Assignment #10

In Episode 3 The Bombof the optional video The Untold History of the United States, this documentary goes into detail about the bombing that took place on Japan during World War II. It has an interesting perspective however, because it takes on a different view as compared to the mainstream telling of history. The version that I’m used to hearing glorifies the bombing as if it was something necessary and needed to happen. I have never agreed that this bomb was a good solution to ending the war and after watching this documentary it made me even more ashamed to be from a country that was a part of such a shameful and devastating act. This documentary gave insight into the strategies that went behind the bombing and rather than glorifying Americans and choices made by our government, it showed the true colors of people like President Truman and their dark side. It showed war for what it really is, not glamorized like we’re used to seeing in documentaries and movies. I believe that Americans are discouraged from questioning their own history because when you really think about it or watch videos such as this, it sheds light onto these people whom we call our government, who are supposed to be good people doing the right thing and making the right decisions with our well-being in mind. Instead, from this video I saw monsters who will go through extreme measures and put thousands of innocent lives on the line just for a bit of for power. When there is a version of history out there that sugar coats things and makes them seem nice, I believe that most people find more comfort in an image such as that, rather than for what something really is.

 

When reflecting on political sustainability prior to this class, I never really understood what that really meant. Now after understanding systems thinking, my views on what democracy currently is and what it should be are two different things. I believe that for a democracy to be sustainable, action and attention needs to start at the local level. Conditions of an environment can change sometimes very little or sometimes substantially, but nonetheless, are always different from place to place. That is why you can’t have a situation like what we have now, where there are a larger set of rules with a small group of people governing an entire nation and applying those rules onto the entire nation, treating it as if everything is the same. I believe that currently democracy is not modeled after nature. For that to happen, you must treat it as if it is a living organism. Current democracy is treated as if it is a machine that has inputs and outputs and a system that can be copied and applied to any other system. It’s tough too for citizens to become involved and understand issues, policies, and procedures because the jargon used to explain these things isn’t something put in context for the layman to understand. That is why it is up to us the people, to stay informed, get involved, and take action; because if we don’t then no one else will.

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Assignment #9

In the required reading by Jane Jacobs, she discusses evolution and how there are multiple variables that go into understanding how ecosystems and economies evolve. Jacob takes a systems approach to explaining how economies evolve through the discussion of both of Darwin’s theories on evolution.

This brought me back to the first couple weeks of class where we analyzed various concepts and were asked to give examples as to how these fit into linear vs. systems thinking. I remember seeing evolution on the screen and could not figure out the answer for that one until I read Jacob’s useful explanation in chapter 6 from the Nature of Economies.

A linear way of thinking is that evolution simply happens because of ‘survival of the fittest.’ This notion assumes that the outcome for the survival of a species is based on how well it can breed and feed. Thus, if a species can continue to eat and reproduce, then it will be the strongest and live on.

There is a problem with this because it views evolution as a machine with one input and output, instead of it being a superorganism that operates as a system that is far more complex.

Jacobs makes a good point though because she says that in order for a species to thrive, it needs a place to do the breeding and feeding. Just say this were the answer to evolution, this would be degenerative and overall harmful to the organism and its future relatives because rather than practicing reciprocity with all other inhabitants, this organism sustains itself solely through the exploitation of others. As a species continues to blindly take without giving back, over time there will be no more to take, resulting in the species dying off.

From this, Jacobs concludes that there is more to evolution than just competitive success of feeding and breeding, but there’s habitat maintenance as well.

Habitat maintenance consists of many different traits that are passed on, which helps us survive because these acquired traits keep us from ruining the very thing that is keeping us alive, our environment. These traits allow us the ability to have a deep appreciation and respect for our environment, fear for being punished if we don’t take care of it, persuasiveness, and corrective tinkering and contriving.

This is regenerative thinking because it understands that evolution has multiple layers to it with many systems at play, so it can’t be treated as a machine. After reading this, it makes sense now when applying Jacobs view on the evolution of economies and what a regenerative economy should look like.

 

Similar to evolution, racism stems from a complex system of interconnected components that collectively feed into it. In the video, The Night Tulsa Burned, it demonstrates the evils and sadness of racism by depicting the events that led up to the Tulsa race riot.

In the early 1900s a wealthy black community, known as “The Black Wall Street” emerged out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. African American’s in that area took a stand against all the turmoil that was taking place due to racism and attempted at self-government by building a place of their own and calling it the Greenwood District. Unfortunately, this came to an end with the race riot and everything was burned down.

I believe that racism can be an individual and/or a collective act, while also a tool to deny people the opportunity for self-determination. It can take place in any of those forms because it does not solely come from an individual or collective, but it is the result of a cycle of negative feedback loops. There is no start, end, or order, but I will begin at the individual level.

Here beliefs are developed within and/or over time through personally construed stereotypes based on experiences and exposure (or lack of).

Prejudice can form interpersonally from an interaction with another person, and from that experience, beliefs are altered.

Personal beliefs could be shaped through biases in policies and practices seen from an institution or government.

When one of these fail, then that causes a ripple effect, moving onto the next. Throw in that in the mix with an individual, community, society, etc., which is full of voids and lacking self-love and respect, you got one big vicious cycle.

Emergence of a New Economy & Democracy

Throughout the quarter thus far we have talked on various concepts, one being on emergence. I find this ties in nicely to the required reading by Jane Jacobs because they both have a bottom-up perspective in understanding systems thinking and sustainability.

Jane Jacobs discusses how the current structure of economies are based on an old mercantilist theory that was believed to answer why nations wealth either grew or declined. With this view, one nation would look at another that was doing really well and accruing a vast amount of wealth and believed that the only way for them to thrive as well, they would have to adopt the other countries systems and implement the same exact model on their own country.

This way of thinking has not changed much since then and can still be seen in how our economies are structured today. This is a degenerative system because rather than decisions made at a localized level by the people of that region, a select group of people have the power to make decisions. These decisions are made by people for communities that are far detached from their own and they are imposing what they believe is the correct solution to a scale far too big, which is an entire nation.

The answers to how our economies should be structured can be found in something as small as slime molds. As we all remember the slime mold theory explained emergence and how complex adaptive systems are based on information exchange that starts from low-level rules all the way up to the highest levels. Slime molds consist of millions of individual cells that pass on knowledge based on localized environments, and that behavior gets passed on creating positive feedback loops, encouraging cells to join together. Overtime once conditions are right, the cells all come together to form the slime mold.

If we could begin to understand that cities and even smaller scales than that, are where the knowledge exchange should start, then this too can create a positive feedback loop and bring us all together, creating one big happy superorganism of a nation.

 

I couldn’t help but also think about emergence and the slime mold theory when watching the required video, We the People 2.0by Mathew Schmid. In this documentary, activists propose that there is a problem with our current democracy and that the restoration of what a democracy originally was created to be must take place.

Similar to our economic structure, our political structure is set up the same way, despite the fact our country is considered a democracy. Sure we have a lot more freedom than living in say, a communist country, but there are many cases all over the United States in which the power to make decisions are being made by corporations and small groups of people who own them; rather than by the people of local communities.

For example, big corporations performing mountain-top removal or hydraulic fracturing to extract resources from the Earth for production purposes. Then once they gather all they need, a huge mess is left behind, with entire ecosystems affected or completely wiped out, and local communities at risk for their health and safety. Why does this happen? As mentioned in the video, there are four legal doctrines that make it very difficult for people to stand up against these big corporations.

  1. State and Federal Preemption: This gives higher laws at the state and federal level seniority over ours.
  2. Dillion’s Rule: Laws can be made by local communities only if the state allows them to do so.
  3. Corporate Commerce Clause: Corporations have rights to interstate commerce if it is used for economic gain.
  4. Corporate Personhood: Treats corporations as a person which gives it individual constitutional rights.

Two quotes that I believe summed up this video very well was by Ben Price and Thomas Linzey.

Price said that, “Right where we live is where we need democracy the most.”

Thomas Linzey said that, “If we don’t have democracy where we live then we don’t have democracy in the system.”

These two both take on a bottom-up approach similar to emergence because once again this belief is where knowledge exchange and decision making begins at the lowest level. Once we start to treat democracy with this perspective, we can truly have democracy doing what it was initially created to do.

Unconsciously Conscious

One day in class my teacher raised the question: What does the word environment mean to you?

It was interesting to hear what everyone came up with and their answers also gave subtle details about them and where their interests lie most.

In the required video, Dr. Mate discussed what environment means to him and when trying to address root problems, it is most important to focus on the psychosocial environment of a person and/or society. This means understanding the importance of social relationships, emotional, and psychological interactions with others. Not only are physical aspects important, but he believes that we need to broaden our view on the environment to include the social, cultural, relational, economic, and interactive aspects as well.

Dr. Mate says that our materialistic culture is very harmful and threatening a healthy psychosocial environment. He calls these causes ‘The Four Alienations in this Culture.’

The more obvious and first one is that we are alienated from nature.

Our society lacks trust, intimacy, and contact with others causing less sense of relationships, alienating us from each other.

Many people are going into careers for all the wrong reasons and not going for jobs that they find meaning in, so this alienates us from our work and releasing our fullest creative potentials.

Lastly, we are alienated from ourselves. We are taught to suppress our true selves and by doing this we lose our vital connection to our gut feelings. All these combined causes us to feel meaningless, anxiety, depression, not being good enough, no connection with others, and uncertainty. To fill these voids we turn to false substitutes, which causes us to get hung up on how we look, what we can possess, how people feel about us, what we can obtain, and/or what successes we can achieve.

I strongly believe that there is a connection between how you treat others/your environment and how you treat yourself. If the love and appreciation for yourself doesn’t exist first, then it’s difficult to love others or the planet.

 

These four alienations mentioned by Dr. Mate also pose a threat to our subconscious. Our subconscious can be shaped to make choices and perceive the world around us based on powerful association from things in our environment and our experiences.

In the required reading by Malcom Gladwell, he talks about thin slicing and how our choices made in our lives are based on deeply rooted thoughts that our subconscious uses to maintain our survival. These quick and high-level decisions are believed by Gladwell to be very susceptible to outside influences.

Going back to Dr. Mate’s fourth alienation, the alienation of ourselves, there is a connection between gut instinct and our subconscious. I believe that they are both connected because the gut sensation that we get is our subconscious telling us what we truly need in maintaining a mental, social, physical, and even spiritual balance.

But when we are living a life full of distractions and lack of meaning, this connection gets overridden and people begin making choices that are degenerative and selfish whether it be towards their internal or external environment.

Thin-slicing could be a good or a bad thing, just depending on how it’s used. Gladwell gave an example called the ‘Warren Harding Error.’ When Warren Harding was elected president, voters chose him based on his looks and jumped to the conclusion that these features he had were tied to integrity and intelligence. However, these impressions were all wrong and he ended up being one of the worst presidents in the United States.

Gladwell demonstrated this error being done in car dealerships as well. He found in his studies that many of the salesman were super picky with the customers they chose to help out. This is because despite our conscious attitudes we have that are based on our stated values, we have a deeper consciousness that can express prejudice and discrimination.

There was a salesman that used thin-slicing in a positive way. He would view each customer as equal and knew how to read his clients so that he could provide a great experience that was unique to the customer’s needs. From doing this, he became very successful in his career.

While it may seem that we are totally out of control of our subconscious and it is something that cannot be re-wired, It is possible to tap into the unconscious and control these impulses; so that sustainable decisions can be made. Gladwell says that even though these thoughts are outside of awareness, that does not mean that we have no control over them. Because these first impressions are molded by our environment and our experiences, we have the ability to change our experiences, which can change how we thin-slice.

Assignment #6

After watching the video “RIP! A Remix Manifesto” produced by Brett Gaylor, I couldn’t help but reflect back on when we dissected the notion of ownership rights and private property and how these concepts are degenerative.

When I envision a regenerative alternative to these phrases I think of a world or place that encourages participation, free exchange of ideas, embracing self-expression, cultural and social traditions.

Brett Gaylor brings it to our attention in the video that as a society our ability to be creative and express ourselves is being challenged everyday by big corporations protecting their intellectual property through patents. He makes four main points in his video which are:

Culture always builds on the past.

As humans we have been copying each other since the beginning of time. Without observing and pulling ideas from others we would not have an evolving culture. That’s what fuels our creative energy and innovation, through the inspiration of others.

The past always tries to control the future.

When big corporations learned that they can begin to create wealth by turning intangible things, like ideas and thoughts from ones mind, into tangible objects that generate money; this need to protect what is theirs came into play.

Our future is becoming less free.

This causes us to become passive consumers begging wealthy and powerful companies to unlock their intellectual property and share it with us. We then become a slave to a small minority of wealthy people and give them control over our rights to be individuals and express ourselves.

To build free societies you must limit the control of the past.

Thankfully there are people like Radiohead who don’t agree with all this power going into only the hands of a few, rather than the people. They decided to stand up for free exchange of creativity and release their music into the internet for free sharing and downloading. This was to not only make free music accessible to all, but encourage everyone to participate in this act.

The sad thing is that not only is our music and movies in danger of being controlled, but everything in our lives. This concept of intellectual property shows that there is no limit to what can be thought of as property.

In the patent and trademark dispute example cases the phrase commodification was defined as something that has no value, but is then given a market value; which threatens cultural and social traditions. Each of the cases, whether it pertained to intricately handwoven textiles from Guatemalan women, seeds from communities in Argentina, or symbols apart of Inuit cultures, these indigenous communities are once again facing colonization imposed by others.

It is unfortunate that we live in a world today where money is the major driving factor towards decision making. Because these large corporations have so much money and Indigenous communities do not, their voices or traditions do not get heard or respected. This results in politicians and lobbyists being swayed in the wrong directions due to corrupt interests in making money or maintaining a strong economy.

Beliefs and practices that indigenous people have should not be allowed to be trademarked and patented because these are not things that can be owned. These traditions, symbols, rituals, and customs are more than just an object that can be owned and sold for profit; these are peoples identities and should preserved and respected.

 

 

 

 

 

Waste is Food.

One day in Anatomy we were watching a video that showed a scene of blood pumping through arteries at a microscopic level. Fast forward to another day and I was watching this time lapse video of a city with cars stopping and going. I had this ah-hah moment which was when my fascination towards patterning and processes that nature follows came to fruition.

 I noticed that even though blood and cars were two completely different things and scales, they all moved the same; stopping then alternating turns and going trying to reach a destination. They both travel through some sort of path whether it’s through the human body or a road.

 I began thinking about the tiny platelets that are so small, but together serve such a great purpose and I thought about the cars and the humans inside of them. Even though each car is being controlled and carrying out its own personal task on a smaller scale; when zooming out, all the cars put together form a vast network of cars moving through a system.

 From that moment, I began to look at life through a larger lens and reading about slime molds in Johnson’s excerpt took me back to that epiphany I had. I found this reading to be very interesting because Johnson discusses how something so small like slime molds, could answer some of our most complex problems regarding systems thinking and sustainability.

 For much of a slime molds life, it moves as thousands of distinct single-celled organisms. Once conditions are right however, these single-celled organisms come together forming a larger blob, operating as a single organism.

 This aggregation is an example of bottom-up behavior in which features within this system solve problems by getting information below, rather than from a single “executive branch”. They are complex adaptive systems that display emergent behavior.

 Emergent behavior is the process of coming into being based on local rules of behavior which then move outward to larger and larger scales where coherent shapes emerge. While this process may create a beautiful pattern, it doesn’t serve a function until it shows higher-level behavior created from the use of local rules.

 This higher-level behavior should then be able to adapt to its environment. From this, emergence becomes adaptive.

 Another example that looks to nature when trying to understand sustainable design is the video from Benyus and McDonough. They both agree that in order to design sustainably, one must observe and learn from nature first.

 There is a role that designers take on and that is to design with intention to restore natural systems. There are three laws that are mentioned and they are waste equals food, respect diversity, and use current solar income.

 McDonough believes that in nature growth is good because that means nothing is being wasted. If we can eliminate this concept of waste, we can have the possibility of a sustainable future. If everything created is viewed as food and something that can go back into the Earth, then there is hope for our future.

 McDonough gives two types of products: Products of consumptions and Products of Service. Products of consumption are things that can be put back into our air, soil, or water safely. Whereas, products of service are considered things which cannot go back into the biological cycle and these are things in which we are interested in the service of the product rather than the materials.

 McDonough believes that if we create products with the ‘waste is food’ mentality we will see a seismic shift in our approach towards sustainability.  

Decolonize Your Mind

The session from the Decolonizing Nature Conference called Species, Place, Politics, was very interesting. I noticed a common theme that somehow tied into the word/concept of ‘borders’. Whether visible or imaginary, some of these borders were political which separates countries and/or environmental which separates habitats and communities through human activities.  These all separate or fragment the land which is affecting ecosystems and cultural diversity.

The first speaker named Michael Berman spoke about his experience walking through desert grasslands in Mexico right next to the border that separates Mexico and the United States. He comes across a car sitting right on the border with the word ‘America’ on it. He proceeded with questioning this obsession people have over non-existent lines that serve as barriers, even though there are no physical barriers present; such as fences or walls.

Further into his journey, Berman stumbled across three falcon nesting sites, but found out that two of the three were being transitioned into farming grounds.

Berman believes that language is one of the greatest gifts humans received, giving us the opportunity to spread knowledge through stories. These borders whether physical or invisible, are putting up barriers that are not only threatening the Earth, but the opportunity for humans to connect and share their stories and knowledge about their culture and the land.

In Lisa Nevada’s speech, she introduces her organization that helps break free from the barriers that hinder people from their connection and awareness to the land. Nevada choreographs dances in which her dancers perform outside in nature and embody the land and the hurt that may have been done to it.

The dancer then expresses how this makes them feel and release these emotions through their movements.

Rather than watching performances inside a theatre, she believes it’s important to immerse the viewers into a place to learn about the history, community, and environment of the place.

Nevada said that “there are no walls for dance or to be contained, but to be shared as a practice to communicate and provoke action.” This ties into Berman’s belief that language is a precious gift. Similar to language, body language and movement is another gift and just as effective when trying to spread awareness of the culture and land that embodies a community within it.

In Carlos Carrion’s section during the session, he indirectly mentioned two barriers; one being a political and the other human induced. Because of a political barrier, there are fast growing interests in exploiting the land in Yasuni National Park in Ecuador for oil.

This place is one of the most intact and biodiverse locations in the world. This is home to several Indigenous people, over 1000 species of trees, 500 species of freshwater fish, over 100,000 insects, 80 species of bats, and 150 species of amphibians. It also holds an anti-cancer fungus that can eat plastic waste.

These human induced barriers are cutting up the biodiversity hotspot into fragmented pieces, which as mentioned in the previous paragraphs, is affecting ecosystems. It is also affecting the Indigenous people of the land by changing their cultural vitality and self-sufficiency.

In the three required videos by Janine Benyus, she illustrates great examples of systems thinking strategies through the use of biomimicry. This method of design takes on a simpler approach to our very complicated linear system of design and building that is currently taking place. Rather than valuing nature for what we can domesticate, harvest, and extract; this approach takes a step back and observes nature. This focus is on what can be learned from nature’s patterns, shapes, ecosystem strategies, and processes to build and create things that require the least amount of energy and resources for its inputs while at the same time maximizing its out puts.

The first two videos were pretty similar and discussed how organisms are doing things very similar to the way we are, but the way they do it allows them to live graciously. Examples were provided with how nature solves the many problems that we stumble up such as repelling bacteria, flow without turbulence, gather energy, filter water, etc.

The third video focuses on how biomimicry could be applied to our economy to make it circular. Benyus’s suggestion is to research and develop additive manufacturing tools such as 3d printing, which can build things to shape; exactly how nature builds.

Rather than using multiple materials and layers to support the many functions of one object, computers can mimic nature and serve many functions from only one material. Computers can take one layer and add function, structure, and performance all with that one piece of material. She believes this can be our opportunity into a circular economy.

This reminds me of the phrase work harder not smarter. We live in a society where things are created or built with linear thinking in mind by just creating to deliver, no matter what it takes or is used to get to that point. This way tends to be the ‘harder’ choice because all systems are not being taken into account during this process. There will always be problems that arise and therefore more work will need to go into this design to continually solve these problems.

Take desalinization as an example. Rather than trying to read the landscape, work with it and understanding it, we are turning to the water in our oceans to supply our demand. If you ask me this is just a temporary fix and eventually we’ll not only fall right back into the same problems we had in the first place, but now additional new problems will be added to the mix.

Now thinking about what nature would do, she likes to work smarter not harder and would not approve of this option. Her suggestion would be to create systems that do more capturing and recycling, such as collecting gray water in your house, growing your own food, or building swales in your yard to further collect and absorb water into the ground.

I feel that based on the structure of how our society is designed, it is causing this barrier between us and nature to get larger and larger. If we want to keep thriving it is time we begin to acknowledge these barriers and break them down and allow the words spoken from nature to be heard so it can teach us how to live graciously as well.