Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Garagehinge…and apparently I can continue a worldwide addiction.  David Brooks has a interesting essay about the “end” of the age of leverage today in the NY Times.  What he doesn’t have room to say, though, is that while banks and individual borrowers were taking unwise risks with leverage, whole other industries, including his own, depended on that same behavior:  newsrooms were funded by the advertising dollars that were forked over by marketing teams who believed [rightly or wrongly] that associating their brands with the provision of the days ‘most important’ stories would lead to increased [or even just sustained] sales.  Cultural events were supported by donations from companies with much the same motivation [and, of course, the ‘enlightened self-interest’ of wanting opera, ballet, and museums available for their own enjoyment].  When the belief vanishes, or the forkfuls of reliable funding vanish, you are left with having to either close shop or discover some way of earning money that comes as a direct payment for the services you actually provide, as opposed to the assumed benefits you assure everyone they will get somewhere down the line.

BellyoftheBeastIn a sick way, this is what happens when everyone discovers the superfluousness of a business model, and there’s no B-Ark* to send the “excess” structures of society away to another, less populated world.  I’m not “against” local car dealers, but the idea that I should have to argue my way through a large purchase is ridiculous.  Why don’t I just order the features I want and pick it up from a depot when I need it, or when they’ve finished building it?  If I could pay a set fee to have a group of people keep an eye on City Council, tell me what the gunfire was all about last night, and let me know whether the latest cultural event or food trend was worth my time, I’d do that. That used to be called ‘subscribing to a newspaper’, but it’s not what I get now from my newspaper, because the newspaper industry thought advertising was the best way to generate cash x years ago, rather than relying on subscribers. [Of course, when this other model was tried recently in Denver, I don’t think it worked…]

Sometimes I wonder what higher education would look like if I got some proportion of the tuition my students brought into the school, rather than a ‘salary’.  Further, I wonder what it would be like if students came to my classes [and yes, I think some of them still would] even if the bells, whistles, and incredible social support systems at modern universities weren’t available.  Without the experiential ‘extras’ how much would higher education cost?  Would that model be sustainable?  For whom?

Of course, the desire to be associated with something percieved to have high-status is probably a hard-wired thing in humans, so one can’t entirely fault industries for [and I hate this word] monetizing it.  But that leaves me with the uncomfortable sense that Entertainment Tonight has a more sustainable future than the evening news…..

*For the transcript of the episode of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy which explains the B-Ark and Golgafrincham, click here.

[And although it is making a rather different point, I am heartily entertained by this, though, from a blogger in Australia]


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I think there are fine lines between artistic exploration and dangerous impracticality.  So when I read about a group planning to live ‘sustainably’ on a barge anchored off docks in New York City, I am a bit skeptical.  What do they plan on growing for food?  What will they do for fresh water?  I’m not encouraged to be optimistic when the project leader is noted for things like:

For her part, Ms. Mattingly didn’t seem too concerned. “I can’t wait to get on board,” she said, noting that she had already boxed up her books and artwork, and although she still has her apartment in Queens for a few more days, is basically living out of three tote bags, which she calls her “mobile office.” (Then again, in an earlier project, the “Wearable Home,” Ms. Mattingly proposed the idea that an all-weather jumpsuit equipped with solar panels and a water purifier might be all the shelter a person needs.)

and later in the article:

Ms. Mattingly has been growing tomatoes and onions on her windowsill (as have other crew members), but they won’t be ripe by next week, and she acknowledged the possibility that the onboard gardens and the eggs laid by the chickens won’t provide enough food to feed four people for five months.

“We worked out a deal with the Union Square Greenmarket, where we’re going to barter for food,” she said. She hadn’t yet figured out what to offer in exchange. But she didn’t seem particularly troubled by that, or by the fact that supplementing the food supply meant that their community wouldn’t actually be self-sustaining.

As for the lack of personal space, she and Ms. Ward seemed equally untroubled.

“I’m not worried at all,” Ms. Ward said. “I mean, the Waterpod has a guest room. I don’t think any New York apartment I’ve lived in has had a guest room.”

I wish them all the best, though I suspect a big ol’ case of Clue would be the best possible barge-warming gift…

What does your vision of the Clue Fairy look like?  And what is he or she carrying?  Discuss.

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