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Cultivating Conversation at the Cafe

I launched this blog as a way to sort and evaluate thoughts and feelings about sustainability.  It seems these days that debate about what to do quickly becomes unproductive; either we reactively defend our turf or we shut down, not knowing how to tackle the big beast.  Doing so, we extinguish the opportunity to collaboratively discover a better way forward.

I always attach images to my posts.  For me, images evoke emotions, leading me to see things differently, causing me to think new thoughts.  Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night underscores the simplicity yet significance of taking the time to relax, perhaps with a shared bottle of wine under a starry sky, of making space to talk and listen and feel and think.

Vincent Van Gogh - Cafe Terrace at Night (1888)

In an interesting article, Feeling, Art, and Sustainable Civil Society, Elizabeth C. Herron, essayist, poet, and collaborative artist, explores connections not typically made.  She defines a society as civil when the ideals of community are valued and nurtured and when citizens take into account the common good of all life on earth.

Herron argues that art has the potential to transcend the chasm between opposites, and that the process of feeling requires time and space for reflection.  The din of our daily lives steals precious time needed to talk and listen and swallows elusive space needed to think and feel.  The gadgets upon which we depend create distance and foster anonymity.  Anonymity leads to apathetic misunderstanding.  A world lacking empathy is a world populated by distant strangers who don’t understand or care about one another.

Herron writes:  Empathy takes place through imagination, that is, through image.  When we lose touch with the vision of the imagination, we lose our capacity to connect with one another … Image is the link between self and other … a more inclusive level of consciousness enables a feeling of care and concern for diverse and distant life … we recognize with compassion the other within and so no longer view the stranger as alien … The recognition of ourselves as interdependent within a multiplicity of interrelated systems, which together form a whole, leads to a consciousness that includes other species, forests, bodies of water, and people on the far side of the world whom we have never met.

Simply put, humanity is not everything; we are but a small part of a much larger whole.  A challenge to overcome is the multiplicity of perspectives that we vigorously defend rather than lovingly treasure as the warp and weave of a shared existence.  Art can play a greater role in our conversation, helping us to sense things as both separate from yet representative of ourselves.

A shift is needed.  Sustainability is not about saving the earth but instead exercising an expanded empathy that includes all earth’s occupants (animate and inanimate) who must share earth’s finite resources in order to survive.  Perhaps we can engage in this conversation about the big picture if it’s put before us in paint or poetry or pastorale.

Herron writes:  Images of art can guide, inspire, and educate us.  In the clarification of values, the role of art is as important now as it was when early people painted the walls of Pleistocene caves and held ceremonial dances on those cool clay floors.  She says that art refreshes our appreciation for the ground beneath our feet, beneath the detritus of civilization, and that through art it becomes possible to imagine a sustainable world, one in which we see ourselves as interdependent in a nonhierarchical web of living systems, each essential for the survival of all.  This, she says, is essential for the survival of civil society.

I concur.

©Taryn Fisher 2013

Stairway to Heaven

Take the 6:42 min to listen to this otherworldly rendition of a Led Zeppelin classic.  It shows what a diverse and talented group of people together can accomplish.



A Moral Imperative: JFK takes a stand

Fifty years ago today, on June 11, 1963, General Henry Graham, the head of the Alabama Guard (which had been federalized by President John F. Kennedy) ordered Alabama Governor George Wallace to stop blocking two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, from entering the University of Alabama’s Foster Auditorium to register for classes.

That evening, President Kennedy informed citizens across America via a televised address that he was sending a federal civil-rights bill to Congress.  During his address, he said, “I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents …  We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”

For JFK’s full address:  http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/3375

For other speeches on Civil Rights:  http://www.history.com/speeches/john-f-kennedy-on-desegregation-at-ole-miss#john-f-kennedy-on-desegregation-at-ole-miss


Photo courtesy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cSrvqYKQH8

A few hours later, Medgar Evers, a World War II veteran and civil-rights activist, was assassinated.


Photo courtesy en.wikipedia.org

It’s critically important that desegregation was framed as a moral issue.  Doing this put the onus on every American citizen to do the right thing:  support this cause with both words and actions.  JFK argued that a problem this significant could not be solved through legislation alone.  He said, “It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.”

The same holds true for the issue that we face today:  environmental degradation.

We are consuming natural resources faster than the rate of  replenishment.  We are stripping the earth to satisfy our needs and wants and leaving behind a path of pollution.  Environmental degradation is an issue of such magnitude that we – each and every one of us, living in every corner of the world – must act.  We must consume less and do so less harmfully, and we must ensure the replenishment of extracted natural resources upon which our survival depends.

This is neither a partisan issue nor one of corporations versus individuals.  It is, however, an issue that requires us to work together to achieve a goal greater than ourselves.  We must redirect our efforts away from argument and toward collaborative action.


Photo courtesy http://www.history.com

©Taryn Fisher 2013

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

Joni Mitchell, with her song Big Yellow Taxi, reminds us of how quickly that which we love is lost.



Today is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day

Food Revolution Day on May 17, 2013 is a global day of action for people to make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills. It’s a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.




Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the Pentatonic Scale.



Photo courtesy http://www.wpr.org

May 9, 2013: NOAA confirms that CO2 hits 400 ppm

The earth’s atmosphere hasn’t held this much CO2 since the Pliocene Epoch, an ancient era that ended more than 2 million years before the first Homo sapiens appeared.  Global CO2 levels hovered between 170 ppm and 300 ppm for ages until the Industrial Revolution, when a steady ascent began.  The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates 450 ppm is when the worst effects of climate change will begin.



Graphic courtesy NOAA

Consume less animal protein, or do so more responsibly?

Ecologist Allan Savory promotes holistic grassland management via a program of planned livestock grazing that “mimics nature,” claiming that it is the only way to stop desertification.  Savory believes that desertification is perhaps a greater contributor to climate change than fossil fuels.



Photo courtesy http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html

Shining Eyes

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, says, “My job is to awaken possibility in other people.”




Photo courtesy http://benjaminzander.com/bio.php

A Clean Energy Future

Dr. James E. Hansen says we must change energy policy to provide every citizen affordable access to clean energy – we are morally obligated to our children and grandchildren to do so.


Photo courtesy http://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change.html

James Hansen - arrested


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