Happiness versus Meaningfulness?

SEF News-Views Digest No. 87 (4-8-15)

Although words are leaky vessels for thoughts, they remain our most viable way of communicating with each other. Effective communication requires a shared understanding of words’ meanings. True, interpretations typically vary, sometimes considerably. In fact, most human conflicts occur due to misunderstandings over meanings of words, whether they are used singly or strung together in sentences and paragraphs.

So it comes as no surprise that when the words “happiness” and “meaningfulness” are used in conversations and writings, hearers or readers may not clearly grasp their intended possible meanings. And then there’s always the critical consideration of the context in which words are used, in addition to how they are expressed, which may convey hidden meanings or intentions.

An article I read this week online in YES! Magazine addresses the uses of happiness and meaningfulness in the context of daily life. The article, A Happy Life Or A Meaningful One—Do We Really Need To Choose?”, by Jill Suttie & Jason Marsh, summarizes some recent research findings. The authors propose five significant differences between happiness and meaningfulness that help clarify these meanings, at least for me, as I have often wondered about how best to reconcile these two psycho-emotional states in my life. In other words, do I want to experience happiness or meaningfulness? Or can I experience both—simultaneously? Finding a balance between the two, or integrating them into a single, holistic state of mind seems like a worthy goal, especially as we engage sustainability challenges in an increasingly complex and crises-conflicted world.

So with this introductory lead-in, I urge you to read this article, which is also listed in the Equity Section, where topics related to socio-political equality and mind-body health are contained. I imagine that, like me, you’re yearning for a life that’s both happy and meaningful.

ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)

> BoingboingThe 5 Psychological Barriers To Climate Action (Per Espen Stoknes). There are 5 psychological barriers to climate action that determine what we think about when we try not to think about global warming—and what we should do about it.

> Resilience: The Growth Delusion (Dirk Philipsen). GDP is a measure of quantity, not quality; of output, not development. It counts weapons as much as new toys, pornography as much as education, the crippling accident as much as the healing surgery. It never asks after the purpose of economic activity, much less measures its effectiveness: cars, not destinations; computers, not quality of education.

> Leaving Babylon: Ready For The Revolution? (Vera Bradova). The Earth is running out — out of minerals, out of peoples and places to exploit, out of space for waste, out of patience. And the teetering tower of complexity, having reached the point of diminishing returns, stirs deep memories of quite another lifeway. Our species knows how to handle hardship and austerity — this knowledge is part of our genetic endowment.

> Archdruid Report: Atlantis Won’t Sink, Experts Agree (John Michael Greer).  This intriguing and entertaining parable-like story of a journalist in legendary Atlantis prior to its sinking into the sea provides insightful parallel comparisons with our contemporary world situation.

> The Guardian: What The Climate Movement Must Learn From Religion (George Marshall). Our understanding of climate change is built on scientific evidence, not faith. The faith displayed in churches, mosques, and temples is built on a deep understanding of human drives and emotions. Only when we put these different parts of our psyche together can we achieve change; to say to anyone who will listen: “I’ve heard the science, I’ve weighed up the evidence. Now I’m convinced. Join me.”

ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)

> ENSIA: The Biggest Source Of Plastic Trash You’ve Never Heard Of (Elizabeth Grossman).  From acres of sheeting to miles of twine, farms use billions of pounds of plastic each year. What can we do to reduce the impact?

> Our World: Earth’s Second Lung Has Emphysema (Corey J. Bradshaw). If the world’s first lung is represented by all of the tropical forests combined, the second (and perhaps larger) lung is definitely the boreal forest. Since tropical forests are being destroyed, the boreal takes on an even more important carbon-storage role. But the boreal forest is no longer immune to human destruction —with increasing logging, fragmentation, road building, fires and insect outbreaks.

> The Guardian: California Governor Orders Water Restrictions (Lauren Gambino). For the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements of mountain snowpack, there is none this year (typically 5-ft. depth). Readings put the state’s level of water content at just 5% of the historical average for the date. Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to reduce statewide water use by 25%, a drastic but historic necessary response to a four-years of drought conditions.

> Washington Times-AP: Minnesota Bills Would Weaken Environment Laws On Agriculture. Legislative bills include ones that would exempt farmland from some school levies and others that would alter existing state regulation on pesticides. Certain members of both parties support rolling back environmental laws for the agriculture industry. A proposal from Gov. Mark Dayton for farmers to create a 50-foot buffer zone of unplanted land around rivers has had difficulty gaining traction.

> Yale Environment 360: How Long Can Oceans Continue To Absorb Earth’s Excess Heat (Cheryl Katz). The main reason soaring greenhouse gas emissions have not caused air temperatures to rise more rapidly is that oceans have soaked up nine-tenths of the atmosphere’s excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. New signs indicate that the oceans might be starting to release some of that pent-up thermal energy, which could contribute to future significant global temperature increases.

ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)

> Resource Insights: The Hidden Reasons Behind Slow Economic Growth: Declining EROI, Constrained Net Energy (Kurt Cobb). It takes energy to get energy, and when it takes more to get the energy we want, this usually spells higher prices, since the energy inputs used cost more. Under such circumstances there is less energy left over for the rest of society to use, i.e. for the non-energy gathering parts–the industrial, commercial and residential consumers of energy.

> Post Carbon Institute: Revisiting The Shale Oil Hype: Technology Versus Geology (David Hughes). Irrespective of price, geology is trumping technology in the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays. Well productivity in the top-producing counties of both the Bakken and Eagle Ford is declining, despite the application of the best technology.

> USA Today: Cheap Oil Prices Chop Jobs By Thousands (Paul Davidson). Oil-producing states such as North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana are catching the brunt of the cutbacks just as consumers are enjoying cheaper gasoline prices brought on by the 55% drop in crude oil prices since last June.

> Reuters: Million Barrels Of Oil Per Day Riding U.S. Rails (John Kemp). The volume of crude shipped by rail has increased more than 50-fold in five years, from just 630,000 barrels in January 2010 to 33.7 million barrels in January 2015, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed in its first monthly report on movements of oil by rail. The risk of derailments and train fires was always present but hidden and not appreciated because there were so few crude carrying trains.

ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)

> The New York Times: U.S. Economy Gained 126,000 Jobs In March, An Abrupt Slowdown In Hiring (Patricia Cohen). The yearlong streak of robust monthly job creation was broken on Friday with the Labor Department’s report that employers added just 126,000 workers in March, a marked slowdown in hiring that echoed earlier signs that sluggish business investment and punishing weather were exacting a toll on the economy.

> Peak Prosperity: If We’re Going To Borrow Against The Future, Let’s Borrow To Invest (Chris Martenson). We are at an important juncture as a global society: either we immediately prioritize a new trajectory focused on creating a positive, functional future or — by continuing the consumptive, extractive, exploitative status quo — we will default into a nasty nightmare. Our collective narrative will determine which future path we take, the story we tell ourselves about who we are, what we value.

> CASSE-The Daly News: Review Of Collision Course: Endless Growth On A Finite Planet (Herman Daly). Higgs’ book itself is a reasoned argument. She has clearly not given up on persuasion. But she reminds those of us who have a tendency to forget, that reason and honesty must confront power and corruption, not just honest error.

> Feasta: The Bank-State Bargain (Graham Barnes). Banks create money out of nothing when they extend loans and then charge borrowers interest on this newly created capital. The result is an ongoing multi-billion pound/ dollar subsidy breaking the basic rules of capitalism. What is perhaps even more surprising is that there appears to be no explicit description of the ‘bargain’ underlying this important arrangement.

> Peak Prosperity: Steve Keen: The Deliberate Blindness Of Our Central Planners (Chris Martenson, podcast interview). Professor, author and deflationist Steve Keen discusses the broken models our central planners are using to chart the future of the world economy. So broken that the models major central banks like the Federal Reserve use don’t take into account outstanding debt, or absolute levels of money supply. It’s why they were completely blindsided by the 2008 crash.

EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Political Power)

> Yes! Magazine: A Happy Life Or A Meaningful One—Do We Really Need To Choose? (Jill Suttie & Jason Marsh).  Recent research findings suggest that meaning (separate from happiness) is not connected with whether one is healthy, has enough money, or feels comfortable in life, while happiness (separate from meaning) is. More specifically, the researchers identified five major differences between a happy life and a meaningful one.

> Common Dreams: Forces Of Equality Intensify Fight Against ‘Persecution In Name of Religion’ (Deirdre Fulton).  The fallout over various state-level ‘religious freedom’ laws, which critics say authorize discrimination against LGBTQ people, continued into Friday, with civil rights advocates calling on politicians to reject similar measures around the country.

> Resilience: It’s Time To Get Serious About Systemic Solutions To Systemic Problem (Gar Alperovitz). It is time to begin a real conversation — locally, nationally and at all levels — about what a genuine alternative beyond corporate capitalism and state socialism would look like, and how we would build it. Increasing numbers of people understand that this task has become absolutely necessary. [See 5-minute video, The Next System Project at: http://thenextsystem.org/]

> Institute for Policy Studies: Our ‘Stealth Politics’ Of Inequality (Sam Pizzigati, with Ben Page). Average Americans today have essentially zilch influence on public policy. You don’t need to trust your gut on that. Political scientist Benjamin Page has the data.

ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)

> Yes! Magazine:  What Your Town Can Learn From America’s Most Walkable Suburb (Jay Walljasper). As shown in Arlington, VA, suburban leaders see their communities’ continuing prosperity and quality of life dependent on creating lively, walkable places that attract young people, families, and businesses wanting to get close to the action. Walking is gaining popularity across the United States for both transportation and recreation because it improves health, fosters community, and saves money.

> Sustainable Food Trust: ‘ Antibiotic-Free’: Is It Worth The Label?  (Peter Mundy). U.S. intensive farms use more antibiotics per pound of meat than any other nation (nearly 80% of antibiotics produced in the United States are used in food animal production – 29.9 million pounds in 2011 alone). However, unlike Britain and the rest of Europe, there are still no enforceable, verifiable standards for the use of antibiotics in food animal production in the U.S. Large food servers, like McDonalds, are responding.

> Resilience: The Rise Of The Insurrectionary Imagination (Rob Hopkins). Isabelle Frémeaux and John Jordan are the co-founders of the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination.  It’s a collective which, according to Isabelle, “aims at opening spaces, real or virtual, and bringing artists and activists together to work on and co-create more creative forms of resistance and civil disobedience”.

> On Earth: Let’s Get Wasted! (Clara Chaisson). Dan Barber, named one of Time’s most influential people in the world in 2009, is on the cutting edge when it comes to “conscious eating” food served at his NYC restaurant. As the farm-to-table movement matures and the challenges of feeding the world in a warming climate build, learning to use every scrap is the next logical step.

> New Economics (NEF): Energy Roundup: Changing The Business Model (Stephen Devlin). Reports this past week provided yet more evidence of vitality in green energy. Investment in renewables surged 17% last year to $270 billion, according to a new publication for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). China spent the most, up almost 40% to a record $83 billion, more than twice the amount invested by the US and Japan combined.

EVENTS AND INFORMATION

> An Edina Dialogue: “Here Comes the Sun: Clean, Carbon-Free Energy Independence”, Wed., April 8, 6-9pm (6pm-Action Resource Fair; 7pm Program – Paul Douglas: Meteorologist and Entrepreneur & Erica Zweifel: Northfield Area Community Solar Co-Chair; 8:30pm Resource Fair and Networking, Edina High School (6754 Valley View Rd, Edina, MN 55439), Fick Auditorium (Enter Door No. 3). Info: http://edinamn.gov

> MN Renewable Energy Society (MRES): Monthly Speaker Meeting—“E21 Initiative—Toward A 21st Century Energy System” (Rolf Nordstrom, Pres. & CEO Great Plains Inst.), Thurs., April 95:30-7:00 p.m., Mayflower Church, 106 E. Diamond Lake Rd., Mpls.

> Eastside Food Coop: Movie Night-Fed Up (new info about food & exercise), Wed., April 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Granite Room, Central Ave., Mpls. Free – RSVP required (luna@eastsidefood.coop or 612-843-5409).

> MoveMN: Rally at the Capitol for Mass Transit, Bike, and Pedestrian Paths, Thurs., April 16, noon- 1 p.m., State Capitol, front lawn, 75 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, St. Paul. Map here

Contact: Adam Yust, Senior Campaign Organizer – Move MN, adamy@tlcminnesota.org,(o) 651.789.1404 or (c) 651.470.3231

> MN350: Earth Day Climate Rally at the Capitol, Wed., April 22, 1-3 p.m., MN State Capitol building, 75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard., St Paul (Speakers– Ellen Anderson, Mark Seely, Julia Nerbonne, Kate Jacobson, Representative Melissa Hortman, House Minority Leader Erin Murphy, Will Steger’s Jothsna Harris, and more!) Facebook page: Click here

> Dakota County Electric and Lakeville Friends of the Environment: Solar Vendor FairWed., April 22, 6-9 p.m., Heritage Center, 20110 Holyoke Ave. Lakeville, MN.

> Sierra Club: An Evening with the Cousteau Family (Topics: sustainability, conservation, stewardship & innovation), Thurs., May 7, 7:00 p.m.Beth El Synagogue, 5225 Barry Street West, Saint Louis Park, MN. Info: 952.873.7300.

> Midwest Solar: Midwest Solar Expo 2015, May 13-14, Hilton, Minneapolis. Info: Midwest Solar Expo 2015

About Clifton Ware

Sustainability Education Forum Editor-Publisher Dr. Clifton Ware is an international figure in the world of voice pedagogy. During the the past fifty years of teaching students how to sing -- both nationally and internationally -- Clif developed his signature "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique". What distinguishes his method is its holistic approach, simplicity, and effectiveness. Siingers find that they are able to ensure their vocal health while cultivating their own unique, expressive sound. This approach stands in sharp contrast to faddish techniques that encourage mimicking the vocalism, style, and qualities of other singers, possibly limiting their own vocal imprint and even harming their vocal instrument. The "Efficient and Authentic Voice Technique" produces singers that enjoy vocal power, range, ease, individuality, and a liberating learning process.

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