Month: July 2014

Shorter showers or pipeline protests? The personal paradox in teaching Environmental Studies

What would you insist that a student taking an introductory environmental studies course learn? When I teach “Environment and Society,” the foundational course in the University of San Francisco’s Environmental Studies Program, I like to offer a final exam that asks students to read Forget Shorter Showers, a piece by Derrick Jensen that appeared in Orion way back in 2009. Then I ask students to critique Jensen’s argument that individuals taking shorter showers is NOT, ultimately, going to solve the environmental crisis. (more…)

Fast Tracking Climate Adaptation–tapping our natural tendency to experiment

Moving from “muddling through” to “adaptive muddling” and developing the tools for a just transformation in the face of climate change. Why we need a new approach to fast tracking adaptation.

Note: This originally appeared as a guest post on Our Place on Earth. My Projects page describes the Sustainability Experimentation Venture Network, a very early-stage project with Pradip Swarnakar aimed at leveraging knowledge embodied in dispersed small-scale, community-based sustainability experiments. Given some similarities to Our Place on Earth’s TRAC2 Toolkit, we hope to collaborate sometime in the near future.

Human beings have always experimented to adapt. When our ancestors migrated from savannahs to temperate forests they likely tested their existing hunting and gathering techniques to see if they would work in the new environment. Old hunting methods and tools probably had to be adapted to new species. New typologies of poisonous and edible plant species had to be developed through trial and error (i.e., experimentation). New techniques of food storage and preparation needed to be tested. New sources of water had to be located and tested. Shelter. Waste disposal. Health. The list goes on. Every old practice for sustaining the life of a population had to be tested in the new environment and abandoned or adapted.


Bicycling and the “Cyclist Identity”: Understanding the “Bikelash”

Our latest post has hit the newsstand, so to speak. If you haven’t followed the fallout from the controversial Washington Post column last week in which Courtland Milloy implies that drivers might be justified in hitting cyclists, then check out our post.



No, That Parking Spot Does Not Belong to You

zocalo screenshotJulian Agyeman and I have an article about the confrontation between MonkeyApp and the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office over the legality of auctioning off public parking spaces. We don’t chime in on the legality of the app. Rather, we propose that the controversy should be sharpening our focus around other key questions about the role of technology in our lives and the nature of the so-called “sharing economy,” the strength and promise of which lies in its ability to use technology to build community.

The article is titled No, That Parking Spot Does Not Belong to You. It’s published at Zócalo Public Square “a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.” Zócalo publishes “original daily journalism…syndicate[d] to 150 media outlets nationwide.”


What does Facebook’s controversial study have to do with sustainability?

If you’re not up to speed on the recent Facebook mood manipulation research controversy, check out Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment at The Atlantic. OK, ready? Now read this Washington Post op-ed piece, Facebook’s controversial study is business as usual for tech companies but corrosive for universities, by NYU journalism professor, Jay Rosen, who also blogs at PressThink.

I’m rehashing much of it here not because I care about the specific ethical controversy at hand, but rather because it highlights so well the struggle of higher education to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world, a struggle that has everything to do with our urgent and collective need to transition to sustainability.