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How You Going to Keep them Down on the Farm Once They’ve Seen Manhattan?

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon’s Book
Fortunately there’s no need to keep anyone down on the farm. Living a low-impact life starts where you are now. This is really important, because I think one of the instinctive reactions that people have to facing the future is “I’ve got to get a farm!” Now I love my farm – I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I liked being a city girl too – I still miss car-free life, since I didn’t drive until I was 28 (and I still hate it), and I loved the vibrancy and culture.

So what can you do to save the world if you live in NYC, or Boston, LA or SF? Well, you could do what Colin Beavan and his family are doing at They are living a life without disposable anything (including tp), with only local food, no cars, no nothing, minimal appliances, no buying (like us, but we still buy recycled toilet paper) and it sounds like fun to me. Colin is a smart guy, and there will be a movie and a book about this as well.

All of which should just remind everyone that there are no excuses – you do what you need to now, where you are, in your place. If you can’t grow a victory garden, get a windowbox. If you can’t give up your car, walk or bike a little more each day. If you can’t undo what you’ve done, start now and begin thinking “what do I really need, and what gets me the life I believe in.”
(23 March 2007)
UPDATE: The New York Times just ran an article on Colin Beavan and family: The Year Without Toilet Paper.

Reducing Knowledge Management Failures

David Pollard, How to Save the World (blog)
Today I attended a presentation on the application of Knowledge Management to changing the behaviour of doctors. The presenter, Dave Davis, a long-time family doctor himself, accomplished the extraordinary: He integrated leading-edge thinking about complex systems into a pragmatic, modest program to persuade, and make it easy for, doctors to manage knowledge better and hence make more informed, supportable decisions.

It was the best presentation on knowledge management I have seen in over a decade.

…Traditional KM lore has it that you buy and deploy appropriate knowledge content, processes, and technologies to bring about ‘culture change’ and hence make people more effective in their work. Davis takes a different approach: He starts by trying to understand why doctors aren’t already figuring out how to do their best with what’s available. They are, after all, smart, motivated people.

So he starts by looking for objective measures of the quality care ‘gap’: the measurable difference between what is reasonably achievable in a complex health system and what is actually being achieved.

…Davis summarizes all this with his Seven Steps to Better Care:

1. Collect information and gain deep understanding of where the gaps are, what the possible causes are, and why they are occurring despite the best intentions of those in the system i.e. know what is happening today and why
2. Identify and collect the best available evidence relevant to each identified gap
3. Conduct an analysis of the barriers that preclude this evidence from being effectively used
4. Identify interventions, tools, methods and strategies to get around these barriers
5. Use a combination of methods and media to communicate and implement these interventions, tools, methods and strategies
6. Create better linkages between the stakeholders in each process, to enable reinforcement, feedback and evolution of the interventions and capture additional evidence
7. Create continuous measures of effectiveness of these interventions
(14 March 2007)
The systems thinking in this example is applicable to peak oil and climate change. -BA

Round in Circles: A Review of David C. Korten’s The Great Turning

John Michael Greer, The Archdruid Report
This final part of The Archdruid Report‘s review of David Korten’s The Great Turning explores the roots of Korten’s insistence that political action can bring about the his utopian “Earth Community.” In an age of inescapable natural limits and rising challenges to industrial society, do the real possibilities of politics open up in a very different direction?

…This conflict between expectations and realities, finally, is likely to be made far more extreme with the arrival of peak oil and other aspects of the crisis of industrial society. As the modern world collides with hard planetary limits and begins the long, uneven process of contraction and disintegration that lies on every civilization’s downslope, the mismatch between utopian dreams of a perfect world and the difficult realities of the deindustrial age is likely to become a major obstacle in the way of a sane response to our predicament.

There will doubtless be many David Kortens insisting that all the evils of the world can be solved by tearing down an imperfect but functional political system and putting in some theoretically perfect scheme in its place, just as there will be plenty of people willing to listen to them. If history is anything to go by, the results are likely to include some pretty substantial body counts; it’s one of the ironies of the revolutionary tradition that, promising heaven on earth, it so consistently produces a good imitation of the opposite.

Does this mean that politics have nothing to offer the world as it begins to stumble down the far side of Hubbert’s peak? Not at all.

What it means is that the constructive resources politics might provide to the difficult future ahead are precisely those foreclosed by Korten’s apocalyptic politics, with its demonization of his opponents and its insistence on the unique rightness of his own political stance.

More than at any time in modern history, the politics of the near future will demand that all of us – politicians along with everyone else – turn aside from the fantasy that we can have whatever we want, and embrace compromise, pragmatism, and the willingness to build consensus among people with radically different interests and ideals for the sake of survival. To that very modest but necessary turning, Korten’s dream of a Great Turning offers no positive contribution at all.
(21 March 2007)
Third of a three-part series.