBA student or practitioner can avoid the classic 2×2 matrix offering a clear picture of strategic choices when two sets of variables are involved. Some consider this form of portrayal as an art, even as a metaphor for a sort of systems thinking. In its simplest form the variables are arrayed as the x- and y-axes on a simple graph. The generic form looks like this. I found several examples on the Web. This one points to strategies for service organizations based on the nature of the particular service to be offered. One can use this for almost all situations where the choices are limited to two factors. I… Read More

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Nuclear Power is Still Nuclear Power

On a recent Dot Earth column, Andrew Revkin pointed to two opposing views on nuclear power, but both coming from well established environmentalists. I’m pressed for time today, preparing for my periodic face-to-face encounter with my students at marlboro College Graduate Center, so I will mostly crib from Revkin. Here’s his lede: I encourage you to weigh two starkly divergent reactions to the seismic and nuclear crises in Japan from Bill McKibben and George Monbiot — both leading voices of environmentalism. In separate opinion articles in The Guardian yesterday, McKibben turned the conversation to climate and pressed for a shift to durable, localized energy production and more modest lifestyles in… Read More

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Back to Basics 4: Possibility

I come to this topic as it is critical to sustainability, but it takes a little scene-setting. Flourishing depends on living authentically (see previous [post](http://www.johnehrenfeld.com/2011/03/back-to-basics-3-authenticity.html) on this topic). The most direct way to think about this is to imagine owning everything you do, not everything you have. The existential consequences show up as possibility. When you come from some inner source of care, possibility is limited only by the reality of the world at hand. You can choose freely who you are and what you will do consistent with that role. It is not quite the same as free will because there are always limits. You cannot give birth to… Read More

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Shining a Mirror on Ourselves

The situation at the Japanese nuclear power plants is certainly worthy of the headlines it is getting. It is a catastrophe that fits into the once in a (fill in your own very high number) ___ years risk category. Why, then, so much attention here in the United States? The risk of any damage from radiation emitted from the current state or even a much more serious meltdown is, as every knowledgeable commentator has said, is negligible. Why, all of a sudden, do Congresspeople and others demand an immediate examination of our nuclear plants? This event has not changed the risk of our facilities in the US one whit. I… Read More

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Our Common Future

This is the title of the United Nations Report that brought the world the idea of sustainable development: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The definition is terse but full of moral content as well as real concern for the state of the world. The moral core of this statement is equity. It recognizes the finite capacity of the Earth to support all who are alive today and all those who will inhabit the planet in the future. Most simply stated, all have a right to have their needs met. Better known as… Read More

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Back to Basics 3: Authenticity

Authenticity, as I write, refers to a mode of Being. It shows up in the source of one’s everyday actions. My interpretation, as I have described in my book, rests on the work of Martin Heidegger. Most simply, the authentic mode of Being is one where the actor owns his or her actions in the sense that they spring from some domain of care. The actor is moved to take care of matters in a domain that lacks completeness or perfection in the sense of wholeness. (The taxonomy of these domains of care developed in my book is reproduced below.) Authentic behavior may become clearer when compared with its opposite,… Read More

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Dealing with Our Poverties

One of my classes at Marlboro College Graduate Center had to read an article by Manfred Max-Neef , titled “Development and Human Needs.” Max-Neef is a Chilean economist who has focused on the needs of developing and underdeveloped countries. He has developed a taxonomy of human needs that I have integrated into my own work. I want to focus on one of his key points in this post. Max-Neef argues that the tradition model for improving the human conditions by eliminating poverty within the standard economic development framework is fundamentally flawed. The proposed perspective allows for a reinterpretation of the concept of poverty. The traditional concept of poverty is limited… Read More

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The Soul’s Joy Lies in Doing. (Shelley)

I’m back tanned and rested. I know travel to warm places in the middle of the winter is hardly PC for someone with my interest in sustainability, but it did feel great. Being human involves lots of contradictions. After going through the pile of accumulated stuff on the computer and otherwise, I started to catch up with long overdue reading. In the pile I found an copy of a recent NYTimes magazine with an article that created very strange overtones. Rob Walker, the author, writes about life continuing in cyberspace after the body dies. A perfect target for one of my rants against information technology. The article begins with this… Read More

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