Week #4: The Nature of Economics / Manfred Max-Neef “Underdeveloping Nation”

In Jane Jacobs’ “The Nature of Economics,” an interesting relationship between ecology and economics come about. The character Armbruster creates an argument and questions many of the things Hiram has to say. Hiram is an ecologist who helps scientists find grants for studying biomimicry. The goal of studying biomimicry is to create materials and products using methods that are benign, or not fatal or harmful toward nature. This was a great thing that Hiram is involved in, since studying nature and imitating its ways would avoid pollution and the further damage of nature. Hiram mentions how there are economic fundamental development principles which also apply to nature. The third principle, which I understood best, was “development depends on co-development.” Examples seen in nature include how the development of a delta happens. It doesn’t form by itself, but needs water and grit. Even from the start of time, the development of mitochondria, bacteria, and cells all couldn’t have developed just by themselves. Overall, the development does not occur from thin air. Development back then had occurred by people using things from natures for weapons such as sticks, stones, or fire. Today, I believe development should be based on biomimicry and traditional approaches people have used since the beginning of time. It’s best to use what is already available, and develop things using methods that are benign as mentioned in the reading. This would be a sustainable way to producing materials and products rather than just working to reduce waste.

Manfred Max-Neef’s words during his interview were very true. He says that economists study poverty, have all this data, and think they know everything- but they don’t really know poverty. This is a major problem. An analogy he uses to explain this is how people can say they understand love, but they do not truly understand and feel it unless they become a part of it and fall in love. He is completely right when he said people watch from the outside, they are not watching from the inside. I understand what he means because I feel like in my own personal situations, there are many of my friends who don’t understand what I go through because they have never experienced the same problems. In generally, things are truly easier said than done. Max-Neef states we need cultured economists in order to avoid catastrophes. Experience and knowledge are essential for anyone working in any field, because it is best to for people who are able to avoid/fix problems that may arise or are present. Also, he states that greed is dominant today, which is very accurate. Having a greedy mindset blinds things that actually matter in the long-run, and those who are greedy only have goals of profiting. I believe the way people deal with fixing/avoiding problems definitely need to be changed in which greed is eliminated and more knowledge and experience are gained.


Week #3: Embrace Your Inner Girl and A Call to Men / Science for the Future and the Future of Science

In both Eve Ensler’s, “Embrace Your Inner Girl,” and Tony Porter’s, “A Call to Men,” linear ways of thinking are revealed in both history and today’s society. Ensler speaks of her experience in the Republic of Congo, where a twelve year war is occurring. She heard the stories of many women, from young girls to the elderly, about their experiences of being beaten, raped, and violated daily. She speaks of a “girl cell” that we all have, including men. Overtime, society has annihilated this cell in men, leaving no compassion and no vulnerability, resulting in hardened personalities in which men become violent. Society has had a linear way of thinking, that a girl’s goal is to please, and mentioned by Porter, that men should not behave like girls. In this way of thinking, men are dominant, masculine, and are extremely limited to showing emotion, and women on the other hand are weak, objects, and not as valuable. It has been a detrimental approach to raising children, because they too follow this way of thinking and are trapped by pressures and expectations. Not many think outside the box or in a circular fashion. Some parents continue what they have learned from their parents. For example, a father teaches his son to be nothing but masculine and completely disregards how a man should treat a woman/a person, causing the son to grow up as nothing but a true “man” who is not thinking about how his actions affect the girls and women he has come across in his life. That son disregards his emotions, trapping them deep in his mind, and just moves forward in life while there are chain reactions to his actions. A similar effect happens today with unsustainable practices. People think of one end goal, surviving off cheaper resources, and not thinking of how that affects anything else besides themselves. Linear thinking like this solves short term problems and may lead to ignoring the bigger picture.

In Ashok Khosla’s, “Science of the Future and the Future of Science,” Khosla speaks of a regenerative method which has the ability to make big and beneficial changes to the way we live. We need to ditch solving problems by using methods that are mistaken as “efficient.” These so-called “efficient” ways include modern agriculture, modern engineering, production, and many more practices which leave a large ecological footprint. Instead, the regenerative approach could be seen with biomimicry. Biomimicry uses observation and the studying of how nature works, then applying  those same concepts to truly efficiently design anything from machines, buildings, or cars. An example mentioned by Khosla is how the box fish’s anatomy and structure is very aerodynamic, so instead of finding ways to fix a car’s insides to make it go faster or save more gas, redesigning the car’s structure may make a difference in how much energy the car uses while reducing the ecological footprint. The typical “western” way would be to lower cost while solving a problem, yet it would result in an extremely high ecological rucksack, or how much material and energy is used to produce one gram of the product. Instead we can look to nature, which provides the answers for us. Nature is designed to work so that organisms are able to survive without polluting the environment. I also believe this would be the answer to restoring our Earth, by using methods that occur very similarly or even the exact same way seen in nature. By taking advantage of what we are able to observe and study in nature, we may find new ways to produce things people need without wearing away the Earth at the rate we going.

Week #2: Donella Meadows – Introduction: The System Lens and Chapter 1: The Basics / Discussion Set 2B

In Donella Meadows’ reading, “Thinking in System: A Primer,” she mentions a tendency humans have. Humans tend to blame something or someone else and shift the responsibility away. In addition, the approach to solving a problem is not exactly the right way to solve it. People focus on “external agents” and lead to other problems which are produced as a byproduct. For example, many think the problem to solving world hunger is to create more food, cheaper food, or both. What many do not realize is that we have enough food, and there is a lot more waste or misuse of food which could be utilized by those who need it. The “byproduct” of producing mass amounts of food are negative, such as companies using cheap and/or unhealthy ingredients to process their food cheaper so they are able to have higher profits. This causes the consumer’s health to deteriorate. Another problem would be food waste. Whatever that is wasted is not only physically wasted material, but a waste in energy that was used to maintain, gather, process, distribute, and sell. It is important to solve a problem at the root of the problem, rather than focus on ways around it. It is best for people to approach a solution that would not create additional problems, even if those problems are small because it all adds up.

Discussion Set 2B
Our university has a small role in fighting climate change. I have seen a few ways CPP attempted to bring awareness about air pollution. For example, when our parking permits are mailed to us, we also receive information about where to park, tips on when to come to school for easier parking, or other ways of commuting to school that would be energy efficient such as carpooling or taking bus routes. I do not believe universities across the country are fighting against climate change, because from my experience, it is rare to meet a student who actually cares. I believe the university itself, rather than just the students, should be investing their funds in as much as they can regarding regenerative methods. For example, it is great that CPP provides filtered water stations so students refill their water bottles instead of buying another one. Although this process is still unsustainable, it may be enough to get a student thinking. Universities should be involved with the social aspect of climate change, rather than political. They should be setting an example for all students and participate in regenerative methods. Education is the first step to teaching and changing the views of those who are young and/or willing to learn. Universities may be threatened by participating in sustainable ways, but if many universities follow, cost will go down. I learned about sustainable farming methods at local farms and how if many in a community continued to support this type of farming, eventually their costs will be able to go down. Maybe this would be possible for bringing down the costs of sustainable utilities if many invested in them. Again, education is key when it comes to this topic, especially since most of the population do not have a passion for saving our environment. John Seely Brown had spoken about how students learn from one another, not just from teacher to student. A learning community would be a beneficial way to promote and encourage new outlooks to environmental activism. I believe the effort needs to be constant, and not only do students need to teach one another, but those with power, such as universities, need to take advantage of their ability to teach and notify the public.

Week #1: ExxonMobil Commercial / J. S. Brown’s Teaching 2.0 – Doing More with Less

The ExxonMobil commercial, “Our Job Supports More Jobs,” sends a misleading message to the general public. Starting with the repetition of words they know the public would want to hear: more jobs. Creating more jobs is thought to be a positive effect that companies are able to bring to the community. ExxonMobil emphasizes about how their upcoming projects create more jobs, which distracts the audience from the negative effects that actually happen. They also mention how this is possible because of natural gas, a limited, nonrenewable energy source. Natural gas has the potential to leak and in addition, pollute the air and environment. As natural gas can leak without being burned, a greenhouse gas results and depletes our ozone layer while increasing of temperature in the atmosphere and Earth. UV rays harmful to organisms are able to penetrate through and cause unhealthy effects and disease. As we continue to use natural gas, there becomes less reservoirs for them, which would lead to finding other sources for the gas. When large corporations are able to find these other sources, the environment in which the natural gas is extracted becomes disrupted, leaving a negative effect among the ecosystem that resides. The commercial addresses that they are lowering U.S. emissions, but this is not the answer to our climate/pollution problem. We learned that reducing the quantity of something negative, such as greenhouse gas emissions, would be considered unsustainable. Instead, the goal is to restore regenerative systems, which is sustainable. Therefore, the ExxonMobil commercial represents false sustainability since they are working with a nonrenewable energy source.

(Update): The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity commercial, “I Believe,” has a both misleading and unclear message. This is similar to the ExxonMobil commercial since they are selling positive words and not revealing any truths. The entire commercial, different people are saying the words “I believe” and for some, along with positive words of using American energy sources and reducing emissions. The first impression I got from the commercial was, “I have no idea what they are talking about.” I could not tell the commercial was for the use of clean coal and I was not sure of how using it would help reduce negative emissions. Doing some further research, I found that using clean coal so far has not been going well according to Inside Energy. Therefore, the commercial sent a false message about this “sustainable” practice.

In John Seely Brown’s speech, “Teaching 2.0 – Doing More With Less,” he speaks of a new way to approach learning within communities. Brown reveals how using social media and current technologies could be used as an advantage to create a learning alternative. We are able to use what we already have as another avenue for learning, studying, and for seeking scholarly advice. He uses Decameron Web as an example of how an online meeting place had a positive effect in a learning community. Here at Decameron Web, scholars are able to make their work available and read the work of others. It became a platform for discussions of work and peer review, and most importantly, a useful resource for all.

Brown also speaks of how teaching is not just teaching about something, but about teaching to become something. Teaching and learning is more than just knowing information. It is teaching one to change their perspective and evolve as a person when given the information. This way of thinking speaks to me because I want to teach others of the importance of how regenerative systems is key in improving our world. I do believe just telling someone information is not going to help the problem. What are they going to do with the information? Would it affect them at all? If there was a way to change the way others think, then there would be a meaningful effect behind teaching. Furthermore, seeing a change in their way of life would prove that they have become rather than just having learned about something.