In episode 158 of the Futurized podcast, the topic is: The Real World Beyond Sustainability. Our guest is Dr. John R. Ehrenfeld, industrial ecology pioneer, ex-MIT researcher, and author. Futurized is a bi-weekly show, preparing YOU to think about how to...
In episode 158 of the Futurized podcast, the topic is: The Real World Beyond Sustainability. Our guest is Dr. John R. Ehrenfeld, industrial ecology pioneer, ex-MIT researcher, and author. Futurized is a bi-weekly show, preparing YOU to think about how to deal with the next decade's disruption, so you can succeed and thrive no matter what happens. Make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter on Futurized.org, where you can find hundreds of episodes of conversations that matter to the future. Futurized—conversations that matter.
In this conversation, we talk about how reducing unsustainability still does not create whatever it is we agree should be sustained and how the significant problems must be attacked at the roots, not merely at the level of symptom, by taking up a normative worldview he calls flourishing. We discuss his recent book, The Right Way to Flourish: Reconnecting with the Real World, Routledge, 2019, which deserves a wide audience for its deeply considered vision of a new paradigm beyond the eco-efficiency implicit in how most of us currently understand sustainability. We discuss a number of thought leaders, including philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, and neuroscientist and psychiatrist Ian McGilchrist.
After it gained prominence with the Brundtland report in the late 1980s, Sustainability quickly became defined and operationalized as eco-efficiency without considering the important question of what it is that we want to sustain in the first place. That was convenient both for policy makers and for corporations, and was alluring to consumers, too, but it is ultimately misguided. Instead, we need to embrace a different, more ambitious paradigm which contains within it a normative vision for a better future, not just a form of managed ecological decline.
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Dr. John R. Ehrenfeld returned to his alma mater, MIT, in 1985 after a long career in the environmental field, and retired in 2000 as the Director of the MIT Program on Technology, Business, and Environment. Following that, he served until 2009 as Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology, guiding its development from its founding in 2000. His latest book is The Right Way to Flourish: Reconnecting with the Real World, published by Routledge in 2019. He is also the author of Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming our Consumer Culture, and Flourish: A Frank Conversion about Sustainability (with Andrew Hoffman). He served from 2008 to 2012 on the adjunct faculty at the Marlboro College Graduate Center where he taught “Exploring Sustainability” in the MBA for Managing Sustainability program. He is currently a trustee of the Viridis Graduate Institute and also an adjunct faculty. He has taken up writing poetry in his 80’s and had several poems published.