Don’t Buy This Jacket

This was the headline on a full-page [ad](http://www.marcgunther.com/wp-content/uploads/112811_home-NY-Times-1.jpg) by Patagonia that appeared on Black Friday in the New York Tines (and I imagine other papers). It is not a spoof, but, rather, a reaction to the consumerist frenzy of Black Friday. You can see my earlier thoughts about Black Friday in a [post](http://www.johnehrenfeld.com/2011/11/blue-wednesday.html) of a few days ago. The ad started with this message: > It’s Black Friday, the day in the year retail turns from red to black and starts to make real money. But Black Friday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re… Read More

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“‘Nature’ Doesn’t Exist,” Says Slavoj Zizek

One of my readers (Thanks, Boudewijn) sent me a comment with reference to the Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, who has some intriguing and unusual opinions on nature and humankind. I did some web searching to learn more about him and his work. I watched a few videos also. Zizek is often quite controversial. A loud critic of capitalism and, from the little I have looked at, a critic of about everything. I focused on just a few of his pieces involving the stance we should take toward “nature.” I used quotes here to emphasize his argument that nature is nothing more than an ideology that serves to mystify the world… Read More

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Blue Wednesday

Today is the day before Thanksgiving and I have been inundated with ads and news of Black Friday, the day we release all our pent-up demand for goods. The biggest shopping day of the year. The make or break day for retailers. There is something terribly incongruous about the rush to the stores on the heels of a day where we gather with friends and family and give thanks for the life we have enjoyed. Black Friday is slowly creeping into Thanksgiving Day as stores are opening earlier and earlier. The news tonight showed shots of shoppers camping outside of the big box stores ready to join the rush to… Read More

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Requisite Variety

This strange and unfamiliar (to most) term was invented by Ross Ashby (pictured), one of the founders of the field of cybernetics. Cybernetics draws its name from the Greek work for steersman and is concerned with the regulation or governance of systems. It blossomed during WWII where the new knowledge was applied to aiming weaponry and radar antennae, for examples. One of the leading researchers at that time was Norbert Weiner at MIT. I was a student there from 1949 to 1957 and often encountered him wandering the halls. He was a legend said to be so absent minded that he frequently stopped students in the hall to ask where… Read More

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The Real Fear Behind Climate Change Denial

Naomi Klein had a very powerful [piece](http://www.thenation.com/article/164497/capitalism-vs-climate?page=full) recently in *The Nation*, titled “Capitalism vs. the Climate.” She began by telling of her experience at a conference on the subject of climate change, sponsored by The Heartland Institute, one of the rightest of right-wing think tanks. The speakers she mentions paint every attempt at reining in climate change as an attack on capitalism, free markets and basic freedoms. The conferees even celebrated their “victories.” No cap and trade, the fiasco at Copenhagen. To say that this is shortsighted misses the depth of the danger of their misplaced jollity. Klein points out that, as the fervor on the right has increased, concern… Read More

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The Paradox of Change in the US

I watched a news program last night featuring a series of interviews with the occupiers in New York. The reporter asked each something like, “What do you want to see come out of your gatherings?” All the answers were something like, “Doh.” Inarticulate and disconnected. Clearly the many that were gathered had some common notion that underpinned the coordination of their actions to come together. Their complaint about the rampant inequality of the present political economy is a common belief, but it is very hard to discern much beyond this. Some of gatherings at the smaller scenes are experimenting with forms of direct democracy, voting on their program as they… Read More

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What’s on Your Mind?

* * * I’ve been back from my long trip for about 10 days and am finding that getting back to posting to this blog very difficult. What’s on your mind that you would like to see here? Sustainability remains the main theme. Use the comments function to send me any ideas.

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What Are the Occupiers Occupying?

Consumption levels slowing. More territory being occupied by protestors. Bipartisan agreement in the Senate on a small jobs bill aimed at veterans. Pipeline decision postponed. Are these recent headline signs of a slowing or reversal of our march toward unsustainability and away from flourishing? Is sustainability coming closer? Can we lower our guard? The answer is clearly NO. This is not any kind of skeptical or cynical response. All of these actions are positive, but simply insufficient to change the drivers of unsustainable individual and societal behavior. Cultures operate on top of deeply embedded structure and tend to reinforce that structure everyday through patterns of repeated, routine behaviors. These patterns… Read More

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Finding Sustainability in Occupation

Returning from a three-week absence from the US, I see the Occupy groups are still in place and growing. This incipient movement has surprised many with its staying and spreading power. Its cause has gotten some lip service from others expressing solidarity, but its voice still lacks punch and general appeal. Gus Speth penned a very timely and powerful charter for the Occupy participants. Others have also offered such proposals. Here is a link to Speth’s work. Speth notes that the issues being aired focus on the symptoms of a deeply seated tangle of broken parts of our political economy. He, as do the protestors, focuses on the immediate issues… Read More

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Two Millennia Later

I am back, but a bit tardy. I returned to much more immediate stuff to do than I ever expected. But I hope to get back on the same schedule of blogging as earlier (more or less). Before I get back to the subject of sustainability, a few words about my travels. My wife and I went from Crete to Zagreb with stops in Athens with a cruise on a small ship stopping at ports all along the Adriatic. The region was a crossroads for centuries and contains the northern boundary of the Ottoman Turkish empire and the boundary dividing the Roman catholic world from the Orthodox. Greek, Roman, Ottoman,… Read More

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