from the world's big
Living Our Values, Closing the Ethical Gap
Jeffrey B. Rubin, PhD, is the author of the new book, The Art of Flourishing: A New East-West Approach to Staying Sane and Finding Love in an Insane World, available June 7, 2011.
We are what we value.
What we care about defines and orients us. We will live very differently if we respect other people and the world around us than if we see the world as a huge amusement park, the sole purpose of which is to entertain us and satisfy our personal appetites. Values are compasses that tell us what is right and what is wrong, and help us find meaning and direction in our lives.
For most of us there is a gap between what we value and how we behave.
An important reason people betray their values is that they fail to understand what they really need. “You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy,” wrote Eric Hoffer in The True Believer. If we aren’t aware of what we need we will be prone to believe that the more we acquire and consume the happier we will be. This sometimes works—temporarily. But it is cotton candy for the soul. It looks good and tastes good but it is a poor substitute for something that is vital and leaves us starved for something that will truly help us flourish.
There are several qualities that might aid us in being more moral in an immoral age. Self-knowledge—wise attention to who we are and how we behave—teaches us what we truly need and how we fit into the world. It can reveal our characteristic blind spots and temptations. It can illuminate our ethical resources.
Self-awareness can help us treat ourselves better, which means respecting and nourishing, rather than indulging and exploiting ourselves. In order to nurture ourselves it is crucial that we know what truly helps us flourish. At the end of their lives most people wish they had had more meaning, purpose, and fulfilling relationships, rather than more money, gadgets, or possessions.
Another crucial aspect of ethically useful self-knowledge is the recognition that we are not really separate from other people—as you fare, so do I. Understanding this makes it more difficult to exploit others because taking advantage of them demeans us, which is like exploiting ourselves. If we help create a toxic society, then we—and our families—can’t help but be poisoned by it too.
Understanding ourselves also entails recognizing our characteristic temptations—which are different for everyone. When we understand the particular desires we are prone to be seduced by, we can resist the siren song of unhealthy appetites and mechanical behavior.
Because self-concern, self-protection, and self-esteem are indispensable for survival, human “self-centeredness” can’t—and shouldn’t—be eliminated, but rather must be handled more wisely. We need to cultivate empathy and compassion for others, even as we cherish, celebrate, and nourish ourselves.
Living our values also entails having the integrity and accountability to learn from our mistakes. We commit to discovering and encouraging the best within ourselves and other people.
One crucial way of living our values is by noticing gaps between our ideals and our behavior, which are often signaled by remorse or regret. I learn more about myself when I study those times when I don’t live up to my self-image and ideals than I do when I either live up to them—or don’t, and deny or rationalize it.
Paying attention to our dreams is another indispensable way of detecting such disparities between who we think we are and who we are. Dreams are an early warning system about emotional conflict and areas of guilt. Studying them keeps us honest.
As does being part of communities of accountability—relationships with individuals and groups of people who value the truth and doing the right thing, not simply making more money or garnering more power or fame. Our truth-seeking friends and mentors can steer us in an ethical direction when our own moral compass is failing.
Developing greater empathy and striving to understand other people from within their frames of reference, expands our moral imagination and decreases the gap between our behavior and our ideals. An important aspect of this is becoming attuned to the impact of our actions on other people.
Lessening the gap between our actions and our ideals can create a civilization with greater morality, heightened trust, and much less discontent.
Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?
Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.