Eisenstein and Sustainbility in Zoology

In this TED Talk by Charles Eisenstein, he discusses the theory of separation and how we can stray away from it.  The theory of separation is that we see ourselves as such a small part of this world, so separate from everyone else that anything we do could not possibly have an effect on the rest of the world.  This causes everyone to think selfishly and believe that everyone else is in it for themselves. Thinking this way, the only way someone will do something good for the world is if it is such a large act that it draws attention. People will rarely commit a selfless act if it goes unrecognized.  I think today’s society thrives on recognition and praise. Now every time we do something that goes against this idea, it shakes us and helps the world move away from the separation theory.  Everyday we walk by trash on the ground and how often do people actually stop to pick it up?  And will they only pick it up if someone sees them walk over it? We operate from shame and praise.  The shame motivates us to act when we would normally ignore it if nobody was watching.  The praise is what motivates us to continue committing acts of selflessness.  Therefore, we perpetuate the cycle of only doing good things when it is seen and recognized.  Eisenstein is right that we must break away from this in order to make a real change in this world.  A change that will last.

I am a Zoology major and I think that sustainability can easily be incorporated into my career.  I would love to do wildlife conservation research in the efforts to preserve the ecological diversity on this planet.  Conservation almost needs sustainability.  It can be easy to have two sea turtles mate and attempt to repopulate their species in captivity.  However, the problem most conservationists face is making this regenerated species sustainable in the wild.  This could be going in a completely different direction than what we have talked about in class but sustainability can be defined as the capacity to endure.  Whether it be a sustainable economy, business, or species, these all need help to endure and survive.


Economics and Nature


The Ted talk entitled “The unstoppable rise of a collaborative economy” given by Shane Hughes describes a new economic revolution: the information economy.  This includes networking, collaborations, and coops which are now providing more employment opportunities than large corporations.  I really love the landshare and work exchange programs.  It only makes sense that if someone has something to give and there is someone in need that they should have a mutual exchange of services.


Ernesto Sirolli emphasizes similar ideas about community collaboration in his Ted talk entitled “Truly sustainable economic development”.  It seems so obvious that we should only help those that want it, however time and time again we have seen communities invaded by people that think they can help where help is not warranted.  Sirolli talks about the wonderful idea to talk to entrepreneurs and understand their motivations.  Once again we see examples of people in need of a skill or service being connected with people who have something to offer.  We should learn to help each other out more often and stop expecting compensation in return. Everything will come back around and by helping your community, someday they will repay you the favor.


This PBS news hour on “Exploring the economics of the first Thanksgiving” talked about the difference between a gift exchange and a commercial exchange.  The Pilgrims were most familiar with commercial exchange in which they would give goods in exchange for profit.  The Native Americans practiced gift exchange in which the goods exchanged represented gratefulness and appreciation. Much like the Native Americans, community land has become more popular lately with community gardens and parklets. We have strayed away from community since the Native Americans but I think we are finally moving back toward working together and putting aside personal motives.

In chapter 6 of Jane Jacob’s The Nature of Economies, she discusses modeling our economy after nature. In every fantasy movie and book, the future is portrayed as being high-tech and solely based on machines. Any time a society is based around nature and mimicking the environment around them, they are viewed as unsophisticated and primal. We are now realizing that in order to survive in this environment we can’t simply cover it up with machines. We need to learn how to work with nature and mimic survival traits found in the wild.

Climate change and Morality


I watched the November 21st episode of Democracy Now! broadcast from the Warsaw Climate Summit. I am happy to see so many protesters taking a stand for a change but disappointed at how they are being treated.  It still appalls me that peaceful protesters continue to find themselves being arrested and sentenced to unjustified years in prison.  These environmental protesters that are being held in Russia are facing a sentence of up to seven years in prison and are being labeled as ‘hooligans’.  A hooligan can be defined as a tough and aggressive or violent youth.  These were peaceful protesters just standing up for a change we desperately need and that oil companies continue to ignore.  To call these people hooligans is just disrespectful.  These thirty people of the 7 billion on this planet are willing to take a stand and face the consequences if it means creating awareness for their cause.  Then, as the host Amy Goodman goes on to interview Dr. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin they discuss who should be the ones to make the largest cut backs on energy spending.  They mentioned that yes, the individual effort is what is important at this stage.  We all need to make changes to our lifestyle to decrease our energy expenditure.  However, there are a top 20 or 30 people in the country that use up to ten times as much daily energy as the average citizen.  These are the people who should really be making huge changes to their lifestyles.  I thought it was very interesting that Dr. Anderson stopped using airplanes as his means of long-distance transportation not so much for the energy savings but for the overall change it has on ones lifestyle.

In reading Chapter two, The Voices of the Founders, from Illusions of Opportunity by John Schwarz I realized how different our country is today from how our founding fathers had envisioned it.  They seemed to stress the idea of morality.  However today, the leaders of our government, economy, and country are often not the best example of having a strong moral compass.  These are the people we should trust most to run our country and make smart decisions.  But, these are the people who have scandal after scandal and make poor choices.  Although most of these bad choices take place in their personal lives, one can only imagine how being a cocaine addict or money launderer would affect their ability to make the morally right choice when dealing with life-altering decisions for millions of people.  I think the founders of this country would be sorely disappointed to see all the corrupt politics of today.  Keeping in mind that during that time morality was a term that seemed to go hand in hand with religion, I believe the moral aspect of knowing right from wrong has been constant throughout the years.

Hemp and the racial IAT

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These are my results for the African American – European American Implicit Association Test (IAT). I briefly mentioned in my last blog that I have grown up around many different minorities. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, states that we can not consciously control our reactions to these types of tests.  The only way we can change our results is to surround ourselves with minorities or those that are different than ourselves.  Doing this would ensure that you not only saw the bad stereotypes but also good examples of what that race can offer. My results suggest little to no automatic preference between European American and African American. I was pleased to see that where I grew up actually had an effect on my subconscious. My high school had only 10% European Americans so I felt as though I was the minority. I was exposed to many different cultures and races from a very young age.  Some of my closest friends and even family members are of a racial minority.  I often associate minorities with good despite how they are portrayed in the media. It does seem to hold true that if you surround yourself with minorities you will have less of an association with them and bad things.

In the film Hemp and the Rule of Law, I thought it was unbelievable how they could ban such a useful product.  Although hemp is in the same genus as marijuana, it does not have any psychoactive chemicals present.  If anything, if you try and smoke hemp then you will fall ill.  This plant can be used to make anything from clothing and shoes to gasoline.  How can we not take advantage of this miracle crop? Farmers were even able to modify the plant so that the THC levels were down to 0%. They were not able to find any traces of THC in the most recent cultivated modified hemp. I don’t understand why farmers shouldn’t be allowed to grow this crop in their cycle if it has absolutely no THC levels.  The DEA shouldn’t even be involved in this case.  It seems purely agricultural to me.  If hemp was legalized, we could save so many natural resources that are constantly being depleted by using hemp as its replacement.  I am curious to see what is happening in this debate now that the legalization of marijuana is currently a huge topic in this country.

Pink and Blink

After reading Chapter three, The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall for Tall, Dark, and Handsome Men, of the book Blink, the Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, I was stunned by how often our subconscious controls our first impressions.  The story of how President Harding won the election reminded me of the famous Kennedy versus Nixon debate in 1960.  Most people who listened to the debate over the radio thought Nixon was the clear winner.  However,  the people who watched the debate happen on the television were charmed by Kennedy’s good looks and healthy complexion and saw him as the winner over the pale and underweight Nixon.  This only proves once again that we can be easily convinced by someone who is more appealing to the eyes. In the end of the chapter, Gladwell suggests that the only way to stray away from these impressions is to surround yourself with minorities or things you are unfamiliar with so that these things become a part of your life and you won’t have a negative affinity toward them anymore.  Growing up in Northern California near San Francisco, I was surrounded by minorities and people with a liberal viewpoint.  In fact, I as a white person was actually the minority.  In my high school, only 10% of the school was of European descent or white.  This could be why I didn’t have any problems with the Race IAT and associating good words to people of minority.  It all depends on the environment you are surrounded by.

http://www.implicit.harvard.edu  Take the test yourself!

Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA about motivation was very interesting and thought-provoking.  His animation of the talk was also quite entertaining.  I did not expect the study done on reward systems to have that outcome.  Basically, if the task required any cognitive thinking or problem-solving, then the rewards didn’t further motivate the subjects but it actually had the opposite effect.  This may have been because the rewards offered were too small to have any leverage on students who can afford to attend MIT.  So, this same study was tested with people from rural India who could very much gain from earning a few months salary.  However, there were similar results and the people offered the most money and given a task requiring conceptual thinking did even worse!  The most interesting concept proposed in this talk was to take money completely off the table.  When people aren’t getting paid anything, they actually are more productive and creative thinkers. Maybe it’s because they feel free to think outside the box without any boundaries placed upon them.  They feel that they are doing this for themselves instead of seeing it as ‘work’.  This is the most productive strategy and probably expected the least.  Hopefully more large companies and corporations can implement this system for at least one day each month to produce new, inventive ideas.

It is hard to make out our faces in the bad lighting, but this is Ashley Cupp and I standing in front of the Garrison Theater at Scripps College for the screening of “The Price of Sugar”. It was a very moving film. Some of the imagery was difficult to see but it is amazing that there are people in the world that are willing to dedicate their lives to help others like Father Christopher. I wish he didn’t have so much backlash from the Dominicans because he could have done so much more with the support of the whole country. I am very interested to see where his efforts have taken them since this was made in 2007. Hopefully only progress and changes for the better!

We Feed the World and Emergence


In the film, We Feed the World by Erwin Wagenhofer, globalization and the ‘food’ industries are discussed.  The part about the fisheries was quite amazing.  A fisherman with a small boat understands the nature around him down to the minute which gives him the advantage over commercial fishers with industrial sized ships.  The quality of the catch is increased with the small boat fishing as well because they only allow the net to be out for a few hours at a time versus virtually all day.  The fish that are brought onto the boat are still alive instead of crushed under the pressure of all the other fish caught.  It is just unfortunate that the ones who know the ins and outs of their job and don’t take shortcuts are the ones who get shortchanged.  I also thought the greenhouses in Almeria were very interesting.  They pot the plants in rock wool instead of soil because there are less diseases.  Then they recycle and disinfect the water that is circulated through the plants.  In Romania, the hybridization of crops is taking over the industry.  Even though the hybrids have less flavor and cost way more, the farmers are forced to plant them because the customers will only buy them for their perfected appearance.  They can’t even recycle the seeds, they must buy new seeds for every crop.  Simply for a more appealing look, the farmers are jumping through hoops to continue their business.  It is just terrible how these small business will alter their ways in order to compete with the ever-growing commercial businesses.

In the Introduction: Here Comes Everybody! from Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, Steven Johnson tells us about the journey slime molds have taken through the scientific world as well as the role of the bottom-up theory in emergence.  This idea of self-organization is a key player in emergence.  The slime mold’s cells organize themselves through the use of a substance called cyclic AMP instead of through a leader or pacemaker cell.  It is actually very common for biological systems to organize themselves.  For example, ant colonies, brains, and city infrastructure are all examples of emergence.  At first glance, it may seem as though something must be driving these systems but when examined further, we see that each component pulls its own weight and works with the rest. This just pushes the idea of community and working together to accomplish a common goal.

“Work with Nature, not against it.”

Architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart have done wonderful things to help make our industrial material economy more regenerative.  This video inspires us to be more conscientious as consumers and citizens in order to create a more sustainable world.

It is ridiculous that when textile industries are questioned about what is in their product, they can simply refuse to answer.  The consumers have the right to know what is in these products that they furnish their home with, dress their children in, and use on a daily basis.  That should be public information.  However, I thought it was amazing how the small Swiss textile mill was able to narrow their spectrum of dyes from 1600 to just 16 after the testing.  So now this mill not only has safe dyes to use, but they can still make all the colors they used to have with the 16 dyes remaining.  This saves them money and makes their business more sustainable altogether.

The Herman Miller building seemed like an ideal place to work with all the natural light, open spaces, and greenery.  I wish all newly built structures could be designed with these same values in mind.  People work more efficiently and are generally happier when closer to nature.  I think classroom productivity could greatly increase if the architecture of the rooms allowed for more natural light and fresh air.  The students wouldn’t feel so trapped, counting the seconds until class ended.  They would feel energized and more focused.

First of all, being a Biology major, the topic of biomimicry fascinates me.  Janine Benyus tells us about the wonders of biomimicry.  Nothing makes more sense than implementing the structure and function of nature into our architecture and scientific research.  We have filled our world with so many harmful and synthetic compounds that once used up, have nowhere to go.  Finally, scientists have found the jackpot.  Every solution to our biggest problems can be found in nature. It has already been solved somewhere.  We just need to find it. And what makes this even more remarkable is that these solutions will be great for the environment because they have been naturally occurring for thousands of years.  Every structure and function of the life around us has been perfected or else those organisms wouldn’t be alive today.  We can look at how a bird’s feathers specialize it for speed or a slower soaring.  Or harvest stem cells from flatworms that can regenerate their bodies if cut in half.  In relationship to building sustainable buildings, Benyus mentions creating buildings that mimic a beetle with a surface that collects fog water.  The limits are endless in nature and it is so exciting to see biomimicry becoming more popular in the world of sustainability.

Countries moving forward and resources disappearing

This video shown in class about Guangzhou, China had some very forward thinking.  I thought it was pretty amazing that they were able to turn China’s overpopulated streets into a well-oiled machine. It is surprising that there aren’t more places in the world that have implemented this system. Having each bus route have only one stop to minimize the travel time is brilliant.  Then, adding a system of bicycle renting at each station put it over the top for efficiency. Not only is it inexpensive for the citizens, but it promotes a healthier lifestyle.  This system has shaved off up to an hour off of commuters’ travel time. If only this system could be put into action in our most congested cities of America.  Imagine how wonderful it would be to be able to get to LA during rush hour without stopping once.  Then once you have arrived, imagine not having to find parking. This all sounds pretty great to me. Now why can’t we make it happen?

Ashok Khosla, Chair of Development Alternatives in New Delhi, President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and former adviser to the UN Development Program, discusses the difference between the amount of resources developed versus developing countries use.  It is baffling that 20% of the population can be receiving over 85% of the income and wealth.  There shouldn’t be only two ends of the spectrum: the rich and the poor.  This large separation makes it easier for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.  When there is no middle ground, there are no steps to help the lower class climb up to a stable position.  It becomes almost like a caste system in which the placement one is born into becomes a lifetime position. Then, Khosla goes on to describe the ratio between size of a country and the amount of resources it uses. This is demonstrated as an ecological footprint. How is it possible that industrialized countries can be using up to 8x more resources than their bio-capacity will allow? Where are all these extra resources coming from?  Industrialized countries are using more than their share and taking from less developed countries.  So once again, those that have, keep taking and those that have nothing, keep giving.  This only perpetuates the separation of classes worldwide.

The Story of Stuff and Creating a Greener City

In Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, our eyes are opened to how linear and degenerative our production system really is.  It is disappointing that someone at some point thought this system would work. We are depleting all our natural resources and resorting to taking those that don’t belong to us without recycling or replacing any of it.  A bill was recently passed in Wheaton, Maryland stating that for every one tree cut down, three new trees must be planted in its place.  If this bill passed worldwide, the added cost and work of planting new trees might make foresting companies rethink the extent of their plan.  On the consumption end of the system, Leonard points out our addiction to unnecessary shopping.  I admit that we can be quite dim-witted when it comes to ‘needing’ the latest shiny gadget.  It is simply ridiculous that people are tossing their phones aside and lining up for days to buy the new gold iPhone. Apple has got us sold that what we have isn’t good enough.  Their customers reasoning for camping out for days on end in anticipation of the phone’s launch: “it’s gold!”  That says it all.  We use, then waste, all for appearances.


Lincoln, Nebraska along with many other cities across the world are implementing a new storm water management strategy.  By planting hundreds of trees throughout the city, they have given the storm water a refuge from the sewers and waterways.  This is all with the help of Silva Cells from DeepRoot.  This company creates an intricate system underground giving the tree plenty of space to grow its roots and have access to the necessary air and water the lightly compacted soil will provide it.  In addition to aiding in the longevity of the tree’s life, this system will be directly connected to the streets’ gutters allowing the storm water to become ground water.  This is an example of a regenerative system because the ground can now retain the storm water for the vegetation’s needs then be evaporated back into the atmosphere just to once again rain continuing the system.