Sunday, August 11, 2013

Uncover the cultural barriers to sustainability: a eulogy for Jim Farrell

Sunday, August 11, 2013
I spent the past two weeks say farewell to my father, Jim Farrell, instead my usual discussion of good policies and practices for distributed renewable energy, I am the time take, with such as my father's work on the topic of sustainability as I it fits approach in this blog and elsewhere in my work for the Institute for local self-reliance to explore.

My father was a Professor of American history and American studies at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota (where I did my bachelor's thesis). He was not a lobbyist for environmental policy or a political activist, but in his classes on "Disney's America", "Mall of America" and "environmental history," he helped thousands of students and colleagues understand their daily lives as a "political action." For example, in an essay he wrote on an air conditioner, he explains how hundreds of years of cultural conditioning undermined this technology of the 20th century, remain cool to people with a smaller carbon footprint helped:

Air conditioning is a simple technology, replaced the complex cultural conditioning, the primitive peoples taught - how our parents and grandparents - dealing with heat. Before the air conditioning to build people in General not cities in deserts. In the times past, in temperate climates, planted her trees or shrubs to shade their homes. They used awnings to protect Windows on the Eastern and Western sides of the building. And instead of cooling all rooms of the building, she used fans to cool the specific areas they occupied. When interiors became too hot, they were sitting on terraces, where the night breeze brought some relief. They have designed a building with Windows that can be open for work. In some cultures, which not so obsessed, was working to hold a siesta, too, to the hustle and bustle of the business during the hottest hours of the day. Sometimes, people were just uncomfortable.

In other words, it is an act that implicitly conditioned the basic connection between the desire of our room air and air conditioning ignored our planet's climate to accept air conditioning (and many other amenities) as a part of American life.

My father made a practice of turning over the rocks of American daily habits to find the underlying cultural expectations, and he was with, how many outstanding values in American society in contrast of to environmental values were particularly hard hit. For example, as Americans, we tend to value equity, comfort and convenience, three values (11, he wrote essays that), often to increase rather than to reduce our environmental footprint.

The result is that the "environmental movement" is often much harder work has, to achieve significant change because it must either ignore these underlying American values or a place for them. In both cases, it reduces our ability to find sustainable ways of life.

The Institute for local self-reliance was founded with a similar idea, as cultural norms about our economy to make available (E.g. bigger is better) often work against the real interest of our communities. We explore how large retailers (Wal-Mart and Amazon) local businesses undermine box and how communities with vital local, independent businesses are healthier and richer. We show saves critical infrastructure (such as our connection to the Internet) in State-owned us, strengthens our community and reduced control of remote enterprise on our local economy. We explain how locally owned and generated renewable energy (E.g. Community solar or wind) - controlled large-scale, dirty energy rather than utility - allows it accelerate us, our move towards a sustainable energy system and more of our energy dollars in our communities.

I use the word, because it seems inconceivable to reinforce the enormous obstacles to sustainability without fighting the cultural norms, waste, pollution, and externalize costs to attract "we" liberal in the preceding paragraph. This includes the notion that we can avoid local control over our energy, information and economic systems without losing the control over the environmental impact of these systems.

I think one of the reasons ILSRs approach both refreshing and rewarding is that the daily work illustrating the power of the communities at their core about to unite for their own well-being, and in particular the rules again to make it easier to change to give you. A few students helped a cooperative solar buy in the District of Mt. pleasant of Washington, D.C., to organize the now "Sol aryanised" 10 per cent on the roofs and created a political movement, which makes it easier than ever to install local solar energy production. A grass-roots movement in Boulder, CO, won a vote to the incumbent utilities over its continued investment in large boats, polluting sources of energy (at their cost), so that they can create a utility of the 21st century, the energy policy decisions and dollars in the community with locally keeps renewable energy generated.

My father said that he taught not history, but rather, as he put it, "he taught students." Over 36 years (much too little time), he them tools and samples gave the messy environmental results of a consumerist contest (and with it have run his pupils).

ILSR is similar to. We do not preach a graph necessarily more sustainable when everything is aligned, what we could have dreamed up, sustainability, but rather poor citizens and communities with tools for their own economic and environmental future.

It is possible that my vision of this overlap between my father's work and I simply wishful thinking, since it not even two weeks since died and I am still looking for answers. But I find that when I about my father commitment to his work (I'm glad that he wrote an essay on it, called some thoughts that I have when I'm in the head commit), I his sense of calling parts. As he described his "vocation as a Professor offers provocations to students, according to their own professional ways." My vocation offers provocation to people, to see the average Joe to activists to the legislature, the environmental work as their vocation. Provocation to think like local autonomy is the key to lasting success.

I can't say that I'll be 36 years here, but I enjoy the views of this work for some time to do. And for the moment, it seems my answers to the questions, the I asked at the end of my father's eulogy by the poem A Summer Day damage taken by Mary Oliver:

Tell me what I should do?
Not about to die finally and early?
Tell me, what is it, you are planning to do with your one wild and precious life?

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