What might Nashville be like in twenty-five years? While my friends and I have been seeking to answer that question through the lens of the “transition towns” movement, with what we have called “Transition Nashville,” Metro’s “Nashville Next” program has been the city’s attempt to answer that question, and, to a certain extent, the planners involved in Nashville Next have done a good job. They have asked at least some of the right questions, and they have solicited, and elicited, a fair amount of citizen involvement in their visioning, but I think there are some unasked questions and misguided assumptions in their process. I think “the next Nashville” will be very different from what they envision, and that proceeding on their basic assumption, that the future will, overall, be a lot like the past, could produce some very unhappy results. If we recognize these errors and correct our course, Nashville could still be a pretty nice place to live as we approach mid-century. I am going to start by quoting what Nashville Next’s website and then offer my own comments and suggestions. Read the rest of this entry »
What, then, of the climate change activist who says, “Certainly, inclusivity, exposing unconscious racism and classism, giving voice to the marginalized, nonviolent communication, deep listening skills, and so forth are all worthy goals, but we are talking about the survival of our species here. We need to achieve CO2 reduction by whatever means necessary. These other things can come later. None will matter if we don’t stop the six or eight degree temperature rise that our present course entails. Therefore, to devote oneself to these things, or indeed to most social issues, is a bit frivolous.”
It may not be obvious, but this view buys in to another version of the Story of Separation, in which the universe comprises a multitude of independent phenomena. In it, an environmental leader’s neglect of his family or contracting of minimum-wage janitorial services has no bearing on global climate change. Quantum mechanics, with its collapse of the self/other, object/universe, observer/observed distinction, offers us a new set of intuitions about how reality works. I won’t say that it “proves” that by changing your beliefs or relationships you will remedy climate change. It does, however, suggest a principle of interconnectedness that implies that every action has cosmic significance. But even without sourcing that principle in quantum mechanics, we can get there simply by asking, What is the real cause of climate change? CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases, perhaps? Okay, what is the cause of those? Maybe consumerism, technological arrogance, and the growth imperative built in to the financial system. And what is the cause of those? Ultimately it is the deep ideologies that govern our world, the defining mythology of our civilization that I have called the Story of Separation…..
….Yes, my friends, the conceptual revolution we are beginning goes this deep. We need to rediscover the mind of nature, to return to our original animism and the ensouled universe it perceived. We need to understand nature, the planet, the sun, the soil, the water, the mountains, the rocks, the trees, and the air as sentient beings whose destiny is not separate from our own. As far as I know, no indigenous person on Earth would deny that a rock bears some kind of awareness or intelligence. Who are we to think differently? Are the results of the modern scientific view so impressive as to justify such arrant presumptuousness? Have we created a society more beautiful than they? In fact, as the example of the quantum particle suggests, science is finally circling back toward animism. To be sure, scientific paradigms that countenance an intelligent universe are mostly heterodox today, but they are gradually encroaching on the mainstream. Take the example of water. Emerging from the shadows of homeopathy, anthroposophy, and research by marginal figures like Masaru Emoto and the brilliant Viktor Schauberger, the idea that water itself is alive, or at least bears structure and individuality, is now being explored by mainstream scientists like Gerald Pollack. We still have a long way to go before anything like the sentience of all matter can be accepted, or even articulated, by science. But imagine what that belief would mean when we contemplate mountaintop removal mining, polluting aquifers with fracking fluid, and so on.
Whatever the mechanism—greenhouse gases, deforestation, or solar fluctuations—climate change is sending us an important message. We and Earth are one. As above, so below: what we do to each other, even to the smallest animal or plant, we do to all creation. Perhaps all our small, invisible acts imprint themselves upon the world in ways we do not understand.
music: Brother Martin and the Intangibles, “We Are Water,” “Molecules” (“Molecules” can also be heard here, and both songs are on the Brother Martin and the Intangibles Facebook page, which you will find if you click the “Intangibles” link)
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Tags: Charles Eisenstein, CO2, quantum theory, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, water
Categories : book review, climate change, environmental issues, local self-sufficiency, transition
(This is a slightly edited version of a blog post that first appeared in my candidate blog, “Holsinger for House.” You can read the original here.)
Al Gore called his landmark presentation on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth.” I think he chose the word “an” very purposefully, He’s a smart guy, and he knows that climate change is not the only “inconvenient truth.” There are many “inconvenient truths,” subjects and realities that conventional American politics carefully avoids or glosses over. Gore explored this in a subsequent book, “The Assault on Reason,” a volume that most Democrats seem to have chosen to ignore. I believe American politics would benefit from greater public awareness of and dialogue on these “inconvenient truths. ” Here are some that come to my mind. If you have any other ones you would like to nominate, feel free to comment!
GROWTH IS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION
Conventional politics is religiously dedicated to the proposition that fostering “economic growth” will solve all our problems, and that anything that halts or slows “economic growth” is a Bad Thing. This theory has been most notoriously promulgated as “trickle-down economics,” AKA “Reaganomics,” but its practice is not confined to the GOP. The fallacy of economic growth as a solution to our problems is that we live on a finite planet, with finite resources, and our dedication to “growth” is running up against the limits of those resources, whether we are talking about fossil fuels, phosphates, clean water, fish, other foodstuffs, arable land, oxygen, or anything else tangible. If we use up all of these things, even over the next few hundred years, what will people (and other animals) do to substitute for them in a thousand years? Ten thousand years?
The notion that “whatever increases the Gross National Product is good, “is gross. Hurricane-caused damage increases the GNP. Diseases that require expensive treatment increase the GNP; frequently, diseases are caused by other activities, such as environmental degradation, that increase the GNP. Lots of things that increase the GNP make us less happy. Happiness comes from a sane state of mind, not the possession of a mountain of toys.
“Economic growth” has tended to benefit those who are already wealthy more than those of us who are not. That leads to another inconvenient truth, which is that
AMERICA IS AN OLIGARCHY
The wealthy and powerful, the people the Occupy! movement refers to as “The One Percent,” are the people who call the tune in this country. It doesn’t matter what is best for most people, whether it’s an open internet, a sane health care system, a decent neighbourhood, or a clean environment. Our government will do what benefits the wealthy. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: Al Gore, Assault on Reason, automobiles, Barack Obama, blue dog Democrats, China, Gross National Product, growth, jobs, Obamacare, oligarchy, public transportation, Reaganomics, Republicans, schools, the one percent
Categories : climate change, environmental issues, financial, friends and family, peak oil, politics
When I was a kid/teenager, growing up in a safe, quiet suburb, I loved adventure novels and movies, stories in which the hero/ine had to deal, not so much with evil people, but with the impartial force and majesty of nature. I loved the histories of South Polar expeditions, Robinson Crusoe and similar novels, and the writings of Jack London.
Then I became a hippie and moved to the country, jumping from a small Vermont college to a series of communes in the California foothills to The Farm in Tennessee, and life became an adventure novel. Vermont got this city kid out into the country, and acquainted me for the first time with weather that could kill me. California introduced me to horizons I could scan and find no trace of civilization, and my trajectory at The Farm provided me with a life close to the earth, marrying and raising a family while living in a series of school buses and 16’X32′ army surplus squad tents, far from the normal trappings of American culture. This was back when Tennessee had serious winters, folks. There would be snow on the ground for weeks, because the temperature would stay below freezing for weeks, and there was nothing between us and that weather but an inch of school bus roof or a fraction of an inch of canvas. When the ground wasn’t frozen, it was likely to be very muddy. We chopped lots of wood, hauled lots of water, had two home births in those school buses, and helped turn a couple of square miles of Tennessee back woods into a thriving community, as well.
In fact, the community thrived to the point that the adventure of life was no longer so much about surviving the weather as it was about growing the community. Our family moved into a real house, with wood floors and walls, insulation, and even running hot water and a shower! The roof no longer flapped in a strong wind, nor did a heavy rain storm drip from the ceiling, flood in through the door, or drown out conversation. That happened around 1975, and, for most of the nearly 40 years since then, my dwelling’s ability to withstand the elements has not been much of an issue.
That changed in the Spring of 2013, when we moved back to Rabbit Hole Hollow after the fire. During the summer, apart from the occasional rainstorm, it was no big deal. We did our eating and dish washing outside. During daylight hours, there was plenty of hot water for showers and kitchen cleanup from the two hundred feet of garden hose we ran up onto the roof of what remained of the house. As the days grew shorter, the availability of hot water diminished, but we didn’t really think much about winter. The last several winters had been ridiculously mild–we are in the early stages of global warming, after all–hey, some winter soon, it might not even frost! Ooh, the bugs will be really bad the summer after that happens! Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: Charles Eisenstein, E.J. Gold, Jack London, Jonathan Swift, Polar Vortex, Robinson Crusoe, Stephen Gaskin, The Farm, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible
Categories : buddhism, climate change, friends and family, humor, local self-sufficiency, transition
Those of us who recognize the many grave dangers that fracking poses to our environment and social fabric have often felt that we were in a real David vs. Goliath struggle, but without the benefit of the sling that enabled David to topple the giant. Recent developments indicate that we may have not one,but two Goliaths entering the fray on our side.
Our two unlikely champions are the insurance providers and the mortgage bankers.
Here’s how Nationwide Mutual Insurance put it in an internal memo:
“After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”
This applies to
….landowners who lease land for shale gas drilling and contractors involved in fracking operations, including those who haul water to and from drill sites; pipe and lumber haulers; and operators of bulldozers, dump trucks and other vehicles used in drill site preparation.
Other insurers are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the difficulty of calculating potential damages from fracking, and, while insurance for gas and oil companies is still available, the cost is rising. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: fracking, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.
Categories : climate change, environmental issues, financial, peak oil, US infrastructure