Closing Loops Is Almost as Old as Life Itself

The concepts behind the cradle-to-cradle brand (C2C) come straight from nature. McDonough and Braungart have brilliantly taken credit for what nature has always done. I admire their success in finding powerful language for these natural processes, but am affronted when I hear them say or imply that they invented them. The environmental media are frequent accessories in propagating this misconception. This paragraph showed up a few days ago in a [story](http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2011/08/25/how-chemical-regulations-can-boost-cradle-cradle-thinking?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Greenbuzz+%28GreenBiz+Feed%29) in GreenBiz news: McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart developed the C2C philosophy, which espouses material health, reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship and social responsibility. Companies can have their goods certified as C2C products based on what goes into them,… Read More

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Structure and Organization

I confused these two terms in my last post. Here’s the right description. Both refer to properties of systems, especially living systems. The definitions I use come from the work of Humberto Maturana. Entities composed of multiple elements have both structure and organization. Organization refers to the particular way in which the parts are interconnected. Organization gives an object its name. A chair is recognized by its organization, which, for a chair, is a set of legs supporting a seat with a back rising from the rear of the seat. If the same elements are organized in a different arrangement, the entity loses its former functional characteristics and becomes something… Read More

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Slow Down, You’re Rocking the Boat

The title of the song, “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” from Guys and Dolls is a bit different but, with a slight change, fits today’s post. There is also, again, a eerie sense of synchronicity at work. A few days ago, I got a comment on one of my posts about the London riots that also had a link to a few articles and authors concerned with complexity. Out of curiosity, I looked up one of the names, Paul Cilliers, and discovered and downloaded a very interesting [article](http://complexity.vub.ac.be/phil/drafts/Cilliers.pdf) entitled, “On the Importance of a Certain Slowness.” Today as I was heading home from a couple of errands, the local… Read More

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The London Riots (Redux)

A few posts ago, I presented one scholar’s view of the cause of the riots in the UK. Several readers commented that the author, Zigmund Bauman, took a narrow stance, coming from his own theories that argue that we are in a state of “liquid modernity.” By this he means that individuals have been cut loose from the “modern” institutions that anchored social stability. Rapid change inhibits the formation of new stable institutions leaving individuals bereft of solidfying relationships. The result is that individuals must take on different roles on short notice. They cannot count on the institutions of either the public or private sector to provide the security that… Read More

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“Normal” Sustainable Consumption Is a Fantasy

The sustainable consumption list server I follow has a exceptionally long series of commentaries about consumerism and the role of public relations and other forms of cultural pressure. One of the early entrants asked, “What is ‘normal’ [sustainable ] consumption?” This question comes in turn from the notion that there is some level of consumption that is both consistent with sustainability and with accepted societal norms. I think this is the wrong question to ask. We know that consumption must be much less than it today. Sooner or later we going to have to return to a footprint that is less than the one Earth we inhabit. But short of… Read More

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The Dark Side of Consumerism

In the week or so since the riots burst forth in England there have been a gush of articles looking to explain their causes. Acting out of my “confirmation bias ( another story in full bloom in the media right now),” I found an explanation that was right on target for me. Zygmunt Bauman, writing for the “Social Europe Journal” argues that these upheavals are the result of “Consumerism coming Home.” The Journal covers “issues of critical interest to progressives.” Bauman is a well-known sociologist and is Emeritus Professor at the University of Leeds. His main premise is that social upheavals, such as the London riots, are the result of… Read More

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Ray Anderson

I saw an obituary of Ray yesterday. More than any other business leader, he promoted the cause of sustainability as an essential foundation for business strategies. I would have argued with him (and did on occasion) that his view of sustainability missed its essential meaning. But no matter, Ray was an unceasing spokesman for the greening movement through his books and frequent speeches. He claimed he got the message as an epiphany after reading Paul Hawken’s early book, The Ecology of Commerce. He brought in a dream team (Hawken, Lovins, McDonough, and others) to put his company, Interface Carpet, at the head of the queue. Some of his ideas worked… Read More

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Consumerism, Even in the Name of Sustainability, Is Harmful

As a participant in the SCORAI network, I get periodic emails about sustainable consumption. SCORAI Is a network of researchers working on this subject. I find this group a source of inspiration and knowledge, even while I cannot accept the phrase “sustainable consumption” as meaningful. The latest message carried a [link](http://www.guardian.co.uk/sustainable-business/pr-created-consumerism-lessons-sustainability) to an article in the Guardian about the creation of consumers in the last century. Written by Stephanie Draper, with the title, “PR created consumerism – what can it do for sustainability?”, the article tells the story of Edward Bernays (in the photo), the father of public relations, and how he created consumers through this technique. The main example… Read More

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Still in a Bad Mood

I will be away for a few days to visit friends. In any case, I need a few days just to get out of the bad mood I am in. I have not been able to think about sustainability when I need how to figure out how to get from today to tomorrow, and I am certain that I am not alone in these straits. I know that all will pass but I wonder if the world will have undergone one of those flips I so often write about: a change into a new regime from which we cannot return to the present world, presuming that is where we want… Read More

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Hard to Think Much Beyond Tomorrow

It has been a tough day on top of quite a few troublesome days. It’s not just the plummeting stock market, but the context in which all turmoil this is happening. I am certainly not in the straits of the unemployed, although retirement is a sort of unemployed state, but results of the past few days are for me like taking a 20% cut in pay. I am appalled at the callousness of those so-called leaders in business and government. Ideologies of all flavors are blinding them to see the real lives of the millions of people whose lives are either being rent asunder or severely buffeted. And what for?… Read More

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