Sages of Sustainability

This was a week of the mundane and the philosophical.  

Most senior Sustainability Studies Minors registered for classes.  A new section of Sustainable Communities was added (it is still one class for registration but will be divided into two sections) to accommodate students needing to finish the Minor and graduate, and there was a brief time of suspense about that. 

I had lunches with two sages of sustainability, Stuart Hill (http://www.stuartbhill.com/) last Thursday and and Lester Brown (http://www.earth-policy.org/) today.  Stuart Hill, from Australia by way of Canada, bridges disciplines as diverse as soil science and psychology, with sustainability as the point of connection.  Lester Brown's environmental research and writing career spans decades, as author of the worldwatch reports and the Plan B series, the lastest Plan B 4.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization.  As I questioned, listened to stories of success and struggle and strategized new ideas for policy, education and community work with my colleageus, I became aware of the patience it took to work against the grain for so long.

Stuart tells us that he will not live forever and wants to share the work of his life with others, so read a few of his "testing questions" for theory and practice:

• Ask of all theory & practice - what is it in the service of? - before supporting or copying it

• Work mostly with 'small meaningful achievable initiatives' vs. 'Olympic-scale projects' (most of these are abandoned or fail, & have numerous negative side-effects)

• To achieve sustainable progressive change, focus (at least first) on enabling the 'benign' agendas of others vs. trying to impose on them your own 'benign' agendas

• Focus on enabling the potential of people, society & nature to express itself - so that wellbeing, social justice & sustainability can emerge (in integrated, synergistic ways)

• Collaborate across difference to achieve broadly shared goals - don't end up isolated, alone in a 'sandbox' 

• Don't let 'end point'/goal differences prevent possibilities of early stage collaboration

• Outcomes are only as good & sustainable as the people creating & implementing them - so start with the people; & remember that we are a relational/social species!

• Use the media - let me repeat - use the media! - such 'political' communication is key to change

• Celebrate publicly at every opportunity - to enable the good stuff to be 'contagious'

Lester Brown's point today was that the state of U.S. carbon reduction is better than commonly thought, which is important as we approach the United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen (COP15 or "Conference of Partners 15") in December.  He points out reduction in coal use and the size and usage of the automobile fleet in the U.S. and suggests that these trends transcend recession.  Some of my Institute on the Environment research colleagues were not entirely convinced.  Read more about his work on his website and weigh in yourself.

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This page contains a single entry by bethmt published on November 16, 2009 11:04 PM.

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