Rethinking Thinking

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

the image of a presenter is imposed over the image of a tree

It can be all too easy to get stuck in a rut. The school term is well under way, and I know between work and school there is little room for deviation in my established routine. But that’s the thing about routines - they are comfortable and they function sufficiently, so we rarely break from them until they are antiquated.

However, more so than our day-to-day practices, habits of thought die hard. It is too easy to get stuck in the same line of thought, to approach everything from the same lens, and moreover to stop asking the important questions. I’m writing this because I have been catching myself and others fall into this fallacy of circular logic.

It’s important to remember there is an infinite amount of means to the same end, and just because something has always been done a certain way doesn't mean it has to be done that way, should be done that way, or that is the best way to it. I find this to be a particularly common method of thinking when I talk to people about the environment. We often we get caught up in pandering our discourse to a specific audience in an attempt to be more accessible and digestible, but in doing so we sometimes lose the depth of our content and in a way our purpose.

We forget to ask:
What’s the real issue? (or why is something a specific way)
Where’s the power? (and topic dependant, where is the money?)
What are the structures and infrastructures or culture at play?
Who are the stakeholders?

When I first started working at the Office of Campus Sustainability, I saw this ability to think about things differently to be our greatest strength. It was how a relatively small team of resourceful people were able to implement amazing projects, which dramatically transformed operations at the university to being one of the most sustainable in Canada.

However as I’m getting ready to leave, I am also realizing that sometimes in forgetting to push our level of thought be are also guilty of getting stuck in an ontological rut. Of course this is natural, as we are human and not a perfect model of applied logic. It is too easy to get caught up in wanting to address the problem of waste without addressing or challenging the larger problem of the overly-consumptive culture we are working within and why and how it exists.

Moreover, this applies to work to reduce energy consumption on campus because of its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and by extension, to climate change, without challenging the role of fossil fuel companies in this system and the university’s involvement with these companies (directly or indirectly).
So this coming month I’m trying to break away from old habits, and push my thought process more, to rethink thinking, and not accept within myself or others the rut that circular logic can create in our everyday practices. I hope you will do the same.

~ kira - campus sustainability coordinator
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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