My father’s father, whom we called J.R., was ideologically conservative and a committed Republican. He came to New Jersey from Indiana, to train with the Army Signal Corps, before shipping out to an around-the-world tour of duty in World War II. He ran for and won elective office as a mayor and state legislator. He … Continue reading The Liberating Genius of Open Civics
Originally published April 28, 2017, by ICLEI USA Throughout the 21st century, cities are likely to be more and more the engines of design that determine how we live and whether our way of making a living in the world is sustainable. Every society everywhere grapples with questions of how much decision-making authority should be … Continue reading Non-Partisan Citizen Empowerment is Working
The unknown is a vast and threatening landscape. Acting without exploring the boundaries of what we know is still more perilous. Misinformation disempowers people and institutions. Confusion disrupts our sense of capability. Exploration gives purpose. In finding truth, we learn about ourselves—about our limits and how to transcend them, and about our role as witnesses … Continue reading The Civics Lesson in Cassini’s Saturn Ring Dives
We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how the shifting political ground of recent months affects the project of opening up a new and wider space for climate civics around the world. As some political forces seem to be arrayed against serious progress on mitigating climate change, we see the role of local, national, … Continue reading The Time for Everywhere-Active Climate Civics is Here
Submission from Citizens’ Climate Education on ways to enhance participation of non-Party stakeholders in the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. This proposal is built around the same core structure as our submission made 21 May 2016, at request of the Secretariat, for inclusion in the Facilitator’s Report on the … Continue reading UNFCCC Stakeholder Participation Reform Proposal
Unselfish excellence & a commitment to always-active learning
The Historic 2016 Season
The Villanova University men’s basketball team not only won the 2016 NCAA National Championship; they did so with elegance, grace under pressure, and a deep commitment to quality ethical play. The easiest thing you can say about why the Villanova Wildcats are a fun team to watch is that they give you a riveting, energetic, and beautiful display of how the game is supposed to be played.
We make our way in the world through individual choice and group dynamics, but we don’t make everything we experience. Much of what we call our “world” is inherited—some good, some bad. We have inherited from the evolution of a brilliantly complex cosmos natural systems that sustain life. These include local ecosystems, regional watersheds, and a planetary climate system spanning the atmosphere and oceans. Some of us are lucky enough to have inherited open democratic political systems.
These political systems don’t run themselves, and they are not guaranteed by any physical law to continue being open and democratic without impediment or interruption. They require our constant attention and participation, and they demand that we take seriously whether or not we are putting in and getting out something that can justly be called democratic republican liberalism—liberal meaning a system that recognizes foundational rights and liberties.
Fierce Urgency & Democracy Rooted in Deep Principle
Exigency is an immediate state of pervasive intense demand on our attention. “Exigent circumstances” are considered to be both emergent and critical enough to override one’s normal free will and moral decision-making. Under extreme pressures, the argument goes, one is less able to “live up to” the best of what we expect of ourselves and each other. This leaves one with less agency, less sovereignty, and less capability for doing anything other than tending to whatever actions will allow for survival in the face of a threat. In that sense, whether we know it or not, “exigent circumstances” are by far the most commonly used excuse for deviating from what would normally be considered acceptable or ethical behavior.
“A republic… if you can keep it…”
The work of building up to a better outcome has always already begun, before we have a chance to think about the work itself or its necessity.
The act of leading, then, is a recognition of the forces that are converging and a conscious understanding of how to work with them, when and to what purpose.
Having just arrived back from a journey to the heart of our democracy, I am again affirmed in the feeling that our democracy is deeply personal. And so, the success of our democracy depends on the intimate experience each participant has of the democratic process.
Future-building does not happen only in the halls of government.
The quality of life in my hometown was designed by many people deciding many different kinds of things at different levels. Our town acquired an important value added when Silvio, who ran the local pizza shop for three decades, decided, day after day, to commit his time to doing something of real quality for everyone else. I had the good fortune to grow up in a place where parents are involved in how the schools work, and a wider community of intellect and good will supports success.