Posts Tagged ‘The New Yorker’

David Brooks: Human Interconnection is Vital to Our Well-Being

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

David Brooks:  Human Interconnection is Vital to Our Well-BeingHow crucial is human interconnection to our health and well-being?  Connections are of vital importance, if  human beings do not want to feel alienated from their fellow man, writes New York Times columnist David Brooks in The New Yorker.  “We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness.  Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others have made great strides in understanding the inner workings of the human mind.  Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows.  They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has the least to say.  Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.”

According to Brooks, the conscious mind helps us make sense of our environment.  “The cognitive revolution of the past 30 years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract knowledge, perceptiveness over I.Q.  It allows us to tell a different sort of success story, an inner story to go along with the conventional surface one.”

Brooks describes what he terms members of the “Composure Class.”  He writes that they “generally have a vague sense that their lives have been distorted by a giant cultural bias.  “They live in a society that prizes the development of career skills but is inarticulate when it comes to the things that matter most.  The young achievers are tutored in every soccer technique and calculus problem, but when it comes to their most important decisions — whom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despise — they are on their own.  Nor, for all their striving, do they understand the qualities that lead to the highest achievement.  Intelligence, academic performance, and prestigious schools don’t correlate well with fulfillment, or even with outstanding accomplishment.  The traits that do make a difference are poorly understood, and can’t be taught in a classroom, no matter what the tuition: the ability to understand and inspire people; to read situations and discern the underlying patterns; to build trusting relationships; to recognize and correct one’s shortcomings; to imagine alternate futures. In short, these achievers have a sense that they are shallower than they need to be.”

To listen to our recent podcast on why human connections matter, click here.

Green Metropolis Takes Aim at Environmentalists’ Conventional Wisdom

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Author David Owen thinks that New York is the nation’s greenest city.  David Owen, a staff writer with The New Yorker, has expanded on his 2004 article entitled “Green Manhattan” that roughs up some of the environmental movement’s most closely held beliefs in a new book entitled Green MetropolisA review by Catherine Tumber, originally published in The Wilson Quarterly, notes that “Eco-friendly suburbanites and small-town residents are only kidding themselves as long as they live in sparsely settled, spaciously appointed, auto-dependent communities.  If they really want to reduce their carbon footprint in any significant way, they should live in densely settled, pedestrian-friendly, public-transit-oriented cities like New York.”

Owen suggests that cities like New York build on their biggest low-carbon asset – their large population densities – and place less emphasis on green buildings, urban agriculture and increasing the size of the city’s parks.  He even believes that Central Park is too big and wasted space that could be used to support even more housing.  Additionally, Owen takes aim at “the spectrum of green-tech fixes under development, from residential solar panels and LEED-certified buildings to ‘net-metering,’ de-concentrated ‘distributed’ electricity generation, ethanol production and electric cars.  ‘Nature-conservancy brain’ and ‘LEED brain,’ as he calls these environmentalist fixations, are too often driven by PR and do little more than distract from the more difficult task at hand:  how to get Americans to kick the car habit and live together more closely, in smaller spaces,” Tumber writes.

According to Owen, New Yorkers are environmentalists because they live in a city where a car is a luxury and residents tend to walk, take the bus or the subway.  “In urban planning in particular,” he said, “the best, most enduringly fruitful concepts have usually arisen accidentally, and have endured not because anyone was wise enough to identify and preserve them but because they serendipitously developed what was, in effect, a life of their own.  Owen argues that New York should be viewed as a model for other cities that want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Tumber notes that “Owen makes a point, almost in passing, that also deserves further conversation:  rather than reducing the carbon footprints of apartment buildings or growing food on precious urban real estate, cities should be focusing on ‘old-fashioned quality-of-life-concerns’ such as education, crime, noise and recreational amenities – the very troubles that drove people into suburbia in the first place.”