Also See: Table of Contents, Editor's Note, Endorsements, and Purchase Information
How often do you start to read a book on sustainability and get "bored?" Bored because you "get it"; bored because you are "burned out" preaching and practicing sustainability in your workplace and community; bored because of despair over rates of consumption of natural resources and social systems that, ironically, "benefit" you but obviously do not benefit the vast majority of people on this earth at this moment and certainly not future generations; bored because you know that ecological and social systems are not infinitely resistant; bored because you know that many decision makers and leaders do not and will never get it?
And then maybe you think about your own children (in my case an eight-year-old daughter) or grandchildren or simply children and future children. And then you think about the people you wish would read the book you are reading—people whose decisions can turn a corporation or city or university etc. toward a sustainable path. How if they "got it," systematic change could and would happen. If you could compel a president of a country or a city council member or a university president or facilities managers or the vast majority of academics and conservation managers to read what you are reading, would you come out of your "boredom?" If you thought decision makers and leaders could understand the "inviolable biophysical principles that form the non-negotiable limitations of social-environmental sustainability," would you be re-energized about sustainability and be hopeful?
Or, if you found a well written, inspiring, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book on decision making, leadership, and social and environmental sustainability, would you just recommend the book to those who "get" it? Recommend it to those you "know" would benefit from the approach and language and examples presented in the book? Recommend it to those who would come back to you and say— 'Thanks - That was great - I wish decision makers and leaders would read that book'?
It is not profound to recognize that "every decision has its antithesis," but it is profound to contemplate how decisions are made, why decisions are made that violate very simple ecological principles, how change makers could affect decision makers' decisions, and the structure of the decision making processes that really is, ultimately, dysfunctional. From decisions based on fighting "wars" against poverty and everything else (drugs etc.), to decisions that are based on an idea of "win-win," to decisions that are based on the mere structure of a given organization, hindsight can always reveal why a series of decisions lead to a given undesirable outcome. However, we must recognize that if those same decisions were made again, the outcome might be different, and therefore we need to be careful how we interpret "lessons-learned."
I read this book while in the "burned-out" stage of working towards sustainability at a large Midwest U.S. university—partly burned out because I used some of the leverage of tenure and a few supportive administrators to "push" the envelope a bit, mostly to engage students with opportunities to make decisions and let them use their energy and minds. Apparently, this is not always appreciated by administrative leaders. For example, I worked for weeks with students so a truck full of coal could be parked on campus for a day, with educational signs made by students—but only after being approved by administrators. The signs explained how much coal the campus used for various activities because the decision to keep burning coal brought from Wyoming to Missouri was made because our leaders tell us we need "affordable energy so we can have affordable tuition and electric lights in the library to study." The demonstration was viewed as a success, not because it actually resulted in any changes on campus, but because the university was highlighted in the national press for putting on the demonstration. Is that really a "win?" The decision makers and president of the university said "thanks" after seeing all the press releases. Two years later an administrator has made the decision to discourage students from using campus facilities to participate in a nationwide beyond coal campaign. The students involved have been very affected by this "decision"—and not only because the administrator told the students that if they move forward with the campaign, he would do away with a student government committee on sustainability (which he cannot do!). This book is helping me understand this example and the positive lessons.
Ultimately, the challenge of this book to me is that it provides ideas, language, approaches, and examples to move a place of employment, a government, or a community toward what Chris Maser calls "psychological maturity for the social-environmental sake of all generations." I may not live up to the challenge of getting people with decision-making power in my community or place of employment to understand the message and lessons of this book (but I hope you can do better than I). But, with the help of this book, I will not do such things as send an email to the "stop your beyond coal campaign" administrator asking him to be more "psychologically mature," and I will not tell the students I wanted to use that language with the administrator. That is because I now have a greater understanding of the decision-making processes and how to act toward and with leaders. And, I am more ready to affect change in decision makers because of the lessons and wisdom and approach that Chris offers in this book. And, I understand positive messages and approaches.
I am going to get over my burn out and use what I have learned from this book to stay involved. That is not to say that Chris has once again inspired me as he first did with his book The Redesigned Forest when I started a degree in forestry in 1989; it is to say that this book provides me with intellectual tools (e.g., insights, language, approaches) that I can use as a person who does not have power, but who has access to people with leadership power who do not get it (and never will).
I will use this book in my courses—especially "conservation biology" and an honors freshman class entitled "sustainability in action and practice." I will use this book as the chair of a curriculum committee on sustainability to guide the process of bringing sustainability into the classroom. And I will use it to better work with faculty, staff, students and administrators. The book is replete with examples of decisions on the local, regional, and global scale. The examples bring together social and economic "concerns" with both simple and complicated biological concepts. Examples in this book can be used in any introductory sustainability course or in any boardroom (e.g., Ray Anderson, former CEO of Interface, would have loved this book), or any city council. And the idea of bringing children into the mix of decision making and priority making is brilliant!
Below I provide a simplistic example of personal decision making that I think abdicates personal social and environmental responsibility that I reworked through my mind after reading this book, and which I now know how to "understand."
I was asked to speak to new faculty about my university's public affairs mission and sustainability. The mission has three pillars: Ethical Leadership, Cultural Competence, and Community Engagement. I thought I gave good examples of how sustainability IS a public affair. After my presentation a faculty member in the construction management program came up to me to tell me that he was skeptical and thought the whole "sustainability thing" was a liberal new environmentalism that would soon die. I thanked him for listening to my talk and asked where he lived. He had some property surrounded by federal forest service land (with an easement for access); he was in the early stages of building a house that was totally off the grid (solar panels etc.), gray water system, drinking water from a well and federally protected stream, area for growing his own food and keeping some animals for food (using the waste for fertilizer etc.), and free wood from the federally protected forest for some of the building and heating. I was obsessed with the social and environmental aspects of such a project and how he was able to make the decisions. What are the true costs of the few that can do such projects—"because they want to be free from government manipulation of building codes and costs of energy and food"—to all societies? Read this book and you will be able to articulate to this highly educated professor where decision making is socially and environmentally sound ("functional"), where it is flawed ("dysfunctional," and, I would suggest, dangerous), and HOW to discuss it. At the time, I was left frustrated. However, I am going to read portions of this book a couple of more times and then hope I run into this construction management professor in our nice faculty lounge that provides many examples of poor decision making in consumption and waste (but making progress one fight at a time—which is not how progress needs to progress) and sit and have lunch with him. [Note: I believe this faculty member should build the house]. An icing on the too many layered cake story: the construction management program is adding "sustainability" to all the course names in the program because that is "where the industry is headed." Good decision? Good leadership?
I hope I can become a "psychologically mature decision maker." I hope I can avoid making decisions at work that cause set-backs and back peddling on issues of social and environmental sustainability by university leaders. I hope that Chris Maser's illumination of a peaceful path for decision making and leadership toward social-environmental sustainability for all generations comes to fruition in my generation.
D. Alexander Wait
Missouri State University.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I: NATURE'S URGENT MESSAGE TO WORLD'S DECISION MAKERS
CHAPTER 1: THE PRINCIPLES OF BIOPHYSICAL SUSTAINABILITY
THE WATERBED PRINCIPLE
THE LAW OF COSMIC UNIFICATION
NATURE'S INVIOLABLE BIOPHYSICAL PRINCIPLES
Principle 1—Everything Is a Relationship
Principle 2—All Relationships Are Productive
Principle 3—The Only True Investment Is Energy from Sunlight
Principle 4—All Systems Are Defined By Their Function
Principle 5—All Relationships Result In a Transfer of Energy
Principle 6—All Relationships Are Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loops
Principle 7— All Relationships Have One Or More Tradeoffs
Principle 8—Change Is a Process of Eternal Becoming
Understanding Historical Change
Change as a Historical Continuum
Principle 9—All Relationships Are Irreverisable
Principle 10—All Systems Are Based On Composition, Structure, and Function
Principle 11—All Systems Have Cumulative Effects, Lag Periods, And Thresholds
Principle 12—All Systems Are Cyclical, But None Are Perfect Circles
Principle 13—Systemic Change is Based On Self-Organized Criticality
Principle 14—Dynamic Disequilibrium Rules All Systems
CHAPTER 2: DECISION MAKING AND NATURE'S RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
EVERY DECISION HAS ITS ANTITHESIS
Air: The Breath Of Life-And Of Death
Water: A Captive of Gravity
Soil: The Great Placenta
Biodiversity: The Variety of Life
Human Population: A Matter of Equality
Sunlight: The Source of Global Energy
Climate: The Global Arbiter
Turning the Key
THE INVIOLABLE RULES OF DECISION MAKING
Rule 1—Everything Is A Relationship
Between People and the Environment
Between People In the Present and Those of the Future
Rule 2—All Relationships Are Productive
Rule 3—The Only True Investment Is Energy from Sunlight
Rule 4—All Relationships Involve a Transfer of Energy
Rule 5—All Systems Are Based On Composition, Structure, and Function
Rule 6—All Relationships Have One Or More Tradeoffs With Feedback Loops
Rule 7—All Systems Have Cumulative Effects, Lag Periods, And Thresholds
Rule 8—Change Is An Irreversible Process of Eternal Becoming
Rule 9—Systemic Change is Based On Self-Organized Criticality
Rule 10—Dynamic Disequilibrium Rules All Systems
Rule 11—Success Or Failure Lies in the Interpretation of An Event
Rule 12—People Must Be Equally Informed if They Are To Function As a Truly
Rule 13—We Must Consciously Limit Our "Wants"
Rule 14—Simplicity Is the Key To Contentment, Adaptability, and Survival
Rule 15—Nature, Spirituality, and Human Well-Being Are Paramount
Rule 16—Every Legal Citizen Deserves the Right To Vote
Rule 17—This Present Moment, the Here and Now, Is All We Ever Have
PART II: WHEN THE DECISION MAKING BECOMES SELF-SERVING
CHAPTER 3: THE STAGES OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY
AN INTRODUCTION TO COMMAND AND CONTROL DECISION MAKING
THE INCEPTION OF AN AGENCY
WE ARE THE AGENCY
STAGES IN THE CYCLE OF AN AGENCY
WHEN DYSFUNCTIONAL DECISION MAKING CREEPS IN
THE HOMEOSTATIC COMMAND AND CONTROL OF DECISION MAKING
THE MYTHOLOGY OF ABNEGATING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Myth One—I Can't Change Because I'm Locked In
Myth Two—I Can't Commit Future Leaders To A Course Of Action
Myth Three—It's Not My Responsibility Because It's Not In My Job Description
Myth Four—I Can't Make A Decision Because I Lack Definitive Data
Myth Five—It Can't Be True, So I Won't Believe It
Myth Six—Yes, But I Have To Face Reality
Myth Seven—What You Are Asking Can't Be Done; It's Impossible
THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
SETTING THE STAGE FOR THE ENGAGEMENT OF COPING MECHANISM
HOW COPING MECHANISMS INFLUENCE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DECISION MAKING
Anger and Aggression
CHAPTER 4: DISSONANCE WITHIN DUPLICITY: SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS AT THE SOUTHERN NEVADA WATER AUTHORITY, A CASE STUDY—by Jessica K. La Porte
CHAPTER 5: BREAKING THE DSFUNCTIONAL CYCLE OF ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY DECISION MAKING
HOW JOB DESCRIPTIONS LIMIT PROFESSIONAL DECISION MAKING
LEADERS AND MANAGERS MAKE FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT KINDS OF DECISION
WHY A VISION IS IMPORTANT
UNDERSTANDING A VISION
Vision, Goals, and Objectives
The Negotiability of Constraints
MONITORING TESTS A VISION'S EFFECTIVENESS
Framing A Relevant Question
Seven Steps of Monitoring
Step 1. Crafting A Vision, Goals, and Objectives
Step 2. Preliminary Monitoring Or Inventory
Step 3. Modeling Your Collective Understanding
Step 4. Writing An Implementation Plan
Step 5. Monitoring Implementation
Step 6. Monitoring Effectiveness
Step 7. Monitoring To Validate The Outcome
PART III: WHAT MAKES A PSYCHOLOGICALLY MATURE DECISION MAKER?
CHAPTER 6: THE ESSENCE OF A RESPONSIBLE DECISION MAKER
PERSONAL VALUES AND PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE
CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE DECISION MAKER
Other-Centered and Authentic
An Honorable Person
Balancing the Masculine and Feminine
A Therapeutic Person
Detachment and Equanimity
A Good Follower
Willingness to Delegate Authority
Encourage Leadership in Others
CHAPTER 7: COPING WITH THE RESPONSIBILITIES AND PRESSURES OF SOCIAL-ENVIRONMENTAL DECISION MAKING
CIRCUMSTANCES FACED BY DECISION MAKERS
Dealing with Anxiety
Use of Power
Criticism In the Form of Projection
Projection As A Means of Avoiding Personal Responsibility
Projection Can Be Either Negative or positive
Criticism and Your Image
Responding to Negative Criticism
Elevate the Tevel of the Discussion
Always Tell the Truth
Show Your Opponent a New Way of Viewing the Issue
Ally Yourself With Positive Symbols
Tactfully Refute the Opposition
Listen Carefully To All Questions and Repeat Them Aloud
BEING AND DISCLOSING YOURSELF
PERFECTIONISM AND THE FEAR OF MAKING DECISIONS
Honesty With Followers
Understanding the Need to Be Heard
Establishing Your Boundaries
Dealing with the Uncommitted
Accepting Slow or Delayed Results
Learning Your Limits
Overinvestment in Followers
The Value of Humor
COPING WITH SOMEONE YOU DISLIKE
Identify Those Specific Behaviors That Trigger Your Own Emotions
Talk To the Individual Privately, and Use the "Sandwich Technique"
Timing Is Critical
Remember Your Role As Decision Maker
A Leader Does Not Quit When Things Get Tough
If Nothing Else Works, Find A Facilitator
IMAGINE YOURSELF AS DIFFERENT PEOPLE
MAKING DO WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
ESTABLISHING REALISTIC OBJECTIVES
THE NEED FOR URGENCY
GIVE COUNSEL, NOT ADVICE
THE QUESTIONS WE ASK
MAINTAINING VIABILITY AS A LEADER
Causes of Burnout
Remedies for Burnout
SOCIAL-ENVIREONMENTAL DECISION MAKING WITHIN ORGANIZATIONS
CHAPTER 8: GIVING CHILDREN A VOICE IN THEIR FUTURE THOUGH SHARED DECISION MAKING
THE GREAT AMERICAN IRONY—CHILDREN HAVE NO VOICE IN THEIR FUTURE
First I Asked The Children What They Wanted
And This Is What They Said
Then I Asked Their Teacher What She Had Learned
CHANGING OUR ADULT THINKING
THE ULTIMATE DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION IN DECISION MAKING—GIVING CHILDREN A VOICE IN THEIR FUTURE
Address the School Board
Interviewing New Teachers
Creating A Community Vision
Healing the Land
Children's Advisory Councils
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I lovingly dedicate this book to my three grandchildren: Camden, Scott, and Evan Richards. May our decisions begin NOW—and continue henceforth—to create a lasting legacy of social-environmental sustainability for them and all children, present and future.
Editor's Note for the "CRC Press" Book Series, Social-Environmental Sustainability:
Virtually anyone can learn the mechanics of leadership and decision making, but its true heart and soul are born in a genuine love for people of all generations and the wisdom to protect their dignity and the social-environmental sustainability that nurtures them. Authentic leadership is embodied in four, self-reinforcing feedback loops of human behavior.
The first is an inner, metaphysical relationship, which determines how a person treats himself or herself. It is the individual's sense of spirituality, self-worth, personal growth, authenticity, inner strength, and so on. In short, it is degree of psychological maturity attained through personal growth that determines the level of conscious a person exhibits in accepting accountability for his or her own behavior and its consequences.
The second relationship is how we treat one another. Not enough can be said for civility, respect, and hospitality toward other people. If we use these basic human behaviors to frame our leadership and the wisdom of compassion inclusion in our decision, we can focus more on the mutual values that bind us and less on the tension between our beliefs and attitudes. In the finally analysis, all we have to give one another of value—ever—is our love, trust, respect, and the benefit of our experience.
The third relationship is between people and their environment. Here, a basic principle is that community programs must be founded on local requirements and cultural values in balance with those of the broader outside world, which includes understanding environmental issues, long-term biophysical trends, and their social-environmental ramifications. After all, social-environmental sustainability is a reciprocal relationship between people and the land based on the constraints of nature's inviolable biophysical principles. Simply put, as we nurture the land, we nurture ourselves. As we abuse the land, we abuse ourselves. This is a critical nexus, because every society and nation is rooted at the local level.
The fourth relationship is between people in the present and those of the future. Here, the question is: Do we who living today owe anything to the future? If our answer is "No," then we are surely on course, because we are consuming resources and polluting the Earth as if there were no tomorrow. If, on the other hand, the answer is, "Yes, we have an obligation to the future," then we must determine what we owe and how much, because our present, non-sustainable course is rapidly destroying the environmental options for all generations—present and future. Meeting the obligation we say we have will require a renewed sense of morality, one committed to being other-centered in caring for the welfare of those to come as we wish vastly more of those before us had considered our welfare in mapping the outcome of their decisions and actions.
Finally, the essence of leadership is the imperative that we take personal responsibility for our words, deeds, decisions, and their consequences because the first step toward the social-environmental sustainability begins with the respect and the quality of care we give ourselves. We must then extend that respect and care to our families, friends, and neighbors, because the sustainability of a community, which is the foundation of every nation, is but a reflection of the health of its citizenry as measured by how people treat one another and thus protect the biophysical sustainability their surrounding environment as part of everyone's birthright in all generations.
Chris Maser, Series Editor
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A deep exploration of ways to change the current decision making paradigm that fosters social-environmental sustainability, this book offers a sound, rational, and viable alternative to the chronic human disease of competitive, materialistic, symptomatic thinking. Based on the author's more than 45 years of research and broad, international experience, the book elucidates the necessity of a systematic approach to decision making in the face of the current environmental crises.—Publisher's description.
"Some thoughts about Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment:
"Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment is a challenging read on a whole range of levels. Deeply personal, deeply reflective, courageous, and atypically altruistic. If you find yourself in self-analysis while reading this book, then you have got the point.
"Any book about the place of humans on Planet Earth that evokes self-analysis deserves to be respected.
"Not for the faint-hearted, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment reminds us that humans have a power and responsibility to make wise decisions when it comes to sustaining the natural world that we are part of.
"The Earth is a complex place made more so by humans. Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment places the role of humans on the Earth in the right context: be humble, be respectful and be aware.
"I must admit I also needed to stop crying after reading the quotes from the children in the final chapter from Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment .... I am not sure what triggered my response and why I felt it so deeply. Maybe because I have children, and I know they feel that way too? Maybe because of the honesty and frankness of their thoughts? Or maybe because it reminded me that I once was a child, and also felt that way?
"Anybody who loves Planet Earth should consider reading this book."
Dr. Andrew W. Claridge
Senior Research Scientist
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
New South Wales, Australia
"We find ourselves looking for a path to the future. Economic uncertainties and structural failures as well as imminent eco-catastrophes cloud our vision. Our community has watched its logging identity collapse, leaving a void in nearly every area of life except our hope. In his newest work, Chris Maser has captured the fear, the challenges, the limitations and the ever-changing flow that can move us beyond the quest for mere economic survival through tinkering with the socio-economic and ecological status quo. Maser's articulation of a 'systemic' approach can help us work together as we forge a future built on relationships, a future that honors our history, recognizes our present circumstances, and listens to our children . . . an ever-changing and sustainable future. How scary and exciting!"
Community Development Director
City of Sweet Home, Oregon
"Chris Maser's work evidences a breadth and depth that is truly "ecological" in the most profound sense—it encompasses not only hard science but also the wisdom of literature and philosophy and the practical know-how of negotiation and political decision-making. I can't imagine anyone more well suited to help our society find a sustainable path to a better future for our planet. Chris Maser leads the way to tranformation by way of inspiration!"
Sybil Ihrig, L.Ac., HMA, CCH
Acupuncturist and Classical Homeopath
Lotus Wellspring Healthcare
"In the 1980s, Chris Maser and I worked together at the Forest Service's Range and Wildlife Habitat Laboratory in La Grande, Oregon. Though we worked for two different federal agencies—I for the Forest Service and he for the Bureau of Land Management—we shared a concern that both agencies lacked approaches and techniques to synthesize available information relative to the habitat relationships of all vertebrate species of wildlife. We, and our colleagues, made the first attempts at developing such an approach—one each for a forested and range ecosystem. Those initial efforts proved immensely useful and were widely replicated for other ecosystems. But, we knew even then that what we had done was only a beginning, and that true ecosystem management would require taking another leap beyond wildlife habitat relationships. There was, and is, a continuing and dramatic need to expand our thinking and capabilities to "Decision Making for a Sustainable Environment." And, this book takes the first, essential step on a road to new, more inclusive thinking by those concerned with the mounting challenges confronting the sustainability of the ecosystems that support all life. Better yet, it is written in a style that is comprehensible to the general public. That is no small achievement."
Jack Ward Thomas, PhD
Chief Emeritus, U. S. Forest Service
Professor Emeritus, College of Forestry and Natural Resources
University of Montana
"I was so fascinated halfway through reading the book, 'Decision Making for a Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach,' by Chris Maser that I contacted Chris immediately to ask him if I can use some information from his book for writing the protocols for my project 'eco village sol.' His book was showing me the whole picture that I was looking for. You get conscious of your own way of making decisions and how your leaders are making their decisions. Chapter 8, 'Giving children a voice in their future…,' was an eye opener for me, in that almost no one asks children what they want their future to be like. All aspects of this book are very good detailed. Excellent."
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