Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tacit Knowledge-The Map is not the Territory

When I first learned how to drive in Cincinnati, there were no gadget gizmos like Google Map or OnStar. This was back in the mid-1990s’ and if you wanted to get somewhere unknown, you had to plot it on a map—which I found on the back of a phone book—and figure out the major streets and a sense of direction. From there, you just have to get on the road, and test it out. Cincinnati is also a bit strange. Streets will cut off in one part of the city and pick up in another. Most often, streets will change names as you proceed through from one part of the city to another. This made driving fun and difficult, but it forced me to learn landmarks and develop a topographic understanding of the city’s throughways.

More than ten years later, my wife and I moved back to Cincinnati and now it’s her turn to figure out the streets. She, of course, has the handy-dandy smart phone with the not so helpful Siri. She also has OnStar and those people will bend over backwards to do your bidding. My wife heavily relies on the technology and plotted routes. I get very frustrated when I try to tell her not to go a certain way because instinctively I knew that would be a bad way to go. She often refuses to listen and trusts the formal institutional knowledge Google and OnStar have put together on their servers. Sure, my brain may have less memory and horse-power; but I am much better at predicting the traffic flow and knowing just how long it will take the car to get from point A to point B. My wife, on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge my intimate familiarity with this city’s landscape.

What I have in my brain about the city’s driving ecosystem is a sort of “tacit knowledge” It’s earned through driving countless times and being lost in the city’s maze . . . again, and again, and again. It’s tacit in the sense that I don’t know the street names or which street connects to which. Instead, I know the feel of the neighborhoods, the old buildings that have been there for decades, the empty parking lot that once was a dwindling shopping center. This is not really knowledge in a formal sense since I don’t categorize it by north vs. south, left-turns vs. right turns. Instead, I rely on a judgment on how far I’ve gone in which direction and what’s around that seems right and what seems wrong. The details are voluminous and often mundane; I taken them for granted.

This phenomenon also occurs in organizations and companies. Often referred to as “organizational knowledge,” most people think it can be categorized and transferred. But in part I believe it should not if the objective is organizational growth. Instead of transferring it, your organization or company should really think about permeating it into your organizational culture and to innovate with it.

Think about it, "tacit knowledge" resides with the people who live and breathe your organization or company. They are information or practices that would make a difference in an stakeholder collaborative innovation process because they give you a sense or feel of what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s why when companies innovate, they should rarely rely on outsiders to do the job. Leaving it to strangers to create means leaving them with a map and letting them find the formal path that you would’ve found anyway if you weren’t so lazy. Internal innovation means stakeholder involvement and getting comfortable with the way things will come together in a group setting. When tacit knowledge of a group of internal stakeholders is put together, you will find they inherently find a pattern and a path forward.

This is an intuitive way of moving forward. It's much better than the institutionalized methods of paying for a boxed thinking. Out of the box I say.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Think Well of Us and Judge Us Not Too Harshly

“Tomorrow, without doubt, you will be leaving us. When you arrive at your destination, think well of us and judge us not too harshly.” - The doum tree of Wad Hamid.

My wife recently said that she would cry if and when the Dali Lama passes from this world. She, and I, find solace in his words and his laughter; we could not bear the thought that he would eventually leave this corporeal place.

“Would there be another Dali Lama?” My wife asks. “What would happen to the Tibetan people?”

The Tibetan people would live just as they did before and after; the spiritual presence of the Dali Lama would persist. No government could dictate the presence of a religion before religions; Buddhism would be as it always has: detached from this worldly madness.

Its songs would be righteous. Your mind tricks would not take its place. History would kindly remind us that you have run afoul with your words; enemies of mankind would be in their proper place.

I’m a man, I listen, I am not afraid to die; or else I’d be hiding in my place, listening to your lies, quietly carving my soul away to your duplicities.

Through the round of many births I roamed

without reward,
without rest,
seeking the house-builder.
Painful is birth
again & again.

House-builder, you're seen!
You will not build a house again.
All your rafters broken,
the ridge pole destroyed,
gone to the Unformed, the mind
has come to the end of craving.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Commentary to the Dhammapada, Verses 153-154

But the young would be reborn in your image. They would go away to schools, learn the modern Jedi mind tricks. They would return to Tibet as many young have returned to their roots in Africa and the Middle-east; they would cut down the doum tree, drill the precious riches, sully the saints, spit on the graves of the once sacred journeys. You would buckle them down to your riches; let them do your dirty work. You would teach them the deconstructive ways.

"Why are you trying to build something spiritual when you can build something material?"

The young would fall to your guiles.

“What all these people have overlooked is that there’s plenty of room for all these things: the doum tree, the tomb, the water-pump, and the steamer’s stopping-place.”
- The doum tree of Wad Hamid.
辋川集 | 宫槐陌 



This narrow path beneath the great trees
is edged darkly with thick greening moss.

We keep it swept clean before the gate, in
expectation of wandering mountain monks.

          Wang Wei, (701 - 761 AD) - translated by Jin Kong                                             

"With a selfish attitude, oneself is important, and others are not so important. According to Shantideva's advice, a technique to help in turning this attitude around is to imagine- in front of yourself as an unbiased observer- your own selfish self on one side and a limited number of other beings on the other side- ten, fifty, or a hundred. On one side is your proud, selfish self, and on the other side is a group of poor, needy people. You are, in effect, in the middle- as an unbiased, third person. Now, judge. Is this one, single, selfish person more important? Or is the group of people more important? Think. Will you join this side or that side? Naturally, if you are a real human being, your heart will go with the group because the number is greater and they are more needy. The other one is just a single person, proud and stupid. Your feeling naturally goes with the group. By thinking in this way, selfishness gradually decreases, and respect of others grows. This is is the way to practice."

"If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.

"Human beings will continue to deceive and overpower one another. Basically, everyone exists in the very nature of suffering, so to abuse or mistreat each other is futile. The foundation of all spiritual practice is love. That you practice this well is my only request."

-- His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from "The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Efficient Governance or Good Governance

I recently found my way to Matthew Andrews’ blog – The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development. I must say, the guy is pretty intense. I put his blog's link on my site here so you can check it out. If you don't know who Matt Andrews is, well, get to know him. He happens to be one of the brains behind the Doing Development Differently and the Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA), to which we recently signed on to the cooperation.

PDIA is a research working paper series co-authored by Matthew Andrews of Harvard Kennedy School, Lant Pritchett of Center for Global Development and Harvard Kennedy School, and Michael Woolcock of the World Bank. The paper series is aimed to develop a process of sustained global development efforts focused on real sustainable progress, not just lip-service. As any process-based approach, it involves defining the ecosystem of a problem and arrives at a sharpened scope of the process to be controlled. It then creates an environment where development can get the buy-ins of stakeholders (an “authorizing environment” as the Harvard guys called it). Following a process control loop-back system, the process concludes with re-emphasis on stakeholder engagement. This slight deviation and final emphasis on stakeholder engagement differs from a traditional process improvement approach of define, measure, analyze, design and control. It must be noted since it is there to anticipate the problems of multi-variables that exist in a human environment (as opposed to a machine instruction context in industrial 6 Sigma). Simply put, if you are dealing with humans, you must double your effort to get buy-ins so all parts must work together.

I enjoy reading his blog. Matt Andrews’ voice fills a void in the sustainability conversation. Where most people find human rights the default topic to discuss and some even attempts at attaching environmental issues to the conversation of the poor, Matt Andrews focuses on good governance and development in the world without the cliché of throwing money at the problem. He is much more involved from a governance point of view and seems to focus on indicators of good governance to distil the best practices that he warns us to instinctively repulse.

Yet I think he sometimes gets the message distilled too much. For example, his most recent blog post on energy consumption as a good indicator on good governance misses an important point about development in sustainable ways. He made the point that more light is an effective measure of good governance because: governments are the ones authorized and required to make electricity accessible; a healthy regulatory framework and public interest of production and distribution of electricity means the government is doing a good job.

Well, partly yes. I agree more access to electricity means more efficient governance, but efficient governance doesn’t necessarily mean good governance. For example, US and Europe are the two most electricity accessible regions and look at how much energy demand we put on the world as an ecosystem? Look at China and see how bright it is in where pollution is at its worst? Put it simply, to you Harvard guys, let’s distinguish between efficient and capable governance with actually good sense governance in terms of sustainability.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The 3D Manifesto

I followed a cookie trail today to PDIA (Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation). At its core, it’s a process based governance development theory that’s also focused on engagement and influence. Intrinsically it recognizes the bifurcation between people and society, the fact that complexity demands systematically factored and analyzed steps or iterations, and encourages learning from positive deviance or good disruptive thinking in an attempt to get people to think and “do development differently.”

It is the exact same thing my wife and I have been doing for a while now. We just don’t have the fancy acronyms and the prestige of “Harvard” to stand behind. We call our little project “BrainBox.”Although our work is slow to gain traction, but at this exciting discovery of the 3D Manifesto we are validated. Yup, that makes a pretty good day

The DDD Manifesto – the BrainBox abridged version.

“Ask, think, create and do; with your ecosystem of empowered stakeholders.” 

 Developments with real results usually involve many players – governments, civil society, international agencies and the private sector – working together to deliver real progress in complex situations and despite strong resistance. In practice, successful initiatives reflect common principles. 
 • They focus on solving local problems that are debated, defined and refined by local people in an ongoing process. 
• They are legitimised at all levels (political, managerial and social), building ownership and momentum throughout the process to be ‘locally owned’ in reality (not just on paper).

• They work through local conveners who mobilise all those with a stake in progress (in both formal and informal coalitions and teams) to tackle common problems and introduce relevant change.

• They blend design and implementation through rapid cycles of planning, action, reflection and revision (drawing on local knowledge, feedback and energy) to foster learning from both success and failure.

• They manage risks by making ‘small bets’: pursuing activities with promise and dropping others.

• They foster real results – real solutions to real problems that have real impact: they build trust, empower people and promote sustainability. 

You can look at the 3D Manifesto here.There’s a pretty impressive list of people who have signed on to the Manifesto and as of today, we have also signed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sustainability Index for Non-profits

A little company in town called P&G recently updated its Sustainability Guidelines. It sent a reminder to its external business partners and their suppliers to comply with its Sustainability Guideline. Non-compliance means audits and possible discontinuation of future businesses for failure of compliance. P&G’s Sustainability Guidelines is an impressive list of actionable items including strict legal compliance, respecting human rights, respecting child labor and anti-force labor standards, health and safety, wage and hours standards, anti-discrimination practices, environmental standards, collective bargaining standards, anti-corruption standards, privacy standards, and personnel security standards.

 P&G’s Sustainability Guidelines seem to be directed at for-profit entities primarily doing business in other countries but for a non-profit local to P&G’s footprint and receiving annual grants from P&G’s philanthropy efforts, it is worthwhile to think how this will impact the value proposition during the annual grant writing process. Intrinsically, the question of whether the non-profit can measure its own sustainability index and performance intrigued me. Naturally, when the question was presented to me by a non-profit’s board member I jumped at the chance to think this one through.

First, you have to define the measuring criteria in each of the three (3) sustainability categories – social, environmental and economical performance. P&G has done this with its own operations and ecosystem of stakeholders in mind. Their Guidelines are unique to P&G, but the premise is replicable. You just have to follow a process of define, measure, analyze and improve for the relevant factors identified in each of the three categories. It's a bit of work, but it's nothing too complicated.

I.     Social Performance.

The social performance of non-profits is often neglected because most non-profits are mission driven. They are already socially orientated so its leadership and those evaluating these non-profits aren’t looking outside the mission box. But sustainability is more than that, and stopping at the non-profit’s social mission neglects the wider ecosystem in which the non-profit exist. Can the non-profit do more? Can it easily cooperate with another and find synergy? These are often questions not asked. Interestingly, this mentality sets in at later stages of a non-profit’s operation when it has paid staff who are very silo-ed and have accustomed to the “it’s not my job” mentality. For the younger and budding non-profits, this isn’t so much of a problem and I find some of the less established non-profits are more flexible in their ability to collaborate and there are less barriers since they are not so much economically incentivized.

This adaptability often yields interesting results in new venture formations.

So how do you measure a non-profit’s mission in the context of sustainability? Well, you have to look at what that mission is and if it is a durable or an end-goal mission. For example, a charity for curing cancer will cease to exist (likely) when cancer is cured; but a charity that is focused on leadership development will never have an expiration date on its operations. So long as there are people, leaders are to be developed.

You also have to look at its flexibility, in terms of adaptability not only in budgeting but also with respect to innovation—does the non-profit have a process for creating value out of its original ideas and not just fundraising efforts? I find a non-profit with older constituents and larger operation size are less flexible and a non-profit with younger constituents and small operation size are more flexible and tends to be more creative. They can capture new value and can grow very quickly. However, the x-factor in this analysis is whether the non-profit has heart. How passionate is its stakeholders? I find that a lot of passion will transform perceived demographic barriers and make older people creative and adaptable.

Another way to look at a non-profit is through its focus on diversity and inclusion. There are many ways to define diversity and inclusion, but I believe it’s more about diversity of experiences and thoughts, and giving that diversity a voice that really creates value for any organization. Of course skin color or cultural differences naturally manifest into diversity of thoughts and experience, but the really good organizations look beyond skin and try to do something about empowering its minority and often neglected constituents.

It is also a good idea to look out for the lack of diversity and inclusiveness that manifest in unexpected ways. Take organizational structure for example. Most organizations love org-charts and love to tell staff where they fit-in in the grand scheme of things. This leads to exclusion of thoughts in the same way discrimination works against skin color or gender or cultural background. Think about it, your idea is not valued simply because you are working as an administrative assistance and everyone assumes you have nothing to contribute to the new fund raising campaign initiative even though they are targeting exactly your demographic. How does that make you feel?

So there are a number of questions a non-profit, or any organization, can ask: is it diverse and inclusive not just for the sake of appearances, but because the organization really values what everyone has to contribute? Is it putting this to practice and really allow opportunities for the diverse and often minority voice? And finally is it implicitly exclusive (for example, is its mission to serve a particular political party)?

Finally, you can also measure the social performance of a non-profit by the educational impact it has on its stakeholders. Here, you want to examine whether the organization is systematically following a script (donate to disabled veterans) and not really inspiring its stakeholders to be creative and really think of solutions to the social problems it is trying to address; or is it finding a new way of looking at the root problems and finding holistic sensible solutions to really alleviate the problem? Here, you have to think a bit counterintuitively. If you are really just raising funds, then you want the problem to exist so you can sustain your fundraising campaigns. On the other hand, if you are really looking at how to solve a problem then you should be working yourself out of a job. Because by the end of the day, you have solved the problem and your charitable work is no longer needed. But this is only applicable to those non-profits without a durable pro-active mission. A non-durable passive mission is one that aims to solve a problem. Once the problem goes away, then the mission is no longer applicable. It is reactionary. It’s good that we are solving problems, but sustainability is more about anticipating what’s ahead. A durable active mission is one that aims to empower a particular good thing in society. The arts for example; or developing today’s leaders and tomorrow’s communities as one non-profits has it. After all, you will probably never run out of good leaders to develop and good communities to build; I hope we never run out of good art to promote. 

To recap, the social performance of a non-profit can be evaluated by its mission and purpose, by its adaptability and innovative capacity, by its diversity and inclusion, and by its educational and inspirational impact. Under each of the four factors, benefits and barriers can be assigned scores based on subjectivity and although not an entirely accurate science, it does provide a good gauge of how well the non-profit is performing beyond just a mere assessment of its ability to perform its mission.

II.     Environmental Performance.

Following a lazy-man’s assessment, our non-profit isn’t about the environment so this is not applicable to us. Right? Or, we aren’t subject to any environmental laws, so we don’t have to be assessed in this category. Okay? No. Everyone has an environmental impact and any organization can do something about it.

To start, there are three categories under environmental performance we can use to assess a non-profit’s environmental performance standard: conservation, protection, and impact. First, conservation is about reduce, reuse, and recycle. All organizations can be mindful of how they are reusing their material, how they are reducing their carbon footprint, and how they are creatively recycling things they were throwing away. How well does your non-profit manage its resources? How well does your organization communicate needs and surplus?

Protection is about being mindful of making the right choices. If you can order 100 t-shirts from a company overseas (high transportation cost and carbon footprint) and that company uses environmentally unfriendly processes (using harsh chemicals to dye), then do you really need to save that five dollars per t-shirt? An even better question, why are you buying the t-shirt in the first place? Is it because your constituents really need it or is it because that’s just what everyone else is doing?

Finally, let’s talk about impact. Your non-profit has a lot of brand power for your own advocacy work. But are you leveraging that brand power to co-brand environmental initiatives? Are you making the connection of your brand recognition with any environmental problems that you’ve turned a blind eye? For example, if your mission is to alleviate poverty are you also looking at how the poorest are often living next to the most polluted places and have higher health care costs because of this? After you have connected the dots and recognized how closely connected you are to the environmental impact you can make, are you leveraging your organization’s social diffusion power to really make a stink about your new found knowledge?

III.     Economic Performance.

This is a small category because non-profits by definition are not focused on just making the single profitable bottom line. Non-profits are mission driven to begin with and is at a lower risk level for lack of good governance and corporate social responsibility.

What does need to be addressed with non-profits are often their cost of inefficiencies both in terms of its operations and its administrations. It’s also important to look at its budgeting (how good is the organization at predicting fluctuations in its revenue cycles and how good is it at reducing ineffective cost items and protocols). Additionally, it’s important to examine whether the non-profit is looking at opportunities and stakeholder involvement. Is it getting its constituents involved in the innovation process to capture new value that has otherwise been neglected?

These are just the starting points. I can go on for days. . .

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thinking Health and Happiness - a collaborative conversation

(This was one we worked on together with Robin Cook of the Finally Good News. It's been shared recently, so we figured it's a good time to bring it back for a read. This was written as part of a series of collaborating topics. Our first topic was on "Sustainability and Education" and you can read the articles here. Our second topic was on Green Building and Zoning. This round we engaged on the topic of Health and Happiness and the invariable philosophical point we touched upon is the transformative nature of being and becoming--that what we do are not absolute nor are we capable of doing no wrong; the point is to identify our faults, take things in consideration and moderation, and try to live and enjoy each day. For this collaborative work, we asked Robin Cook of the Finally Good News to contribute. We hope you enjoy and think deeply about what we have to say. As always, if you wish to contribute to our work or want to suggest a topic, please contact Lauren at

1.     Big Thinkers - by Robin Cook

2.     Path of Happiness and the Synthetic Chemical Street - by Lauren Campbell Kong

3.     Humming Along - by Jin  Kong

4.     可口可乐 - by Jin Kong

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Throw-Away Culture

One of the first thing I noticed about the holidays season in the United States was the aftermath of bags of trash to the curbside. The idea of packaging and wrapping something in beautiful and expensive paper and padded custom gift boxes away escapes me, but after 20+ years of living in the United States, I have given in to the practice. Still, it bothers me. My father’s once told me how he collected empty cigarette boxes and used the blank insides as writing paper for school. He meant to tell me about the poverty back then to make me more thankful for what I have today, but that image of him standing on a pile of trash, hunched and looking for empty cigarette packs, hunts me in some strange way. What I throw away each year in wrapping paper would’ve supplied him for a whole year’s worth of note taking. I don't know just how I feel about that.

For more than 30 years, the US EPA has been collecting data on waste generation and disposal to measure the success of waste reduction and recycling programs around the country. Each year, the EPA generates a report on their findings. The most recent report is for 2012.

According to this 2012 report, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash that year. Approximately 65 million tons were recycled and 21 million tons were composed.The 34.5% recycling rate doesn't seem so impressive, but it is much better than the 10% back in the 1980s. The EPA report also pointed to some good indicators of progress. For example, we are starting to recognize the impact of throwing away batteries. In 2012, about 96% of lead-acid battery was recovered and prevented from ending up in landfills. Paper recycling rate reached 70%.

“Over the last few decades, the generation, recycling, composting, and disposal of MSW [Municipal Solid Waste] have changed substantially. Solid waste generation per person per day peaked in 2000 while the 4.38 pounds per person per day is the lowest since the 1980’s.”

It’s not all rose and cheeky. We still managed to throw away 164 million tons of municipal solid waste and 21% of that throw-away was food. Plastic amounted to another 18% coming in as the second most popular throw-away material. Of this 164 million tons of throw-away cost, containers and packaging made up of 30% and durable goods accounted for 20%.

Recycling has many benefits. It reduces our demand on existing “green” resources (resources that has never left its organic life cycle). The process of recycling also creates opportunities for capital creation that is otherwise captured by the throw-away mentality. Smart people are making money creating technology and selling what is otherwise trash to willing buyers who uses the material to cut back cost of harvesting green resources. And along a more popular topic, recycling in 2012 accounted for more than 168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emission.

Happy Holidays:

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Today, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama made a historic announcement of their respective targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama pledged in 2009 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. To accomplish this, he initiated a number of aggressive plans including promoting better vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Today, he pledged that the United States would cut emissions by 26% from 2005 levels by 2025. This is on par with the pace with his current plans. Let’s hope the new Congress and Senate won’t break this very important promise to the world.

The Chinese President pledged to peak Chinese CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make every effort to cut back early. This seems not so significant, but it is a very good pledge given that China still has a significantly vested interest in continuing modernization and lifting its people out of poverty. China also pledged to expand zero-emission sources in renewable and nuclear energy to match its current dependency on coal-fired capacity. While dependency on nuclear power is questionable and mere promise to “peak” emission is only as good as the promise, it is commendable that China is at least trying. With one-fifth of the world’s population and a very good model to alleviate poverty but at the high cost of corruption, it is just very difficult to do the right thing when it is very much influenced by the western consumption culture.

China’s goals seem achievable. A 2011 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that China is on course to meet this goal and a MIT study with more conservative estimates suggest China has to be aggressive in its policies to meet this goal.

It is unprecedented for the two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters in the world to come together and pledge to work cooperatively. This signaled to the other world leaders to follow in anticipation of the next year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference negotiations in Paris. This is a good sign. We are finally seeing some global vision in moving beyond the climate change denial and doing something about it. For the U.S., it may be our coming to terms with good science and bad politics; for China, this is about necessity. The mounting social pressure and visible air pollutions just is too much for its people to burden.

Mind you, the two nations have also been discussing other economic cooperation and more progressive immigration policies to allow a better exchange for human capital and their expertise. This would encourage a more open exchange of social responsibility and good corporate governance for China and better access to the growing economy for the United States. With these things (environmental incentives, economic opportunities, and corporate governance) reaching for progress and balance between the two nations, the sustainability movement has a chance.

Full speed ahead I say.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Creative Collective

Big Data is all the rage these days. It’s probably the first time in human history that we have gathered so much information about our individual and collective habits that we can actually do something meaningful with the information. Many marketers jump to the chance to better segment demographics and develop archetypical consumption habits to encourage selling more junk we don’t need.

Yes, let’s all catch the mad gold rush to Mt. Spendmore.

But there are better ways to use big data, isn’t there? Many industries are challenged to enhance reliability, reduce costs, and stimulate revenue while using materials and energy more efficiently with big data. This is a step in the right direction, but often overlooked is the ability for these industries to embrace information technology even further to leverage dynamic real-time demand response to optimize process—the whole process of consumption from producers to consumers. While some are using big data this way in small increments, they have not yet fully actualized the social tech’s offering of multi-stakeholder collaboration; and by definition they neglect the bigger picture of why it is important to achieve efficiency, reduce cost, and promote reliability. In my opinion, the end goal is to work our way to less dependency on the more scarce resources and turn our attention to utilizing more of the abundance we already have through collective efforts (trash recycling anyone?).

 So while the smart industries are sorting through mountains of information to figure out just how to be more efficient, they are turning a blind eye to combining information to form a dynamic communication method for a new way of thinking about the economy. This I find troubling. Perhaps it’s a mere symptom of linear static thinking that is prevalent in western metaphysics—where Americans seem to believe things are penultimate of the Monadology, Eastern thoughts often resolve to know things are in constant flux, that perfection is impossible because there is always room for improvement; and therefore, things are not as what they seem.

Where does this leave us in terms of innovation? If you really think about creativity and innovation, the components include originality and value creation. But to limit creativity and innovation to individuals is short changing the human race. While a degree of freedom is necessary for the exercise of creativity and innovation, but collective mentality and innovation are not mutually exclusive. I like to think we are somewhat capable of collaborating and creating common core solutions that are, well, ORIGINAL. So when we begin to think of the constant flux of things and the potential that big data offers us in terms of running into the next new big thing (Google for example), we see that the conundrum isn’t in why we can’t think in better ways. Rather it’s more about why we have not yet picked the better pack to believe in better outcomes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Energy Bar For Thoughts

Let’s take a look at energy consumption. No particular reason, but because I feel this is as a good of a place to start than any.

Our collective demand for energy has been ever rising. There are few stock market crashes and bubble bursts in our timeline to slow the energy demand a bit, but we are resilient creatures aren’t we? We keep crawling out from under the previous recessions and building the GDP block game piece by piece, faster and faster.

Today, as the world’s GDPs rise on average by 3.2% per year, and in some places (China) where 7% is considered astonishingly slow, our global energy consumption will increase by 1.4% per year in the next twenty or so years according to a Bloomberg Sustainalytics Industry Report. At some point in the distant past, we would say that developed countries accounted for the largest share of energy consumption as if laying guilt is somehow making us feel better that much of the developing world hasn’t caught up to our level of unsustainable bad habits. But that’s changing. In 2007, energy use amongst non-OECD nations exceeded their OECD counterparts for the first time. China’s energy demand has increased by 150% and is now the world’s largest consumer of power. India is on pace to match China’s demand on resources by 2035. The Middle East is also expected to become a significantly energy intensive region and its vast natural reserves do not help curb the consumption habits.

Water in the context of power consumption is also being overlooked. Our current technologies, from burning fossil fuel to fracking to nuclear power, are some of the most water intensive operations known to man. The U.S. electricity demand requires an estimated 136 billion gallons of water per day. Each kWh of energy requires an average of 25 gallons of water. According to a Forbes magazine article, your iPhone can use up to 1kWh of power each year. That’s 25 gallons of water per person per year for Siri! According to the United Nations, 2/3 of the world’s population could be living under water-stress by 2025.

Water and energy consumption are also connected in another very intimate and devastating way. It often involves large spills requiring vast manpower to clean up and huge fines and bad PR for companies (*cough* BP).

For all these reasons and then some, including the highly debated and scientifically established thing known as “climate change”, regulators around the world are passing legislation to reduce the impact of our energy demand and method of production. The Canadians set goals to produce 90% of its electricity from low-emitting technologies by 2020. Europeans and the Japanese have put in place strict environmental control laws and have been successful in controlling acid rain and urban smog. The Chinese have aggressive clean production and circular economy laws in addition to its various environmental protection laws. Their effectiveness is impeded by a lack for social and political will and shall remain open to judgment of its success. These regulatory challenges translate to increased operational costs including major investment capital on new equipment and compliance costs paid to useless lawyers like me. Please, save yourself the penny and let us do something more beneficial for a change.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tired of the Same Old Content Marketing Discussion? Me too!

- by Lauren Campbell-Kong

(This is a piece originally published on "The Culture of Send", a blog for Yes, that's a domain you can visit. BrainBox ltd is a new kind of content company that combines a social purpose for sustainability with a focus on education to bring new perspectives on content marketing. Stay tuned for more from the BrainBox.)

There has been some big news recently in the social media sphere: In the month of October alone Infusionsoft announced a new $55 million round of funding (spearheaded by Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs) and Hubspot went public, raising $125 million during their IPO. These are both huge developments in the world of digital marketing, specifically content marketing.

Inbound/Content marketing has taken the sector by storm, creating entirely new ways to attract potential consumers, clients, and leads. In the past, marketing functioned as "bring the ads to the people" through advertising in magazines, trade shows, etc. but when Inbound marketing revolutionized the industry with the "bring people to the ads" mentality, the ground underneath many advertising and marketing agencies shook; to be honest, I don't know if it is done shaking.

The idea behind this "bring people to the ads" is to produce high quality, highly informative content (blogposts, white papers, articles, etc.) to show potential purchasers that "you know what you're doing," building credibility and developing trust, increasing SEO in the process. The theory is the more content you generate, the more you increase your odds of showing up in search engine results (after you've optimized your site, your blog, your content of course). This coupled with the idea that you then promote your message on social media is supposedly the 'holy grail' to marketing in the digital age.

But is it?

With all the articles out there on "how to generate content" and the conferences surrounding "Inbound Methodology" and the multiple Google hangouts I get invited to weekly to help "Make Sense of Google Analytics", I honestly wonder if this is the 'Holy Grail' or if marketing is lost, wondering in a sea of digital misinformation and trendy band-aids (you know, like the Spider Man Band-aids that are available after a movie launch, but can't be found anywhere 6 months later).

Hell, I read an article today from a well reputable and highly credible social media online community discussing the issues that B2B marketers have. The top 3 issues were: Measuring Content Effectiveness, Producing Content Consistently, and Producing Engaging Content; cornerstones of the 'Holy Grail' approach. Doesn't sound like a 'Holy Grail' to me.

Never once in the article did the author truly dig down deep into the meat of the problem to offer up good, well worn advice. Instead, band-aids were handed out: Make sure you promote an interoffice culture that embraces social media, have a meeting that tells everyone how to properly engage and interact on behalf of the business, think like your customer etc. The issue with these 'tips' is they don't actually look at an individual company's situation and attempt to help, they throw a large blanket to the social media wind and hope your company falls under it.

I guess that's why many companies pay an organization like Hubspot or Infusionsoft to help them. Infusionsoft offers automated marketing software that is supposed to decrease time spent marketing on social media platforms, allowing you to schedule posts and not worry about getting them out in the interwebs. Hubspot, prides itself on the one-on-one customer service you receive with your membership payment, to help address your content marketing issues, but even the service reps regurgitate the same information that has been pushed their way; "be sure to provide quality content, post 3-4 blogs a week," etc. They also offer many Webinars, newsletters, and emails to educate you on Inbound Methodology, but again, they apply a broad overview of this methodology and think it applies to everyone's process. In a world of target marketing, with big data to back it up, I thought the 'throw it against the wall and see what sticks' mentality was gone.

But it isn't, it is just disguised as something else right now.

Quality of engagement is the crux of all of this. How can we measure quality of engagement? How do we know the value of allowing your consumers contact you in real time via social media or the value of sharing a video that can inspire others. We don't know how far this reach can be, let alone how to measure it. Especially in different industries where the culture of engagement is different throughout.

The point is, you can't measure quality of engagement in Google Analytics (Google offers some really neat measuring capabilities though). In an industry that sees the never ending opportunity that the digital age has provided us, the process in how to interact and engage is only half of it, the other half requires a shift in the measurement process and moving away from "three sheets to the wind" mentality. After all, no one wants to rely solely on the wind to spread your message: that's why we developed technology.

Read the follow-up post about some solutions to help you think outside your 'Marketing Box'

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Does Your Company Think About Transportation and Marketing in the Same Context?

Today, only 5% of Americans use public transit. 77% of us drive to work and only 10% share rides. According to the US Census Bureau, we were doing a lot better in the 20's when 20% of us shared rides.

On average, commuters loses 34 hours to traffic congestion each year. Deloitte reports that we waste 4.76 billion hours per year. Translating that into dollar value, that's $429 million per day. It's about $160 billion worth of productivity each year cycled through the exhaust pipe and turned into polluted air.

That cost is only on the individuals. The government pays a certain amount as part of its public service obligations. We, in turn, pay for that through our taxes.

Companies offering a transportation solution to their workers encourages a pattern of consequences improving their bottom lines. Google, for example, found by providing shuttle services to its employees it lowered worker stress, increased talent pool, and eliminated some cost of building parking infrastructures. This also help reduce the fuel demand, emissions, and vehicle traffic.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Speak to the World.

We have come to identify the norms of social hierarchy with the professional paraphernalia of social control. Justice, is not exclusively vested in the formal institutions of the law or political intrigue. But we insist there is a world of difference. The conventions of a social order are important but they are only conventions of our choosing.The authority of power is subject to our common human experience. No social, legal or political institutions exists apart from the normative narratives that give meaning. 
Once the narrative is properly communicated and understood in context, the legal and social political institutions becomes not merely a system of order to be observed, but a world in which we live happily.

We are now
not in the nostalgia of a chance for better politics,
induced by the early successes of conquering,
but in a rather grisly dawn,
when it has become apparent that
what triumphant laws have done
is to merely mask the real danger,
painted over by
the dull broken walls,
or actually deteriorated

Adaptation from Aldous Huxley

Yes. we support a civil Umbrella Revolution. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cultivate Your Ecosystem

“The most indicative metric of a community’s health is the cross-pollination of stakeholders.” – Brian Watson,

Our society is perfectly willing to break down everything into its parts, analyze the gears, and then put them back together to see if they work better. Somewhere in the process, we forget the purpose is to put the parts back together with better arrangements so they will work more effectively as the whole.

But we are obsessed with the parts, aren’t we?

Since our ingenious human mind went to work to deconstruct reality into metaphysical planks, we misplaced that grander purpose of recognizing the whole. We see a clock in its parts and are marveled by the intricate gears and details; but a clock in its parts does not tell time. Society in its parts does not succeed. The metaphysical planks are not ideas in motion. Seeing things broken down into parts does not facilitate change. It merely perpetuates the glorified “busy” that permeates modern society.

And so we stay busy to be in separate parts of this grandiose idea of a universe.


For further reading, please visit: 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Case for Oath Keepers by Moises Medina

(We are reposting this blog in response to the uproar and outrage occurring in Ferguson, MO. This post, written by Moises Medina in 2011, highlights many of the problems associated with the militarization of the police force in the U.S. While this topic is (finally) getting some much needed mainstream media attention, it is important to remember that many individuals sensed this problem on their radar long before this incident. We here at The Green Elephant hope that more people recognize the necessity for writers, artists, advocates and the like in our society. These individuals help bring to light issues that many of us do not see until it is too late.   -- Lauren Campbell Kong) 

"Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would.....would do this, it would change the earth."
                                                                       --William Faulkner

“We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." -Barrack Obama

Local law enforcement agencies have been receiving federal funds for some time now. The additional money provides better equipment for officer safety and additional inter agency training. Fusion Centers are now common throughout the country. One police department can now patrol in other jurisdictions. Another trend now observed is the increased use of SWAT teams for tasks that a regular officer could accomplish.

On May 5th 2011, a Pima county SWAT team shot an IRAQ war veteran 61 times while serving a multi house search warrant. The Pima co. Sheriff had to admit the 26yro, husband and father, did not shoot at the SWAT team and no drugs were found in the home. Really, SWAT serving a search warrant and shooting a guy 61 times without ever being shot at!?!?

In Stockton California a man's door was busted down by SWAT. The man was arrested, in front of his kids, and dragged out of his home in his underwear. The warrant, from the Department of Education, was for the man's estranged wife. No local law enforcement agencies were involved. When did the Department of Education begin to command SWAT teams? Where did this SWAT team come from, if no local law enforcement was used?!?! A simple Google search will turn up case after case were SWAT teams go into a home and kill pets (in front of kids even) and in some cases don't end up pressing charges on their suspected targets.

Let me get this right. A group of soldiers in Iraq, mostly ranging in ages between 17 and 25, can go into the home of armed Al-Qaida members and acquire 3 high profile targets (alive) without harming women, children, or pets (a real example from personal experience, so don't tell me I don't know what its like). Yet, the above mentioned SWAT teams (the elite of law enforcement) cannot go into an American home without being “trigger happy”, killing people or pets, and terrorizing children!?!? B.S. Technical skills and lack of discipline aside, why is this happening? It’s a simple matter of budgeting and funds allocation. Law enforcement agencies can continue to allocate federal funds to their SWAT teams due to their increased use. The same for inter agency cooperation and Fusion Center participation.

This is how Obama's paramilitarized "civilian security force" is created. Yey... About the only training on constitutional law or rights they receive is geared towards keeping the officers out of trouble. Example: When an officer wants to use force against a person the standard line is: "Stop resisting!" even if the person is not resisting.

What happens when the federal government uses these poorly disciplined agencies against (I mean) to help the American people during a national emergency? Will they act with in their constitutional bounds? Or will they only PROTECT their funds (paychecks) AND SERVE only the system? Perhaps its time, for every community, to demand that law enforcement re-affirm the oath each officer and deputy swore. With the new paramilitary civilian security force being expanded, its time for everyone to listen to what the Oath Keepers have been warning about all along.

I've known Moises Medina for about 10 years now. He and I served together as medics in Iraq. Recently he started his own blog at Doc Medina's Soapbox.  -- jin

Friday, July 11, 2014

Coveted Sustainability - Part Zero, the Ebb and Flow of a Beginning in Art.

(My wife is looking to write a press release about a local "coveted sustainability" event. The idea intrigued me. It had reminded me of my days wondering aimlessly studying aesthetics. What followed is a rant and ramble of my usual best or worst depending who you are and how you see me. Cheers.)

Art, is in part being introspective, being aware of our own feelings towards something that we recognize as universally evoking. It is about being aware of our state of mind in the creation of others.

Something in the art guides us, imagines us to be its voice, directs us to feel a certain way in the ebb and flow of time as it forever flows.

Art by itself has no inherent meaning or cultural significance without the audience’s emotional reaction. Often, that emotional reaction is primed by certain political and economic functions. There is rarely a linear casual connection between the art itself and the social and political factors without the audience asking the direct and interpretative questions about its meaning and significance in which the audience finds context for the expression of emotion.

Art is therefore a relational being. It is both a categorical expression of ourselves, whether we are the artist or the audience, and a phenomenon of our relationship with others, whether that other being is the artist or the audience. The artist and the audience are therefore as diametrically opposed as the social and economic expression is with the artist expression the art is presumably aimed to express. One finds the context in the other as black finds context in its white, and void finds its context in existence.

That is, my friends, the beauty of being aware of our emotions and introspects in art isn’t it?

The mere fact that we are aware of art invokes something in us that says—yes, I do exist and it is recognized in this object the artist has successfully created to relate to my own existence. I do not live in a void of imagination where reality is obscure. This world of mine is real, and this world of the artist justifies my existence.

Art, then, is the ultimate judge, jury, and executioner of our being on a metaphysical level, isn’t it?

Yet as members of capitalist society in all forms (libertarian or communitarian alike), we are only politically and economically engaged in art itself through the delusion of recognizing our emotions. The mainstream “art”, under the condition of capital effectiveness, works out its own internal contradictions that society can no longer ignore—our existence, the existence of Art itself, no longer finds the ebb and flow of time as it flows for some meaning or purpose. Rather, it is defined by what is arbitrarily defined as “beautiful” and valuable. By the mere fact of valuing art for its political or economic message, emblematic of our consumption behavior patterns, we covet art for its namesake. Art in this modern age, as sustainably as art has been for the last few thousand years, resemble its truth in the illusions of something more or less ambiguous—only a shadow of existence.

So we covet art in its mere reflection of who we are—the empty, soul-less, choice driven, cocktail party attending, pontificating, deconstructive, rational being that we are.

And we forget, ART, as it was intended to be and justly reminds us in troubled and emotional times, is coveted as forever becoming something more than our mere existence. ART is in part introspection, but in part a direct line of communication between our introspection with the grander existence of a human condition.

Through ART, our souls speak to each other and we find reasons to live a century more to perpetuate something truly amazing. What it is that we are prepetuating, however, must be first decided by each of us . . .


Ebb and Flow,
That's the way the river goes.
Water for the rich,
Art for the poor,
Wealth well distributed and
Death reborn.
You look up, and I look down;
I look up, and you look down.
What do we see?
What do we hear?

Never eachother.
Because we are too busy,
Glorified busy.
Figuring out what it is that we live for.

Ebb and Flow,
That's the way things goes.

- jin, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Unexpected Happy Place -- by Lauren Campbell Kong

(This post is dedicated to Mandy, Missy, Sheila, Steven, James, Bill, Rich and the rest of the crew that came out and busted their asses to clean the Ohio River on Saturday, June 21st 2014.)

I haven’t been too inspired to write for a while and have been in my own head busy adjusting to life here in Cincinnati. One would think moving only 2 hours away from home meant that the people, culture, and the environment wouldn’t be so different. But things are very different here and it has required some serious adjusting on my part. It’s been hard to make new friends and to meet people who have passion about the environment.
Thank You Mandy from KCB for the photo
This past Saturday was finally a moment when all things I love converged, creating a trifecta of acceptance, passion, and activism for me in this city.

I was active in the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indianapolis. Since I moved to Cincinnati, I was a little disappointed in the Sierra Club here. Both the Northern Kentucky group and the Miami Valley group don’t have much of a ‘politicking’ presence. The members here enjoy hiking together or walking on trails. Once a month they will invite a speaker into town to put on a presentation about a crusade. Otherwise, there was no way for me to get directly involved and be active in the way that I am accustomed.

I got involved in Environment Ohio when we first moved here, but their campaign disbanded in January of 2014 and finding something else has been difficult. I did eventually discover the River Sweep 2014 through the Sierra Club’s Northern Kentucky chapter's monthly e-newsletters.

River Sweep is an annual event organized by the Ohio RiverValley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO). It took place this year on Saturday June 21st.

The River Sweep began in 1989 and it spans the entire Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo, IL. During the event, thousands of volunteers descend onto the Ohio River to pick up trash and debris. It is a multi-organizational effort to help clean the Ohio River and to create awareness about how polluted and dirty the river is.

In addition to the Sierra Club being in attendance, there was also Keep Covington Beautiful (KCB), and volunteers from the City of Covington municipality. It was rejuvenating to see all the wonderful, friendly people coming together to help keep this beautiful river clean.
Thank you Mandy from KCB for the photo
I was the most surprised by KCB. This group truly does what it can for the city of Covington, keeping trash and pollution from entering the water ways. They have a good relationship with the municipality and they work diligently together to address many environmental issues here. Anytime I see a government agency and a non-profit working together productively and holistically to address environmental issues, I get inspired.

It was a hot day and there were some seriously gross stuff down by the river bank that needed picked up: doors, buried tires, a broken kitchen sink, an old fence, nasty insulation that had been there for months if not longer, deteriorating and probably contaminated with asbestos, more Milwaukee’s Best beer cans than I ever knew existed, shoes, clothes, a pair of old underwear, and so, SO much more.

That’s just the stuff I saw in the quarter of a mile I traversed through. When you think about the entire river spanning the border of 6 states, I can't begin to imagine what else was found.

Thankfully we had a decent turnout at our location. We managed to clean a good chunk of the river bank. I have faith that other parts of the Ohio River were cleaned too by equally passionate people. At times it was overwhelming, disgusting, and depressing to see so much trash, to think there are still so many people who don’t think twice about throwing their garbage out of their cars, boats, and homes.

But that's not important now. What is important, is the truly inspiring people I met, people who care about this city and about our environment. These people volunteered their time to come out and make a difference; people of all different colors, sexual orientation, social economic status, and backgrounds, converging on the river as one to make it a better place for everyone. It is a selfless act that made me forget how difficult it is to adjust to a new city and new people I don't know; it made me forget just how many people don't care about this river and their city. 

Thank you Mandy from KCB for the photo
At the end of the day, I realized how much is left to do. Not just the trash, but how much educating, motivating, and inspiring that must be done for others to see the importance of our waterways and the value they add to our eco-system. My back pain proves it and the irony rings loud and clear.

So to leave you with something to ponder, there are multiple river clean up events that happen along the Ohio River and I for one hope to participate regularly as my schedule permits. If something is stopping you from coming to support us, you are underestimating the possibility of these good people, people that you would want to get to know.

After all, we will make a bit of difference and together, I've found my new happy place, I found it down by the river, I found it in the people I met there and in the hard work we did together. I hope you find yours as well, on this planet, in this place we all call home.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cherish the Day and Believe -- This is Not A Dream.

(yes, I'm in one of my weird crazy mood. This one is for the believers, not the dreamers. This one is for my wife, my best friend, and my constant companion on this quest to change the world--Lauren Campbell Kong. The believers steps over the dreamers and actually DO!  - jin)

To all you sleepers,
Coming from the speaker.
Be prepared to liftoff,

To know fear and
To love experimentation.
To all you sleepers then.

This is the century,
This is the day,
This is the imaginary time that we know to be real,
Probabilistically not sealed.

Travel then,
Friends, to be asleep but know that you control a dream,
Have faith in waking to find your soul.

Hear yourself sing,
Taste the delight and the bitter rain drops of yesterday’s tomorrow.

To all you sleepers,
Coming from the master of disaster, the Maharishi mediator, the salted chew free from concerns,
Be prepared to be lifted,
To abandon fear,
To love LOVE.

This is the color of your faith.
Be kind to paint it as tall and deep as you dare.

Because this is YOUR FAITH. It is not a hope.



(I wrote this one a long time ago. . . funny how things have a way of singing back to me in time)

No matter how long, how high, how grim,
If I can sweep, nearly free, let my mind be tricked and story be told.
My life too precious, but it never leaves;
On solid ground, I let my words flow.

I am here, I am rotting, I am illness-stained;
I listen without pity, hear me not;
I bury without a shovel, smell of garbage, but it really don’t matter no more.

A different sound I hear, like milk and honey;
I asked myself if I am made for this world.

Golden roads, fixed, crumbled, fixed again,
A different taste, like spring freshness at the end of autumn;
Winter is here again, smelling and tasting cost the grown man his patience.

Play that song again, lock up them folks in the cells again;
But it really don’t matter no more.

All my life, cycles cooked onions in dreadful tears,
Cutting with a smile, square fits a few short years.

No matter how long, how high, how grim,
Let me sleep, nearly free, let my mind drift into the thicket plot untold.

Any day now, late night shadow remembers where the path leads.

Convince me to walk into the sun again,
The future is just that part of history.
Think sharp and preach slow,
Remembering but it don’t really matter no more.

Because this is the dreamer's dream and I'm a believer and I BELIEVE.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Equity Crowdfunding in the International Space - Interlude, A Special Consideration for Social Enterprises

In a recent survey conducted by the European Commission on financial and security markets, a majority of respondents felt that crowdfunding campaigns with social objectives merit special treatment from the regulators.

The consensus is that social ventures and those behind the ventures should not be limited to the donation or lending based funding opportunities. Equity crowdfunding should be a viable option. However, a need to define social enterprise and the kinds of social objectives are critical and respondents agree that transparency is a must if social ventures are to get special treatment. Most suggested ex post verifications (e.g., audits, social impact assessments, or periodic reporting). Some respondents call for a favorable tax treatment for these social ventures, some prefer lighter regulations, and few mentioned the need to harmonizes impact measures and warned against any sort of regulatory interventions in this sector. The commission stated that it will explore this in more detail in future efforts.

And so, as I ponder and explore the future of equity crowdfunding in this series of blog posts, we recognize the concept of “crowd” is a powerful one.

Crowdfunding and crowd-sourcing ingeneral are about a group of people getting together led by their convictions so strong that they are willing to invest time, money and effort to make it happen. It’s something not taught in school; not because the schools don’t try, but because finding such convictions is a private affair. The intrinsic interest is something, if taught extrinsically, would defeat its very purpose.

We leave the schools then. Outside in this open global community of ours, in finding this intrinsic motivation to do something, we discover the power of the crowd is beyond financial gains.

We realized the crowd is only inspired to act as if it makes a difference somehow. Well, it does. No one knows how we can shape tomorrow for the better, but everyone knows we must try. Technology is only a tool and equity only an extrinsic factor. Success of equity crowdfunding is not depended on these things or the laws that regulate them. The success of equity crowdfunding is in what we as a people can do with this very powerful idea. 

But where do we begin?

The Internet has ended the Industrial era and ended mass marketing. It has revived a human desire to be connected and we are now in a struggle to find our shared ideas and values to allow ordinary people the power to lead and make big changes. A struggle means opportunity and is beyond the spirit of the law. New laws will have to conform to our hopes, not the other way around.

After all, the “unselfish and noble acts are the most radiant epochs in the biography of souls.”


Monday, June 16, 2014

Equity Crowdfunding in the International Space - Pt. 5 China

(Note: this is generally available public knowledge. For the specifics on how Chinese platforms are regulated and how the regulations work, please contact a licensed Chinese attorney.)  

The Chinese Company Law and Securities Law are applicable to EBCIs in China and the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has over 50 rules and regulations on securities and future markets. In addition, there are hundreds of circulars on the topic and other laws such as Property Rights Law, Criminal Law, Enterprise Bankruptcy Law, and Anti-Money Laundering Law that may also apply.

Technology and emergence of equity based crowdfunding has blurred the line between public offerings and private placements. Under Article 10 of China's Securities Law, public offerings of securities must be approved by the regulatory bodies. Public offerings are defined to include any issuance of securities to more than 200 non-specific targets. The issuer must be a LLC that has been authorized to issue shares.

Chinese EBCI platforms seem to get around the securities regulations by arranging investment deals as private contracts on an ad hoc basis. For example, Make V, a media start-up company underwent two rounds of crowdfunding on Taobo (a retail website similar to Amazon and eBay) and raised 1.2 RMB for 6% of the company. The deals were structured as private contracts where investors hold the shares and dividends are paid according to the contracts. Supposedly, Make V consulted a law firm and the Beijing Municipal Lawyers Association before they undertook the crowdfunding efforts. They knew such issuance of securities were illegal but went ahead with it anyway and promised to buy-back the shares that were illegally purchased if the government should crack down on their crowdfunding efforts.

Similarly, Mirror Fun, a retail store operating off Taobao, recently raised 15 million RMB through 红岭 (“Hong Ling”). Hong Ling is an interesting entity because they seem to be an online crowdfunding service. Although they do not specifically list their services as such, and they avoid stating any laws re securities, they do blatantly list investment opportunities as sort of private lending and governed under Contract laws of China.

There are a number of risks in issuing and buying public offerings in China. While there are not specific criminal provisions dealing with illegal fundraising, there are a number of provisions that may be interpreted to sanction the activity. Going forward, equity platforms will have to be very careful in issuing securities publicly without approval, in an disguised form, or exceeding the other regulatory requirements. However, the bulk of the work are for the regulators to clarify the line between public offerings and private placements, clarify the definition of equity platform offerings and specify how they should be regulated, and balance the interest in promoting capital formation and equity ownership by the rising middle class with the risk of fraud and the crowd effect of following the wrong investment trends. The consumers will also have to be cautious and educate themselves on the various interplays between securities offering and their potential high risk nature. The regulators must promote transparency, but the crowd must develop its own independent compass with respect to the success potential of fundraising enterprises.   

Despite the potentials, Chinese platforms and potential investors face cultural, economic, and institutional forces that suppress entrepreneurial activity. Specifically, the World Bank found perception and understanding of entrepreneurship, education, and cost of doing business and resolving insolvency correlate with the number of crowdfund investment platforms (there is a small negative correlation between cost of starting a business and number of platforms and a slightly positive correlation between number of platforms and cost of resolving insolvency). Social normative variables such as face-saving and collectively mentality translates to risk-averse behaviors negatively impacting the number of investment vehicles in high risk ventures. World Bank also found infrastructure such as Internet access, social medial penetration, and hiring and firing efficiency positively correlate with the number of EBCI platforms. However, remittance inflows and the amount of venture capital transactions negatively correlate, slightly, with EBCI platform count.

I reserve my hopes for China and crowdfunding at the moment. Until the culture and moral values of Chinese businesses align with a sense of social responsibility, I do not see crowdfunding successful or purposeful in China.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Broadening Perspectives - a collective work

Bringing back an old but good one written by TGE and Eric Wilson. 

Eric Wilson is a doctoral candidate in science education at the University of Colorado, Denver’s School of Education and Human Development. Eric is driven to see fundamental changes in our energy consumption patterns. He has leveraged his gift of communication and understanding of technology to teach science and sustainability for the last several years. His doctoral dissertation looks at buildings as teaching tools. Eric has a Masters degree in Teaching from New York University’s Steinhardt School with a focus in secondary science education. His received a BS in Anthropology and Human Biology, with a secondary focus in Art History from Emory University. 

2nd Green Revolution is dedicated to presenting pertinent information on sustainability and the clean energy economy. With a focus on renewable energy, clean technology, energy efficiency, and sustainable development, 2nd Green Revolution provides analysis, insight, and an informative viewpoint on how sustainability affects you. The “Green Revolution” usually refers to the agricultural transformation of the last half of the 20th century. 


Table of Content

1.      Awakening to the World of Sustainability - by Jin Kong

2.      Fear and Creativity, the Pre-Arranged Dichotomy - by Lauren Campbell Kong  

3.      Education and Fairness, Fear the Possible - by Jin Kong

4.      Education for Sustainability - "I Think therefore I am" - by Eric Wilson


Awakening to the World of Sustainability 

- by Jin Kong

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. . . . It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today [education] is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him [or her] for later professional training, and in helping him [or her] to adjust normally to his environment.[1] 

Al Gore and David Blood in 2011defined sustainable capitalism as “a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.” Gore and Blood argued that such capitalism should apply to the entire investment market scope, from small entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, across landscapes to include micro investors and institutional account holders. In fact, they are calling for a broad sweep of involvement from all market participants: “employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers,” sustainable capitalism should transcendent “borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.”

I wholeheartedly agree. But I would also add that there is no other stakeholder more vital, more decisive to the success of such a transcendent transformation, than our educational system and the generation that will follow our footsteps in burdening the responsibilities of caring for our planet in the next decades. In today’s society, we face, amongst many other uncertainties, economic[2] and ecological[3] crisis, war and hunger[4], unemployment and increasing costs of our basic necessities. In the United States, however, our education system is failing; cost of secondary education has gone up but its relative value has decreased. Today, you need a Master’s degree to even begin looking for a reasonable white-collar job. All the while, there is a sense of growing divergence between the educational system and the world outside: while employers struggle to better bridge the gap between their operational needs and pedagogical focuses, newly-grads are struggling to find their competitive edge over the more skilled and experienced displaced-workforce. Somewhere in the middle, there is an opportunity—there is synergy to be said for having willing minds and growing businesses; perhaps we’ve just been looking into the wrong places.[5]

What are the right places to look then? This precise question surfaces within the industries with the key question of why sustainability adds value. Gore and Blood suggest that we should be asking "Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?" They go on to argue that industries that would integrate sustainability into their business models are finding their profitability enhanced over the longer term and “embracing sustainable capitalism yields four [specific] kinds of important benefits for companies:

• sustainable products and services increase profits, enhance brand recognition, and improve competitive positioning;

• sustainable capitalism promotes efficiency and reduces waste, and by improving human-capital practices, costs of training new employees decreases;

• sustainable business models give companies a holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business and their sector economy thus giving them distinct advantages in market downturns; and

• sustainable businesses realize lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints. 

To being our understanding of where to look for these four specific benefits between willing minds and growing businesses, we must first change the way we approach business in our educational and institutional systems. Business is a process. It takes materials and transforms them through production and propels society. This much we already know. What we haven’t caught on, but slowly we are becoming aware of, is the fact that the process is very much a part of the overall ecology that houses the human eco-system. The balance between maintaining a human-ecology with the broader sense planetary ecology is finding a way to overlap the two; the interest of our families, of our communities, and of our businesses, is the interest of this planet as a whole—engaging in this holistic process to improve the way we engage production and society is our duty and responsibility.

But to adapt our existing anthropocentric production process to a more sustainable ecopocentric model, willing minds will have to learn how the existing system works and decide how to best adapt. They will need to engage the business aspect of their learning from an ecological whole. To do this, the student must be mindful of process improvement and engage in civic duties from a business perspective to understand how to best overcome our social, economic, and ecological challenges. Businesses will have to be willing to accept the creativities and innovative energies these willing minds bring forth to the table. Yet, despite the various school programs, civic organizations, and public campaigns, civic engagement overall is on a slow decline alongside of our economies.[6] Traditional internships, community service activities, and advocacy work also fail to inspire change. Without civic engagement, the very core of our republic may be at risk; the very foundation of our society is thus endangered.

Universities and market institutions may have an obligation to address business needs for short term growth—solving the economic and employment issue through their academic curricula; but they must also encourage civic participation mindful of the greater production process and the science[7] of sustainability. But we note in a more and more irrelevant and resource scarce economy, entrepreneurs continue their pursuit of opportunities “exploiting change” “without regard to [scarce] resources currently controlled.”[8] Because of their role as change agents, entrepreneurship is ever more recognized as one of the major players of economic development today.[9] According to economists, entrepreneurial start-ups accounted for most of the positive net job growth in the United States during 1992–2005.[10] In addition to job creation, entrepreneurs and their start-ups also promote market efficiency and serve the economy by “correcting market errors or inefficient uses of market resources.”[11] They also facilitate new knowledge in the market place by commercializing innovations otherwise unnoticed.[12]

Entrepreneurs are thus critical to our transition from a resource scarce economy to a sustainable one by exploiting our current opportunity for change without regards to the methods of our exploitations or our scarcity. They cannot achieve this without civic engagement and empathy for social improvements. Encouraging students to become social entrepreneurs, then, will likely inspire inclusive, diversified, and unique solutions to our most pressing problems.

In a vacuum of civic discontent and economic recession triggered by lack of accountability, social entrepreneurship is becoming more and more popular. Armed with a “heightened sense of accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created,” social entrepreneurs are “change agents in the social sector” and they create and sustain social values, pursuit new opportunities to service social missions, and engage in continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning.[13] Where traditional internships, community service activities, and advocacy works failed to inspire change, business school’s focus on social entrepreneurship may just provide the right amount of empowerment of innovation. With a keen focus on creating viable start-ups, a tailored business incubator for social start-ups can bring new innovations to solve real world problems while creating jobs to benefit the disadvantaged demographics.

Judge McLaughlin of the Second Circuit wrote in 1996 that there is a legitimate state interest in teaching students the values and habits of good citizenship, and introducing them to their social responsibilities as citizens.[14] In the spirit of Brown v. Board of Education[15] and under the current circumstances we face, the legitimate state interest becomes a duty of every corporate and private citizen, of the universities and market institutions, to enhance and empower social entrepreneurial and intrapreneurs, to allow them to lead our transition from an old world capitalism into a new age of sustainable and productive capitalism—one that balances people and their communities with the interest of our planet and the interest of our economic progress.


[1] Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954).

[2] See generally Yale Global Online, Global Financial Crisis (Last visited Oct 15, 2012) (“The current financial crisis is the worst the world has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s . . . . “In an Interconnected World, American Homeowner Woes Can Be Felt from Beijing to Rio de Janeiro,” observed the International Herald Tribune at the onset of the crisis. “Chinese Steelmakers Shiver, Indian Miners Catch Flu,” noted the Hindustan Times. “US and China Must Tame Imbalances Together,” suggested YaleGlobal, as the frenzied search for a solution continues around the globe.).

[3] Edmund S. Muskie, The Global Environmental Crisis, 19 B.C. Envtl. Aff. L. Rev. 731 (1992), available at

[4] Coleman-Jensen, et al., Household Food Security in the United States in 2010, ERR-125, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2011 (noting that in 2010, approximately one in seven U.S. households were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States) available at

[5] See Sir Ken Robinson, Do Schools Kill Creativity (TED Video), available at (“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth, for a particular commodity, and for the future, it won’t serve us.”).

[6] See Nathan Conroy, Applying the Entrepreneurial Model of Experiential Learning in Political Science Courses, (2009), available at

[7] R.W. Kates (Ed.), Center for International Development, Harvard University, Readings in Sustainability Science and Technology – An Introduction to the Key Literatures of Sustainability Science, CID Working Paper No. 213, 2010, available at:

[8] Gregory Dees, The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”, (1998) (funding provided by The Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership with assistance from the members of the Social Entrepreneurship Funders Working Group). 

[9] Haifeng Qian, Kingsley E. Haynesb, The Small Business Innovation Research Program as Entrepreneurship Policy, (Working Paper) (August 30, 2012) available at: 

[10] Haifeng Qian, Zoltan J. Acs, Roger R. Stough, Regional systems of entrepreneurship: the nexus of human capital, knowledge and new firm formation, Journal of Economic Geography 1-29 (2012) (referencing data from Haltiwanger, et al., Who create jobs? Small vs. large vs. young, (NBER Working Paper, w16300.) (2010).). 

[11] Qian & Kingsley, at 2. 

[12] Id. 

[13] Dees, The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”. 

[14] Immediato v. Rye Neck Sch. Dist., 73 F.3d 454, 462 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1996); see also Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68, 76-77 (U.S. 1979). 

[15] Supra n.1. 


 Fear and Creativity, the Pre-Arranged Dichotomy

- by Lauren Campbell Kong 

‘Green’ has become the buzzword of the decade. The color green is the hottest color of the year, at least in the advertising business, and the image of Earth is on more billboards and commercial property then one could ever count.

Going green is everywhere. Or is it?

Even though we are bombarded with the positive aspect of people ‘going green’ daily, actual education on environmental issues and information on how to address them is hard to find; not to mention how difficult it has been to convince the broader public that those issues are really there.

The lack of Environmental Education (EE) in our culture is alarming, especially given that EE has been going through 40 years of evolution.[1] During the Nixon administration, when EE was still in its infancy, the Tbilisi Declaration defined the objective of EE as

“to prepare the individual for life through an understanding of the major problems of the contemporary world, and the provision of skills and attributes needed to play a productive role toward improving life and protecting the environment with due regard given to ethical values.”[2] 

The Tbilisi Declaration provides important guidelines for EE: fostering a holistic approach to environmental awareness, recognizing the interdependence of our communities and the environment, and understanding the need to create new behavioral patterns among groups and individuals.[3] However, even with a strong environmental education foundation and government support for such educational programs, pro-environmental behavior has not improved enough to make the positive impact needed on our environment.[4]

Some of this lack of pro-environmental behavior can be attributed to an insufficient understanding of human motivation during the early formation of EE. Early environmental behavioral models (1970’s) were based on linear progression: environmental knowledge leads to environmental awareness and concern, which in turn leads to people behaving pro-environmentally. It wasn’t until Fishbein and Ajzen announced their theory of planned behavior in 1980 that individual attitudes toward a behavior were introduced. Fishbein and Ajzen pointed out that attitudes are influenced and shaped by social norms, thus linking attitudes and social norms to the likelihood of a behavior. This idea was picked up in the late 80’s and introduced in many pro-environmental behavioral models, yet individual action still rarely initiated. It appeared that even with knowledge, a concerned attitude for the environment, and community (social) support, pro-environmental behavior was not establishing itself in our culture.

In 1992, the EPA, recognizing the need for a connection between knowledge and action, defined EE as: “Increasing public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues and providing the skills necessary to make informed environmental decisions and to take responsible actions.”[5] In accordance with this idea, Dr. Short reminds us that any educational endeavor that endures, “must ultimately serve the social function of transmitting knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that provide long-term benefit to the individual and community.”[6] We all know that educating an entire generation of children and teaching them to be productive members of society cannot happen overnight. Environmental Education, which is to serve as creating productive environmental stewards, is no different; however, even after 40 years of development, EE has not rooted itself as an educational norm.

Dr. Short explains that “education ‘for’ the environment should, in no manner, imply coercing prescribed behaviors that are unduly influenced by individual teacher perspectives”[7] and “the pinnacle of many canned environmental programs in schools involves a cheering session to motivate students toward participation in pre-arranged sets of activities focused on consumer or ecosystem behaviors.”[8] This external push by the teachers disengages students, creating a dichotomy between ‘wanting’ to help and ‘being forced’ to help; the latter ending in an unmotivated student who has a lack of vested interest. He gives many examples of successful environmental initiatives created by students, whom given the ability to see the project through in its entirety, even as long as 18 months, would step up to the challenge. This process alone provides young adults and children with the experience to follow through and builds confidence. As this confidence grows, he states, “using a well-established curricular framework based on the Tbilisi principles would help the teacher’s influence fade as students gained more skills and confidence in their own investigations, conclusions, and actions.”[9] This process enhances student empowerment and motivation toward action, as well as builds self-confidence through critical thinking and creative application.

Young children are especially motivated to get involved when given creative freedom to address environmental issues; they are more motivated to pay attention to the topic, they delve deeper into research, and during the exercise, experience deeper cognitive processing which leads to better memory retention. In the video by the World Wildlife Fund, children are given three days to creatively research an environmental issue, present their findings, and develop how to raise awareness on the topic. Working collaboratively, children chose topics ranging from endangered animal habitats to carbon emissions. The three day creative experience ended with children retaining much of what they had learned and recognizing how animals, humans, and the environment are interconnected; a by-product of deep cognitive processing and demonstrating the importance of creativity, not only in our educational system as a whole, but to the development and implementation of Environmental Education.

Ken Robinson, a well-known author and public speaker on the topic of creativity in education, discusses creativity in children and the impact it can have on our future, emphasizing creativity as a vehicle for adapting to change; which is crucial when dealing with the environmental crisis we have today and the changes in weather, natural resources, and the impact it has on human health, that come with it. Robinson points out that creative children are not frightened of being wrong, and “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with something original.” The innovative necessities of our future depend on originality and creative design. He also points out that the lack of fear causes more children to ‘give it a go” when they do not know the answer; motivating themselves to try even when facing the possibility of being wrong.

According to Dr. Slohova and colleagues, the creative process fosters the “capability to take risks, the readiness to overcome obstacles,” in addition to enhancing intrinsic motivation.[10] Ideas that push societies forward are creative ones, and people who are creative tend to have less fear of taking risks, this combined with the collaborative, diverse atmosphere that many EE programs provide students, one would think great environmental solutions would be readily available.

Steven Johnson, author of the book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, explains how patterns of innovation occur in the most biodiverse situations. We see it in nature in the rain forest, where species are the most biologically diverse than anywhere else in the world; we see it in space, where elements form in the most molecularly diverse areas of space; and we see it in humans, where the best ideas come from learning from one another and the ‘stitching’ together of individual ideas. Historically, ideas originated from urban areas and spread via word of mouth to rural areas. Now, because of technology, those ideas are able to spread across the globe in minutes, offering us the benefit of diversity without having to actually leave and go anywhere; making diversity easily accessible and just as critical as creativity to successful EE programs.

In an experiment performed by Professor Marc Stern and colleagues, 7,000 students were serviced at NorthBay Adventure Center in Maryland over a two year period. NorthBay offers week long student camps that combine diversity, environmental issues, and character building to promote pro-environmental behavior, while simultaneously finding common ground between the diverse students hoping to accomplish environmental issue resolution.[11] This is achieved by relating outdoor environmental issues to family, school, or other in home issues; providing an understanding that everyone in the group can relate to, thus helping students have a more rounded understanding of environmental issues in a culturally diverse context. This also helps develop collaboration and critical thinking skills to address our environmental problems, while constructing an underlying understanding that we are all are responsible for our environment.[12] The understanding that we are all responsible for our environment encourages students to work collaboratively to address these issues, sparking creativity, leadership, and critical thinking.

Learning to think critically about environmental issues is vital to fixing environmental problems. However, motivating the critical thinkers to act is where EE has had problems in the past. Breiting and Morgensen[13] agree and claim that EE needs to foster the development of critical thinkers who can participate in environmental issue resolution through personal choice of action; this combined with an emphasis on creativity and diverse collaboration, environmental educational programs may finally get the results they have been striving so hard to achieve.


[1] Short, P.C. Responsible environmental action: Its role and status in environmental education and environmental quality 41 The Journal of Environmental Education 7-21, (2010).


[3] Potter, G. Environmental education for the 21st century: Where do we go now? 41 The Journal of Environmental Education, 22-23 (2010) available at

[4] Id. See also Kollmuss, A., & Agyeman, J. Mind the gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? 8 Environmental Education Research, 239-60 (2002) doi: 10.1080/1350462022014540 1.

[5] Potter, 2010.

[6] Short, 2010, at p. 8.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 12.

[9] Id. at 13.

[10] Slahova, A., Savvina, J., Cacka, M., & Volonte, I. Creative activity in conception of sustainable development education 8(2) International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 142-54, available at

[11] Stern, M. J., Powell, R. B., & Ardoin, N. M. Evaluating a constructivist and culturally responsive approach to environmental education for diverse audiences, 42 The Journal of Environmental Education 109-122 (2011) doi: 10.0180/00958961003796849.

[12] Id.

[13] Breiting, S., & Sorensen, F. Action competence and environmental education 29 Cambridge Journal of Education 349-53 (1999).


Education and Fairness, Fear the Possible

- by Jin Kong

We are living now, not in the delicious intoxication induced by the early successes of science, but in a rather grisly morning-after, when it has become apparent that what triumphant science has done hitherto is to improve the means for achieving unimproved or actually deteriorated ends.

--Aldous (Leonard) Huxley, Literature and Science (1963)

Thomas Kuhn once famously said that science is shaped by the prevailing values and norms in specific social and historical contexts.[1] We’ve experienced momentous scientific progress in the last few decades. We put men on the moon and machines on Mars; we cured incurable diseases and we catapulted ourselves into the modern age with the advent of industrial and informational revolutions. Yet our prevailing values and norms seem blind. We march forward with our air polluted, water contaminated, and land depleted. Now, we sit quietly waiting for the world to end; we sit silent waiting for our children to carry the burden.

What selfish creatures are we?

One educator and scholar noted this phenomenon in her quest for better environmental education (EE). Ms. Anna Gahl Cole in her 2007 article wrote: “environmental education is traditionally found in schools as an add-on to science curriculum . . . [and in order] for my students to understand environmental processes and systems, we had to first come to terms with the human histories that contextualize, shape, and define those systems.” To do this, and thus allowing us to define problems in our environmental educations, Ms. Cole reasoned that we must employ “alternative methodologies and ways of understanding how people experience and understand their environment.”[2]

In response to this call for alternative methodologies through multidisciplinary lenses of critical pedagogy, Ms. Cole pleas for a revisit to the environmental justice movement and place-based education. This is to put emphasis on localized and relevant educations that will make impacts in children’s lives as opposed to creating an irreconcilable difference between teaching children mere science yet giving them the prevailing norms that have done us harm in the first place.

With that in mind, we shift our focus on environmental education. We note that while traditional EE programs develop understanding of the environment through science, inspire individuals to take personal responsibility for environmental preservation and restoration, and solicit collective responses to shift policy decisions, environmental justice education (EJE) fosters a critical understanding of the environment within the context of human political and social actions thereby making science based education, and the policy decision making process based on that education, meaningful to the locality.

Under EJE initiatives, educators thus have a unique role in coaching environmental justice to students as relevant to their locality thus empowering them to act accordingly and intrinsically. Mere EE programs often create the dichotomy of us/them phenomenon, making students in poor and depleted areas feel what they have learned is irrelevant to their circumstances, thus making their pro environmental actions extrinsic to their education and motivation. This is because they have not been taught to see environmental impacts with their own conditions; they have not been taught environmental justice as relevant to them locally and how it is related globally. Yet some of the areas most impacted by environmental and social injustice are the same ones requiring the most policy shift towards sustainable goals; and by empowering students who live in these areas of both environmental and social injustice, the educators’ aim is to build strong communities of resistance and planning to change our current market models that depletes and exploits, thus avoiding problem shifting perpetuating the same knotty prevailing social and value norms to some other less privileged place.

The objective under the EJE model, therefore, is to empower students to understand and exercise their own individual rights in relation to their global community; the notion of environmental justice, then, must be incorporated into the curriculum and embedded into the wider scientific literacy programs so encapsulates the environmental studies. In essence, educators have to educate students of environmental progress and justice that it is their right to have access to open space, clean air and water, nutritious food as opposed to making them believe they’re supposed to be living with only a small park with a basketball court with no nets and fast food around the corner. Educators will have to stop convincing them that the only way to escape their condition is to accept the prevailing social and value norms so indoctrinated into their scientific programs and get ahead by any means necessary. Educators have to convince them that they have to take up ownership in their own environments and make a difference for themselves in meaningful ways in the greater context of global scarcity. More importantly, educators will have to convince their students to see the injustice done in relation to the interconnectedness of their conditions, avail themselves to the veil of ignorance and emerge with a fresh perspective of what is to be undone. Failing to do so, we would simply shift the problems around; one area’s pollution is migrated to the next poorer neighborhood and one country’s over consumption and human injustice shifted to the next country’s developing complications.

The EJE model thus requires both a scientific literacy as well as an embedded social literacy. Scientific literacy is the “knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision-making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity."[3] Social literacy involves the need to focus on the living process of a community in context of the broader global development incentives. To put it simply: “think globally and act locally”; the educators must help students investigate their social context, local issues of injustice, impacts of developments and modernization—essentially incorporating the issue of environment, human rights, and economic incentives into one fundamentally sound EJE curriculum within the global context.

Something else to consider: EJE model is not only urgently required in poorer neighborhoods, but is also immediately necessary in the apparently rich and well-to-do areas. Often times we forget that individuals, and even small communities, are not aware of their conditions and relative disadvantage at the hands of global over consumption and over development. Living in a million dollar home does not immunize one from polluted air blown from neighboring areas and having a higher standard of living does not prevent global scarcity issues from reaching into their water supplies. At the end of the day, whether rich or poor, we all seem to face the same set of global problems distributed unevenly into disparate communities. John Rawls[4] noted this in his discourse on “Justice as Fairness” that as the result of our original position, we are behind a “veil of ignorance” and are completely unaware of our relative status among peers. Thus no individual has the distinct advantage in establishing the requisite principles of “justice”; and since everyone lacks the relative advantage, the few malintended individuals are able to establish norms and prevailing values behind such veil without ever acknowledging the effect.

EJE is therefore a globally required model and ought to be introduced locally with a keen eye on the complexity of our modern societies. Everyone is obligated to undertake this task and unveil their own ignorance. To proceed, we are reminded by the Dalai Lama that

“We have to think and see how we can fundamentally change our education system so that we can train people to develop warm-heartedness early on in order to create a healthier society. I don’t mean we need to change the whole system, just improve it. We need to encourage an understanding that inner peace comes from relying on human values like, love, compassion, tolerance and honesty, and that peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace. The power of the environmental justice movement lies in grassroots neighborhood organizations that have worked for change. Therefore, a focus of this work is empowering individuals in urban environments to build communities that stand for environmental justice.”


[1] THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS, University of Chicago Press; 3rd edition (December 15, 1996).

[2] Cole, A. G., Expanding the Field: Revisiting Environmental Education Principles Through Multidisciplinary Frameworks, 38.2 The Journal of Environmental Education 35-44 (2007).

[3] National Academy of Sciences, 2007, para. 14.

[4] See COLLECTED PAPERS: JOHN RAWLS (Samuel Freeman ed., 1999).

Other resources:

The US EPA defines environmental justice as

“fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, culture, education, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

The EPA further defines “fair treatment” to mean that “no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies”; and “meaningful involvement” to mean that “people have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health; the public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision; their concerns will be considered in the decision making process; and the decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.”

The first national study on environmental racism was published by the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice in 1987 titled: “Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.” The study provided data that matched waste facility sites to demographics demonstrating a strong pattern of environmental racism. (Environmental racism “refers to any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages--whether intended or unintended--individuals, groups, or communities because of their race or color.”)

Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-income Populations" (2/94) requires certain federal agencies, including HUD, to consider how federally-assisted projects may have disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations.

The Department of Education’s draft on Environmental Justice (EJ) strategy focuses on healthy learning environments for students, energy-efficient school facilities, sustainability education and environmental literacy, and energy efficiency in the Department’s facilities. This draft EJ strategy is the Department’s plan to address environmental justice concerns and increase access to environmental benefits through the Department’s policies, programs, and activities. The Department is committed to meeting the goals of Executive Order 12898, and in August of 2011, several federal agencies signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898” (EJ MOU), which committed each agency to, among other things, finalizing an EJ strategy and releasing annual implementation reports.


Education for Sustainability - "I Think therefore I am"

- by Eric Wilson

Sustainability and Sustainable Development are amorphous concepts, with the latter having more than 80 definitions in the scholarly literature.[1] Much like Sustainability and Sustainable Development, Environmental Education (EE) is equally nebulous and has numerous definitions. However, to overcome this, Environmental Education and its embracing movements—namely Educating for Sustainability (EfS)—aim to put human-environment interactions at their core. Yet the issue remains as to how to focus these endeavors: is it inherently anthropocentric, or does it engage the biotic and abiotic components as partners?

To address that question properly, we note first that our dominion over nature has a deep and lasting influence over the way in which we interact with our environment. Positivism and its successors dictate western paradigms and pervade our relationship with the natural world. Usher points out this dissonance, the dualistic, fractured relationship between western man and nature; that positivist, and empirical “epistemology projects a picture of the natural sciences and generally of any research carried out in the ‘scientific’ way, as essentially an individualistic enterprise, as something carried out by individuals who can detach themselves from the world they are researching.”[2]

This predates, but is aptly captured by Descartes and the syllogism “Cogito ergo sum,” which famously, or in this case infamously, distinguished man from nature. It effectively qualifies the relationship of man to his domains as outside his realm, as being a separate entity and implicitly one that is not integrated into humankind and our experiences. This dualism has created a fissure in western paradigms that does not exist by in large in nonwestern populations. As Suzuki recounts from his travels, there is a connection between the indigenous people and their place, not a disconnect.[3]

If western societies are to overcome this split, seemingly isolated to the western Cartesian deconstructive paradigm, a shift must occur within the positivism driven EE, which in and of itself treats the environment like an “other”; the shift must occur to bring us closer towards EfS—which represents a more holistic and integrated approach and does not treat the environment as “other,”[4] but as the self from within.

This is not to say that EE remains culpable for the dualism. Environmental education itself is a step in the right direction no matter the ontological presumption. However, a leap is needed in these fractious times. While all education is environmental education, until we actually place the environment at the center of our curricular designs, EE will be seen as a liberty and not a necessity.[5] A holistic approach that integrates the environment, economic sustainability, and social equity, will provide a cohesive – and more importantly – coherent model, for students.

There is another issue to explore: learning is inherently a social activity; creating jarring divisions among the sciences, humanities, and arts, and failing to integrate them ultimately harms the learner—the supposed centerpiece of education. Current models of EE, like outdoor science schools, expose students to the natural world, but fail in large part to solidify this connection due to their intermittent nature. EE in this instance becomes an example of “other” and not an integral, acknowledged partner in the educational process.

Place-based education can thus help fill the void by connecting students to their surroundings on a daily basis.[6] Until EE and EfS acknowledge this, attempting to educate students to care for the earth may well be a nonstarter. The vision of the natural world as "other," much like science and western man treated people of color as “other” in our recent history [7], has undoubtedly led us to the perilous crossroads we now face vis-à-vis environmental degradation. A strictly science based view, and isolation of sustainability in the sciences, creates this false dualism from the start. Sustainability is, and has to be, much greater than a scientific enterprise, for it encompasses the humanities, arts, and mathematics, as well as physical education.

Environment as an Integrating Context (EIC) serves as a wonderful model of what EE looks like and how, in this era of high-stakes assessments, it can improve student performance, even close the dreaded achievement gap.[8] Whether one likes it or not, accountability driven by standardized tests exists as the dominant milieu in which children grow up. Demonstrating proficiency and improving test scores is part and parcel of the current trend and often serves as the defining feature of programmatic changes. If a curricular intervention does not support improved student learning,[9] then it will ultimately fail to gain traction and be relegated to the proverbial sidelines. Fortunately, as in the case of EIC, and effective daylighting in classrooms, data supports these ecological and environmental supports to learning and student achievement.[10]

Economic and social issues comprise the other two legs of the sustainability triumvirate. In economically stringent times such as these, reducing energy expenditures plays a large role in making schools financially solvent. With utility bills at $8 billion annually for schools, "green schools" can save 20-30% on utility costs ($1.6-2.4 billion) per year.[11] Most schools can't afford new facilities though, so getting students to do the work of retrofitting, thereby learning a trade that can improve their employability and their own community, may perhaps encapsulate the holy grail of sustainability—economic, environmental, and social equity.

Environmental justice can then arise from the work of students naturally; learning substantive content and gaining employable skills will students break the cycle of their environmental, economic, and social poverties.


[1] C. C., Williams & A. C., Millington, The Diverse and Contested Meanings of Sustainable Development, THE GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL, 170, 2, 99-104 (2004).

[2] R. USHER, (1996). A Critique of the Neglected Epistemological Assumptions of Educational Research, UNDERSTANDING EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, 9-32, 15 (Scott & Usher eds. 1996).


[4] E. Wilson, Environmental vs. sustainability education: Shifting the focus (2010), available at


[6] A. G. Cole, Expanding the Field: Revisiting Environmental Education Principles through Multidisciplinary Frameworks, 38.2 THE JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION 35-44 (2007).

[7] S. J. Gould, The Mismeasure of Man. (W.W. Norton & Company, 1981).

[8] G. A. Lieberman, & L. L. Hoody, Closing the achievement gap: Using the environment as an integrating context for learning, San Diego, California: State Education and Environment Roundtable (1998).

[9] The merits - or inability - of a single standardized test to assess this are really beyond the scope of this short article.

[10] Heschong Mahone Group, Daylighting in schools: An Investigation Into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance, Fair Oaks, CA: Pacific Gas and Electric Company (1999).

[11] C. Westcott & B. Egan, [Re]-Build It and They Will Come, Presentation at the National Association of Independent Schools Institute for Leadership in Sustainability, Woodward Academy, Atlanta, GA (Jun. 2009).