The Unfolding Sustainability Generation
Ecology Prime is pleased to share the exceptional work and unique perspective of seven bright minds from the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, Sustainable Enterprise course, of Fall 2020. Individually, the points of view shared by these independent thinkers, are timely and unique. Collectively, these voices beckon to a broader generational shift that has been underway, and which is becoming more inclusive, diverse, and focused on a shared pursuit of a more sustainable future.
Mark Coleman, adjunct instructor of Sustainable Enterprise and an award-winning author of three books on sustainability, introduced a class of 29 students to Sustainable Enterprise. The course’s content, purpose, and learning objectives are focused on providing the tools, methods, and understanding of how systemic changes influence business and entrepreneurs and consequentially, how business and entrepreneurs address the needs of society and create new paradigms through sustainable value. The course is part of a broader curriculum which prepares students to engage in transdisciplinary collaboration to develop sustainable solutions to complex organizational challenges. The essays and video presented here over the next weeks were submitted as the Sustainable Enterprise course’s final projects.
Marcus Aurelius, Buckminster Fuller & the philosophy of sustainability
By Joshua Simoncic
Marcus Aurelius, one of the most respected emperors in Roman history once said that one who does not live his life in accordance with nature is one who is generally unsatisfied with himself. He believed that to live in accordance with nature entailed living in kinship with all rational beings, caring for all and recognizing ourselves as a part of a greater whole. His philosophy emphasizes a key notion of living in harmony with nature: recognizing that you subsist as a part of the whole, and working with it, not against it. Not only does this philosophy serve the whole, it also serves its components as well as the individual who lives in accordance with the philosophy itself. If this philosophy could be taught and recognized by all rational beings, heads of state and corporations, I believe the world would see a shift toward a more sustainable future. A future where we live as a part of nature. A future where we recognize our place within nature. A future where we work in accordance with nature instead of against it. One where we move with the current as opposed to against it. I believe that recognizing this philosophy on a large scale is a key to shifting society in the right direction both on the micro and macro levels. Both human-to-human interactions as well as the relationship between society and its environment would benefit.
If there is one man in modern history who embodied this philosophy in all action and intention, look no further than Buckminster Fuller. Fuller was a visionary who believed the modern world was an ecosystem to be reconciled with nature. He looked at pollution as nothing but the resources we are not harvesting due to the ignorance of their value. He imagined a world which operated not by use of gas but by electricity harvested from sustainable sources such as wind and water. Fuller is best known for the geodesic dome, a highly sustainable and environmentally friendly structure due to the low environmental impact and hyper-efficiency of its production. He is the man behind the Montreal Biosphere and the Spaceship Earth dome at Epcot. According to Fuller, the Geodesic dome was the peak of sustainable design. Its features cater to low environmental impact, high structural integrity as well as cost efficient construction. The geometry of the structure itself ensures an equal distribution of the used building material, resulting in peak structural integrity as well as efficient allocation of resources. These structures can also be built without the use of scaffolding. This further lowers costs and the volume of materials used during construction. Fuller once said, “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.” Known to some as the father of sustainability, Fuller imagined and articulated through his work an integrated approach towards sustainable design which culminated in the creation of the geodesic dome. He worked with the intention of, “making the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.” Fuller’s life philosophy allowed him to see the world from a fresh and sustainable perspective and allowed him to attack big problems through a lens of sustainable innovation. He worked for the betterment of humanity and the environment, constantly seeking to find new and more efficient systems which would make old ones obsolete. This perspective of working for humanity allowed him to quickly identify and attack problems with a greater end in mind, and that end was the advancement of mankind. The principles which drove Buckminster Fuller, which were aligned with the philosophies put forth by Marcus Aurelius, define the spirit of sustainable enterprise. The principles these men put forward should be the basis of the modus operandi by which CEO’s run their businesses to maximize sustainability.
If a man is a part of nature, logically speaking, His entire being is nature. This means all thoughts, actions and ideas, are functions of nature. According to Marcus Aurelius, to work in opposition with one another is against nature. To work in opposition with nature is to work in opposition of your fellow man. By working against nature, you are hurting yourself, your environment, and others who exist in that environment. There is one aspect of man, however, that exists as separate from nature and fuels opposition, and that is the ego. Ego is an aspect of the human experience which drives man to work in defiance with one another as well as his environment. The ego and nature are fundamentally at odds with each other. It leads man to selfish action and is a large cause of unhappiness, especially in our modern society. Too often, people allow the ego to control their decisions. When man directs action based on satisfying his ego, he thinks only of himself. These types of ego-based thoughts and actions separate man from nature. He overlooks the possibility that working in accordance with nature will help him reach those goals without directly addressing the needs of the ego. So, when working together in harmony with nature, you are helping yourself as well as the whole. And, working in accordance with nature and with the objective of bettering the whole leads to happiness as well as to the improvement of society. So, because only positives, on both macro environmental as well as the micro personal levels, arise from working for the greater good, it is only logical that we base our decisions on bettering the whole of society. If one works with the objective of bettering the whole then he is also simultaneously bettering himself and those around him. This should be the fundamental philosophy which drives those who operate sustainable ventures, to be in search constantly of bettering humanity through an equal value proposition that helps all parties; society, nature, and the business itself.
Buckminster Fuller, who is known by some as the father of sustainability, can be seen as a living embodiment of the teachings of Marcus Aurelius. He worked for his fellow man and through the lens of living in accordance with nature he attacked problems with the utmost efficiency. The philosophy along with his principles powered Fuller to live a fulfilled life in the name of societal, environmental, and personal improvement and innovation. Sustainability is not only a way of doing business. It is a way of thinking. If both heads of business and the common man are able to adopt Fuller’s principles as well as Marcus Aurelius’ philosophy, I believe the world would take a gigantic step towards a more sustainable future. A future where common thought is directly related to sustainable action. We would be more inclined to make less ego driven decisions and more motivated to take action based on the notion of a greater whole. These philosophies and principles should be taken into account and put into practice by every sustainable entrepreneur. Both human-to-human interactions as well as the relationship between society and its environment would benefit.
Joshua Samuel Simoncic is a senior attending Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, majoring in real estate and entrepreneurship. Mr. Simoncic is currently working on a tech startup with the role of CEO and Co-founder with the goal of reinventing and revolutionizing the way in which people connect with those around them. The company’s philosophy is partly derived from many of the messages put forth in this essay.
Feature Image Photo Credits
Students from Left to Right:
Jared Simon, Madison Covino, Zachary Fredendall, Stephanie Pearson, Joshua Simoncic, Camryn Lawyea, Josh Katowitz
Buckminster Fuller – Montreal Biosphere, 1967 – Photo by Cédric ThévenetCC Wikimedia Commons
Disposable cups – Photo by Ann H. – CC Pexels
Box of face masks – Photo by Ivan Samkov – CC Pexels
Rainbow – Public Domain Pictures CC
Plastic bottles – Photo by Magda Ehlers – CC Pexels
Girl with facemask – Photo by Maksim Goncharenok CC Pexels
Path with girl – Photo by Vlad Bagacian – CC Pexels
Ocean pollution – Photo by Artem Beliaikin – Pexels
Buckminster Fuller – Montreal Biosphere, 1967 – Photo by Cédric Thévenet CC Wikimedia Commons
Marcus Aurelius bust – Photo by Pierre-Selim – CC Wikipedia