Tag Archives: knowledge

A Declaration of Interdependence~Independence Day 2013

Re-imagining Independence Day

It’s that time of year again.  Here in our little coastal paradise, hordes or barbarians descend to get out of the inland heat, char some animal flesh, and blow things up on the beach.

Of course, I can’t let a Fourth of July pass without remembering my dear friend Joody, and our attempts to articulate and celebrate new thoughts appropriate to such a revolutionary anniversary.  So raise your own flagoccupy your worldget decolonized,  start your own currency and declare something wonderful today!

After working so passionately on devising a new Independence /Interdependence Day celebration, I had a few more thoughts.

One has to do with the dynamic tension between the two possible sentiments: Independence ~ Interdependence (as Eamonn Kelly would put it).  Both are present and necessary in these challenging times.

From an artistic perspective,  independence is about the negative space: breaking away from that which we no longer need.  There are other examples of the power of this negative-space perspective; the language of the Ten Commandments, the resistance movements of the Arab Spring, and many crucial environmental movements have been drawn around the negative space, with “Thou Shalt Not…” language and a call to STOP doing wrong.  This is Michelangelo, knocking away the unwanted bits of marble to free the glorious figure within.

Interdependence is framed more in the positive language that McDonough and Braungart promote in The Upcycle, their new sequel to Cradle to Cradle. It is much more about what we want to move towards, not just what we want to stay away from: “more good” instead of just “less bad.” Interdependence, of course, is the province of the weaver, finding the gossamer connections between things. The first peoples of Turtle Island/North America spoke of  Grandmother Spider, who knew a thing or two about interdependence.  This is not a wisdom taught as commonly in the dominant, Euro-derived culture.  It is a harder thing to see the immaterial links between, the pattern which connectsand keeps communities, civilizations and ecosystems whole and healthy.

Again this year, I celebrate and embrace both, entwined as they are in their powerful dance.  I declare Independence ~ Interdependence!

(Updated from my 2011 Inter-dependence Day Post, with a little from 2012, because recycling is beautiful!)

Aside

excerpt from Orion Magazine:“We live in a world of dwindling natural resources. The principle of sustainability offers us a roadmap for managing what we have left. Yet as we attempt to put our world back in balance, we’ve seen the … Continue reading

Getting Inspired at Bioneers

There is so much concentrated hope in one weekend at Bioneers, it can get a person like me and thousands of other “reverent, sane people” (a.k.a. environmentalists – Caroline Casey) through the rest of the year.  Here are just a smattering of the amazing things I learned about this weekend:

  • restoration on the Loess Plateau in China (John Liu)
  • the ways Google Earth is being used to protect coral reefs and indigenous Amazonian lands (Rebecca Moore)
  • the design of churches as a metaphoric representation of birth, but administered and controlled by men (Gloria Steinem)
  • the Wampanoag had a prophecy, now being realized, that invaders would take their language from them but then help restore their language to them much later (Nitana Hicks)
  • fungus is smarter than us, and can do almost anything, from cleaning oil spills to designing transit systems to curing cancer (Paul Stamets)
  • slavery is the basis for the modern food production mindset; the first national Food Day is this October 24th (Anim Steel)
  • sometimes the best way to solve problems is to make them bigger – expand the parameters; solar PV on just 3% of existing buildings in the US would replace all the energy we now get from coal (Amory Lovins)
  • we need to think about intergenerational justice: fairness in the ways that living generations interact with those that will follow us (David Orr)
  • almost all of the commercially raised bees in the US meet and mingle in California’s central valley during the couple of weeks that the almond orchards are blooming (the film Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?)
  • restoring the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of old-growth cultures,  and this amazing image (Melissa K. Nelson)
  • if the history of life on Earth were one calendar year, there wasn’t any sex until September 17th, and fungi got to land a week before plants did in mid-November (Dayna Baumeister)
  • a democratically-elected Women’s Parliament was convened in 2009 in India, the world’s largest democracy (Pam Rajput)
  • Co-operators are standing by!” (Caroline Casey)
There was so much else, in the plenary sessions, in the afternoon workshops, and else-when.  I was on a panel called “Education in Action: Leveraging Higher Education for Sustainability,” moderated by Anthony Cortese of Second Nature. In case you missed it, Bioneers sends this:

 If you weren’t able to join us in California this past weekend, or catch the live webcast of the conference, check out archived videos of all three days by clicking here. You can also watch Kenny’s Bioneers 3.0 presentation referenced in the video above by clicking here.

and

There is as much cause for hope as for horror. As David Orr said, “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”

It’s all alive.  It’s all intelligent.  It’s all connected.  It’s all relatives.

‘Contagion’ Connections: How Links Among Humans, Animals And The Environment May Be Spawning A New Class Of Infectious Diseases

‘Contagion’ Connections: How Links Among Humans, Animals And The Environment May Be Spawning A New Class Of Infectious Diseases.

I haven’t seen the movie, but this article provides another reminder of the complex, interlinked way that biological systems operate, and another call to encourage exchange across traditional disciplinary boundaries in research and teaching.

Are you a nutter?

A Fall Field Guide: Nuts.

Ah, Mother Earth News… I knew you when.  In fact, I probably read this article when it came out in 1988, in the library at Diablo Valley College.  My fondness for MEN was one of the things that began to distance me from the other members of Dark Refrains and Velvet Darkness, the RHPS casts to which I belonged in my late teens (in contrast, my fondness for young men was widely known and made me rather popular in those circles).    It was partly MEN and partly a natural history class at DVC that got me so interested in wild foraging.

Now, the interest is mostly intellectual.  I read about it (faves include The Flavors of Home and Mushrooms Demystified), and I look for plants I know when I do go out for hikes, but mostly I’ve restricted my foraging to berries and miner’s lettuce. I did gather and prep some Valley Oak acorns once (fairly tasty, if labor-intensive).

Sadly, the nuts described in the MEN Fall Field Guide to Nuts are mostly those from the eastern half of Turtle Island (or Isla Tortuga, or if you must, North America).  Out here in Cali, we get acorns and pine nuts.   What about hazelnuts?

Still, the thing I liked most about this article was the use of “nut” as a verb.  Go nutting, be a nutter.  It just made me smile.  Hopefully, you too.

Shopping our way out of it?

So, there’s a kind of thinking about sustainability that is very pro-business, that says “if we just bought better stuff, the world would be a better place.”  And, to an extent, they’re not wrong.  Certainly, in Bill McDonough‘s parlance, it would be “less bad,” but not necessarily “more good.”

A few weeks ago, I was faced with something I always dread – having to purchase a piece of junk… no, an undeniably useful, time- and energy-saving household appliance (a microwave oven).

So first of all, I’m feeling ooky because I’m potentially sending the old one to a less-than-ideal recycling (at least it’s not a landfill), because it would cost as much to have someone look at it and tell me what’s wrong as it costs to replace the dang thing, let alone take the time and get the parts to actually fix it.  I was at a point where someone was offering to purchase a new one for me (thanks Mom & Dad!), so I succumbed to the money-culture logic of the least-cost option.

There were plenty of microwaves in the same $120-ish price range around.  So I wanted to find out which would be the least evil option – seeking out the less bad.  How to choose?

The now-dead one was a hand-me-down, produced by the acutely evil GE. Why would I say GE is acutely evil?  After all, it had been a perfectly serviceable microwave for at least 7 or 8 years (until a short in the front panel meant that it had started to turn itself on in a way that was suggestive of demonic possession).  But I knew that GE, in addition to producing perfectly serviceable appliances and even some CFLs, produces sketchy nuclear power plants.  I have some real concerns about that, and about their former practice of nuclear weapons production, too.  So I knew I didn’t want to participate in their financial success in any way, shape or form.  But what about other brands?  Who was least bad?

I went to one of my favorite resources when it comes to figuring stuff like this out: the Ask Umbra column on Grist.  (She was the one who told me that using the dishwasher is more eco-friendly than handwashing – yay, laziness! Umbra, will you marry me?  Oh, wait, already have a spouse… never mind then, goes against minimalist principles I suppose.)  But aside from noting that they are very energy efficient for certain kitchen tasks, and reminding me to never nuke plastics (carcinogenic squick in your leftovers, anyone?), Umbra couldn’t help me decide which microwave was least offensive on short notice. :-(

Then I remembered, there are some websites that are meant to help.  Daniel Goleman has a book called Ecological Intelligence:How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything (which I loaned out to someone before I read all of it…).  Part of it talks about an online tool for comparing consumer choices: the GoodGuide.

And, for many things produced by big-ish brands, the Good Guide lets you compare the same product made by different brands (e.g. “How does Jif compare to Kettle peanut butter?”), in terms of their personal health, environmental and social impacts, using the work of a panel of reliable-sounding scientists.  I’d trust those folx to help me in my decision (unfortunately, they didn’t have anything to say on microwave ovens, either).  More recently, I found Better World Shopper, which uses similar rating criteria.

Of course, these don’t cover the (often much more ecologically sane) options of buying used, buying locally-made, choosing radically different alternatives (why buy diet soda, when you could get a carbonator, fizz your tap water, and put homegrown lemon slices in it?) or doing without things. But, as Shepherd Book always said, “if you can’t do something smart, do something right.” Or, do something a little smarter and a little less wrong.

A Declaration of Interdependence: Re-imagining Independence Day

Re-imagining Independence Day

It’s that time of year again.  Here in our little coastal paradise, hordes or barbarians descend to get out of the inland heat, char some animal flesh, and blow things up on the beach.

So a year after working so passionately on devising a new Independence/Interdependence Day celebration, where do things stand?

One thought I’ve had has to do with the dynamic tension between the two possible sentiments: Independence ~ Interdependence (as Eamonn Kelly would put it).  Both are present and necessary in these challenging times.

From an artistic perspective,  independence is about the negative space: breaking away from that which we no longer need.  There are other examples of the power of this negative-space perspective; the language of the Ten Commandments, the resistance movements of the Arab Spring, and many crucial environmental movements have been drawn around the negative space, with “Thou Shalt Not…” language and a call to STOP doing wrong.  This is Michelangelo, knocking away the unwanted bits of marble to free the glorious figure within.

Interdependence, of course, is the language of the weaver, finding the gossamer connections between the things. The first peoples of Turtle Island/North America spoke of  Grandmother Spider, who knew a thing or two about interdependence.  This is not a wisdom taught as commonly in the dominant, Euro-derived culture.  It is a harder thing to see the immaterial links between, the pattern which connects and keeps communities, civilizations and ecosystems whole and healthy.

So, this year, I celebrate and embrace both, entwined as they are in their powerful dance.  I declare Independence ~ Interdependence!

Second Nature: Sustainability in Higher Education

Share the Second Nature story!. – Excellent little video about why we can’t wait to make sustainability THE priority at colleges and universities.

Greetings Earthlings!

Today I start my side of the dialogue/polylogue(?) with my dear friend Judy.  One of the things I love most about Judy is the fact that when we talk it’s mostly big talk – small talk has it’s place, but it’s great to be able to talk about big, serious ideas: death, evolution, liberty, justice, the fate of the world…  and we can do that all in an afternoon.

My expectations for this blog are that I’ll be writing here frequently with things that I’m contemplating, so that Judy can respond to those.  And that I’ll be reading and responding to Judy’s postings.

So why do this in writing, and in public?  I think it’s partly to make it a component of my writing practice (I’m also working on a science fiction novel and a nonfiction book, when I’m not busy teaching), partly to have more opportunities to converse with Judy about the things we’re inclined to discuss, and partly because knowledge (and, on Judy’s side certainly, wisdom) exponentially grows in value when shared.

In case anyone reads this and likewise wants to get into a deeper conversation, one of the things I’ve been pondering lately is economics and money systems: the timing and circumstances of their origins in different civilizations, the cultural variety of their structure and social impacts.  I’ve read The Real Wealth of NationsThe Soul of Money, and parts of Common Wealth and In the Company of Strangers (the last two are still on my bookshelf, waiting for me to pick them back up when I have a chance).  Like the authors of this post, I am concerned “that at some point, at some level of complexity, at some scale, or at some scope… human institutions like democracy and markets will reach the limits of their effectiveness, and we will be stuck with systemic problems that require a whole new order of solution to resolve.”  And yes, I’ve watched Zeitgeist I and II and Money as Debt.  If anyone can recommend a book or article with more about the archaeological/prehistorical record of money, especially outside of the Middle East and Europe, I’d be most appreciative.