As I was preparing to update a syllabus for a course I was considering to give at my learning-in-retirement “school,” I rediscovered a paper I had written about 10 years ago. It had the academic title of, “Reductionism and Its Cultural Fallout.” It was a polished version of a talk I had given at a conference. Most of it was taken from my first book, Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming our Consumer Culture. It was a pretty good paper, but the point of this post is that I noticed a table comparing two sets of “ideas,” which I had labeled “unsustainable” and “sustainable.” The table is reproduced below.

 Unsustainability and sustainability concepts

Unsustainability Ideas

Sustainability Ideas

Reductionistic

Holistic

Mechanical

Organic

Independent

Interdependent

Quantitative

Qualitative

Individualistic

Communitarian

Determinacy

Indeterminacy

Complicated

Complex

Anthropocentric

Biocentric

 

I wrote this paper just about ten years before I had an inkling of Iain McGilchrist’s divided-brain model, the one that is central to my new book. The match between these two columns and the two in the following table describing the main features of the two brain hemispheres is virtually perfect. Wow!

Characteristics of an actors by the dominant hemisphere
Left Hemisphere
Right Hemisphere

Rational/purposeful

Concerned about

Mechanistic

Organic

Decontextualized

Richly contextual

Outside of/disconnected from the world

Between/connected to the world

Individualistic

Social

Focused on self

Focused on others

Self-interested/willful

Empathetic

Controlling/manipulative

Collaborative

Disembodied in space and time/isolated

Interconnected

Needs certainty

Tolerates uncertainty

Wants to know future (probability)

Open to possibility

Optimistic/realistic

Hopeful

Analytic/reductionist

Pragmatic

There was absolutely no short circuit between these two separate presentations, but it is essentially impossible to attribute the alignments to chance. Another example of finding the divided brain model showing up powerfully in worldly phenomena. Every time I spot such coincidences, I do get evermore confident in the argument I have made that our modern dilemmas spring from left-brain dominance, and that it will take a society-wide re-arrangement of the hemispheres to enable any real movement toward what might be called a flourishing, sustainable Earth.

I apologize for the sloppy formatting of the tables, but I just do not have enough skill in HTML or CSS to do any better. I am pretty much at the mercy of the WordPress editor.