Week 8 // The unsustainable cancer

Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 3.26.39 PM“Safety and Security is ripped out of the soul”. This is exactly what an individual being interviewed on We The People 2.0 expressed in having a voice towards their rights for their communities. As I listened closely and carefully to the individuals who shared about their current situations in their communities, my heart was burdened by their genuine concern and desperation.  It is greatly evident that there is a fundamental conflict between the individual and the community. If there was not a conflict, then there would not be dissensions or disagreements rising to the surface. The community plays such a pivotal role in regeneration, and if the government wants to blindly say that they “know it all” then that is not working holistically or as a system. It was devastating to see the amount of people killed by the oil refineries and mining systems placed in many cities. In the video, there was a description of the cancer clusters in Pennsylvania due to the chemicals and toxins dumped in the lakes and waters. Not only are there clusters in Pennsylvania, but they are everywhere in the United States.

Once the communities began to become more aware of the situation, they stood up against all the companies and industries partaking in the deadly acts of Fracking and other things. However, the voices of the people just became a bothering noise for the government.  Instead of listening to the people’s concerns, what did they do? They created the House Bill 278 that, “stripped any communities wanting to stand up against oil and drilling”. In simple terms, the people could no longer have a say in anything that the government has control over( which is pretty much everything)! Why? why? why? It is as if the higher-up people are creating a road leading to a painful drop into a ditch. But then again it is important to trail back to the reasons why there are oil refineries, pollution, mass production and many other things hindering the building of sustainability. It goes back to the root of being a consumerist society. Not only a consumerist society, but a society that became so dependent on finding identity in materialistic things. What social media so subtly and keenly tells the people is “The more you have,  the better you are”.  The consequence of making materialistic things as an idol is making us blind to the harsh realities and damages caused onto to the ecosystems, earth, and even health of people.

It is a scary thought to know that we are part of the issue in oil refinery and Fracking. However, it is not enough just to know the issue, now it is time to take action. This is where community playing an important role in regeneration is necessary. Democracy is built by the people, so why not begin to play our roles in standing up against the things that we know will damage the future generations. One important example noted by the interviewees is the example of the Civil Rights movement. He said, “In order for there to be change there has to be people that step out of the law”.

Aiming to make sustainability is the goal, but does the public choose to be a bystander at what the actions of the government are doing or do they actually speak up and act upon the propaganda being displayed? Noam Chomsky, a highly recognized political activist, is able to elaborate on this issue by providing a broader picture of what this actually looks like. It was interesting to hear how he explained the history of the Labor Movement and how labor was crushed. He helped me dive deeper into critically thinking about the government’s actions. By the actions of the government, there are no interests on the welfare of the people. It is so difficult because a person would assume that a government would care about their people so that there is unity and collaborative work, but this is not the case. Take for example curing Cancer. There is research that has been made that the government already knows the cure but does not want to release the information to the society. It is so difficult to grasp the fact that a person who has the cure is selfish enough to keep it to himself. If there was an aim for a regenerative system, there would not be a higher authority being resistant towards releasing information. On the other hand, there would be a collaborative work as a collective.

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Week 7 // Digging deeper into our mind

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There are a few things that come to mind when I think of how the mind works. Even within that statement, there is a bit of contradiction because in reality I do not understand completely the depths of how it works. Consciously I am able to share what is in my conscious mind, but when it comes to understanding the unconscious part of my brain, it is difficult to explain. However, in class on wednesday the professor asserted that some of our greatest abilities are in our unconscious mind. Wait a second. So does that mean that the unconscious part of my mind is where I need to truly tap into? Why had I never known about this?

Curiosity drove me to look more into the main man who does an analysis of the unconscious mind:  Sigmund Freud. In the article “Simply Psychology”, Saul Mc Leod, the author,  explains,  “The unconscious mind acts as a repository, a ‘cauldron’ of primitive wishes and impulse kept at bay and mediated by the preconscious area”. Woah, so that means the unconscious mind is like a ‘cauldron’ which pours over at times when there are impulsive actions needed to be done. In reality, impulsive behavior is critical to our survival. The flight or fight response mechanism can also be related to the unconscious mind because the content that the unconscious mind contains is what is expressed in a fight or flight impulse. You might be wondering, “Okay, how does learning about the unconscious mind relate to sustainability?”. Well, our impulses must coincide with sustainability.

In reading  Chapter 3 from Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking(2005),  Malcom Gladwell states profound and almost shocking ideas about our unconscious mind through using the IAT(implicit-association test). For example, he says, The “disturbing thing about the test is that is shows that our unconscious attitudes may be  utterly incompatible with out stated conscious values”(p.85).  This is so true when it comes to having emergent thinking in sustainability. There can be an outward appearance of demonstrating sustainability just to seem as if there is a true care about the defects in linear way of thinking. However, when we dig deeper into the mind, we get to see that we have been trapped into a way of thinking and perception about the world through a lens of linear thinking that is not compatible with the conscious mind.

But then I ask myself another important question, “Don’t we all deep down inside agree that we desire for a sustainable world? Have our minds been socially constructed?” In Dr. Gabor Mate’s talk How materialistic Society makes us all,  he very keenly describes the causes of why there are causes of stress, illnesses, and isolation leading to deaths in our world. He does not go on to prescribe medicine to people dealing with physical issues. Instead, he explains the heart of the issue behind all of the issues being faced. One simple example he gives is about Asthma and how doctors immediately prescribe medications for cortisol and other things, but do doctors ever ask “What are the stressors causing the asthma?”. The stressors can be caused by the relationships being affected that one contains. I love the fact that Dr. Mate always dives deeper into the root of why there are uncertainties and issues risen in our bodies. Another important note that struck me was how we tend to relate issues to just the physical environment of the individual; however, we also need to integrate the social, cultural and socioeconomic aspects too.

In working with children, I was able to really see this come to play when I worked for a low income community in the school district of Los Angeles. There were toxins in the air because of pollution and led in the buildings, but there was a deeper problem: the hardship in socioeconomic status of the family induced stress on the children. The parents of the children always had to be working, so the relationships their children were hindered, which led to children seeking out other coping mechanisms like drugs and gangs. Our true nature is wired for wanting connections, empathy, and love, so when this is hindered, it is difficult to think in a sustainable way.  Dr. Mate provides a seed of hope towards the end of his talk. He says “To move forward all we have to do is to get back to our true nature”. Once this is recognized, a shift in the mind can truly occur.

Week 6 // Freedom within limits

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Maria Montessori, an Italian educator, really believed in allowing children to be explorers within limits. She saw that when children were free to make choices, repeat choices, and even make mistakes in those choices, children were able to develop foundational skills required for future years. As Maria Montessori passed away, so did her vision in the education system. In speaking during the salon after class on Wednesday, there was a time in which there was discussion about Emergence and how that applies to each of our careers. Since my career is Early Childhood Studies, I was able to explain the necessity of working as a collective in the classroom. Unfortunately, the educational system is set up in a very linear way. There are tests that need to be taken at the age of 5 years old required by the state.

5 YEARS OLD!? These children should be exploring the world through play and experiences that allow them to question and investigate on their own. This is where the rules and regulations come in. Obviously it is evident that in order for there to be some type of structure in the classroom, there needs to be some rules; however, when rules began to literally rule the child, how does that provide a space to explore? Even for rules in the classroom, it is even more valuable when the class as a whole creates the norms for the classroom. Doing so, allows the children to be held accountable and it gives them a freedom of voice and understanding( Developing emergence skills at a young age without them even knowing). Moreover, this greatly relates with regulation that is placed in countries due to our country enforcing them.  Although some regulations have been proven to be effective, like requiring all cars to take a smog check once a year for a reduction in air pollution, there has been other regulations that have been ineffective. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are 20 regulations enforced on cars to have Smog checks completed. There has definitely been a reduction in air pollution; however, what about the widening of freeways and building of buildings? This has caused even more pollution!  It is so hard to identify how the government equally distributes regulations. It is almost as if they do regulations on what best suits the market and what is best at their convenience. I believe regulations allow for a controlled chaos, but they also do not fit every context of people. Being against regulations is not my stance, but when there is more danger than help being caused out of regulations, that is my issue. Just like the children’s classroom works as a collective to create norms, that is how we (the government and the people) should create regulations that will keep us accountable to them. It requires a collective take, not an individualistic take.

After viewing The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz by Brian Knappenberger, I was in tears, anger, and joy all at the same time. Aaron Swartz was someone who made such a huge impact in society by challenging the status quo and for truly caring about people.The film begins by explaining how Aaron Swartz was a curious individual at a young age. He loved to teach others about what he would learn in his readings and was always intrigued to learn more. The moment his dad exposed him to using a computer, he was able to navigate through it in a way that not even elders are able to now in day. He was a GENIUS. Seriously, who reads 2nd grade level books at 4 years old? Amazing. As he began to grow in age, he really dove into computer coding and programing. In diving in, he was able to communicate with programmers that were older than his age and he collaboratively coded with programs like “creative commons”, “Info gaming”, and “red it”. In the blog he created for his personal thoughts, he wrote, “ I want to make the world a better place”. All Aaron desired was to make a difference in the world by giving people access to information that should be shared instead of kept. He never had the intent of gaining money or becoming rich, but he always desired to help others to be bold and courageous about their voice.

“If you have power, would you use it to help others or would you strive to gain more for yourself?” This was a powerful question Aaron asked others when he rejected the corporate world due to the Ego-centrism that he saw in the companies. Shortly afterward, Aaron went to MIT( Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and decided to go into the system to download scholarly journals that only the government had access to, and he was caught and charged as a felon! CRAZY right? He was not committing a crime that created damage, but he was gathering information to be educated. I was in complete shock when I saw that the government and FBI charged him with 35 years of prison! This led to 26 year old Aaron Swartz committing suicide because of living in constant fear and burden that he would be taken away at any moment. I was left speechless and crushed when I reflected at how wrong and incorrect the government was taking this whole situation. Don’t get me wrong, rules and regulations are good because they are able to restrict from creating a mess; however, when they are taken to the next extreme of being manipulative, they are just plain wrong. Where is the freedom of speech? Where is the accessibility of everyone being educated? Where is the care for the lives of others? Aaron left a legacy by encouraging and influencing everyone to question all things and become educated by learning and challenging everything.

 

 

Week 5 // #relatable technology

A common term being used nowadays is “relatable”.  It’s another one of those words that gets used so often that it begins to die out after another word comes in. Fast changing words are like fast changing fashion, which leads people into fast changing thinking. However, looking into the context of creating sustainability and regenerative communities makes me realize that “relatable” might be a term that can apply well. BUT, not in the way people use it. Let me further explain. In the documentary film Re- Plan It, Jock Brandis, an environmental entrepreneur, is able to reconstruct the idea of using sources to help others relatable to their context. It was astounding to see that what led Jock to wanting to construct appropriate technology was seeing how men and women worked strenuous hours to peel, crack and sort out peanuts by hand in Africa. The documentary addressed, “In Africa alone, women spent 4 billion hours un-shelling peanuts”. Seeing the difficulties of not having advanced or contextual technology intrigued him to use his engineering mind to build something for the people to reduce the time used to sort out peanuts. So, Jock began to work and created a successful model made out of cement and other items that would be found in Africa. He saw how joyful and thankful the people were to have been able to receive an item that was relatable to their job and place. From there on, Jon co-founded the “Full Belly Project” consisting of engineers who really worked on hard science with the resourcefulness of backyard nature.

The Full Belly Project’s motto is “Fail early, fail often”, which seems so contradictory to an engineer’s method of thinking, but this set the foundation for envisioning a world adapting environmental demands. I greatly enjoyed the fact that this organization takes things that people throw away and uses them to create purposeful technology benefitting people all over the world. In addition, the technology being built is well thought of because the engineers look at the context of the people, place, and material accessible to them. This is truly thinking in a regenerative way because it creates a system for people and the environment to work together, not just as one. Ingenious devices(technology) to solve environmental challenges has greatly impacted many people groups all over the world. 

On the other hand, there is also another form of technology that people have come up with. As history progresses, technology does as well; however, not in a form that gives people the ability to work as a system, but as an independent, disconnected individual. For instance, the I-phone contains “I” in it to really make it all about the person instead of the people as a collective. Don’t get me wrong, phones have helped us have access to contacting others and gaining information right at the tip of our fingers. However, I question if phones are a part of the new ideology that has risen in technology? Adam Curtis, the filmmaker of “All watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, greatly displays how computers and modern technology have actually “chained” if you will humanity instead of liberating it. Not only has it failed to liberate us, but it has distorted and simplified the view of the entire world around us. While watching the documentary, the beginning portion created a bewilderment in my thought process because it was unbelievable to see how the dream of famous scientists, engineers, and theorists desired systems that can balance power in nature. Cybernetics is the “new organizing principal” they proposed would be the organizing principal of creating a balance in nature. However, this is very false. Cybernetics creates a veil over people’s eyes because it displays a view of nature fantasy driven instead of realistically shown. The attempt to constantly renew technology to tie nature and humans together is actually causing the opposite: it has separated us from the interaction and integration to nature. We all need to think more like Jock Brandis that saw the true need of others and worked together with nature to create relatable devices instead of modern technology that does not suit other places in the world. We need to step away from the “I” and think about “we”.

Week 4// 3-D printers connect to nature?

There has been a reoccurring commotion about new technology being invented as well as innovations that have arisen. One of those innovations arisen has been the 3-d printer. You might be wondering why I am writing about 3-d printers, but trust me, there is a purpose. Two years ago a friend of mine held out a batman figure in his hand and told me “This batman figure was made by a 3-d printer”. All I could do was laugh, be shocked, and be a bit perplexed at his comment. He was not joking. He had mentioned how it was going to be the “next big thing” out there because it literally was able to print out almost anything.

Fast forwarding to two years later,  I was reminded of my friend while I watched Janine Benyus’s speech at the Circular Economy 100th annual Summit. She explained how you can change the structure of something but not the dye of it. For instance, our world that we live in is already sustainable, but valuing nature and building upon it can really allow humans to work alongside of nature instead of making it a separate entity. Moreover, an important comment she points out about Manufacturer catalogs is that most of the tools displayed are mainly cutting tools because everything is about cutting away. She proposes the idea that instead of cutting away at something, there should be something that builds to shape, like 3-d printers which allow Bio mimicry. Janine elaborates on the ways 3-d printers are the “next big revolution” ( which sounded very similar to what my friend mentioned 2 years ago). Don’t get me wrong, 3-d printers are very innovative because they print things like buildings, cars, or anything that adds structure instead of takes away. There is biomimetic sourcing, chemistry, and structure that occurs while printing; however, the question I ask myself is: How is this sustainable or regenerative? It might be that I am not understanding the full picture of her talk with 3-d printers, or it might also be that I am questioning the idea on whether or not it is thought of holistically.  Although the idea of being able to print anything sounds fascinating, it also poses many other questions about the materials in the printer being biodegradable or if it even loses the connection of community with others at stores( i.e. social skills with people). Those are immediate reactions brought to the surface as the proposal of 3-d printers being the “next big thing” was watched. Although it may seem as a systems product, it can also incline to a press and result linear way of product as well. Nevertheless, I do not undermine the way in which nature performs a particular function.

Speaking of the nature being already sustainable, in the film “The Power Principle”, there is a strong representation and commentary on how countries desired to keep the earth in its sustainable state but they were not able to. For instance, Greece, Spain, Guatemala, and the Congo were all places where the people/ natives wanted to maintain the earth’s sustainability by working as a collective in sharing and harvesting there own crops to work with nature, not against it. In the film, spaniards are interviewed and their responses were to work conflicts or ideas out together within the people to come into an agreement. This demonstrated a systematic way of thinking instead of a linear approach. However, this is where resource extraction and the control of government came in and did not allow the people to govern their own territories. The governments desire to have a sense of rule and governing towards all things that occur in every country for the very fact that there is a profit mindset instead of a holistic or systematic mindset. It was completely shocking and devastating even to see how the Congo tried to seek help from the United States for resources but the Congo was rejected by the government . So the Congo leader turned to the Soviet union for help, but was also not assisted in the way that was needed. Unfortunately, the leader of the Congo was executed. All this to say, when people do not work as a collective or when people do not follow the example nature demonstrates, then there is ruin within.  De-colonizing the way we think about how things should work is very vital to creating a sustainable future. The earth models sustainability for us in the way its biodiversity and ecosystems work, but it is up to us to walk along side it and learn from it.

 

 

 

Week 3 // Progressing Lily Ponds

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“What is Progress?” This question was asked to various individuals with different expertise and cultural backgrounds in the documentary Surviving Progress. Surprisingly enough, most of the individuals being interviewed had a difficult time answering this question. An individual  would assume that a person with a business background would be able to explain what progress means; however, this was not the case. Most of them were stuck in trying to explain and others were speechless. Is not progress something that is constantly spoken about? It should be like second nature to speak about this topic. After all, there has been vaste improvement on technology, infrastructure, methods, medicine, methods of industries, and much more. Hurray for us!… Right?.. Not really.

This is where we can distinguish ourselves from the Chimpanzee. We, as humans, constantly probe, which leads us to ask the question “why?” for everything we encounter. As a result, it leads us to creating things to constantly improve and progress. Being innovative and creating things is not the issue. The issue is that we progress too much at once and fall into the progress trap that is explained in the film as ” things that seem to be good and provide short term benefits, but in the long term create destruction”. Progress always seemed to me as something that gains momentum and accomplishes another milestone. But, I never realized that progress also includes the bad. One of the interviewees said, ” Things progress in that they change, but there is good and bad progress. It does not always improve.” When I heard that statement, my mind automatically jumped into how industries and markets have seduced and created the idea of “faster and more is better”, which has led humanity into a consumerist cycle. The results of fast fashion, new car models, easy access to almost any type of food all year long, and many more “innovations” have affected nature in such a tremendous way. The short term decisions have created long term consequences for the bigger spectrum of the world: Nature. The film goes onto speak about the deforestation in the Amazon forests. While the industries and many of the first world countries “progress” , the third world countries digress because of the damage done to their nations. The United States basically manipulated the idea to these third world countries that they(third world countries) could sell their rights to pay the “debt” they owed to the United States.

WHAT THE HECK?! It is astounding to see where self-centerdness has brought people. People and nature suffer in other countries just so that industries and companies who produce for us can gain progress and profit. The film mentions that consumerism and expansion is like a lily pond. Lily ponds grow rapidly on top of the water, and soon enough if it covers the entire top, the life and biodiversity under the water will not have oxygen anymore. This is how things are occurring in present day; therefore, the idea of progress is actually sucking the life out of people and nature.  I feel ashamed to be a part of that cycle, and I am realizing how necessary it is to step OUT of it. 

The idea of progressing, specifically in technology,  ties hand in hand with the article “Techno-Optimism” by Nicholas Agar. His final statement really wraps everything together because he asserts, “When we overestimate the propensity of progress to boost well-being, we are more likely to judge the risks of progress to be worth taking. Our rush toward a technologically enhanced future is likely to expose us to many threats of extinction of similar or greater magnitude to those imposed by climate change or nuclear weapons”. The ideas of having the advancements of technology improving societies sounds very nice and seductive; however, the long term effects are crucial and destructive. Progress cannot be looked at in a linear view, because if it is this way, then it is degenerative and does not take into account the holistic perspective. Will technology create a system that allows all components to work together to benefit all aspects of life? Or will it just serve as a put in take out view? Asking questions and intellectually knowing the answers does not suffice. It requires re-adjusting our thought process and implementing action steps to truly see progress. Not the progress that we have invented or thought to be, but progress standing for truth and honesty.

Week 2 // Re-designing our thought process about sustainability

This past monday, the line on the chalkboard with one end “regenerative” and the other end being “degenerative” was drawn again (sidenote: In all honesty, that line is really helping me rethink so many false views that I have built up over the years). Anyways, the line was placed on the board because my professor and the rest of the class discussed the reduction of carbon footprint. This issue of reducing carbon foot print has been a topic that has been pressed strongly over the years because of so many negative effects carbon footprint has caused in our world. The issue is not really carbon in itself, but all along it has been the way people have sort of twisted its purpose. Our professor said something very important, he said, ” We can have efforts to reduce carbon footprint and it justifies our dismissal of sequestration, but this is unjustifiable”.

Wait a second. So our efforts have not been justifiable this whole time?

My entire thought process was challenged with the statement our professor presented to us. We cannot just brush off the realities of this world by only doing a “walk for green change” or any other event. Do not get me wrong, awareness is definitely created through those events, but it takes a larger scale of people(a.k.a. the government or others in charge) to readjust their thinking. For instance, industries would not want to pursue regenerative alternatives because 1) They lose profit and 2) They get pushed out of their production.  This entire ordeal also ties into the issue of not sustainably managing our water systems. Much of the industries and government also have control of the water usage and distribution.  It is not until they begin thinking about the people and the effects it has on them that issues will begin to radically change for a sustainable future. The issues are to be thought of as a whole, not as just one particular idea.

What actually led much of the issues we are having today of carbon footprints, water management, etc., were the production and consumerist cycle people fell into after cities and areas were developed. In the video 10 Towns that Changed America, there was a description of the ten towns in America which made an impact on urban designing for many other places in the United States as well as other countries. One town in particular was greatly fascinating and refreshing to see was the town Riverside, Illinois. This town was designed by Homestead who really embedded the natural beauty of the location in Illinois with the rapid industrialization. He did not choose to destroy or remove any of the natural things, but he chose to build upon it and remarkably display nature at its finest with a livable space for humans to partake in. Riverside was the fourth town mentioned in the film, but it was one of the ones that stood out to me the most because I greatly feel that Homestead really took into consideration the importance of not ruining the natural environment. Instead, he aimed for a sustainable place to abide in alongside the beautiful river. The river is also a water source for the people in that city and they are able to embrace it. The layout he chose for the town was a tad bit different than the other structural ones, but it greatly showed the goal of having a town built upon what the people saw best suited their own properties. “We need big ideas, but we cannot be imposing decisions from above with just one idea that perhaps people won’t desire” said the representative of Pennsylvania. In order to plan or think about anything, context is required to think towards planning and rethinking sustainability.