Thursday, December 11, 2014

Last Post for Now and New Book

Since 2010 I've been sharing my thoughts through this blog. Upon reflecting on my intentions for this blog and moving forward, I've decided to take a sabbatical from posting on this blog. Instead, I'll post my thoughts on LinkedIn.

Last summer I posted a piece, "How Do You Build A Regenerative Enterprise: Start by Going On A Camping Trip." on LinkedIn. Periodically, you can check out articles though my LinkedIn link at:

I hope you have a great holiday break and wishing you the very best for 2015!
Be well,

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Book: The Heart of Sustainability

For this month's post, I'd like to share a new book project I've been working on for the last several years. I have a new book coming out: The Heart of Sustainability. This book completes the set of my two previous books (The Sustainability Revolution and Thriving Beyond Sustainability) by focusing on the human dimension of the sustainability movement. I'm looking at the role of personal development and the importance of human/nature connection in order to successfully deal with the global challenges that we face. As the consciousness and technological revolutions flourish, what is our role? What are the qualities of leadership and activism that we need? And how are individuals and organizations from around the world implementing mindfulness, compassion, empathy and creativity into their organizations. This book bridges the world of personal growth and sustainability and asks us to look within ourselves to see what calls us and inspires us to make change and create a better world.

The Heart of Sustainability will be published by New Society Publishers in the Fall of 2015, and I'm looking forward to sharing more about it as the time nears.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Living Breakwaters Wins 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

This month the winner of the 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge was announced: Living Breakwaters. The Living Breakwaters project designed a comprehensive way to manage extreme storm surges and the impact of sea level rise in the region around Staten Island, New York with applications to many other coastal communities.

As jury member Bill Browning pointed out, "Living Breakwaters is about dissipating and working with natural energy rather than fighting it. It is on the one hand an engineering and infrastructure-related intervention, but it also has a unique biological function as well. The project team understand that you cannot keep back coastal flooding in the context of climate change, but what you can do is ameliorate the force and impact of 100 and 500 year storm surges to diminish the damage through ecological interventions, while simultaneously catalyzing dialog to nurture future stewards of the built environment."

I had the opportunity to work with Bill Browning and the rest of the BFI team in the selection of the BFI winner and finalists. Living Breakwaters and the other finalists demonstrated incredibly creative approaches to solving many problems ranging from a sustainable development in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, to protecting the Bonobos in the Congo Basin rainforest, to a floating health clinic in Lake Tanganyika, Africa, among others.

I hope these inspiring projects get the attention in the mainstream press that they deserve. They are making positive changes and represent important initiatives for a building a better world.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Links to Climate Change

A recent article in the New York Times, "Scientists Trace Extreme Heat in Australia to Climate Change"(By Justin Gillis. Sept. 29, 2014) stated, "The savage heat waves that struck Australia last year were almost certainly a direct consequence of greenhouse gases released by human activity, researchers said Monday. It is perhaps the most definitive statement climate scientists have made tying a specific weather event to global warming."

This research by climate scientists points to the difficulty of connecting the feedback loops of climate change to weather events. And finally there is now more clarity on this aspect of the climate change issue.

It seems that finally public awareness and actions regarding climate change is turning around. The massive turnout for the People's Climate March in New York City last weekend and the subsequent  UN Climate Summit in which the European Union took a leadership role in pledging to spend 20% of its budget in climate action through 2020, shows how this paramount issue is getting much deserved attention. Applying pressure on political leaders to keep this issue in the front burner is key for these policy measures to be enacted.

Perhaps the next rep is to bring awareness to practical actions we can all take as individuals to make positive strides regarding curbing greenhouse gasses. How we can promote policy changes at the political level and change personal consumption habits regarding energy, transportation and water use. Starting with simple measures may be the most productive first step.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Future We Want

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee, but to enable it.”
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

Many years ago I came across ecological economist RobertCostanza’s article: “Four Visions of the Century Ahead: Will It Be Star Trek,Ecotopia, Big Government or Mad Max.” In this piece Costanza describes four outcomes for the human experience at a global level: A future he names Star Trek where technology comes to the rescue and solves many of the challenges that we face; Mad Max, named after the movie depicting a breakdown of society with scarce resources and in which chaos ensues; Big Government, a future which involves the curbing of market forces by government policies that benefit the common good; and Ecotopia, named after Ernest Callenbach’s book, in which a shift happens in which localized, eco-centered communities flourish.

It’s hard to predict which future scenario will take hold. More important, perhaps, is for us to envision what we want; what we want in our personal lives, for our family and loved ones and for our communities. Beyond the community level, the scale becomes difficult to comprehend. At the personal scale, Star Trek is where we get consumed in our personal devices and lost in technology missing opportunities for face to face interactions. Mad Max is where our lives are out of balance and chaotic and our destructive behaviors take control; Big Government is where we refuse to take personal responsibility and let others (Big Government) decide for us; finally, Ecotopia, we revel in the simpler ways by refusing to incorporate modern technology yet live in closer harmony with natural systems. There may also be a combination of outcomes that best fits our temperament and personality. Which are you drawn to?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sharing Economy

A recent column by Tom Friedman in the New York Times, “And Now for a Bit of Good News. . .” focuses on the emerging sharing economy. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this new sharing economy includes the way the entrepreneurial spirit has gone global and many of us are rethinking what we need to own vs. rent vs. do away with altogether. 

Examples of sharing economy ventures include:  

Lyft, UberRelayRides: car sharing services
BMW on Demand: BMW dealers rent their cars and motorcycles by the hour or the day 
SurfAir: a private airline membership club
LiquidSpace: on-demand workspaces by the hour or day booked directly online 
Vayable: local tour guides 
VRBO and Airbnb: individuals renting rooms, houses, apartments

Underlying the sharing economy is the importance of creating an identity, trust and a reputation through the feedback from the general public. At Airbnb, for instance, people are willing to rent rooms in other's homes by having an identity (through profiles), and reading about other's experiences. The "renters" in turn create a reputation through online reviews and are covered through a $1 million damage insurance provided by Airbnb. Guests also create a reputation based on the "renters" experience of their stay.

These new ventures are redefining lifestyles and proving simple and in many cases less expensive ways of booking hotel rooms, renting cars, offices, etc. The complaints from hotels, taxi and car rental businesses are being addressed by regulators who will hopefully find the "sweet spot" that protects the more traditional businesses while encouraging entrepreneurs to experiment with the new sharing economy.

Check these new ventures out, at an online store and app near you!  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Conservation Psychology

The behavioral aspects of sustainability seem to be getting more and more attention. Conservation Psychology is one of the emerging fields that explores the human/nature connection and its psychological aspects. Conservation Psychology is described as “the scientific study of the reciprocal relationships between humans and the rest of nature, with a particular focus on how to encourage conservation of the natural world. . . . the actual network of researchers and practitioners who work together to understand and promote a sustainable and harmonious relationship between people and the natural environment.”
 It seems particularly important to focus on the psychological aspects of our behavior towards environmental conservation issues since psychology looks at our attitudes and motivations. Technology will continue on its course of development; however, what motivates us as humans and how well (or not well) we work together to solve economic, social and environmental problems is essential. Conservation Psychology not only speaks to our motivations but also our attitudes toward nature, our environmental values and our connection to wildlife and the environment. All of these deep-rooted aspects of Conservation Psychology play a role in working on behalf of conservation issues. Scholars, business people and non-profit environmental organizers are increasingly aware of the important role of human behavior in solving many of the complex challenges that we face.

Conferences such as BECC (Behavior, Energy and Climate Conference) and the gatherings at the 2014 Conservation Psychology Institute (CPI) recognize the role of Conservation Psychology in designing ways for individuals to take meaningful action on behalf of the environment. Understanding why we act the way we do and what shapes our values is at the core of designing successful campaigns that create social change. Solving the psychological riddles associated with human behavior will have an equal or greater impact than technological breakthroughs that are already happening at breakneck speed.      

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Leadership Styles: Servant and Stewardship

Understanding, developing and adapting our leadership styles to the circumstances at hand is becoming recognized as an important skill as so many of us work in team environments. Two of the leadership approaches that I've been researching over the last several years is servant leadership and stewardship leadership.

Robert K. Greenleaf, describes servant leadership as our innate desire to bring out the best in others. As he says: "The servant-leader is a servant first. . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. . . . The best test is: do those served grow as persons: Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?" In effect, servant leadership involves added qualities such as listening, respect, empathy and being authentic in the caring and well-being of others so that they can excel.

Stewardship leadership incorporates similar values as servant leadership and adds a measure of autonomy and trust in the capabilities of others. In his book, Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self Interest, author Peter Block defines stewardship as “to hold something in trust for another. . . . the choice to preside over the orderly distribution of power. This means giving people at the bottom and the boundaries of the organization choice over how to serve a customer, a citizen, a community. It is the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us. Stated simply, it is accountability without control or compliance.” Stewardship involves  allowing people to develop their own style of interactions with others and supports having them take care of others though their intentions of being of service.

Both the servant and stewardship approaches to leadership speak to the highest qualities of people by creating the conditions for others to reach their full potential and develop their own leadership style. These approaches apply when interacting with the full spectrum of individuals from varying cultures and ages since the core qualities are deeply humanistic.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Human & Nature Connection

While traveling in Colorado this week I met with Louise Turner Chawla, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in the Environmental Design Department. Chawla has been at the forefront of the research around the importance of connecting to nature particularly in urban areas as a health benefit. Gardens trees, biodiversity, streams, playgrounds all play an important role in our health. These features also benefit the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and filtering water and other pollutants.

As we discussed these aspects it became evident that there needs to be more integration between urban planners and health officials in the design and implementation of landscapes in our towns and cities. Often these professionals do not share ideas at the initial design and development phases of landscape projects in our urban environments. It is encouraging to hear that as interdisciplinary studies expand in colleges and universities, more students and educators are beginning to see the value of integrating landscaping, with health, psychology and other related fields. It's terrific to see the cross-pollination between these different fields of study. Now it's time to move from the classroom to implementing this integrated approach as part of the standard practices in urban design and landscaping projects.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Nipun Mehta defines Givtivism as, “the practice of radically generous acts that change the world. Radical in its audacity to believe that inner and the outer are deeply inter-connected, and generous in its vision of uplifting one-hundred percent, the oppressor and the oppressed.” As a founder of ServiceSpace, Mehta has been promoting giftivism through several innovative initiatives. One of them, Karma Kitchen started in 1997 as an all-volunteer restaurant in Berkeley, California provides meals to customers. When they are finished dining they receive a tab for $0. The diners are then asked to pay what they think the meal is worth. The premise is a pay-it-forward model, and to date they have served over 24,000 customers. Karma Kitchen has expanded to six cities worldwide including Ahmedabad, India, and Tokyo, Japan.

This radical economic model is based on the good will that is in all of us. I recall that years ago a rock band followed a similar approach giving away their new release and asking customers to pay what they thought it was worth. This approach more than covered their expenses and became a profitable way for selling their new release.

Perhaps in these times when small businesses find that competing with the big box stores for the lowest price is often a futile endeavor, giftivism offers a glimmer of hope for us, as individuals, to assess the true value of a product or service and pay for it accordingly.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Messaging and Climate Change

One of the most interesting guides that deals with psychological behavior and climate change is Columbia University's Earth Institute's "The Psychology of Climate Change Communication," published by the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED); (to download see: This insightful guide covers the main areas that educators, journalists and activists, etc. need to pay attention to in order to be effective in conveying their ideas, especially about climate change.

The topics include: knowing your audience; the role of mental models; getting their attention; how to use effective framing of issues; translating data in experiences that the audience can relate to; when to include emotion in the message and/or factual information; the impact of scientific uncertainty; the role of "the tragedy of the commons" regarding climate change; and how to effectively work with groups. All of these psychological factors are imperative in order to make the case for climate change and effectively persuade people about making changes in their lifestyle in order to reduce the impact from climate change.

Elke Weber, a professor at CRED, has done some really interesting research of negative vs. positive messages. It turns out that if we use negative messaging, it has a greater impact, but it doesn't stay with people and then they move on to something else. Positive messaging, on the other hand, is slower to take root, but has a much greater chance of sticking for a longer period of time. So, many of the negative adds such as those showing melting icebergs and scrambling polar bears have limited effect in the long-term. And positive messages that give people tangible steps to make a difference are more powerful. It's encouraging how research shows that positivity wins out in the end.