Archive for the 'Sustainability' Category

Decoupling Society

April 8, 2015

Tight Coupling NO

In programming, we have a design principle of loose coupling, opposite of tight coupling where services are highly dependent on one another. Most of the time, tight coupling is bad practice because it reduces flexibility/reusability and increases complexity. We can use the same analogy for society. In the past, we have examples throughout history where things were once tightly coupled and later shifted to a more loosely coupled model like separation of church and state. Presently, in sustainability, I hear that we need to decouple natural resources and environmental degradation from economic growth. First off, there is a word for out-of-control growth. It’s called cancer. There are limits to growth, as Robert Kennedy once said,

“Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

I believe we need to decouple growth from the notion of progress. In the future, I believe we’ll need to decouple many more aspects of society to as we evolve to new levels of collective consciousness:

Decoupling technology from success

Humans have always been fascinated by tools. Sometimes, this leads to overconfidence that human ingenuity and newer technologies can solve the problems of today. In fact, this type of misthinking leads to a dangerous game of “our wits vs their genes” as seen in the rise of antibiotic resistance over the last few decades. Bacteria can replicate itself in under 20 minutes, evolving each time, while human generations span longer than 20 years. What would you rather place a bet on?

A less known phenomenon in economics is called the Jevons paradox. It states that as technology increases, efficiency increases, but then our consumption of the resource increases as well, negating the positive effects of that technology. From Wikipedia, “The Jevons paradox indicates that increased efficiency by itself is unlikely to reduce fuel use, and that sustainable energy policy must rely on other types of government interventions.”


Jevons Paradox

Decoupling work from income

The idea of getting paid to do an unfulfilling and unengaging job seems so Industrial Era factory thinking to me. Our societal systems of neoliberal capitalism and a gridlocked political system that seems more like a plutocracy than a democracy have wrecked havoc on our intrinsic motivations and social human nature. We know what motivates uspurpose, autonomy, and mastery. Why are we living in outdated institutional and societal structures that no longer best serves our needs, and what then can I do? I believe in a world where every human has the basic right to all levels below self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy, including, but not limited to (physiological needs) clean air/water, healthy food, clothing/shelter, (safety) personal/financial security, well-being, insurance/safety net, (love and belonging) family/friends/mentors/colleagues, (esteem) respect, autonomy, and mastery. This unprecedented level of equality would give everyone the real opportunity for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In self-actualization and beyond (self-transcendence, etc) could we truly have enough energy to explore our unique individual and collective purpose, contribution, and gifts. To do so, would require radically changing our economic and political systems, which decoupling work from income for the basic human needs of physiological needs, safety, and love and belonging, would be a good step in that direction.


Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs


The Journey

April 17, 2014

My sustainability journey started by watching Story of Stuff. It helped me ask, “how is stuff made?” Understanding “why is stuff made?” led me to research “what is money?” More educated about money, I looked into our fossil fuel addicted economy. Scared out of my mind after researching peak oil and climate change, I started looking for solutions, yet only found more problems with our industrial food system. Then, I discovered permaculture. One of the principles of permaculture is “the problem is the solution.” Regional foodsheds built on real relationships supplied by regenerative farming is one piece of the puzzle. There are over 40+ regenerative agricultural practices that can build topsoil, sequester carbon, provide nutrient-dense food, reduce fossil fuel reliance, increase biodiversity, increase yields, cleanse water, and many more benefits. Can agriculture be the problem as well as the solution? I think so. To find out, my current journey has led me to the hidden world under out feet, soil. Stay tuned!

Grass is always greener

April 6, 2014

…on the other side. Yet when we get there, often times we realize our perceptions deceive us and it was only a trade off. A dichotomy in our human-ness makes us seek stability and improvement at the same time. We know that staying the course with “business-as-usual” mentality will lead us to unadaptable climate change for us. Social and political unrest over access to resource scarcity will cause violent conflict and mass migration to “greener pastures.” The oceans have absorbed most of the carbon in the air, yet we’ve burdened it to the point of ecosystem collapse through ocean acidification. Where then can we put the carbon? What about in the grass itself? What if it was possible to capture and sequester carbon in the prairie grasses and soil itself, increasing natural capital and relieving socioeconomic pressure? Management-intensive grazing experts says yes. In his TED talk, Allan Savory talks about how Holistic Management can help reverse desertification and global warming. Understanding the relationships in our natural ecosystems, including those between carbon, water, soil, grass, and herbivores, will help us create the abundance and greener world we know is possible.

A story about humanity told through graphs

November 14, 2013

Googling around, I noticed searching define + any word displays a small graph showing how often that word has been used in books over the years. This is an experiment to create a cohesive narrative told through word usage graphs. Please let me know what you think and play around with the tool to come up with your own story.





































Are you my mother?

August 25, 2013

Paul Hawken, an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and author, talks about the unsung movement of social/environmental causes and uses the analogy of an immune system. Very thought-provoking and worth the watch.

Paul Hawken
Watch Paul Hawken: The New Great Transformation