12 March 2009

Moving the show and redirection

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02 March 2009

Thoughtful sustainability curriculum

[Author's note: this has been cross-posted from my blog, http://www.edwardjensen.net/.]

As preface/context, I am pursuing dual undergraduate degrees at Arizona State University: Urban & Metropolitan Studies (UMS) through the School of Public Affairs and Sustainability through the School of Sustainability. Being in the fourth semester of my UMS studies and only in my first for Sustainability studies, I am taking the introductory classes to the latter. And while the curriculum for Sustainability is what I thought it would be and that I understand the importance of such a program, there are just a couple of concerns I have.

Something that we are taught in these introductory classes on sustainability is that true sustainability is the intersection of environmental protection, social equity, and economic justice. If I may borrow from ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS, the parent organization of the School of Sustainability), a sustainable society
considers the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, and social systems; reconciles the planet's environmental needs with development needs over the long term; and avoids irreversible commitments that constrain future generations. (from here)
Being a UMS major, I have taken a lot of classes rooted in policy analysis. From those classes (and also from being a student of history), long-term policy changes are best achieved through incremental policy shifts. In other words, it is not wise to disregard previous policy and enact a new set of policies. This sets any institution up for serious failure. While troubling times do call for widespread measures, the rule of thumb is to change present policy in an incremental fashion. This might be the result of society's teaching that we should look upon extreme movements with a cautious eye and critical analysis. The simple cultural clues that we get in our early years - don't go too far from mommy and daddy, ignore the person on the street yelling that "the end is near", and so on - teach us to ignore (and quite possibly tune out) extreme points of view.

I am prepared to argue that this is why programs such as Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) might be looked upon with widespread cultural disdain. These programs have adopted a wildly different policy agenda for (in their words) saving the planet. For instance, PETA advocates for everyone to go vegan: one step above and beyond simple vegetarianism. To live a vegan lifestyle means to eliminate everything produced by animals. Generally, these products are more expensive than their non-vegan counterparts, and so those who find that basic food for survival is too expensive could not adopt this lifestyle. While it might protect the environment, it is not economically just.

It seems like sustainability is the current buzz word. But I fear that people automatically associate sustainability with liberal tree-hugging hippies. I believe that the reality of sustainability and the genuine need for sustainability education is far from this perception. As a disclaimer to both my introductory courses in Sustainability this semester, the instructors conceded that there is not a wide literature on the field. With that justification, I fear that I am getting a perception that my instructors teaching this curriculum are adopting that mantra (sustainability=save solely the environment). Using their School's (GIOS's) definition of sustainability (see above), there is a definite disconnect.

The first real acceptance of the importance of sustainability was back in 1987 when the Brundtland Commission (formally World Commission on Environment and Development) of the United Nations released their report, Our Common Future, and said (about sustainable development):
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs.
I bring this up to show that the idea of sustainability is relatively new. The textbooks for both my introductory classes to the concept are from the disparate areas of sustainability: environment, economy, and society. But the emphasis seems to be on the first of those areas. The PETA agenda example I listed above just targets one of those disparate areas (environment).

Let me be clear that I am not dismissing that we need to change our current habits of consumption. I am arguing that the best way to do this is in an incremental manner. Take the customary New Year's Resolutions that people make. Most resolutions proposed are on a large scale: stop smoking, lose 30 pounds, or do some other behavioral change. Most of those resolutions do not make it through the end of January. I bring this up because this is an argument that we are creatures of habit. We do things with the best of intentions but we fade back into our prior habits. I fear that true sustainability, if its associated polices are not adopted in an incremental fashion, will be looked upon as a fleeting fancy and nothing will happen.

As I was discussing with one of my colleagues, there are a lot of incremental changes that individuals can make to affect the course of this planet and adopt sustainable living. If everyone switched out one incandescent light bulb and replaced it with one compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). The micro change that this would bring would be massive on the macro scale. All being equal, however, it is still an incremental change.

I hope I have shed some light on this. I was working on a book review assignment and I thought of this issue.

-Edward Jensen

21 February 2009

There's a date!

Attention everyone wanting to know more about when Janet Echelman's dynamic sculpture, "Her secret is patience," will be installed:

At the Art, Space, and the City public art symposium/lecture on Thursday, Ed Lebow, City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture director, said that Janet Echelman's long-awaited dynamic sculpture, "Her secret is patience," will be installed the week of March 9th. This is the same week as ASU's spring recess.

In related news, the Dean's-eye view webcam from the College of Public Programs will come back online soon. Stay tuned...

Edward Jensen

15 February 2009

Downtown Phoenix Civic Space and "Her secret is patience"

We at the Downtown Phoenix campus of ASU are very excited that the new Civic Space will be opening soon (the signs say March 2009 and the progress on the park would seem to agree with that!). With how University Center is set up, the windows I look from most of the time overlook the construction scene outside.

So here are some pictures from the Downtown Phoenix Civic Space that I have taken in the past year:

If you cannot see the slideshow, click here to access the individual pictures

I have learned that the "Dean's-eye View" webcam of the construction site will come back online in the coming days as we get closer to the installation of Janet Echelman's art installation, "Her secret is patience". Our sources say that it should be installed next month.

And you'll know that we'll be taking pictures of it!

Edward Jensen

10 February 2009

Her secret is patience

I just returned from an interesting lecture given by Janet Echelman, the designer of the art installation that will move above the Civic Space park in downtown Phoenix.

Until now, the working title for the piece was "Sky Bloom". Tonight, she revealed her official name for the project:

"Her secret is patience"
(adapted from Emerson, "Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.")

Edward Jensen

Helping in times of crisis

As I was going through my daily routine of looking through Twitter updates and blog entries, I came across this poignant thought from a commenter on lightrailblogger.com. This hearkens back to an entry I posted back in December with some words of wisdom from Kirsten Martin, a good friend and one of my Student Ambassador colleagues:
With all the cuts in the Phoenix city budget and Maricopa County budget, there are going to be far fewer services to help the homeless get off the street and back into productive living. We need to step up and help - NOW. Whether it's serving food at St. Vincent de Paul, or Andre House or getting involved at the Lodestar Day Resource Center or making a financial donation (even $5 will be welcomed) to CASS or SVdP -- every little bit helps. In my experience, volunteering my time to help those in need provides far greater personal rewards than the help that I give. I particularly suggest it if you are having your own pity party about your personal financial situation. It helps put life into perspective. Donation and volunteer opportunities can be found at www.stvincentdepaul.net.
Please feel free to pass this along to your contacts and networks so that we can make Phoenix a better place, even if it is in a time of economic hardship.
-Edward Jensen

Art, Space, and the City: Public Art and Why It Matters

Students of Public Affairs Network (SPAN), in association with Barrett, the Honors College at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, proudly present a forum on public art.

The forum explores the process of how public art can be a change agent for the community, enhances community identity and impact economic development. Come and find out why public art matters.

Thursday, February 19, 2009, 7:00 – 9:00pm
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, room 202
(555 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004)

Introductory Remarks: Dr. Robert Denhardt, Director, ASU School of Public Affairs

Moderator: Dr. Betsy Fahlman, Professor of Art History, School of Art, Herberger College of the Arts and Member, Tempe Municipal Arts Commission

  • Mary Lucking, M.F.A., Public Artist, Tucson, Arizona
  • Dianne Cripe, Public Art Specialist, City of Goodyear
  • Ed Lebow, Public Art Program Director, City of Phoenix
  • Valerie Vadala Homer, Director Scottsdale Public Art Program & Vice President Scottsdale Cultural Council
  • Nancy Levinson, Director, Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, College of Design, Arizona State University
  • Cyd West, Director of Research and Economic Partnerships, Maricopa Partnership for the Arts
Faculty, students, staff and members of the community are invited to attend, offer feedback, and discuss the importance of public art in the community.

Edward Jensen

08 February 2009

Blackboard and Firefox 3 - resolved!

I am sure that you have figured out that Firefox 3 and the Blackboard assignment manager do not get along. Frustrated with having to switch to Internet Explorer just to use Blackboard, I did a quick Google search and found that there is a workaround to make Blackboard think that you're really not using Firefox.

Edward Jensen

07 February 2009

The Barrett Light Rail Party

Yesterday (6 February 2009), the Barrett Honors College hosted the Barrett Light Rail Party, with 250 players in over 50 teams. Starting at the ASU Tempe campus and finishing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, the teams and players found items, took pictures, and answered trivia questions along the twenty-mile line.

if you cannot see the slideshow, come to my blog to see it!

Edward Jensen

04 February 2009

Canalscape: A Sustainable Desert Urbanism for Metro Phoenix

Canalscape is this Friday from 9am-3pm at the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, 234 N. Central Avenue (8th floor). For more information, click on the image above (or here).

Edward Jensen