Altruism, Evolution, and Care

The current New Yorker (3/5/12) is running an excellent article, *Kin and Kind*, by Jonah Lehrer (not available without a subscription) about altruism and its connection (or not) to evolution. Most of it is concerned with animal, especially insect, behavior, but human behavior is addressed toward the end. The main thrust of the story is centered on a long-standing controversy within biology and the major players in that stand-off. Along the way, we learn something about altruism and its roots (or not) in the genes. Altruism, caring about the safety and well-being of others while your own safety and well-being may be imperiled, stands against the idea of selfishness as… Read More

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“Rats” is More than a Mild Expletive

One of the central premises of my way of talking about and moving toward sustainability-as-flourishing is the idea that human Beings are caring, not needing, creatures. Need suggests that our fundamental motivations for action are inward directed. This model leads pretty directly to the model of Homo economicus, a rational person always acting from a desire to maximize his or her wants or needs, within the constraints of the resources at hand. When this kind of human behaves in a way that appears to be unselfish, classic economists would explain it by saying that altruism is just a part of one’s utilities. Further examination of this concept suggests that the… Read More

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Scrooge Lives

The Boston Globe ran an intriguing [story](http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/02/19/why-matters-that-our-politicians-are-rich/1nxiCNvQoKWSiWX2r5JItI/story.html#) on February 19th, under this headline: “Why it matters that our politicians are rich?” Further is carried this subhead: “Science is finding that money actually changes how you think and act—and not for the better.” I have often written about the research that shows that more wealth, after subsistence levels have been reached, does not add to one’s sense of well-being, but I had never seen evidence that more money can make one less of a human being. The article focuses on the hardening of our largely very rich politicians to human hardship. The members of Congress have a net worth of 9… Read More

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Vision-and-Values-driven Leaders

I spent a busy and productive weekend teaching students in a PhD program at Benedictine University, outside of Chicago. The program is named “Values-driven Leadership,” and I was one of several others talking sustainability to the candidates. The preparation for this class propelled me into closely examining some of the underlying ideas in my own work on sustainability. At one point in the program, I asked the students what a “leader” is? I offered this definition as a conversation starter: “A leader is an actor who has a clear consciousness of his or her important (the topmost) values, and is able to enroll others in enacting them.” I was a… Read More

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Sustainable Brands (Whatever That Means?)

After struggling for a month or so to find topics that would interest both you and me, I am swamped with possibilities and will get to them as quickly as I can. For starters, this headline really intrigued me: “50 Fastest Growing Brands Serve a ‘Higher Purpose.’” I found this on a blog run by “Sustainable Brands,” which according to their website is, “a learning, collaboration, and commerce community of over 50,000 sustainable business leaders from around the globe.” I spent some time going through their web pages which tell a story I will write about another time, but I want to focus on the [headlined story](http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/articles/50-fastest-growing-brands-serve-%E2%80%98higher-purpose%E2%80%99), above. First, the… Read More

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The Fallacy of Greening

The blogosphere has been humming for the past week or so with responses to an [article](http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203889904577198922867850002.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Darticle) about energy efficiency published in the WSJ. David Owen, author of a book and other articles on the subject, argues that energy efficiency is not going to move the world toward solving our environmental dilemma, particularly climate change. His context is what he calls the “conundrum” of energy efficiency, the growth of energy use blamed on the availability of capital freed up to consume more in other ways. In this article, he has expanded the playing field to include product switching, the consumption of supposedly less damaging alternatives. Energy-efficient products fit his description. This… Read More

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