Links of the Week/Month — December 19, 2009

I’ve been travelling, so my weekly update links have piled up for three weeks. There is some important reading here, and as usual the must reads are in the first section.

This is a first notice that, as of December 31, this blog will be moving to a WordPress blog at since Radio Userland, which has hosted this blog since its inception nearly seven years ago, is ceasing its collaborative operations with Salon. If you change your bookmarks to the new link now, it will take you back here until the official switchover. Thanks.

what religion to follow
this hilarious bit of ‘systems thinking’ is from; thanks to fer_ananda (Fernanda Ibarra) and Amy Lenzo for the link


Are We Civilized Humans a Broken People?: Bruce Levine psychoanalyzes the despair and demoralization of Americans in the face of the horrific challenges facing us, but his analysis applies to everyone in our globalized civilization. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

Walking Away from Our Colonial Culture: Derrick Jensen explains that the first step in understanding and preparing ourselves to end the damage of civilization culture is to deprogram ourselves from the colonial cultural indoctrination that makes us afraid to bring it down, and reconnecting with all-life-on-Earth, starting with just doing something effective that we are particularly good at doing.

Nopenhagen: Sharon Astyk explains why the process currently underway in Copenhagen is hopeless:

Copenhagen is a trip to hell for those who truly and most sincerely grasp the scope of the problem. In Hell, whether your kids and grandkids have enough to eat, whether we have resource wars over the remaining water are treated as distant tertiary (if that) issues, over how much money we can get for not burning the last bits of rainforest. In Hell, politicians who view this as a purely political issue – they will be long out office before their constituents suffer much – puff themselves and their nation, making small commitments they probably won’t keep, with no real grasp of what is needed, while the people who are already paying the price get hosed again. And good people, who actually really do give a shit and are watching their life’s work be ignored in every meaningful respect get to describe future suffering, and watch people shrug and move on.

The Theory of Anyway: An old post, also from Sharon Astyk, which she calls her favourite, and which explains that the best argument for activism is that many of the things that caring, thoughtful people are doing to make the world a better place are things we should be doing anyway, for other, personal reasons such as looking after our own health:

My friend Pat Meadows, a very, very smart woman, has a wonderful idea she calls “The Theory of Anyway.” What it entails is this – she argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crisis in energy depletion, or climate change, or whatever is what we should do anyway, and when in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing “Anyway.” Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do on many levels. That they also have the potential to save our lives is merely a side benefit.

Learning to Live in Now Time: Many biologists hypothesize that wild creatures, and perhaps some prehistoric human cultures, live/lived “outside of time” as we know it, the linear progression from past to future — without the sense of time as a constraining dimension at all. In times of stress these creatures do suddenly snap into our linear “clock” time, but in times of leisure they lose that sense of time, and their joyful moments are essentially eternal. We apparently lost this capacity — in part because our modern civilization’s stress is ever-present, and in part because our brains form in response to what we are taught in infancy, and what we are taught is that clock time is “real”. We can no longer think otherwise. This, I think, is what Presence is all about, and why it is so elusive to us. Two recent articles touch on this:

The 7 Principles of Improv: Michelle James suggests the 7 basic principles of Improv are also the 7 essential principles for effective collaboration in any complex environment or situation:

  1. “Yes and…” (accept and add forward)
  2. Make everyone else look good
  3. Be changed by what is said and what happens (adapt and evolve)
  4. Co-create a shared agenda (not consensus, co-creation is real time and ever-changing)
  5. Mistakes are invitations (justify and grow from it)
  6. Keep the energy going (move, make something up, don’t stop to analyze)
  7. Serve the good of the whole (how can you best serve this situation, with what you do best?)

The Faith and the Love and the Hope Are All in the Waiting: Melissa Holbrook Pierson talks about how we hope, beyond faith, and keep asking the important questions until we get the answer we already knew:

If I don’t like the answer the Magic Eight Ball gives, I turn it over and try again. Eventually, “It is certain” shows up in the inky window, and I know “Will I be able to write something good?” or “Am I to find love?” will have the outcome I desire. Surely one can trust the Eight Ball to know these things. I can sleep. If I don’t like the way these cards tell my future, I’ll do it two more times. Isn’t this a best-of-three game?

I can reason my way around anything, even the opening “Caution about the present” card. Of course I am being cautious. Aren’t I? Well, yes, in my usual incautious manner of approaching anything. It is the last card that tells the truth, however. I do not need to shuffle the deck again, hurrah. “A good augury.” I will take it. I can live on auguries in the absence of proofs. It is all I need, along with all I already have.

Thinking Differently: Chris Corrigan is facilitating a First Nations strategizing event and is using three principles of the culture of the members to ‘frame’ the event: balance, respect and kindness. Can you even imagine our culture using these principles to underpin a ‘problem-solving’ event?


What Matters Now? Generosity: Seth Godin’s new free e-book with some of the best (unradical) ideas of the year. Thanks to Colleen Wainwright for the link.

The Story of Cap & Trade: From the makers of The Story of Stuff, an explanation of why cap-and-trade systems can’t work. Thanks to Raffi Aftandelian for the link.

Democratizing and Conversationalizing TED: The TED talks are wonderful but terribly elitist, expensive to attend in person, and very much 1-to-n bums-on-chairs affairs. TEDx promises to change that. Thanks to Bee Dieu for the link.

Vegan Comfort Food: Prad points us to a list of thousands of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and markets, while Dave Smith gives us a recipe for vegan smoothies.

Combatting Death by PowerPoint: Chris Lott asks why, despite the immense dissatisfaction and time-waste of traditional conference ‘presentations’, they are still the standard we can’t seem to break free from. “I’d often prefer a speaker simply pull up a chair and have a conversation with the group.”

The Theory of Anyway, Continued: Ten reasons doing the right thing is also doing what’s good for you. Thanks to my Second Life friend Rayah for the link.


Unemployment’s Emotional Toll: Heartbreaking data from interviews with America’s soaring ranks of unemployed.

real unemployment

If You Think the Economy is Improving, or is Collapsing Slower Than Expected, You’re Not Looking at the Data: Ilargi describes our inability to distinguish short-term trends from long term trends and how this may lead us to make foolish decisions or come to foolish conclusions. We have seen this most obviously in the climate change debate — the minute there is a short term negative anomaly in temperature, an outcry occurs that climate change is solved, or is a myth. We’re also seeing it in the trends in the value of the US dollar, which in the long-term will be seen to be worthless, but in the short-term is rallying for some very substantive reasons. His partner Stoneleigh elaborates on this with some sound investment advice for those looking to buy gold as a hedge for the longer-term US dollar collapse:

Personally, I think it far more important for those who have surplus resources to put those resources into obtaining as much control as possible over the essentials of their own existence. There are many hard assets one could buy now that may not be available later – assets that you could use to feed yourself, keep yourself warm or provided clean water. This is a much more important use for your wealth than owning something you intend to bury in a hole in the ground and sit on.

Tar Sands Worse Than Feared: New research shows the amount of pollution and devastation created by the horrific Alberta Tar Sands is much worse than even environmental groups had estimated. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.


Yes Men and Accomplices Make Canadian Government Look Like Idiots: That’s not hard, since our right-wing minority PM is a climate change denier, but the Yes Men outdid themselves with a triple-barrelled spoof of Canada’s absurd climate change inaction: They faked a “change of heart” Canadian Government press announcement, then they faked the Canadian Government’s response to their own fake announcement, and then they faked a third-world country’s heartbroken response to learning the initial announcement was a fake. Absolutely brilliant.

The Amazing Intelligence of Crows: Like humans, crows and other corvids developed larger brains (and hence tools) because, if they hadn’t they would not have survived. Look at some of the things they do. Thanks to CreatvEmergence (Michelle James) for the link.


Chimonophile/Chimonophobe: Dave Bonta rhapsodizes about the joys of winter, which I am seeking soon to escape forever:

Light unmitigated by leaves can change in an instant. This is what makes deserts both so alluring and so unforgiving — that lack of moderation. Sharp contrasts appeal to the eye as well as to the moral imagination

The condition of the snow can change by the hour: what held you up at dawn might crumble under your boots at ten. The only constant is the need to walk and walk and walk, for warmth more than exercise and for revelation more than warmth.

In a radically simplified landscape there are fewer places to hide, and things that had been hidden are selectively revealed, in strong light and with maximum contrast: that’s what I mean by revelation. Nothing mystical about it. And the extreme conditions should serve to remind us that revelations are not necessarily pleasant; a preference for pleasant news and comforting beliefs can be a real obstacle to an accurate perception of reality.

The desertedness of deserts is of course another big part of their appeal. You can be alone with your demons. The wintertime desert is barren, devoid of fertility — but as anyone who has chosen to remain child-free will tell you, this can be a gift, too. All sorts of things need open space to flourish. Biologically speaking, the extreme environments known as barrens in the eastern U.S., like the western deserts, often accommodate species found nowhere else.

So what seems barren to most might be for some the most fruitful country imaginable, the moment-by-moment mutability as welcome as the phases of an unpredictable moon.

What the Songs Say: From Melissa Holbrook Pierson, after visiting a dear friend in hospital:

He sits and looks at his feet, for a long time. We revisit other memories. Then the male nurse comes in with two hypodermics. This is something he remembers how to do; like riding, it is in his muscle memory, not the shriveled synapses of some tiny portion of his brain that has taken away everything he is–his past.

So, while he’s in the bathroom, I ask, with my eyes, cocking my head to one side, and the nurse knows what I want to know. “Oh, it’s always this way. He’ll get it back, don’t worry.”

So that he has something to do–he is a person whose worst fear is not moving, not having somewhere to go–I ask him to walk me to the elevators. Slowly, in his sock feet. The door opens; a quick hug, and I back in. The door closes.

On the dark highway I move forward into space. Random songs on the radio speak only to me, as they have been doing for a couple of years now. I wonder how it is they can be so specific, then I realize: they are only ever about two things, love, and loss. Both of which are behind me, down the hospital corridor, and ahead of me, in a place called home.

Probably, Then: From Christian Anton Gerard, in Orion:

If I lived in a forest and you lived somewhere else, maybe in the forest, maybe not, no difference, just somewhere else, with a different language, and you found me in my forest and we had to talk, had to find out if the other was dangerous, I would point at a waterfall and say, maybe, waterfall and you would say, la fin du monde. We’d stand there looking at each other as if we were talking about the thing or maybe what we wanted from the other. We’d probably point to a few more things. It would feel important. Like the end of the world or maybe like the world itself. Probably, then, we’d realize the world is big. Much bigger than either of us had anticipated, and one of us, without doubt, would walk away.
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7 Responses to Links of the Week/Month — December 19, 2009

  1. Janene says:

    Hey Dave –I have yet to read any of your links, so that commentary (if any) will have to wait. But I did want to thank you for linking to me… while at the same time noting that if you took from that article that i was *separating* time and space, you missed me *completely*! The article was about the connection between *place* and history. Space-Time as one thing…..Janene

  2. vera says:

    Still working the links too. But want to say, apropos a previous discussion… if folks against meat initiated a “no store-bought meat” campaign, I would join. I have enough local connections to be able to support farmers and ranchers directly now. It’s totally doable with a little effort. Would there be enough of us to make a real difference?

  3. Great post, Dave. Honored you would link to my article. Thanks.

  4. Thanks Dave, for reflecting our work this week this way. On the west coast, the hereditary chiefs will not anything that does not encompass the overall principle of heshook-ish-tsawalk “everything is one.” THis form of interdependence is accessed with these three values of balance, respect and kindness. It is amazing that this is how Nuu-Chah-Nulth communities plan, and it says a lot about why there is sometimes a conflict around moving to the future, when mainstream governments and corporations operate completly differently.

  5. Brutus says:

    I need little further convincing via linked articles that all the systems humans have created are now spinning out of control and shaping into a holocaust. So I typically choose only a few stories to read. But I nonetheless appreciate seeing the links and your summaries. I also appreciate that when you choose to put yourself in the center of the story, you have steps you’ve taken and steps you’re preparing to take that are, as you have said numerous times, a bit ahead of the times. Maybe I’ll eventualy reach a similar point of readiness. In the meantime, I watch and learn but don’t yet act.

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