Friday, April 30, 2010


I happened to watch the final presentation of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS tonight.  Author Barry Lopez was Moyers final guest .  Their discussions prompted me to recall Lopez book ARTIC DREAMS  .  In particular, I recalled the following excerpt from the book.

Winter darkness brings on the extreme winter depression the Polar Eskimo call perlerorneq.  According to the anthropologist Jean Malaurie, the word means to feel “the weight of life.”  To look ahead to all that must be accomplished and to retreat to the present feeling defeated, weary before starting, a core of anger, a miserable sadness.  It is to be “sick of life” a man named Imina told Malaurie.  The victim tears fitfully at his clothing.  A woman begins aimlessly slashing at things in the iglu with her knife.  A person runs half naked into the bitter freezing night, screaming out at the village, eating the shit of the dogs.  Eventually the person is calmed by others in the family with great compassion, and helped to sleep.  Perlerorneq.  Winter.

As I mentioned yesterday, I attended a conference called “Cross-Sector Leadership for the Green Economy” and was challenged by the presentations I listened too.  I opted to return to the conference today, with the understanding that if I didn’t show up, then I would be avoiding my opportunity to participate.  Today’s speakers that included professors of economics, business, management, and political science and a corporate attorney, left me feeling a touch of spring time perlerorneq.  They spoke of how the drivers of a green economy are competition and profit, and mentioned nothing about how a green economy should be about finding a way to meet our needs in harmony with the rest of the ecosystem.  

During the concluding small group discussions that were held following the formal presentations, I also experienced the calming and compassion used to heal the sufferers of perlerorneq.  This occurred as the other folks at my table expressed some of their own concerns with the lack of real vision shown by following the same old economic model based on production and consumption leading to profit.  A business professor shared how up until recently he too believed in the infallibility of that model, until his students questions prompted him to look deeper into the consequences of our consumption on the environment.  It gave me some hope, that maybe we can find a better alternative with some questioning, searching, understanding and cooperation.  

Check out Bill Moyers discussion with Barry Lopez (which should be available soon here ) for another source of hope. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Biotic Leadership

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  
Aldo Leopold, A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC, “A Land Ethic”

Leadership today has come to mean many things, but more often then not, we forget that leadership without vision is insanity.  It is this forgetting that allows us to follow leaders down the same blind path to insanity that we have taken many times before.

I have been attending a conference hosted by the University of Minnesota Center for Integrative Leadership called “Cross-Sector Leadership for the Green Economy”.
I had hoped the conference would delve into the leadership issues that will be needed to help us achieve a sustainable future, a future where a simple ethic like Aldo Leopold’s might actually be followed.  Unfortunately, the guiding ethic that I heard is the same one that we have been following for thousands of years, namely, “a thing is right when it is profitable.  It is wrong when it is not.”  

A “green economy” as used by most of the speakers I have heard so far is the same economy that has created the miserable state that the world is in today that simply replaces fossil fuels as the major driver of our economic engine, with things like solar and wind power.  

What was not discussed was if it was even practical to make such a switch, nor what the economic and environmental costs might be to actually attempt such a change.   It seems the dollar signs that that can be made off of building wind mills, solar panels, or ethanol plants, blind us from looking beyond our energy sources to see that excessive consumption and production are what cause our problems, not our energy source.   

So my dilemma tonight is should I return to the remainder of the conference and become more dismayed, find some courage to find a way to spread some of Leopold’s ethic, or skip out and avoid the discouragement.