Links for the Week – June 10, 2006

flow painters in post-civilization world preparing ritual space, from


Green Discussion: Karavans Forums offer some interesting and informed debates on green matters from Peak Oil to Korten’s new book The Great Turning which I reviewed yesterday. The forums complement an information website. The site is run by Peter Ireland, a Bellingham-based entrepreneur and ‘green’ venture capitalist. Peter writes:

We have tried to have a discussion on Korten’s book for a couple of months now at my forum. Ran Prieur called it “Final Empire for Dummies” in reference to Kotke’s classic “Final Empire.” He may be right. It’s probably what’s needed. What I have discovered in trying to run the discussion thread is that this view of history is so opposed to how most people see the world, that it simply “does not compute” with them. Even the few that do grasp it, just shrug their shoulders to indicate “Well, it’s always been like that. What can you do? Nothing really.” They then try to change the topic. Anyone who brings this stuff up is easily dismissed as a crackpot or anarchist nutter.

So what can you do about it? A few years ago I first discovered your blog when doing research into the power of story telling. Therein lies part of the solution. Instead of lectures that make people feel as if they are being scolded, you need stories and art to show them that there’s another way to live. One of the best examples of this can be found here. [note: the illustration above is from that site].

Bulldozing the Bottom of the Sea: You thought agribusiness (“contained animal feeding operations”) and genetically engineered monoculture were inhumane and ecologically disastrous. Take a look at what megatrawlers are doing to our oceans.

Australian Video on CO2 Emissions: Making pollution and waste visible and obvious. Thanks to James Rait for the link. James also points out this BBC video with Richard Attenborough taking on global warming skeptics.

Why Wal-Mart’s Move to Organics Will Make Things Worse: Michael Pollan in the NYT explains that embracing organic (or anything counterculture) while still insisting it adhere to the old business model (slash costs, buy everything offshore, squeeze suppliers) is counterproductive, creates fragility in the market, and corrupts innovation and sustainability rather than contributing to it. This is why big established companies make lousy innovators, and why they’re unsustainable. “To say you can sell organic food for 10 percent more than you sell irresponsibly priced food suggests that you don’t really get it ’Äî that you plan to bring business-as-usual principles of industrial “efficiency” and “economies of scale” to a system of food production that was supposed to mimic the logic of natural systems rather than that of the factory.” Thanks to Umair Haque for the link.


Freedom to Fascism: Trailers for libertarian Aaron Russo’s new film. I am not a libertarian, but I can see how this idea has appeal. It is in a way the antithesis of Korten’s argument: Korten wants us to work together to create states that focus on collective well-being not unequal wealth. Russo wants us to dismantle states because they cannot ever be trusted to do so. Both are appealing to both progressives and conservatives. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

Literature and Art:

Writing for Yourself: A brilliant essay on fiction writing by author Barbara W. Klaser. Teaser:

Of course the writer needs to learn the basics, hone her skills. Then, after writing for self, she needs to be willing to let someone edit her work and be open to revisions. The two-minute rule [you have to grab your reader in the first two minutes of reading] makes sense, too. Something in any story needs to draw the reader’Äôs interest in as soon as possible, unless the writer just wants to hide her novel in a drawer and bring it out to read on her own now and then.

But I think a writer needs to begin any work of fiction out of love, a personal hunger to write it. Something has to draw the writer in, make it worth the effort, and perhaps make it impossible not to write.

…And Other Creative Undertakings Require Intention, Too: And coincidentally (or synchronistically) Jeremy Heigh also writes about the importance of intention, rather than commercial motivation, driving artistic or any other creation (it also applies to entrepreneurship). This post of his is sheer poetry:

I was looking at a bit of art yesterday. A small, elegant sculpture made of marble. Polished, flawless, stationary; it seemed to dance. This morning, thinking of dreams and aspirations, the image of that sculpture slipped unbidden into the mix.

There are parts of life that flow as water. And there are others (those where goals and intentions are relevant) where definite choices must be made. Choices that act as chisels, or hammers, or sandpaper, or drills. Decisions that drive directly and ruthlessly in a single direction. Deliberate action.

Creating art and creating dreams can be a long, tedious, intentional process. But both art and dreams require a set of intentions instead of a series of responses.

Authors Pick Best American Novels of the Quarter-Century:
The list of over 100 judges is awesome. Their list of best novels is not. Twenty-six novels written by men, two by women. Almost all of them written by a generation now in their sixties and older, about a world that no longer exists. Nostalgic. But as Laura Miller at explains, the exercise really didn’t make sense to begin with.

Thought for the Week, from JM Coatzee’s Elizabeth Costello, that I reviewed a couple of years ago. Thanks to Michael Bˆ©rubˆ© (via Renˆ©e) for reminding me about this.

Sultan [a chimpanzee] is alone in his pen.  He is hungry: the food that used to arrive regularly has unaccountably ceased coming.

The man who used to feed him and has now stopped feeding him stretches a wire over the pen three metres above ground level, and hands a bunch of bananas from it.  Into the pen he drags three wooden crates.  Then he disappears, closing the gate behind him, though he is still somewhere in the vicinity, since one can smell him.

Sultan knows: Now one is supposed to think.  That is what the bananas up there are about.  The bananas are there to make one think, to spur one to the limits of one’Äôs thinking.  But what must one think?  One thinks: Why is he starving me?  One thinks: What have I done?  Why has he stopped liking me?  One thinks: Why does he not want these crates any more?  But none of these is the right thought.  Even a more complicated thought’Äîfor instance: What is wrong with him, what misconception does he have of me, that leads him to believe it is easier for me to reach a banana hanging from a wire than to pick up a banana from the floor?’Äîis wrong.  The right thought to think is: How does one use the crates to reach the bananas?

Sultan drags the crates under the bananas, piles them one on top of the other, climbs the tower he has built, and pulls down the bananas.  He thinks: Now will he stop punishing me?

The answer is: No.  The next day the man hangs a fresh bunch of bananas from the wire but also fills the crates with stones so that they are too heavy to be dragged.  One is not supposed to think:  Why has he filled the crates with stones?  One is supposed to think: How does one use the crates to get the bananas despite the fact that they are filled with stones?

One is beginning to see how the man’Äôs mind works. . . .

At every turn Sultan is driven to think the less interesting thought.  From the purity of speculation (Why do men behave like this?) he is relentlessly propelled towards lower, practical, instrumental reason (How does one use this to get that?) and thus towards acceptance of himself as primarily an organism with an appetite that needs to be satisfied.  Although his entire history, from the time his mother was shot and he was captured, through his voyage in a cage to imprisonment on this island camp and the sadistic games that are played around food here, leads him to ask questions about the justice of the universe and the place of this penal colony in it, a carefully plotted psychological regimen conducts him away from ethics and metaphysics towards the humbler reaches of practical reason.  And somehow, as he inches through this labyrinth of constraint, manipulation and duplicity, he must realize that on no account dare he give up, for on his shoulders rests the responsibility of representing apedom.  The fate of his brothers and sisters may be determined by how well he performs.

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5 Responses to Links for the Week – June 10, 2006

  1. Thanks for the mention, Dave, and the links. I’m especially intrigued by the ideas presented in Afterculture, of the balance needed between art, science, and religion.

  2. I’m spreading the word… thanks – RicardoSeattle based is moving up the podcast chartswith their

  3. spy for sanity says:

    i’ve been thinking of the gorilla for a while now…the thing is, with humans, it seems that even if we escape from the role of banana-yearner, we inevitably assume the role of banana-dangler or at least a degree of complicity in the banana-dangling scheme…and even those who attempt to suggest that the whole game is rigged consistently in favor of the danglers are typically met with blankness and vague annoyance by the yearners (several of whom would rather become danglers one day than abolish the game and lose the chance for such status, several of whom believe in the manifest entitlement of the danglers). i was reading on another website about what they termed “the carbon addict” and how, whereas someone addicted to heroin has a “sober society” to recover into, the carbon addict has no such option. so too with the status addict which seems to be the human animal…we seem to be lacking options outside the banana game. even if we moved to an afterculture existance, wouldn’t the aggressive tribes always conquer and destroy the peaceful ones? what is to stop the entire game from restarting and playing out with similar results if we do not address, and design checks/balances to mitigate, the drive of the status addict in our being? kf

  4. Peter says:

    Carrying on with this topic, here’s a little indulging in fantasy on my part. Recently Bruce Sterling, one of the leading exponents of Cyberpunk science fiction, published a near-future romance based on the assumption that the decay of political systems will lead to a decentralized proliferation of experiments in living: giant worker-owned corporations, independent enclaves devoted to “data piracy,” Green-Social-Democrat enclaves, Zerowork enclaves, anarchist liberated zones, etc.

  5. spy for sanity says:

    but again, without sufficiently addressing the human status-fetish, how do we prevent the game from ctrl-alt-deleting, restarting, and playing out with similar results?? the aggressive enclaves tackling the others? or, will ecological necessity favor the more holistic/balanced approach, thus putting the aggressive tribes (operating on pure hubris) at a disadvantage? i suppose one could make this argument…(or write a story about the use of hubris as an alternative energy source…a car powered by your ego! ego ergo i go)

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