Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Speaking sustainability, day 3

What's green and stupid and unfair? An environmental nonprofit? Maybe. At least some of my fellow students raise such questions.

Today, we reviewed the role of activist organizations in advancing sustainability, and some of my fellow students don't exactly have a warm spot in their hearts for activist groups that pursue radical or semi-radical actions to "speak truth to power."

Now, I don't want to be too defensive, critics of protests raise legitimate points about the ethical obligations of ENGOs. But ENGOs face tremendous power imbalances and resource limitations and so it seems OK to me that ENGOs use the tools available. Maybe not purely "fair" but so be it. I may be in the minority here on this point.

From my perspective, after 15 years as an activist/advocate, this class is tremendously informative. I have lots of facts and knowledge, but lack a conceptual framework for understanding the general principles invovled in some of this activity. It comes as a welcome surprise to me to find out that smart people have been studying and thinking about the dynamics of business/ENGO relations for some time.

Leaving aside the feeling that I'm serving as a laboratory rat in a maze, I can welcome the insight delivered by people who've studied what I've been doing for the last 15 years. Oh, so is that how it works? OK, let me think about that for a while, thanks for the insight. Truly, I know how to run environmental campaigns, but that isn't a complete solution to advancing sustainability. The discussion leaders are helping me understand how the pieces fit together and helping to decipher general trends. This is good stuff, and I'm thinking this may take weeks to months to really assimilate and understand.

Another interesting insight, Stanford was planning a blog to post deep insights about this BSES class, but blogfish has served that niche so well that there's no need for another one. Wow, we're doing more than just pissing into the wind, whattya know?

One particular issue, the role of "standards" for environmental performance seems destined to be a pivotal concept for me. Since sustainable seafood is a field ripe for standards, it seems like we outght to be able to predict how standards will influence the ongoing development of the field. Order out of chaos, and growth will likely follow standards. Hmmm..interesting, and I think that's a good thing.

Tomorrow, we get to delve into mission and strategies for organizations striving to advance sustainability. This should be interesting.

After 2 days plus, this feels like a full week already. It may help that internet connectivity is rough. Hope you all appreciate that blogfish is going to great lengths to blog the proceedings. I'm now standing on my head in 3 feet of snow while whistling dixie to keep the signal alive on my wireless link. OK, not really, but almost that bad. And the cell phone reception is so bad that even my heroic headstands don't find reception. How's a guy supposed to keep functioning without the umbilicus?

Hardship time now, do you know how difficult it is to sleep in absolute silence? Woe is me, huh? After today's brief run into the beautiful Desolation Wilderness area above Fallen Leaf Lake, I won't really try to play the hardship card again, no connectivity is true, but that just leaves more room to connect to the wildlands all around. Now lets see, how much does property cost around here?

Arreviderci, ciao, bye-bye, good night. See you again tomorrow.


Hodad said...

right on Mark
kids today are worthless basically cellphone use,My Space crap,vid games and not playing outside and 8th grade kids i have met in Thailand, China, even Colombia know more math than college seniors here in this town[true CCU is Not Stanford] however.....

activist/advocate hands on is good

sabotaging a nuke plant to keep them from building 4 units was a good thing then, in 70's as KUDZU and AMUSE we did.
ELF,Monkey Wrench gang is a good thing,
this is my opinion
but then i was also in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador since 1980, with left side and have seen many atrocities committed in the name of military and corporate unaccountability

screw the military industrial complex, they are part of the problem for a future on this planet and corporate greed and arrogance are NOT any solution and with so many unscrupulous comapnies jumping on the 'green bandwagon'
even groups like WWF are in some so called partnership with scum bags like Coca Cola, point made as a prime example
get off your fat butts kids, and get your hands dirty, the Peace Corps, even with some of their bureaucratic mess and unneeded programs is a way to get involved
fresh out of school
learn to swim, and dive
but then this is me, an old HIPPIE surfer boy activist
back to El Salvador very soon, not fast enough for me, but Mom in rehab, got to get her out of there, more corporate cheap food and 'health care'[not]

Tracy Rouleau said...


You should read Natural Capitalism by Hawken, Lovins and Lovins (1999) - it may be a bit dated, but it covers the basics.

I admit, I may not be one of the "smart people" "studying and thinking about the dynamics of business/ENGO relations" - but this concept is what led me from environmental managment to fisheries economics, and gaining substantial experience in the business world.

I realized after I read it, that businesses run on efficiencies, and that sustainability is efficient - it just needs to be (bad word coming) "marketed" that way. I've been working, ever since, to figure out how to get fisheries policy to run on a business model.

Thanks for this great series - going to read the rest of the posts now...