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A Primer for Paradigm Shift: Part 2

November 16, 2023

Welcome to Article 2 of A Primer For Paradigm Shift.

We will take a look at aspects of paradigm shift in articles 2 and 3. Aspects refer to the actions, tools and principles that can assist in our own personal and cooperative action adventure of paradigm shift. These aspects include the wisdom of the world’s great spiritual traditions, reducing our eco footprints, prioritizing time and money, the double benefit, resensitizing, permaculture, allies and assets and then, the product of all these desirable ideals and actions – civic culture.

Here is a review of the Primer series so far and a look at upcoming articles in the coming weeks.

All the articles in the series build on the previous.

In the first article, titled “Part 1”, we had a short deconstruction of capitalism, its mythologies and consumer culture, with the conclusion, capitalism is not the ticket to sustainability and social uplift. Here is the link to the first article:

After aspects we will have a look at a real lifestyle that The Global Footprint Network calculator rates as a one earth lifestyle. That means a personal level of consumption the planet could support for all its human residents. The Network figures that for all residents of planet earth to live like the average American, we would need 5 earths to provide the resources and clean up the waste.

Next will be people and projects. What can paradigm shift look like in the real world? We will have a look at home economics, eco villages, youth empowerment, pushing back on cars, worker ownership and much more. These real life examples will come in several articles.

We will conclude this series of articles with how can we deliver paradigm shift ideas to a wider audience. Virtually every progressive organization exists to address some problem caused by capitalism and the consumer culture – social, political, economic, environmental, even spiritual. Therefore, all these groups are on the same team and could be far more effective if they identified and coordinated with each other and realized creating alternatives to capitalism mitigated nearly all these shared problems at the same time.

Orientation: Here are several basic anticipations of paradigm shift from the Primer.

1] Our society will not reach sustainability, peace and justice as long as capitalism, the consumer culture and its political and business servants, control our economy and political system.

2] We can make paradigm shift changes in our own live, with our families, with friends and neighbors as soon as we care to, no permission needed. The focus of those changes is reducing our ecological footprints and building uplifted civic culture.

3] We have many allies at home, the neighborhood, the community, the nation, to work with, to create paradigm shift. Many entities with progressive interests might not identify with paradigm shift but in fact, are advancing the cause of paradigm shift, whether they know it or not. Making common cause with these organizations is vital whether the collaboration is called paradigm shift or not. If our society is to transition to sustainability, the identity/reality of paradigm shift will come into focus for all involved, sooner or later, in its own time.

We have many assets to work with for paradigm shift, large and small. Capitalism and the consumer culture, remarkably, have provided us with an immense variety of tools, assets and opportunities to assist in its own replacement.

4] Paradigm shift begins with how we manage our own time and money in our own homes, neighborhoods and communities. The purposeful use of time and money is how we create paradigm shift and pay for it.

5] The benefits of paradigm shift are ecological but also personal, social, even spiritual. We create our own pathway for paradigm shift but shared ideals, values and goals are essential to advance a successful movement, much of which already exists. Bringing out the best in positive human potential is a core ideal. Positive human potential is our greatest renewable resource.

6] For many thousands of people and progressive organizations already working to create a “better” world, to openly agree we are a movement, we have common cause and our goal is to replace capitalism and the consumer culture with healthy alternatives, can greatly empower and fortify all involved.

That’s all good. Let’s have a look at aspects of paradigm shift.

The Wisdom of the World’s Great Spiritual Traditions

Virtually all the world’s great spiritual traditions share their social ideals for how humans should behave for an uplifted life and society.  These ideals can apply in scale from personal to society to the economy.

A broad social movement needs a smart, appropriate and inclusive set of ideals and values. This Primer looks to the wisdom of the world’s great spiritual traditions. To be clear, this is not about religion. Rather, virtually all the world’s great spiritual traditions have basic values in common in terms of ethical social behavior and humanity’s relationship with the natural world. These ideals are perfect for paradigm shift and they go like this:

1] Care for the natural world – The well being of the environment should be a primary concern for humans

2] Modesty of lifestyle – A simple life, not distracted by vanity and excess is important for an uplifted individuals and society.

3] Service to the community – Devoting time, as we are able, to the well being of others is fundamental to a healthy person and society.

4] Accountability for our actions – People should take responsibility for how they behave towards each other and the natural world.

5] Uplift of the spirit – A primary goal in life as individuals and society is to purposefully expand our awareness and capacity to become more compassionate and caring to others and the planet.

These ideals can guide an individual, a society or an economy. They are a perfect fit for paradigm shift and also call on leaders and persons of faith to recognize and act on these beliefs they share with each other so they are more able to work effectively together for all of humanity. Faith groups should be leading the charge for paradigm shift.

Eudaimonia is another related aspect of paradigm shift. The term is credited to Aristotle. Students of Aristotle have debated for centuries exactly what he meant by eudaimonia. Suffice to say in a general way, eudaimonia includes the idea of virtuous human behavior.

The wisdom of the world’s great spiritual traditions have a core part to play in paradigm shift at all levels and scales of thought and action.

Reduce Eco Footprints

Paradigm shift calls for both a smaller pie and a more equitably divided pie. By choice, with purpose and care, we can make this transition more graceful than resisting it.

Another core aspect of paradigm shift is to greatly reduce our ecological footprints as individuals and as a society – how much stuff we consume. And a very important corollary, the collective footprint will need to be divided much more fairly.

Some assessments of eco footprints figure for the entire world’s population to live like the average American, we would require the water, soil, resources, energy of five planet earths. The Primer takes that figure as a decent educated guess and point of departure.

That five earth figure is profound. Can you imagine yourself and the average American using 1/5 the amount of home, food, energy, recreation? Even more of a jolt, the well off with their multiple homes, boats, travel and spending would need to downsize far more.

Note: sustainability will mean the extinction of many many products and jobs but it will create new jobs and new opportunities. However, to be realistic, sustainability will require our lifestyles to be dramatically different from what we have now along with our ideals, goals and world view.

To assume the familiar convenience and affluence of middle class America can seamlessly become green and sustainable with only modest adjustments, would be a mistake. We must leave a lot we are familiar with behind but there are many benefits we are not familiar with to be gained. The Primer exists to help make this transition as graceful as possible.

A big help for reducing eco footprints is to visit the eco footprint calculator. The
one I like is from the Global Footprint Network:

The calculator asks questions about your lifestyle. For example: Food choices [local and plant based is best.] Transportation – [transit, walk and bike is best.] Car share is better than driving or owning one’s own car. Home life – [more people sharing that house – the kitchen, bathroom, etc is best.] What do you buy and how do you recreate.

Taking the survey brings up a lot of issues we should all be thinking about – our own personal consumption. After about 10 minutes answering questions, you are ready for your calculation. Enter your responses, within moments, you are given your score – how many planet earths would be needed for everyone in the world to live like YOU!

Is this calculator the final word? We can certainly consider far more details about our lives than the brief questions from the survey. Still, the survey performs a useful task – giving us some context for our own lifestyles that will likely be a jolt to most who take the survey.

In Part 1, deconstructing the myths of capitalism, we had a look at the immense social and economic disequity of our society. A relatively small number of people own a remarkably large percentage of the nation’s wealth with extensive implications to democracy, social stability, public health, education, the environment, human potential to name only a few.

History teaches us that extreme economic disequity is a destabilizing social condition and very expensive in ways more than just money. Combining that concentration of wealth to the expansive ecological footprints that often goes with that wealth, we arrive to a sensible conclusion. Not only will paradigm shift call for a greater sharing of the nation’s wealth, at the same time, it calls of reducing our individual and collective eco footprints.

Yes, thats a huge issue. Those who advocate paradigm shift will need to make a persuasive case for a pie that is both smaller and more equally divided. We can be part of the problem or part of paradigm shift.

Prioritize Time and Money

How we prioritize our own time and money is a core aspect of paradigm shift. These priorities free up the time and money to invest in paradigm shift.  We live with intention and purpose and avoid many of the external costs of the consumer culture.

Prioritizing our time and money is integral for reducing eco footprints. Prioritizing time and money means making the conscious choice to greatly reduce spending time and money on products and past times that don’t fit a sustainable future. The footprint calculator helps identify those products and behaviors to back away from. We all have our own unique footprints so we all have our own unique ways to overcome them. Making these changes with friends can be a great shared experience.

Prioritizing our time and money, is a huge part of how we pay for paradigm shift.

First, when we avoid unhealthy or nonsustainable products and services we can apply that money to paradigm shift. Second, recall the term from Part 1 “external costs,”when we avoid the unhealthy products, we avoid the costs of repairing the damage those unhealthy products cause. That’s even more money invested in a preferred future. That’s the double benefit.

A simple example of choosing priorities, particularly for millions of members of the middle class with discretionary income, might be a kitchen remodel. Instead of the new granite countertops, appliances and the rest, that money, 25 – 50K? could be invested in an edible landscape, rain water system, home insulation, solar hot water system, grass to garden, a bike, a permaculture course or support to a group doing important work in the community.

For people of all income ranges, forming mutual assistance networks can lead to car, tool, garden and maybe even home shares. People can save a lot of time and money, build community and reduce their eco footprints, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

The benefits from making smart priorities with our time and money is real at personal scale and every larger scale. If the entire nation significantly cut down on unhealthy products and unproductive past times, we could redirect literally trillions of dollars to positive use and free up trillions of hours of time for personal enrichment, building civic culture and paradigm shift.

Imagine, if neighbors made the time and money available, they could take down fences and engage in all kinds of creative projects in common cause.

In Article 4, we will have a look at several examples of residential and neighborly mutual assistance and cooperation where people share a lot of amenities in ways that benefit each other, the nearby neighborhood and beyond. These places show what paradigm shift can look like. They are powerful stories.

Ok. What are a few familiar products and services of the consumer culture that will not likely make the cut for paradigm shift and sustainability?

Not Likely To Make The Cut

Many products, services and pastimes we are familiar with will not make the cut in a sustainable lifestyle and society.  Best to phase them out and create alternatives as gracefully [and soon] as possible.

Here are some easy ones. Car delivered pizza to your home. Jet skis. Three people living in a 2000 square foot home with 3 cars. [much less even larger homes] Celebrity culture as we know it. Stadium sized pop concerts. Stadium sized pro and college sports. Tractor pulls, auto racing, rodeo and demolition derby events. International vacations as we know it. All you can eat restaurants. Junk food and tobacco. Fifty kinds of breakfast cereal. Cosmetic surgery. Building new highways and even repairing existing ones. Much of the economy of Las Vegas and many other cities.

Virtually all these and other products and businesses of excess will not likely go away because of legislation and policy rather because of diminishing public disinterest and perhaps even more, these products and services will simply cost more than people can pay . Sustainability will require an honest economic system and an honest economic system will mean accounting for external costs.

Everything will cost a lot more. Wages will nowhere near keep up with rising prices. We can either downsize more or less gracefully or downsize not gracefully.

Will all this mean lots of disruption to life as we know it? Absolutely. The Primer describes changes we can make that can both prepare us for the changes and reduce the impact as these changes do occur. Some of these “adjustments” will be gradual, some may be more abrupt. Many are already happening.

We have somewhat ironic self interests in regard to paradigm shift. The need to downsize, to degrow, to reduce our eco footprints, to move towards sustainability, will only be effective if it greatly affects our personal lives. In many ways.

Paradigm shift will not be easy. At the same time, to continue with capitalism, the consumer culture, to depend on fractured politics, to experience climate change and deepening social disequity is likely to be an even more disruptive scenario.

Paradigm shift is not exempt from the current trends but it can help chart a course; as individuals, families, friends, maybe extending into the neighborhood and community; where at least participants can anticipate and prepare for disruption as their own initiative and perhaps, even mitigating those trends.

So what other aspects of paradigm shift can help us adapt and prepare? Here are a few for Article 3. Resensitize, permaculture, recognize and connect with allies and assets, make time for civic culture, a preferred future will not need heroes.

Those aspects coming up next:

Article 4 will explore what might a lifestyle look like, based on a real lifestyle in suburbia, that the Footprint Calculator scores as a “one.” A level of consumption that, according to the calculator, planet earth could sustain for everyone.

Article 5 will have a look at great examples of paradigm shift in action in Eugene, Portland, Oakland, LA, Port Townsend, Missoula, Houston, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Barcelona and other locations. This part of the series will feature several articles describing real life paradigm shift along with great visuals.

Further out towards the new year, the topic will be taking paradigm shift ideas and actions to a wider audience. We will learn why thousands of progressive organizations are, essentially, on the same team and what does that mean. And then, introducing capitalism to truth and reconciliation. We will also review the potential benefits of paradigm shift. Please share these articles with friends and networks.

More on suburban permaculture and invite me for zoom class, event presentations
thru my website –

Also links to podcast, video, articles.

My own home is a good example of showing what priorities of time and money can
look like. This article in Resilience:

See the first article in this series, a deconstruction of capitalism and the consumer

Also, here is a link to an interview and video tour of the place:

Here is a link to a zoom series of presentations in November about paradigm shift:

Jan Spencer

Jan Spencer is an advocate of suburban permaculture and paradigm shift in Eugene, Oregon. His focus of interest is care for the natural world, economics, urban land use and eudaimonia.  His background is thoroughly middle class having lived in suburban locations much of his life in New York, Texas and currently in Eugene, Oregon. Jan earned a BA in Geography in 1974, has Permaculture Design Certificate from 1991 and has travelled out of the country for about 6 years to nearly 40 different countries. In recent years, visits to Europe have included a keen interest in urban public places, pushing back on cars and exploration by bicycle.  Find links to "A Primer For Paradigm Shift" on his website. Jan is vegetarian and does not own a vehicle other than a muscle powered bike. He welcomes opportunities to speak with classes, events and organizations. You can contact Jan through his website,