Literacy and Domination

I have been reading Leonard Shlain’s fascinating book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict between Word and Image. I wish I had encountered it before I had completed my now book. I have been referring to Iain McGilchrist for the last year or so as my primary source for the divided brain model, but Shlain has described the same dichotomy, using a completely different style, telling historic stories without adding any clinical data. I find his work just as compelling as McGilchrist’s. In this book, Shlain traces the many shifts between the two brain hemispheres that have occurred over human history and their consequences on human societies. His basic… Read More

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Natural Fireworks

This photo was taken about an hour before we watched fireworks from our porch. It provided the real fire for the evening. The setting Moon is just visible in the upper left. We don’t get one as spectacular every night, but do have more than our share during the summer. Our cottage is on the western side of a roughly north-south peninsula, offering us a rare view of sunsets over a small piece of the Atlantic. Every year Freeport has a show that is visible from our house. The bursts come over the trees about halfway between the setting Moon and already set Sun. This year, the night was so… Read More

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The “I” of Impeachment

Our President is fond of using the word, “I.” It is important to all of us in the US and elsewhere to understand exactly what that “I” means. It comes in two flavors. The first is personal, pointing at and completely circumscribed by the speaker’s body. This form is created, sui generis. The second arises from the institutional status of the speaker and is constrained by the deontic (obligatory) powers of the particular institution: in Trump’s case, those incumbent on the President of the United States. These are to be found in the Constitution, laws, court rulings, and established traditions. The difference is critical in determining the legitimacy of the… Read More

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A Preview of My Forthcoming Book

About a year ago I gave made a presentation of my recent work on flourishing to a conference of industrial designers in Oslo. The talk was chosen to be among a handful of papers to be published in a special edition of She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation. Don’t let the name daunt you; the paper is published in English. The paper, “Flourishing: Designing a Brave New World” follows the story-line of my coming book. It discusses the grounds for flourishing, the role of the brain hemispheres in creating our present social and environmental  precarious conditions, and some ways to change our trajectory toward a flourishing future.… Read More

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How to Use “Sustainability” Properly

I am patiently awaiting the arrival of my new book in August. It develops the idea of flourishing far beyond my previous works and ties both the sources of our present unsustainable state and pathways to escape from future disasters to an understanding of the way the human brain works. I do not plan to write many posts elaborating these ideas until the book is out. But I was reminded that I have two other books that have led up to the story I am now telling by seeing a quote from the first, Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming our Consumer Culture on somebody’s blog. The quote… Read More

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For Better or Worse: Humans Are the Earth’s Keystone Species

Ruth and I watched a very moving movie last night at our local art house. “The Serengeti Rules” is a beautifully produced story of the discovery of a very important feature of ecosystems. Seen through the eyes, mouth, and work of six ecologically oriented scientists, the film focuses on the role of “keystone species” as the glue that sustains the integrity of ecosystems. The film is the work of Sean B. Carroll, himself a biological scientist. For anyone who cannot find the film, he has written a book with the same title that tells the story. Classic models of ecosystems were largely built on a hierarchical model with ascending trophic… Read More

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Finding and Making the Right Choice

We, in the US and other so-called modern, capitalistic, market-driven nations, need a different framework for the way we discuss and decide our political choices. The traditional polarization between left and right, or liberal and conservative, or some other pair no longer enables anyone to find and examine the real issues facing everyone on the Planet. Any conversation that takes economic growth for granted, whether implicit or explicit, creates a blindness that will make whatever choices are made eventually exacerbate the problems for which the choices are believed to be the solution. The planet cannot stand any additional material growth without destabilizing the planetary environmental system further than it already… Read More

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“We have the brains to slow down climate change.” So what, I Ask.

The first part of the title comes from an op-ed piece in the NYTimes, by Jon Gertner, the author of the forthcoming book The Ice at the End of the World. The whole title of the piece is “Maybe We’re Not Doomed After All: We have the brains to slow down climate change. Do we have the will?” His book is about the massive Greenland ice sheet and its internal historical record of atmospheric conditions, created as the ice accumulated over the years. Ice cores produce evidence of changes in the atmosphere, for example: Amid the trace chemicals that turn up in the old ice, there is an unmistakable fingerprint… Read More

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Caring for Nature is Natural

I came across this quote from Oliver Sacks recently. It appeared posthumously in an opinion column in the New York Times. Sacks died in 2015. Clearly, nature calls to something very deep in us. Biophilia, the love of nature and living things, is an essential part of the human condition. Hortophilia, the desire to interact with, manage, and tend nature, is also deeply instilled in us. The role that nature plays in health and healing becomes even more critical for people working long days in windowless offices, for those living in city neighborhoods without access to green spaces, for children in city schools, or for those in institutional settings such… Read More

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Truth or Consequences (Not a Quiz Show)

My wife, Ruth, took a course about pragmatism this last semester at HILR, the life-long learning program we both attend. The last person they discussed was the philosopher and neo-pragmatist, Richard Rorty. I have admired Rorty and have often cited his work. His claim that solidarity with all human beings is the fundamental underpinning of a liberal society resonates with my arguments that care is the essential relationship to enact. It is also consistent with the mastery of the right brain. In the course of our conversations, she pointed me to an article about him in the Los Angeles Review of Books. In his article, Rorty and Post-post-truth, Eduardo Mendieta… Read More

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