More Art than Science?

by Nelson Harvey

These days, when we wonder whether something is true or not, our first instinct is usually to ask the scientists. But according to a new book by Jonah Lehrer, artists and literary figures often arrive at important truths about human nature long before the science is there to back them up. I saw Lehrer speak tonight on the Upper West Side, and it struck me that a version of his thesis is often true in the environmental realm as well.

The book, titled Proust was a Neuroscientist, contains case studies of 10 famous artists (including writers, chefs, and others) who made discoveries about the human mind through their art that science would come to confirm only years later. So, for example, when Proust famously described eating the madeline cookie in Remembrance of Things Passed, he revealed much about the connection between smell and long term memory that has since been corroborated through modern neuroscience. He was able to do this not because he had scientific training, but because he was intensely focused on the nature of his own experience.

The pattern can be extended to environmental issues by looking through the prism of climate change. Initial public concern about the issue did not build from scientific reports, but from anecdotal evidence. Inuits in the artic or fisherman on the great lakes knew the climate was changing long before the IPCC released its latest report. Observing the land was part of their way of life, even if they lacked the training to quantify the changes they observed. Numbers aren’t always necessary to know that something is wrong.

To further illustrate this, I imagine a case where the science showed that climate change would be benign enough for humans to adapt without major systemic shifts, but it would still practically eliminate Fall as a season by mid-century. There may be few practical reasons why Fall is important to the survival of the human species, and yet, a world without it is not one in which I’d like to live. Crisp autumn air has far too many associations for me to do without it.

Lehrer’s central point was that truth is larger than science; it can be arrived at through myriad other avenues. Science (including the social science of economics) should be a tool in decisionmaking, not the sole basis for our decisions. Particularly where complex environmental decisions are concerned, there is a place for philosophy, ethics, and even art. For us to address global warming, it doens’t necessarily have to be cheap or unambiguously dangerous. If global warming offends our (non-market) values, then we ought to do something about it.


Three Shades of Green

By Adam Brock

Soon after starting WGY, I developed the “Three Shades of Green” to describe what I saw as the main approaches to sustainability. The framework has been useful shorthand for identifying different sets of verdy values, and it’s become an integral part of my thinking about the regeneration.

But, like any metaphor, the original Three Shades didn’t quite capture the way things really work: by positing them as a hierarchy, I’d fallen into that perilous and outdated trap of linear thinking. What follows is an update of the Lime, Grass and Forest spiel with a slightly more integrative perspective.

Sustainability is shaping up to be the buzzword of the decade. Global warming is now an acknowledged crisis – one that seems to be happening more swiftly than any scientist could have anticipated – and we’ve finally begun a public discussion about how (and how much) to cut our greenhouse gas emissions throughout the economy.

Still, a fundamental question remains unanswered: what, exactly, are we trying to sustain? A growing economy? General human happiness? Biodiversity? Ask ten different environmentalists and you’ll get ten different answers. But while there’s hardly a consensus on the kind of sustainable society we’re trying to build, there do exist certain patterns in the way environmental thinkers tend to group themselves. I’ve identified three such patterns, given them cute names, and called them the Three Shades of Green. Here goes:

First up is Lime Green – or, if you prefer, “sustainability lite.” The Lime Greens, whatever their conventional political affiliation, can be considered the conservatives of the regeneration: they’re trying to sustain as much as possible of the world we currently live in. You can count most corporations and national governments in the Lime camp, as well as everyday citizens just becoming exposed to environmentalism. Lime is the color of institutions going green for the brownie points, as in this recent ad touting Chevrolet’s green cred: “The environment and your commute. Can’t we all just get along? It’s as simple as driving a more fuel-efficient car.”

Ahh… if only it were that simple. But while Lime-colored solutions like hybrids and carbon offsets can provide crucial gateways into greener ways of living, most sustainability thinkers contend that these solutions simply won’t be enough to avert the planetary devastation we’re currently experiencing. Instead, creating an ecologically integrated society will demand much more fundamental shifts: in our politics, in our systems of production and consumption, and in our attitudes towards nature.

Enter Grass Green, the middle shade. Grassies are trying to sustain the best parts of our current way of life – material prosperity, personal freedom – while reinventing the institutions that have led to our current social and environmental devastation. They embrace zero-waste production systems, open-source technologies, innovative new materials and progressive government initiatives: think Cradle to Cradle, nanotubes, and carbon taxes. Compared to the Lime mantra of “more of the same, only greener,” the Grass approach offers something truly substantive: a marriage of industry and ecology, one that promises to provide us with ever-rising standards of living while simultaneously healing the planet.

Yet there are many environmentalists who would call even this vision nothing more than a deranged fairytale. Our pursuit of technology and economic growth, these folks claim, are themselves a product of our dominating attitude towards nature, and we can’t achieve sustainability until we leave them in the dust. These are the Forest Greens – the revolutionaries. Instead of dealing with climate change, social inequality, and peak energy one by one, say the Foresters, we need to cut to the root of our problems and “solve for pattern.” This means leaving behind our current mechanistic, rational way of thinking, and beginning to see ourselves as part of an infinitely complex, ever-changing system. Oh, and we’ll also need to localize our economies and drastically reduce our levels of consumption in the process. In short, the Forest Greens want to sustain the web of life – and they’re willing to rethink some of the basic assumptions of human civilization in order to do so.

As the most radical shade, Forest Green isn’t without some serious limitations of its own. For one thing, its purism often renders it utopian and unrealistic: whatever you happen to think of Forest Green theory, at the moment it’s pretty hard to put into practice outside of ecovillages and backyard gardens. Also, it’s traditionally been a rural movement, and therefore not very applicable to the cities in which most of us live.

It’s tempting to see these three shades as a competition, with each one vying for their place in the sustainable future. But thinking about which shade is “better” is like asking which species of frog is “supposed” to be in the rainforest. The truth is, the Three Shades of Green are as interdependent as anything else in nature, and we’ll need all of them to get us through the next few decades.

Sure, green consumerism might ultimately be a dead end – but right now, it’s the only force that can start shifting attitudes on a society-wide scale. Sure, the Grassies might have a misplaced faith in technological progress – but they’re bound to come up with some truly worldchanging stuff in the process. And sure, the ecocentric outlook of Forest Green might not work for most of us as a way of life. But it can provide valuable guidance as we move away from our 20th-century consumerist habits, and towards something better for ourselves and the planet.

So don’t fret too much if you think you’re not “green enough” – the fact that you’re even wondering if you’re green enough means you’re on the right track. Instead, pick a shade, any shade, and get to work. We’ve got a lot to accomplish together.

Photo credit: flickr/shakkai

The Psychological Pain of Global Warming

This week’s guest post comes from La Marguerite, a fellow green blogger who writes sincerely (and frequently) about the psychological dimensions of the regeneration. The article below probes deep, highlighting the all-too-common tendency among environmentalists to commit to one act of resistance and think that it’s enough – when in fact, each one of us needs to begin reorienting our entire lives towards a new paradigm of healthful sufficiency. 

About resistance

Jim stopped me right in the middle of our supervision. ‘Do you really think I have the time to read all your notes?’ I was shocked. I had been so proud of myself, taking meticulous notes on all the sessions with my patients, complete with thoughts, feelings, transcripts, interpretations, and many questions for Jim. That was years ago, I was a social work trainee at Loyola University of Chicago Doyle Center, and I still remember Jim jolting me with his comment. Jim went on to interpret my behavior as a form of resistance. According to him, I had unconsciously inundated him with material, to avoid doing some of the harder work that would inevitably take place, if we focused on only one issue.

Resistance: ‘The discovery of the unconscious and the introduction of it into consciousness is performed in the face of a continuous resistance (Widerstände) on the part of the patient. The process of bringing this unconscious material to light is associated with pain (Unlust), and because of this pain the patient again and again rejects it. It is for you then to interpose in this conflict in the patient’s mental life. If you succeed in persuading him to accept, by virtue of a better understanding, something that up to now, in consequence of this automatic regulation by pain, he has rejected (repressed), you will then have accomplished something towards his education. For it is an education even to induce a person who dislikes leaving his bed early in the morning to do so all the same.” (Sigmund Freud, 1959/1904, pp. 261-262, parentheses in original)

Blogging as a form of resistance

This is not unlike my circling process of these last few months, looking at every angle of my life as a Green Girl Wannabe, of which this article is yet another manifestation. Blogging away to avoid making any behavioral changes. While I write about the details of my hours, I do not have to act. And I can stay in the illusion of thinking that I am doing some good, discussing the details of my green soul searching. I am rationalizing by saying that I want to spend time understanding the psychological underpinnings of my resistance to change, with a twist of grandiosity, consisting in wanting to extrapolate my findings to the general population. One person who is not fooled, is Green Guru.

The power of interpreting

There is a paradox to this. I do believe there is some value to my work of self-exploration, and I do think it can be used as a source of greater insights into the why and hows of human behavior relative to the climate change problem. It is also important to not kid myself, and to call attention to the reality of my non actions. The reality is that it is much easier for me to come up with great insights, than to, let say, go out and buy a $2 clothes line, and stop using the dryer. Blogging has become my primary form of resistance. From that interpretation, may come the possibility of real change.

The pain underneath

The intensity with which I have been blogging, is also symptomatic of the level of resistance, and the pain involved. What is being asked of me – and others as well – , is a profound alteration of my lifestyle, not just in one area, but in all aspects of my waking life. This cannot be underestimated. For every green hero, there are thousands for whom the perspective of such a change is simply daunting. I have used blogging as my ploy. For others, it could be denial that there is any problem to begin with, or bargaining and rationalizing certain behaviors in the face of ‘all the good work I am already doing for the environment’, or subscribing to a catastrophic scenario and following a ‘why bother, we are all doomed anyway’ logic.

Broken Robots: Technology Reconsidered

By Adam Brock

Broken Robots

I might as well be honest – my iPod Mini is falling apart. The aluminum case has been banged up for a while now, and the battery life has been steadily declining. Recently the plastic panel on top came off, and I figured it might be time for an upgrade. But then I had second thoughts: if I shell out 200 bucks for a shiny black Nano, I won’t just be buying an mp3 player. I’ll also be buying the toxic chemicals used to make it, the cardboard used to package it, the oil used to ship it from China. Suddenly, keeping the old Mini around didn’t seem so bad, after all.

My predicament is, of course, hardly unique. In an age when it’s shameful to own a cell phone that’s more than two years old, we find ourselves under constant pressure to keep up with the latest technowizardry, while the consequences of it all remain hidden to the consumer – and, all too often, the producer as well. Technological progress has given us unprecedented opportunities, many of them unquestionably good for our wellbeing. But is this progress permanent? Can we maintain the current dizzying pace of technological change while making the transition to a zero-waste society?

Ask Bruce Sterling, Alex Steffen, or Bill McDonough, and you’ll get a resounding yes. With dematerialization, cradle-to-cradle manufacturing, nanotechnology, ubiquitous computing and a gazillion other technologies in the pipeline, we’re supposedly due for a second industrial revolution that will make us even more prosperous and halt environmental destruction at the same time. Sounds great, right? Increasingly, though, verdy folks are coming to the conclusion that this cybernetic daydreaming is a little unrealistic, if not downright scary.

Here’s the thing: with bigger tools come less precision. As our technologies become more and more intricate, implicating more and more of the globe in the process, the less we’re able to completely understand them – and the more potential there is for unintended, and potentially disastrous, repercussions. Just look at fossil fuels: It’s obvious from today’s vantage point that structuring our society around ever-increasing consumption of a finite, polluting energy source wasn’t the best idea. But nobody had the mental framework to understand that back in 1850. In the same vein, today’s technofixes might easily turn out to be tomorrow’s technodisasters. Colony Collapse Disorder, the adverse health effects of electromagnetic radiation, and the disruption of global climate patterns by large-scale windfarms are just a few examples of how “good” technologies might be doing us harm in ways we don’t realize.

This isn’t to say that technological innovation is a bad thing; we’re going to have to be damn innovative, after all, to reorganize the fundamental structures of our society in a matter of decades. Technology will be a critical component of the sustainable future – but only if we can learn to control it more effectively than we do now. Last week, Karl Schroeder declared on Worldchanging that “technology is legislation”: for better or worse, it has the potential to change our lives much faster than either political action or shifts in values. If that’s the case, then our challenge is to draft that legislation much more carefully, in a way that enriches communities and biomes as well as quarterly earnings.

That means devising regulated, corruption-proof methods of quantifying ecological footprints. It means harnessing the power of peer-generated media to wrest ourselves from corporate brainwashing, and cultivate instead a culture of involvement. It means partnering with the “technologies” of biological systems to provide for our human needs with a fraction of the energy input. And it means developing efficient methods for turning wastes into resources.

But it’s not just new technologies that need to be examined critically. From internal combustion engines to YouTube, we’ve got to take a long hard look at the consequences of our current technologies, not only on the health of the planet but on our communities and psyches, as well. We seem to take it as a given that once a technology is here, it’s here to stay – but the truth is, it’s in our hands to accept or reject innovation. Technology needs us a lot more than we need it.

As we each begin to reorient our lifestyles away from mindless growth and towards mindful sufficiency, it’s time to ask if the technologies we take for granted are doing more harm than good, and to start figuring out how to unplug from those things that we can’t in good conscience justify. The answers will be different for each of us, depending on our lifestyles, values, and finances – but the important thing is that we start asking.

For my part, I’ve decided to let go of flying, television, imported produce, riding in cars, and buying things that plug in – while at the same time hanging on to my cell phone, refrigerator and laptop (which I seem to be tethered to these days). Is my response extreme? Sure, when you compare it to the current lifestyles of most of the overdeveloped world. But as I’ve pointed out before, consumerism is really what’s extreme; my techno-diet brings me a lot more in line with the way humans have lived for most of our existence.

While I feel morally obligated to reduce my personal footprint, it’s not just about abstract principles of energy and waste. The choices I’m making have very real, and very positive, effects on my daily life: the more I let go of junk technology, the more alive I’m starting to feel. Unplugging allows me to stop worrying about trivial stuff like lost luggage or being able to afford a new gadget, and pay attention to what really matters. Like eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. Or keeping in touch with my friends and family… or designing a protective case so that my trusty iPod can last a little bit longer.

Has Sustainability Sold Out?

By Adam Brock

On the airplane flight back from India, I happened to catch an episode of Get Fresh With Sara Snow, the Discovery Health channel’s foray into the hot new category of green living shows. The episode I saw had the somewhat perplexing theme of living a “decadent green” life in the city; in it, Ms. Snow ran around New York interviewing eco-conscious gourmet chefs, retailers and fashionistas about guilt-free ways to live it up.

Staring groggily at the 7-inch screen on the back of 32B, I was a little unsure what to make of Sara Snow and her lime green escapades. On one hand, I was elated – if this is what they’re showing on airplanes, the purgatory of mainstream entertainment, ethical and sustainable living must really be hitting the big time. Millions of travelers will henceforth leave their cramped, stale flights with the invaluable knowledge that local food tastes delicious and that bamboo is a rapidly renewable and infinitely useful material.

But still. Fig truffles dipped in organic dark chocolate? Thousand-dollar recycled paper dresses? Sara certainly got one thing right: this stuff is decadent, in the original sense of the word. Get Fresh, my first exposure to American media in two months, confirmed what my friends and family had been telling me for months – green is everywhere. Not only that, it’s cool. As ecofuturist Bruce Sterling put it in one of his more exuberant viridian notes, “You’re going to get Corporate Green whether you like it or not. Green is as sexy as it’s ever going to get, right now, 02007.”

And therein lies the problem. Because, as anybody who’s made it past high school knows, most cool things don’t stay cool for long. And with the way the media has been drooling over anything with a verdant hue lately, we’re on the verge of experiencing green burnout on a massive scale… especially once Americans realize that they’ll have to change a lot more than their lightbulbs to make any sort of meaningful reduction in their impact.

So is the greening of the mainstream, then, the best thing to happen for the survival of the planet, or the worst? It depends on where it goes from here. To be sure, corporate green certainly has the potential to catalyze change on a truly massive scale. Like it or not, we live in a world where our values are defined by what we consume, and the fact that people are choosing to consume in a more responsible way says a lot about the rapidly changing times.

We won’t be making real progress as a society, though, until we realize that the consumerist lifestyle is itself is something we can choose – or reject. Because no matter how green corporate America gets, there’s still a contradiction inherent in its intentions. GE might be putting out an admirable effort to fight climate change, but they’re still, at the end of the day, in the business of selling more washing machines. To that end, they’ll spend millions of dollars to convince us that we need new, more efficient ones, when in fact we never truly needed any washing machines in the first place. What would it look like to create a society centered not on disposable excess, but on healthy sufficiency and well-thought-out austerity? What would it take to end our fifty year flirtation with the ostentatious and the ephemeral, in search of something more meaningful, durable and fair? We won’t know until we try.

Lime green outlets like Get Fresh With Sara Snow can be an essential gateway into deeper green ways of thinking, but they’re just that: gateways. If the American public doesn’t move beyond the culture of More – and a lot of powerful interests depend on that not happening – then runaway climate change, and a million other symptoms of ecological collapse, are practically unavoidable. It’s the spend-away-our-problems mentality that got us here in the first place, and no amount of FSC-certified oak coffee tables will bring us any closer to environmental, social or personal salvation. The always-astute George Monbiot summed it up best in an editorial on Celsias last week: “There is an inherent conflict between the aspirational lifestyle journalism which makes readers feel better about themselves and sells country kitchens and the central demand of environmentalism: that we should consume less.”

Now that’s a message you wouldn’t expect to see on the back of an airplane seat anytime soon. But these are strange times. The roaring pace of honest action in the last year has surprised even the optimist in me, and news sources like BBC and Newsweek are starting to take stabs at the very system they’re a part of. So what’ll it be? Green backlash or full-on green revolution? Get ready for an intense 2008.

Photo credit: flickr

Case Studies in Ecodesign: DIY Solar Oven

By Adam Brock 

The phrase “sustainable design” is often associated with things like bioplastic, solar-powered flashlights, or cradle-to-cradle office furniture. While these and other innovations continue to push the green design envelope, even the most forward-thinking ecoproducts can’t honestly be called sustainable quite yet: they’re still nowhere close to eliminating their negative impact on the planet.

The good news, though, is that actual sustainable design is entirely possible. The trick is in redefining our notion of what “design” is: just like electricity generation and food production, the most sensible approach to design from an ecological standpoint is to decentralize. Contrary to what corporations would have you believe, there’s no reason we need to rely on mass-produced stuff to meet our needs. It might take a little more work, but putting design into our own hands is cheaper and more rewarding than getting something from a store. It can often be more effective, too; after all, nobody knows the clients better than the clients themselves.

With these values in mind, me and my fellow volunteers at ROSE decided to undertake the design challenge of cooking food completely sustainably: using only recyled materials and the power of the sun. No fossil fuels, no embodied energy, no money. It was a high benchmark, and from the beginning, we knew we probably wouldn’t meet all the constraints on the first try. But we were just as interested in the process of designing and building the cooker as we were in the final product.

We based the oven’s design on one described in Aric McBay’s Peak Oil Survival: Life After Gridcrash (a great resource guide to becoming more self-sufficient, even if you don’t subscribe to the apocalyptic predictions of the peak oilers). Basically, the design consisted of an insulated wooden box with metal lining on the insides, and a glass top tilted at 30 degrees for maximum solar exposure. Around the top was a sheetmetal funnel designed to channel more of the sun’s rays into the box. Food was to be inserted through the back, which folded down like an oven door.

We sized the cooker around a sheet of old window glass that Jeevan had lying around, which we had trimmed in the Kanda market. The box itself was constructed out of sheets of used concrete formwood, and we employed ash, collected graciously by Jeevan’s wife from around the village, as an insulator. So far, so good – we had almost all the materials we needed, and still hadn’t spent a rupee (or a kilowatt hour). But we couldn’t source any used metal sheeting, which was an essential component of both the inside lining and the funnel on top. In the end, we caved and got it new at the market. It was an unfortunate compromise – metal is one of the most energy-intensive materials to produce and transport – but a necessary one nevertheless.

Constructing the oven proved to be at least as challenging as designing it. I hadn’t picked up a saw since 7th-grade stagecraft class, and the tools we had to work with weren’t exactly top quality. As is always the case, there were plenty of unexpected challenges we had to solve on the fly as the design came together: the nails kept bending, some of the boards split, the metal wouldn’t blacken in the fire, and the ash kept leaking out of the seams in the wood. But, little by little, the challenges were met, the oven took shape, and after a solid three days of sawing, cutting, nailing, trimming, grouting, and adjusting, we had a pretty decent-looking solar cooker in front of us.

To put the oven to the test, we decided to see if we could bake some challah. After collecting all the ingredients and kneading and braiding the dough (a design challenge in itself), we put the loaf in the oven on a hot afternoon and waited. After a couple hours, we opened the oven door and cautiously felt around. It was hot, alright… but not hot enough, probably only 200 degrees or so.

What went wrong? After some examination, we decided that the box hadn’t been made airtight enough – we could feel several places where the hot air was leaking out. Fixing it would’ve required temporarily dismantling the metal funnel and finding a better sealant than the cement we’d been using – certainly possible, but not in the two days we had left at Kanda.

In the end, then, our sustainable solar oven wasn’t quite sustainable, and it wasn’t much of an oven, either. But was it a failure? I don’t think so. For me, the learning process alone was enough to justify the financial and ecological costs of the project. And it’s entirely possible that another ROSE volunteer will improve the cooker in the months to come, making the design fulfill its intended purpose. For now, then, I’ll see it as a collaborative work in progress – and a valuable lesson in forest green design.

ROSE and Thorn

 By Adam Brock

Nestled in a verdant valley in the lower Himalayas, the remote Indian village of Kanda seems, at first glance, to have barely changed in centuries. The hillsides, mainly given over to terraced rice paddies, are dotted with stone farmhouses, Hindu temples and patches of forest. The glacial streams that provide the village’s water are free of pesticides, mine tailings, or contamination by pathogens. It all feels eerily dreamlike, a living incarnation of some myth of India’s rural past.

But then a Bollywood song begins to blare from a pair of tinny speakers. A closer look at the ice-blue stream reveals a trail of discarded biscuit wrappers, and as the sun sets, the valley becomes a necklace of incandescent lights, blocking out what would be a spectacular night sky. Indeed, my very ability to observe this lifestyle firsthand betrays the inevitable truth: Kanda, like everywhere else on Earth, is engaged in a dialogue with modernity. Consumer goods from the village market, pop-cultural ideals intercepted from TV and the internet – and, yes, the occasional well-intentioned western volunteer – have all worked their way into the fabric of daily life here, and there’s no turning back. The global economy, and the promise of affluence it brings, hangs in front of Kanda like the moon: mesmerizing, but astronomically distant.

For the last 25 years, Kanda resident Jeevan Verma has been working to bring that promise a little bit closer. Through his volunteer program, the Rural Organization for Social Elevation (ROSE), Verma has initiated a number of programs to guide Kanda’s development in an equitable and sustainable manner. Since it was founded in 1981, ROSE has constructed hillside roads to resist erosion, rebuilt homes for the village’s poor, and promoted permaculture techniques amongst local farmers. Currently, Verma is building a farm shop to sell tools to his neighbors at a fairer price than they can get at the market, and when that project’s finished, he aims to start a goat breeding business to give Kanda residents access to valuable sources of income and nutrition.

In many ways, Verma and his program are a model for how rural sustainable development can work in the Global South. Rather than relying on corrupt and inefficient large-scale aid programs, Kanda, thanks to ROSE, is taking the forest green route: solving local problems with local knowledge. Yet for all of ROSE’s accomplishments, it remains to be seen whether it can provide Kanda’s residents with the means for self-sustanence implied in its name. Thus far, Jeevan hasn’t been able to figure out a way to leverage outside money to produce a reliable source of income; instead, he relies on program fees and donations from volunteers to keep things running. The goat breeding program will give ROSE another shot at self-reliance, but for now, the program’s fate remains at the mercy of generous westerners.

Even if it was self-solvent, it’s unlikely that ROSE could ever solve all of Kanda’s problems. As in the rest of India, the population growth here is exponential, which means that the limited land available for cultivation is continually being divided into ever smaller portions. And for every needy family Verma is able to assist, there’s ten more that lack proper nutrition or sanitation.

Perhaps the greatest threat to Kanda’s future, though, comes from the potential consequences of its success. As its residents begin to emerge from a subsistence lifestyle towards one of increasing income, they’re afforded ever more opportunities for dialogue with the outside world – a world which, at the moment, has little to offer in the way of guidance. The challenge for Kanda, and indeed the rest of the developing world, is to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that development can bring, while steering clear of the disastrous cycle of consumption that the overdeveloped world has become caught in.

It takes the careful guidance of a million small-town leaders like Verma, and the targeted technical and financial assistance of westerners involved in the regeneration. But when programs like ROSE succeed, they send a message that’s impossible to refute: truly sustainable development is possible. There is a middle path between the cycle of poverty and western-style reckless consumerism. If Jeevan Verma is successful in navigating that path, he might find that he won’t be seeking advice from westerners – he’ll be giving it.

 Image credit: ROSE