Sunday, August 31, 2008

Catalysts and Network Weavers

While searching for more information on Resilient Communities I found this post by John Robb on his blog, Global Guerrillas. It's entitled The Guerrilla Catalyst and it's about people who help form and maintain networks and communities. He cites Rob Hopkins (who initiated the Transition Towns concept) as well as arms-dealer/guerrilla leader Henry Okah (aka Jomo Gbomo), pointing out that this type of networking can be used to build guerrilla insurgencies as well as resilient communities.

Robb calls these people catalysts and says that they "accelerate growth and effectiveness by increasing the trust and connectivity of the networks they inhabit". He talks about the book, The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, where the authors describe the characteristics of catalysts. From Robb's post, catalysts serve as:

  • Connectors. Able to map, mine and connect loose networks of people with similar needs/interests.
  • Onsite helpers and Trust builders. Willing to work with people on the ground in the role of helper. Forges emotional bonds and encourages trust.
  • Supporters. They let the network navigate itself forward by walking away from leadership responsibilities/roles. They trust the network and embrace its ambiguity.

This got me thinking a lot about how to make decentralized networks emerge (the subject of the Brafman and Beckstrom book). But then I saw the first comment made about the post where there was a link to an online essay (posted by one of its authors) claiming, "They are 'network weavers'!"

The eighteen page article referenced is entitled "Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving" by Valdis Krebs and June Holley. In it, the authors begin by talking about the characteristics of effective networks, and then point out there are two types of networks; what they refer to as unmanaged networks and managed networks. The differences between the two networks remind me a lot of what Steven Johnson refers to as 'Clustering' and 'Coping' (see my blog of 8/13/08). Krebs and Holley describe the unmanaged networks as "small and dense clusters with little or no diversity" and give examples of isolated rural communities and 'old boy networks'. They then go on to describe how to build 'vibrant community networks' using a form of leadership they call network weaving. Network weavers take scattered groups and individuals and connect them. This slowly forms what the authors refer to as "a hub and spoke network" with the weavers as the hub. This is only a temporary step. If it stops there, it keeps the responsibility focused on one individual. (This is very similar to what Brafman and Beckstrom call a 'Spider', a group where power is centralized--if you lop the head off a spider, it's dead.) The next step is for the weaver to begin encouraging others to start weaving also. The 'network weaver' becomes a 'network facilitator', mentoring new weavers who take over much of the building and maintaining of the network. Eventually the 'hub and spoke network' becomes what the authors call "a multi-hub small-world network". Over time (as the authors put it "many years of network weaving by multiple hubs") this can build into a 'core/periphery' network that links to other networks. (This is what Brafman and Beckstrom call a 'Starfish', because if you cut the arm off a starfish, the starfish grows a new arm--and the arm often grows a new starfish!)

While reading all this, I was exploring links to Rob Hopkins and the Transition Towns movement (yes, I know I will have to do a post on Transition Towns at some point). They use what's called Open Space Technology--a process that allows people to set their own agendas and run a decentralized meeting. This encourages dialogue and a built-from-the-ground-up process. They start something going, get people involved, and trust the process from there. What seems important is to hold a simple set of values and as long as that's in place, allow the process to emerge--even when it seems like total chaos. And it does seem like stuff emerges.

All this interests me because it could well be the blueprint for grassroots social change, the bottom-up variety, the stuff I've been talking about. Now to get to work on catalyzing and network weaving.

Quote of the day: "Although you may start out developing your Transition Town process with a clear idea of where it will go, it will inevitably go elsewhere. If you try and hold onto a rigid vision, it will begin to sap your energy and appear to stall. Your role is not to come up with all the answers, but to act as a catalyst for the community to design their own transition.
"If you keep your focus on the key design criteria - building community resilience and reducing the carbon footprint - you'll watch as the collective genius of the community enables a feasible, practicable and highly inventive solution to emerge." - from the Transition Towns WIKI
Word (or phrase) of the day: Requisite variety
Hero(es) of the day: Susan La Flesche Picotte and Susette La Flesche Tibbles

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Extreme Future

I've been talking about books that support my view of how society should change. I think that it's also good to read books that hold a different view point, particularly if it's intelligently argued. I picked up The Extreme Future by James Canton because it seemed like he had a different view point, but he did acknowledge things like 'Peak Oil'.

The book is an interesting blend of being pro sustainability and diversity, and being pro capitalism, globalization, and anything goes technology. The author gets it, as far as things like peak oil, global warming, and climate change are concerned. But he thinks that capitalism can solve all these things by empowering the 'Clean Tech Industry' and replacing oil, coal, and nuclear power with 'The Hydrogen Future' (fuel cells) and 'Nano-energy' (using nanotechnology to create alternative energy). He does add some things like wind turbines, to his high-tech mix.

Canton claims that prosperity will come about due to the 'Innovation Economy': "A new global, mobile Internet infrastructure linking business, markets, talent, and capital will accelerate productivity, supply chains and borderless wealth creation." He talks about 'personal wealth creation on a new global level' and 'One Billion Millionaires' before announcing that "...there will be winners and losers." Diversity and sustainability, yes, but equality, no. He trumpets globalization, crowing over how innovative the Chinese are and how the Chinese are the secret of how Wal-Mart (and 'Nat Nast', which is his sister-in-law's business) gets 'competitive advantage'. He talks about how (and I quote) "Some companies will disappear, unable to compete in the Darwinian capitalism of the Extreme Future." He does admit that poverty must be addressed and that globalization alone won't address it. He is clear that "Numerous studies show that poverty drives conflict." I certainly agree with him that poverty is responsible for the rise in terrorism. I agree on "the need to reduce poverty, increase democracy, and share global prosperity". But, somehow, I don't think globalization is the solution. He talks about 'Sustainable Globalization'. I wonder what he would think about 'sustainable localization'?

At one point he says that there are 'Four Future-Readiness Styles': Future-Trailblazers, Future-Traditionalists, Future-Frustrated, and Future-Activists. I gather that I would be a Future-Activitist: "...contrarians, dissatified with the educational system and our national leadership." (I think that 'dissatisfied' is putting it mildly.) He goes on to say: "...they are not standing idle. They are engaged; looking to fix what they think doesn't work. They are highly active politically and in their communities. This group seeks to make a difference in working for a more productive society. Though Future-Activists have the potential to be the 'seeds of dissent' and a destabilizing force in society, they can also be a catalyst for constructive social change." Seems fairly accurate, although maybe destabilizing society could be constructive social change--especially if the stable society was an oppressive society.

Among the interesting things in the book are that Canton sees the frontiers of technological innovation as being with genes (biotechnology), neurons (he sees neurotechnology as an emerging market), bits (information technology and the future internet), and atoms (nanotechnology). He also predicts that the internet, like some type of cyberintelligence, will soon 'wake up'. He asks: "Will we humans recognize 'it' when it wakes up?" Some artificial intelligence folks are calling this 'The Singularity'.

One thing James Canton is really clear on (and very good on) is understanding the need for individual freedom and right to dissent. He talks about very current threats to privacy, including global positioning satellites that can take pictures of faces and license plates from space, government wiretaps on conversations--especially cellphone conversations that are 'mined' for keywords, massive scanning and screening of (all?) email, video cameras in 70% of public spaces, black boxes on new cars that register every action, and a global communications network called 'Eschelon' (simply known officially as part of the 'UKUSA agreement') that monitors all communications signals worldwide. He is very concerned about the use of designer drugs (as Prozac is used today) to control behavior and using advertising for mind control.

Much of this book seems to me to be like Brave New World. Canton claims he is only reporting on trends, but I think his future (which may not happen even have a chance to happen if we aren't able to deal with things like peak oil and climate change) is certainly 'Extreme' and definitely not the future I want to see. One more example of this is his vision of a 'Disney Shanghai Retirement Village' in 2012. I quote: "Full hospice program: Pass on with Dignity and Disney." Scary!

(James Canton has a website where he talks more about his books and ideas.)

Quote of the day: "Where nationalism and religion fail, we will have a collision of one million channels of MTV, sports, and reality shows to distract us from the forces controlling our lives. Let the games begin!" - James Canton
Word (or phrase) of the day: Metta/Maitri
Hero(es) of the day: Woody Guthrie

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Capra 3: The Hidden Connections

Fritjof Capra begins this book by reviewing and augmenting the arguments of The Web of Life (his previous book and the subject of my last post). He then goes on to discuss how systems theory and sustainability can be used in business organizations. While some of the theory here is useful, it felt like it's trying to prop up the very system destroying the ecosystem and disempowering people. The beginning of the next chapter (on 'The Networks of Global Capitalism') has a similar feel, as if it's apologizing for and attempting superficial reforms of global capitalism.

But as the chapter progresses, Capra begins building the case against global capitalism. He ends this chapter with a critique of globalism from Manuel Castells (author of the three volume dissection of modern business, The Information Age) who predicts: "the social, cultural, and political rejection by large numbers of people around the world of an Automaton whose logic either ignores or devalues their humanity."

He devotes the next chapter of The Hidden Connections to a discussion of biotechnology which is informative and devastating. He talks about how the original genetic understanding, "Genes determine behavior", "DNA makes RNA, RNA makes protein, and proteins make us", and "one gene--one protein", turns out to be massively oversimplified, and sometimes downright wrong. He discusses genetic engineering, cloning, and biotech agriculture, and shows how, while scientists are re-evalutating the roles of genes in development, business interests are pushing things like biotech medicine and genetically modified seeds. He clearly states that this is being driven by 'financial gain' rather than need or science.

But he's just warming up. In his next and final chapter, 'Changing the Game', he points out the ruin caused by global capitalism ("... the causes of most of our present environmental and social problems are deeply embedded in our economic systems. ... More stringent environmental regulations, better business practices, and more efficient technologies are all necessary, but they are not enough. We need a deeper systemic change.") He also talks about emerging alternatives: the Seattle actions and the World Social Forum, as examples. He talks about a new, emerging 'civil society', "based on the respect of human dignity, the ethics of sustainability, and an ecological view of the world". He then focuses on three particular issues: 'reshaping globalization'; rejecting genetically modified foods and, instead, building sustainable agriculture; and ecologically redesigning our culture. As he talks about 'ecoliteracy and ecodesign', he goes over what he sees as the basic principles of ecology, noting that this is what he has been covering throughout this book (and The Web of Life as well).

His main principles are:
  • Networks (" systems nesting within other living systems--networks within networks.")
  • Cycles ("... an ecosystem generates no waste, one species' waste being another species' food.")
  • Solar Energy ("... drives the ecological cycles.")
  • Partnership ("... exchanges ... are sustained by pervasive cooperation.")
  • Diversity (" ... stability and resilience through ... richness and complexity...")
  • Dynamic Balance ("... a flexible, ever-fluctuating network... of multiple feedback loops...")

He goes on to give real-world examples of ecological design and talk about policies (especially tax policies) that promote sustainable building. He concludes with an epilog that pulls the ideas of the book together, summarizing his views on complexity and ecology, looking at the value shifts being brought about by the feminist and ecology movements, and finishing with reasons for hope. He begins and ends the book with quotes from Vaclav Havel, the first on education and 'hidden connections', and the last on the nature of hope.

I found the book fascinating because it pulls together insights from complexity theory, basic understandings from ecology, and an analysis of our current situation. I don't agree with everything. I think that the systemic changes that will be needed will go far beyond things like "Natural Capitalism" and looking at ecodesign as "good business". But the same principles he describes (and I condensed, above) will be necessary for redesigning the world: small systems networked together, using solar energy (which includes wind, etc) and real 'recycling' (creating a no waste system where everything feeds something else), built on sharing and cooperation, replete with diversity, and filled with learning and complexity (and contradiction) in an ever-changing balance. Yep. That's where I want to go.

Quote of the day: "At the deepest level, feminist awareness is based on women's experiential knowledge that all life is connected, that our existence is always embedded in the cyclical processes of nature. Feminist consciousness, accordingly, focuses on finding fulfillment in nurturing relationships rather than the accumulation of material goods.
"The ecology movement arrives at the same position from a different approach. Ecological literacy requires systemic thinking--thinking in terms of relationships, context patterns, and process..." - Fritjof Capra
Word (or phrase) of the day: Social Ecology
Hero(es) of the day: Mitsuye Endo

Monday, August 25, 2008

Capra 2: The Web of Life

In my last post I talked about how Fritjof Capra moved from being the guru of new age physics to a more balanced viewpoint, much more based in biology than physics--which must have involved some growth for him, because Capra was trained as a physicist.

Fritjof Capra wrote the book The Web of Life in 1996. In it he explores the question of 'What is the nature of life?' To answer this, he looked at advances in understanding in the life sciences, but also explores and tries to integrate information from cybernetics, systems theory, and chaos and complexity theories. (See my 7/16/08 post on complexity.) I was delighted to see that he even brings in Gregory Bateson, a thinker that I have been very influenced by.

I only wish, in addition to covering Stuart Kauffman, Ilya Prigogine, and James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, he also looked at the work of John Holland and of Christopher Langton, both of whom I thought did extremely useful work, some of which, I think, would support Capra's thesis. On the other hand, he includes the work of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (which I hadn't encountered before).

Maturana and Varela have come up with a major theory of self-organizing that they have named 'autopoesis' (literally 'self-making'). They also have an unusual take on cognition, referred to as the Santiago theory, where they see understanding as interaction which arises through interrelationship. Capra in several places contrasts the theories of Maturana and Varela with those of Gregory Bateson. He even provides an appendix comparing Bateson's criteria for mental processes with the Santiago theory of cognition.

What is the relevance of all this for social change? Mostly the stuff at the beginning and ending of this book. Capra begins by talking about a few 'holistic' worldviews: deep ecology, ecofeminism, and social ecology, and points out their challenges to systems of social domination such as "Patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism, and rascism". He ends with a chapter on 'Ecological Literacy' where he uses the ideas developed in the book as a 'conceptual framework' for understanding the relationships between ecosystems and 'human communities' and the difference between the 'economic' view of the world and the 'ecological' view. As he puts it:

"In ecosystems the complexity of the network is a consequence of biodiversity, and thus a diverse ecological community is a resilient community. In human communities ethnic and cultural diversity may play the same role. Diversity means many different relationships, many different approaches to the same problem. A diverse community is a resilient community capable of adapting to changing situations.
"However, diversity is a strategic advantage only if there is a truly vibrant community, sustained by a web of relationships. If the community is fragmented into isolated groups and individuals, diversity can easily become a source of prejudice and friction. But if the community is aware of the interdependence of all its members, diversity will enrich all the relationships and thus enrich the community as a whole, as well as each individual member. In such a community information and ideas flow freely through the entire network, and the diversity of interpretations and learning styles--even the diversity of mistakes--will enrich the entire community."

But he saves his most comprehensive thinking for his next book...

Quote of the day: "Corporate economists treat as free commodities not only the air, water, and soil, but also the delicate web of social relations, which is severely affected by continuing economic expansion. Private profits are being made at public costs in the deterioration of the environment and the general quality of life, and at the expense of future generations. ... There is a lack of feedback, and basic ecological literacy tells us that such a system is not sustainable." - Fritjof Capra
Word (or phrase) of the day: Bonobo
Hero(es) of the day: Upton Sinclair

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Capra 1: The Turning Point

Fritjof Capra is best known for his book The Tao of Physics, which combined the theories of quantum mechanics, relativity, and astrophysics, with ideas from Eastern mysticism. It was a bestseller and spawned a bunch of similar works (for example books like The Dancing Wu Li Masters, The Holographic Universe, and The Physics of Consciousness, as well as the film What the #$*! Do We Know!?). I read it and found it interesting but as time went on I found it less useful. Apparently Capra did as well.

He wrote a second book in 1982, The Turning Point, expanding his focus to ideas in biology, medicine, psychology, and economics. He begins by pointing out how the mechanistic (he refers to it as Cartesian-Newtonian) model that physics has moved beyond is still the baseline in other fields that want to prove they are as scientific as physics. Here he admits that while quatum theory is useful in some domains (the subatomic and the cosmological), it doesn't apply to much in the realms we usually deal in. He also is clear the mechanistic model is useful sometimes--he just doesn't want to see it applied indiscriminately.

After pointing out how this mechanistic viewpoint is so limiting in the fields of biology, medicine, psychology, and economics (he devotes a chapter to each), Capra moves on to focus on technological and corporate overdevelopment in a chapter entitled 'The Dark Side of Growth'. It's a critique that encompasses pollution, consumption of fossil fuels (he references M King Hubbert in his economics chapter--and points out not only oil peaking, but our depletion of almost every natural resource), the connections between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, the pharmaceutical industry and the misuse of drugs, and how agribusiness destroys the soil and contributes to world hunger.

He follows all this with a new section entitled 'The New Vision of Reality', which begins with a chapter on 'The Systems View of Life'. Here he develops an ecological viewpoint which he ties into the thinking of mystics and "Eastern 'psychologies'". He ends this chapter with references to Taoism and the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin, paleontologist, Jesuit priest, and mystic. Capra spends the next two chapters exploring what this means for medicine, health, psychology, and psychotherapy, and generally covers most of the Alternative Medicine/Human Potential/New Age thinking of the '70's.

Capra entitles his final chapter 'The Passage to the Solar Age'. In retrospect it's easy to see that he was a bit over-optimistic. He begins by looking at economics from an ecological perspective. He talks about 'systemic wisdom' (a term he takes from Gregory Bateson). Probably his most important piece of systemic wisdom (at least as far as I'm concerned) is this quote: "The vital social choices we face... are choices between principles of self-organization--centralization or decentralization, capital-intensity or labor-intensity, hard technology or soft-technology--that affect the survival of humanity as a whole." He quotes E F Schumacher reconciling opposites and then says "The global interconnectedness of our problems and the virtue of small-scale, decentralized enterprises represent such a pair of complementary opposites. The need to balance the two has found eloquent expression in the slogan 'Think globally--act locally!'"

His criticisms of economic systems seem so on target, that it's hard to remember this book came out twenty-six years ago. He talks about alternative technology, organic farming, and systems of recycling waste. He even mentions alternative economies: "...emerging countereconomies based on decentralized, cooperative, and ecologically harmonious life styles, and involving the bartering of skills and home-produced goods and services. These alternative economies--also known as 'informal', 'dual', or 'convivial' economies--cannot be centrally planned and installed but have to grow and develop organically, which usually involves a great deal of pragmatic experimentation and requires considerable social and cultural flexibility."

He even talks about how feminism and feminist spirituality offers an alternative. But the ending of his book reveals its age and naiveté when he says: "Such predictions may seem rather idealistic, especially in view of the current political swing to the right in the United States and the crusades of Christian fundamentalists promoting medieval notions of reality....
"The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s represent the rising culture, which is now ready for passage to the solar age."

I remember the eighties. I thought we had learned from the '60's and '70's and were ready for passage to a new age. (I will do a post on the eighties in the future.) Unfortunately, only now is the swing to the right coming to an end and those Christian fundamentalists are still promoting their 'medieval notions'.

The book seems to have been a 'turning point' for Fritjof Capra. Trained as a physicist, he began moving toward biological models for change and abandoning the paradigm of modern physics. He wrote a book about some of the various thinkers who influenced him called Uncommon Wisdom and then co-authored a book on Green Politics with Charlene Spretnak.

Then he wrote a book that pulled together ecological theory and complexity theory. He called it The Web of Life.

Next: The Web

Quote of the day: "To restore a healthy balance we will have to return those variables which have been overstrained to manageable levels. This will include, among many other measures, the decentralization of populations and industrial activities, the dismantling of large corporations and other social institutions, the redistribution of wealth, and the creation of flexible, resource-conserving technologies." - Fritjof Capra
Word (or phrase) of the day: Self-organizing systems
Hero(es) of the day: Tanya Nash

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Five Simple Things You Can Do to Reduce Population

A number of ecological writers have pointed out that if we are going to stop global warming, cut our energy usage, and be able to feed everyone, we are going to have to also cut down on the number of people on the planet. This is something that makes a lot of people (including me) uneasy. It's hard to tell people that they can't have children. They tried it in China and it was a bit of a fiasco (it's part of the reason, for example, why there are so many young Asian women in the US with with adopted white parents).

But, on thinking about it further, I realized, short of telling people not to have children, there are some pretty easy things we can do that will slow down the population increase. In the vein of books like 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Planet, I am proposing five simple ways to reduce population.

1) Support increased access to birth control. Sounds simple, but things like the Catholic Church's opposition gets in the way. I can understand their opposition to abortion (I have mixed feeling on the subject) but increased use of effective birth control would actually decrease the need for abortion.

2) Support nonparenthood. Again it sounds easy, but there is often pressure to parent. Folks who choose not to have children are sometimes viewed as immature or shirking their adult duties. We need to value nonparents. Besides helping reduce population, some of them would probably enjoy helping out parents and taking some of the pressure of parenting off them. I speak from experience here--as a nonparent myself, I have helped raise other children.

3) Support same-sex marriage. Yes, some lesbians are having children, but not as many as heterosexual couples, and few gay men have an interest in having children (although many have, again, helped raise children not their own). Not coincidentally, gays and lesbians sometimes view heterosexuals as being 'Breeders'.

4) Support better education for everyone. Studies have shown a connection between education and population - as literacy and education improve, fertility rates tend to decline. (For a vivid example of this check out information on 'The Kerala Model'. Kerala, India, is a very poor region with a high literacy rate and a low birth rate.) This is probably because better educated women tend to bear fewer and healthier children than women with little or no education. I read somewhere that having women in graduate school is a major form of birth control. We also need better education for men, so that they understand this.

5) Support women having more power and influence over family size, and more power in general. Robert Engleman, from the Worldwatch Institute, has written a book called More: Population, Nature and What Women Want. In it he claims when women take control over family size, birth rates shrink. We could also support women running for political offices, since that's also a form of birth control.

Quote of the day: "'Smart growth' destroys the environment. 'Dumb growth' destroys the environment. The only difference is that 'smart growth' does it with good taste. It's like booking passage on the Titanic. Whether you go first-class or steerage, the result is the same." - Albert Bartlett
Word (or phrase) of the day: Worker self-management
Hero(es) of the day: Oskar Schindler

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Appropriate Technology

I visited the Cambridge City Hall Annex a few weeks ago. This building is the first stop on a 'Green Trail' sponsored by Boston's Museum of Science. While apparently it has photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, converting sunlight to electricity, the display when you enter the building is all about their 'Ground Source Heat Pump' that uses geothermal energy, moving water through shafts drilled down 1500 feet to heat and cool the building.

Over the last few months I've helped build a wall made out of 'Cob' in Jamaica Plain, helped out at a community weatherization get together at a house in Cambridge, attended a Solar Fair filled with sun-powered gadgets in Somerville, attended a lecture on global warming and food production in Waltham, and visited a city farm in Dorchester. A friend of mine has become famous lately for teaching adults to ride bicycles and I've learned how to do big shopping trips using a bike and a trailer. Appropriate technology has become popular in greater Boston, as I'm sure it has in many other places.

Appropriate technology (also called 'AT', 'Soft Technology', 'Clean/Green Energy', 'Ecological Design', or 'Sustainable Technology') is a concept that's been around for the last forty years, but it's gotten a lot of press lately. The fact that the price of oil and gasoline is skyrocketing probably has something to do with that (not to mention all the press on climate change).

When people talk about pollution, global warming, and/or peak oil, the realization is that on one hand, we are creating the problems with the technology that we have, and on the other, we will still need some energy and technology in order to survive and have good lives, and thus we will need to develop nonpolluting, nonwasteful, nonoil technologies. Now is certainly the time to explore appropriate technology.

Appropriate technology isn't a new thing. It's been developed over the decades in a great many places. A few of the early pioneers from the late '60s are the New Alchemy Institute on Cape Cod (founded in 1969, unfortunately, it's no longer there but has mutated into Ocean Arks International and Todd Ecological Design; a good recent book on their thinking is Nancy Jack Todd's A Safe and Sustainable World: The Promise of Ecological Design) and the Farallones Institute in Berkeley, California (also founded in 1969, their classic book is The Integral Urban House; the Farallones Institute became the the Ecological Design Institute in 1995).

Now we have wind turbines going up everywhere (one I'm particularly fond of is in Dorchester, MA, and can be seen by 'Red Line' trains passing it to go to Dorchester, Quincy, and Braintree--and Hull, MA, apparently has two and is going to be putting four more offshore), solar panels glinting off buildings all around town, and, of course, Cambridge has their City Hall Annex powered by geothermal energy (as are several other places in the state--including at least two schools).

But, as far as I'm concerned, simple technology is one of the most important parts of appropriate technology. People get caught up in what I think of a 'sexy' AT--like wind turbines and photovoltaic cells. For most of us, things like 'super-insulating' houses and using passive solar are probably more useful. Installing passive solar devices, like solar heating and solar hot water, if you can do it, has a much shorter payback period than photovoltaic solar panels. It's just not as glamorous.

Even simpler and less glamorous is the notion of planting trees as part of a passive solar scheme. Deciduous trees on the south side of a house shade it in the summer and let in sunlight to warm the house during the winter. (Planting evergreens in the north shield from the winter wind as well as creating summer shade.)

Bicycling is appropriate technology, as is permaculture and other types of gardening. So are alternative building techniques (such as adobe, cob, straw-and-bale, etc.) Any technology that decreases our reliance on fossil fuels and any technology that allows more people simpler access to what they need is appropriate technology. While AT won't solve all our energy, climate, and pollution problems, it's an important part of the mix. And technologies like solar, wind, and geothermal become more doable when we figure out to become more energy efficient and, more importantly, reduce our energy needs.

Quote of the day: "Appropriate technology reminds us that before we choose our tools and techniques we must choose our dreams and values, for some technologies serve them, while others make them unobtainable." - Tom Bender
Word (or phrase) of the day: Bioregionalism
Hero(es) of the day: Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Starhawk, Political Theorist

Starhawk wears many hats. She is first and foremost a witch and one of the founders of the Reclaiming Tradition. She is also an activist, a writer (on a large number of topics as well as a fiction writer--and I reviewed her books The Fifth Sacred Thing and Walking to Mercury in my July 14th post on Utopian Novels), a permaculturist, a teacher/trainer (on topics as varied as her writings), and a political thinker. It's her work in the last category that I want to look at in this post.

Although her politics are sprinkled through most of her books, they're often mixed with a good dose of witchcraft and pagan spirituality. The two of her books that are primarily political are Truth or Dare and Webs of Power. I am going to use this post to talk about these books.

Truth or Dare is a book about patriarchy and power. She begins with a controversial feminist analysis of history. In it she shows the steps by which the patriarchy was built. Using this framework, she then gives a step by step method of undoing patriarchy.

There is almost too much in this book. It is overflowing with tools and techniques, games and activities and exercises, stories and rituals and spells. While I finally did read it from cover to cover (and it's not an easy read), for years I just used it as a sourcebook.

Some of the useful ideas in Truth or Dare include: types of power ("power-over," referring to domination and control; "power-from-within," meaning personal ability and spiritual integrity; and "power-with," pertaining to social power or influence among equals), the masks of power and patriarchy (she names them the Judge, the Conqueror, the Censor, the Master of Servants, and the Orderer), and the types of leadership roles in that happen in groups (Crows, who take an overview of what is going on in the group; Snakes, who keep watch on the underbelly of feelings and emotions; Graces, who are welcoming and help a group expand; Dragons, who are protective and guard the boundaries of the group; and Spiders, who provide a center for a group and help keep it woven together--the book contains questions for each type of leader to think about). There is a lot more.

Where Truth or Dare provides a consistent, well-written (if hard to read) formulation, Webs of Power is a wide-ranging (but, paradoxically, easier to read) collection of Starhawk's political writings. While Truth focused on power and patriarchy, the focus of Webs is on corporate globalization and the anti-globalization movement. Starhawk begins Webs of Power with an introduction to the global justice movement and her place in it, and follows this with a globalization glossary entitled 'Alphabet Soup'. The rest of the book is divided into two sections, 'Actions' and 'Visions'.

'Actions' is a sort of history, written as it happened, of global justice protests beginning with the battle for Seattle, going through protests in Prague, Brazil (actually mostly attending workshops at the first World Social Forum and preparing for a protest in Argentina), Quebec, and Genoa, and culminating in preparations for a protest of the International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington, DC, which was derailed by the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. She ends this section with her thoughts about organizing in the wake of that destruction.

'Visions' is more direct political theory. I have already quoted from her essay on economic strategy is my post on Participatory Economics and Economic Theory (July 8th). She writes another essay here questioning the violence vs. nonviolence dicotomy and examining thoughts from some of the antiauthoritarian positions that question dogmatic nonviolence. She also looks at diversity and what stops movements from being diverse--as well as the issue of Cultural Appropriation. She looks at nature and earth centered politics, not just in the US but in Brazil (the Movimiento Sim Terre--her spelling; aka Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra or MST). She talks about Direct Democracy and nonhierarchical structure.

In Webs of Power, Starhawk deals with how reformist movements and revolutionary movements can support each other and makes it clear that there is room for both. She talks about how we can live the new world we are building while opposing the forces destroying it. She embodies the motto of the World Social Forum: "Another World is Possible".

Quote of the day: "Another world is also necessary, for this one is unjust, unsustainable, and unsafe. It's up to us to envision, fight for, and create that world, a world of freedom, real justice, balance, and shared abundance, a world woven in a new design." - Starhawk
Word (or phrase) of the day: Bodhicitta
Hero(es) of the day: Victor Jara

Friday, August 15, 2008

And now, The Movies!

Taking a break from heavier topics, I want to look at a couple of the summer blockbusters. But first a confession: I seldom actually go to the movies. Who has time? But, obsessive reader that I am, I am constantly reading reviews of movies, most of which I will never see. So the following is based totally on what has been written up about these films. And given what I've read, these are a couple of flicks I'd like to see. Maybe when they're out on DVD...

As anyone who goes to the cinema knows, summer movies are generally not deep, literate, probing masterpieces. Not much of what I've read about recently is anything other than escapist fluff, which is the usual lot of the summer fare. Two movies, however, stand out. They seem to be both popular and critically acclaimed. Not that they are exceptions from the usual seasonal genres, but they are both within it and go beyond it.

These are fantasy films, in the best sense of the word and that's one of the things that attracts me to them. I am definitely a lover of fantasy--and all kinds of speculative works. And in some ways these two films couldn't be more different.

One is the Pixar production, "WALL-E", a movie about a lonely robot 700 years in the future. The other is the new film from director Guillermo del Toro, "Hellboy II:The Golden Army", about a comic book hero, a demon turned good guy, who battles all manner of fairy tale creatures.

Strangely enough, these two films have a few things in common. First, they are both well made pictures that have characters, which as strange as they are, we are made to care for. That explains the critical acclaim.

Second, the lead characters are both working-class heros. Hellboy may be a demon, but he smokes cigars and guzzles beer and generally acts like a regular guy. (Apparently, when fleshing out the character the director included characteristics from his father, a cabinet maker.) And WALL-E, the robot, is no gleaming android. He is basically a janitorial mechanism, busy compacting (and collecting) trash.

But it's their final commonality that intrigues me. The golden army that Hellboy has to deal with is led by an elvin prince wanting revenge on humans for trashing the planet. WALL-E is pretty much alone on the future earth, trying to deal a planet covered with trash, long after the humans escaped their mess. Maybe Hollywood is trying to tell us something?

Quote of the day: “The more we exploit nature, the more our options are reduced, until we have only one: to fight for survival.” - Morris K Udall
Word (or phrase) of the day: Slow Food
Hero(es) of the day: Julia Ward Howe

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Clustering and Coping

I've been reviewing books here lately, as well as looking at trends and ideas. In this post I want to review just one chapter of a book. The book is called Extreme Democracy and it's a collection of articles, mostly about how new networking tools (using the internet) can change current politics. But there's a chapter in the book by Steven Johnson, author of the 2001 book Emergence, in which he clarifies his thoughts on the phenomena of emergent systems. It is available online on a website that is also called Extreme Democracy. Most of the book can be read there but I will only be concerned with Steven Johnson's chapter, entitled "Two ways to emerge, and how to tell the difference between them".

As anyone who reads this blog closely can tell, I've been taken by the ideas from complexity/self-organizing systems/emergent behavior and especially how they relate to social change. This chapter specifically talks about the relationship between emergence and political movements. Johnson points out how the new wave of protests, such as the 'battle for Seattle', which are organized around affinity groups, are nonhierarchal and bewildering to those who are looking for leaders. He writes: "To old school progressives, the Seattle protestors appeared to be headless, out of control, a swarm of small causes with no organizing principle--and to a certain extent they're right in their assessment. What they fail to recognize is that there can be power and intelligence in a swarm, and if you're trying to do battle against a distributed network like global capitalism, you're better off becoming a distributed network yourself."

He also talks about how, in a very scary way, the same decentralized, grassroots bottom-up organizing is used by terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. (This has been noted by other people as well. There is a whole blog, Global Guerrillas, devoted to how networking, decentralization, self-organizing systems, and 'Resilient Communities', can be used by terrorist groups. A very good review of this blog is on the blog Worldchanging lamenting how these tools which can be used to create so much good, can also be used for violence--and looking at alternatives.)

Johnson goes on to say how, after watching several more positive uses of emergent behavior (such as,, and particularly the Howard Dean campaign for president), he began to realize that there were (at least) two different types of emergence.

He calls the first kind 'Clustering'. He talks about the slime mold--a strange creatures/creature that can go from being many 'free-floating cells' to becoming a sort of multicellular organism depending on the situation. He notes that the self-organizing systems researchers are, naturally, obsessed with this process, but many other beings also organize in a similar fashion, such as flocks of birds, columns of ants, etc. In none of these cases is there a leader, just a process where more and more of the individuals begin tending in a direction, eventually resulting in the group coming to a decision--sort of an instinctual democracy. Clustering is the natural world's version of consensus. The problem with clustering is that it's dependent on what scientists call positive feedback loops--more and more leads to more and more. It's great at creating a crowd, but lousy at dealing with changing situations.

He also talks about ongoing colonies of ants, bees, and termites, and how adaptive they are. Leave food in several different places and ants will organize the best way to collect the food. If you leave a different pattern of food, the ants will organize a different way of collecting it. He refers to this as 'Coping' behavior and points out how important this is to survival. It involves communication and a type of learning mechanism. Instead of simple positive (runaway) feedback, it involves homeostatic feedback, feedback on the state of the system, checks and balances.

Johnson ends his article by talking about what kind of 'emergent politics' is capable of self-regulation. Not political campaigns but local communities--looking at what we want and need and creating systems to develop and govern ourselves. He ends by suggesting we 'Think local, act local.' I'm still with the 'Think globally, act locally' folks, but I agree with many of his points. We need to create bottom up systems that are flexible and adaptive.

This all makes me think of one of my earliest arguments in this blog--from the post where I talked about the slogan: 'Agitate, Educate, Organize'. Agitating is pretty much Clustering--getting a crowd together and making progress through numbers. What Steven Johnson calls Coping is what I think of as Organizing--creating systems that are capable of dealing with changes. And the method systems use to deal with change is commonly referred to as learning--ie, we need to Educate.

Steven Johnson sees the end product as "community tools ... [that] help us locate and improve troubled schools, ... playgrounds, areas lacking crucial services..." and this is fine, but I also want tools that will help us build alternatives, decrease our dependence on oil and capitalism, make sure everyone is fed and taken care of, and increase fairness and diversity. Given that, I admire his conclusion: "That kind of politics--the kind built from the ground up, without leaders--is truly within our grasp right now, if we can just build the right tools." Let's hope we can do just that.

Quote of the day: "Clustering is, ultimately, a more dynamic version of the beautiful crystal shapes generated by snowflakes: amazing patterns generated out of simple rules. Coping systems, on the other hand, have the spontaneity and intelligence of life: they seem to learn from experience; they probe and explore the environments; they keep themselves healthy and well-fed in sometimes hostile conditions." - Steven Johnson
Word (or phrase) of the day: Emergent properties
Hero(es) of the day: Septima Poinsette Clark

Monday, August 11, 2008


Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and Food First, has written a book with one of her colleagues from the Center for Living Democracy, Jeffrey Perkins, called You Have the Power. It's based on the idea that fear is what stops us from changing things. Indeed, I believe that most of what attracts people to conservative and right-wing causes is fear. As we act out of fear, we become rigid and lose the ability to see (and play with) possibilities.

But what if fear were a signal that indicated perhaps this was a direction to go in? Jeffrey Perkins, co-author of this book, now leads workshops entitled 'Fear Means Go'. The idea that "Fear means I'm in danger" is what the authors refer to as an 'Old Thought'.

Lappé and Perkins begin each chapter with an 'Old Thought' and end it by contrasting the 'Old Thought' with a 'New Thought'. For example, Old Thought: "I have to figure it all out before I can do anything." New Thought: "We don't have to believe we can do it to do it; the very act of showing up, even with our fear, has power." Old Thought: "Our greatest fears are our worst enemies; they drag us down and hold us back." New Thought: "Our worst fears can be our greatest teachers."

One of the many stories in the book is of Reverend Timothy Njoya from Kenya. He preached against the tyrannies of his government and one night seven men came to his house. They began literally slicing him up, preparing to kill him. His reaction, instead of acting from fear, was to act with generousity. He told them that before he died he wanted to give them his things, his bible, his library, etc. His attackers were so overwhelmed by this they rushed him to the hospital instead of killing him.

Lappé and Perkins label each section they write with one of their names ('Frankie' and 'Jeff') so that it's easy to tell who is speaking. They offer ideas and suggestions to deal with fear as well as lots of stories about people who went beyond their fears to make changes in the world. They write about conflict as a powerful, creative force, and have a lovely section on the power of listening, full of stories about how just listening to people helped create change. They end the book with several small pieces on how to create reading groups and 'Courage Circles' to put the ideas from the book into practice.

I was interested in how theory from complex/emergent/self-organizing systems (a re-occurrent theme in this blog) was incorporated into their thinking. Frances Moore Lappé quotes Notre Dame professor Albert-László Barabási: "We have come to see that we live in a small world, where everything is linked to everything else. ... Small changes ... affecting only a few of the nodes or links can open up hidden doors, allowing new possibilities to emerge." She begins to talk about creating networks and building change from the bottom up. She ends with this wonderful quote: "Putting this all together, we see that rather than inhabiting a top-down, command-and-control world, where those at the bottom have virtually no power, we are living in a highly interconnected world with changes rippling up and through billions of 'nodes'--that's us and our communities." And getting people to see this, is what I call Social Alchemy.

Quote of the day: "Today an anticommunity, corporate-driven culture is going global. It's eroding life's essentials, from clean air and safe water to topsoil and diverse species. It's fostering anonymous, competitive, fear-filled ways of relating to each other that deny the need for human community. While staying with the pack always meant salvation to our species, now a willingness to break with the pack may be our real hope. ...
"But human beings can rise to this challenge. We can acknowledge our deep need for one another and still be able to break connection when it doesn't serve us." - Frances Moore Lappé
Word (or phrase) of the day: Grrl
Hero(es) of the day: Saul Alinsky

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sex and Squeamishness

This blog is not about sex. It's a blog about social change and transformation; in a real way, it's about human life and about making life better for everyone. But human life includes sex and part of the work of human liberation includes sexual liberation.

Some of the most interesting new terms around alternatives are from sexuality and gender, and I regularly include them in my "Word or phrase of the day". I hope I haven't offended anyone, but I want you to know that these things exist. I will not put profanity or obscenity on this blog, there won't be any graphic or clinical descriptions, but I do intend to discuss alternative lifestyles, some of which are focused around gender and sexuality. (I realize that I've already discussed the bonobos, who are an alternative sexuality unto themselves, and they aren't even human!) If you can't deal with the fact that there are people who have unusual views on sexual, etc, matters, this isn't a blog you should be reading. On the other hand, if you see the term GLBT and think, 'Shouldn't there be a few more initials?', you are probably reading the right blog. Not that this will be a constant focus of this blog; just that it's part of the mix.

Someone read my friend Laura's blog and didn't like the language she used. Now, unfortunately, there is a big 'Content Warning' that you have to go through before you can get to her blog. I like to think that because I am careful about the language here and don't have any sexual descriptions or crude language in these posts, that kind of thing won't happen to me. I like to think that there isn't any 'objectionable' material here. But I guess that depends on your squeamishness around these matters.

While I'm talking about sexuality, I'll give a little disclosure. I am bisexual, which means I can be involved with women as well as men. Probably more accurately, I'm pansexual, open to relationships with people of many genders. (But I am cisgendered--that is, I am not transgendered myself.) I'm also polyamorous, which means I can be involved with more than one person at a time. And I think of myself as queer, because I don't fit into a heterosexual (not to mention monogamous) world. It's probably not necessary, but I'll say it anyway: I don't think there is anything wrong with being heterosexual, monogamous, cisgendered, vanilla, etc, anymore than there is anything wrong with being white, male, rich, middle-class, able-bodied, young, middle-aged, and so forth. If we want to make a world that works for everyone, we want to make a world that accepts everyone. I'm not saying you should be any particular type of alternative sexuality, just that these sexualities exist, and there are good people of every sexuality and gender. And if you can't deal with that, you are looking at the wrong blog.

Quote of the day: "As long as sex is dealt with in the current confusion of ignorance and sophistication, denial and indulgence, suppression and stimulation, punishment and exploitation, secrecy and display, it will be associated with a duplicity and indecency that lead neither to intellectual honesty nor human dignity." - Alfred Kinsey
Word (or phrase) of the day: Boi
Hero(es) of the day: Vandana Shiva

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Forgiving others is sometimes viewed as a nice thing, something we do out of politeness. Often, in fact, it is a difficult thing.

A man in Boston fires a gun into the air, hitting a five year old on a nearby porch, and paralyzing her. The child and her mother respond by forgiving the man.

Families of murder victims work against the death penalty. Some of them clearly forgive the murderer, even those who were injured themselves by the perpetrator.

The Amish community where five young girls were murdered and five more seriously injured visited the widow and parents of the murderer to comfort them.

Forgiveness isn't just something nice that we do. Forgiveness is essential to stop hatred and fear, to clear away the underbrush of horror that shroud the awful things that have happened, and to begin building a world based on loving-kindness. And the truth is that it's not easy. I haven't been through anything particularly horrible. I don't really know what I would do if someone did something that was really terrible to me or someone I love.

Yet I pray everyday to learn and practice patience and forgiveness. I know that it is a key step in creating a just and loving world. The words from a Yom Kippur prayer echo in my mind: "We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love."

Forgiveness is a political act and a spiritual practice. It is, as Martin Luther King says, an attitude. And it is a prelude to being able to love. It is a prelude to real change.

Quote of the day: "Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Word (or phrase) of the day: Brights
Hero(es) of the day: César Chávez

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Archdruid Report

John Michael Greer (the Archdruid) is a very interesting person. He really is a Druid, the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and thinks of himself as a magician as well. I talked about his thoughts on magic and liberation in my last post.

However, he has a blog that doesn't focus on magic or liberation. What quickly becomes apparent from reading his weekly Report, is that his real interest is in saving Western civilization--and when I say 'saving', I don't mean preventing destruction (he doesn't think that's possible or worthwhile) but keeping to be used later, the way you might save a scrap of paper.

The Archdruid Report is an ongoing forum for his ideas on how to preserve what is worth saving of our present culture. He talks a lot about what he calls 'cultural conservers' who will save important bits of what we have for the future. Part of why he is doing this is that his vision of the future (elaborated in a series of essay--The Coming of Deindustrial Society and The Long Road Down--that he wrote for involves neither us continuing on our present path nor any sort of abrupt apocalypse, but a long, slow decline from here, the way that other civilizations (he's fond of pointing to historical records--Rome, the Mayans, etc) deteriorated. Since he expects a gradual fading of what we have now, he is puzzling out preservation methods so that everything we've built or discovered won't be lost.

His essays are long and erudite. What's more, the comments on the blog tend to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, and, at various points, John Michael Greer inserts his own comments which generally includes brief responses to everyone who has commented. The back and forth of comments is civil and informative, which is more than I can say of other comment sections that I've read.

One of his posts last month (July 2nd) was about getting his amateur radio license. It sounds off-topic at first but then he explains that he doesn't expect the internet (which is a major energy user) to be around much longer, and the internet can be fairly easily controlled by the government, whereas homemade radios can be made simply from scrap, use little energy, and are difficult to control. Ham radio is not something I'd given a lot of thought to before reading this post.

Of all the blogs I've perused so far (which is probably not that many, as far as the blogosphere goes), this is by far the most fascinating and satisfying. I may soon add it to my list of social change websites. In any case, I'd highly recommend checking it out--that is, if you are interested in saving Western civilization.

Quote of the day: "In a world lurching through economic crisis and the first wave of impacts from peak oil, it's easy to dismiss the continuing implosion of American culture as a minor issue, but such a dismissal is as much a symptom of cultural collapse as anything I've cited already. Again, culture is memory, and among the things it holds in store are the tools, insights, and lifeways that served people well in the days before our civilization started chasing the suicidally addictive rush of empire." - John Michael Greer
Word (or phrase) of the day: Subsidarity
Hero(es) of the day: Wangari Maathai

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Magical Way of Thinking

As a follow-up to my last post on thinking positive, I'd like to point out a rather unusual review that's located online. It's a little hard to start, because it begins with an explanation by one person followed by an introduction by another person followed by a book review/critique. The author of the critique is John Michael Greer who puts out The Archdruid Report which I will review in my next post.

This may all be even more confusing because while he is reviewing a political book (Globalize Liberation), he begins by talking about theories of magic. Whether you believe in magic or not, I recommend you keep reading. He explains the theories well enough (he isn't expecting the reader to be familiar with them), at one point suggesting that people not used to thinking in terms of magic, can think of 'spells' as 'stories'.

His point is that the stories that we tell (ourselves as well as others) about the work that we are doing, often determines the course of that work. For example, instead of seeing the global system of corporate capitalism as triumphant, powerful force, he suggests we could see it as "a brittle, ungainly, jerry-rigged contraption whose managers are vainly scrambling to hold it together against a rising tide of crises"; that instead of seeing ourselves in a desperate situation, we could view the system as being desperate. He points out that it's not a question of which of these is true--in the complex situation that we are in now there are ways in which either or both are true, and there are a lot of other possibilities--it's a matter of which story gives more hope, encourages alternatives, and lessens the grip of the current political/economic system. In fact, as he says, belief in one story or the other actually make it more likely that that story will come true.

In another way of looking at leftist 'stories', he has a wonderful analogy to Dudley Do-right of the Mounties (from the old TV cartoon show, 'Rocky and Bullwinkle', which I'm sure is still playing somewhere on a classic TV station) which is both hilarious and on target. (I'll let you look at it on the review.) The main point he makes is that how we define ourselves (in many ways) will determine how successful our struggles and creations will be. He finds a very powerful example of this in a quote from an aboriginal woman that he takes from the Globalize Liberation book: "If you come only to help me, you can go back home. But if you consider my struggle as part of your struggle for survival, then maybe we can work together." Can you see the difference between the first view and the second as a potent redefinition of what we are doing?

Next, The Archdruid Report.

Quote of the day: "It can't be repeated often enough that the modern industrial state isn't the natural endpoint (or endgame) of some inevitable historical process. It's what philosophers call a contingent reality; things happened to turn out this way, but they didn't have to, and there are good reasons why the future probably won't be a duplicate of the past." - John Michael Greer
Word (or phrase) of the day: Biodiversity
Hero(es) of the day: Reverend Billy (Bill Talen)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thinking Positive

Among many other things, I'm polyamorous. I'll talk more about this and other sexuality related matters in a future post, but the point here is that I used to define myself as nonmonogamous. When I came upon the term 'polyamory', I decided that I liked it better because it spoke of what I was, rather than what I wasn't.

After this I started looking at other aspects of my life. For example, I used to describe myself as a nontheistic pagan and a strong advocate of nonviolence--and an anarchist as well. I noticed that all of these terms define what I am not, rather than what I am. Even anarchism means against government and hierarchy.

I've made a decision to define myself by what I want rather than by what I'm against or don't do. Instead of using the term nontheistic, now I call myself a naturalistic pagan. Rather than seeing myself as an anarchist (and, of course, the term antiauthoritarian is even more clearly negative), I talk about being egalitarian--an egalitarian communitarian seems to be the current version of what was called a 'communist anarchist' a hundred years ago, before the Soviets ruined the term 'communism'. (I like the term 'eco-communalist' even better.)

Nonviolence seems a trickier term to replace. What is the opposite of violence? There are people who espouse love and justice who believe that killing may be necessary to achieve that. (I don't.) I have started talking about loving-kindness, compassionate action, generosity of spirit, and revolutionary forgiveness. I find it also important to talk about aligning actions with the goal--if you want a world that is loving and compassionate, you need to act in ways that are loving and compassionate.

Some hypnotists claim that negatives often contain 'embedded commands' within them that are the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. For example, statements like "Don't bomb the Middle East!" and "Don't destroy the planet!" (often seen on protest signs) actually contain the countercommands 'Bomb the Middle East!' and 'Destroy the planet!' and while our conscious mind hears the first two statements, our unconscious mind absorbs the countercommands within them, thus sabotaging exactly what we're trying to achieve. How much better to say things like "Create peace in the Middle East!" and "Work with the earth!".

Dwelling on what we don't want to see happen, only gives power to those things. Let's focus on what we want to see happen. While it is important to stop or limit the destruction that's going on now, it is even more important to begin to create and build the alternatives.

Quote of the day: "A man [sic] is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes." - attributed to Gandhi
Word (or phrase) of the day: Polyfidelity
Hero(es) of the day: The Zapatistas