Seeing the Light…

For almost a year now I have been able to move into optimism as needed. Optimism similar to Joanna Macy’s Active Hope. But my stance, to this point, has been:

“I’m paying attention and I’m ready. Along with all of the bad things that are already clearly evident in our messed up biosphere, and the more bad things on their way, there are good things and there will be new opportunities for new good things. I’m ready, like the rear paddler in a canoe going through the rapids. I’m looking for the best path. At the ready for split second decisions, ready to exert maximum effort to steer our craft around approaching obstacles.”

This has not been an optimism that says “I’m sure we’ll make it through.” Or “I know what we need to do.”

But slowly, over the shortest days, I’ve seen glimmers of the way forward. I’ve been able to reorient from “Transition” to “Transformation.” Not that I know how to be clear about this yet. Not that I can say “There! Do you hear that?! I think that’s Gaia calling! Calling us, the biosphere, toward a new wholeness!”

Until now.

With today’s On Being program, one of the glimmers I have been sensing has opened up into a shine, a slender shaft, offering a sense of direction I have not had before.

The 50-minute program is The Intelligence in All Kinds of Life. The woman Krista Tippett interviews is Robin Wall Kimmerer, who is a professor at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and also a loyal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a student of its traditional ways. These two ways of recognizing the natural world come together in her special focus on moss, and her panoramic view of where we are, at this turning point of life on Earth. She is insightful on some of the ways we are stuck, and how we may be able to find our way forward. She touches on many wonderful things, including personal pronouns we might use to refer to nature, instead of our depersonalizing “it.”

In her Tedx talk she speaks out of Anishinabe wisdom, Reclaiming the Honorable Harvest, pointing in the direction of a right relationship with Gaia, Mother Earth.

This is not a shining path showing the way forward, to my eyes. But she easily speaks to my raised-in-the-world-of-Science sensibility, and she offers a way forward. One I have heard before, but not been able to understand at all. Until now.



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Two Old Heros and a New One

It’s been over a year…
since my last post here.
I’ve been busy with other things.

We are even closer to financial meltdown, but that’s a given; we’ll cope as best we can, when it comes…

Thanks to Ilze for pointing me to Stephen Harrod Buhner, the new hero in my title.

Here’s a video, Activism, Deep Ecology & the Gaian Era – Lynn Margulis, Stephen Buhner and John Seed.

This is one of the best things on Gaia I’ve seen in a long time.
I particularly like,

Lynn recommends a book by Reg Morrison, The Spirit in the Gene: Humanity’s Proud Illusion and the Laws of Nature, wherein he argues humans are challenged to somehow innovate sustainable shrinkage. I’ve ordered a copy.

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Time For An Adrenaline Rush

I don’t usually “rush to print” here, but these are new times.

I’ve been saying for a year now, “before Obama leaves office…”

Here’s new confirmation of this timeline. Paul Gilding, whom I wrote about a year ago, is now saying his view of the world is confirmed as investors turn away from fossil fuels.

Why am I telling you this? Do I have advice about what we are supposed to do?

My advice is “get your adrenaline up.” We are entering a time of major change.
Of course, Betsy says “we are already in that time.” Yes. So I’ll rephrase: “the major changes we are in the midst of will soon be influencing our personal decisions on a daily basis, as they did during the Great Recession.”

I don’t know how this will develop. No one does. I can offer only really generic advice.

  • Don’t extend yourselves financially.
  • Be cautious about what you expect from the future.
  • Don’t invest in a 10-year CD. (You can trust FDIC will be there for the next ten years, but not much else in the financial markets (says this fellow who knows almost nothing about investing.))
  • Suggest that a graduating high school student choose the college closer to home.
  • If you are part of a Quaker community in Minnesota and Wisconsin, check out my community-building tool at Four Rivers Friends.


Look to community!

Friends, as we lurch out of the status quo and into a torrent of events that will eventually carry the world, INCLUDING HUMANS, into an environmentally balanced Biosphere, community is our best social safety net. The more we are in relationships with people we trust, the more likely we are to flexibly move through the changes, rediscovering the core of our humanity, creating a new world our grandchildren can feel good about.

Blessed be!


Afterthought: I am writing this for my friends, people who know me. You know to take me with a grain of salt. Still, I feel obligated to speak my truth. Take it and put it next to your truth. Talk to friends you trust. Soon.

Posted in Industrial Civ., Quakers, Transition | 1 Comment

~A New Life-Chapter~

You know how things change… sometimes it’s slow,
and then you look around and

What I’ve been doing on this website up to this point feels like it’s in the past.

Not irrelevant. I wouldn’t think of taking it down.
But my life has turned a corner. A long slow one, that I only this month look up and notice has happened.

I did notice that big stuff was going on when I decided to no longer carry my Gaia

Gaia Troubadour Cap

Gaia Troubadour Cap

Troubadour cap. It had been in my left front trouser pocket for years, ready to pull out and wear at a moment’s notice. And I’ve had it close, in the bag I always used to carry, for at least 20 years. I kept it close to help me remember my calling. 

About three months ago I decided I didn’t need to carry it anymore, that I was living my calling on a daily basis and I no longer needed the reminder, and the prop, for when I was speaking to others.

I knew that decision marked something big, but it was easy and natural. I kept the cap near where I dressed for a couple of months, ready for a change of mind, and then put it back in my bag, which I still carry sometimes. It seemed right to honor it here, as it retires.

And then there’s the website.
It feels like the focus has moved to my Quaker meeting, and to Process Work / WorldWork.
I’ve had them together for over a year on the same page, a page in Google Docs, which I shared with a list of interested friends. The limitations of that format now bother me and I thought, “why not move it here?” The page has always had two parts, a topical, ‘here’s what happening now’ part, and a ‘basic intro’ part.

Here’s the basic intro part.

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Global-Reset Events

Most of my friends know how to “reset” or “restart” a computer. They know that it wipes the short-term memory clean, but leaves the underlying machinery intact, and leaves intact work they have done, that they have saved a copy of.

Well, it turns out Gaia is capable of a comparable reset process, where her equivalent of short-term memory is electronic devices and many parts of the global electrical system.

This has been known at least since 1958 when a hundred planes suddenly lost radio contact with the ground, all at once.

The National Geographic Society is concerned enough about this that it publishes regularly on the topic, including a cover story in the June 2012 issue of the magazine. The text of that article can be found here, and the photos here.

My take on this, for those of us who are looking for a dramatic downsizing of Industrial Civilization’s environmental footprint is:

Here is a valuable parameter for what life on Earth needs to be like!

And this paramater is…? ? ?


Video still from NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

Solar storms, the big ones.
They are one of the fundamentals of life here. Like oceans. And polar ice caps. One of the realities of Gaia –life on earth– is whether a lot of Earth’s water is solid and stored in ice caps at the poles, or whether it is mostly liquid and fills the oceans to overflowing. It makes a big difference to everything else that is going on, here on Earth.

Likewise, solar storms are a fact of Gaia’s life that cannot be argued with, successfully.

Some background. One of the characteristics of the sun is that it’s an electromagnetic dynamo, in addition to being the source of light and gravity. Gaia, our living earth, and humans, as a species, grew up knowing about Sun’s light. It is a given for us. Humans have been slower to understand Sun’s gravity. Of course we know how to use Earth’s gravity, as all animals do, jumping down from things, lying down to rest. And for as long as humans have lived near the sea, we have reckoned with the tides. But in terms of a cognitive understanding of what Sun’s gravity is, like how it creates Earth’s orbit, our understanding is only a few centuries old.

And similarly now, with the Sun’s electromagnetic pulses, we are just beginning to understand what we have been living with, since life on earth began. We have learned that the Sun is constantly storming. And that when the Sunstorm pulses surge out to impact Gaia that their blows are much softened by Earth’s magnetosphere, where the planet’s magnetic field interacts with the solar wind.

NASA artist's rendition of Earth's magnetosphere.  (Sun & Earth are actually MUCH further apart.)

NASA artist’s rendition of Earth’s magnetosphere.
(Sun & Earth are actually MUCH further apart.)

However, every few hundred years the magnetosphere is significantly less protection when one of Sun’s electromagnetic rumblings is more powerful than most: what we call “a solar super-storm.”

Storms on Earth have created the beaches and the arroyos. We love them and visit them often, but only the foolish try to live there. Solar storms give us auroras like the Northern Lights, which we love. Solar super-storms are powerful disrupters of our electrical grid, blowing out transformers, and our electronics, disabling GPS and short wave transmissions.

This is nothing new. The Sun has been storming like this since before Gaia was born. We animals have evolved, shaped by that reality. Solar pulses may affect human minds and bodies in ways we do not yet understand, but they appear not to harm us. Like beaches, Gaia has grown up shaped by this reality in ways deeper, more profound, than thought.

What is new is that humans now use electricity. National Geographic is telling us to be careful about building our technology into areas where there will be electromagnetic storm surges. We can fish in and enjoy the electromagnetic equivalent of salt marshes and beaches, but we shouldn’t try to live there. Of course we do build jetties and light houses right at the ocean’s waterline, but we know they need to be hardened to withstand storms. Similarly we know our satellites need to be hardened against the Sun’s pulses because they are less protected by the magnetosphere. But it’s expensive, and we haven’t been doing it here on land.

And why am I telling you all this?

You, who share with me a concern for human life and human culture?
You, who want humans to live within Gaia in ways that are much less destructive?
You, who have little expertise in magnetic fields, and little concern about them?

You and I have our instincts about what a good life looks like. We believe a good life has many supportive human relationships. Lots of face to face relationships which allow us to be open to the full humanity of others, especially those who are a bit different from ourselves. THAT kind of magnetism, we get. We have trouble talking to the engineer-types when they are talking about “the magnetosphere” and “critical failure ratios” and that kind of stuff.

I am sharing this with you because this is an area where we can talk to the engineering-types. Gaia’s regular system reset every few centuries favors the organic, local world of neighborhoods, because that’s what will be left after one of them. We who hold our particular vision of a better world are strengthened in our discussion with the technocrats by this detail of our evolutionary environment.

Do we create a world-wide database containing scans of everyone convicted of a misdemeanor, from middle school on?
Or do we develop community cultures of restorative justice where petty violators live in local cultures which know how to bring accused offenders to a circle of their neighbors, take extenuating circumstances into account, and sometimes reach an emotionally satisfying resolution for all concerned?

We can say, “Don’t put too much faith in that database; remember the system reset.” The centralized power folks and the total-information-awareness folks won’t like it when we say that, but the evidence presented by National Geographic and NASA and a bunch of other engineers speaks their language.

What about a global food system, shipping protein and carbohydrates from the locations where they are most economically produced?
Vs. a less-coordinated patchwork of local and regional systems, linked by shorter trade routes that allow low-fuel transport?

We’re going to feel safer with a food system less vulnerable to global system-reset.

Maybe a health system consisting of three Mayo Clinics on each continent or major landmass, linked to a system of level III trauma centers, linked to local hospitals, linked to clinics, midwives, etc. Each subsystem could survey the number of births expected to take place in the next 48 hours, and using standard ratios for the number of emergencies per 100 births calculate appropriate staffing levels up through the system for the next 24 hour period.

Hmm… so we have a system staffed with medical personnel who feel confident that they can call a helicopter if things go beyond their calibrated level of competence? And then “system reset?”

Or take myself, for example. A year ago I was really excited about “cloud computing.” (If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry.) I’m still excited, but now that I know about the effects of solar super-storms on our electrical infrastructure, I no longer see the internet as the “nervous system” of a future global society. I’m not sure what to think, what to hope for, but it’s clear it’s not that.

If you think this is important and want a dimmed-down copy of the June 2012 National Geographic cover story to carry around with you, I’ve posted an abbreviated version here.

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Andrew Zolli (see previous post) author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, is part of an association of change agents who have gathered together under the name “Pop Tech.” Andrew “curates” conferences which draw presenters from mostly-isolated “silos of excellence” together with knowledgeable audiences to foment resilient responses to the world’s challenges. Part of what comes out of the conferences are “Popcasts,” short videos on resilience I have found quite engaging.

Here’s one with a retired general and a neurobiologist who have worked together in Haiti and in Kenyan refugee camps, intervening to promote resilience in these traumatized populations and learning from the people what really works, for them. They are trying to work at the systems level, from helping people control anger and depression to nurturing  cultures of empathy and helpfulness. They ask “what if we really don’t want to help the culture ‘bounce back’ to its situation before the disaster, what if we hope for more, better?”

Friends, Zolli’s book has been out for a year. Most of his Popcast presenters would “pass” in the establishment mainstream. I take great hope in the fact that the U.S. mainstream has a group of people who are looking at “The Great Disruption” and trying to get smart about responding to the major systems changes, from climate to finance.

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Transition? Transformation!

Seeds of hope are falling out of the sky into my world.

A mid-May interview with Andrew Zolli in the radio program “On Being” is introduced in this way:

How do we support people and create systems that know how to recover, persist, and even thrive in the face of change? Andrew Zolli introduces “resilience thinking,” a new generation’s wisdom for a world of constant change.

This is heart-warming stuff, rising out of situations like hurricane Katrina.


Things bounce back!

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