Good News: The future is about conserving and higher-quality lives

Post Carbon Institute (transcript, audio)
Address to the Commonwealth Club
Thanks to Mendo Conservers Club

Chris is a former Vice President of an international Fortune 300 company and used to be living in a large waterfront house until he came to the same realization that something isn’t quite right with society. About 5 years ago, Chris terminated his former high-paying, high-status position. He produced the hugely popular, on-line economics Crash Course. His children are now home-schooled, and the big house was sold in July of 2003 in preference for a small rental in rural western Massachusetts. The family grows a garden every year; preserves food, knows how to brew beer & wine, and raises chickens. Chris and Becca are making sure their family and community are becoming more self-sufficient and are sharing much of their wisdom with the online community on his website.

[…]  within our lifetime and that of our children, these disparate facts will coalesce into the greatest economic and physical challenge ever faced by our country, if not humanity.

It is also my opinion that if we do not develop a clear picture of the world we wish to create, the economic chaos and turbulence that we are now experiencing will prove to be the opening salvos in a long, disruptive period of adjustment.

It is my belief that we still have the time, resources, and know-how to create a brilliant future of our own design but that by putting our energies into sustaining the status quo we will default into a future shaped by disaster…

…we have everything we need right now to align our economics and resource use with reality. And we don’t need any new understandings to be developed. Brilliant people have been working at the margins for decades defining the issues and finding new ways of doing more with less.

What we lack is political will.

But there’s good news here too because more and more people are waking up all the time to the fact that humanity’s long experiment with “more” is about to end and an exciting new chapter is about to begin. Where people’s minds go, politics will eventually follow.

The really excellent news is that if we manage the transition elegantly we can actually improve things. A life with less pollution, more free time, meaningful jobs, more happiness, less stress and greater connection to each other as well as to nature are all within the realm of the possible. But only if we correctly diagnose the predicament and respond intelligently.

Our challenge then is not to find vast new resources to exploit, but to undertake the far more sophisticated and worthwhile task of using what we’ve got more wisely.

Q and A:

Q. How do we get off our addiction to oil?

A. We have to start telling ourselves different stories. When I go to Europe, I find that they lead a pretty comfortable lifestyle. And they exist on half the energy Americans do. We can do so much with conservation. That’s the first thing that should be out of our lips: not how do we get a better technology, not how do we find more oil really deep down, but how can we conserve? I believe we can cut our energy consumption in half which will buy us a lot of time which we can use for reorganizing ourselves. Electrified trains, reorganizing how we work and play so they are closer together, barge networks that move things on water, which is the most efficient way to do it. Get by with less.

The status quo is not going to be changed in Washington D.C. Women’s Rights, Labor Rights, the Environmental Movement, Civil Rights… all of these were brought kicking and screaming from the outside in.

We change our minds. We create a groundswell of what we want, and the politicians will follow. We will have to put enormous pressure on them… it will have to be an old social movement again.

I like what Sweden is doing. The 2020 plan. They’re going to be off imported oil by 2020 if they execute it. Efficiency standards, new building design codes, etc.

We also need a network of currencies. Currencies are commodities. We need other kinds of currencies that are not based on debt. Why does our government have to borrow money?

I purposefully cut my standard of living in half,  and I doubled my quality of life. Where we get our happiness and satisfaction is about the community we’ve got, the connections that we have… the ways we have fun is a lot less consumptive than a lot of families and we haven’t noticed it. We have absolutely high quality lives.

Complete presentation here

Mendo Media


My uncle, the late 5th District Supervisor Joe Scaramella, was an avid reader all his life. He described the county’s media during his tour in office in the 50s and 60s as “mostly duplicative and wishy-washy.” But Uncle Joe conceded that despite its pale timidity, the Mendo media were influential: he always said that without the endorsement of the Ukiah Daily Journal he would not have elected Fifth District Supervisor in 1952. “I ran four times before without the Journal’s endorsement,” he’d laugh. “And I lost every time.”

Joe Scaramella was subsequently re-elected four times and was responsible for a variety of major reforms of county government: an end to private budget meetings held in the offices of lumber company lawyers; a set of rules and procedures for the operations of the Board of Supervisors; establishment of a Civil Service Commission and orderly personnel management procedures; and an hour set aside before each meeting for a general hearing of the public. He implemented these steps in his first term in office — well before enactment of the Brown Act which at least theoretically forced public business out into the open for the public to admire. For his work on behalf of the public interest, Uncle Joe was denounced by the private beneficiaries of back door politics as a troublemaker.  “They fostered the notion that I was a troublemaker because I was critical, perhaps sometimes unnecessarily,” Scaramella remembered. “But, criticism in my judgment is an essential part of life. If nobody says anything negative, how can you expect things to improve?”

So how do the media in Mendocino County today stand up to Joe Scaramella’s invocation of negativity as change agent? A few pretty well — most not so good.

For criticism and negativity you’d have to concede that the Anderson Valley Advertiser wins rather easily, although there’s not much competition. The AVA, like it or not, can count numerous triumphs, from the clean-up of the County Office of Education and the return of the Courthouse law library to the public it was designed to serve in the 1990s to in-depth critical coverage of the Board of Supervisors and the legal system.

More Mendo Media at The AVA here

New Network of Responsible Business Organizations Forms

From Better World Club

Turmoil at the US Chamber of Commerce Is The Backdrop

A number of Responsible Business Organizations came together on October 23rd to agree on principles for a network of responsible business organizations, the American Sustainable Business Council. The groups included New Voice of Business, Green America, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and B Corporation, among others…

The new network comes together against the backdrop of turmoil at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has announced a hardline stance against action on climate change, a policy that may have breached the Chamber’s internal rules as it was not passed by a board vote.

In September and October 2009, several companies quit the Chamber due to the Chamber’s stance on environmental impact reform, including Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp, PNM Resources, Apple Inc, and Mohawk Fine Paper. Nike, Inc decided to resign their board of directors position but to continue membership. Nike stated that they believe they can better influence policy by being part of the conversation.

Give credit where it’s due: The US Chamber of Commerce “Knows Drama” (our apologies to TNT). In a move calculated to simultaneously grandstand and stall for time (until another round of elections?), the Chamber attempted to force the Environmental Protection Agency to arrange a climate science hearing before any federal climate regulations were passed and in order to challenge the very notion of human-caused climate change.

In any case, regardless of their impact on society and whether they are warming or cooling the earth, the fossil fuels that are a substantial source of climate change are polluting. And products should be priced so that pollution and its impact on 3rd parties are discouraged.

The Chamber opposes the Waxman-Markey energy bill and is threatening to sue the EPA if it regulates greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that such a move would dramatically increase “the price of everything that uses energy.”