On Consumption and Development

I believe that there are two parallel movements that should happen simultaneously: one is reducing consumption and the other is cradle to cradle. At first glance, these two movements seem to be opposing because one denounces consumption while the other does not. Given how consumption is designed today, this observation is correct. However, they do not have to be opposing in the future.

If our society can truly be cradle to cradle, then consumption would be ok because everything would be in closed loop cycles, but until that day has arrived, consumption will continue to be bad and therefore should be reduced.

Another thing that I want to make clear is that I am not against development. I am only against how it is designed today in a specific context. This is a little different from a common negative attitude towards development that many environmentalists have. Many of them are against it in general and believe that primitivism is the ideal. I disagree with this notion. I do not think that primitivism is the answer because it is against people trying to extend their lives. Under primitivism, modern medicine and technology would not exist and as a result, people would die much earlier. Unless we think that using our intelligence to ward off death is not ok, primitivism is not the answer.

However, there is a way to be against development and not be a primitivist - which is the stance I believe environmentalist should take - and that is to be against luxuries. We must keep in mind that there is a difference between what is development in first world countries and development in third world countries. Development in the United States means Iphones and BMW's, while development for Africa means vaccines and safe drinking water. Therefore, I think it is a just stance to be against development when it is in the former case.

In summary, I believe the best stance on consumption and development is to be against luxuries until they become cradle to cradle.

Machiavelli and Iraq

The following is a passage from Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy.

...the method is to be noted of how a divided City ought to have its order restored, which is none other than to kill the leaders of the tumults, and it is not otherwise to be cured, and it is necessary to take one of three ways: either to kill them as the Romans did, or to remove them from the City, or for them to make peace together under an obligation not to offend each other again. Of these three methods this last is the most harmful, less certain, and more useless; for it is impossible where much blood has run or other similar injuries inflicted that a peace made by force should endure; for seeing themselves together face to face each day, it is difficult that they should abstain from injuring each other, as new causes for quarrel can arise among themselves because of their intercourse every day.

I want to discuss the uselessness that results from the holding of towns by having a divided government. First it is impossible for a Prince or a Republic to maintain both old parties. For, by nature it is given to men to take sides in any difference of opinion, and for them to prefer the one more than the other. So that, having one party of the town discontented, the first occasion of war will cause you to lose it, for it is impossible to guard a City that has enemies outside and inside. If it is a government of a Republic, there is no better way to make your citizens bad, and to make your City divided, than to have a division of parties in the City; for each side seeks to obtain aid, and by corruption of every king to make friends for themselves. So that two very great evils arise. The one, that you do not make friends of them because you are not able to govern well, often changing the government, now with one humor, now with another. The other, that such favoring of parties of necessity keeps your Republic divided.


The first thought that came to my mind was how this passage relates to the situation in Iraq with regard to the Sunnis and the Shiites. It would seem that according to Machiavelli, the US should remove one sect so that there may be peace. What concerns me however is that there is no mention of morality anywhere in the passage; the fundamental question of the right to make that decision is not even brought up. It is my belief that any action that might hurt others should always be preceded with the consideration of morality.

The second thought that I considered was the applicability of this passage to the situation in Iraq. It is likely that what Machiavelli had in mind when writing this passage was different from what Iraq is experiencing now. Seeing how I know very little about Iraq and its history, I can not comment any further on the passage's applicability.

My final thought is that it would be very cruel to apply the first method and that it should be attempted last, if at all. One would hope that exiling the second party or allowing them to create their own state would suffice. Furthermore, it seems to me that the third method would actually be ideal, but the fact that it is the least effective I am willing to accept.

Ken

The next person I would like to introduce is Ken. Ken and I met because of a video game in high school, so I met him relatively recently in comparison to my other best friends. Despite this, he and I quickly grew close because of our commonalities.

The first thing I want to point out is that his thoughts and actions are very different from any other of my friends which is actually very odd given our environment. I shall explain what I mean by this.

The people who live where I grew up do not care about the world. I am sure there are exceptions to this statement, but I believe this is the case generally. This complemented by the tendency to stay close to home, strengthens the continuance of their indifference. I think it is safe to say that UCSC greatly shaped the way I am today. My experience there showed me another side of life in America and so I can only assume that I would be more like my high school classmates if I had stayed close to home.

Having said that, my best friend Ken is a perfect example of one of the exceptions. He is a person who has stayed in a bubble practically his entire life, but his personality does not reflect that. He is a person who greatly cares about the world and whose sense of morality shines brighter than any other person I know. To be clear, I am not saying that my other best friends do not care about the world, I am saying that Ken cares the most.

Of all of my friends, I deem him to have the most potential. Anyone who meets him would realize that he is extremely intelligent. If he were to focus his energy on developing himself, he would be able to do amazing things. 

The last thing I want to point out is his honesty and realism. He is a person who hates to mislead people and is not afraid to say things that other people are cautious to say. His directness acts like a breath of fresh air that we all need from time to time.

I can not wait to see what he makes of himself.

Angeline

In writing this series of introductions, I have realized that it is difficult to attribute specific developments to specific people in my life. I assume it is because the combined influence of everyone around me has shaped me the way I am. However, there is one person who I believe is specifically responsible for a large part of my development and that person is my sister, Angeline Chen. I would like to state here that I was not born with any special gifts; any skills that I have right now have been attained through work and study. And the source of my study, the reason why I even started to truly learn was because of the direct actions of my sister when I was in high school.

I was like most high school students; I only wanted to hang out with friends and play video games. The problems of the world were completely out of mind and I think it is safe to say that I might still be indifferent if it weren't for my sister giving me books to read. Those books made me open my eyes to more issues and philosophies, and although reading those books did not specifically make me the person I am today, they are the original source. Therefore, I am forever grateful to my sister.

It should be said that she was not always like this. In fact, our relationship was largely absent before I was in high school and I attribute this to our age difference of 9 years. When she matured, she probably realized that she needed to play a more important role in my life.

She continues to be a person who I look to for advice.

Silver Lining

My draining search for paid employment has finally come to an end; I have recently been hired to teach English at Lado International College. I went to check out the school yesterday and it was smaller than the previous school where I worked at, but it seemed like a comfortable place to teach. Unlike my previous students, my new students are going to be mostly Latino so I think it will be an interesting experience for me. I start this Thursday.

Another aspect of my life that may turn out fruitful is a new internship. There is an organization called the Responsible Purchasing Network which helps businesses go green by offering consulting services, information and networking opportunities. A large portion of their efforts goes into researching green products and they are looking for an intern to help them do just that. I had a successful phone interview with them a couple of days ago and I am going in tomorrow for an in person one. Having the opportunity to work there would be unbelievable; I would be such a perfect intern.

The last thing I want to add is a progress report of my Cradle to Consumer side project. Generally speaking, it has been going well. I now have about 10 videos, three of which have received over 100 views. I know that does not sound like much, but taking into consideration how few people I know and how specific the topic is, it is actually considerable. Furthermore, random people have been adding me on Facebook because of my project so I am happy to see that there is a small following of Cradle to Cradle products.