12,000 year old frieze from Gobekli Tepe stone circle excavation, Turkey, which archaeologists think might be the ‘garden of Eden’ and/or the birthsite of our civilization
Scrambling to catch up after neglecting to do links of the week last week; more from this week next week, as a result.
No One Is In Control: Stunning photography, beautiful music, ambitious objective, but the remarkable 25-minute documentary “What Would It Look Like?: Global Oneness” filled me with despair. The argument is for the need for cultural diversity and equality, while at the same time for unity and collaboration and staggering collective human effort to deal with accelerating crises. Obama and others are shown making rhetorical speeches, talking about hope and change and human capacity and meaning and the power of love, but all I could see and hear was our culture coming apart like (as David Ehrenfeld** described it) a giant flywheel, with gears and springs and pulleys flying off in all directions, and I kept hearing the words of Ronald Wright: “If we fail — if we blow up or degrade the biosphere so it can no longer sustain us — nature will merely shrug and conclude that letting apes run the laboratory was fun for a while but in the end a bad idea.” (thanks to Tree for the link, for the Gobekli Tepe link above, and for the link that follows)
Retrofitting Suburbia: A new book suggests that as oil runs out and demographics change, we can redesign the world’s suburbs to keep them functional. Interesting idea, but our history has been to abandon areas that are no longer useful, rather than fix them up. Just look at any of the brownfield areas in the inner cities (polluted, abandoned, toxic industrial sites). Or look at New Orleans.
All That We Can Do…: Well, Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry and Jim Hansen and a crowd of supporters managed to shut down a coal plant in Washington DC — for four hours. Berry has been protesting mountaintop coal removal in Kentucky since 1964. Is this progress?
...And What We Must Do: The 1000th and final edition of Rachel’s News (named after Rachel Carson) lists the 17 things we must do to deal, at last, with the limits to growth and the threats to our planet. It’s an imposing list. Thanks to Eric Lilius for the link (the end of the newsletter also summarizes an interesting new study of the relationship between environmental toxins and the epidemic increase in chronic diseases in affluent nations).
Taking the Job: Hendrik Hertzberg, one of the finest essayists on the planet, says that, at least, if anyone is up for the job, Obama is. To me, supporting Obama is not something one does because one believes he is on the right track, or that what he is trying to do will work; it’s about being hopeful, keeping an open mind, and giving him, and all of us, a chance.
Context is Everything: Great Op-Ed in the NYT explaining the dangers of listening to mass media sound bites out of context, and assuming you have absorbed what the speaker really had to say. We have to learn to take time, Stephen Carter says, to really listen. But who has time?
How to Make a Map of Every Thought You Think: A 5-year old article by Lion Kimbro. Absolutely fascinating. I have absolutely no idea if it works. He promises: “Your thoughts will be clearer to you than they have ever been before. You will see things you have never seen before. When someone shows you one corner, you’ll have the other 3 in mind. This is both good and bad. It means you will have the right information at the right time in the right place. It also means you may have trouble shutting up. Your mileage may vary.” This guy is very smart. Tell me what you think, please, especially if you’ve actually tried it.
Alberta Tar Sands in National Geographic: Scraping bottom, indeed. Every time I see or think about this I start to cry. If we can justify this, we can justify anything. Thanks to Graham Clark for the link.
The Prometheus Project: Could low-power community-based radio stations be the micromedia lubricant to re-creating meaningful, self-sustaining communities?
A Better Way to Measure ‘Progress’: We have to stop referring to and using GDP as a measure of anything other than wasteful consumption. Edward Kennedy has a plan.
Thomas Homer-Dixon on Complex Adaptive Systems: The author of The Upside of Down talks about the inevitable loss of resilience of growing complex systems, in the context of economic and civilizational collapse in an online podcast. As long as we try to sustain growth, he says, the harder and more severe the crash will be. Listen to minutes 7-22 and 27-36. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
(Not) Just for Fun:
Don Klein, while holding up a glass with some water in it to a ballroom full of community psychologists: “The optimist looks at the glass and says it is half full. The pessimist says it is half empty. The Appreciative Inquiry practitioner looks at it and says, ‘I wonder how it got half full? Because if we could figure that out, we could get it all the way full!'” (thanks to Tree for pointing me to the quote, and for the two links below)
The Shift Hits the Fan: Comic Steve Bhaerman writes a brilliantly clever synopsis of the world in 2009, full of wonderful plays on words.
The Job: Video portrays what it would look like if executives of the future had to fight for jobs the way farm migrants have to today.
Thoughts for the Week:
From Ian McEwan, quoted in an extraordinary Op-Ed by Roger Cohen about our willingness to ignore the truth around us when it suits our purpose, its consequences, and what that says about our responsibility as human beings: “Narrative tension is primarily about withholding information.”
From Second Life denizen Acu (thanks to Cheryl for the quote):
I began the SL/RL (Second Life/Real Life) Relationships Group discussions as I sought answers around SL relationships, and only recently have I discovered that it is my relationship with SL that is now of primary concern and importance for me.
The question has always been, “Who am I and what am I supposed to be doing?” I grew so tired of the rigor of RL and the constant anxiety around fulfilling some societal, predetermined life purpose, that ultimately I was forced to surrender to something outside of myself (out of my realm of control) to give me guidance and direction. It was then that I found SL. The connections I have made here have filled me with joy, fear, pain. Through exploration and experimentation, I have experienced many of the fantasies and ideals I had convinced myself would fulfill my RL if given the opportunity. I learned, however, that many of these fantasies were more facades which only continued to distort my view of who I am and my purpose for being. Regardless of who I pretended to be, the end result was always the same…a feeling of being unfulfilled.
Krishna (as cited in the song Sojourn of Arjuna, by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) says “A man must go forward from where he stands. He cannot jump to the absolute, he must evolve toward it. At any given moment in time, we are what we are, and we have to accept the consequences of being ourselves. And only through this acceptance can we begin to evolve further. We may select the battleground. We cannot avoid the battle.”
I believe that I chose my life journey, prior to being conceived. That somehow I was predestined to walk this path of self-discovery over the infinite possibilities. To discover my “self”… who it is I am destined to be. As I’ve traveled, however, I have been waiting for this discovery as though it would just show up one day and set me free. I would have arrived at my destination, achieved the goal! What I am beginning to understand is that life is not a destination or discovery….it is a choice, a decision, a process of creation. I am learning that I can create whatever life I want in each moment if I can let go of needing to control the outcome. Letting go of the disappointment of things not turning out exactly as I had planned, but accepting and appreciating that I may be (co-)creating something new, which I would have never planned for or expected on my own.
From David Ehrenfeld (describing, in 1993**, the impending collapse of our civilization):
It is like a massive flywheel, spinning too fast for its size and construction, coming apart in chunks as it spins,
There goes a chunk — the sick and aged along with the huge apparatus of doctors, social workers, hospitals, nursing homes, drug companies, and manufacturers of sophisticated medical equipment, which service their clients at enormous cost but don’t help them very much.
There go the college students along with the VPs, provosts, deans and professors who have nor prepared them for life in a changing world after formal schooling is over. There go the high school and elementary school students, along with the parents, administrators and frustrated teachers who have turned the majority of schools into costly, stagnant and violent babysitting services.
There go the lawyers and their hapless clients in a dust cloud of the ten billion codes, rules and regulations that were produced to organize and control an increasingly intricate, unorganizable and uncontrollable society.
There go the economists with their worthless pretentious predictions and systems, along with the unemployed, the impoverished and the displaced who reaped the consequences of theories and schemes with faulty premises and indecent objectives. There go the engineers, designers and technologists, along with the people stuck with the deadly buildings, roads, power plants, dams and machinery that are the experts’ monuments.
There go the advertising hucksters with their consumer goods, and there go the consumers, consumed with their consumption. And there go the media pundits and pollsters, along with all those unfortunates who wasted precious time listening to them explain why the flywheel could never come apart, or tell how to patch it even while increasing its crazy rate of spin.
The most terrifying thing about this disintegration for a society that believes in prediction and control will be the randomness of its violent consequences. The chaotic violence will include not only desperate ruthless struggles over the wealth that remains, but the last great violation of nature. What will make it worse is that, at least at the beginning, it will take place under a cloud of denial and cynical reassurances.