Sustaining the Unsustainable
in the name of Sustainability
“No self-contained [system] can induce it’s own
fundamental change. It’s almost a matter of logic,
because self-containment means it knows nothing
beyond its own given.” (Lewis Hyde: The Trickster
Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art)
As self-designated Local Fool for Thought, I am
guessing I am the only one for whom our embrace
piques academic (as opposed to activist) curiosity
and continually teases out wonder whether our
collective frame-of-minding methods to sustain
our selves are not the same frame of mind and
methods that generated the crisis in the first place.
That’s the question I would get in play.
If I could. I think I can’t. I think I can’t.
My curiosity is ACADEMIC, as opposed to Get-R-Done
Fix-It-ism, not that there’s anything wrong with THAT.
What to sustain: what to unsustain: a tight Gordian Knot,
or as a new colleague tells me: “That’s a Georgian
Knot, Sam; what my former dean calls it.” And they are
praying for rain down there.
I’m not saying there’s no crisis. Maybe 2: the crisis itself
and then how-we-go-about-addressing it; that’s crucial,
too. Turn IT up, I say. Sandbag the polar melt down, reduce
greenhouse gas, increase gal.p.m. decrease voltage, explore
alter-native energy sources (clean coal: equivalent to Saudi
Arabian oil)… all that and much more.
But then also The Other Environmentalism:
panic among young
and old. I want to tie-in
first world pathological weight
problems, body image, L.D., E.D.
jitterbug legs, suicide, cutting, garden
variety malaise… I try to list these regularly
as they seem as symptomatic of environmental
status as weather, and happen right here: local
foodback not even close to polar caps or islands
mental challenge easily displaced by heart stone
concerns with hemlocks and hybrids and ignored
because I don’t know why: too overwhelming,
too close to home where charity begins, too
demoralizing, too beyond assess-mental,
grant-driven, replicating industrial support,
too mysterious, damnit—people throwing
up, starving themselves, self-mutilating…
What the? what the hey? Stunning.
Am I wrong?
What makes me good & evil? Science is discovering why.
Brain scans are providing clues, animal studies, & tribal
behavior. (TIME, Dec. 3 , 07)
Given CRISIS: my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—
the place where cool utilitarian choices are made—
lights up. And then my medial frontal cortex (area
associated with emotion) ignites and I become a house
divided: ecos divisus – civil war going on between cool
utility and hot emotion: a matter of eco-logic? Eco-nomic?.
These environ mental questions interest me a lot
but I can’t characterize or frame them sufficiently to
attract interest among the Sustainablers —just to get
some argumentgoing across the curriculum.
And that failure to frame it so as to get it in play is
as fascinating as the crisis itself. Is it environmental?
Disciplinary-hobbled reticence? Fear of public squeaking?
Clarity addiction? Or the inadequacy or redundancy of my
unilateral redundant holler: wolf, I yell: wolf!
The stage is set— open venue, open mic, e-commons
to hallways, staircases, lunchroom and 4:00 official convening.
What does it take to start a fire? Consummation devoutly
desired? Some critical flash point in the Name of Sustainability?
How do we detect let alone un-sustain sustainabilities that
have sustained us so sustainably we don’t recognize them as
unsustainable but as givens? as in how we do what WE do: our
hire education right here: local food and sacred cow.
Unexamined strife is not worth giving.
How does a system self-correct without demoralization?
OR: how does a system demoralize itself, without demoralization?
“Most enduring structures [seemingly sustainable in
their terms—having been around for a long time, figuring
they must be doing IT right, etc] in nature, society, the
human psyche, are resistant to fundamental changes, by
which I mean changes that alter the givens (parameters,
tolerances) of those structures themselves.” (Lewis Hyde)
Environ Mental Studies and Leadership Programs
“Clarity is not a virtue. If everything you say is
detailed and explicit, you won’t give your collaborators
room to run. Put ideas out there that are half-baked,
ideas where you’re not even sure what it means yet. "
Put yourself in an environment
that rewards failure.
Keith Sawyer.Collaborative Genius