Mouth Water

This week, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the Copenhagen Summit said (on the failure of heads of state to come to a worthwhile consensus), “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. We’ve brought 192 horses to water.”
I suppose it won’t matter soon; the water will rise to their mouths and there will be no more leading.

I know you've done it as well

I’m reading Good magazine’s issue on water (which is, despite what OPEC would have you believe, our most valuable resource). This morning, I came across this Brazilian public service ad outlining a way to save many thousands of litres of water a year.

A couple years ago there was a campaign in Australia called Save Water, Shower with a Friend. Just think how much water we could save worldwide if we join all this thinking up!

The Revolution

I was just searching for something else…and came across this reply I made concerning a post by Alex Steffen on WorldChanging. (There was also a good discussion on small arms trade that’s worth revisiting as well.) I walked past a Tamil protest in the city today and, once again, am considering the effects of revolutions on revolutionaries and—especially—on people caught in the middle. The comment below concerned The Green Revolution; however, as I think that political and environmental revolutions are closely entwined, the discussion is parallel. The comment:
“Revolutions are rarely bloodless (in the quite literal sense); you and I would have it so. We all discuss ways of positive change; we begin a thousand incremental movements toward a sustainable place for all living things. But as Jonathan mentions above, there are billions of people who are not necessarily thinking about this right now. They are not taking those steps. Our revolution may be velvet; though we must consider all the clouded rhetoric that surround these issues, at least we have the power to discern and determine our futures through “lifestyle choices.” We have in our hands a spectrum of paths that point to any number of futures. But, I fear, there are so many in the world who face a starker and much bloodier tomorrow.

If we are to have any future, the revolution (and I’m using that term without a solid definition here) will come. But, nothing dealing with ideas at such a large scale comes overnight; nothing comes to all of us at once. We’ve begin in the Global North, we take [those] steps (though more slowly that some of us would like to see); we are hopeful these will negate the damages done. We are hopeful that it’s not too late to heal. But, while we change, we ride on a cache of social order and wealth. Most of the South has no such buffer; the revolution will hit them hard and suddenly (we can already see this happening in places with scarce water resources and where food supply is endangered by global warming; the knock-on social effects are apparent).

I say all the above to consider this: You and I know that radical change is needed; we have good hopes of determining what this is and living it out. Though I’m not completely living it now, I hope to do so in the incoming years so that all is well and I am not detrimental to society or the planet. All of “us” commit to this; we manage to become a positive encouragement in our society and change it for the better. Millions of “us” change; however, there are still billions of people on the planet who were not part of this initial revolution. There are still billions operating under “the old systems.” How do we bring the revolution to them?

Alex, you are right, we have the responsibility to dream a new future for the world; it’s not enough to sit tidy at home. I do not think it grandiose to say that we must now think ideas that are better than what humanity has ever thought. All action springs from ideas, we must have the best ideas and inspire people with them.

What ideal world do we advocate? I think we do not yet have anything that would unify humanity to change in the radical way needed. We don’t have, for lack of a better metaphor, a scripture for the future of the world. (Or, perhaps, we haven’t properly interpreted the text written in nature all around us.) I can make the changes needed to save my world; that decision is relatively painless (though it require a complete restructuring of all my thought and action). The difficult part of a revolution is not changing me; the difficulty is generating and disseminating the ideas that change others. How do we shape the ideas of all the people in the world in the short time we have to do so? How do we make the green revolution velvet for us all?”

Furnishing the landfill

My office is next to the main square in Strasbourg. There is a posh shop across the street that is either closing down or about to be renovated. All day I’ve watched workmen rip out the very nice cabinetry and displays and fill a large skip. This is stuff that most people would be glad to have as living room furniture—off to the dump (or, at least I’m assuming; they are breaking stuff up into pieces).
(Oh, by the way; I’m in France! Update coming shortly.)

Parts and pieces

I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday thinking through how to organise and parse and compile and collate and collect the data for my dissertation research. I’ve looked at several word processing programs (as I detest Microsoft Word and don’t think I could be compelled to use it under any circumstance). I’ve actually used Apple’s Pages program for several assignments this year; however, it’s not really up to the task of a dissertation length work. After trying out various demos, I think I’m smitten with Scrivener it seems to have all the necessary components to organise large amounts of material and aid the writer. It’s not exactly a word processor, the layout and typesetting is handled by a separate program (thankfully it exports to LaTeX, so I will probably export to TeXShop where I can have detailed control over the fit and finish). Will report on how all that progresses.
One of the aims of my research is to make it accessible to others; I’ve set up a simple wiki here to make available my research. Perhaps, after I’m finished with the research, it will grow into a larger collaborative effort.

Also, I’m going to start a new weblog category for “Stewardship” to set apart entries pertaining to the dissertation.

Now I need to make another cup of tea and go back to reading; it’s raining today in Glasgow and perfect for book perusing. (Of course, it’s raining most of the time—no wonder there are so many Scottish writers!)

Dissertation Proposal

I’m preparing to begin dissertation work in earnest; this is the latest draft of my proposal (which will evolve as I begin research and writing). I’ll post a little excerpt and here is the full document as a .pdf
“We violated nature and, therefore, if nature is going to be set to rights we would begin by setting it to rights in our own domain”.
—Sir Roy Strong

Working title:
Defining Stewardship: Human Accountability and the Care of Place

The subject of land stewardship (and the broader topic of “environmental stewardship”) is a primary social and environmental issue. This dissertation explores the historical understanding of the word “stewardship” in the context of land management in Scotland. Further, the work examines the implications of the word and concept in the 21st century regarding individual and collective responsibility.

This dissertation shall examine the history and current understanding of the word stewardship as it relates to land “under human care”. The primary consideration shall be who appoints stewards and to what end is their mandate for stewardship (e.g. are stewards appointed communally or self-selected from people who are concerned for the land under stewardship? Do we have a choice to become stewards or are we all, of necessity, stewards at some level?)

The secondary considerations are: What are the responsibilities of humans in relation to the land? Who are the benefactors of stewardship? What historical baggage does this word carry (specifically in Scotland)? How has the Christian concept of “dominion” shaped our current understanding of stewardship? How does one’s belief system inform the activity of stewardship? How does this play itself out in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society? How is the concept of stewardship evolving in the 21st century? With whom are we stewards (e.g. with only fellow humans or are we, in some way, co-stewards with the environment itself [ref. Gaia Theory])?

The topic is vast and will need careful paring for the limitations of this dissertation; it will only tangentially examine the secondary considerations listed above (though each of them could probably become a book-length work). I propose to mainly examine one’s personal obligation for stewardship and how that relates to a community.

Hell and High Water coming swiftly on

Later this month Alastair McIntosh will launch his new book Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition. Alastair is one of my professors. I have not yet read the book, but from the snippets I’ve seen and what he has spoken of it, I think it’s going to be a significant contribution to the discussion on what state we are in.
Click here to read a brief on the book and its introduction.

Several months ago, Alastair spoke at the Centre for Human Ecology AGM concerning the book; I recorded the lecture and you can listen to the MP3 here.

Update: Here is another book lecture he presented at the Big Tent Festival on 26 July 2008.