Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive
4/30/2010 2:56:15 PM
Our sister publication, Natural Home, just named “America’s Top Ten Best Green-Built Neighborhoods” in its May-June issue. The list contains a lot of interesting places, like Kalahari Harlem, for example, where half of the 250 homes were sold as affordable housing. Or the impressively scaled Issaquah Highlands community in Washington state—with more than 3,000 green-certified homes. Very cool stuff, all around.
Source: Natural Home
4/29/2010 3:31:51 PM
Back in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Public Art Review, I read a short piece by Arlene Goldbard, author of New Creative Community. It was about jobs—well, jobs and artists, public attitudes and social values, and what’s necessary to spur national economic recovery. She made a couple of points that I can’t shake, so I wanted to share them here.
Goldbard begins with a simple question: “What sustains us?” Her answer, in short, is storytelling and art. “Communities derive nourishment from stories that offer inspiration, empathy, and guidance, that help possibility to bloom,” she writes. “We create stories on walls and other sites of public memory, in dance and theater, moving-image media, print, music, digital communication. . . . Under even horrific conditions—in prison, in refugee camps—we make art.”
The connection to the economy is straightforward: Artists are culture-makers, and “culture is the crucible for changing perceptions and feelings, for communicating hopes and fears, and creating choices in places of desperation. How people feel about the economy, for instance, is as central to recovery as any regulatory intervention.”
Overlooking or excluding of the arts from recovery programs fails to capitalize on this power. Goldbard, in a video interview (below) on her website, additionally makes the point that a job, after all, is a job. “You give people a salary, and they pay the rent and buy groceries, and that puts money into circulation, starting the flow that can restore the economy,” she says. And that includes jobs for artists.
Sources: Public Art Review, ArleneGoldbard.com
4/21/2010 3:36:10 PM
Public art is one of those tricky things: I tend to still appreciate it, even when it doesn’t hit my aesthetic sweet spot—but I also understand why it’s often contentious. When it comes to art, not everyone can agree on everything, right?
Maybe that’s the wrong attitude: Jon Pounds, executive director of the Chicago Public Art Group, has a nice short soapbox piece in Public Art Review focused on increasing community participation—and even seeking consensus—in public art projects. He argues that “the public art industry” is too much like science: something we all study and engage with as youngsters, but then grow up and largely leave to professionals, with their special lexicons, high-tech equipment, and formal procedures.
What public art should be more like is cooking, Pounds writes: Something “we seldom study . . . as part of early education, but [that] we all appreciate [as] something we need every day, that we enjoy for its sensuality and meaning, that is richly varied in its forms, and that allows nearly everyone to feel the pride of accomplishment in one’s ‘work.’ ”
Here’s how he’d accomplish that ethos with respect to public art:
I believe that each of us—that is, every human being—is more creative than we are typically asked to be in the course of our lives. Ordinary people have skills, capacities, knowledge, and wisdom that they are not asked to bring forward. Just as eating tasty food encourages us to cook, public art should encourage all of us to cook, public art should encourage all of us to be participants in planning and creating public spaces, expressing collective values, and playing with the unknown.
I believe public artists and public art administrators should seek much more public engagement through their shared creative processes. A messy, occasionally discordant process can also result in an extraordinary aesthetic solution. Those solutions arise because ordinary people can know aspects of a place better than anyone else. An inclusive democratic process based on consensus (rather than simply voting) is ultimately good for us all when ordinary people are asked to example social and philosophical contradictions and to visualize aesthetic interruptions of public space.
Source: Public Art Review (article not available online)
4/20/2010 4:12:07 PM
No offense to boring people of any age, of course. But there’s an interesting dispatch in the March-April issue of Spirituality & Health about the “most important lesson” of healthy aging, which happens to be the ultimate antidote to boring ruts: Value your time.
“You are how you use your time,” octogenarian Deborah Szekley tells the magazine. She’s authorized to say that: Szekely retired from a career in the health/wellness spa business, realized she was becoming “a little old lady,” and moved to Washington D.C. She ran for Congress, became a diplomat, and now, nearing 90, is campaigning to change grade-school curriculum to include longer, healthier lunch breaks and more exercise.
What galvanized her? Apparently, an old-fashioned calendar and a weekly moment to reflect on it. This is her strategy, as Spirituality & Health reports:
[On Sundays, look back and] ask yourself what was good about each day and how it could have been better. Use five colored pencils to underline on the calendar, in the appropriate color, whatever you did in the previous week:
Black: I wouldn’t have done this.
Blue: I would have delegated this.
Red: I did this for health.
Green: I did this to grow.
Favorite color: I did this with family/friends, for fun.
After you’ve valued your past week, look at what’s coming in the next week, which should be written in pencil. Is your schedule humane? Are there things you should erase right now? Are important colors missing?
Spirituality & Health is a 2010 Utne Independent Press Award nominee in the category of spiritual coverage.
Source: Spirituality & Health (article not available online)
4/15/2010 1:47:33 PM
According to the USDA’s new organic standards (released in February), organic dairy cows must get at least 30 percent of their dry matter intake from pasture. No exceptions. Producers of organic beef cattle, however, can put their animals in feedlots for the last four months of their lives. You know, standing on concrete, eating grain, packing on the pounds. I have a word for this, and it is lame.
Luckily, the Cornucopia Institute is on the case and in their signature thorough style, the nonprofit has done far more than just point out the fuzzy logic in the USDA’s organic regulations: It surveyed organic beef cattle producers across the United States. The organization found that 80 percent of organic beef producers never confine their animals to feedlots. (Most never give their cattle any grain at all; only a quarter supplement with small amounts.) The remaining 20 percent of farmers and ranchers that are finishing animals in feedlots, however, “likely produce a majority of the nation’s organic meet supply.”
Here’s the good news: The USDA is accepting comments on the pasture exemption for beef cattle until April 19th. The Cornucopia Institute provides instructions toward the bottom of the page I linked to above. It is proposing a three-tiered labeling system:
1. “Organic – Grain Finished” – For meat from animals that needed the exemption from pasture during the last 120 days (might include finishing in feedlots).
2. “Organic – Pasture/Grain Finished” – For meat from animals that were maintained on pasture until slaughter, obtained at least 30% of their feed intake from pasture during the grazing season but received small amounts of grain supplementation at some point.
3. “Organic – 100% Grass Fed” – For meat from animals that were 100% grass-fed, never receiving any grain in their diet.
Food for thought, as they say.
Source: Cornucopia Institute
4/13/2010 5:14:54 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25 at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C. and post them online the following Monday.
We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees. I’d like to begin by introducing the publications up for health/wellness coverage. This topic is close to my heart—and these are eight fantastic, independent-minded publications that deeply engage with their subjects. They’re the real deal resources for alternative health and thriving.
Hailing from the Hudson River valley, Chronogram aims to enrich its readers’ creative and cultural lives, and, oh, how it succeeds! From its wellness-oriented Whole Living department to its analysis of politics and current events, Chronogram gives us the tools to live fully engaged, healthy lives.
Landscape Architecture in health and wellness, you say? This engaging publication of the American Society of Landscape Architects pulses with the connection between place and well-being, teaching us volumes about healthy environments—from a child-designed community in Italy to a provocative prayer garden in Baltimore.
New Mobility has a unique two-fold mission: promoting the integration of wheelchair users into mainstream society, while simultaneously exploring and celebrating disability-related culture. It balances those two goals with polish, advocating, analyzing, reporting, and sharing personal stories—in a phrase: fostering community by empowering it.
On Wisconsin, published by the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association, is filled with inquisitive, elegant reporting and writing that one need not be an alumnus to appreciate. The quarterly publication regularly introduces us to health-enriching ideas and research in the fields of medicine and the social sciences.
In the immediate wake of its 15th anniversary, POZ has become an ever-more indispensable resource and mouthpiece for people living with and affected by HIV. Chronicling the misunderstood and undercovered epidemic in the United States and abroad, POZ consistently packs its pages with powerful pieces of analysis and advocacy.
Psychotherapy Networker may be intended for therapists and counselors, but its appeal is universal. In the spirit of bringing “intellectual adventure” to the field, the bimonthly keeps us on the cutting edge of all things mental, enriching our understanding of the human condition.
Insubstantial healthy-living magazines abound on newsstands, which is why reading Spirituality & Health is like drinking a tall, clean drink of water. Clear-sighted and open-minded, the bimonthly offers genuine resources for all kinds of spiritual journeys, mining the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and medicine to inform its refreshing, joyful perspective.
Yes!, a magazine of “powerful ideas, practical actions” published by the nonprofit Positive Futures Network, gives us information and tools to build a more sustainable, just tomorrow. The quarterly’s optimism is infectious: a celebration of human potential and community well-being that can’t help but inspire.
Want more? Meet our
and science and techology nominees.
4/9/2010 4:20:20 PM
In our May-June issue, we feature the work of Jinnie English, a social worker and psychotherapist who specializes in supporting high-powered executives who were once poor. Hidden behind the trappings of success (expensive clothes, a fancy home), her clients “have a lot of psychodynamic issues,” English told University of Chicago Magazine. They’re still dealing with “the internal struggle of being poor.”
It’s not just successful corporate types, however, that have to deal with the dynamics of wealth. Financial security—and what having it or not having it means to us, on a personal level—are subjects that simply don’t get enough frank conversation in our culture.
Enter Enough, the vivid conversation project from Dean Spade and Tyrone Boucher, two folks we named Utne Reader visionaries in our November-December. 2009 issue. Enough is a website, an open forum, where people share stories and thoughts about the personal politics of capitalism, wealth, and class.
Bonus: In the same issue of the magazine, we also profiled Partha Dasgupta, a visionary economist who takes issue with the gross domestic product for the things not included in the calculation: environment, education, and human welfare, for example. Dasgupta’s “inclusive wealth” measure wraps in those missing elements.
Image by P/\UL, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/6/2010 2:52:38 PM
The word is airports: What comes to mind? The astonishing carbon footprint of a single flight, perhaps? Equipped with a standard guilty-liberal reflex, that’s what pops into my head—so I was sort of thrilled to encounter a little interview in Psychology Today that reminded me of another airport feeling: that of electric, transformative space.
Check it out: Last fall author/philosopher Alain de Botton became Heathrow Airport’s first “writer in residence,” spending a week stationed at a desk in a terminal writing A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary. (From the outset, it was an intriguing exercise: Heathrow paid de Botton the equivalent of an advance, while de Botton retained creative control and the rights to the resulting book.) His chat about the experience with Psychology Today doesn’t appear to be online, so here’s the snippet that tickled me:
What do you see when you live in an airport that you don’t see when you’re rushing to make a plane?
Pure anticipation. People who are rushing to their flights imagine a future without having to live it yet. On the ground, we are more likely to admit that the future will not deliver on its ideal prospects. We may never be has happy as we are in the moments prior to takeoff on a trip.
Of course, anticipation is just that. More food for thought from de Botton:
You’ve written that we travel to find happiness but fail to get there.
In Western culture, there’s a feeling that if you change the décor, or the landscape around you, you will easily be transformed into a calmer, happier person. But that’s a crazy, naïve, childish idea.
One problem with modern travel is that we don’t meet people. People who traveled in premodern times would pitch up in a new town with a recommendation or a letter and find themselves having dinner with six interesting people. Today most of us arrive and go to the Statue of Liberty or a museum. We don’t have any human contact.
Source: Psychology Today
Image by Ana Santos, licensed under Creative Commons.
4/5/2010 2:39:18 PM
Cohousing communities have been around for decades, but until recently not in New York City, reports Next American City. Brooklyn Cohousing intends to change that: Founded in 2007, the now 20-household group is in the thick of developing cooperative apartment living in the NYC borough—and providing a cool opportunity to observe the nuts and bolts of a contemporary cohousing start-up.
Take decision making, for example. As Anna Wiener writes in Next American City:
Members of Brooklyn Cohousing make most of their decisions using a nuanced consensus process. There is no designated leader or manager, though members alternate meeting moderation duties. In an attempt to expedite meetings and dodge digressions and interruptions, members guide the conversation with color-coded cards, raising yellow to ask a question, green to answer, blue to share a feeling or opinion and so on. In the planning states, this process has been used to make decisions about everything from finances to design details. As one member wryly observed at a recent meeting, the process leads to a “better quality of decisions, not necessarily a high quantity of decisions.”
Members of the group acknowledge that the decision-making process, however painstaking, has been integral to the formation of a tight-knit community. “I think a big thing that’s compelling interest in this is actually a breakdown of some of the more traditional types of community,” [founder Alex] Marshall says. “Forty to 50 years ago . . . . it was much more common to have various close-knit neighborhoods. People often have to create consciously what used to happen more unconsciously.”
Read more about Brooklyn Cohousing’s vision and ambitions on the organization’s website, including the challenges of financing cohousing in this economy.
Source: Next American City (excerpt only)
Image by 561design, licensed under Creative Commons.
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