Old Ideas, New Knowledge, Sustainable Communities | Nels Paulson | TEDxUWStout



Oh so I'd like to start with a picture and it's really really gross so there's this girl I don't a doc and she's around this thing we call blue-green algae bloom which is actually a bacterial Santa bacteria it's it's toxic and it stinks and this is a problem for the Red Cedar River Basin and west central Wisconsin it's actually a global problem though it comes from phosphorus pollution it's runoff off the land and it's something that we're very concerned about here this girl is obviously very concerned about here and we wanted to figure out what do we do about this well arriving here in Menominee is environmental sociologist I'm really interested in this problem so I start to find out more about it and what I discovered is we actually know how to fix this problem we have a lot of the technologies to change land use we have some things we can do in the lakes there's a combination of things that we can be doing and so upon talking people I was like well let's do something and they said well we need to get information out there we gotta get new knowledge and so what we did was we sent around this documentary around the watersheds and middle schools and high schools called troubled waters illustrates where problems come from for blue-green algae bloom and our solutions there's some ideas of some solutions sent around all the middle schools high schools kids watched it we sent them a survey and we asked them okay do you get it and good news overwhelmingly they said we get it this documentary was very informative thank you for sending it out and I was excited but I decided you know I did ask some other questions right like what are we gonna do about this right so I asked him are you willing to like work with other people to try address water pollution now that you know and they said no I think so right so we gave them some an easier route right oh why don't you just talk to other people would you be willing to talk with other people about this and I said no I don't really want to do that either right and so this seemed depressing that's what we call them sociology a b.split attitude behavior split you understand you value this and you don't follow up on it and so we asked them what if you just engaged in some different personal behaviors right and so they actually said yes we're willing to engage in different personal behaviors to address water quality fantastic right okay they they understand the problem they're willing engage in different personal behaviors so this is good news or at least some people thought so and I looked at it as a sociologist and I said crap we're screwed so it turns out how we can't possibly solve our social and environmental problems if we just ask people to engage in different personal behaviors take our overall ecological footprint for example how many acres of productive land that we require as Americans so I give you an idea of an acre this is a soccer field soccer field is roughly 2 acres give or take right so as Americans we on average need about you know a dozen of these about 24 productive acres right it's a lot it's not sustainable we know this so what we've found is that people can engage in different personal behaviors they can recycle and and and they can bike to work and when they do these things they leave their windows open during the summer and start running air conditioning they shop locally they're never ever stick at sea there they're really responsible human beings right and they can actually cut this in half beautiful wonderful oh except this we actually need to get down to about four or five productive acres in terms of sustaining Humanity on this earth right so this is a problem how in the world are we going to get people to agree to be constrained to the level that we need to clean up not only blue-green algae bloom but a lot of our other environmental problems to sustainably live on this earth right well it turns out we have some old ideas that are solutions to this very old ideas specifically the idea of democracy so we take the United States we have this wonderful democracy this is not unique to the planets we have places like France that think that they invented democracy they didn't but they were going through one of seventeen times where they tried to perfect democracy in the 1830s they send this guy to America named Alexis de Tocqueville tours around the country for about nine months and he writes his book democracy in America he says this is the most wonderful functioning democracy I've ever seen they've got it this is what the Greeks dreamed about right except for he had this chapter about slavery except for that this is the most functional democracy in the world and it's wonderful because the way the Americans spend their leisure time they hang out with other people they hang out a church that hang out at bars that hang out in public places and they talk to one another and what he said they developed the Civic mindedness right where they're not just thinking about themselves they're thinking about their connections to other people because that's what they do they connect to other people fast forward 170 years we are not there anymore we got this book as published by a political scientist actually we like to claim the sociology Robert Putnam Bowling Alone we're not bowling with other people as much anymore we're Bowling Alone seen just in the last quarter decade or quarter century excuse me a drop and people attending club meetings by about 58% a drop in people having family dinners by about 43% a drop in just having people over to our houses friends by about 35% in other words we're spending our leisure time engaging in things that are focused on ourselves shopping try to improve our status with super fancy ties from Sean John or I don't or where we're sitting at home watching TV we're separated from other people right we're not really connecting in real ways and this is the secret to trying to figure out how to constrain one another if we can actually care to know about one another right in real ways people are different than us and so this is what I've actually tried to do with my research instead of just producing great sociology which I hope I do I hope I published it in wonderful journals for the rest of my life great but with my research on the lake what we drew is bringing students around the country to do research with us during the summer we do this great research in sociology biology anthropology economics and so on so forth and they do this great research at the end of the summer though we have them present the research informative posters at a local coffee shop here in Menominee and it's actually this really beautiful thing where people come and gain new knowledge but the old idea is what's transformative they come and gain new knowledge but then they talk to one another and maybe they talk about their kids but maybe they're talking about some of this stuff right the blue-green algae bloom and we've seen hundreds of people come just for one evening people want this chance to talk about controversial stuff and to find solutions and the research is great but look at them hanging out drinking beers and drinking coffee with one another these are the kinds of things that make democracy work and address our problems our environmental and social problems and the interesting thing is that this is what makes a civilization of civilization not the development of new technologies there's a wonderful thing as a TEDx talk right we want to promote technology in science but without learning slowly to be kind we're never going to get there all right this is a quote from search how's Lucas from the 17th century again these are old old ideas I actually got this from my dad front row old ideas and this is probably one of the most important things that sociology has discovered right and this harkens back to all sorts of world religions look at Christianity mark chapter 9 right Jesus is walking around with all the disciples listening to them talk about who's the best disciple he gets done listening to them he's like you guys so afraid of right first should be last last should be first he gets in this thing focused on other people right this is how we could start to see other people's perspectives but also how can we constrain one another and so the point of all of this is our connections to nature and people are really the same if we want our connections to nature to be sustainable in real ways we need to make our connections to other people real and here's the interesting thing to me sociology is well documented this that when we spend time developing friendships with other people were far happier than when we spend our time consuming things to impress other people or trying to talk to people in a way convincing them that you're right right far happier when we actually take the time to listen and this is sometimes really hard isn't it especially some of you I don't know if you can tell I'm kind of extroverted some of us are not and even for me it's sort of hard sometimes put myself out there right and just listen so telling people I'm right some professors who I'm supposed to do right tell people I'm right I'm actually happy when I don't but it's scary right it's one of the most important things you take a look at these students from the end of this or this is actually during the entire summer this past summer what was transformative for them was not learning research skills in and of itself and they're getting to get Annegret great graduate programs I think for some of the research that they learn to do but it's the connections that they made to one another into this community right they see their lives in a completely new way and that's what I want for all of us thank you very much




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