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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Consider the following situations:

    ** A committed social justice organization increases its productivity, grows its network, and expands its positive impacts in the local area through the use of computers and other information technologies—the same kinds of technologies produced in areas lacking fundamental labor regulations and disposed of in ways that release potent toxins into the environment and that are absorbed into the bodies of children disassembling these devices.

    ** An academic concerned with global climate changes caused by the release of carbon from the burning of fossil fuels travels across the country by way of a commercial airliner to attend a sustainability-themed environmental history conference.

    ** Over the span of a few years, artists and “bohemians”—predominately white—move into a neighborhood where rents and mortgages are inexpensive relative to the rest of the city. These new residents open new businesses, gradually increasing property values, which then entices (predominately white) real estate speculators. The previous residents of the area—predominately peoples of color—find themselves hard-pressed to afford the increased property taxes and begin to move away. Within a few more years, the former neighborhood sustains a revitalized business district, new construction & remodeling projects abound, and the city is receiving a much-increased level of business and property taxes. However, the historic character of the area no longer exists, and the area’s ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity has been thoroughly transformed (and much more homogenized).

These real-world cases illustrate a pattern that is worthy of our attention. Quite often, when we probe beyond surface-level observations of our lives in the early twenty-first century, we face confounding complexities that complicate what we had been taking for granted; what we may have thought to be a clear-cut narrative of environmental, economic, or social progress can turn out to be, in fact, a sloppier story toned not in black-&-white but in varied shades of grey.

As we assert in our working definition of “sustainability,” benefits and costs introduce complexities into any analysis of sustainable practices. We can learn things of value if we consciously and squarely confront these complexities. Intellectually working-through the resultant enigmas can help us uncover important roots and threads of pressing issues, and identifying such things can help us become more informed citizens and more empathetic community members.

This will be the inaugural post in an ongoing series about the enigmas, riddles, and conundrums of sustainability. Other posts in these series can be found under the Enigmas of Sustainability category in the sidebar of the Sustainability History Project website.

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For the Fall 2010 academic quarter, we will be looking at sustainability in the Portland area (broadly defined) through the lens of equity.

I’ve facilitated these courses since the Winter 2009 quarter, and I’ve consistently found that the majority of students don’t immediately think of equity issues when considering sustainability; most of them readily think of economic and ecological topics, but not necessarily equity, social justice, etc. That students tend to come to class with this perspective suggests an opportunity to bring this dynamic to the forefront for educational purposes. This quarter, then, I sought to address this issue directly and engage my students more explicitly with one of the Brundtland Commission’s three co-equal pillars: equity.

(more…)

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Beginning with the Fall 2010 quarter, I’m trying a new exercise with my students. The previous two quarters I’ve taken highlights of student reading responses and, from these highlights, created blog posts. The two primary reasons I wanted to do this were to make student insights and questions available to the broader public; I also wanted to disseminate some of my replies to individual student work to the whole class, rather than have my replies be just a dialogue between the individual student and I.

Examples of these posts include:

This quarter, I thought it would be more engaging & thought-provoking to both students and the community if the students wrote the blog posts themselves, based upon their own understanding and interpretation of the readings. This week, I’ll post the first round of student blog posts. Stay tuned!

** Update Oct. 12, 2010**
The three posts are:

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