Friday, July 30, 2010


After my last three posts on Stephen Covey's 7 Habits (see Deciding, 2/19/10, Goals, 5/4/10, and Priorities, 6/26/10), I decided that I would wait a while before writing another post on the books. But as I've been writing this latest series of posts (starting with Social Change: My View, 6/29/10, and going through Benefiting Others, 7/21/10), I could see a direction emerging and realized that Steven Covey's fourth habit (the next one in the series) fits in very well at this point. He entitles this habit 'Think Win/Win'.

Covey sees his first three habits as basic to personal change and collectively groups them in a section he calls "Private Victory". His fourth habit marks his movement toward habits that he sees as affecting what we do in the world and so this is the first habit he puts in the section he calls "Public Victory".

Stephen Covey claims that there are six 'paradigms of human interaction': Win/Win, Win/Lose, Lose/Win, Lose/Lose, Win, and Win/Win or No Deal. Most of us are familiar with Win/Lose--it's the competitive mentality that is prevalent in this society. Lose/Win is the converse, the 'I give up, you win' mentality, what Covey refers to as 'please or appease'. Lose/Lose is worse--it's the 'if I can't win, you can't either' mentality of embittered revenge. 'Win' is the mentality of the driven person who doesn't care if you lose or win as long as they win--this is also the disaster mentality where someone can only focus on saving themselves and their family.

Win/Win is the cooperative, community vision which assumes that the best possible outcome is one in which everyone wins. This is very closely related to a couple of the principles that I talked about when I started this blog, that we are all selfish and we are all connected (see Two Basic Principles, 6/30/08). Win/Win sees this and sees that, since we are connected, we win as others win. In a very real sense, we can only win when everyone wins.

This 'habit' is based strongly on Covey's first three habits. You need to be proactive and focused in order to be able to keep the promises and commitments you need to do in order to practice Win/Win. Covey claims you need integrity and maturity to be able to 'Think Win/Win'. He defines maturity as "the balance between courage and consideration". Someone with a lot of courage but little consideration probably thinks 'Win/Lose', just as someone with a lot of consideration but little courage probably thinks 'Lose/Win'. Covey believes the 'Lose/Lose' people have neither courage or consideration. In order to practice Win/Win, you need to be able to 'empathically understand' and also be willing to 'courageously confront.' Covey also claims that you need to have an 'Abundance Mentality' to really do Win/Win well. (I plan on writing more on the Abundance Mentality in my next post.)

There's one paradigm that I mentioned above that I haven't covered, and that's what Covey calls 'Win/Win or No Deal'. This lets you have a fall back in case you can't reach an agreement with someone. It means either you come up with a solution or agreement where everyone wins, or you agree to disagree and just go your separate ways. While this isn't always possible, sometimes it makes a difficult situation easier. When it just isn't possible to get Win/Win, this is much better than moving to Win/Lose or Lose/Win.

The most important thing about Win/Win is that it's all about relationships. It's all about building trust. It's all about seeing the possibility of everyone winning. And, yes, it's about benefiting others--and benefiting yourself as part of this. If you see us as all connected, I think that it's the only way to go.

Quote of the Day: "Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as if there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a bigger piece of the pie, it would mean less for everyone else...
"The Abundance Mentality takes the personal joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment of Habits 1, 2, and 3 and turns it outward, appreciating the uniqueness, the inner direction, the proactive nature of others. It recognizes the unlimited possibilities for positive interactive growth and development, creating new Third Alternatives.
"Public Victory does not mean victory over other people. It means success in effective interaction that brings mutually beneficial results to everyone involved. Public Victory means working together, communicating together, making things happen together that even the same people couldn't make happen by working independently..." - Stephen Covey

Saturday, July 24, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog

This has little to do (at least directly) with the themes that I have been writing about--but I just want to share this.

There's a young woman that I helped raise when I lived in an intentional community years ago (and still have a good relationship with).

Corina just turned twenty last week. I sent her a birthday card and she gave me a call to say thank you. What she didn't tell me is that she had been arrested a couple of days before that.

Corina lives in Oakland, California. On New Year's Day this year, a young black man was being held down by a transit police officer--face down--at a BART station in Oakland. Another police officer pulled out his gun and shot and killed the man being held down. All this was recorded clearly by bystanders.

The trial was held in Los Angeles, 300 miles away, and the officer was convicted by a jury that was composed of seven white and five Latino jurors--no African-Americans were on the jury and supposedly four of the jurors were reported to have police officers among their friends and family. The officer received a sentence of 'involuntary manslaughter' for shooting this young man in the back. Some commentators said they were surprised he was convicted at all.

Needless to say, the community of Oakland was not pleased. There was a protest that night that included a bit of looting and destruction. The Oakland police response was to have hundreds of officers (including police from towns as far as an hour away) out in full riot gear.

This is the scene Corina walked into. Her story is that she saw the police assaulting an older woman. A young man nearby linked arms with the woman and my young friend linked arms with him. The police arrested all of them. She spent the night in jail. Seventy-eight people were arrested. Her crime was apparently "unlawful assembly and failure to disperse." (Corina wrote me, "...I don't know if I was in the right place or the wrong place but man the cops sure were in the wrong place. They seemed to be focusing on arresting a lot more peaceful protestors than looters and people who were actually acting dangerously.")

A blog on the Oakland Tribune site has over a hundred pictures from the protests. One of them shows an older woman with her arm linked to a long-haired young man who in turn has arms linked to a young woman (yes, Corina) who has linked her arms to another young man. In back of them are rows of police in riot gear. As her mother put it, "...she looks strong and powerful..." She certainly looks determined in that picture.

There seems something so right that she would do that. Her mother is very proud of her. I am too. She saw injustice and she stepped in. She was arrested for that.

Welcome to adulthood, Corina. It's a pretty messed up world.

Quote of the Day: "...I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.
"...My silence had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you." - Audre Lorde

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Benefiting Others

Continuing on from my last post (Responses), the question is, who are we interested in benefiting? Simply ourselves (or ourselves and our family), or do we want to widen this? I've seen sociologists who suggest that conservatives are extremely loyal to their group--they would want to benefit them, but not others outside their group. How wide do we want to be working for?

It's important when we look at benefiting others, that this is not seen as versus benefiting ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves as well. Rachel Naomi Remen, in her book My Grandfather's Blessings (see my posts on Blessings, 3/9/10, and More Blessings, 3/23/10), points out that the airlines announce, when they demonstrate the low-pressure face masks, "Put your own mask on first before you try to help the person next to you." She claims that, "Service is based on the premise that all life is worthy of our support and commitment." All life includes ourselves.

We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. In fact, this is how we grow in interdependence--from only taking care of ourselves, to taking care of others as a way of taking care of ourselves, to taking care of ourselves in order to help others.

In one of my earliest posts (Two Basic Principles, 6/30/08) I talked about the twin ideas that everyone is basically selfish and that we are all connected. Therefore, in taking care of others we are taking care of ourselves. In benefiting others, we are benefiting ourselves. And, as I just said, in taking care of ourselves, we help care for others. This is what it means to be interconnected. This is want it means to be interdependent. This also changes our notion of what 'self' means.

In my post on Impermanence (7/9/10), I mentioned the Buddhist 'Three Marks of Existence', one of which I called 'lack of a separate self.' Traditionally this has been called no-self or egolessness. But it is hard to talk about 'myself' without a self--or others as well. They certainly exist, as I do exist. Joanna Macy helped clarify this for me in her books on Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory (see my post on Mutual Causality, 12/18/09) and World as Lover, World as Self (see my post on World as Lover, 1/15/10), where she points out how the self always exists in relationship to others. (And she is not the only Buddhist teacher that I've heard refer to this as there being no separate self.) It's not that there is no self, it's that there is no self apart from others. We are always interconnected. This isn't about the idea that there is no individuality; this is about the idea that there could be separation, isolation, removal, the strange idea that we could exist without others and without the natural world.

So, how wide do we want to open ourselves up? We are blessed to be alive. Do we want to share those blessing with others? With just our family? With just our group? With strangers? With those we dislike or find difficult? With everyone possible? This is about compassion as well as social change, or rather compassion as social change. This is about realizing that we are all in this together.

Quote of the Day: "Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it, I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can." - H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama

Saturday, July 17, 2010


If you connect the threads of the last three posts, I think it's clear that there are changes, challenges, and problems ahead, and that there are also tools (like the ones I learned at RUST and stuff from permaculture, etc) to deal with these changes and challenges. The question I'd like to address in this post is what is the scope of how we deal with this?

I think there are two possible responses to peak oil, climate change, economic collapse, etc. The first is to use the appropriate tools to make sure that you survive and perhaps even thrive. Sometimes this gets extended out to insure the survival of your family, those you love. The second response is to use those tools to make sure that the community, and even better everyone, or at least everyone possible, survives.

Individualist survivalists abound. If all you are interested in is protecting yourself, or yourself and your family, then there are lots of companies that will sell you the equipment, and lots of websites with information and plans.

But if your goal is general survival, community survival, the survival of everyone, while some of the tools are similar, the tactics are different. We need to reach out to one another, educate one another, and listen to one another.

There are folks that support a community survival approach. RUST (who I blogged about in my last post) is one. The Transition Initiative (see my post on Transition Towns, 10/16/08, for more on this) is another. The permaculture folks really get this (see my posts on Permaculture, 7/22/08, and Permaculture Principles, 12/24/09). It's not an accident that both RUST and the Transition Initiative came from folks trained in permaculture. And Joanna Macy's Great Turning (see my posts on The Great Turning, 11/15/09, and Social Change: My View, 6/29/10, for more on this) supports the idea of us working together to deal with the changes and to create positive change.

Working for community survival is a lot more challenging than making sure that you and your family survive, but it's the only way to create '... a world that works for everyone.'

Quote of the Day: "Community is not a simple solution to the world's problems; we know that simple solutions don't exist in any case. What it may be, though, is humanity's next evolutionary step, giving us the opportunity and the challenge of reconnecting with each other and with our environment, in recognition of what native people refer to as 'all our relations.'" - Helen Forsey

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This past weekend I took the Radical Urban Sustainability Training (also known as RUST) offered at the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany, New York, by Scott Kellogg, Stacy Pettigrew, and Juniper Lauren Ross. It was an amazing educational experience, almost too much to take in during one weekend.

We looked at food systems, including 'urban agro-forestry' where I learned about fruits and nuts I'd never heard of that Scott said would grow in the northeast US: pawpaws, hardy kiwi, gooseberries, and hazelberts; 'aquaculture'; and urban chickens and goats; water systems, including an overview of global fresh water issues; rainwater harvesting; and greywater and constructed wetlands; and waste treatment issues, including 'humanure' and composting toilets; bioremediation by low-tech methods using plants, compost, compost tea, etc; and several types of composting, including cold composting, hot composting, worm composting, and using soldier flies. I took miniworkshops on testing water and soil, and alternative sources of power, including wind turbines, passive solar, rocket stoves, and biofuels. A man named Travis also came by to discuss gentrification with us, and offered some useful insights.

As I said, a bit much. I am going to be digesting all that I learned for a while. I'm hoping to get to use some of what I learned over the next little while as well. Still, I think that I might take the Training again--there's an unbelievable amount of information in it.

The next training is going to be the weekend of October 2nd & 3rd. That's too soon for me, but I'd recommend it--especially if you read the Toolbox for Sustainable City Living book first. Then you might have some sense of what all the stuff that is thrown at you is all about.

Quote of the Day: "We need to build a society ... that can meet human needs while simultaneously increasing ecosystem health." - Scott Kellogg

Friday, July 9, 2010


There is a basic Buddhist teaching that all things have three characteristics (known as the Three Marks of Existence). These are impermanence, dissatisfaction, and lack of a separate self.

Impermanence is the easiest of the three to demonstrate, but one of the hardest to come to grips with. We find impermanence and change everywhere around us. Pema Chödrön, who I have been reading and has been a great influence on me, points out that "People have no respect for impermanence. We take no delight in it; in fact we despair of it. We regard it as pain. We try to resist it by making things that will last--forever, we say--things that we don't have to wash, things that we don't have to iron. Somehow, in the process of denying that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things."

Of course, the alternative is to embrace impermanence, to embrace change. Yep, go with the flow. People talk about doing it all the time, but it ain't easy. But what if we could? Pema's suggestion: "Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, ... not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time..." Imagine that. Relaxing with impermanence. Relaxing with change. Relaxing with chaos. (I almost entitled this post 'Relaxing with chaos.') Learning to be fine with the fact that there is nothing permanent and everything is changing all around us. (I keep hearing the Jefferson Airplane lyric, taken from science fiction author John Wyndham, "Life is change, How it differs from the rocks...") The question is, can we relax with chaos, impermanence, and change? It's going to be there anyway. The only thing in question is our response.

I see this post as a continuation of my last post, on 'Collapse'. I'll let you connect the dots.

Quote of the Day: "Impermanence is the goodness of reality. Just as the four seasons are in continual flux, winter changing to spring to summer to autumn; just as day becomes night, light becoming dark becoming light again--in the same way, everything is constantly evolving. Impermanence is the essence of everything. It is babies becoming children, then teenager, then adults, then old people, and somewhere along the way dropping dead. ...
"Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don't struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality. Many cultures celebrate this connectedness. There are ceremonies marking all the transitions of life from birth to death, as well as meetings and partings, going into battle, losing the battle, and winning the battle. We too could acknowledge, respect, and celebrate impermanence." - Pema Chödrön

Monday, July 5, 2010


In my last post I mentioned the possibility that the system--and, in fact, this society--might collapse on its own. It's not just peak oil theory that leads me to suspect this.

In fact, I am coming to believe that the collapse is already happening and you can see it if you pay attention. Part of the problem is that people think that collapse is going to be a sudden, dramatic event. I have been appreciating the viewpoint of John Michael Greer, author of the book, The Long Descent, and writer of The Archdruid Report. (For more on The Archdruid Report, see my post of 8/5/08.) He claims that there is a collapse coming, but it won't be the sudden, dramatic collapse that some of the 'doomers' predict. Instead, it will be slow and gradual, punctuated by sudden events, but mostly apparent only in hindsight.

Having done a long review of American History in this blog last year, I can see ways in which we are already into the collapse. I'm an old guy. I remember the fifties and sixties and they were quite different from life now. Not a golden age, but one with a very different economic reality. People seldom worried about their jobs disappearing, corporations, by and large, took care of their workers, and prosperity seemed to be increasing for everyone. Oh, there was a lot wrong with this time, which is why the rebellions of the sixties and seventies were so dramatic (see my posts, It All Breaks Loose, 3/14/08, and Social Movements in the Seventies, 3/30/08, for more on this), but something changed in the seventies. Nevermind peak oil, I think that the fifties and sixties were our 'Peak Economy'--a time of general affluence that we will never see again. The change is so clear it can be pinpointed to a particular year. (See my posts on 1973, 3/22/09, and Economic History of the 20th Century, 4/19/09.)

My series on US History began with a question: how did the sixties end up with the eighties? The answers, of course, are found in the seventies. I think that it's interesting that I've been to a bunch of conferences on energy, the environment, etc, where people will propose something and an old dude will get up and point out that whatever it is, it was done in the seventies. The question then arises, what would things be like if we continued doing those things, instead of stopping them in the eighties and trying to reinvent them now? The short answer seems to be that we wouldn't be in the unprepared mess we are now.

None of this stuff really disappeared totally in the eighties, but most of it (systems theory, alternative energy, conservation, intentional communities, creative shelter, etc) got scaled way back. Some of it was 'the Reagan Revolution' and corporate/Republican destruction of anything that threatened them. Some of it was the hubris of the designers. (See my post on Hubris, 12/30/09.) But I think that a big part of it was that people did not want to hear anything about needing to do with less. President Carter told the American public that they needed to turn down their heat and begin car-pooling and using public transit. Energy usage certainly went down, but Carter lost to Reagan by 91% of the vote. (See my post on The Rest of the Seventies, 3/29/09.) Telling the public to do with less has been political poison since then.

It's not that we could have the affluence we had in the fifties and sixties, only with solar and wind power (something that some folks in the alternative energy community seem to claim--see my post on Bright Green, Dark Green, Deep Green, 11/10/09, for a bit on the 'Bright Green' folks who seem to believe that the right technology will save us). Rather, I think that if we learned from the seventies, we would be better able to deal with the changes that are going on now.

For those who don't believe we are well past 'Peak Economy' and may point out the affluent periods of the eighties and nineties, I ask that you notice that those who prospered were a small segment of the population--quite unlike the general prosperity of the fifties and sixties. There were 'economic bubbles' then and there may yet be a few economic bubbles in the future that a few folks can take advantage of for a while, but like any other bubbles, they're temporary, and eventually burst. What we saw in the last years of the Bush administration and are still seeing today, is a result of some of those bubbles bursting. While I'm not a big fan of Obama, I doubt that anyone could do a lot better with this economy.

And for those who might say, how could a collapse be going on and be unnoticed, I say, look around. We are currently involved in two wars in the Middle East (one of them the longest war in US history) and experiencing one of the greatest ecological disasters the US has ever experienced, and life goes on as if nothing is happening. Sure there are some things that make people take notice (the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 and the economic woes of the last decade--especially the collapse of the housing market, to cite a couple of examples). I'm sure there will be more in the future. But, by and large, the collapse that is occurring will only be noticed by comparing the past with the present and realizing that there will be less in the future. This doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing. Certainly, we don't really need much of what will be disappearing. But we need to be ready (as I pointed out in my last post) to replace it.

Change happens.

Quote of the Day: "This is the way civilizations decline and fall. ...

"Nearly all of our ancestors lived in times when there was no bright future on the horizon; nearly all of our descendants will experience the same thing. The great majority of the former and, no doubt, of the latter as well, found other reasons for living. That’s an equally viable option right now, given a willingness to think the unthinkable, recognize that the age of abundance is ending, and consider the possibility that doing the right thing in a time of crisis, no matter how uncomfortable or challenging the right thing might be, may be a more potent source of meaning than waiting for magic to make a bright future arrive." - John Michael Greer