Life Starts with Love

One of the longest, continuing study of human development has been in the news lately with the recent publication of George Vaillant’s Triumphs of Experience. For the past thirty years Vaillant has been the director of the much-heralded Grant Study, named for the donor W. T. Grant, eponymous owner of an early chain of discount stores. The Grant study, begin in 1938, has followed 268 Harvard undergraduates throughout their lives, monitoring their physical and mental health and their successes and failures in life. Since the study was restricted to white, upper class subjects, any conclusions need to be very carefully vetted. But a few of the findings, highlighted by Vaillant,… Read More

Continue Reading

Omnia vincit amor

The Marathon bombing has spawned a spate of articles about violence. I have not written much about this subject in my books and other pieces on sustainability-as-flourishing, but it should be quite obvious that the subjects are intimately intertwined. People can flourish in a culture where violence is rare and not systemic, but not in one where violence is part of the system, the culture. There is a big difference between events that are rare and random, and events that are normal, an embedded part of the cultural system. Violence is inherently a form of domination, a condition which is highly inimical to flourishing. The NYTimes ran an [oped piece](http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/is-american-nonviolence-possible/)… Read More

Continue Reading

Earth Day 2013

Let me begin with a reminder about the origin of Earth Day that I cribbed from the web [site](http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement) of the Earth Day Network. > The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded… Read More

Continue Reading

Flourishing Is Here

No, I don’t mean that sustainability has arrived, only that I have gotten my copies of Andy and my new book. It looks great. Your copies should be shipping from wherever you ordered them in the next week or so. I am looking for comments on the book at any time.

Continue Reading

Facing Up to Terror

I have made several attempts at writing a post following the bombing at the Boston Marathon. It’s too close to home for me to be able to compose my thoughts sufficiently clearly to put them out for public scrutiny. But I do owe something to this blog. The word, cowardly, keeps coming up in my mind. Technology, my favorite bete noire, enables such cowardly acts by separating the actor in time and space from the consequences of whatever action is being taken. By this assertion, I do not mean to condemn technology, only to point out, as I often do, that it has a dark side. The reaction to such… Read More

Continue Reading

What’s the Matter with Kansas? Again!

What’s the matter with Kansas? Much more than Thomas Frank found to write about in his 2004 book of the same name. I discovered that he took the title from an 1986 editorial by William Allen White chastising Kansan Populist leaders for adopting policies that discouraged investors from coming into Kansas. Well, Kansas continues to act against its interests. I came upon a [story](http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-09/kansas-s-self-destruct-button-a-bill-to-outlaw-sustainability.html) on the Bloomberg website telling of a recent bill introduced into the state legislature to outlaw any public action connected to sustainable development. Tom Randall, the article’s author leads off with: > Kansas, I love your sense of humor. > It seems like every time the… Read More

Continue Reading

Robo-Children

All the various news media have been full of stories about the sad state of our US educational system. I heard a report yesterday on NPR that besides the terrible performance of our poor kids in school, the middle class students were not much better. We lag the rest of our peer nations in math, science, and other subjects. I am finishing Jonathan Kozol’s screed, The Shame of the Nation, about how we educate out poor minorities, particularly black children. The book is one of the sources for a course I am taking. Tom Friedman keeps writing about the need to turn our children into blue collar technicians so that… Read More

Continue Reading

A Letter to the President: No on XL

Dear President Obama, The news today had several stories about meetings you held with major supporters in which you (so the news goes) indicated support for the Keystone XL pipeline. Please do not do this, and stick to your earlier opposition. Sometimes democracy fails us when the majority acts against the interests of others. We have many safeguards against the tyranny of the majority; this was a major concern that shaped the basic institutions of our government. This is just such a case. I hear you arguing that the economic benefits of jobs that will be created will out weigh the costs we will incur during the building and operation… Read More

Continue Reading

Score One for Flourishing

David Brooks has a good [column](http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/opinion/brooks-freedom-loses-one.html?hp) today. Here’s the money quote. > The proponents of same-sex marriage used the language of equality and rights in promoting their cause, because that is the language we have floating around. But, if it wins, same-sex marriage will be a victory for the good life, which is about living in a society that induces you to narrow your choices and embrace your obligations. Brooks is rightly cutting through the current political rhetoric about rights and equality, both of which are important, to point out that flourishing (he called it the good life) requires limits to choice and commensurate responsibilities. The idea that unlimited choice… Read More

Continue Reading

Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You

A few weeks ago, I [responded](http://www.johnehrenfeld.com/2013/03/solutionism.html) to a NYTimes opinion piece by Evgeny Morozov on the subject of ‘solutionism.” He has published a few more on the same technological theme, the latest being an article on March 31, 2013. His current [piece](http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/opinion/sunday/morozov-machines-of-laughter-and-forgetting.html?partner=rss&emc=rss) criticizes technology for its tendency to support mindless actions. > . . . “Civilization,” wrote the philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead in 1911, “advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” Whitehead was writing about mathematics, but technology, with its reliance on formula and algorithms, easily fits his dictum as well. . . On this account, technology can save… Read More

Continue Reading