Tag Archives: sustainability

Happy 150th Birthday Yellowstone Park!

Happy retirement to ranger, Betty Reid Soskin, age 100!

In the 19th century, the USA government depended on expeditions made up of surveyors, photographers and artists to document the vast western reaches of the new nation. Subsequently, Congress got a sense of the country viewing photographs and sketches of the picturesque landscapes. Yet it would be the monumental painting of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Hudson River School painter, Thomas Moran (1837‒1926) painted in 1872 that would move Congress to set aside designated public lands (see below).

The result is the nascent National Park System of national treasures for future generations, the first of its kind in the world, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant. The fledgling new nation likely adopted from First Peoples’ Nations, consciously or unconsciously, the concept of stewardship of the land for future generations.

According to the park’s website, Yellowstone is located at the point of convergence of the Great Plains, Great Basin, and Columbia Plateau where 27 Native American Tribes have historic and modern connections to the land and its resources. For over 10,000 years before Yellowstone became a national park, it was a place where Native Americans lived, hunted, fished, gathered plants, quarried obsidian, and used thermal waters for religious and medicinal purposes.


In meeting the challenge of climate change, the USA has a longstanding heritage in restoring an emerging attitude grounded in what David Orr (1992) sees as ecoliteracy – the ability to “observe nature with insight resulting in a merger of landscape and mindscape” (pp. 85–87). When you marvel of Yellowstone’s role as one of the last and largest nearly intact natural ecosystems on the planet, its thousands of hydrothermal sites and active geysers, adds to its natural wonder at Yellowstone and any number of the many national parks’ pristine vistas.

We could all do well to follow in the footsteps an inspirational advocate for the parks the behalf of us all–ranger Betty Reid Soskin, who retired yesterday at age 100—thank you Betty!

Thomas Moran Painting Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone completed and displayed to Congress in 1872. Thomas Moran Oil on canvas mounted on aluminum. H 213, W 266.3 cm Department of the Interior Museum. Check the museum website for its reopening to the public and go see this amazing exhibit.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone completed and displayed to Congress in 1872.
Thomas Moran
Oil on canvas mounted on aluminum. H 213, W 266.3 cmDirect capture

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Cultivating Sustainability – millennial wisdom

Current discussions around sustainability with references to human flourishing have deep philosophical antecedents in both the West and the East. In the East particularly, “the prime value of the cultivated person is seen as the keystone of human flourishing” (Wm.Theodore deBary).

Regulating human behavior has been a perennial problem in the intellectual history both East and West: should rules and laws be imposed so that individuals conform to a mutual code of standards; or is it possible for the self-cultivated to develop his or her own moral compass and guide action.

The problem is that laws are often black and white whereas in real life, most situations can give rise any number of variables.

As facilitator, I introduced briefly how the Chinese approached this problem. Although Legalism goes far back to the ancient world, the Confucian concept of self-cultivation was practiced and valued as a the hallmark of the “junzi” a profound person. One participant posed that such a concept for her aligns with the new direction in modern holistic medicine and the approach of seeing the whole person, not separate from its parts. For example, we live in a compartmentalized world setting aside time for vacations and/or weekends while the rest of time we can expect a frenzied to existence of meeting quotas and unrealistic performance measures. A recent graduate proffered his observation: that for some of his peers, the key motivation is not about riches, but making a difference in the world. Hearing this, an HR professional, wondered it it would serve industry better to rethink its approach to attracting millennials touched off a lively discussion. Perhaps so, the young man shared further how those of his college friends who went into industry after graduation are finding themselves very unhappy. To which another asked: Can workplaces be designed that are more conducive to its employees’ quality of life such as Zappos? Can a model built on Zappos align with organization complexity while building sustainability that supports personal creativity. One individual raised a question of HR’s role that may differ from institution–is it an added layer to the management hierarchy, that would create a built-in barrier. The conversation also touched on product consciousness in that workers want to feel they are contributing to a product that has meaning for them, the environment and the world.

The group agreed that while a solution may not have showed itself that day, they appreciated the intergenerational exchange and opportunity to listen and learn from each other.

Please feel free to share your comments or observations either from the workplace or what you are reading in current news.

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