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Our wasteful ways will finish us off

Henry Porter, The Observer
We must all risk becoming ‘environmental bores’. To see the crisis coming and not act would be worse than denying climate change
One of my earliest memories is my grandfather chanting these lines to my brother and I on long country walks. I wish he had been with me last week in Brent Cross in north London. The traffic stretched as far as the eye could see. Large numbers of people – all it seemed to me overweight and down in the mouth – drifting about aimlessly buying stuff they didn’t need; the buildings drab and unloved; a sense that modern civilisation had somehow ground to a halt.

Brent Cross under a slate-grey sky on a Monday afternoon is enough to challenge the most optimistic and rational liberal. It focuses the mind on the waste, greed, and short-sightedness of our species: you wonder how we are going to survive the enormous changes that the 21st century undoubtedly has in store, the largest of which any sane mind knows is global warming.

Brent Cross makes you think that we humans have lost our ability to adapt, that we are idling away precious time gabbing on our mobiles and consuming buckets of KFC.

…Even I have begun to change my ways. No more garden bonfires; I take the train instead of flying in Europe and in America. I have become a peevish switcher-off of lights and standbys, I siphon bath water into my garden, I am trying to grow my own vegetables and I was in Brent Cross the other day putting a deposit down on a mightily expensive Toyota hybrid. This sounds pious, yet to believe what Sir David Attenborough and others are saying and not to do something is almost worse than denying the evidence of man-made climate change in the first place.

But will it make any difference? Not much if the rate of growth in China and India continue, if America cannot do something about its oil dependency and countries such as Britain continue to break Kyoto agreements on carbon emissions.

But the fascinating point for students of synchronicity is that the approaching energy crisis is going to force green standards on us all. I
(16 July 2006)

William A. McDonough talk: Designing the Next Industrial Revolution
This is a conference by über-designer/architect William A. McDonough, co-author of the highly recommended Cradle to Cradle.

What you need to know about the video: It’s about 45 minutes and it’s great. It might even be life-changing for those of you who haven’t been exposed to these ideas before, so if you don’t have time to watch it now, bookmark and watch it later. It’s worth it. Thanks to Brent E. for the video.
(10 July 2006)
The talk is titled the 2000 Bioneers conference. Also posted at Gristmill and Google Video.

Transcript of the talk from a website with other McDonough material.

Welcome to “Braided” Time

Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
On a recent visit to Minnesota a friend of mine introduced me to the idea of “braided” time. The average American segregates such activities as work, shopping, dining out, exercise, and socializing. And, because of the way we have organized our towns and cities, this means an average of six car trips per day per household in addition to any commute to work, according to Jane Holtz Kay, author of Asphalt Nation.

But, on this day in this small town tucked along the Mississippi River, I accompanied my friend and his family as we engaged in all these activities at the same time without ever getting into a car. From his house, we walked to the center of town to get breakfast at a local eatery dedicated to providing fare from local food sources. Once there he and his family met and talked with people they knew. After that we popped over to the farmers’ market, where he met yet more people and arranged meetings related to his work as a college professor. Then, there was the pleasant socializing with the vendors at the market, many of whom raise or make their own products. We were never in a hurry and yet we got much done, all as part of a family outing.

…In his book Fooled By Randomness, Nassim Nicholas Taleb divides the world into maximizers and satisficers (people who try to blend satisfying with maximizing). We think that the fossil-fueled world which allows us to annihilate space is helping us to maximize our lives by giving us concentrated doses of exercise and entertainment and socializing in different places all connected by automobile travel. In the end, however, we spend oodles of time in the car and in traffic.

With “braided” time my friend and I managed to get many tasks done at once–all to our satisfaction–but perhaps not with the intensity of a racquetball game. Which sounds better to you?
(16 July 2006)
In my mind, the cheapest, most effective, most long-lasting improvements in energy efficiency will come about through cultural changes, such as “braided time.” They seem difficult, almost impossible, now. Yet when people have to make cultural changes, as during wartime or spikes in the price of oil, the changes can come remarkably quickly. -BA

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community

David Korten, Yes! Magazine
By what name will future generations know our time?

Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth’s capacity to sustain and led to an accelerating wave of collapsing environmental systems, violent competition for what remained of the planet’s resources, and a dramatic dieback of the human population? Or will they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning, when their forebears embraced the higher-order potential of their human nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in creative partnership with one another and Earth?

A Defining Choice

We face a defining choice between two contrasting models for organizing human affairs. Give them the generic names Empire and Earth Community. Absent an understanding of the history and implications of this choice, we may squander valuable time and resources on efforts to preserve or mend cultures and institutions that cannot be fixed and must be replaced.

Empire organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among nations to relations among family members. Empire brings fortune to the few, condemns the majority to misery and servitude, suppresses the creative potential of all, and appropriates much of the wealth of human societies to maintain the institutions of domination.

Earth Community, by contrast, organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative co-operation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all. Supporting evidence for the possibilities of Earth Community comes from the findings of quantum physics, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, archaeology, and religious mysticism. It was the human way before Empire; we must make a choice to re-learn how to live by its principles.
(Summer 2006 issue)
Related articles and online posts are available at the the website of Yes! magazine, including:
The Great Turning as Compass and Lens by Joanna Macy