Category: Pioneers


 

 

 

 

 

 

Reprinted from Grist in it’s entirety:

Hey, remember the woman threatened with 93 days in jail for growing a garden in her front yard? She could have a cellmate! Dirk Becker of Lantzville, British Columbia turned his scraped-dry gravel pit of a property into a thriving organic farm, so of course he’s facing six months of jail time. Why? Well, the thing is, this farm was full of DIRT. You can’t have dirt in a yard! It’s unsanitary.

The Beckers were cited under Lantzville’s “unsightly premises” bylaw, for having piles of dirt and manure on the property. As the Beckers wryly point out, the letter came on the same day that 8,000 compost bins were distributed to residents in their region. So, to recap: Gravel pit: not unsightly. Beautiful farm with dirt in it: unsightly. Fertilizer in bin in kitchen: civic responsibility. Fertilizer actually out fertilizing: filth!

As it turns out, Lantzville has a bylaw that residentially zoned plots can’t grow food at all — even the no-dirt kind! — whether or not they’re farming commercially. The Beckers’ 2.5-acre property is zoned as residential, so they essentially are not allowed to eat anything that comes out of their garden. Ah, local government, always improving lives.

There’s a particular ironic wrinkle in Becker’s case:

This issue impacts all of us on Vancouver Island. Many of you are aware that only 5% of our food supply is grown on Vancouver Island, thus 95% is imported. It may shock you to know that there is only two days fresh food supply on Vancouver Island. That means, any disruption in ferry service, trucking or problems at the US border (75% of BC’s food comes from California) would have a dramatic and immediate effect on our food supply.

In other words, these garden-hampering bylaws are a terrible idea for more than just the usual reasons. In the event of even a minor emergency, a law-abiding Lantzville could be starved out with a quickness.

This case has been dragging on since 2010.

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Johnathan Franzen delivered the commencement address at Kenyon College this year. It was a profound meditation on our relationship to the technological world of our own invention. Almost a Dr. Frankenstein and his monster story, Franzen shines a light on our near-romantic levels of fixation on gadgets and internet alter-egos. The harshness of his condemnation is tempered considerably by the dispassionate accuracy of his assertions.

Somehow Franzen manages to blend spot on critique of the narcissistic nature of a lot of social media:

We click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to have contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It’s all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.

With breathtakingly frank observations about fear, pain and love

When you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived.

The speech is one of the most thought-provoking investigations into the ramifications of our techno-universe and beyond that I have personally encountered. Every word should be read, savored and possibly read again. As much as I’d like to insert the whole thing here, clinking a link hopefully won’t prove so great a hurdle that you’ll deprive yourself of his brilliance. Franzen adapted his speech into an essay published in the New york Times OpEd pages last month. Do yourself a favor and find a way to follow that link.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are.

 

 

 

Shaun Chamberlain, the Brit with the best darn title for a post-industrial blog on the whole darn internet, Dark Optimism, has an important reminder for anyone who thinks that sitting this one out is an option.

We cannot not change the world, whatever any of us choose to do. And as we change it, it changes us. And as it changes us, we change it. We Are All Activists.

Since there’s clearly no use in avoiding it, we might as well examine the options and get proactive with our activism. So here’s Dimitri Orlov on the roads most often traveled to “change”:

Any reform of a complex system, such as our existing one, involves further investment in social complexity through a wide variety of costly initiatives. And here’s the problem: there is no longer either the money or the energy for such initiatives. The default is to just let it collapse, but such an outlook, perfectly reasonable though it is, is generally not regarded as optimistic enough.

During the sustainability movement of the 1970s, optimistic, reform-minded expositions seemed useful; now they are starting to seem like compulsive anxiety coping behaviors: knock three times on wood, throw a pinch of salt over the left shoulder, mention sustainability and renewables.

So where does this leave us? I agree with Orlov on both counts. None of those approaches, incremental change without systemic change, nihilism or blind faith, seem to be producing any results.

If you do believe that there is something decidedly off about our system, what are you supposed to do about it. Emotional responses like fist pounding, ranting and chanting, are often unavoidable, and equally unproductive.

The Net Positive path offers up “Forced Obsolescence” as a profoundly simple yet effective alternative. The idea is to find ways to just Go Around the flailing behemoth of the terminally ill Industrialized-Globalized model of society. Leave them behind as you transition your own life without “asking permission” by wasting time on policy change.

The major problem with expending your energy working for policy change, is that it requires a fair and functional democracy to have an impact or even happen. Between campaigns that cost a billion dollars, $3.5 billion in lobbying last year alone, problematic electronic voting machines, corporations considered people under the law that use cash as their “free speech”, and a disinterested, anesthetized populous, democracy is becoming a fading memory at all but the most local level in this country.

Therein lies the problem and the solution. We still have our local communities, bastions of resilience in a world run amok. It is here that we can take our stand and walk right past the corporatocracy. It will require an open mind, a willingness to see change as a scenario where things improve rather than one of loss. It will require us to back away from our screens once in a while and actually interact with each other, on the ground, in the flesh, at the town hall or the farmers market. Forced Obsolescence means voluntarily relinquishing our addictions to the unsustainable outputs of our industrialized production model in order to make them disappear.

But we won’t even really see them disappear. We’ll already be facing forward, partnering with each other, walking into the human-scale future of our own design. We’ve done it before!

Take the “vote-with-your-$$” to the next level and vote with your life. And don’t waste too much time worrying about whether your own little choices in your own little life really even matter to the giant problems of the world. Not only are they effective, they are the only thing in the world you can actually control.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to oppose injustice by signing a petition, screaming your head off at a rally, or otherwise bemoaning the horrible atrocities perpetrated by banks, corporations and governments every day than it is to change something, anything in your own life.

Don’t forget that there is no such thing as a passive, Net Neutral life. Every activity equates to an energy transaction with the world at large. Your very existence has an effect on the world whether you agree or not. So if you’re not helping the situation, you are by definition hurting it. It is the height of hypocrisy to practice arm-chair activism, preach to your friends and whine to your lover if you’re not willing to stop contributing to injustice with your own lifestyle choices. But if you’re not willing to translate your feelings, values, hopes and fears into actions, you need to question whether they really truly matter to you at all.

Thanks Iceland!

“I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet,” said Thorvaldur Gylfason, member of Iceland’s constitutional council.

The tiny island nation who was hit so hard in 2008 is using adversity to create opportunity. They are re-drafting their Constitution. And when I say they, I literally mean the people of Iceland themselves.

Using every social media outlet imaginable, from a youtube channel chronicling each discussion to a facebook forum and even a flicker account with photos of the representatives in action, the government has created maximum transparency and participation from their constituents. The people themselves have actually created the documents themselves, and what’s more

If the committee has its way the draft bill, due to be ready at the end of July, will be put to a referendum without any changes imposed by parliament – so it will genuinely be a document by the people, for the people.

Mob Rule at its best!

Photo: fotothing.com

Former Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt has something very important to say…to President Obama. He delivered a rally cry from the National Press Club podium on Wednesday challenging the President to stand up to the radically anti-environmental policy dominating The Congress these days, while also managing to offer actionable solutions. His speech is so powerful and so constructive it’s really worth a read in its entirety. It’s all too rare to hear this level of candor and actual information from the mouth of a politician these days. Here’s an excerpt of some of the juicy bits!

More than a hundred years ago, Rep. John Lacey (R-Iowa), made this observation: “The immensity of man’s power to destroy imposes a responsibility to preserve.”

It is now more than ten years since I left public office. I am returning to the public stage today because I believe that this Congress, in its assaults on our environment, has embarked on the most radical course in our history. Congress, led by the House of Representatives, has declared war on our land, water and natural resources. And it is time for those of us who support our conservation tradition to raise our voices on behalf of the American people.

As these attacks escalate the urgent question for those of us who support and advocate for our conservation tradition is how to respond.

One alternative is to lie low, hoping that this storm will soon pass by without too much lasting damage.

Failure to respond, however, is a form of appeasement that has not worked in the past and it will not work this time. Our adversaries prefer to operate in the shadows, outside the sunshine generated by public knowledge and participation. For our opponents know that when anti-environmentalism becomes a public issue they will lose. They know that American support for our environmental heritage is wide and deep.

There is no issue as lasting or as worthy as the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage. Theodore Roosevelt, more than a hundred years ago, put it this way: “We have fallen heir to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

Who are you calling a dying city Newsweek?

Couldn’t be Grand Rapids Michigan! These guys were none too pleased to be included in a recent Newsweek piece on the bleakest cities in the land and decided to send a message to the media giant and their fellow Americans. Their medium of choice? A 9 minute, $40,000 music video set to “American Pie” featuring more than 5,000 of their citizens and a production that all but shut down downtown.

With almost 3,000,000 views on youtube as of this posting, it looks like they’re having no trouble showing the world how un-dead they really are. And really, it’s an important reminder that media outlets are in it to generate a profit like any other business. Bad news sells, even if it isn’t always the whole truth. Aren’t things tough enough without inventing more reasons to keep us up at night Newsweek?

Down but not Out! From Grand Rapids to America to the World!

It is vitally important to remember to be grateful for people like Bill Mckibben, the brave leader of the 350.org movement, who not only keeps shining the bright light of truth at us whether we like it or not, but does it with wit, eloquence and even occasional irony.

This video is a narration of Mckibben’s recent piece in the Washington Post set to the astonishing imagery of climate disruptions over the past year masterfully constructed by Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia.com.

And if you didn’t think it was possible to laugh about climate change, there’s always The Onion!

Air Force veteran Tim Goodrich understands better than almost anyone else the perils of a policy of endless wars to secure precious resources. After his three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s come home to a new start and a new perspective on how to achieve the oft discussed “National Security”.

He loves his new Nissan Leaf, the latest electric vehicle to hit the consumer market and the first one to be widely available since the oil and auto makers vanquished the very promising EV1 back in the late ’90’s, not just because his days of $100 tanks of gas are over, but because electric vehicles and any other path toward decreasing our dependence on oil make us safer globally and environmentally.

Goodrich says the military is even looking into using electric vehicles in combat since they have lower heat signatures making them harder to track, and they are obviously not an explosion risk since there is no combustion taking place.

As for common complaints about the 100 mile range and availability of charging stations, Goodrich has an app for that.

Ninety percent of Americans drive less than 100 miles a day, and to me it just means doing a bit more planning before I set out. I was recently concerned about the amount of driving I had to do, so I consulted the map on my Leaf iPhone app and found a station right near the UCS campus. When I pulled up there, they were just dedicating the station, and I became the first customer.

From a soldier on the field of battle to a soldier for a sustainable future, it looks like Tim Goodrich won’t be giving up the fight any time soon.

A phoenix from the ashes.