Oh, you shouldn’t have!!!

I had a funny experience today. While presenting at a meeting about arts advocacy in D.C., I was asked a question about leadership, collaboration, and coordination. I responded that I didn’t think anyone questioned my leadership, or the work that we’re doing, and that certainly our efforts to collaborate are welcomed at every turn. I said that while sort of gazing at the ceiling, and with what i thought was an ironic inflection. When I stopped batting my eyelids and looked around I realized that they assumed I was speaking seriously…. I almost stopped to say,  “just kidding!”,  but thought it might undermine my otherwise flawless presentation. : )

That the folks in the room didn’t assume my humor really does speak to the hyperbole that regularly occurs in these kinds of conversations. I am confident in my leadership of the DC Advocates for the Arts.  But I do still regularly question it, and have it questioned for me, and I don’t think that’s a weakness. I almost wish I was like a Luddite, or Randian protagonist, interested only in my own success, but in fact, I am not.  I hope that my leadership is a part of something larger than myself, and if it is, my leadership is replaceable. To me that is not in conflict with my confidence, professionalism, commitment, or leadership, but it does temper my self-promotion.

Dr. Heschel, meet Dr. Ehrlich. Dr. Ehrlich, meet Dr. Hanna…

When I was a young puck – and I was more puck than buck – I was a research assistant in the Environment and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Environment and Security Program looks at connections between Environmental degradation and devastation, and national and international security. There are centrally two connections: scarcity leading to wars, and environmental degradation and devastation adversely affecting national security (through inability to sustain physically, and/or fiscally.) A growing number of us continue to be concerned with those issues today.

I recently started following Geoff Dabelko, the current Director of the Environment and Security Program, on twitter (#geoffdabelko.) Yesterday, Geoff tweeted a blog post on The New Security Beat titled ‘Reading Radar: Population and Sustainability.’ ehrlich_400pxThe post opens considering a paper by Paul Ehrilch (The Population Bomb) about the Millenium Assesment of Human Behaviour (MAHB.) The post states that the MAHB was created “because societies understand the magnitude of environmental challenges, yet often still fail to act.” It goes on to quote Ehrlich, “The urgent need now is clearly not for more natural science… but rather for better understanding of human behaviors and how they can be altered to direct Homo sapiens onto a course toward sustainability.”

This coming summer an article I wrote extracting material from my book (Somatic Ecology) will be published in the journal Somatics. In the article I write,

“Science is a superior tool for understanding the world, but it cannot provide perspective on how to interpret or act on the data collected. The environmental crisis, which threatens the long-term health of our cultures and our economies, is not the result of incomplete science. It is the result of incomplete perspective.”

…Which is pretty similar to Ehrlich’s understanding.

Rational actors in the economic system balance the cost of invested debt with the benefit of current equity. If you’re not an economics person another way to say that is: you know if you spend everything you have at the beginning of the month on fancy dinners, you won’t have anything to eat at the end of the month, so you don’t. But what if the end of the month is a time period at an indistinguishable distance in the future? How would that affect your behaviour? AND, what if you the actor involved were responsible to an electorate over a far shorter time span than it will take for the benefits of savings to register? Well, then you get inaction.

2008-06-05-heschelI argue in my book that we have lost an immediate understanding of ourselves in the real world. Because we no longer have a strong, grounded, animal experience of the world, our own shadows are threatening to envelop us. As the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “Our concern is not how to worship in the catacombs, but how to remain human in the skyscrapers.”

We are not adequately seeing, and we are not adequately feeling. The thesis of Somatic Ecology is that by developing a healthier relationship to our personal ecologies, we will develop a healthier relationship to the global ecology. I’m encouraged by recent developments, and look forward to sharing more of my research. You can see a few things here and here.

Snow Monkeys

I do like to talk. Still, when I lived in New York, after I stopped dancing, I worked as an editorial assistant for Science Textbooks at W.W. Norton & Co. It was a very depressing time for me. I had moved to New York to dance, and with my relationship from college, and had ended up working in an office, alone. My bosses were great, but the isolation and reality of New York were difficult.

The job was entirely administrative. As a large independent press Norton had editors (my bosses) to do the editing, and dedicated copy editors to do the copy editing. My job was keeping all of the pieces moving in the right direction, which was not a trick for me. Part of my work – in keeping things flowing – was handling the photo calls. Authors might note in a manuscript that they want a picture of such and such at a particular place in the text, and I/we would send out a photo call for such and such, select options from what was received, scan the slides (this was ’99), and email them to the author for selection. Days doing this, in my little internal office with no window. I remember vividly when one of the slides was an image of the Snow Monkeys in Japan.

Here are images similar to the one I remember:

I have since learned that “macaques invent and pass on new behaviours. Scientists have observed macaques learning how to wash potatoes and make snowballs and these skills have spread throughout Japan.” They believe that this band of monkeys went into the water to recover floating soy beans, and realized that hot springs are just lovely.