Stop Collaborating

Photo by Mark Notarim, via Flickr Commons

Photo by Mark Notarim, via Flickr Commons

“People ought to support mitigation and adaptation within their own line of work…If you’re a butcher, baker, ballerina, banker, or a plumber, envision yourself as the post-fossil-fuel version of yourself, and get right after it.

So…stop co-operating with the status quo. Stop collaborating. Stop being afraid and stop feeling helpless. Just stop all that and start living by entirely other means.”

—Bruce Sterling, from WorldChanging

Stealing the Future

Photo credit: Kim Seng, via flickr Commons

Photo credit: Kim Seng, via flickr Commons

At present, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP. We can just as easily have a future that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it.

Paul Hawken, Commencement Address, University of Portland, 2009

For the Sake of the Future

First in a series on education.
It’s been a long time since I was in school, but recent encounters started me thinking about those days again. A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon with a homeschooling cooperative, and last week I joined KI EcoCenter’s discussion on urban education. Both groups inspire me by demonstrating alternative ways of educating youth. I plan to devote an upcoming blog post to each.

Though I know many fine teachers, it does seem to me that something is fundamentally broken in the traditional school model.

By Aburk018 at en.wikibooks [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

By Aburk018 at en.wikibooks [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Back in the day, I was a mess socially, but quite good at getting the grade. I clearly remember telling my church youth leader at the glib age of 17, “I usually just study for the test and then forget everything right away. It’s easy to get an A.”

His face turned mournful, and he said, “So the system’s got you beat.”

I zoned out on whatever he said next. I was excelling in school, easily maintaining my position at the top of my class—ever since I figured out that daydreaming was best done outside the classroom. No one had ever criticized my methods before.

Straight A’s aside, I didn’t integrate much of what I learned, despite some stellar teachers. School was about checking boxes. Only in an occasional literature class would I feel truly engaged and energized. Most of the time (so it seems now) I was half asleep.

Recently I read a man quoted as saying that school taught him to work very hard at things that don’t matter. He said it was great preparation for life in the workforce—but not really for life.

This was my path: doing what the adults said, getting things done on time, but rarely connecting to the material in any real way.


And I had years of box-checking ahead of me—because much of my working life turned out to be School 2.0. I was free in my off hours to pursue my dreams, but my workaday world belonged to someone else.

I’ve been done with that world for years now, ever since health issues mercifully sidelined me from my corporate job. (Incidentally: doing much better these days.)

I gave away so much of myself in those decades I spent plodding through life in service of someone else’s objectives. Now I look at corporations from the outside and grieve the creative energy locked up in their gears. I look at the classrooms of today, so focused on test scores, and mourn each lost spark.

How much creative thinking is crushed under the boot of the educational system? How much innovation is chewed up in corporations?

Nowadays we need the brilliance of every single mind we’ve got. What’s facing us is nothing less than global collapse. We can’t afford to have anyone zone out.

So why can’t we do this differently? Could we give our youth real-world problems to address, and expect them to show us their best work, not for a test score, but for the sake of our shared future?

The times demand it.

Next: KI EcoCenter, developing tools for the new paradigm.

Birthing a New Story

Does it ever seem to you like an age of innocence is past? I’ve been thinking about this since reading Charles Eisenstein’s brilliant article, 2013: The Space Between Stories.

He describes a nostalgia for the cultural myth of his youth, “a world in which there was nothing wrong with soda pop, in which the Superbowl was important, in which the world’s greatest democracy was bringing democracy to the world, in which science was going to make life better and better. Life made sense.”

By Simon Q from United Kingdom (Rusting Sherman Hull Uploaded by High Contrast) via Wikimedia Commons

By Simon Q from United Kingdom (Rusting Sherman Hull Uploaded by High Contrast) via Wikimedia Commons

He talks about how we used to believe that the good folks in charge had things all under control, but of course it’s clear now that isn’t true. Our eyes are opening. We can’t ignore the perpetuation of global poverty and extreme inequity. We’re waking up, painfully, to the destruction wrought in the name of commerce and greed. We see that things are falling apart, and the institutions and experts we used to trust are not going to fix it.

And we can never get back to that old cultural story. We’re birthing the new story now, but we’re in a between-time. Our lack of shared cultural myth makes this a turbulent and often frightening time, with the extreme death throes of the old story showing us the worst of the worst.

Or that’s what Eisenstein thinks anyway, and it rings true for me.

Joanna Macy says it this way:

This is a dark time filled with suffering, as old systems and previous certainties come apart.

Like living cells in a larger body, we feel the trauma of our world. It is natural and even healthy that we do, for it shows we are still vitally linked in the web of life. So don’t be afraid of the grief you may feel, or of the anger or fear: these responses arise, not from some private pathology, but from the depths of our mutual belonging.

Bow to your pain for the world when it makes itself felt, and honor it as testimony to our interconnectedness.

So instead of running from our pain in this chaotic between-time, we can turn toward it, with compassion. We can grieve what’s passing away, mourn what’s lost to us forever. We can acknowledge the emotions that arise as we awaken, even the ones we’ve been taught are best kept locked down.

Crocus blooms under snow

Crocus blooms under snow

Instead of cutting off the feeling parts of ourselves, we can invite our whole selves to help dream the new story.

What story shall we create?

On Earth Day and Every Day

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with clasped hands that we might act with restraint, leaving room for the life that is destined to come.

We have it within our power to create merciful acts.”

— naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams

Cheselden_t36_prayer(Thanks to Orion Kriegman of Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition for bringing this quote by one of my favorite authors to my attention.)

Inspiration from Across the Pond

© Scott Patterson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Scott Patterson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I just found out about a forthcoming book called Stories of the Great Turning, which features first-person accounts of Brits who are transforming their lives in inspiring ways. According to Vala Publishers:

“These are the stories of just a few people who decided to act, in their own lives, in response to the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, and found their own way to make a difference. They are not stories about celebrities, environmental geeks or gurus but honest accounts from people who…’just got on with it.’

It is a book that takes the question, ‘What can I do?’ and sets out to find some answers using one of our species’ most vital skills: the ability to tell stories in which to spread knowledge, ideas, inspiration and hope.”

Kindred spirits if there ever were. And there’s a foreword by beloved eco-activist Joanna Macy, and I think you know how much I adore her. (“Now is the time to clothe ourselves in our true authority.” –from the Foreword.)

I’m invited to the book launch next month. Exciting! It’s in Bristol, England, so I won’t be there, but still!

What is Community Resilience?

So what do we mean by community resilience, anyway? There are several ways of looking at it.

© Egidijus Mika | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Egidijus Mika | Dreamstime Stock Photos

1. Community resilience means taking a do-it-with-others (DIWO) response to these threats:

  • global warming
  • food insecurity
  • the end of cheap oil, or “peak oil”
  • economic distress

2. Community resilience is the ability to:

3. Community resilience requires:

4. Resilience differs from sustainability because it presupposes:

5. Resilience and resourcefulness are Siamese twins. The question to ask is, “How do you turn yourself into the resource you need at all times?” –Diop Adisa from KI EcoCenter

6. (Joke) Resilience is code for “we’re screwed.” —Apocadoc Jim Poyser, editor of Indiana Living Green*

*This is actually the PG-rated version of Jim’s definition.

What is your preferred definition of community resilience? And how does your community stack up?