Mendo Island Transition

Transition: Can the Stuck-in-Place Economy Help Us Face Climate Change?


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From Yes Magazine

New studies show that people with deep roots in the place where they live are better equipped to handle upheavals of the type that come with climate change.

After I finished high school in the flat, square corn country of central Illinois, I fled—along with many of my fellow classmates. We chased jobs or graduate school in places like San Francisco, New York, or Washington, D.C. I settled in Seattle. It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I became aware of the social costs of this mobility.

It’s about more than mere hand-wringing over the ton of carbon I am dumping into the atmosphere this Christmas as I fly east or the psychic toll of separation from my parents, my brother, and my four-year-old niece. I am somehow ungrounded. I have limited history in this gray and watery city: Even after 10 years I don’t have the same sense of belonging as people who grew up here, and that sometimes feels disquieting.

According to recent environmental research, this could also mean that I am less equipped to cope—if, say, an emergency strikes—than someone who’s better connected to Seattle. Sense of place, community, and rootedness aren’t just poetic ideas. They are survival mechanisms.

Social scientists call it “place attachment”: “the bonding that occurs between individuals and their meaningful environments,” according to psychologists Leila Scannell and Robert Gifford. Based on several studies released in the last couple of years, place attachment

Transition: The Power of the Powerless…


tFrom The Picket Line

(Why does seemingly every corporate headquarters, hotel, school, and so on in the U.S. have the stars and stripes flying on a big pole not far from the front door? When people visit the U.S. from other countries they often remark how weird it is to see the flag everywhere instead of primarily on certain government buildings. Is this because American corporations, or foreign corporations with offices here, are especially enthusiastic about the flag? Or is it because nobody wants to be the target of some Fox News two-minutes hate about being insufficiently patriotic — that is, insufficiently subservient to the ruling ideology? Why do sporting events open with the national anthem, and what do you think would happen if you stayed seated when it played?)

I recently read Václav Havel’s essay on “The Power of the Powerless.” I thought I was going to be rereading it, but I realized that what I had read before was only excerpts. Today I’m going to summarize and paraphrase and riff on the full essay for a bit. It’s a fascinating and surprising piece of work and I think it has useful lessons for us today.

The context for the essay is Czechoslovakia in 1978. The country had been behind the Iron Curtain for thirty years, and ten years had passed since the brief experiment in political liberalization known as the “Prague Spring” which had been quickly stopped by a Soviet-led invasion.

Havel was a Czech playwright with international renown

Transition: How I Became an Ex-Liberal…


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From ERIK LINDBERG
Resilience

In 2010 Scott Walker was elected Governor of my home state of Wisconsin.  Although he ran on the typical Republican program of cutting spending and providing “tax relief” to the wealthy in order to boost the economy, most of us were surprised when Walker unveiled his more draconian plan of ending the rights of government employees to engage in collective bargaining.  Walker argued that he was only trying to provide more flexibility to local municipalities struggling to balance their budgets, but it didn’t take long for critics to become aware of his larger agenda of pitting a wealthy ownership class and a low income white voters against government employees.  Crushing workers’ unions, it soon became apparent, was also one of Walker’s goals, a goal shared by billionaire funders like the ultra-conservative Koch brothers.  Labor Unions were one of the last liberal strongholds able to compete with funding bonanza that was now flowing into conservative “Super Pacs,” and conservatives believed they could achieve a permanent electoral advantage by destroying unions once and for all.

Because Walker openly used phrases like “divide and conquer” and “crush” when referring to his political opponents, it was obvious he was prepared for a fight.  But he was likely taken off-guard by the sudden groundswell of liberal and Democratic energy.  Attempting to postpone a crucial vote on Walker’s bill, the State Senate’s Democratic minority fled to Illinois  where they holed-up in a motel waiting for public opinion to realize what was at stake; meanwhile tens of thousands of protestors descended on Madison, occupying the Capital Building with round-the clock drumming, chanting, and singing, while growing crowds swelled on the adjacent streets as the throngs of protestor reached a count of close to one hundred thousand, despite the windy and cold February and March days.

On a cold, rainy, and particularly windy Sunday in early March, my wife and I bussed in from Milwaukee and joined the protests with some of our friends.

James Lee: Mendocino Coast Transition Towns Upcoming Event Notice — Reasserting Community Rights — Going Beyond Single Issue Activism…


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From JAMES LEE
Anderson Valley

Are you frustrated by the apparent inability of local communities to stop corporate destruction of the natural world (unnecessary road building, fracking, sludge dumping on farmland, bottling and removal of water from local rivers, use of toxic pesticides in forests, oil drilling in pristine areas, etc.)? Are you wondering why the public seems to be powerless to stop these abuses of corporate power? This workshop will illuminate how and why the law has been used to progressively expand corporate powers. It will also provide a new and proven way to reestablish community rights, the power of community self-determination, and the power to stop destructive practices through local ordinance writing. Used in more than 160 communities in ten states across the USA, local ordinances are enabling local communities to assert their right to protect themselves and nature from corporate domination and control. In support of this, the California Constitution says: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”

Well-known community rights organizer, and partner with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org), Paul Cienfuegos will be leading this intensive two-day workshop at the Community Center of Mendocino (998 School St., in the town of Mendocino), on President’s Day weekend — February 15-16, 2014. This two full day event includes two potluck lunches. Paul is the founder of Democracy Unlimited in Humboldt County, which models new ways of working on a variety of ecological and social justice issues such as forest clear-cutting, weakening organic food labeling standards, and big box store take-over of local business. He also co-founded

Transition: The day I closed my Amazon account…


Amazon fulfilment centre

From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

I’ve done it.  I’ve closed my Amazon account.  I now stand before you as an ex-Amazon account-holder.  I feel curiously shaky, but at the same time empowered, excited even.  While opening a new Amazon account is easy as pie, closing one is another matter altogether.  I’d like to share with you how, and why, I did it.

Was it the recent Panorama programme about working conditions in those vast Amazon ‘fulfilment centres’ that tipped me across into doing something?  Was it the stories about the appallingly low levels of tax Amazon pay in the UK?  Was it the recent video showing Amazon’s plans to be delivering across the UK within 30 minutes through the use of drones? Was it hearing the level of taxpayers’ money that goes in sweeteners to attracting Amazon to open up in different communities, while the profits generated pour out of those same places?  What actually tipped me across was a conversation I had with a book seller in my town. It was that that led me, finally, to build the steely resolve needed to close down my Amazon account.

Yes, I confess, I had an Amazon account.  I buy music from my local record shop, I support my local book shops, but there are times when I need a book quickly, or feel I do, and it’s just easier and more convenient.  And, if I’m honest, I love getting exciting parcels in the post. And isn’t it cheap?  But as Carole Cadwalladr, who went undercover in Amazon’s Swansea ‘fulfilment centre’ for The Guardian puts it:

Our lust for cheap, discounted goods delivered to our doors promptly and efficiently has a price. We just haven’t worked out what it is yet.

Transition: Founder Rob Hopkins visits San Francisco and Hopland…


City Lights bookstore

From ROB HOPKINS
Transition Culture

Letter from America #4: Five extraordinary days in California…

California is vast, a nation in itself.  As a state, it actually is home to the ninth largest economy in the world.  It is home to one in eight Americans, and produces at least half of the nation’s fruit, and a sizeable proportion of its vegetables.  Its climate runs from tropical in the south, to subarctic in the mountains.  It’s a fascinating place.  When I first got to San Francisco, I had, unusually for my madly packed schedule, the rare joy of a couple of hours to myself.  I headed to City Lights bookstore.  I have to say it was one of the best bookshops I have ever been in, specialising in poetry, literature, arts, political books, alternative and counterculture publications.  It describes itself thus:

Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, City Lights is one of the few truly great independent bookstores in the United States, a place where booklovers from across the country and around the world come to browse, read, and just soak in the ambiance of alternative culture’s only “Literary Landmark.”…

Complete article here

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Transition: Think a New Economy Is Possible? Meet the Man Already Making it Happen…


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From AlterNet

Rob Hopkins helped start the first Transition Town. Now it’s a global network of thousands of communities showing no signs of slowing down.

Standing in front of a crowd of hundreds at Oakland, California’s Grand Lake Theater, Rob Hopkins shows a picture of a butcher shop in a small town in Northern Ireland. A row of hams hang in the window, the door is cracked open, welcoming, a passerby walks his dog. Just another example of a successful small town business, vital for the local economy. Right? Except, Hopkins explains what you can’t immediately see when you glance at the image. The store is real, but the window display is a fake—it’s simply photoshopped posters plastered over the glass. The local business has gone under, the shop is gutted, but those organizing the last G8 meeting of the world’s most powerful countries that met in Northern Ireland don’t want to be reminded of this and they sure don’t want the media to see it. So the truth has been glossed over, obscured.

These are the times we live in.

Energy Wasted to Fill the Shelves…


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From RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

Society’s dependence on commercial produce and energy production is at an all-time high. In fact, that is probably why most of us have chosen to adopt resilience strategies and attempt to live more sustainable lifestyles in the first place.

However, the facts are undeniable. Society has become so dependent on commercial food production and the energy costs associated with manufacturing, processing and transportation that we have become a mere shadow of what our ancestors just a couple generations ago were able to accomplish.

Although most of this change can be attributed to the instant gratification mindset that many people have adopted in recent years, the blame does not rest solely within our own communities.

The Alarming Truth

According to the US Department of Agriculture, it took 12 fuel calories to deliver 1 calorie of consumed food in 2002. In 2007, it took approximately 14 fuel calories to deliver 1 calorie of food. We can assume that this upward trend means it takes about 15 calories or more to deliver 1 calorie of consumed food in 2013.

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These figures factor in

Transition: Covelo library offers seed lending…


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From GLENDA ANDERSON
The Press Democrat

Directly across from the non-fiction aisle in remote Round Valley’s small but modern public library sits an old-fashioned card catalogue representing a growing trend: seed lending.

“We’re the first in Mendocino County,” said Pat Sobrero, the Covelo library technician who initiated the seed-lending library in June.

Seed saving and lending is an old tradition that is enjoying a resurgence that’s made its way into public libraries.

The first modern-day seed library in the United States is believed to be the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library, or BASIL, established in about 1999 at the Berkeley Ecology Center.

Now there are at least 170 such libraries in more than 35 states…

About two dozen are in Northern California with more to come. Seed libraries currently are being considered for Healdsburg and Ukiah, library officials confirmed…

See complete article and photo gallery here
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Walmart’s Latest Scheme to Replace the Middle Class With an Underclass Forced to Buy its Shoddy Goods…



(Why we can’t shop our way to a Better Economy)

From STACY MITCHELL
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Walmart’s planned takeover of urban markets threatens to cut off other viable economic development options.

Almost 30 years ago, as the U.S. was bleeding jobs, Walmart launched a “Buy America” program and started hanging “Made in America” signs in its 750 stores.  It was a marketing success, cementing the retailer’s popularity in the country’s struggling, blue-collar heartland.  A few years later, NBC’s Dateline revealed the program to be a sham.  Sure, Walmart was willing to buy U.S.-made goods — so long as they were as cheap as imports, which, of course, they weren’t. Dateline found that Walmart’s sourcing was in fact rapidly shifting to Asia.

Transition: Disobedience the true foundation of liberty…


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From GUY McPHERSON
Transition Voice

As if he could peer into the future, Henry David Thoreau is credited with the expression: “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”

Herein I present a few recent examples of obedience at home. This essay is hardly comprehensive, and the hits keep coming, so this essay represents a minor start to a major issue. I’m certain many more examples will appear until American Empire finally sinks to the bottom of the cesspool in which it is mired.

I focus on the Obama administration because it is the most recent and also the most horrific example of imperialism. I refuse to play the game currently popular among Democrats in which Obama is compared to Mitt Romney or John McCain. Obama has a record as president, and Romney and McCain don’t.

Could fracking finally kill off rural America?


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From ERIC CURREN
Transition Voice

Gasland 2, the sequel to Josh Fox’s documentary about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, introduces a frightening image.

It’s not another money shot of tap water on fire, though the water well hose lit up by the owner of a multimillion dollar home in Parker County, Texas is a wonder.

Nor is the most frightening image an internal gas industry memo labeling residents of small towns in Pennsylvania or New York State an “insurgency” that

Transition: From Housing to Health Care, 7 Co-ops That Are Changing Our Economy…


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From CLAUDIA ROWE
Yes! Magazine

How manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, and others are doing business the cooperative way.

1. Green Worker Cooperative’s Co-op Academy
, The Bronx, N.Y.

Ideas for co-ops may flourish, but few people understand exactly how to make theirs real. The Co-op Academy is providing answers. Founded four years ago by Omar Freilla (who recently made Ebony magazine’s list of the Power 100), the academy runs 16-week courses that offer intensive mentoring, legal and financial advice, and help designing logos and websites.

Run by the South Bronx-based Green Worker Cooperative, the academy guides up to four teams per session through the startup process and has graduated four organizations now thriving in New York City. These include Caracol Interpreters, which is raising the bar on interpreter wages, and Concrete Green, which focuses on environmentally sound landscaping. Six more co-ops are in the pipeline.

“I’m amazed at how little knowledge and information is out there for the average person about how co-ops function and how to start one,”

Transition: Self-Employed? Build a Community First…


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From JOHN ROBB
Resilient Communities

I interviewed a couple of successful entrepreneurs last week on the Resilient Roundtable.

They are doing so well and having such a good time with their new business that they recently quit their “day jobs.”

They’re very lucky. They get to spend their productive hours on creative, innovative, and challenging work they can accomplish locally.

Not only that, their able to support themselves financially doing it.

What made them successful?

It’s a feature we are going to see again and again in successful businesses. It’s a feature that is going to make them resilient.

They built a small, but growing, community of customers and fans before they sold their first product.

A community of people that are enthusiastic about what they build.

A community that supported them when they launched and is now supporting them as they build out the business.

A Resilient Business

Transition: Cheap by Choice — When Frugality Means Freedom…


Use-it-Up

From DAISY LUTHER
The Organic Prepper

As a parent, sometimes I’ve asked my kids to do things they don’t want to do.  (Haven’t we all?)  The biggest key to their success in the endeavour is their attitude.

Scenario #1:

Me: Kiddo, it’s time to swap your winter clothes for your spring clothes. Please go through your closet, sort through your winter clothes and get rid of the stuff that’s too small or that you don’t want anymore.

KiddoI don’t want to!  I hate this! It’s not fair!!!

Kiddo goes through the closet, angrily shoving things in a garbage bag without taking a good hard look at things.  She sulks, pouts and is otherwise miserable.  She gets the job done but makes sure that it is unpleasant for all of us.

Scenario #2:

Me: Kiddo, it’s time to swap your winter clothes for your spring clothes. Please go through your closet, sort through your winter clothes and get rid of the stuff that’s too small or that you don’t want anymore.

KiddoOkay – this gives me a chance to see if there’s anything I can re-purpose, too!

Kiddo goes through the closet, eagerly sorting items into piles.  She comes up with a good stash of ‘new’ materials for craft projects, a bag of donations, and 2 shirts that were buried at the back that she forgot she had.  The job is done and the end result is its own reward.

Switching over to a more frugal lifestyle can be just like the above scenarios.   You can embrace it and relish the challenge of it, or you can sulk, pout and be absolutely miserable.

Transition: Bioregional Wool Milling…


mgMatt Gilbert, Mendocino County

From FIBERSHED

The mission of Fibershed is to change the way we clothe ourselves by supporting the creation of local textile cultures that enhance ecological balance, and utilize regional agriculture while strengthening local economies and communities.

Our first fundraising event for a regional cotton mill was almost two years ago today.  We gathered to celebrate the first 7 months of our project that had taken on the challenge to create bioregional attire from our local farms and wild places.

The funds raised from that feed-barn fashion show were graciously, and somewhat surprisingly donated back to us by cotton farmer we raised them for.  Sally Fox asked that we take those (humble) funds and instead of having them be used for perhaps one small piece of cotton processing equipment

Transition: The Hard Road Ahead…


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From JOHN MICHAEL GEER

The latest round of political theater in Washington DC over the automatic budget cuts enacted in the 2011 debt ceiling compromise—the so-called “sequester”—couldn’t have been better timed, at least as far as this blog is concerned. It’s hard to imagine better evidence, after all, that the American political process has finally lost its last fingernail grip on reality.

Let’s start with the basics. Despite all the bellowing on the part of politicians, pressure groups, and the media, the cuts in question total only 2.3% of the US federal budget.  They thus amount to a relatively modest fraction of the huge increases in federal spending that have taken place over the last decade or so. (I sincerely doubt that those of my readers who were in the US in 2003 noticed any striking lack of federal dollars being spent then.) In the same way, those who protested the “tax increases” at the beginning of this year by and large failed to mentioned that the increases in question were simply the expiration of some—by no means all—of the big tax cuts enacted a little over a decade ago in the second Bush administration.

At a time when the United States is spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year it doesn’t happen to have, and making up the difference by spinning the printing presses at ever-increasing speeds,  a strong case can be made that rolling back spending increases and giving up tax breaks are measures that deserve serious consideration.  Any such notion, though, is anathema to most Americans these days, at least to the extent that it might affect them.

Hey Ukiah City Council and Staff: Let’s Cut the Bullshit on Costco and Walmart — Big Box Stores Kill Jobs, Increase Taxes and Destroy Communities…


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From Institute for Local Self Reliance

Below are summaries and links to key studies that examine the impact of Wal-Mart and other large retail chains and, in some cases, the benefits of locally owned businesses. For ease of use, we’ve organized these studies into the following categories, although they do not all fit neatly into one category.

  • Economic Impact of Local Businesses vs. Chains Studies have found that locally owned stores generate much greater benefits for the local economy than national chains.
  • Retail Employment These studies examine whether the arrival of a superstore increases or decreases the number of retail jobs in the region.
  • Wages & Benefits Studies have found that big-box retailers, particularly Wal-Mart, are depressing wages and benefits for retail employees.
  • Existing Businesses These studies look at how the arrival of a big-box retailer displaces sales at existing businesses, which must then downsize or close. This results in job losses and declining tax revenue, which some of these studies quantify.
  • Poverty Rates Counties that have gained Wal-Mart stores have fared worse in terms of family poverty rates, according to this study.
  • Social and Civic Well-Being This study found that Wal-Mart reduces a community’s level of social capital, as measured by voter turnout and the number of active community organizations.
  • City Costs These studies compare the municipal tax benefits of big-box development with the cost of providing these stores with city services, such as road maintenance, police and fire—finding that cities do not always come out ahead.
  • State Costs Because many of their employees do not earn enough to make ends meet, states are reporting high costs associated with providing healthcare (Medicaid) and other public assistance to big-box employees.
  • Subsidies The expansion of big-box retailers has been financed in part by massive development subsidies and tax advantages provided by local and state governments. These studies document those subsidies

Transition: Still just preaching to the choir?


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From SHARON ASTYK

I get invited to speak to a lot of US Transition groups, and often I go.  Often the leaders are blog readers, sometimes people I know through the internet, often future-friends.  While every talk is different, they have some real similarities.  Whether speaking in a suburb of Maryland, a large city in Ohio or to a coalition of rural towns in Virginia, I know that some things will probably happen.

I will meet wonderful, kind hosts who will put me up in their guest room and on their couch.  I will most likely speak at a Unitarian Church (although I have spoken in many, many different kinds of venues including Churches of many denominations, synagogues, Grange Halls, Public Libraries, Town Halls, Public Parks and other venues, Unitarian Churches by far predominate.)

The audience will be warm, welcoming and attentive.  The average age of the audience will be at least a decade older than me and often much more (50s, usually.)  The audience will be largely or exclusively white (although I have also spoken to a very few impressive urban transition groups that are neither) and middle class.  Before my talk a long list of committees and administrative tasks will be discussed, and we will welcome many co-sponsors of my talk from local resources that tend strongly towards the middle-class progressive.

After my talk on food issues, oil and climate issues, transportation, etc… (depending on what they’ve asked me to speak on), someone will raise their hand and say how wonderful it is that the audience is of X size, but how do we get the message out to everyone else, and why are there only white middle class people in the audience?  Odds are I will have already had this conversation two or three times with the leaders of the group or others involved also.  They will point out that they have done outreach and advertising, movie nights, etc… and it still seems to be mostly attracting the same group of people – older white people with money to spare.

When these questions are asked, I find myself giving a number of answers over and over again.  Some of them I have rather frequently written about here, for example:

1. Most people do not hire babysitters/come out on a freezing/raining/frying

Transition: Dancing on Big Box Graves…


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From JAMES HOWARD KUNSTLER

Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle. The meetings were often raucous and wrathful and almost all the time the pro forces won — for the excellent reason that they were funded and organized by the chain stores themselves (in an early demonstration of the new axioms that money-is-speech and corporations are people, too!).

The chain stores won not only because they flung money around — sometimes directly into the wallets of public officials — but because a sizeable chunk of every local population longed for the dazzling new mode of commerce. “We Want Bargain Shopping” was their rallying cry. The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn’t that a bargain, though?

Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town, WalMart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola. In most of the country there is no other place to buy goods (and no other place to get a paycheck, scant and demeaning as it may be). America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide. Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: people get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic.

The older generations responsible for all that may be done for, but the momentum has now turned in the opposite direction. Though the public hasn’t groked it yet, WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them.

Transition: What Would a Down-to-Earth Economy Look Like?


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From YES! MAGAZINE

How did we end up with Wall Street when models for a healthy economy are all around us?

With proper care and respect, Earth can provide a high quality of life for all people in perpetuity. Yet we devastate productive lands and waters for a quick profit, a few temporary jobs, or a one-time resource fix.

Our current expansion of tar sands oil extraction, deep-sea oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction, and mountaintop-removal coal mining are but examples of this insanity. These highly profitable choices deepen our economic dependence on rapidly diminishing, nonrenewable fossil-energy reserves, disrupt the generative capacity of Earth’s living systems, and accelerate climate disruption.

A global economy dependent on this nonsense is already failing and its ultimate collapse is only a matter of time. For a surprisingly long time, we humans have successfully maintained the illusion that we are outside of, superior to, and not subject to the rules of nature. We do so, however, at a huge cost, and payment is coming due.

To secure the health and happiness of future generations, we must embrace life as our defining value, recognize that competition is but a subtext of life’s deeper narrative of cooperation, and restructure our institutions to conform to life’s favored organizing principle of radically decentralized, localized decision making and self-organization. This work begins with recognizing what nature has learned about the organization of complex living systems over billions of years.

Our Original Instructions

Some indigenous people speak of the “original instructions.” Chief Oren Lyons, of the Onondaga Nation, summarizes the rules in “Listening to Natural Law” in the anthology Original Instructions:

Transition in Romania…


From TRANSITION CULTURE

More of what’s happening in the world of Transition here

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