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COMMON SENSE AND SURVIVAL
The graph line of the global population explosion now goes upward almost vertically. The graph line of reserves of resources that fund that explosion falls precipitously. The point at which population crosses the food production line is the point of the beginning of the coming mass die-off of human population.
Since Babylon, the type of human culture that we live in has featured an emperor or surrogate who is surrounded by a handful of wealthy militarist/financiers. These people own and rule the realm. This class has historically gained their power and wealth by feeding off the people and by growth/conquest. This class has always urged growth as the means to increase their power and wealth. There were always new fertile lands to conquer and peoples to enslave. The configuration of the culture of empire which we call civilization, has not changed in six thousand years. Today in the U.S.A. less than one per cent of the population has more than three quarters of the wealth. Certainly they have enough wealth to buy and run the government and have a land ownership pattern that rivals the land barons of Guatamala.
This culture has increased its population by running a net deficit of the fertility of the earth. The soils, forests, fish stocks, pure water and over-grazed and desertified landscapes have been sacrificed to the god of growth. Now there are no more fertile lands to conquer and exploit, but the population continues to grow and the fossil fuel production reaches peak and begins to decline. The culture that has no vision of the future and no purpose other than material consumption hits the wall.
In the past few centuries the elites have gained a new method of growth/conquest. The lever of Science/technology has been used to further their power. Through the creation of industrialism, we now live in a manufactured environment. We civilized people have created machines and been conditioned by the machine world until we begin to act in a machine-like manner. Powerless, we are thoroughly dependent upon the machine for our food and shelter survival. Alienated and atomized, we move around trying to fit into a niche in order to obtain survival. The pressure to move to a job breaks nuclear families apart and certainly precludes the existence of extended families. We have become interchangeable ciphers in the industrial machine. We have been culturally conditioned from birth to have great regard for non-living manufactured items and have been alienated from living things. We have more regard for the dead wood of a church than for a living forest.
Today, when we look at the numbers and look back at those millions of acres of exhausted and eroded soils, common sense tells us that this is the end. The Patriarchs of empire have committed us to a fundamental biological error. Any organism that wantonly kills that which feeds it will not endure very long. The culture of empire does not have a political problem; it has a biological problem. It lives in a bubble of self-created definitions and has a dysfunctional relationship with the life of the earth. One might say that if the humans can’t keep the planet alive, they certainly can’t live here.
For several million years our successful ancestors maintained adaptation to the ecological energy flows of the earth. Now, humans have become so biologically maladapted that we are in the third mass species die-off, the last one being the dinosaurs.
It’s just common sense that we throw out the whole of the culture of civilization. If even a small part of the human species is to endure, we must return to foundational principles.
The millenniums-old project of the imperial elites to control every thing in front of them and indeed, wishfully, the universe, has failed.
The human species is seriously out of balance with the natural world. The obvious answer to this is for the species to regain balance with the natural world. Simple common sense morality would say that first we need a society that agrees that each of us is alive and not a bio-robot and that each of our lives have intrinsic value. We shift from a war/competition – death focus to a principle that all life has value. Life is the growth system. Consuming living ecologies in order to amass piles of baubles is ultimately not a growth system.
Common sense morality would say that we humans should aid the living earth and that the simple morality would be that we humans aid in the complete ecological restoration of the earth back to its climax condition. This is the least that we could do given the grievous damage that has occurred. Of course this is also the pathway toward our survival.
A modern human normally enters the world in an austere hospital, possibly experiencing birth trauma. The child is baby-sat by a TV and then later turned over to a mass education institution for further conditioning. After graduating they get to work in a cubicle until they retire and die.
In a culture in which the growth of life is the paramount focus, the pregnant mother would become a center of community energy. Recent scholarship has shown us how important it is for both mother and baby to receive soothing and comforting energies. Great community energy would also be focused on the children. Just like all the other species around us, the “growing” of children would be a central activity. In a Life culture we would assume that the society would be formed in such a way as to encourage every possible talent of each individual. As we symbolically move out of the patriarchal/intellectual to the feminine/feeling mode the social dialog changes. The successful growing of life of all kinds requires a feeling for it and some application of the intellect. We would begin to follow perceptions and conclusions brought to us by our feelings rather than conclusions derived solely from intellection.
HUMANS ON THE CUTTING EDGE
It’s just common sense. If humans want to live on this planet they will have to restore the life of the earth. This seems like a tall order but the imminent death of billions is also a large event.
Answers have come bubbling up out of our mass intuition. For decades skills have been building in the practice of Permaculture so that seed communities can restore ecosystems, build soil fertility and produce more food per acre than the industrial system. Hand-made houses with solar advantages built from local materials are scattered around the planet. There are examples of hand-made houses with solar advantages that can heat and cool themselves without outside energy. The world-wide move to ecovillages is well under way with Russia alone having now over eight hundred.
Bill Mollison, one of the co-originators of Permaculture says that, “Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order.” The intuitively forming ideal is extended families occupying their own private permaculture design with a number of these families occupying a watershed. A number of watersheds constitute a bioregion. This is a natural social/political framework in which the needs of the earth are re-presented in human society because the humans are advocating for the life and gaining survival from that life. We might call this biological democracy.
Human/earth centered, rather than object centered, this new movement promises to become the next human culture. Human social institutions tend to form around food survival systems and be resonant with the morals and purpose of those different activities to gain food; we would expect the new culture to do the same. When some or all of the seed communities make it through the apocalypse, they will be the ancestors.
Many flail about trying to save the dying beast of empire by recycling their tin cans or inventing free energy machines but it is just common sense that if we want to aid the life of our great, great grandchildren we will ignore the dying beast and put our living energies into the new way of life.
By Wm. H. Kőtke, author of the underground classic book: THE FINAL EMPIRE: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future which can be viewed at: http://www.thefinalempirebook.com. and Garden Planet: The Present Phase Change of the Human Species. seen at: www.gardenplanetbook.com . Telephone orders at 1-888-280-7715 or at bookstores everywhere.
I am known about the new type of oil in the markets. The oil is called as peak oil. Now I am explain the information about this oil, what I know. The peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. The concept is based on the observed production rates of individual oil wells, and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells. The aggregate production rate from an oil field over time appears to grow exponentially until the rate peaks and then declines, sometimes rapidly, until the field is depleted. It has been shown to be applicable to the sum of a nation’s domestic production rate, and is similarly applied to the global rate of petroleum production. It is important to note that peak oil is not about running out of oil, but the peaking and subsequent decline of the production rate of oil.
Oregon Treatment Centers
I love my squash. The vigorous vines completely cover the garden area set aside for them, and then they embark on travels into the lawn, over the fence, and into the other vegetables. The fact that they are ready to occupy any bit of free space they can find works out with my gardening style. The vines don't seem to mind if I aim them in another direction when they head for the carrots, but the strawberries are long done for the season, so let the squash go there. My favorites are the good keeping winter squash, especially the sweet ones like the Buttercup and Kabocha varieties. A few years ago I grew exclusively Buttercup and had some very tasty meals. One particularly nice squash seemed to ask to have its seeds saved – and this started me on a new adventure.
Often when I plant squash seeds in hills freshly prepared with a generous shovelful of compost, I have to guess which seedlings are from my purchased seeds and which are volunteers from the compost. I have grown the volunteers enough times to know that usually the results are less than satisfactory. Squash love to cross with one another and the crosses are often watery, flavorless stringy “gordian squashkins”. These days I usually plant my seeds exactly 5 inches from the center stake in the ordinal directions so I can distinguish my seeds from the volunteers. So it was with trepidation that I planted seeds from my yummy Buttercup that first year – but the seeds came true to form. In fact, my seeds made better squashes than the commercial seed I bought that year. There seems to be a little “something extra” in my saved seed. The squashes vary quite a bit from plant to plant, but most are very good to eat.
This year I am playing with squash sex. Taping the flowers shut the night before and then hand pollinating the flowers the next morning before the bees can mix the Hubbard with the Kabocha. As soon as you – human intervener – decide which individuals are the parent squash for the next generation, all kinds of questions come up. Do I want to momma and papa to be the same plant, or is it less incestuous if they are siblings? I don't want to lose all of the diversity that my seeds exhibit, but I need to select for quality – whats the best way? Then there is the plant that has four beautiful fruits but isn't flowering much anymore. I really want to hand pollinate something on that plant!
I'm going to have a bunch of special squash this winter and lots of new seeds to test next year. Like any good adventure, I am looking forward to the next installment.
A community garden photo by "sbcg08"
A Wall Street Journal video clip about urban farming [via Wild Green Yonder]
Most of the video revolves around one guy who farms neighbourhood lawns in Colorado.
A "No Impact Man" blog post about urban rooftop farming (which definitely couldn't "save the world")
The post includes photos and some web links
A blog post from Joshua about chickens in urban backyards [via Red Jenny]
Some of the post is about legislation issues
An article by Karen Von Hahn (in The Globe & Mail) -
‘People Are Looking For Roots’
What I found interesting about this one is the author's commentary on the culture (e.g. the nostalgia) around local foods
Community garden photo from Groundwork Lawrence
Well, is there anyone? I am curious to know as regards my area of maida vale/kalamunda and what they grow or do.I eat out of my garden (all organic) almost exclusively so guess I'm partly self-sufficient?
(Photo by Grant Neufeld)
"The view attributed to H G Wells - 'Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race' - seems to me to go to the heart of it. A cyclist is an ... instance of the human being at [her or] his noblest: vulnerable; somewhat absurd to look upon; modest in his consumption of energy and space and his [or her] output of noise; self-powered; independent."
Sam Leith (in this article)
"Hordes of Americans think that the bicycle is just something their kids interact with, or that biking is just something they do on weekends (after loading their bikes in the car and driving to a park, no less) or that biking is just too dangerous."
Mary Catherine O’Connor (in this article)
"We slouch awkwardly through the city... -- in the street till we can bear no longer the thought of our own deaths, on the sidewalk till we can brook no longer the muttering and looks of contempt."
"The delivery trucks and the cars can’t take back the bike lanes, because they already own them."
"Drivers love bike lanes, because such official marginalia acknowledges the right of drivers to dominate the city. We acknowledge no such right."
"The city is already ours."
David Ker Thomson (in this article - "Against Bike Lanes")
Katherine Garvey's interview of Sustainable Bellingham's David MacLeod regarding the Resolution to create a Peak Oil task force in Bellingham and Whatcom County. The interview took place in late May 2008 via email.
Q. What is your experience with peak oil or environmental issues in general?
I have been concerned with environmental issues for years, but this concern
jumped up a few notches when I read a "state of the world" report in
the local newspaper in the late '90s. I became aware of the peak oil
issue in 2004, when "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion
and the Collapse of the American Dream" was shown in Bellingham. I
didn't just accept the viewpoint of this documentary, but instead spent
the next 6 months researching the issue until I was convinced that the
evidence for a near term peak (2005-2010) was very strong. I've
continued to study this issue for the past four years.
Q. What is your title? In other words, in what capacity were you addressing the city and county councils over the peak oil briefing?
I am a member of the Vision Team for Sustainable Bellingham, which is
what other organizations might call a steering committee or a Board of
Directors. Sustainable Bellingham was born out a community response to
the showings of The End of Suburbia, so peak oil has been a central
concern to our group from its inception.
Q. What was your contribution to the briefing?
The Resolution and the Briefing Paper that accompanied it was a
collaborative effort from the ad-hoc group that has been working on
this idea of creating a local Peak Oil Task Force. Clare Fogelsong, Environmental Resources Manager for the City of Bellingham,
wrote the first draft of the briefing paper. The rest of us then added
to it and suggested edits. My final contribution was some fact checking
and adding the footnotes.
Q. What inspired you to participate in its creation? How long have you been working on getting something like this task force created?
Last October I was organizing a showing of the movie "What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire,"
that Sustainable Bellingham was sponsoring. WCC instructor John Rawlins
suggested it might be a good idea to pass around a petition in support
of a peak oil task force at that event, but I didn't have time to get
that together. Soon after that I read a candidate questionnaire in Whatcom Watch,
and they specifically asked the candidates about supporting the
creation of a peak oil task force. I noticed that the majority of
answers were supportive, and I noticed the strongest response was from
City Council candidate Jack Weiss,
who said it was a moral imperative. Shortly after the election I
contacted Mr. Weiss to arrange a meeting on the topic. At the same time
another citizen, Bill Dean, was also trying to set up a meeting on the
same topic, so we joined forces and have been having meetings since
The original inspiration was that Portland, Oregon
had a peak oil task force, which had already completed its process and
issued a report. John Rawlins, Bill Dean, and I all thought that
Portland provided an excellent template that we could model after. A
number of other cities and communities have also initiated task forces,
and the Post Carbon Institute had begun a Post Carbon Cities project
with a book by program director Daniel Lerch. All of these were helpful
Q.How prepared do you think Bellingham and Whatcom County are for this potential crisis?
I think I would rather be in Bellingham/Whatcom County than most other
places. We have wonderful assets and wonderful people here, and we also
have numerous organizations working towards sustainability in different
ways. We have a healthy Farmer’s Market selling locally produced food,
and we also have potential for growing a lot more food locally in Whatcom County, which is very important. Having said that, however, I think we are woefully unprepared for this crisis. As the Hirsch report for the Dept. of Energy stated in 2005, "...without timely mitigation,
the economic, social, and political costs [of peaking world oil production] will be unprecedented." We have a long ways to go towards being prepared for this potential crisis.
Q. What do you think will be the biggest obstacle that Whatcom County will face with peak oil?
The biggest obstacles are not unique to Whatcom County. Long term energy descent presents tremendous challenges. Author James Howard Kunstler calls it “The Long Emergency.”
Big changes in our transportation infrastructure will be required, and
will take a long time to fully implement. Food production,
distribution, price, and availability will most likely be very
problematic. Since abundant and cheap fossil fuels are the lifeblood of
our economy, the economy as a whole can be expected to suffer
significantly, and when you have all of the above happening
simultaneously, you can only hope that the wheels don’t fall off of the
social services that are in place.
The biggest obstacle that comes to my mind at this moment, however, is the
obstacle of conveying accurate information and understanding for good
decision making. Look at what is happening now on the national level.
We see a lot of finger pointing, and a lot of short-sighted solutions
that seem to reveal that the problems have not been accurately
understood. Oil companies are blamed for price gouging, investors are
blamed for speculating, OPEC
is blamed for not pumping enough, and environmentalists are blamed for
restrictions and regulations on drilling. Relatively little attention
is given to depletion of oil reserves, and rapidly rising demand around
the world. And the “solutions” being offered? A gas tax holiday, halting deposits to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and suing OPEC. None of which will have any effect on current conditions.
Thankfully, and wisely I think, our locally elected officials have unanimously
supported the resolution to create a task force to look at the issue of
energy scarcity and make appropriate recommendations for Bellingham and
Whatcom County. Having an accurate understanding of the problem will be very important in order to avoid jumping to misguided solutions.
Q.Will any of the categories (transportation, energy, water, etc.) be stressed more than others by the task force, do you think?
I think the Food and Agriculture category might be stressed more than the
others, simply because eating is extremely important to most of us, and
none of us wants to go hungry. 17% of fossil fuel consumption
in the U.S. currently goes toward food production, and as this energy
becomes more scarce and expensive, we can expect the amount and variety
of food available to us to decrease, and prices to increase
dramatically. Our group felt that as good as the Portland Peak Oil Task Force report
is, they could have done a more thorough job on this topic. Hopefully
our task force will make a good contribution in this category.
This is a guest post by Katherine Garvey, a journalism student at Western Washington University
‘Sustainability’ is certainly the buzzword of the day.
Whether it is plastered on the side of a bus to promote public transit or peering out from the window of a locally-owned business, support for sustainability is gaining ground in Whatcom County.
As one potential solution to globally diminishing natural resources, sustainability, among other things, will be studied as part of an Energy Resource Scarcity Task Force.
Passed by the city and county councils in May, the18-member task force will look at several aspects of Whatcom County and Bellingham and recommend how they can be better prepared to meet the impacts of resource scarcity.
“Since abundant and cheap fossil fuels are the lifeblood of our economy, the economy as a whole can be expected to suffer significantly,” said David MacLeod, a member of the Core Vision Team for Sustainable Bellingham, in an e-mail.
The task force will have sub-committees to study transportation, social services, economic transition, land use, agriculture, energy and water.
“The biggest obstacle that comes to my mind at this moment, however, is the obstacle of conveying accurate information and understanding for good decision making,” said MacLeod. “Having an accurate understanding of the problem will be very important in order to avoid jumping to misguided solutions.”
According to some, Whatcom County is already well on its way to promoting more sustainable lifestyles.
“The rest of the U.S. is in much worse shape than here in the Northwest, I think,” said John Rawlins, a professor at Whatcom Community College, to council members at a Public Works and Safety Committee meeting in May.
“We have wonderful assets and wonderful people here (in Whatcom County), and we also have numerous organizations working towards sustainability in different ways,” MacLeod said.
MacLeod is a strong voice in one of these organizations, Sustainable Bellingham.
According to Sustainable Bellingham, an important goal is to create a self-reliant community that depends on locally produced foods, energy and goods.
Another of these groups is Sustainable Connections, which provides resources for local businesses to become more sustainable.
“They are such good stewards of the environment,” said Michelle Grandy, from Member Services at Sustainable Connections.
Grandy is the manager of Think Local First, a program which encourages the community to support these locally-owned businesses.
In addition to these groups, Bellingham also boasts a popular farmer’s market.
“We have a healthy farmer’s market selling locally produced food, and we also have potential for growing a lot more food locally in Whatcom County, which is very important,” said MacLeod.
A frequent visitor to the market, Elie Samuel recognizes the importance of buying local.
“It’s a big thing (for me),” said Samuel, whose business Samuel’s Furniture is a member of Sustainable Connections. “Not only because it’s tastier and more nutritious, it’s better for our planet.”
Perhaps due to the work of many of these organizations, Whatcom County may be more prepared to face the problems that diminishing natural resources will bring about.
Terry Meyer, an independent consulting engineer for renewable energy, is confident in Whatcom County’s ability to be self-sustainable.
“I’ve done some seriously back-of-the-envelope calculations – nothing too pinned down,” he said.
Meyer has found that Whatcom County may have the resources to generate its own electrical energy.
He is hoping to receive funding for his group, Bellingham-based Convivium Renewable Energy, to conduct more critical research.
The city and county councils still feel that it is worth creating a task force to look at the problem of diminishing resources more closely, though.
“We staff this with the minimum staff possible and so far that’s me,” said Clare Fogelsong, Environmental Resources Manager for the City of Bellingham. “We’ll rely on the task force members to do some of the note-taking and agenda-writing, do some of the organizing and see how it goes.”
The community can expect to have a relatively strong involvement with the task force.
“I would really like to be a task force-driven process so it’s really a community process,” said Fogelsong. “When we bring speakers in or bring speaker forums for the task force, to the extent possible, we’ll open those up to the public also.”
Fogelsong recently posted notice of the available positions on both the city and county websites. Those interested in joining the task force will be able to find application directions on the websites.
Members will be chosen by County Execute Pete Kremen and Mayor Dan Pike
“We’ll try to pick a task force that is skill diverse, experience diverse and represents people throughout the county,” Fogelsong said.
“It’ll probably be people that have expertise in energy, oil, electricity and natural gas,” said Whatcom County Communications Coordinator Joe Bates. “I would imagine it would be some ordinary citizens. Cause we’re all suffering, right?”
I recently made the enormous mistake of boasting that after two years of work I was finally ahead of the planting season, having gotten my potato variety trial in the ground a month ahead of time (something makes me think "potato variety hour" when ever I say that). I managed to source 26 different varieties for a side by side comparison of how they grow and yield (and taste) under our local conditions. It should be an interesting process to dig them up and tally the scores. From previous similar trials on sweet potato and now peas it is an emerging pattern that you get a ten fold variation in yields between strains, from pitiful to plentiful. The potatos went in after a pea/broadbean/chickpea rotation, with deep forking with a new broad fork (from gundaroo....an absolute dream to use) then application of ~4kg of coconut seed meal per 16 square meters. Anyway to get me back for my gloating the universe seems to have both sent spring down the tubes a month or two early, and also possibly given my now sprouting potatos a light touch of frost to slow them down (Ill have a look when I get home at the farm tomorrow).
Also, unsurprisingly, now that the farm seems to be settling in well, the vegetable garden is powering and performing, the orchard trees are leaping away, and the staple field crop trials are yielding real results, I find myself seriously caught up thinking about what I should do with my "career", caught between my excess qualifications, unremarkable "experience", and reluctance to work anywhere for more than four days a week. I had a minor lightbulb moment considering applying for some kind of community development grant to manage a community garden or two in the area. Three hours later of wading through endless government red tape and forms I realised that may not be as easy as I had hoped, despite the palpable zeitgeist around at the moment for better nutrition/lower food miles/better food security. Ill keep fishing around but I am not as confident as I was to begin. I'm contemplating the probability that I will never own my own property, perhaps I don't really need to. Living with your parents until they die, then being cast adrift at 50 should be a terrifying prospect. But part of me relishes the process of letting go of things and just moving on. It seems to be the longing itself that causes the most heart ache.
It’s fun to watch things grow. From the promise of the spring garden, to the entrepreneur who finally has a steady flow of customers, growth provides hope and gives us direction. Growing organisms succeed because they can successfully exploit energy resources they can feed from. Seedlings in the garden exploit the longer days of summer and the nutrients in the soil, growing larger to catch even more sunlight.
Human society has been on a growth spurt since the industrial age, when it began to exploit the energy stored in the earth’s crust – coal and oil. By transcending the sun, there are more of us living and working away from nature than ever before. We have lost track of the inevitable cycles of nature. Bursts of growth lead to depletion of resource and decline, and periods of decline allow conditions to ripen for another period of renewal.
The evidence that we are finally tapping out our resources are everywhere – from unaffordable fuel prices, to food riots in Africa, to our clear-cut forests. It’s time for us all to practice using a little more of the sun and less of the earth. The pressure on Americans will be intense. In the years ahead our overall per capita consumption could easily decline 5 to10% per year because of the combined effects of peak oil, population growth, and foreign competition for goods.
Spring will still come every year with its promise of renewal. Society can no longer sustain its long growth spurt, but we can still enjoy nature’s annual vernal abundance, while we look inward at reducing our own specie’s presence on the planet.
A blog post from Scott - "Getting Green and Being Poor"
( ... "Getting your kid to daycare, getting to work, going along to your kid's hockey tournament, picking up the Christmas tree -- all of those things and a million others have to be done differently." ...
"I'm not trying to argue that 'fewer cars' equals anything other than 'good thing' in many, many ways. It's a transition that needs to happen. The question is how it is going to happen. What I want to argue is that we should start making it automatic to ask that question, to ask what the human impact is going to be." ... )
There also are 11 comments on the post (as of now); a few of those are from me. The ones that I actually read are thoughtful, and the authors focus on important issues.
Both of those posts are just quotations from writing by Kurt Cobb. I ended up adding a comment to the second one though.
With more people staying closer to home this summer, high gas prices are actually helping to revitalize the local economy in some towns. In a recent TIME magazine article, Amanda Ripley discusses 10 Things You Can Like About $4 Gas, including the return of previously globalized jobs, less traffic, and less pollution.
Groups around the world are putting their creative minds together and organizing events that are safe, free, and fun for all ages, that foster collaboration, community spirit, and sense of place. This summer, take some time to think about the kind of community that you would like to live, work, and play in. Roads represent a huge amount of public space within a city or town. More and more, people are turning to the streets as more than just transportation arteries. Here are a few examples:
Bogota, Colombia is often cited as an example by alternative transportation advocates where over the last ten years, the transportation network has undergone a revolutionary shift from automobiles to public rapid transit and cycling. They have also introduced Car-Free Sundays and Holidays to allow local residents to take back their streets and public spaces for recreation.
Last month in Portland, Oregon they held a first Ciclovia-style street closure, Sunday Parkways, which despite poor weather early in the day, was a huge success with several thousands of city residents taking part as walkers, cyclists, joggers, bladers, families, and pets exploring the "new" 6-mile parkway.
Street Painting Festivals - Each year the local square and market in Raleigh, North Carolina is filled with over 300 artists with 27 hours to deliver their creations, using Martin Street in Moore Square as their canvas. Past themes have included Celebrate Raleigh: Urban Renaissance (see photo to right). See listings for street painting festivals around the world.
Here in my hometown of Vancouver, BC, neighborhood-based volunteer-driven groups organized a series of car-free festivals, celebrating community car-free culture and public space.The Commercial Drive Festival launched in 2005 and was the first community-driven Car-Free Festival in Vancouver. This year the program expanded to four other neighbourhoods - each organized locally by volunteers - Kitsilano, West End, Main Street, and Commercial Drive. The ultimate goal is to have car-free festivals in every neighborhood across the city. Interested in seeing what it takes to organize a carfree day in your neighbourhood? Download the Sierra Club of Canada: How to Stage a Carfree Day in Your Community.
Photo: Commercial Drive Car-Free Festival 2008, Vancouver, BC
Here's a video of the Main Street Car-Free Festival:
Photo credit: Raleigh Street Painting Festival, BellaBim
I love the term "Normalcy". It reminds me of poor, incompetent Warren G. Harding's attempt at language creation in 1920 but it also presents an image to me of a false state of balance, of a situation grounded not in reality but a contrived image of "the American way" anchored in high finance, industrialism, and consumption. As early as 1920, the idea of the "American Dream" had become a promise expected by most citizens. Not yet an entitlement, but hard-wired nonetheless.
A Return to Modern Normalcy
Harding used the new term (of which he probably meant normality) to signal a return to the pre-war America. I see the mass media and nearly everyone I speak to looking for some sign that we're on a path back to a "normalcy" that predates $147 a barrel oil, $4.00 a gallon gasoline, and Ford F-150's sitting dusty on the lot. Never mind what the few mainstreamers (Simmons, Pickens...) willing to stick their necks and reputations out to share their concern that these new times may be permanent. There is quite clearly the expected mass desire on the part of most Americans that all of this shall pass and that flush times will be our again.
Cornucopians at the Gate
As people with a cornucopian outlook tend to predominate still, posing barriers to serious cultural change to adapt to energy scarcity, the question that hangs out there is "can any significant traction be gained in aggressive energy transitioning before a cultural collapse occurs? Frankly, any data points and trendlines that counter arguments for peak oil and global climate change are seized upon by the cornucopians and skeptics as iron clad proof of the falsehoods thrust upon us by mendacious and crazed experts. Any drop in the price of a barrel (now under $125) or summertime cool spell is a great big "I told you so". Never mind the nuance of actual global climate change science, these people do not want nuance, do not want various confusing shades of gray. It either is or it isn't, black or white, you're either with us or agin' us...
Educating in the Art of Complexity
What's needed, not necessarily very achievable, is to try to educate people who are subject to simplistic linear thinking that there is a complexity to the World that humans have difficulty grasping and mostly choose to avoid even pondering. Most people with linear thinking structures often cannot even hold a conversation with someone who thinks in a more nuanced manner. So until more people are open to a different model, they will not listen to the opposing argument, read the critical article, or open themselves up to a more complex and disturbing reality in which peak oil and climate change as well a host of other maladies are firmly anchored and moving forward upon us.
Introduction—Many Challenges, Many Potential Solutions
More and more people, in more and more parts of the world, are coming to the conclusion that we—collectively—have a need for problem solving on a scale most of us have never seen before. (For supportive evidence, see the “Ten Point Assessment of the Most Difficult Challenges of Our Times”, accessible on the homepage of The IPCR Initiative (www.ipcri.net).
At the same time, there are also more and more people, in more and more parts of the world, who are discovering that there are countless numbers of “things people can do in the everyday circumstances of their lives” to contribute to peacebuilding, community revitalization, and ecological sustainability efforts, in their own communities and regions—and in other parts of the world.
One suggestion which could assist in bringing many solutions to light at the local community level is a 161 page proposal by this writer titled “1000Communities2”. “1000Communities2” (“1000CommunitiesSquared”) advocates for Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” with ongoing workshops, and “sister community” relationships, as a way of generating an exponential increase in our collective capacity to overcome the challenges of our times.
The “1000Communities2” proposal is accessible in pdf format for free at the website of The Interfaith Peacebuilding and Community Revitalization (IPCR) Initiative, at www.ipcri.net.
Other Resources at the website of The IPCR Initiative
Also accessible at The IPCR Initiative website:
1) The IPCR Journal/Newsletter Summer 2008 issue, which includes an introduction to the "1000Communities2" proposal, and Section 9 of the proposal (15 suggestions for preliminary survey questions, in advance of a Community Visioning Initiative). [Note: This writer understands that organizations and communities of people often use questionnaires and surveys to identify problems and resources, and to build consensus for collective action—and is surprised that this community building tool is not more well-developed for use at the local community level.]
2) Two other outreach messages describing the “1000Communities2” proposal (at the bottom of the homepage).
3) The document “Brief Descriptions of The Eight IPCR Concepts”, which provides starting points for workshop discussion at “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” mentioned above.
The “1000Communities2” group site on the WiserEarth platform
The second outreach message—“Action Alert: A Multiplier Effect of a Positive Nature”—includes reference to a “1000Communities2” group site created on the WiserEarth platform (see www.wiserearth.org)...
“To facilitate discussion-- and as a way of focusing member contributions towards specific and constructive results-- 26 excerpts from the original 161 page proposal have been made into Wikipages for this group. (See “List of ‘Titles’ for the 26 Excerpts” in the “Introduction” to that Group Site). Members of this group are encouraged to make posts in the “Discussion” section of this group site—or in the corresponding Wikipage area-- which are related in some way to one or more of the 26 excerpts, or to some specific element of the "1000Communities2" proposal. Hopefully, back and forth discussion on various elements of this “1000Communities2” proposal will supplement, add to, and refine the relevant and practical “how-to” and “why” information already in the proposal. Such discussions may encourage and inspire people in different parts of the world to create similar community-specific proposals, and result in active participation by many people in a Community Visioning Initiative associated with their specific community.”
A profound and critical need (not yet widely recognized….)
This writer believes that there is a profound and critical need for an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings. This profound and critical need is especially urgent when viewed as only a part of the challenges listed in “Ten Point Assessment…” accessible on the homepage of The IPCR Initiative.
And yet… an exponential increase in compassion for our fellow human beings is, currently, not widely recognized as an essential and critical element of most comprehensive responses to the challenges of our times.
If even a few….
We are in need of innovative and imaginative solutions. In 1984, the non-profit organization Chattanooga Venture [Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA)] organized a Community Visioning Initiative (“Vision 2000”) that attracted more than 1,700 participants, and produced 40 community goals—which resulted in the implementation of 223 projects and programs, the creation of 1,300 permanent jobs, and a total financial investment of 793 million dollars.1
If even a few of the kind of Community Visioning Initiatives described in the “1000Communities2” proposal generated results similar to those achieved by the Chattanooga, Tennessee (USA) Visioning Initiative, people in all parts of the world—keenly attuned when it comes to resolving challenges which require urgent solutions at all levels of society— could be inspired to carry out similar Community Visioning Initiatives. And if many communities carried out similar initiatives, and also achieved significant results, our collective capacity to resolve the challenges of our times would surely begin to accumulate at an accelerating rate.
The Building of “Close-Knit” Communities of People
Hopefully—by encouraging as much formal and informal meetings with other people in the local neighborhoods for discussion, information sharing, mutual support and encouragement, fellowship and friendship—a combination of Community Visioning Initiatives, “Community Teaching and Learning Centers” and “sister community” relationships can contribute much to the building of “close-knit” communities of people… communities with a healthy appreciation for each others strengths, a well-developed capacity to resolve even the most difficult challenges—and communities which demonstrate a high level of compassion for their fellow human beings.
With Kind Regards,
Stefan Pasti, Founder and Outreach Coordinator
The IPCR Initiative
Notes and Source References
1. The statistics are from “Revision 2000: Take Charge Again”, a brochure this writer received from Chattanooga Venture. These statistics are also accessible in a detailed overview of Chattanooga community revitalization efforts titled “Chattanooga: The Sustainable City”, at the website for the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership at http://www.academy.umd.edu/Resources/AcademyPublicationsPDF/BoundaryCros... (see Chpt. 3, p. 7) (Confirmed June 15, 2008)
OK. First of all, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which I write, the Kaurareg nation.
Second of all, I support the truckies. Would you continue on in work when you are actually losing money by leaving your house? I wouldn't. I don't think you would either. The truckies could go bankrupt one at a time, slowly bleeding the economy dry. Or, they can make a stand against their situation whilst they still can. It's time for us, the public, to wake up and smell the diesel. Australia's economic lifeblood is in transportation. In our current economy, no trucks, weak-weak-weak economy. That needs to change, but in the meantime, we've got some serious headscratching ahead of us.
It's been a while since I've been on here, as I've been doing a few things to get myself, and community ready for things, whatever those things may be...can't say that a truckers' strike would have been the first 'thing' on my list, but there you go. Getting ready hasn't been a massive success, but the community garden has 3 members, er, neighbours, seedlings are coming up (and being given to others), and I participated in a community forum about infrastructure needs of the future in this area. The compost bin is brimming and the paw-paws are ripening at 1 or 2 a week. The price of oil got discussed at a staff meeting, and I changed the minds of some about the finite nature of oil. Small but forward steps, all.
This truckers' proposed action is giving me pause to reflect on things. I live in the Torres Strait, a long long way away from a lot of places. We get a lot of stuff shipped in from other places a long long way away. Via Cairns. This includes petrol for dinghies, gas for cookers, diesel for the electricity grid, and food for the belly.
A lot of stuff gets to Cairns, and everywhere else in Australia, by truck.
Need I say more.
Ideal scenario: The truckies strike, the public takes notice and discusses things openly, pressures the government to help out the truckies over the short term and really hammer the government on ramping up the railway infrastructure. A few people get caught short on food and petrol, this causes inconvenience for a few days, and international shipping continues to arrive at the major ports. Two weeks pass by and the backlog is cleared at the ports. It scares some people in the right places in government. Victory gardens return, railways get approval for a major upgrade, truckies go back to work, and everyone pays their fair share of the rise in petrol prices. That means you, food retailers. Here in the Torres Strait we go without milk and eggs for a few days, and begin a focus on energy conservation in all aspects of daily life. Fishers still fish.
Worst scenario: the strike gets ugly and is extended past two weeks. Up here, people's larders go empty, outboard engines don't get filled, no internet, no blogging, no refrigeration, no conventional cooking, no airplanes to Cairns. A day or two of that...a scare. A week or two of that...I go fishing.
The reality as I see it is that the trucks can't be on the roads for more than 30 years from now, at best. We absolutely, positively, have got to get our national electric rail system ramped up ASAP. Electric road vehicles are not going to solve long-haul freight carriage. I don't know what the transportation solution is going to be for the Torres Strait.
I am going to keep you updated on the goings on up here to the best of my capability. Hopefully it'll be pretty low-key.
by Andy Singer
Here are other works by Andy that I've posted:
Kurt Cobb - "Free speech and the fate of humanity" (June 29th)
A couple of exerpts (which I'm just posting to offer a preview) -
James "Hansen, speaking before the U. S. Congress last week, said that the CEOs of fossil fuel companies should be tried for 'high crimes against humanity and nature.' He said they deserve this fate because they know full well that continued burning of fossil fuels threatens the stability of the climate and with it civilization. Yet, they purposely confuse the public to forestall the day when limits will be placed on carbon emissions from such fuels."
"One could argue that ours is not an open society, but rather one dominated by corporate power and that it is corporate power that must be reined in as part of the process of moving toward a sustainable society. But once again we are faced with the time problem. How long will it take for the normal processes of a nominally open society to bring corporate power to heel? 10, 20, 50 years?
The path for most people interested in creating a sustainable society is to start creating one. But will the powers which are working against such a society make those efforts moot?"
A related post -
And at the end of this post --
"Reducing oil prices" --
I also touched on similar issues while discussing anti-democratic rationing, as well as anti-democratic environmental constraints.
The Global Community Communications Alliance has proposed a global gas boycott on the 5th day of every month. That strategy is promoted in this post at EcoSpace.
The post suggests that by not purchasing gasoline on the 5th day of each month people can "proclaim their independence"--"until gas prices are brought down significantly." Someone is quoted saying: “Support humanity and help bring down high food costs. Send a message to big oil. Cease using and buying gasoline on the 5th day of every month until we decide, as the people, the fair price to pay for gasoline.” (And those messages are linked to a supposed "spiritual revolution," which has been deemed "Spiritualution"--a word that is trademarked, which the author(s) of the post point out.)
Because the post is on EcoSpace, it implies that this occasional gas "boycott" is a form of environmental activism. (I don't think this is explicitly said there though.)
Several people have left comments on the post. Most of the commentors disagree--to say the least--with what's said in it.
Here's what I said in two comments (which I posted in response to comments from others who expressed support for the so-called "boycott" approach) -
"Is 'boycott' even an appropriate word in this case? The plan is just to not purchase gasoline on one day of the month. It’s just a sort of scheduling.
Regardless of whether or not we call it a 'boycott,' I don’t think that one day off of gasoline purchasing sends a significant message of any sort. If the people profiting from gas sales were to learn of the boycott they would know that their gas would be purchased throughout the rest of the month."
"I don’t think this is even a step towards positive changes. It seems to me that it would be more appropriate to say that this is a matter *pretending* to take a step. And if that’s true, that means that this is a substitute for actual proactive action of any kind.
What will this so-called 'boycott' actually accomplish? It seems to me that it basically is a matter of pretending to intervene."
(While re-posting those comments I've made a couple of edits so that they make more sense.)
I think these posts present perspectives that are more helpful -
A video here presents critical and constructive points on gas price boycotts -
This post is about a long-term approach to lowering oil and gas prices -
I hope you all are having a wonderful summer! I wanted to update you on what's been going on and what's coming up and some of the different ways you can connect in with Transition Cotati. There's a lot!
We had a fantastic turn out for our Walk on the Wild Side led by local herbalist Larkin Child at the end of June and learned to identify some of the edible plants that grow wild in our yards and public places. Our Rhythm and Blueberries event with poets Drew Dellinger and Trathen Heckman in mid-July was powerfully juicy and inspiring! Mmmm.
FrogSong Cohousing Tour and Potluck
Sunday, July 27, 11 am - 1 pm
If you've ever wondered what it's like to live in cohousing, come join us for a FREE tour of the community. We'll follow this with a potluck focusing on local, vegetarian food and a discussion of how FrogSong works and how you could bring more community to your neighborhood. So bring a dish to share and meet in front of Copy Mail and More, 8282 Old Redwood Highway. Plates and cups provided.
Cotati Farmers' market
We've been having a great time spreading the word about Transition Cotati at the farmers' markets this summer. We've mapped local gardens, had a conversation salon, and participated in the Eco-Fair. We have two more dates this summer that we'll be tabling there: August 7 and September 4. If you'd like to join in the fun, email firstname.lastname@example.org or just drop by our table and say hi!
We're working with the Concerned Citizens of Rohnert Park (C-CORP) and the St Joseph Health System to get Neighborhood Shared Gardens going in the L Section, which is split between Cotati and Rohnert Park. It's a great opportunity for Transition Cotati because strengthening our local food system is important in growing our resilience to a loss of cheap fossil fuels. If you want to learn more, reply to this email or contact Teresa Hernandez (email@example.com) . Oh, and remember, now is the time to be working on your winter garden!
Peak Oil Sebastopol -- Transition Town Salon
Thursday, August 7
7:30 - 9 pm
The Peak Oil Sebastopol group is sponsoring a free Transition Towns salon. Come join in the discussion with Carolyne Stayton and myself (Judith Newton) as we share our experiences with the Transition Initiatives model. We will meet in a room at the French Garden Restaurant at 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol.
Do the Rot Thing!
Sunday, August 24
10 am - 2 pm
We've got the very inspired Jessica Jones coming to help us learn about the alchemy of turning kitchen waste into powerful nutrition for plants in our FREE compost and worm bin workshop. Learn the recipe for success and how to troubleshoot compost challenges. Get some plans to take home with you. It's happening at FrogSong Cohousing. Meet by Copy Mail and More, 8282 Old Redwood Highway and bring a brown bag lunch. Muffins and tea provided.
Got something to say? Want to talk with others about Transition Cotati and related matters? Have ideas and suggestions? Check out our main website and be part of making our forum (http://www.transitioncotati.org/forum ) into a vibrant virtual gathering place.
If you made it this far, thanks for checking it all out... I'm glad you're with us!
I used to consider “environmentalism” as a fringe movement of people who strangely seemed to care more about trees and animals than people. Sure, there was pollution, and a few weak species were going extinct, but with it was a small price to pay for our rightful domination of the Universe. Now when I hear those sentiments, I get very, very angry.
Earth’s natural systems are showing signs of wear and tear, brought on by the exponential growth of resource use and waste by the human species. We are causing a mass extinction of species not unlike those brought on by asteroid impacts in the distant past, and we may be next. I now realize that environmentalism and its close cousin the “sustainability” movement are social responses to this crisis.
As a former physicist and engineer, I applied my favorite tools to studying the issues. After some mathematical curve-fitting of ecological footprint and population data (in a “consumption model”), I discovered that the cumulative consumption of resources by humans is closely correlated to the trajectories of population growth for our species and others, and projected that all populations would crash (drop to zero) in this century as a result. I later developed a theoretical model in an attempt to explain the correlation, and found that the world’s population appears to be responding to a decline in available resources, which approximates the correlation I saw. I now consider it more likely that the world’s population will peak by 2050 and drop to about one-tenth its current size if we continue our current behavior.
Several alternatives exist, including reducing our per capita consumption, increasing the total amount of resources, and making most of the resources we use renewable. The last option appears to me to be the best option, though it would require immense effort and commitment on the part of everyone (creating what I call “an ideal world”).
(Note: This entry is part of an entry made in my "IdeaExplorer" blog at http://www.ideaexplorer.blogspot.com which has been used to chronicle my research and ideas for several years. See my Web site at http://www.bigpicexplorer.com for more detail.)
Peter Asmus - "Stop Waiting for ‘Leaders’ to Act on Global Warming"
"The success of the environmental movement in calling attention to the dangers of global warming has led to an ironic outcome: It’s become easier for the public to adopt a passive approach as we wait on world leaders to sign emissions treaties or huge corporations to 'go green.' "
"Whether driving your car to and from work — or simply searching the Internet for good deals — consuming energy is at the core of our everyday habits and the climate-change conundrum. And there is plenty we can do at the local level while the special interests duke things out in halls of power around the globe. "
"The experience of witnessing first-hand how a community can take its own energy future into its own hands has stuck with me and has forever shaped the way I view the world.
Each and every one of us is obligated to tend to the earth in our homes while reaching out to the greater local community to collaborate on home-grown power, whether it comes from the sun, wind, water, or wastes." "Let’s plant seeds of change in our very own backyards."
(The author of that article takes a technology-centred approach -- stressing "green energy" technologies. Yet, there actually is much more to be done than setting up solar panels and other relatively green technologies. Waste reduction and composting are two of many other examples of broader change toward greener living and greener societies.)
(The author also writes about “Community Choice Aggregation” -- a model that I'm not familiar with; so I definitely am not advocating it.)
We certainly need to act well beyond the local level -- with, through, and in vast social movements and coalitions (revolving around much more than attempts to sway politicians and executives) -- but we also can and should confront huge problems like global warming from closer to home, from closer to work, etc. Ultimately, we should try to find ways to find local and inter-local approaches which reinforce one another. Scattered local actions wouldn't be enough to effectively challenge structural problems (like the roots of global warming).
A related post -
“We create the alternatives together”
(where there are links to other related posts)
I am very impressed with the work of the SSP in its presentation to the Vancouver City Planning Commission at Worshop 2 in particular with the development of the idea that high-rise buildings are not sustainable from an energy standpoint. Most people realize that the suburbs are not sustainable but few are aware of the problem with high-rises and more people need to learn from the research that groups such as SSP have done on the subject. I am trying to share this knowledge with the residents of Kelowna. If anyone can suggests any more materials on that subject or a speaker that might be willing to come and talk here, I would be most interested.
greetings. i am moving to Sebastopol Aug.1 and i am looking for a way to plug myself into the relocalization movement there. i am a permaculturalist, natural builder, gardener, aspiring community organizer and visionary. i am open to all suggestions, and even possible part-time work. **thanks**
we are the blessed, we are the blessing
Obviously the situation is more complicated than that.
For instance, there are auto. industry jobs at stake. I, for one, have family who depend on General Motors wages and pensions. (I'm from Oshawa, Ontario -- which once was called a "motor city"; there is some auto. manufacturing there, and the headquarters of General Motors of Canada is in Oshawa.)
Hopefully General Motors will start building wind turbines, or bicycles, or something else with more of a future.
A related post (elsewhere) -
"Windsor, Ontario - Bike Capital of Canada?"