A forum for exchanging ideas

This blog has three functions: (1) a repository of ideas, findings, reflections, readings, and observations from a faculty travelling seminar on sustainability in 2011, and (2) a space for continuing exchange of ideas about how we can carry forward lessons from that tour into our classrooms, our colleges, and our communities, and (3) a place to post links to the many amazing developments that are in the news. The purpose of this space is to help sustain an ongoing seminar-like exchange that can capture and build on ideas from our original seminar.

Updates to this blog will be irregular and occasional, but it can provide a resource for colleges and classes
and other groups that share our enthusiasms, concerns, and common challenges.

Our initial sustainability seminar was funded by the Mellon Foundation,
whose support has been critical to initiatives in faculty development and intellectual exchange.

Creativity and Sustainability

Andrea Olsen  

It is time to encourage what we tend to ignore. –John C. Elder

[For the full report, click here]

Outer and inner sustainability go hand in hand, like urban-rural interdependence. It’s good to discern priorities in sustainable initiatives, staying focused on issues such as climate, energy, and land use. It’s also essential to address the whole–what humans do and the motivations driving those choices.

One goal of involving dance in environmental projects is to bring the body into broader discussions of sustainability. In this view, “body” includes all the “parts,” including mental, physical, intuitive, emotional, and spiritual aspects of self. The word body often receives dismissive response: it is deemed too simple for serious discussion, and so complex that it is left to the experts, like neuroscientists and doctors.

 Yet we all have a body; it’s the medium through which we know the world and ourselves. The degree to which we are embodied–aware and in balance–underlies our capacity for effective choice making. Neediness and imbalance, on the other hand, drive consumptive and aggressive behaviors individually and globally, interrupting mindful choice making. How do we interrupt this interruption?

 Although we tend to distrust the senses, they provide experiential “ground truthing” for conceptual discourse. Bringing personal experience in dialogue with what we’ve been told is true, involves a willingness to feel. Relationship with ourselves, each other, and our surroundings through the senses invites a particular form of kinship with self and other. Body systems and Earth systems are inherently interconnected: our bones, breath, and blood are the minerals, air, and water inside us. Thus, the word embodiment can be extended to include not only the human body, but the Earth.

 What does it feel like in your body to be sustained, supported, and uplifted? What creates those sensations in your life? How does one amplify that which sustains and diminish that which depletes, moment by moment? Conservationist Aldo Leopold writes: “Man always kills the thing he loves.” It’s time for a new mindset, cultivating sufficient awareness to sustain both life and love. Sustainability and creativity go hand in hand, partners on the journey.