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Zero In Locally To Create A Sustainable World

Hans Noeldner, The Capital Times
In the couplets below, which form of protest makes more sense to you?

Congregating at CO2-belching coal-fired electricity plants to make speeches? Or congregating at a local store to tell our neighbors we oppose electricity-gobbling luxuries like hot tubs and supersized plasma TVs?

Marching around the Capitol to express opposition to an undesirable planetary outcome called “climate change”? Or gathering at the trailhead of a nearby state park to urge snowmobilers to find ways to play that don’t emit greenhouse gases?

Writing letters to the editor condemning automakers for making gas guzzlers? Or “getting in the faces” of people who are shopping for recreational vehicles and Hummers?

Sticking “Protect (name here) Watershed” bumper stickers on Subarus? Or approaching healthy-looking Subaru drivers at the supermarket to ask them to please minimize their own “impervious surface footprints” by choosing lifestyles that make it practical for them and other people to walk, bicycle, carpool and use transit most of the time?

Contacting legislators to demand that this nation withdraw its “world oil policemen” from the Mideast and Central Asia? Or challenging our high school kids to fight America’s addiction to oil by walking, biking and riding the bus to school?

Risky or risk-free? If we the people really want a sustainable world, we must courageously engage in these conversations: Who and what will change us? What do we expect from the top down? What shall we resolve to create from the bottom up? To what extent are we willing to wait for pump prices, rationing, disasters, and wars to “choose” for us and our heirs?
(25 March 2008)
Letter to the editor by EB contributor Hans Noeldner.

Sharing the Harvest
A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture

Elizabeth Henderson with Robyn Van En, Chelsea Green
In this new highly revised and expanded edition of a Chelsea Green classic, authors Henderson and Van En provide new insight into making Community Supported Agriculture not only a viable economic model, but the right choice for food lovers and farmers alike.

From the Foreword by nutritionist and writer Joan Dye Gussow:

Across this country, a movement is spreading that acknowledge a long-ignored reality: Most of what we pay for our food goes to companies that transport, process, and market what comes off the farm, not to farmers themselves. The people who actually grow food don’t get paid enough to keep on doing it. And so, from Maine to California, some farmers are being supported by voluntary communities of eaters organized to pay growers directly for what they produce. Bypassing the supermarket, the middlemen, and the international transportation system, these folks are getting fresh local produce in season, at reasonable prices. This is a book about eater communities who are buying what their local farmers grow, and this system is called – appropriately – Community Supported Agriculture [CSA].

… [The book] is a guide, and it is instructive, but it is far more than either of those, and it is surely not dull. It is, in fact, aa delight ot read, since the woman who finally brought it together [Elizabeth Henderson], after the original authort [Robyn Van En] succumbed to an unacceptably early eath, is a strong and gifted writer.

(27 Sept 2008 – book release date)
Major revision of a classic book on CSAs. Amazon entry with book excerpts.

In 1970, Wendell Berry wrote:

Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening.

Nowadays, Berry might say that joining a CSA is as just as important.

The Power of Organizing without Organizations – social tools on the web
(Clay Shirky interview)

Jon Lebkowsky, WorldChanging
Clay Shirky is an influential writer, consultant, and teacher focused on the Internet as a social platform. He’s one of the smartest thinkers I know about how people live, love, and work online. His new book, Here Comes Everybody:The Power of Organizing without Organizations, was just published…

… Clay Shirky: Yes, and one of the really interesting patterns that jumped out at me, doing a book about large scale collaboration, is that very often really large-scale collaboration, whether it’s a Wikipedia or Linux or what have you, involves a small number of people who care an enormous amount, and then a large number of people who only care a little bit, but who are participating, who are adding their value to the overall work product.

What the value networks work seems to be to point to is ways in which you can create some of this kind of benefit without having everybody participating in a formal community of practice, and also getting more heterogenous kinds of skills and values involved. Everybody who’s in the HDR community of practice on Flickr is (a) a photographer and (b) experimenting with HDR. But once you get to something like Wikipedia, there are people who are fact checkers, and there are people who are sentence editors, and there are people who are content creators. You get a kind of division of labor that’s really quite different, and makes the whole more valuable, in part because of those differences.

Jon Lebkowsky: There’s a whole interesting question about kibitzing, about lurkers in a community and the extent to which they actually add value. And, of course, many lurkers are never 100% lurkers. Even if they don’t uncloak in public, they’ll email people who are having conversations, and drive things along. There was something in your writing, an idea that suggests the shape of a fried egg, where you have a cluster of real activity in the middle, and you have a sort of supportive community around it that’s less involved, but still contributing.
(31 March 2008)
Long interview. Should be of interest to activists who have learned the power of the web and want to make fuller use of it. Much of the behavior described by Shirky corresponds to what I’ve experienced in the peak oil blogosphere. -BA

Health and Sustainability: Two Events on Peak Oil, Climate Change and Healthcare

Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
‘Health and Sustainability’ was a fascinating event, in two parts, which began to explore the implications on healthcare of peak oil and climate change. The first part was an online webcast held at Plymouth University, where the four speakers gave 10 minute online presentations and then discussed the issues raised online in a chatroom format. The webcast (I refuse to use the term ‘webinar’ which was used in the publicity!) turned out to be the most popular one that the University has ever run, with about 50 people from around the world, including New Zealand and the US, logging on to take part. It demonstrated new technology at its best, and offered a tool which could greatly reduce the amount of air travel that is required for communication.

The second part was that evening in the Ship Studio at Dartington, with around 50 people coming along to explore the subject of health and sustainability.
(2 April 2008)
Short report on the presentations at the conference. The conference website is here.