Teach a Child to Shop . . .”

The old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.” Some marketer has discovered that this applies to children. Get them shopping as young as possible and you have made them a consumer for life. Today’s Boston Globe has an [op-ed piece](http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/04/30/a_childs_garden_of_consumerism/) about a new gimmick offered by Ralph Lauren, the maker of fancy clothes. Their web [home page](http://www.ralphlauren.com/home/index.jsp?ab=global_logo) pulls you in with this slogan, “Explore and shop our romantic Western-style inspired collection, straight from the runway.” Anticipating that early readers won’t bother to find their website, Lauren has come up with a… Read More

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Tornadoes Postscript

Just after I published the last post, I read this [quote](http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/obama-announces-changes-to-national-security-team/?hp) from President Obama, made at the opening of his press conference to announce his new national security team. > > “We can’t control when or where a terrible storm may strike, but we can control how we respond to it,” Mr. Obama said, promising to do “everything we can” to help local officials. As I wrote just a few minutes ago, he’s not quite right. Recent [scientific findings](http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2011/02/sifting_through_evidence_on_cl.html) do show evidence of a connection between human-activities-based contributions to global warming and severe weather patterns. If so, we may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of tornadoes and… Read More

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Tornadoes and Tournedos

The latest news from the South is dreadful. Reports of hundreds of twisters is almost impossible to apprehend. It is too simplistic to say that Mother Nature seems angry these days, but it seems an apt metaphor. The devastating earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and the recent one near Japan that created the massive tsunami are clearly part of the continuing geologic change in the Earth’s structure. Earthquakes occur randomly in time and severity, and although we understand their cause better, we cannot control or avoid them. The tornadoes may also be a random event, but they may not. They may be due to global climate change. One of the… Read More

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A Pale Green World

In the last few days, I have read several reports about the state of green consumption, which seems to have dropped since the recession led consumers to look more closely at their wallets and pocketbooks. The New York Times [reported](http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/business/energy-environment/22green.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all) a few days ago the “green products are losing their allure. > But America’s eco-consciousness, it turns out, is fickle. . . . “Every consumer says, ‘I want to help the environment, I’m looking for eco-friendly products,’�” said David Donnan, a partner in the consumer products practice at the consulting firm A. T. Kearney. “But if it’s one or two pennies higher in price, they’re not going to buy it.… Read More

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Sustainability by Design Redux

It’s been quite some time since my book was published and even I get a little fuzzy about what’s in it. I have been using it as a text in a course, Exploring Sustainability, I teach at Marlboro College in their graduate Sustainability MBA program. The course extends over five of the six trimesters in their program. This is the first in the series and serves as an introduction to the alternate vision of sustainability I offer. The students were allowed to pick their topics for the final paper assignment as long as they were consistent with the syllabus. One choose to do a book review of Sustainability by Design.… Read More

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Big Lies and Little White Lies

The redesigned Newsweek started coming a few weeks ago amid promises of combining the best of print newsmagazines with their cousins on the Web. They broke their promise. I presume it was a case of misleading PR rather than an outright lie. I wouldn’t have thought about lying if it were not for an article in this latest issue about that very subject. The article I refer to is a book review by Tony Dokoupil of James Stewart’s Tangled Webs. Stewart writes about some of America’s greatest living liars, defined by court judgments of perjury and the like. The names are very familiar: Barry Bonds. Martha Stewart (no relation), Bernard… Read More

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Every silver lining has a cloud.

James Carroll, one of my favorite writers and columnists, took on cloud computing today in his Boston Globe op-ed piece. He was examining the possibility that computing would disappear from the machines in our hands to a mysterious machine up in the clouds. Cloud is the metaphor used to describe the world of large servers located all over the Internet. These servers contain all the data you access when you go to a web page, search for anything, connect to people via Facebook, send an email, or process documents using Google docs, and more. A few days ago I wrote that the combined processing capacity of all of these plus… Read More

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Finding Methuselah at Walmart

What would you think if you came across a scientific study carrying the headline: “Frequent Shopping Prolongs Life, Study Suggests”? Would it be, “I can now persuade my spouse to join me at the Mall?” Or, “Finally George Bush is exonerated for making his famous imprecation to go shopping on the heels of 9/11.” I can think of many other hypothetical responses reinforcing the consumer ethic of today’s society, but would these be justified by this study? I went to the story of the study to find out. I could only download the abstract without paying $30 for the whole article. It seemed a little steep for a story that… Read More

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Incidental information

I don’t usually stray far from the theme of sustainability, but a friend sent me a recent article from Science about “The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information.” It’s in the April 12th issue. [Sorry I can’t give you the link as I am not a subscriber.] The last paragraph summing up the article is very striking. Here it is. To put our findings in perspective, the 6.4 � 10E18 instructions per second that humankind can carry out on its general-purpose computers in 2007 are in the same ballpark area as the maximum number of nerve impulses executed by one human brain per second (10E17). The 2.4… Read More

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Calling the Kettle Black

It’s usually I who criticizes the efforts of businesses to claim some sort of sustainability leadership. This time the blast comes from within the business community. The first act in this scenario is a recent [PR release](http://www.sustainablelifemedia.com/content/story/design/puma_could_be_first_brand_to_measure_impact_on_ecosystem_services) from the parent holding company that owns Puma. > **Puma Could Be First Brand To Measure Impact on Ecosystem Services** > > Sports and lifestyle brand Puma has instituted a new accounting methodology that it says will lead to the first-ever Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) statement. The EP&L statement will attempt to measure the full economic impact of the brand on ecosystem services. > > Ecosystem services is the term given to… Read More

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