Links and Tweets of the Week: September 20, 2009

BLOG Links and Tweets of the Week: September 19, 2009

colourblind cawthra bush
photo by colourblind (Payam Rajabi), taken not far from where I live


Moving Beyond Hope: From Sharon Astyk, fine words of inspiration for those of us who are past debating:

We are closer now to Neilah, the closing of the gates, in which our fate is inscribed, and we shift to acceptance of our fate.  Much closer – perhaps they are already closed, we do not know and can not know, and must live our lives as though they are open.   Most of us don’t grasp how very close we are to disaster – we go on through our everyday life, and things don’t seem so very bad, and so many people have predicted disaster before, and there’s every reason to believe we’ve got all the time in the world.  Except, of course, the fact that nearly every expression of our science tells us otherwise, that it is time and past time.

It is possible to believe that it is both too late to do anything and possible to do a great deal – in fact, I think this contradiction is the only way to go forward. I spend a lot of my time and energy finding ways to deal with this contradiction, asking how I simultaneously say to people “what you have had is lost, and there is no hope to get it back, you are living in a dead culture and simply haven’t seen it fall over yet” and also “you are needed to act, there is reason to hope and things to look forward to, and much, much work to do” – how does one do it, and say it so that others can hear?

The Long Descent Begins: From John Michael Greer, on what comes next:

The bright new tomorrow we’ve all been promised is not going to arrive. This is the bad news brought to us by the unfolding collision between industrial society and the unyielding limits of the planetary biosphere. Peak oil, global warming, and all the other crises gathering around the world are all manifestations of a single root cause: the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet. They are warning signals telling us that we have gone into full-blown overshoot – the state, familiar to ecologists, in which a species outruns the resource base that supports it – and they tell us also that growth is not merely going to stop; it’s going to reverse, and that reversal will continue until our population, resource use, and waste production drop to levels that can be sustained over the long term by a damaged planetary ecosystem.

That bitter outcome might have been prevented if we had collectively taken decisive action before we went into overshoot. We did not do so, and at this point the window of opportunity is firmly shut. Nearly all the proposals currently being floated to deal with the symptoms of our planetary overshoot assume, tacitly or otherwise, that this is not the case and we still have as much time as we need. Such proposals are wasted breath, and if any of them are enacted – and some of them very likely will be enacted, once today’s complacency gives way to tomorrow’s stark panic – the resources poured into them will be wasted as well.

And Each Place is a State of Mind: The author of Spell of the Sensuous says we need to become aware that “we are bodily immersed in an awareness that is not ours, but is rather the Earth’s“. David Abram’s descriptions of natural places and phenomena are poetic, transporting.

Farmageddon and #2 Corn: Guy McPherson rants about what industrial agriculture has done to us. Thanks to Dismantle Civilization for the link.

Once Again The Animals Were Conscious of A Vague Uneasiness: Another rant, about our unwillingness to acknowledge that Obama is only marginally less awful than Cheney-Bush. (If you’re wondering, the title of the op-ed is from the book Animal Farm.)

What Is Your Life Dedicated To?: Chris Corrigan points us to a great Gil Fronsdal talk on unselfish intention (also available as a podcast).

Leadership in a Self-Organizing World: Harrison Owen of Open Space fame says that leadership in complex systems isn’t about telling people what to do, or showing them what to do, or facilitating their self-organization; it’s about inspiring with ideas, passion, personal intention and commitment, hard work, creating space and opportunity, and inviting in ways that cannot be refused. Thanks to Tree for the link.

“There is No Reason for a Confinement House Anywhere”: The Bay Area Video Coalition is using videos to show what’s possible, starting with the local, organic food system, networked with Harvest Cloud, a collaborative of farmers who offer healthy local food, and Leave it Better, photo stories of individuals using the system. Thanks to Cheryl for the link.


Better Measures of Economic Health and Well-Being than GDP: The long-awaited Stiglitz-Sen report on measurement of economic performance and social progress is out. Good recommendations, likely to be ignored by everyone except the Sarkozy government that commissioned the report. The rest, afraid of citizens knowing the real truth about the economy, will continue to report GDP, stock market indexes, and fictitious inflation and unemployment data, as measures of economic health, through the compliant mainstream media to a gullible public. Thanks to Andrew Tilling for the link. Summary:

  1. There is significant evidence that large segments of the population do not believe that reported government economic measures (e.g. inflation, unemployment) represent reality, because they don’t correlate to perceived and observed changes in actual personal experience and because there is significant motivation for governments producing the data to overstate it (conflict of interest). This has led to great public skepticism of GDP data.
  2. Government decision-making often overuses and misuses GDP data. This was a significant factor in aggravating and failing to cope with the recent, ongoing economic crisis, and is hampering efforts to combat climate change.
  3. GDP measures must be significantly reformed to remove distortions (e.g. economic events currently reflected in GDP that do nothing to create wealth, or actually negatively affect wealth), and should be shifted from a production to consumption focus.
  4. GDP measures should include measures of the equal/unequal distribution of wealth among the population (Gini index factors), not just a single ‘average’ number.
  5. Reformed GDP should be presented alongside two additional measures: National Well-Being, and Wealth/Well-Being Sustainability. (Some specific proposals for these new measures are included in the report, though it calls for more research.) All these measures should be included in a standardized national “Annual Report”, analogous to a corporation’s annual report.


Tar Sands Told to Step Up Propaganda: Right-wing corporatist apologist Diane Francis tells Big Oil they need an all-out greenwashing spin war to prevent Canadians (and their foreign customers) discovering the truth about the Alberta Tar Sands holocaust. She cites the success of the American Petroleum Institute’s use of phony “citizen” websites broadcasting deceptive, PR-crafted pro-drilling messages on Facebook and Twitter, and urges Big Oil to do the same to greenwash the Alberta Tar Sands. You know, just like the Big Oil and HMO-funded Republicans have done in the US. Of course, that’s not how she puts it. Thanks to Malik Datardina for the links. This is a knee-jerk reaction of the right to Greenpeace’s success at briefly shutting down the Tar Sands, and accurately labeling Canada a “global carbon bully“.

Carter Tells Progressives to Not Stand for Bigotry: The former US president says right-wing extremists are exploiting the left’s reverence for freedom of speech and the press as cover for racism, hate-mongering and other behaviour that no constitution was meant to protect, and we should not put up with it.

Don’t Risk the Swine Flu Vaccine: The squalene-based swine flu vaccine you’ll be asked to get injected with this year, not only causes auto-immune diseases but also nerve diseases according to neurologists.

Half Million Clean Water Violations in US Ignored: The NYT, using public records of violations that state enforcement agencies and the EPA have ignored, have created a national database of the violations.


viv mcwaters rock balancing
rock balancing success in Oz by Viv McWaters

Thousands of swifts return in a graceful swarm to their night-time roost in an industrial chimney in Eugene OR. The birds originally nested in hollow trees, but as development occurred they adapted to chimneys, and now, with the advent of chimney caps, they resort to large group accommodations in abandoned industrial chimneys. Thanks to Tree for the link, and the one that follows.

300-year-old permaculture garden discovered in Vietnam. “This is a view of the past, and a view of the future.”


Remembering David Foster Wallace: A new retrospective on the troubled novelist insists his greatest and most memorable accomplishment will be the non-fiction he wrote, reluctantly, in his spare time, like his brilliant commencement address and the astonishining animal cruelty article he managed to get published in Gourmet magazine. Thanks to Karen Hay-Draude for the links.

From Herbert Read in To Hell With Culture (1963): “We may note that when the profit system has to place function before profit, as in the production of an aeroplane or a racing-car, it also inevitably produces a work of art. But the question to ask is; why are not all the things produced under capitalism as beautiful as its aeroplanes and racing-cars?” 

Patti Digh has produced a small pdf book called Four Word Self-Help that contains a few dozen “four-words” of wisdom on various subjects. It’s brilliant, but Patti somehow felt compelled to provide context for each four-word gem by saying what it was “about”. In my opinion, just as stories are much stronger without the moral being stated explicitly, these four-words are much more powerful without the “about”. So here are my favourites, sans context. (I’m working on four-words for each of the nine steps in my What You Can Do process.) Additions from readers of this blog are welcome:
  • Show up, be real.
  • Take people with you.
  • Look inside for answers.
  • Ask why, not how.
  • Don’t pretend it works.
  • Surprise them with presence.

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1 Response to Links and Tweets of the Week: September 20, 2009

  1. Bob Watson says:

    re Four Words–Eric Maisel’s brief but powerful book Ten Zen Seconds uses a similar idea, a short affirmative sentence combined with a ten second deep breath. The combination centers, calms, focusses. Like you seem to wish to do for your What You Can Do process, I use one of these to mark stages of my Kata and to begin new tasks and projects each day.His website: tenzenseconds.comgives a dozen example sentences. Here are two. Each begins with an inbreath, and the slash marks the outbreath.I am free / of the past.I return / with strength.Bob Watson

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