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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sustainability Unbound (1)

   The Sustainability Unbound symposium at the University of New Hampshire last week brought five lecturers before an audience of faculty, students, and the general public. Although none of the four other presentations was on sound and music per se, my co-speakers all brought up issues that have been discussed over the years in this research blog, sometimes offering insights that were new to me, and helpful. For example, Enrique Leff discussed cultural sustainability in terms of ecological economics and economic anthropology, but he also brought into the discussion a broader indictment of "economic man" and market capitalism, by an examination of the so-called economic rationality behind the contemporary world economic system. And Lewis Hyde discussed intellectual property rights and the cultural commons, but he also brought into the discussion a consideration of the collective self, or what he called "collective being," as a way to think about the public's right to intellectual property. My own presentation on "Thoreau's Sounding Earth" intersected with Melissa Lane's paper in drawing on Emerson's thought, although we have different opinions of the usefulness of his self-reliance concept for sustainability. And so on--the speakers had no doubt been selected with the hope and expectation that our concerns and perspectives would overlap, and that this would in the end help the humanities become part of the sustainability discourses. It was obvious, I said, to everyone in the rather large room where the event was held over a two-day period, that a humanistic emphasis on values and lives deliberately lived has much to contribute, but I likened the current position of the humanities in the sustainability discourses to the music of the spheres--distant and unheard. I'll have more to say about this event and the individual presentations in a series of blog entries going forward, but for now I wish--again--to express my gratitude to the event's conveners for bringing us all together for an extremely thought-provoking two days of intellectual exchange.