Forging the world we want to live in requires social imagination, the capacity to envision alternatives to what is, together remaking reality. What if instead of another holiday commemorating the past, we took time to envision and celebrate the future?
“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me.” A fine sentiment, but any child subjected to cyber bullying knows that words do indeed matter.
Language evolves. Sometimes a word that once was negative becomes positive, like “terrific” which originally meant terrifying. Sometimes a word that was once positive becomes negative, as when “awful” changes from awe inspiring to very bad.
People took note when Ronald Reagan, a presidential candidate in 1980, asked “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” That question got people’s attention and is still often quoted today. Some say, it’s this question which won Reagan the presidency.
The environmental movement is a microcosm of other realms of society in one troubling way: women are missing. In journalism, academia, politics – on climate change, agriculture, and the economy – men are the visible decision-makers and spokespeople.
(By Robert Huffstutter under a Creative Commons license)
Our society has no trouble promoting competence. In the workforce, we reward productivity and efficiency with promotions and higher pay. In schools, we promote competence by designing curricula around academic standards and evaluating teachers on how well their students do on standardized tests. We use the terms “good job” and “nice work” to recognize something we consider well done. But there’s another term and concept we might like to consider in promoting a better society. I’m referring to the term “good work,” which is defined by psychologist and writer Howard Gardner and his colle
“Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act,” Pope Francis announced early this year.
How can we spend our money as if our values matter?
Kristin Jones came by the Brooklyn Rail to discuss her collaborative project TEVERETERNO for the revival of Rome’s Tiber River with Ann McCoy. The artist has been working to adopt an 1,800-foot long stretch of the river, and turn it into a site for contemporary art, a first for Rome. Past participants have included an array of national and international artists including Kiki Smith and Jenny Holzer, and composers such as Walter Branchi and David Monacchi. Upcoming is a project entitled Triumphs and Laments, by William Kentridge—a procession of more than 80 large-scale figures.
When I have writing or very focused work to do, I work from a studio behind my house. Generally it is quiet and I have the added benefit of being able to take breaks and sit in my backyard.
Universities and hospitals support local initiatives in Detroit's Midtown neighborhoods, such as the Summer in the City program held at Wayne State University. (Photo by Summer in the City under a Creative Commons license.)
In urban development circles, strategies that leverage the staying power and scale of anchor institutions -- universities, hospitals and other place-based powerhouses -- are on the rise.
Can we truly know wilderness? The word itself defies constraint, and contains multiple meanings. “An uncultivated and uninhabited region,” “an empty or pathless area,” and “a confusing multitude” are but a few definitions of wilderness, all of which indicate humans’ complex and changeable relationship to nature.
The subtitle of Pope Francis’ stunning new encyclical, “‘Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” belies the preference of some that a pontiff not venture into economic matters—Jeb Bush, for instance.
Here's a new video showcasing the work of the Milwaukee Water Commons to make Milwaukee a Water City that works for everyone, including future generations and the natural world. On Sunday August 9, they are holding a community beachfront celebration, We Are Water.
Here's an update about their Water City 3.0 meeting held in June from their website:
Pope Francis speaking at the European Parliament last year. (Photo by the European Parliament under a Creative Commons license.)
One expects a debate about Pope Francis’ new encyclical to form around the details of climate science, or the efficacy of carbon credits, or the theological merits of ecology. But a stranger, subtler difference of opinion has emerged, one that I suspect has more political consequence than it lets on: the interpretation of mood.
She said something about Josh, who was asleep on my shoulder. Such a sweet boy. Those eyes. I thanked her, asked if she had kids. A daughter, she said, eighteen. Was it hard, her daughter leaving home? Yes. When she looked at her did she still see the three year old the daughter used to be? Yes again.
In June, we commemorated the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta—commemorating, but not celebrating; rather, mourning the blows it has suffered.
The first authoritative scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone in 1759. It was no easy task. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats”—a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.
(Photo by Lee Morley under a Creative Commons license.)
Many schools have a place they refer to as “the commons.” For some students, this is a great place to hang out with friends. For others, however, the commons is an uncomfortable and unfriendly place. It’s where their isolation and not-fitting-in become most noticeable. The commons may also be the place where they are most likely to get bullied.
In its policies toward Greece, the "Troika" — a new shorthand for the combined will of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund — has actively and enthusiastically embraced Maggie Thatcher’s social and political philosophy, memorably captured in her chilling assertion, “There is no such thing as society.” That philosophy has found its fullest and most concrete exposition in a 2014 “competition assessment” of Greece made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation
(Photo by Matt Karp under a Creative Commons license.)
Walking is moving fast these days.
We may think of it as a slow activity, but travel by foot is quickly being recognized as an effective prescription for health, a convenient means of transportation, a great opportunity to meet people, a smart strategy for saving money, an inspiring way to experience the commons and a lot of fun.