Joe & Linda SkinnerBEHAVIORISMSGrand Junction Free Press Columnists

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March 14, 2013
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THE SKINNERS: What sustains success?

SHE SAID: Are you having a sance back in your office or a prolonged meditation so you can steel yourself for grading more papers? All I have heard for the last two days is flute music emanating from behind your door.HE SAID: The music calms me when I read yet another paper from a college junior who did not follow the rubric instructions. The music reminds me how much I enjoyed going to the KAFM Radio Room a few weeks ago and listening to Tony Babbit play Native American flute music while Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer recited her insightful poetry. Between pieces the two had a running discussion about creativity and artistic production. At one point Rosemerry said, "...In this society our definition of success is not sustainable." That has stayed with me and given me a new perspective. For example, sub-prime lending was obviously not going to continue forever when people were paying 10 times more than their salaries for a home. If you start examining how many people gauge success by things consumed, you realize that those things can't bring any positive, lasting results. SHE SAID: How true. I know we have been looking for a vehicle that would make traveling more comfortable, but the thought of paying $40,000-$60,000 for a van with a fold down mattress is going to remain a dream. How can families afford a family-sized vehicle? What are dealers and manufacturers going to do when no one decides to make large sacrifices to buy their new products? The prices are unsustainable.I think we are seeing something similar when we look at the woman who has been nominated for Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel. The mantra for public lands has been "develop, develop" for the last 200 years. In a recent hearing, she pointed out that the revenues from visitors to national parks was an estimated $30 billion last year while the revenue from leasing public land for energy production only realized $12 billion.While the bottom line is not a great way to dictate policy, maybe there will be more balance between the energy lobbyists and the common person who enjoys hiking and camping in a national park or forest. And, while I would hate to see millions of acres of BLM closed for use here on the Western Slope, I am tired of trying to find a place to walk where people are not shooting or haven't literally trashed the trails with evidence of conspicuous consumption by leaving broken alcohol bottles and remains of shredded targets.There are tons of other examples: Money spent on weddings is another. A $50,000 wedding does not portend a lasting relationship. Look at us, it's now been 44 years since our wedding reception of cake and punch in the church basement.HE SAID: Be careful if you use our wedding as a measure. Our relationship has seen lots of conflict but is sustainable. A diverse relationship or culture has to have conflicts, but functions best when there are basic beliefs in common. Conflict can be destructive or a basis for compromise.One of our Austrian friends said the European Union will probably hang together because throughout their history they fought and killed each other and now have a common belief they can't go on that way. Here, as an example of destructive conflict, some say they are preparing for the war with the government. They obviously have no understanding of how destructive our first Civil War was: More citizens were killed in that war than any other in our history. By looking at those things that are sustainable, we hopefully will find those things we can agree on and unite to solve our present problems for the future generations. An interior secretary who worked for an oil company, as well as a bank and business that caters to the outdoors, may be one who could create a sustainable compromise. Maybe we meet today's fuel needs with more leasing, but at the same time look at long-term sustainability with renewable resources. Now that would be success, rather than forever lining the pockets of the financial manipulators on Wall Street. SHE SAID: We could also start honoring and nurturing the creative among us, the artists, rather than the loud-mouthed celebrities. Let's help those working to protect the earth and its resources. These things will last far longer than the newest purse, gun or car.The Skinners hope you found some beauty this week. They can be reached at

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 14, 2013 01:07PM Published Mar 14, 2013 01:06PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.