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# Differing visions of sustainability

Looking at the "Psychology of sustainability" Azimuth entry got me thinking that a question arises of what the appropriate psychology might be, when sometimes conflicting visions of a sustainable future suggest diametrically opposed solutions to problems. I saw an article on the Smart Planet web-site "Is smart growth really better than sprawl?" which centered on comments made in a blog by NRDC's Kaid Benfield asking "How much Urbanism is enough?" But this assumes that urbanism is a viable way to a sustainable future.

I've had exposure to folks who are absolutely committed to sustainable lifestyles and who 'walk the talk' of believing and practicing their message, but have the opinion that urbanism may be the source of our ills rather than a solution. They teach that any strategy to achieve a sustainable future must include nature, and suggest lifestyles in harmony with nature. Their ideal of a sustainable future is for people to move away from urban lives that are disconnected from the natural order and the sensibility of a kind of sacredness of the land and the planet. In their minds, it is city life that teaches people the foolish ways of wasteful and non-sustainable living.

Are they wrong? If you were to ask architect Paolo Soleri, he would say that they both got it partly right, but didn't take things far enough. Soleri preached against the ills of sprawl, but suggested that the solution is not Megalopolis but Arcology - dense communities in harmony with nature. His idea is to take natural features of the landscape and build large-scale architecture that takes advantage of them, while allowing some adjoining areas to remain natural, or be more park like. Soleri's notion is that standing needles like the Burj Khalifa, which I think is the current tallest building, are far less efficient than truly 3-d structures.

But Arcology may be the only kind of solution that allows urbanists and ruralists to both feel that they are contributing to the creation of a sustainable future. That way; people like NRDC's Kaid Benfield and others like Pete Seeger or Elspeth of Haven could both get their way. So here we have an example where parties on opposite sides might label the psychology of the other guys as hurtful to the cause of a sustainable future, but there really is a synthesis to go along with Benfield's thesis and its antithesis - which is Arcology. Are there thoughts about 'Visions of sustainability' as a future Azimuth entry to address this kind of opposition among sustainability advocates?

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edited January 2011

"Visions of sustainability" is a bit fuzzy for the title of an Azimuth Project page. In some sense the whole Azimuth Project is about developing detailed, precise visions of sustainability.

We should - but don't yet - have an ultra-general page Sustainability with links to more specific topics. You could start that.

Or perhaps you're willing to start a page on Sustainable cities, gathering up various references?

Another option is to write a blog article on this - see Blog articles in progress for a place to do that.

I've read stuff by Paolo Soleri. I've also been to Arcosanti in Arizona - it's a beautiful vision, but it's been growing far too slowly to make a real difference.

If you haven't read it yet, I really recommend that you read Stewart Brand's book Whole Earth Discipline. It comes out strongly in favor of concentrating people in big cities (which is what's happening anyway).

Comment Source:"Visions of sustainability" is a bit fuzzy for the title of an Azimuth Project page. In some sense the whole Azimuth Project is about developing detailed, precise visions of sustainability. We should - but don't yet - have an ultra-general page [[Sustainability]] with links to more specific topics. You could start that. Or perhaps you're willing to start a page on [[Sustainable cities]], gathering up various references? Another option is to write a blog article on this - see [[Blog articles in progress]] for a place to do that. I've read stuff by Paolo Soleri. I've also been to [Arcosanti](http://www.arcosanti.org/) in Arizona - it's a beautiful vision, but it's been growing far too slowly to make a real difference. If you haven't read it yet, I really recommend that you read Stewart Brand's book _[[Whole Earth Discipline]]_. It comes out strongly in favor of concentrating people in big cities (which is what's happening anyway).
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I'm also quite interested in the "psychology of sustainability". Soon I might produce my "non-plan C" (already hinted at in an Azimuth blog comment) - but except for aphorisms I'm not a good writer... well, that's why I'm exceedingly thrilled to see people like Jonathan Dickau, Curtis Faith, etc. show up here :-)

It looks one major "psychological" problem is the tertium non datur: Either urbanism or back-to-nature. The Arcosanti project somehow feels like falling into the same trap for me: Wanting to have both at once.

Being several billion hominids meanwhile, we can't afford turning the whole planet into one huge Arcosanti settlement. So, we need both ways of life: Highly concentrated urbanism + living at the bosom of nature. The latter in a "super-sustainable" way, compensating the non-sustainability of cities, supporting city folks with food, carbon footprint neutralization, healing, etc.

E.g. I would love to live in a compostable straw bale house or perhaps just a tipi with a cozy open fireplace in the middle. But, I'd also like to visit the university library (and leave my horse outside on the lawn) and have city folks producing electronic gadgets (I'll compensate them with yummy organic chicken I raise) so I can use the internet from my tipi.

Arcosanti methinks is neither of both. It is a nonsustainable psychological trap, spilling concrete and glass architecture all over mother nature's bosom.

Comment Source:I'm also quite interested in the "psychology of sustainability". Soon I might produce my "non-plan C" (already hinted at in an Azimuth blog [comment](http://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/our-future/#comment-2503)) - but except for aphorisms I'm not a good writer... well, that's why I'm exceedingly thrilled to see people like Jonathan Dickau, Curtis Faith, etc. show up here :-) It looks one major "psychological" problem is the [tertium non datur](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tertium_non_datur): Either urbanism or back-to-nature. The Arcosanti project somehow feels like falling into the same trap for me: Wanting to have both at once. Being several billion hominids meanwhile, we can't afford turning the whole planet into one huge Arcosanti settlement. So, we need both ways of life: Highly concentrated urbanism + living at the bosom of nature. The latter in a "super-sustainable" way, compensating the non-sustainability of cities, supporting city folks with food, carbon footprint neutralization, healing, etc. E.g. I would love to live in a compostable straw bale house or perhaps just a [tipi](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipi) with a cozy open fireplace in the middle. But, I'd also like to visit the university library (and leave my horse outside on the lawn) and have city folks producing electronic gadgets (I'll compensate them with yummy organic chicken I raise) so I can use the internet from my tipi. Arcosanti methinks is neither of both. It is a nonsustainable psychological trap, spilling concrete and glass architecture all over mother nature's bosom.
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I would agree that Arcosanti is not a real 'proof of concept' for the Arcology concept, and that in many ways that concept must still prove its worth, if it is to be validated. However; anyone who actually reads the wonderful book "Arcology - City in the image of man" would understand that the ideal hinted at is something far grander than what has been realized at Arcosanti. The Arcosanti community is a pale shadow. It is the limited result of a grass-roots approach - by a limited number of people - to enact this idea out in the desert. Perhaps Arcology is only something that could work with massive investment or official support. But I think that Soleri was presenting ideas that move us in the right direction. Or get people to think and perhaps admit that a synthesis is possible.

Ultimately; the question of the workability of his Arcology idea or the truth of some of his insights is unrelated to how much traction the idea has gotten. I like Flori's answer that we need both ways of life and I think that means we need a kind of rural revival as well as people flocking to cities. There is perhaps a thornier aspect to the problem, though, which gets back to the psychological aspects of sustainability. Many people I know - some highly learned as well as deeply committed - have expressed the idea that any proposed idea for sustainability which leaves nature out of the picture, or regards it as unimportant, is fundamentally flawed. I tend to agree; we are natural creatures evolved for a natural environment, and cities are a recent development (with not much time yet to evolve adaptations).

Joseph Chilton Pearce stressed this point with respect to proper brain development in a recent book "The Biology of Transcendence." The idea is that a natural environment provides a person with congruent information almost all of the time, and sometimes requires attention to subtle cues, where a city provides individuals with numerous disconnected streams of information at once, and much of it is extreme. As a result; many city people lack exposure to enough natural stimuli during critical developmental times, to have a congruent or holistic impression of life in general. Among other things (studies have shown), this has resulted in a situation where younger people - especially those brought up in cities - distinguish fewer levels of gray, or any other color, and the same with other senses, with perception centering on especially loud or bright stimuli.

This makes the job of communicating some of the subtleties of what is needed to live sustainably more difficult.

I'll have to get back to this thread later.

But before I go I should say; I think I will tackle the general case, and start a piece for "Sustainability." I'm not sure I could write about "Sustainable cities" but maybe "Sustainable communities" is a related topic I could handle. BTW; I love Brand's work, and still have my Whole Earth Catalog, but have not read the "Whole Earth Discipline" book yet.

Thanks All; for your support with this.
Comment Source:I would agree that Arcosanti is not a real 'proof of concept' for the Arcology concept, and that in many ways that concept must still prove its worth, if it is to be validated. However; anyone who actually reads the wonderful book "Arcology - City in the image of man" would understand that the ideal hinted at is something far grander than what has been realized at Arcosanti. The Arcosanti community is a pale shadow. It is the limited result of a grass-roots approach - by a limited number of people - to enact this idea out in the desert. Perhaps Arcology is only something that could work with massive investment or official support. But I think that Soleri was presenting ideas that move us in the right direction. Or get people to think and perhaps admit that a synthesis is possible. Ultimately; the question of the workability of his Arcology idea or the truth of some of his insights is unrelated to how much traction the idea has gotten. I like Flori's answer that we need both ways of life and I think that means we need a kind of rural revival as well as people flocking to cities. There is perhaps a thornier aspect to the problem, though, which gets back to the psychological aspects of sustainability. Many people I know - some highly learned as well as deeply committed - have expressed the idea that any proposed idea for sustainability which leaves nature out of the picture, or regards it as unimportant, is fundamentally flawed. I tend to agree; we are natural creatures evolved for a natural environment, and cities are a recent development (with not much time yet to evolve adaptations). Joseph Chilton Pearce stressed this point with respect to proper brain development in a recent book "The Biology of Transcendence." The idea is that a natural environment provides a person with congruent information almost all of the time, and sometimes requires attention to subtle cues, where a city provides individuals with numerous disconnected streams of information at once, and much of it is extreme. As a result; many city people lack exposure to enough natural stimuli during critical developmental times, to have a congruent or holistic impression of life in general. Among other things (studies have shown), this has resulted in a situation where younger people - especially those brought up in cities - distinguish fewer levels of gray, or any other color, and the same with other senses, with perception centering on especially loud or bright stimuli. This makes the job of communicating some of the subtleties of what is needed to live sustainably more difficult. I'll have to get back to this thread later. But before I go I should say; I think I will tackle the general case, and start a piece for "Sustainability." I'm not sure I could write about "Sustainable cities" but maybe "Sustainable communities" is a related topic I could handle. BTW; I love Brand's work, and still have my Whole Earth Catalog, but have not read the "Whole Earth Discipline" book yet. Thanks All; for your support with this.
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edited January 2011

Jonathan wrote:

But before I go I should say; I think I will tackle the general case, and start a piece for "Sustainability." I'm not sure I could write about "Sustainable cities" but maybe "Sustainable communities" is a related topic I could handle.

Great! Give it a try, put progress reports on the Azimuth Forum, and some of us will join in and help out.

Florifulgurator wrote:

Being several billion hominids meanwhile, we can't afford turning the whole planet into one huge Arcosanti settlement.

The great thing about arcologies is that they pack lots of people into a very small land area, so you wouldn't need to "turn the whole planet into one huge Arcosanti settlement" to house 8 or 10 billion people. On the contrary, this approach would make for a lot more green space than we have today!

Alas, I don't think a highly planned structures like arcologies a chance of actually getting built anytime soon, except in a few very wealthy places. See my 20 March 2009 diary entry about Masdar in Abu Dhabi. It looks cool, but it's a showpiece rather than a self-replicating viral meme that'll spread on its own.

What'll happen is what Stewart Brand talks about in Whole Earth Discipline: big cities will get bigger. 300 million Chinese have moved to cities since 1950. Another 300 million are expected to follow in the next 15 years. The city of Lagos (know it?) grew from 300 thousand in 1950 to 10 million today. Since 1950 the top ten cities have tripled in population. Etcetera.

And Stewart Brand argues that this urbanization is a good thing for the Earth, for many reasons. First and foremost, it makes birth rates drop.

Definitely a book worth reading, whether one agrees with any of his points or not!

Comment Source:Jonathan wrote: > But before I go I should say; I think I will tackle the general case, and start a piece for "Sustainability." I'm not sure I could write about "Sustainable cities" but maybe "Sustainable communities" is a related topic I could handle. Great! Give it a try, put progress reports on the Azimuth Forum, and some of us will join in and help out. Florifulgurator wrote: > Being several billion hominids meanwhile, we can't afford turning the whole planet into one huge Arcosanti settlement. The great thing about arcologies is that they pack lots of people into a very small land area, so you wouldn't need to "turn the whole planet into one huge Arcosanti settlement" to house 8 or 10 billion people. On the contrary, this approach would make for a lot more green space than we have today! Alas, I don't think a highly planned structures like arcologies a chance of actually getting built anytime soon, except in a few very wealthy places. See my [20 March 2009 diary entry](http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/diary/march_2009.html#march20.09) about Masdar in Abu Dhabi. It looks cool, but it's a showpiece rather than a self-replicating viral meme that'll spread on its own. <img src = "http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/diary/march_2009.html#march20.09" alt = ""/> What'll happen is what Stewart Brand talks about in _[[Whole Earth Discipline]]_: big cities will get bigger. **300 million Chinese** have moved to cities since 1950. Another 300 million are expected to follow in the next 15 years. The city of Lagos (know it?) grew from **300 thousand in 1950 to 10 million today**. Since 1950 **the top ten cities have tripled in population**. Etcetera. And Stewart Brand argues that this urbanization is a _good_ thing for the Earth, for many reasons. First and foremost, it makes birth rates drop. Definitely a book worth reading, whether one agrees with any of his points or not!
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I wrote this post off-line, since I was floored when I went back to "The Biology of Transcendence," to find the exact reference to my earlier statement. It seems I had greatly understated my case, you see, according to a German study that began in the '60s in Tubingen. What appears to be happening is that not only are people losing the ability to discern subtleties, they fail to pursue the chain of logical inference up or down the possibility tree, for all except the most extreme stimuli. A literal translation from the German states that now a 'brutal thrill' stimulus is required, for our brains to regsiter it - according to Pearce. Instead of 350 shades of a particular color, people see 130. Instead of distinguishing 300k sounds, now it's only 180k. But most disturbing are his quotations from Gert Gerken talking about 'the new indifference.'

Because most modern people have grown up with so many extreme contradictions, young people are learning to tolerate extremes of dissonance or discord. This results in "the mental ability to unite elements that are not logically related, and the failure to recognize severe logical fallacies." So this is the kind of cognitive erosion which makes the job of sustainability advocates difficult. This is also why there needs to be a Plan C, for the difficult road to climate change that becomes necessary when too many people have done nothing for too long. People had enough time to fix the bad Math in use in the Finance sector, once Benoit Mandelbrot pointed out its flaws, but perhaps he was too gentle. Even after a major crisis, I still read (just last week) that economists who want to see more realistic models implemented are being shut out, because the vast majority are in favor of going back to the old ways instead - once the economy stabilizes.

Pearce quotes Gerken as saying the brain of today's young people "loses its standards" in a crippled form of dialectical reasoning where "The brain stores opposing and contradictory information without creating a synthesis." This hasn't happened to me yet, and in fact I'm more nearly the opposite. While I am a proponent of accepting that some things are paradoxical, I am a habitual synthesis-seeker, but I am also quite particular about seeing how the pieces actually fit together naturally, rather than making a random collage of juxtaposed elements.

It would seem there is a connection with a loss - in modern urban and suburban environments - of the congruent sensory input found in nature. But sadly; Pearce reports that because of young people's preference for high-level stimuli "Natural settings such as parks and rural areas are avoided because they don't offer sensory input intense enough to keep awareness functioning." So; this means that the wisdom of traditional elders is correct, and urban life really does drive people crazy. However; it also means that with more and more people craving the most intense sensory input possible, it is certain our cities will grow, and the urbanists will have their way. But will the price be further cognitive erosion that makes selling sustainable practices all the more difficult?

I am blessed or cursed to see and hear subtleties others don't. I also distinguish various levels of truth or proof in any evidence procedure or logical argument. It's a bit of a shock to learn that perhaps some people don't understand because they don't see enough shades of gray to fathom a subtle argument - at all. But what makes me good at what I do (for my 'day job') is that I really do have an eye and ear for the subtleties. That is why people sometimes travel great distances to work with me. Try looking at the wallpaper some time, in an old movie that's been converted from Black and White Film into a DVD. The subtle content that was put there by moviemakers, shadows on the wall and such, is totally lost in a blurry patchwork of swimming blobs. Oh well. Too bad. But once it was 'converted to digital' the original films were often destroyed.

Sorry for the rant; now I'll look at your comments, and get back with comments of my own some time after.
Comment Source:I wrote this post off-line, since I was floored when I went back to "The Biology of Transcendence," to find the exact reference to my earlier statement. It seems I had greatly understated my case, you see, according to a German study that began in the '60s in Tubingen. What appears to be happening is that not only are people losing the ability to discern subtleties, they fail to pursue the chain of logical inference up or down the possibility tree, for all except the most extreme stimuli. A literal translation from the German states that now a 'brutal thrill' stimulus is required, for our brains to regsiter it - according to Pearce. Instead of 350 shades of a particular color, people see 130. Instead of distinguishing 300k sounds, now it's only 180k. But most disturbing are his quotations from Gert Gerken talking about 'the new indifference.' Because most modern people have grown up with so many extreme contradictions, young people are learning to tolerate extremes of dissonance or discord. This results in "the mental ability to unite elements that are not logically related, and the failure to recognize severe logical fallacies." So this is the kind of cognitive erosion which makes the job of sustainability advocates difficult. This is also why there needs to be a Plan C, for the difficult road to climate change that becomes necessary when too many people have done nothing for too long. People had enough time to fix the bad Math in use in the Finance sector, once Benoit Mandelbrot pointed out its flaws, but perhaps he was too gentle. Even after a major crisis, I still read (just last week) that economists who want to see more realistic models implemented are being shut out, because the vast majority are in favor of going back to the old ways instead - once the economy stabilizes. Pearce quotes Gerken as saying the brain of today's young people "loses its standards" in a crippled form of dialectical reasoning where "The brain stores opposing and contradictory information without creating a synthesis." This hasn't happened to me yet, and in fact I'm more nearly the opposite. While I am a proponent of accepting that some things are paradoxical, I am a habitual synthesis-seeker, but I am also quite particular about seeing how the pieces actually fit together naturally, rather than making a random collage of juxtaposed elements. It would seem there is a connection with a loss - in modern urban and suburban environments - of the congruent sensory input found in nature. But sadly; Pearce reports that because of young people's preference for high-level stimuli "Natural settings such as parks and rural areas are avoided because they don't offer sensory input intense enough to keep awareness functioning." So; this means that the wisdom of traditional elders is correct, and urban life really does drive people crazy. However; it also means that with more and more people craving the most intense sensory input possible, it is certain our cities will grow, and the urbanists will have their way. But will the price be further cognitive erosion that makes selling sustainable practices all the more difficult? I am blessed or cursed to see and hear subtleties others don't. I also distinguish various levels of truth or proof in any evidence procedure or logical argument. It's a bit of a shock to learn that perhaps some people don't understand because they don't see enough shades of gray to fathom a subtle argument - at all. But what makes me good at what I do (for my 'day job') is that I really do have an eye and ear for the subtleties. That is why people sometimes travel great distances to work with me. Try looking at the wallpaper some time, in an old movie that's been converted from Black and White Film into a DVD. The subtle content that was put there by moviemakers, shadows on the wall and such, is totally lost in a blurry patchwork of swimming blobs. Oh well. Too bad. But once it was 'converted to digital' the original films were often destroyed. Sorry for the rant; now I'll look at your comments, and get back with comments of my own some time after.
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edited January 2011

We damage kids by putting them in front of the TV. However the pre-TV system of pushing the kids out the front door to play in the street would certainly reduce the population nowadays with cars zooming everywhere. Actually I reckon we could put transmitters on the kids (ankle bands maybe) and receivers of that (and other) information in vehicles and it could be impossible for a vehicle to hit a kid [also parents could get warned if their kids move from where they're meant to be or have some other problem].

In Africa the other fauna is co-evolved with us. Outside Africa we are an invasive species that has wrought so much havoc that there is no "natural environment" left, and we need to get over that and figure out how to manage natural spaces, and not imagine that unmanaged spaces will be natural. In particular we need to do the job of the lost megafauna and reduce the density of forests to something more like open woodland (which is what aboriginal people did, and to some extent still do, in many parts of Australia).

Finally I'd like to state a core problem for the future of humanity: the loss of cultural diversity.We are well on the way to a single world-wide culture. And actually this world is a bit small for competing cultures with modern technology. The solution to this problem is the conquest of interstellar space, where the speed of light is both a major obstacle, but also the guarantee of sufficient separation. For a really charming story of how cultural separation is breaking down see Worth every cow.

Comment Source:We damage kids by putting them in front of the TV. However the pre-TV system of pushing the kids out the front door to play in the street would certainly reduce the population nowadays with cars zooming everywhere. Actually I reckon we could put transmitters on the kids (ankle bands maybe) and receivers of that (and other) information in vehicles and it could be impossible for a vehicle to hit a kid [also parents could get warned if their kids move from where they're meant to be or have some other problem]. In Africa the other fauna is co-evolved with us. Outside Africa we are an invasive species that has wrought so much havoc that there is no "natural environment" left, and we need to get over that and figure out how to manage natural spaces, and not imagine that unmanaged spaces will be natural. In particular we need to do the job of the lost megafauna and reduce the density of forests to something more like open woodland (which is what aboriginal people did, and to some extent still do, in many parts of Australia). Finally I'd like to state a core problem for the future of humanity: the loss of cultural diversity.We are well on the way to a single world-wide culture. And actually this world is a bit small for competing cultures with modern technology. The solution to this problem is the conquest of interstellar space, where the speed of light is both a major obstacle, but also the guarantee of sufficient separation. For a really charming story of how cultural separation is breaking down see [Worth every cow](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/9369284.stm).
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Thanks, Jonathan, for mentioning Joe Pearce's "The Biology of Transcendence"! I've for quite some time suspected that what makes hominids stupid is civilization. (That suspicion began during my time at a Bavarian university math department: The brightest students and young PhDs there were mostly from rural Barvaria.) Perhaps hominid dumbification began millenia ago, somewhere in Mesopotamia, a milestone being the invention of monotheism - when bread no longer came from earth but got handed down from heaven...

I can't judge the scientific merit of Pearce's book - it might take some time until I have a look at it :-( But I guess we/you should put it on the Psychology of sustainability page -- or a new page, since that one is more about psychology of climate science communication. Being a reckless cynic I would (but don't dare) open a page titled >>Environmental Psychopathology of the Late Homo S "Sapiens"<< ...

Comment Source:Thanks, Jonathan, for mentioning Joe Pearce's "The Biology of Transcendence"! I've for quite some time suspected that what makes hominids stupid is civilization. (That suspicion began during my time at a Bavarian university math department: The brightest students and young PhDs there were mostly from rural Barvaria.) Perhaps hominid dumbification began millenia ago, somewhere in Mesopotamia, a milestone being the invention of monotheism - when bread no longer came from earth but got handed down from heaven... I've [quoted](http://questioneverything.typepad.com/question_everything/2011/01/is-there-a-role-for-elitism-in-higher-education-again.html?cid=6a00e54f9ea2e588340147e1e475e3970b#comment-6a00e54f9ea2e588340147e1e475e3970b) from your comments on George Mobus' blog. I can't judge the scientific merit of Pearce's book - it might take some time until I have a look at it :-( But I guess we/you should put it on the [Psychology of sustainability](http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/Psychology+of+sustainability) page -- or a new page, since that one is more about psychology of climate science communication. Being a reckless cynic I would (but don't dare) open a page titled >>Environmental Psychopathology of the Late Homo S "Sapiens"<< ...
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Thanks Flor,

I greatly enjoyed reading The Biology of Transcendence, and came away understanding a lot that I knew but was unclear about.

I've found that particular book to be a touchstone more than once. It was perhaps the most important single reference for my FFP11 talk on "Learning to cooperate for progress in Physics," apart from the comments made by 't Hooft and Osheroff at FFP10. Gerard was very emphatic in his closing remarks at that conference, that unless we do learn to work together more broadly, some advances will likely never come. And Pearce offers many useful insights on how we can overcome barriers to progress.

Pearce also talks about how the people from less-developed cultures often show superior acuity, once given the opportunity to learn. But anyone can be reached. I think a key point is that we need to talk to the cerebral cortex of the person, rather than address their reptilian or lizard brain. We see too much us-against-them mentality in the News today, and this originates in the hindbrain, but that portion of the brain is less capable of making subtle distinctions, as its function is simplistic, instinctual, and automatic. But if the neocortex is actively engaged, it will spring to life more and more readily.

Anyway; it will probably shake out that if we use the neocortex to 'create the good' sustainable cultures can be evolved, but if we operate overmuch from the reptilian brain's mindset to 'oppose evil' or 'evils,' we may fail to develop a successful "Psychology of sustainability." That is; we must use and marshal the part of the brain that can think, to get ourselves out of the mess we are in - environmentally speaking.
Comment Source:Thanks Flor, I greatly enjoyed reading The Biology of Transcendence, and came away understanding a lot that I knew but was unclear about. I've found that particular book to be a touchstone more than once. It was perhaps the most important single reference for my FFP11 talk on "Learning to cooperate for progress in Physics," apart from the comments made by 't Hooft and Osheroff at FFP10. Gerard was very emphatic in his closing remarks at that conference, that unless we do learn to work together more broadly, some advances will likely never come. And Pearce offers many useful insights on how we can overcome barriers to progress. Pearce also talks about how the people from less-developed cultures often show superior acuity, once given the opportunity to learn. But anyone can be reached. I think a key point is that we need to talk to the cerebral cortex of the person, rather than address their reptilian or lizard brain. We see too much us-against-them mentality in the News today, and this originates in the hindbrain, but that portion of the brain is less capable of making subtle distinctions, as its function is simplistic, instinctual, and automatic. But if the neocortex is actively engaged, it will spring to life more and more readily. Anyway; it will probably shake out that if we use the neocortex to 'create the good' sustainable cultures can be evolved, but if we operate overmuch from the reptilian brain's mindset to 'oppose evil' or 'evils,' we may fail to develop a successful "Psychology of sustainability." That is; we must use and marshal the part of the brain that can think, to get ourselves out of the mess we are in - environmentally speaking.
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BTW - I like the title "Environmental Psychopathology of the Late Homo S Sapiens" But there has to be a 'nicer' way to say it.

I also thank John and rks for their comments.

And for the record; what makes the Arcology concept so cool - when implemented fully - is that it is so darned efficient in use of space that a community could have a larger population and a much smaller footprint than our current breed of large cities. Which means you could keep larger areas natural too.

But you also need enough people who want to have a synthesis, instead of embracing contradictions, for that kind of vision to reach critical mass.
Comment Source:BTW - I like the title "Environmental Psychopathology of the Late Homo S Sapiens" But there has to be a 'nicer' way to say it. I also thank John and rks for their comments. And for the record; what makes the Arcology concept so cool - when implemented fully - is that it is so darned efficient in use of space that a community could have a larger population and a much smaller footprint than our current breed of large cities. Which means you could keep larger areas natural too. But you also need enough people who want to have a synthesis, instead of embracing contradictions, for that kind of vision to reach critical mass.
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10.

Martin Gisser said:

I've for quite some time suspected that what makes hominids stupid is civilization.

Maybe that's why mobile internet is the flagship of modern civilization ;-)

Comment Source:Martin Gisser said: > I've for quite some time suspected that what makes hominids stupid is civilization. Maybe that's why mobile internet is the flagship of modern civilization ;-)
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edited January 2011

Jonathan wrote:

Pearce also talks about how the people from less-developed cultures often show superior acuity, once given the opportunity to learn. But anyone can be reached. I think a key point is that we need to talk to the cerebral cortex of the person, rather than address their reptilian or lizard brain. We see too much us-against-them mentality in the News today, and this originates in the hindbrain, but that portion of the brain is less capable of making subtle distinctions, as its function is simplistic, instinctual, and automatic. But if the neocortex is actively engaged, it will spring to life more and more readily.

That reminds me of my first work experience outside university. It was at a high tech software company during the dot com bubble, when German workers (programming slaves) got rare:

My first real "technical" conversation was after one year (!) with one of our new "greencard" Indians. I didn't even need to formulate a complete sentence and immediately got a good reply - the colleague even was happy to help me out! Work started to get fun and productive when the Indians and Romanians came in.

Before there were only mustached Siemens Bavarians you couldn't ask any serious quesion: One was afraid to say something stupid, the other loved to keep his expertise secret, the other was scared of mathematicians, the next felt insulted when I told that I learned C++ from a book in 2 weeks (well, if you know categories and functors C++ is fun...), etc. Sigh.

Comment Source:Jonathan wrote: > Pearce also talks about how the people from less-developed cultures often show superior acuity, once given the opportunity to learn. But anyone can be reached. I think a key point is that we need to talk to the cerebral cortex of the person, rather than address their reptilian or lizard brain. We see too much us-against-them mentality in the News today, and this originates in the hindbrain, but that portion of the brain is less capable of making subtle distinctions, as its function is simplistic, instinctual, and automatic. But if the neocortex is actively engaged, it will spring to life more and more readily. That reminds me of my first work experience outside university. It was at a high tech software company during the dot com bubble, when German workers (programming slaves) got rare: My first real "technical" conversation was after one year (!) with one of our new "greencard" Indians. I didn't even need to formulate a complete sentence and immediately got a good reply - the colleague even was happy to help me out! Work started to get fun and productive when the Indians and Romanians came in. Before there were only mustached Siemens Bavarians you couldn't ask any serious quesion: One was afraid to say something stupid, the other loved to keep his expertise secret, the other was scared of mathematicians, the next felt insulted when I told that I learned C++ from a book in 2 weeks (well, if you know categories and functors C++ is fun...), etc. Sigh.