Ghosts & Kuznet Curves

Meditation? In class?? This was a first for me, as I settled into a comfortable, but alert, position on my blue beanbag on Tuesday morning. I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing, but as I stared at the little green dot of paint on the sticky note at my feet, the world slowed down. Or perhaps, I slowed down for the world… Sounds I hadn’t taken the time to notice before suddenly became distinct. The irregular breathing of one of my classmates. The steady whish, whish, whish of a fan somewhere. A strange howling, rising and falling in tone behind me, which my brain told me must be the wind, but that little spark of imagination in me insisted were ghosts. Slowly, I faded into that still, grey place between sleep and waking. Was I falling asleep? Maybe. But when I opened my eyes, I felt more at peace than I’d felt all semester. Literally one of the best feelings in the world.

On Thursday when the class was split into their respective teams, ‘NO’ and ‘YES’, I found myself on the ‘YES’ team. Breaking up into pairs, we went over anything we’d found confusing or just straight up bonkers in the ‘Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Sustainability” article. Something me and my fellow teammate both found confusing was a curiosity called ‘The Environmental Kuznets Curve’. (it honestly didn’t help that I read it as Kuzco, and my mind kept wandering to llamas and tiny potion bottles…) Anyway, the Kuznets Curve turned out to be a graph of a popular idea that as our economy develops, our market increases, and then decreases economic inequality. This completed graph is essentially an inverted U.

After we completed our discussion over that article, Dr. Armstrong gave us the rundown of two articles, and she asked both of the teams to assess them from the point of view of our authors, and then tell her what they would have thought of it

Considering the first article, after conferring with my teammate, I contributed this argument to the class: Our author points out that as economic growth is observed, an increasing number of people would be searching for sustainable options. Yet, what we see in this article is many major companies addressing social issues instead, such as H&M with their LGBTQ+ Pride collection, and a large clothing line only advertising models of color. (awesome move, by the way!) We even see Levi and Nike taking stands on important issues, such as gun violence. Our team’s argument was, according to our author, we should be seeing more movement towards environmental sustainability change, but instead people are focusing on their little social squabbles. Yes, I realize there is nothing tiny or insignificant about these social issues, but compared to the death of our planet? They look pretty small to me.

And what about the second article? The ‘YES’ team seemed to be in total agreement: our author would have supported it wholeheartedly, but he would have said “We could do more”. Yes, a few companies are trying to lessen their footprint by pushing for biodegradable packaging. But we need this on a broader scale. This means more advertising for this, more people working together to shove these ideas forward.

I absolutely loved the meditation sessions before class. Sitting there with my eyes closed, letting the sounds around me flow over like waves, and simply drifting was so relaxing and refreshing. I felt more attentive, yet also calmer, if that makes sense, during our debates. I suppose, a good word to describe the feeling would be ‘grounded’. I didn’t just feel like an observer during class, I was a participant.

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