Research Using Crowdsourcing

crowdsource

I want to try an experiment and need the cooperation of those who read this blog. I have been putting together an article on the importance of getting the concept of sustainability right. If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that this is a persistent theme in my writing. Now that I am retired and working from home, I have limited access to the usual resources that frame research and analysis. To substitute for conventional literature searching, I want to try out a process analogous to crowdsourcing for financial capital. Capital for me is intellectual capital—access to sources that bear on whatever I am writing about. After a few paragraphs that frame my current topic, I will request that you send me references to relevant scholarly and newsy courses.

I continue to believe that misunderstanding of the meaning of sustainability remains a serious impediment to progress toward a flourishing world. A few recent articles I encountered on the Internet only reinforce my belief. Here is one someone pointed me to.

One of Friday’s two Focus sections, in the Portland Business Journal, will feature a bevy of information about the sustainability world… Or will it? That is, panelists on a Business Journal roundtable debated, at length, whether the term “sustainability” carries the same heft it did, say, 10 years ago… We’ll feature analysis from the event, which featured eight of the industry’s brightest lights, in our special section on … whatever a good substitute word might exist for “sustainability.” Indeed, our lead story tackles that very question: Does a name, even a clunky six-syllable moniker that’s a bit vague, matter?

One issue Ecotrust President Astrid Scholz has with the moniker is that it’s been marginalized… “You don’t have to care about ‘sustainability’ to use it,” she said. “You can attract dumb capital, so to speak, just by virtue of getting a financial return and getting it to do the right thing.” . . What matters, she added, is that the industry, no matter what it’s called, continues to look for new ideas that both attract and generate capital while doing right by society.

Another is this quote by Yvon Chouinard: “If all these companies are doing all these great sustainability things, why is the world still going to hell?” This comes from a longer quote that appears in my post a few days earlier. I think these two items suffice to frame what I am seeking.

I am looking for sources that say something about the marginalization of sustainability resulting from its prevalent use to mean anything being done to lessen the previous impacts from business-as-usual. I have called this practice “business-almost-as-usual.” I am also interested in the opposite; articles that have data/information about the benefits of incorporating “sustainability” in business strategies. I seek scholarly and otherwise articles, books, webpages, and so on that explicitly call for more rigor and specificity in the definition of sustainability and/or offer such definitions. Anything that says something about what sustainability means.

Any help is most welcome. You can send my the information either as a comment to this post or use the email link at the bottom right of the home page. Web-links are fine. Citations to journals or books also; the more specific the better. If you have a few favorite articles in electronic format, send them along. I will acknowledge the donor of any materials I use.

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1 Comments

Boudewijn said:

Hi John,

Here's some of the things I've used or that are on my 'to read' list:

In the open access journal 'Sustainability':
Liu (2009) Sustainability: Living within One's Own Ecological Means
Kuhlman & Farrington (2010) What is Sustainability?

Also I like the work of Thomas Princen:
“The challenge will not just be cutting back, restraining consumption, and eschewing debt […]. Rather, the challenge will be living well by living well within our means.” This is a quote from his his book 'Treading Softly', where he argues for a 'new normal'. Another one of his books I'd recommend: 'The Logic of Sufficiency'. In it he also thoroughly criticizes the notion of efficiency.

A virtue ethical approach is taken by Ronald L. Sandler in his book "Character & Environment": "Attempts to improve society, including its relations to the natural environment, will amount to mere moonshine if its citizens lack the character and commitment to make them work.” He proposes a pluralistic account of environmental virtues.
I think generally virtue ethics is a good source of inspiration for your work. For instance, one could interpret 'care' to be the central 'virtue' that you're arguing for in your work. Also, as you have based some of your work on Erich Fromm, the change you are arguing for could be described as 'characterological change'. Although we can count Fromm among the 'art of life' theorists, virtue ethics is very much related. Virtue ethics is basically a character ethics. Just like 'art of life' theories it's about self realization, or self development. About shaping or forming yourself, and of course being co-shaped. The art of life is often seen as being part of 'life ethics', where they speak of 'modes of existence' or 'modes of living' just like you do. I think, however, art of life theories are mostly concerned with the 'care of the self' (since much of it is based upon Foucault's and Nietzsche's work), and not the two other pillars you describe.

I'd also like to point out 'care ethics' as an emerging field. I think it's interesting because not only the name, but also the content behind it relates to your way of thinking about 'care'. I think it originated out of the feminist movement, but it has some non-feminist authors representing the field as well. I'd recommend the book (only read it partly): The Ethics of Care: Personal, Political, Global - Virginia Held. An article for some orientation that I used is this online one: http://www.iep.utm.edu/care-eth/

You probably know the work of Tim Jackson? In his book 'Prosperity without Growth' I think he discusses our crises and sets out new directions in a way that closely relates to your work.

A perfect example, in my opinion, of short sightedness is the Cradle to Cradle movement. Basically it's about consuming more, just because it's possible for we can up-cycle everything and live in abundance (...!). I'm not sure how they define sustainability, but they seem to want to go beyond it in their new book: http://www.mbdc.com/2013/03/15/new-book-from-william-mcdonough-the-upcycle-beyond-sustainability-designing-for-abundance/

I hope more people will respond and it would aslo be nice if you would post some of your recommended readings as well? That would be nice! Best wishes,

Boudewijn

ps. Apologies for the long text, it got a bit out of hand.. Some things are not directly answering to your request as much as you might have hoped for; but I hope you find it interesting nonetheless..!