Tag Archives: interdependence

Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

If you happen to be in Singapore and you can make it by on the 30th…

The Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster of HSS cordially invite you to a seminar by Dr Michelle Merrill, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster. Her topic is Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know.

Details of time/venue: 30 April 2014, Time: 3:00pm – 4:30pm,   HSS Meeting Room 4, Level 4 (HSS-04-71), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

It is easy to find evidence for unsustainability. Almost everyone has heard about the problems (climate change, air pollution, water scarcity, soil degradation, biodiversity loss…) and it is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which multiple converging crises precipitate devastating social, economic and political shocks.  Most would agree that, even without such doomsday scenarios, solving these unsustainability crises is an obligation we have to future generations; intergenerational well-being demands that we learn to be good ancestors and leave a world that works for our descendants.  While most sustainability problems actually have solutions that could be implemented without waiting for tomorrow’s technology, the solutions are often dismissed as “not feasible,” with the clear implication that leaders in industry, government and academia do not really know how to resolve these interdependent problems.  Sustainability requires not just new technologies and industrial processes; it also requires new attitudes and mindsets, especially the ability to consider how consequences travel through interconnections in complex adaptive systems.  Colleges and universities are where tomorrow’s leaders should gain the skills to wisely address these challenges.

Education for sustainability is essential for intergenerational well-being and the long-term viability of society. It also provides an ideal platform for students to learn and apply interdisciplinary critical thinking.  This talk will investigate strategies for promoting interdisciplinary education for sustainability in tertiary education.  Concepts and pedagogies that were implemented at Cabrillo College (California, USA), and preliminary results regarding their efficacy will be addressed.  The talk will review some of the organizations and strategies for promoting professional development in education for sustainability around the world.  Plans for fostering a strong network of sustainability educators across colleges and universities centered in Southeast Asia will be presented.

Michelle Y. Merrill Biographic Sketch:

Michelle Y. Merrill (Ph.D.) studies teaching, learning, cultural evolution and culture change.  Since 2004, her focus has been on the application of those concepts to sustainability:  how we can connect with, learn from and teach one another to co-create a resilient, regenerative future.  She is particularly interested in applying principles, examples and metaphors from ecology and evolutionary biology in solving human design problems in both the social and technological arenas, especially systems thinking and biomimicry. Before embarking on her current research project on sustainability and pedagogy at NTU, she worked at a community college in California, developing sustainability-themed courses, advising student clubs, and supporting college efforts to enhance institutional and community sustainability and social justice.  She won the 2013 John D. Hurd Award for Teaching Excellence at Cabrillo College.

Dr. Merrill’s previous research was on the evolution of primate behavior, giving her a broad grounding in tropical ecology, primate and human evolution, social networks, cooperation, learning and communication.  She studied wild orangutans (Pongo abelii) on Sumatra, and bonobos (Pan paniscus) in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and at the Language Research Center (Decatur, Georgia, USA).  Her doctoral dissertation in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy from Duke University (2004) was on Orangutan Cultures: Tool Use, Social Transmission and Population Differences.  Her experiences in tropical rainforest fieldwork inform her current approach to sustainability, emphasizing the need to address social and economic development along with environmental conservation to protect and preserve endangered great apes and other species, including our own.

…Meanwhile, Happy Earth Day!

Link

Warmer climate strongly affects human conflict and violence worldwide, says study

In case you didn’t get the memo that climate change is probably the most important, and almost certainly the largest human rights issue facing us today. If you want to promote peace and justice, you need to work to reduce and mitigate climate change.

Warmer climate strongly affects human conflict and violence worldwide, says study.

“What was lacking was a clear picture of what this body of research as a whole was telling us,” said Solomon Hsiang, the study’s lead author, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy at Princeton during the research project and is now an assistant professor of public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. “We collected 60 existing studies containing 45 different data sets and we re-analyzed their data and findings using a common statistical framework. The results were striking.”

They examined various aspects of climate such as rainfall, drought or temperature, and their associations with various forms of violence within three broad categories of conflict:

  •  Personal violence and crime such as murder, assault, rape, and domestic violence;
  • Intergroup violence and political instability, like civil wars, riots, ethnic violence, and land invasions;
  • Institutional breakdowns, such as abrupt and major changes in governing institutions or the collapse of entire civilizations.

The results proved all three types of conflict exhibit systematic and large responses to changes in climate, with the effect on intergroup conflict being the most pronounced. Conflict responded most consistently to temperature, with all 27 out of 27 studies of modern societies finding a positive relationship between high temperatures and greater violence.

… The findings of the study suggest that a global temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius could increase the rate of intergroup conflicts, such as civil wars, by over 50 percent in many parts of the world.

Aside

David Bergman: EcoOptimism posted more about Interdependence Day on July 6th: As befits a post on interdependence, there are a lot of intertwined tentacles here: property rights, voting rights, future generations, our relationship to nature. Just a few ethical and existential questions. Good … Continue reading

A Declaration of Interdependence~Independence Day 2013

Re-imagining Independence Day

It’s that time of year again.  Here in our little coastal paradise, hordes or barbarians descend to get out of the inland heat, char some animal flesh, and blow things up on the beach.

Of course, I can’t let a Fourth of July pass without remembering my dear friend Joody, and our attempts to articulate and celebrate new thoughts appropriate to such a revolutionary anniversary.  So raise your own flagoccupy your worldget decolonized,  start your own currency and declare something wonderful today!

After working so passionately on devising a new Independence /Interdependence Day celebration, I had a few more thoughts.

One has to do with the dynamic tension between the two possible sentiments: Independence ~ Interdependence (as Eamonn Kelly would put it).  Both are present and necessary in these challenging times.

From an artistic perspective,  independence is about the negative space: breaking away from that which we no longer need.  There are other examples of the power of this negative-space perspective; the language of the Ten Commandments, the resistance movements of the Arab Spring, and many crucial environmental movements have been drawn around the negative space, with “Thou Shalt Not…” language and a call to STOP doing wrong.  This is Michelangelo, knocking away the unwanted bits of marble to free the glorious figure within.

Interdependence is framed more in the positive language that McDonough and Braungart promote in The Upcycle, their new sequel to Cradle to Cradle. It is much more about what we want to move towards, not just what we want to stay away from: “more good” instead of just “less bad.” Interdependence, of course, is the province of the weaver, finding the gossamer connections between things. The first peoples of Turtle Island/North America spoke of  Grandmother Spider, who knew a thing or two about interdependence.  This is not a wisdom taught as commonly in the dominant, Euro-derived culture.  It is a harder thing to see the immaterial links between, the pattern which connectsand keeps communities, civilizations and ecosystems whole and healthy.

Again this year, I celebrate and embrace both, entwined as they are in their powerful dance.  I declare Independence ~ Interdependence!

(Updated from my 2011 Inter-dependence Day Post, with a little from 2012, because recycling is beautiful!)

Indigenous Energy Idle No More

Indigenous voices are being raised.  The amazing story of Idle No More, and their resistance to the exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline, is a source of tremendous inspiration for me.  Local groups are organizing around the themes of Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Nature.  These rights have been ignored and abused for far too long.

Idle No More at San Francisco demonstration against KXL

Near the winter solstice of 2012, the Catholic Bishop at Mission San Juan Bautista offered a formal apology to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Ohlone/Costanoan Indians.  Valentin Lopez, Tribal Chairman of the Amah Mutsun band of Ohlone said they misreported that he accepted the apology.  Instead, he acknowledged the apology, as it was not sufficiently extensive to accept.

You [nearly] exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better?

~Spike (BtVS #64, by Jane Espenson)

Perhaps there is no way to truly apologize for the damage done by colonialism. Healing from historic trauma is a vast challenge that will confound us as a species for a long time.

Everybody’s been traumatized in this society… To civilize us, they have to traumatize us.

~John Trudell 7 Feb 2013, “dedicated, coherent, prolific, inspiring, AIM leader, poet troubadour”

Still, an apology is not a bad place to start, as long as everyone understands the inadequacy of the gesture. In the US, a 2010 military spending bill  included an apology to Native Americans that was signed into law, far too quietly, by President Barack Obama. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper did his best to apologize for the (not-un-Borg-like) government efforts to assimilate previous generations of First Nations peoples via residential schooling.   At least in Canada, they’ve adopted something like the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, trying to bring the history of atrocities into the light of day, so that healing might begin.  As far as I can find, the only Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States is in response to the Greensboro Massacre by the KKK in 1979.

Willow : …we should be helping him redress his wrongs. Bring the atrocities to light.

Giles : If the history books are full of them, I’d say they already are.

BtVS #64, by Jane Espenson

Is the truth really out there?  You can find it, if you’re looking in the right history books.  In her book Bad IndiansDeborah Miranda sketches the terrible history of the California missions.  California received the barbed tip of the lash that was struck across Turtle Island. It tore asunder languages, cultures, people. The reverberations of that violent blow have echoed down the generations descended from the too-few survivors.  This book is brilliant, sometimes in the way that a fresh wound is brilliant with crimson.  Miranda‘s indictments of the 4th grade California history mission assignments are sharper than an obsidian scalpel.

One might also seek enlightenment in museums.  The website of National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian) certainly doesn’t foreground the atrocities of colonialism, but you can search for “massacre” and find some of it.  Valentin Lopez mentioned that there is fundraising to establish a museum in San Francisco that would highlight a history of the atrocities against Native Americans, especially in California (this may be a reference to the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa). Stan Rushworth (instructor of Native American Literature at Cabrillo College) notes that the missions, the scenes of so many atrocities against indigenous California peoples, rarely if ever acknowledge that part of their history; this is in contrast to places like Dachau and Auschwitz, where the brutality of what was committed there is central to their stories.

However, it’s a tiny minority of people that actually go to museums, and those are often people who are already aware and seeking more information.  Mass media only tells these stories occasionally.  Valentin Lopez commented that there has never been a movie about the native people of California – it’s just too sad for a Hollywood story.  We can watch Schindler’s List and The Pianist, but not this?

When the Occupy Movement was emerging in the fall of 2011, I was excited about their ideas, but a little less sure about their chosen name.  This image from Occupy Oakland inspired me to create (well, borrow and rework, with some help from my spouse) a hometown version (full-size for printing).  Santa Cruz is Occupied Ohlone Land

California was perhaps the most populous and culturally diverse area of pre-contact North America.  The peoples now referred to in the aggregate as Ohlone were actually several culturally and linguistically distinct bands, including the Chochenyo in the area that now includes Oakland (those who left the shellmounds that gave Shellmound Drive in Emeryville its name) and the Awaswas of Santa Cruz.  

If we want to understand how to live here on the central coast of California,we need to ask the Amah Mutsun, the Rumsen, the Indian Canyon Mutsun, the Esselen, the Chumash, and so many other peoples, living and extinct.

Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Costanoan/Ohlone Indians

And, more difficult still, we have to ask politely.  We of “mainstream American” culture, must be humble, we must be patient, and we must learn some manners.  We cannot just expect to be welcomed into what remaining mysteries the natives of this continent have managed to retain, to dip our toes in, to take a weekend retreat.

I’m proud to say that this semester, Cabrillo College (where I work) has been actively engaged with conversations about the genocide of indigenous people, about the invisibility of white privilege and how we’ve benefited from historic efforts to exterminate native people.  Last November, the school newspaper published the article “400 Years Too Late: The Reality of Thanksgiving.” On March 14th, we had an intense and critical  discussion of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, a short story collection by Native American author Sherman Alexie that was banned from curriculum lists in Tucson, Arizona.   On April 15th, Cabrillo will host Deborah Miranda (author of Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir).

On Earth Day this year, Cabrillo College will emphasize the theme of Indigenous Rights.  We’ve invited a speaker from the Pachamama Alliance to talk about the Achuar and other tribes of Ecuador.  We also plan to host Darryl “Babe” Wilson, California Indian author and activist.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

~Lilla Watson and Aboriginal activists groups, Queensland, Australia 1970s

As we say in the Cabrillo Sustainablility Council, “We’re All In It.”  It’s time to work together, and be Idle No More.

Aside

Originally posted on Ekostories:
I came across Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday (titled Omohide Poro Poro in Japan) at a time of transition in my life. Having just having graduated from school and secured a job in my field, I had hoped…

Think.Eat.Save

Think.Eat.Save is a new international campaign to address a plethora of problems by reducing food waste.

The down side: food waste is a massive global problem that has negative humanitarian, environmental and financial implications.

The up side: with relative ease and a few simple changes to our habits, we can significantly shift this paradigm.

Many regional campaigns have recently been launched, echoing to the challenge of food waste at the national level and in major sectors, including hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and households. Perhaps surprisingly, one-third of all unused food in developed countries is wasted by households.

via About Think.Eat.Save

 

Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labor and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.

Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.

via Fast Facts – A World of Waste.

Thankfulness and After

The History Of Thanksgiving: A Native American Perspective

Here’s a critical history of the Thanksgiving holiday on Facebook.

 It is notable that this thanksgiving celebration probably did not include the Indians, as the celebration was meant partly to be in recognition of the colonists’ recent victory over the “heathen natives” … more

Red Friday, Black Friday

President Obama declared the day after Thanksgiving to be “Native American Heritage Day.” Not that you’re likely to hear much about it, what with the other distractions.

Native Americans Suffer, Americans Shop

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

According to Wikipedia (and they should know, shouldn’t they?)  FDR moved Thanksgiving up a little in the calendar to the fourth Thursday in November to ” give the country an economic boost.”  Which brings us to…

There are many good reasons to stay home on Black Friday.
 For one, it’s actually Buy Nothing Day.  A day without shopping would be a good day for the vast majority of the denizens of earth.

“Today, humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.”
– Fawzi Ibrahim

It is a great time to pause and reconsider the difference between what a functioning economy is, and what our current money culture tells us it is.

Economics actually has nothing in particular to do with money; it’s about how we meet our needs. The monetary economy is one model out of many, and is a very recent one at that. It’s a model that seems intent on converting all our intimate human relationships into services to be bought and sold, whilst reducing the splendour and pageantry of the Earth into imperishable units of account.
– Mark Boyle

Of course, it gives me a little happy to hear that the wage-slaves of Voldemart… er… Walmart… are using the day to rise up a bit.  I hope they make some waves.

And don’t forget, there are other things you can do in a mall, like this

or

or even just

so get out there and have some fun!

The Shared Dream at the Top of the Stairs

Apparently (I have not yet read it), E.O. Wilson has a new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, promoting his ideas about multilevel selection.  What’s that?  That’s the idea that Natural Selection is taking place not only at the level of the individual (as the overwhelming majority of biological scientists infer from observable facts, and a few have observed firsthand), but is also occurring at the level of competition between groups of organisms.  This second idea is usually given the epithet “group selection,” and frequently accompanied with sneering.

I myself expend a good deal of effort getting students to understand that in most circumstances Natural Selection will favor traits that enhance individual survival and reproductive success, even when they decrease the success of the group or species.  Most evidence suggests that, with the exception of things like the eusocial insects (what E.O. Wilson studies) and naked mole rats - all things that have unusually high within-group genetic similarity – individual selection overrides group selection.  It is intriguing, that even in our highly individualistic and competition-driven late-capitalist culture, the default assumption seems to be that everybody generally works for the good of the group.  However, we find very little evidence of other species being team players.

However (in a riveting TED talk) psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests that selection for something like eusociality and improved cooperation and altruism in humans might have lead to the evolution of a type of consciousness that is associated with spiritual or religious experiences:

How do we create the “all in the same boat” feeling associated with these “top of the stairs” religious epiphanies Haidt describes?   Partly, I think we’re already doing it.  We have been ever since we as a species got our first look at the Earth entire, in 1966

First View of Earth from Moon | NASA Image #67-H-218

First View of Earth from Moon | NASA Image #67-H-218

… or at least, by the time we got a really good look at her face in 1972.

Apollo 17′s “Full Earth” image (a.k.a. “The Blue Marble”)
NASA image AS17-148-22727

Buckminster Fuller probably grokked it before 1968 with his 
Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth
, and Stewart Brand inspired multitudes of hippies with the basic notion through the Whole Earth Catalog (1968-1998).

So that puts us all in one boat, surrounded by the same thin membrane of atmosphere.  But multilevel selection seems to necessitate competition between groups to provide group selection pressure, keeping the success of more cooperative groups (or super-organisms) high relative to those groups that have an overabundance of selfish “free riders.”  The intensity of the warriors’ experience of “us” is dependent on a contrasting “them,” particularly in a high-stakes game where self-sacrifice is potentially so profound.  Globally, can we promote “the shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’,” without external competitors?

Many science-fiction writers have said that the next logical step is to have another “world” or “civilization” with which to compete.  They don’t need to be enemies, per se, just competitors.  Simple-minded creatures as we writers often are, this usually comes down to a fight, providing “entertaining” fiction for us to consume.  This is an option, admittedly with a low (though non-zero) probability of happening in the next century.

Option two, humans diversify by colonizing distant worlds.  This is another favored theme, be it in classics like Frank Herbert’s Dune or the latest Kim Stanley Robinson book, 2312.  My first-started-but-now-on-hold novel project works in this realm also.  Effective separation of different human populations over time and space leads to cultural diversification, somewhat like the way separation of different populations of one species can lead to their diversification into new species (this is called allopatric speciation in evolutionary biology).  Such projects are not impossible, though the likelihood in the next century is for very little of this (as much as I’m inspired by the call to Occupy Mars and support the 100 Year Starship program).

Option three, we re-entrench in smaller communities or tribes.  This is often the fertile ground in which post-apocalyptic fiction takes place, and my current novel project is rooted here.  Again, the most common scenario is that these tribes will fight when they interact, unless they’re forming alliances to fight off mutual threats.  I believe this option has much higher probability than the previous two, though I’m not ready to commit to a probability above 50% (take some time for Peak Prosperity’s “Crash Course”, and decide for yourself where you think we stand… and he didn’t even account for climate change).

Maybe there is a fourth way.  In the comments for the bold and radical article “Self-Evident Truths” by Derrick Jensen (comment 11 by mike k.), it is suggested

We can begin by coming together in small groups to deeply consider these things, and make truth, love, and beauty effective realities in ourselves and in our world.

One response suggests World Café as a method for accoplishing this, and I have found it a useful tool also.  There’s a great set of similar tools for coalescing the brilliance of small groups at Liberating Structures.  But this only gets us working together in small groups.  The essence of the argument for multilevel or group selection is that this is an evolutionarily stable strategy for competing with other groups.

Can we rethink what that competition is? Could it be a competition between groups for the best solutions, the most vibrant, ecologically-integrated, just and regenerative communities?  Could local pride and tribalism work in way that didn’t invite violence, but instead amplified positive deviance?
Maybe these are the questions to explore via World Café. Such questions invite us to dissolve the self in the greater “we,” perhaps even at the global level, in a collective effort by humans to improve the well-being of all.

Independence/Interdependence Day 2012

A news clip today from the world of high-energy physics reminded me that today isn’t just about people with small explosives:

Today is an important day for science, and for human civilization as a whole. CERN picked a good date to announce its findings, too: In the future, rather than drinking beer and grilling meet to celebrate the vanquishing of those British malcontents from our glorious land, instead I will celebrate the discovery of the particle that makes this universe, and thus everything I hold dear, possible.

Of course, I can’t let a Fourth of July pass without remembering my dear friend Joody, and our attempts to articulate and celebrate new thoughts appropriate to such a revolutionary anniversary.  So raise your own flag, occupy your world, get decolonized,  start your own currency and declare something wonderful today!