Why sustainability fails?

Deep sustainability focuses on a basic need centred approach; that is for example to consume what we need and in doing so living within the means of our environment; so that ideally humans can interact with and within the natural system without harm. That is an ideal, almost as ideal as Garden Eden. Garden Eden represents the perfect state of being; everything is there that is desired, at a continuous quantity and the interaction be that between Adam and Eve or Adam and Eve and various other species is harmonic; a symbol of ultimate perfection and homeostasis.

In sustainability these idealized views and to some extend fantasies represented in Garden Even are increasingly reflected. The ideal is that carbon and other natural cycles circle perfectly. Meanwhile human and other species live at a constant state of harmony together. If a fish was eaten, the natural balance would as easily be restored, because there is always a surplus of it. Furthermore, there is no conflict, because conflict would impede such harmony. This concept does not only apply to our local communities, but it also applies to our global society, where we all live in peace together, cooperate and everyone is keen on protecting social and environmental well-being. We thrive as global society within our means. Like Garden Eden, this ideal appeals.

This ideal appeals so much, that through the support of regulations and business models for sustainability it must be achieved. It little does so though, because it would require that the very human nature of ego and thereby notions of greed and desire for more would have to be diminished. Greed would have to be diminished because it is through greed that inequalities such as more and less access to resources or their exploitation, likely continue and it is desire for more, that basic needs; producing and consuming what one possibly needs, little exist. Yet, the latter is almost the premise for such idealized homeostatic state of a sustainable society.

Homeostasis does not exist as a constant state of being, because there are constant factors that influence such state. Often times, we think it does, and that is how we live and possibly create for it. Thinking “it” can be maintained and aimed for like love in relationships for example. It cannot. It cannot because loss, including destruction is part of life and the natural world as part of it.

Of course, there is not all bad, and there are for example business models that aim at creating a more sustainable future. But so often, they idealize too. For example the premise is that products will be produced better and although their price will increase the assumption is that people voluntarily pay for it. This assumption has a classist notion to sustainabiliy, because many people still live below the financial poverty line and even if they did not such as many people on a “normal” or “high” income , they might have many different financial priorities so that most sustainable products are not financially feasible or interesting for them, even if they wanted to.

Sometimes people may not simply care either. That is not because they don’t want to, but because they struggle with their own means of survival or look at maintaining an individual livelihood. For example, using public transportation or the e-bike sounds fantastic, but in many cities, peri urban up to urban regions, the infrastructure does not exist, or lacks so that owning a car does not only appeal, but simply makes life easier. Think about a parent who saves 1.5h by using a car packed with groceries going from work to kindergarden or any other person who could spend that time differently. The same principle can apply for circular systems too, with the expectations that people care for their products always and are geniously interested to return build up furniture for a small discount to a store. Often a certain lifestyle or the effort put into it, might outweight financial benefits, so the ideal set is too high. So, how to design for covenience?

Of course one can go further, more systemic with the younger generation demanding idealisitc system change too, but then possibly finding it a bit odds when it comes to real action and behavior change, whilst more pleasure can be found in TikToks and other urban funs’. Meanwhile, the news and even policies for a “sustainable future” preach for such sustainable ideals, but looking outside of these ideals, one can find needs for continous self-actualization; i.e. building or having a paying career as a means of survival; often that comes through jobs and even if the job is not liked or pretended to be liked, it yet pursued because there are little means to pay for life otherwise. For example, if we were to honestly consult businesses on sustainability, we would in many cases have to say; Its best not to have the business or in the case of the individual “not to pursue this career.” It gives little room to be, so that sustainability, or the idealist homeostatic lifestyle that can be found in the Myth of “Garden Eden” instead sounds too ideal to be real.

A sustainable society, would require more interaction in real life, but the interest shifts towards digital interaction. At the same time we see levels of loneliness increasing; digital disconnect.

As a consequene of such “societal lock-in”, one can likely feel the opposite of sustainability too; increases in consumption or various forms of addictions or other forms of mental ill, to cope with such “lock-in”. And at the same time possible growing disparities between personal demands on sustainable behavior and the inability or disinterest to live up to it, because of socio-economic conditions; or because the ideals are simply set too high. This can be found on a personal and even company, supply-chains and any other industry level.

The question that hereby remains could be how to set objectives or sorts of standards for something that is sustainable, but not setting sustainability, including CO2 neutrality as the idealized globalized standards for everything and everyone. Supposingly, sustainabiltiy even idealizes for everything to stay for ever “to sustain”, while in nature not all sustains. However, we treat most notions on sustainability like that too.

Resources

Inspiration from Psychoanalytical Theory focusing on fantasy and ideals and further literature on business model short-commings as well as conversations with people of different socio-economic backgrounds.

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I don’t want to bake more cookies- Rethinking life towards and after retirement

Some of my acquintances retire and I hear them talking about the things they will do or not after their jobs end, or already do or don’t. Some are happy and some seem dissatsified. “How is your retirement? ” I ask someone and he’d reply that well the notion is most elderlies go on hikes, I did too once, but now I want to go on about my day and life. I actually miss working because it gave me a sort of purpose. Not that I liked it, but hm oh well. I’ll find something to do.”

This and further conversations, made me think about what life I want to live, if when I set a seemingly “psychic end” to work life already, or center my thoughts on life after retirement, for which I don’t know how it will be like anyways, if the life I live is pursued because of generiousity to myself, or because of my imagined after-worklife retirement. If for the latter, does this result in me working too much, a job I possibly dislike or follow because of its financial incentives? I write so, because so often I hear” I can’t wait for retirement, finally to do the things I enjoy.” I feel it should be “I am looking forward to life itself “.

Retiremenet often seems to be perceived as the end of life phase. A start of a new life, which in retrospect is a continuity of life as whole. If someone has experiernced furstration before, they will continue to experience it after.

Yet in the retirement phase, I feel that increasing levels of loneliness or dissatisfactions suddenly originate too. In one way not doing anymore what one possibly did not like, let’s say the factory work and therefore prone to experience an increasing emptiness “How to fill such lack of work now with what type of meaning?” And in other ways not being able to continue to do what one has previously liked “industrial design,” for example because one is now the retired.

It made me think about notions to the end of life; whether a career or profession could be sustained that creates a particular meaning in the “retirmenet phase”, a form of continuity. And at the same time what form of activities could possibly be pursued so that one who experiences such a huge loss of work, even if it didn’t pleasure, can fill their time with a different form of meaning and pleasure that not necessarily relates to hiking and playing Bingo only.

Why does this worry me?

I began thinking about the retirment phases of my grandmother(s), and other elderlies in elderly homes or different forms of care; some that still lived through WW2 or the aftermaths. Some that simply lived. Some who complained at me that they didn’t want to be read out children stories or bake cookies all the time, but how much they still want to feel alive in other notions too; to design, to engineer, to teach. I guess they could, but yet they aren’t often offered the opportunity, even to fall in love again at 80 or to start a new business, if they wanted to.

Why can’t we be more engaging with the elderlies? someone could ask and the reply would be “dementia” or other symptoms of aging. But I’d say that between those moments of amnesia, there is some depth of joy that can be experienced, even if forgotten after. Though parts of it, the joy felt, the emotions, stored in the lower brain regions, they likely won’t be forgotten that easy.

Why does this matter, why does this relate to sustainability?

Just like babies, our brains still want to be stimulated. And possibly similiar to babies and brain growth; if such stimulation little exist, then brain is more likely to experience detoriation. And when we talk about detoriation of the brain, we can also talk about increases in somatic and other forms of illnesses. Furthermore, loneliness and lack of engagment turn into a major public health concern. In fact, it already is.

What can be done about it?

While these problems are known about, expenses for health care are quit high, leaving elderly care often at a minimum of care. To circumvent that the Netherlands has piloted a project in the city of Deventer in which students rooms are rented out for a discount in an elderly home in exchange for one hour volunteer work. Often students end up doing more hours for the community, then they actually have to. In another example, UK primary school merges generations by inviting elderly to work with them, a concept that originated in Japan.

And then of course there is you, us; how can we live as society, but also as individuals that the life lived is worth to be pursued as a whole and less as to be seperated stages?

What is Systemsthinking for Sustainability?

System-thinking for Sustainable Development

One of the greatest challenges of sustainable development are the various interpretations of the term and hence, versatile problems and solutions perceived and suggested by a mix of individuals, groups, entities and even regions. A question asked frequently is “how can I become more sustainable, if I don’t actually know what it is?”. This uncertainty and the need to act, often results in us finding and developing quick solutions, without being fully aware whether these solutions can be adopted and how efficient they are in the short and even long-term. We may also believe that our solution is most suitable for various sustainability problems, but it could fail as we are unaware about its acceptance and adaptation by a wider business and customer circle, regions and even family and friends.  

Hence, what could help us to find answers to those bizarre sustainability problems and how do we know whether those solutions could be a success in the future? What are we forgetting when thinking about sustainable solutions? In many cases, that is the systems-perspective.

A system

Just as with sustainability, there are various interpretations of a system. It is defined as “a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole; a group of body organs that together perform one or more vital functions; a group of devices or artificial objects or an organization forming a network especially for distributing something or serving a common purpose”.[1]

Based on these definitions, we could say that it is something that is close to us, like our home or business environment, and something that is based on different interactions that are in our control, time and space bound. That also means that we are unable to control what we are not directly engaged with – outside our system – such as us being unable to change the climate as an individual right now. But we can contribute to the latter such as by biking to work and not taking the car or washing our clothes at 30 degrees instead of 40 degrees – simply expressed.

A lacking systems-perspective   

Now imagine you are the owner of a company, which you would like to become more sustainable. For you that implies to decrease your carbon footprint (environmental sustainability) from employee commute and to support your employee’s mental health (social sustainability) by promoting physical activity. You are generous and provide each employee with a voucher of 50 Euros to buy a bicycle instead of using their car to drive to work. Quickly you realize that everyone still drives their car. You lost money and your carbon footprint remains the same.

We need to define the system before developing solutions

When we look at innovations or ideas for sustainability, it is difficult to look for a quick fix, hereby to mitigate a company’s climate footprint and increasing the physical activity of its employees by cycling to work. Asking employees, why they would not want to bike to work, although you generously provided a voucher, you may hear different answers like “The road to work is hilly and exhausting, but for 50 Euros, I cannot buy an E-bike, which I definitely need because I never exercise”, or “in summer its too hot and we don’t even have a shower at work”, “it takes me far too long because I live in the country side” and “did you know that the roads in the country side are terrible and I’d likely be covered in dirt if it rains and I arrive at work?“ oops.. many and more aspects we forgot.

Thinking in multi-level perspective

So how can we make ourselves more aware about ideas and their success for sustainable development? One way is to think in multi-level perspective – a unique way to understand systems.

It helps to understand how an idea or innovation can contribute to a transition of a system to a more sustainable state through the interaction of specific processes in three different levels: the micro-level: niches, meso-level: regimes and macro-level: landscapes. The micro level consists of multiple innovations or new processes or ideas which are protected from the regime in niches. The regime consists of the configuration of actors, institutions, infrastructures and practices that maintain and stabilize the current system. Unlike niches, regimes are rather constant and do not change radically but incrementally, like most people use the car to go to work and not a bicycle, although the car itself might develop. The landscape-level includes long-term developments like demographics, politics or the climate and the existing infrastructure, and other aspects that are difficult to influence (Geels, 2005).

Merging multi-level perspective with system thinking

The multi-level perspective can help to understand and analyze the system in which our innovation, solution or idea can develop and turn into a success. Looking at our company as a system which we want to become more sustainable, we could try to find out what infrastructure is there to support my employees to bike to work (macro-level); how do the roads look like, are they paved and flat and if not, how likely is it that our employees will go to work? Will there be bicycle roads in the future?

Another question that could be asked is how the “regime looks like” (meso-level)? What practices do my employees follow and why do they use the car or public transportation? And then I can ask myself what support they would need to use the bicycle: Would they use an e-bike more often? What do they need for that e-bike? Could they charge it at the office? And, if all of those factors come into play, how could the “bicycle” (micro-level) replace the “established” driving by car to work behavior?

Broad scope of sustainable development and system thinking

By identifying the system that we can have an influence on, we are able to develop and up-scale ideas efficiently. There are of course always landscape developments, that may change certain aspects like Covid-19 encouraged digital communications and remote work. Thereby promoting a huge decrease in emissions related to work travels, but these remain difficult to predict. However, we can be aware of such trends and what people and the economy need and hence, develop an idea most suitable to the development.

And you?

How about you? Have you made experiences with system-thinking or can you think of a system that you would like to share with us? I would be happy to hear from you.


Working With Instead of Against Emotional Dysregulation at the Workspace

The article with a focus on trauma and behavior, was written for and published by the online community “normalizing the conversation“, aiming to destigmatize and normalizing the conversation(s) around mental health. Thank you.

Healthy brain development serves as foundation for emotional regulation

Dr. Bruce Perry, a child neurologist with a specialization in child complex trauma is known for his expertise in healthy and unhealthy brain development; The brains’ development starts bottom up with the brainstem being responsible for core regulational activities such as blood pressure, up to the cortex in which abstract forms or aspects of language are formed too. In between there is the Diencephalon responsible for functions such as arousal, appetite and other, followed by the limbic system for emotional regulation.

Ideally, all these brain regions develop healthy from the bottom to the top. That happens if one ,for instance, has been responded to when cried (crying is the expression of a need since babies cannot express their needs in language yet). Responses to cries can be hugging, feeding or humming the baby or child as it grows up, so that it or more specifically its emotions and feelings feel regulated and validated. Later on these healthy or regulated brain regions will then serve in better understanding and processing emotions so that these emotions are easier put into language so that one can express needs but also feelings well. In school or work this can look like more directly responding to questions, describing less, being more direct instead of descriptive.

What happens in unhealthy brain development and how does that show in adult behavior and how to better work with it?

However, if the baby has not been responded well to, or if the baby and child has been punished or ignored for crying or having in that sense a need, then the adult version of the child will likely have difficulties in regulating emotions, but later on also in expressing them. The consequence is that one who experiences emotional dysregulation, may also experience dysregulation in speech, not literally but the ability to express needs, including wishes and desires fundamentally to their livelihood and ability to thrive as a person, privately and at work. The inability or difficulty to express that can lead to greater levels of miscommunication and thereby create conflict at the workplace and in addition feelings that one is not listened to well or other forms of behaviors such as being avoidant, withdrawing, but also being very active or too affirmative, saying yes to most things to avoid being ignored or feeling useless.

This causes a lot of energy and this makes working for those who grew up in a less nurturing environment (not only as a baby but throughout childhood and teenie years) sometimes extremely difficult. It may not even show like that though, because being punished for acting out; this could be as normal as crying, being, angry or frustrated, – made it feel that the parts of oneself that feel or are not ideal to what a parent or other caretaker might have had expected, are unworthy of showing or being (basically feeling one can’t be sad or frustrated at work, home or anywhere). As a result, one could work in a permanent dissociated stage (detached from any feeling, working like a machine). One could also show up in the work personality, that lasts around a work day and present themselves as the best employee, while in a fact the mind beyond that look could feel much different; feeling that one is mistreated, feeling like one is not valued, feeling like one is unworthy, everyone else sucks, the jobs suck, everyone is evil, feeling like one just wants to run away, because one’s’ feelings don’t matter. Chaos breaks out, when finally out of the office, at home, anywhere.

Working like that is difficult and it becomes even more difficult if certain work policies or mental health programs are conflict avoidant too, so that someone having grown up in an avoidant or punishable home, has to keep up that mask or let’s say work identity. It can be like “ we are trying to avoid conflict here, by being more positive in team-work.” Urges big No Go and a sign for a lack of a supportive mental health environment, because it is indeed conflict or the ability to have different opinions, or to show different emotions so that working with a sort of “dysregulation” or an identity that works at home and at work, works.

In fact it is that a range of emotions have to be lived and expressed, so that one better expresses themselves and others can better respond too. By the way, there is no right or wrong to how one feels, but only in denying feelings and thereby oneself. Yet, while feelings are right, the result, or the action or conclusive thought that might follow might not be true and there a lot of frustration, anger or avoidance can pop up too. In practice it looks like that” I didn’t receive an email response within a day. I am sad. I conclude I am hated. I am the most hated and worst employee.” In fact it is not like that. One indeed can be sad, even very sad or any other sort of feeling, but one is not the thought. One is not the most hatred employee or a loser. In fact, another person might be out longer for the day, is sick, doesn’t feel like replying, is lazy, is too busy, is sad, is stressed, has to deal with other things. There can be so many reasons. And these are so important to think about so that whatever thought one has, no longer defines one or the feeling.”

To make life for any employee now more easy, it could be recommended to ditch some of the positive work culture and introduce concepts of clear communication without leaving room for interpretation. “Thank you for your email. I will reply by tomorrow.” Further “You did this great, and here this needs improvement, because of… Please get back to me by (date)/ I will get back to you by (date). You can contact me during the week here or there. Over the weekend I am not available.” The word because does magic, because it leaves nobody wondering.

Resources:

Perry & Operah (2022). What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing.

Rosenfeld, H. (1983). Primitive object relations and mechanisms. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis64, 261-267.

Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

When students enter the end of high-school, the question who they want to become for the rest of their lives becomes fundamentally present. “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”. Many don’t know, some know, and some know, but they can’t. So they deviate their choice of interest or begin with any interest, that eventually as adults might leave them locked-in or question, whether what they do is actually something they thrive in. “If I could go back in time, I would have done that.” “Why haven’t you?” I would ask back, and receive a range of different answers or the sheer expression of not knowing.

Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

I remember the end of my high-school and I wanted to study psychology. I had no understanding of psychology and at the same time, I could not study it, because my high school grade (NC) was too low to enrol into a German university to study psychology. I could not become who I wanted to. I looked over the border of Germany and I realized many universities do not have a NC. Instead they have intake tests and some (like mine) had intake interviews to validate student motivation for a certain study program. Mine integrated business and public health. I quickly specialized in mental health. I thrived, my grades thrived. I could become who I wanted to still a bit; just differently.

Yet I am not a psychologist working in clinical practice. Can I become one still? No, unless I invest around 5-10 years of formal and practical education. However, I can enroll in further education (which I do) and integrate aspects of clinical knowledge in my work and private environment. I also do not have to become a psychologist “by titel”, but I can offer counceling services that also help improve the lives of people differently. So yes and no, I can and I can’t.

Could I (still) become a diplomat?

If someone asked me that question, I would not know how to answer it. But I remember having looked up political studies specializing in politics and conflicts, so that one could work for a foreign ministry. This never interested me, but for some time in my studies, or at the end I had developed a huge passion for ecosystem services in relation to livelihood. Eventually I decided to intern at an intergovernmental organization in China. I wanted to do so, because they specialized in bamboo. Ironically I did not know they were a diplomatic organization, but was quickly involved in that. Now I had diplomatic experience written on my CV and I could have continued that path. After all, diplomacy is about understanding differences and navigating jointly towards a common goal; Why does country a benefit from improved ecosystems and how can country b support such collaboration? ->Diplomacy. You can become a diplomat by specializing, being the expert in a field of your interest. Interest thrives!

Can I (still) work at the NASA?

If someone asked me that randomly, like a neighbour, I would quickly find out, that they might have expertise in a different field, let’s say pharmacy, being a cashier, kindergardener. I would say that the chance is quite low unless they changed their entire lives. Yet, I might just be so wrong. One of the alumnis from my Bachelor, developed a huge passion for waste and somehow she, her student team and professor came to think about waste in space and the effects it has on satelite crashes, whereby functioning satelites are essential for the many services we use today (mobile phones, health and more). She became so passion, that she founded the “Sustainable Development Goal 18“, is invited to give guest lectures on space and waste. As I last heard her talking, she got into the last round of job interviews at the European Space Agency for a job. She has to say 0 formal background in space, but much informal. Passion thrives and other people see that too. And passion/interest can be developed at any age.

Can I (still) become a teacher?

A teacher is someone who delivers information, ideally engaging, so that students learn, can feel empowered. I never intended to be one, but now I happen to be one ” a lecture at a University of Applied Sciences”. I don’t have the formal education for teaching, but I lived almost 7 years abroad, and I enjoy putting some of that knowledge together in a course and teach it to students. I will though. There is a demand for that, because education often looks for practical examples. So at any age, even without the formal education, you can become a teacher. Unsure? Put a free training course together and teach it (online). That also lands you skill-sets.

Can I work in counterterrorism/ intelligence analysis?

Often we look at profession as if they were a narrowed path, but less likely the skill sets needed for a certain profession; i.e. the ability to read people, to remove bias from information, to be fast, to communicate clear, to be a critical thinker, a single and team player. Instead we look at: To do this, I would have needed to study this in particular. Therefore, I never qualified and I still don’t qualify. In fact, often that is not true. For instance, in intelligence analysis the skill-sets listed above are important, but they can be found and developed in different professions. Of course, skill-sets very likely need further development, but the lack of a certain education that has let there, no longer should be an excuse not do it. Most of all; if you thrive, they thrive.

How do I know this is what I actually want?

I find this is the most difficult questions, because even if you remember, what you wanted to do or now think you want to do, there is a lack of certainty in that this is something you really enjoy. For instance, one could start studying medicine and realize, that one can’t see blood, so the “ideal” or the imaginary one holds of a job or profession may not hold true. That is years of time and money lost. To avoid that, it is helpful to go and interview people in the field “What do you like and what do you dislike?” I would even interview more since different people have different experiences and perceptions towards a profession (that’s what I like about science).

You may also want to do an internship, or see where certain skill sets demanded in a job, are skill sets you have but that show otherwise. In the case of the job of the intelligence analyst, I would see where else I am good at analyzing data. Maybe you end up finding out a skill-set unique to you that matches a profession you haven’t thought about i.e. being resilient or great at dealing with conflicts, possibly make you a good lawyer.

How does this relate to sustainability?

In one way its about thrivability. It means thriving in something, therefore feeling more content with oneself and experiencing a lower need to substitute something that is missing (negative feeling, or dissatsifaction such as with the job one choses) with something else that gives a positive feeling (pleasure) such as in shopping, drinking etc.. Often that type of pleasure does not sustain, because it aims at “compensation” or in other words “the coating” of the cake, while the cake foundation needs fixing. So it lacks.

Now by choosing a job, that sustains, that one thrives in, desire for compensation (up to addictions or levels of dissatsifaction) often decreases. One is more willing to “invest financialy” (cash flow;) ) into a career, because of the certainty of it. The return of investment (financially, but most of all emotionally is likely far higher). However, as one comes to think about, one also comes to think about being too old, too young? or too locked-in to implement changes. In addition, there seems as much as fear to change to something that makes one thrive possibly more.

However, that isn’t the case and in any age and stage, there are opportunities to at least integrate parts of another discipline that one might have miss(ed) out. One might even look for new directions, not thought of yet.

What about you? Please feel free to comment, write about your situation, job choices and I am gladly responding. You can also book a free consultation with me.

Marketing for sustainability?

Sustainability should aim at enabling but also providing invdividuals and groups of individuals a lifestyle of their choosing, without causing damage to the environment such as the ecological ecosystem, people with who the environment is shared with and individuals themselves. To enable that, marketing for sustainabiltiy should educate consumers about products and lifestyles so that consumers are enabled to make concious purchasing and lifestyle choices. A good example is the sales of cigaret packages that often include marketing for the negative aspects of smoking such as its risk of cancer. Another good example is the use of health education as part of marketing, i.e. using an uber or other forms of car sharing as a means to circumvent drunk driving if other forms of public transportation aren’t available, helping thereby to avoid incidences from drunk driving. While there is a clear health benefit there are also business and environmental benefits that come from shared mobility.

In these forms of marketing, there is no sugarcoating. It is honest. This differs to growing strategies in marketing for sustainability, which can tend to market “sustainability” such as sustainable lifestyles and products, although the intention often still remains the sales of a product or service. Hereby sustainability becomes an ideal that is sold as part of a marketing strategy. The risk is that marketing for sustainability can continue to facilitate consumption or more specific growth behavior, while in sustainability, growth or the sales of a product or lifestyle (see push marketing) can work contradictive.

This can be seen in products with a renewable resource base; if the extraction and processing contradicts the resources’ needed regrowth time. However, these products might not be kept longer, because they were pushed onto the consumer and possibly not intrinsically needed. This might differ to other forms of marketing such as in pull marketing for sustainability, where consumers make more concious choices in terms of a purchase so that the product or service chosen is kept longer by aliging more with what the consumer needs and wants. Of course this might not be exclusive and there can be overlaps.

How does marketing for sustainabiltiy work these days?

Before marketing was sustainable, marketing sold certain imaginary that likely were not sustainable, think about the topless muscleman, infront of a BBQ of brand x with his guy friends and the woman in the background taking care of the children. Now in marketing for sustainability we may no longer see the muscle guy, but the well dressed husband or a lesbian couple, with a vegan steak in front of the now a newer and more efficient BBQ of brand x. One may now buy not only that lifestyle, so close to a sustainability ideal, but most of all one buys a new BBQ. Marketing did it again. It sold.

Because it is marketed as sustainable, does not mean it is (in the long-term). Source

What is more likely marketing for sustainability?

Marketing for sustainability should be as simple as that it is honest and deviate from selling sustainability ideals sourrounding the product or by idealizing the product for being sustainable. It is nearly as knowing a partner who one choses to marry or a partnership one engages with for an investment, because one knows them. For example, a tourist agency could sell a sustainble sailing turn across the atlantic ocean with vegan food, FSC certified timber and a romantic ride into the sun. However, it also has to sell the reality that being the risk of sea sickness, the storms on the sea, the team-work needed, 24 hours readiness and most of all the lack of romantization such trip might bring along. If it does so, it will find that consumers sustain the sail turn, but will also return as consumers again because marketing was honest, and the reality sold matched what was expected. Honesty hereby makes marketing sustainable – the product being sustainable tourism- long term profitable.

Curious about the many ideals sold here? Klick here.

For physical products that could look as much like “here is the product we are selling, but it also falls short on long-term battery life. We are being actually honest that you can’t expect this from this product, but we are looking into developing a new model that enables you to keep the product and be able to easily replace the battery so that you don’t depend on new product purchases. This will also be part of a new business service offering, so that you don’t have to deal with long returns and actually safe money over time, with benefits for us to save on production resources too. The product is actually useful for these purposes…. and we don’t recommend if … because you likely won’t end up using it. If you still want to try it out, we can rent it out too as part of our new service offering. ”

It could also be as simple as selling a lack of ideals or filling a niche or problem: Here you can use the GPS tracker for your pet in the city so that your pet can go outdoors, you don’t get mad during home office, while you don’t have to worry, whether it gets locked up in a garage without finding it. This type of marketing might even work better then selling such GPS in idealized sustainable scenarios with a wild tracker pet father or couple, conquering wild river beds and sustainable forests with their pets, because most people work during the week, so selling a product what it is for in the context, make it sustain and the consumers too. It may even increase the reach including sales, while improving coustomer loyalty.

Of course selling purely sustainable values is great too, particular if it does not prohibit behaviors by purchasing products and lifestyles that are for instance socially and ecologically friendly prodcued such as re-use bottles or bags bags as a means to avoid the use of continues plastics. But to sell to sell and then use sustainability as a selling point.. hmm hmm.

More thoughts ? Message me anytime.

References

Koelen, M. A., & Van den Ban, A. W. (2004). Health education and health promotion. Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Training courses on the unconciousness mind, ideals and fantasy.

Is there hope in the lack of it?

Someone asked me to reply to the following;

“Many people say we are driving towards extinction and horrible living conditions, basically the future will be really dark. Others say that everything will be fine. I don’t know if I can relax and enjoy the present moment with thinking that the future will be ok or if I need to fight more because the future will apparently be really bad.”

And here is my answer;

In sustainability we deal nearly every day with the worst case scenarios and how to prevent them. In doing so we tend to begin with the end in mind and often that is the worst; “the end of the world as a result of climate change”. This trickles down to the interconnections and reason for that to happen such as inqualities, growing gaps between the rich an poor, corruption, unsustainable production and consumption processes, homophobia, abuse of power, addictions, health disparities, greed, species destinction, terrorism, further illness and alike. A recipe for anxiety.

It is now not only climate change that is a threat to our own survival, but it is also the interconnections that, when we focus in extremes on them, become the reality of how this world is, or more specifically how we perceive it to be. Let me point out; it is not like that, it is not neither nor in extreme, it is in proportion. Yet, (please continue reading, the good part is comming soon), many of these challenges seem extremely difficult to solve though, because of how complex they are so that the proportion might feel overwhelming. Such an example is the current war going on between Russia and the Ukraine. There is no “stop” botton. And there also seems no stop bottom for corporations to pollute and exploit because they get to benefit from the perks of limited liability (see why that happens in the video below). It nearly feels like working towards a vacuum, a sort of helplessness in the messiness we fight in that field.

Now in sustainability we still work with the end in mind (the worst case scenario) and in some methods we imagine the best case scenario, in which we have saved the world and all problems this world is facing (see the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals). Yet even if we use the best case scenario in which we imagine the perfect world, we still break down the vision into things that don’t work out now and then how we need to change them get to the imagined perfect world. We may see again that all is quite wicked. It makes it seemingly perceive that we will likely run into a shitstorm; extinction. More anxiety.

Is there any hope globally?

In all the scenarios that we run through, in all the madness that indeed is real in proportion, there is yet also hope. That is in fact seeing that such things as the Sustainable Development Goals exist or that one or two typos become increasingly accepted (more biases being removed that against how things should be but no longer hold to true i.e. in innovation, being open for change and working with differences). Going back; although the SDGs may not be ideal, they give some sort of direction and thanks to the SDGs we see not only companies moving towards more sustainability in many different ways, but we also see more people being aware of it as a result of creative forms of education, being that funny TikTok movies to reach a broader mass, other forms of Entertainment Education, or simply because people care. We now also see that sustainability becomes a profitable business case, so that capitalism (one of course can critiques it) becomes also an opportunity for change.

There is also much efforts done by individuals as there is done by NGOs and even governments through the implementation of new laws and policy. One can now even see countries nearly competing in terms of which country or region is becoming more green or more sustainable. Why would they do that? Well it attracts investments. The more stable an economy, the more secure investments, or in some cases tourism and further employment opportunities (money is not too bad). In addition, the world is becoming more globalized, our perception is changing rapidly, so that we no longer live in our own thought bubbles, but also in ways in which things can change more rapidly, not our perception only, but opportunities of cooperation and in the fight for lets say climate justice (think about Greta Thunberg); She does a great job in bringing the issue at stake.

Is there more hope?

Many people don’t throw their trash on the floor, there are companies and individuals I know who are not driver for sustainability of the entire organizations, but their hearts are inside; While Twitter might not be known for promoting gender equality and feminism I know at least one employee who drives that type of thinking in her heart there and internal in the organization, so that in all that critqiues about Twitter there is also hope. And knowing her, I am sure she’s moving a lot.

K-Pop at the UN. That’s called fan loyality and awarness raising at high level.

And for the other topics; as much as there is war, there is also the lack of it (think about how many countries are not at war now) and while there is a lack of biodiversity there is also not a lack of it thanks to growing regulations on forest protection and because people like it (also thanks to instagram almost instagram nature tourism and romantic tags in forest/nature scenarios that are worth protecting nature for too.). Seemingly, there are many tech companies that invest into IT Tools for social innovation (I know at least one) and sustainability also becomes this cool thing to do, even in education it becomes increasingly implemented. In ways its nice, because it moves automatically (literally giving us a rest also thanks to different time zones and many people working in this field around the clock and thanks to social media running 24/7 in repetition). It also is becomming more fun and accessible i.e. being more able to shape our cities through tools or different ways in which the public can participate in legal decision making. This is kind of the way to go.

Will the future be okay or bad?

Coming back to the original comment; There is no certainty, because in certainty we know, and sustainabiltiy or the end goal of it seems quiet uncertain. There is direction and when we look at direction there is much hope too, and balance in how we look at things also.

References

Glick, R. A. (2003). Idealization and psychoanalytic learning. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly72(2), 377-401.

Swart, R. J., Raskin, P., & Robinson, J. (2004). The problem of the future: sustainability science and scenario analysis. Global environmental change14(2), 137-146.

Trussler, M., & Soroka, S. (2014). Consumer demand for cynical and negative news frames. The International Journal of Press/Politics19(3), 360-379.

Cover Picture: Local Artist Studio.

On the ideals on pregnancy and (mother)hood that no longer hold true.

Image Source: GQ-Magazin

I wrote this blog in the light of the US Supreme Court ruling on overturning abortion rights. I also write this blog, because I had an abortion myself. In that sense I am biased and in the same sense I understand how important access to abortion and particular safe abortion is. Following I have listed 6 arguments I have read most about to avoid pregnancy and to carry on with it. Most of the arguments are based on the ideals of (avoiding) pregnancy and (mother)hood that no longer hold true. I wrote (mother)hood, because in parenthood also the father is involved. I highlight motherhood since pregnancy is about the woman and her autonomy over her body (at least it should be).

I write about ideals and their lack and post this here, because we tend to idealize so much, that decisions taken tend to not fully align with the realities that exist, but more likely the ideals of realities, also known as fantasy. This does not only apply to the abortion case, but one can also see this in other fields, in which actions are taken based on ideals, but no longer the realities, that diversity and a globalized world with inequalities bring with them. And that is; risky.

Argument 1; Why not avoiding pregnancy?

One of the key arguments that can be found on social media is that pregnancy is inevitable avoidable. That is by using contraception such as the condom and birth control. I write about these two, because they are most commonly used. Now, people have sex for different reasons in different circumstances and choose to use and not to use contraception, not because they don’t know about it, but because they don’t want to. Because it is like that; Sometimes people are horny, they do it in the heat of the moment. They may use the pull-out method instead, but how difficult must it be to pull out before an orgasm? I am not a man, but I imagine it to be challenging. In other instances, people might have drunk sex and are careless. What about reboundsex with the ex? There are also instances in which condoms are used, but for the many reasons they may slip off with the orgasm, or before. I did not like using birthcontrol because it made me feel tired and so I believed in the “calendar” method, which did not work out at all. Of course, there are also instances, in which a lack of education leads to unprotected sex. There may be wishful thinking, of course there are also extreme cases of rape and other reasons why people have unproteted sex.

Argument 2. You can get a baby, regardless what situation you are in

When I looked further through other social media posts and comments, one can easily find different recommendations on how to carry on with the pregnancy. In doing so one disregards the circumstantiality in which people get pregnant and speaking for diverse people and particular woman that I met throughout my life; disregarding the hardship of poverty, the hardship of lacking access to maternal care, the hardship of battling mental health problems, the hardship of being a single parent with little income, the hardship of domestic violence (emotional/physical), the hardship of combining a career with children, the hardship of being too young of a parent, the hardship of an affair, the hardship of wanting to persue studies, the hardship of too much uncertainty, the hardship of a relationship one is potentially forced into, simply not wanting, … .

Argument 3; Having a baby will make you happy.

Ideally speaking and also according to google bias, when you type “pregnancy and/or parenthood”, it appears so joyful, its beautiful. Particular the mother, can find herself in the best time, well taken care of with ideally a supportive husband and if not married one can quikly go to the church to ensure a lifetime relationship; ready to pursue the American Dream. For single parents there is according to google bias also little hardship; one can find the happy single dads throwing their happy children into the air and for others it seems as if there is indefinite support.

These ideas do no longer hold true, because of the bias they imply. When I found out I was pregnant I had just ended a relationship that was no longer nurturing. I had no money, and after working and studying abroad for 7 years and having no emotional support coming back, but also having my first paid long-term job, it was the most unideal situation for myself having a baby. I had not felt calmness for myself in a long time and I wouldn’t be able to offer calmness and consistancy at that point either to myself nor the child privately. The cicumstantiality decided against it. The circumstances or as Adam Shechter (Psychotherapist) calls it on his instagram account; the psychicic pregnancy was non ideal.

We also no longer live the American Dream. People break up and marriage no longer is “a life-time insurance” and neither does it say anything about how people love, how nurturing the relationship is, how healthy it is for the baby. There is little happinness, when what is, is not happy. So is also a single dad or a single mom not always happy.

Argument 4: The baby will help you solve your relationship problems

I remember feeling the relief of a break-up, but also the sadness with it. I remember the tears as my pregnancy test would show positive. I did not want the relationship to continue. Inevitabely I was suggested that the baby would help bond with the partner. Most people would do it like that. I strongly disown that. A baby should not be used as a means for couples to stay together. Because when you do not function as a couple independent of a baby, you do not function as a parent. And you have to function as a parent if you want to raise a child healthy. Thinking that a baby will fix all the relationship problems is wrong. It may even trap people in relationships (not only romantic ones but also family relationships, friendships, work relationships) that are no longer nurturing.

Argument 5: When one is pregnant, they will do automatically a good job at being a parent

Nowadays, families do not live together anymore. Families hereby may compromise “father, mother, grandparents, cousins, and other friends” in which children can be taken care of. We live more scattered now. We live more isolated (particular in Germany), where taking care is often the primary responsibility of one care-taker or a couple. Dr. Bruce Perry, a child neurologist who I had attended a policy roundtable on maternal health care in Calfifornia with, tends to write and teach about how important the role of community in attachment, regulation and healthy brain development is. An isolated family system, reduces that. It also reduces a single parent to the primary care taker, after which the primary care taker may no longer take enough care of themselves. It increases stress and pressure and parenthood no longer is “ideal”.

In addition, being a parent is no longer leaving the kids to play video games. Being an attuned parents requires time. TV and playstation cannot raise a child. Parents have to engage their children, support them in becoming the version that is true to them and does not appeal to what we learn in media only. Parents have to raise their children in a world with wicked and yet so complex challenges that the role of a parent no longer is as ideal and easy as it might have looked like many years ago. It wasn’t even then. Ultimately, the ideals no longer hold, after which an abortion may no longer be perceived un-ideal.

The last Argument 6: You can give your baby up for adoption

Just, no! Fostercare is one of the worst systems that exist. In university I interned at the NGO Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in California, USA, where foster children are matched up with volunteers to provide some sort of consistancy for at least two years. That form of consitancy and nourishing relationship was perceived as essential, since fosterhomes are often overcrowded. There children are often being displaced to other foster homes, and the older they get the longer they stay. The longer they stay the higher the burdon on their mental health. I did not want that! And I know many others don’t either.

Why do safe abortions and access to legal matter?

Abortions will always be happenning, because of the beforementioned. They will continue to happen because of the lack of ideals and the circumstantiality after which people get pregnant. If abortions happen unsafely, there are high risks for the mothers health. For instance, the abortion pill consists often of two pills. The first one in which the fetus detaches from the uterus and the second one in which the fetus (if not already discharchged) is discharged through contractions the second pill iniatiates. However, it has to be verified that the fetus is discharged, because it is harmfull if it stays inside the uterus. A fetus may also stay attached to the uterus (if the pill did not work out) with yet unknown birth harms.

Is all unwanted pregnancy bad?

I want to write about this, because of the critical text I wrote first. I do believe that not all unwanted pregnancy is bad and I also believe that there is often no ideal moment to become a parent. Its a challenge and we have to grow into. But I do believe that there are lack of ideals, which have to be recognized because of the “risks” that a continuation of pregnancy can bear to the parent(s) and the child.

Resources

Clinical Reserach during my internship at the Court Appointed Special Advocates in California, USA in 2015. Parts of the report accessible at; https://www.slideshare.net/AnnCathrinJst/anncathrin-joest-professional-product-962015

Conversations and LinkedIn comments

My own Abortion and Circumstantiality

Why does underrepresentation prevent success in the circular economy?

Representation means that different people, different groups, different ways of being are being represented. Representation should move away from ideals. Ideals are for instance ideals on behavior, ideals on what people may like and dislike. How people are and aren’t, should and shouldn’t be. They are dangerous because they illustrate lifestyles that do not hold true, but they are perceived as such. That’s a barrier for innovation and success in innovation for circularity.

Where can we find underrepresentation?

We can find it in movies. We can find it very well on google. If you look up a picture on “single dads” and you will found mostly happy, caucasian dads playing with their happy child. It is difficult finding a picture of a non caucasian dad, who’d sit there alone in frustration, thinking how to take care for his child, thinking how to make enough money, being sad or frustrated, but also being happy with the role as father.

Why does this matter?

The circular economy is in a way “voluntarily”. Often nobody has to engage in it, because there are also linear business models. Yet, for many application such as fashion, furnitures and other products, the active participation of people is required. Now there are many business models, but they don’t take into account diversity, a lack of ideals. They offer rental services, they offer subscription services, they offer take back services, but they may not succeed. They may not succeed because of the lack of diversity in their business model thinking. The fact that someone with a low income might rather want to buy a cheap shoe as oppose to renting one over years because its sustainable. Not because they don’t want to, but because the reality “being stressed, having a small income” maybe does not want to make them to.

Curious for more? Contact me

On bias in adoption

Likely every day people have sex without being asked about their gender preferences, living situation, income, level of education and age. Why not? Because it would be discriminating. And so are many standards on adoption.

Why does this matter?

I found myself wondering, whether I would consider an adoption. I was single and I thought I had a safe yet small apartment, I was getting more concious with myself, I lived in a safe environment. Yet I was not too sure on what my job would look like when my contract might end in 2022, I wasn’t sure how I would manage alone, whether my part-time salary was enough and I wasn’t sure how to combine raising a child with my interests. At the same time I thought it must be doable. Particular in Germany, there is various child-support from the government and also civil society initatives.

Single parents, can be great parents.

I began informing myself on adoption and the adoption process. I quickly found myself in a bizarr world on parental requirements and bias. For instance, adoption shouldn’t happen later then the age of 40, and adoption is favored for married couples, there should be enough space for the child (like a single room), the income should be high enough and the employment status permanent. I thought, well that might then take a long time for me to adopt someone, since I don’t qualify for most of these criteria in Germany. I looked further into that, and found that for instance in China someone to adopt should be female and/or have a high school degree. And puh, so many other criteria around the world.

To give an idea on the diversity and many biases on adoption.

I stopped reserching more, because it got me thinking about the family image, what constitutes as ideals of living and how certain ways of being or certain ways societal images, shape the image of love and the ability to care. The ability to qualify as “ideal foster parent“. One could think that someone with a stable income provides stability and a single room for a child provides love and affection. Or that still two parents are needed (of different genders), ideally married, to provide a child with a healthy development. It is not the case.

These are symbols of certain ways of being that somehow managed to be perceived as “ideal”. They are not, because it does not say much about how the child is being nurtured. Instead they are symbols that remove the opportunities for adoption of a child that otherwise may continue to live in poverty, that may be stuck in a foster system being send in and out of different homes, a child that may no longer learn or get to know stability, so that as adults it may not know what stability means either.

Money does not buy love. Time sometimes does, affection, support. Of course it’s not exclusive.

When we talk about systems-change for sustainability, we also have to talk about perception. How a donation to an orphanage in one way may provide food for a day (which is important), but how when we talk about longevity of solutions – the sustainability-, a short donation won’t sustain. What does sustain is a change in processes and a change in the perception of cultural practices including belief systems; that being that singles, gays, and those above 40, or “1 room flatters”, very much can qualify as nurturing parent as much as those who fit the criteria.

References

Linkedin Conversation

Conversation with gay friends

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