Links and Tweets for the Month: October 15, 2010

organic permaculture Marc Roberts

cartoon by Marc Roberts — thanks to Dwight Towers for pointing me to his great cartoons; there’s another later in this post


The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged (or Tweeted): Sharon Astyk on our overuse of computers and the folly of technophile thinking:

[Citing Jared Diamond] “All of our current problems are unintended negative consequences of our existing technology. The rapid advances in technology during the 20th century have been creating difficult new problems faster than they have been solving old problems: that’s why we’re in the situation in which we now find ourselves. What makes you think that [now], for the first time in human history, technology will miraculously stop causing new unanticipated problems while it just solves the problems it previously produced?

The computer… is not lasting, is complex, often needs to be thrown away and cannot be fixed – or is more costly to fix than replace… Overwhelmingly, it isn’t making us smarter, or know more, saving us energy or changing the world. It is just another technology, doing some good and some bad…

I hear more and more from people who say they can’t get along with the people they actually live near, who are on an endless quest for people just like them, to spend their future with the mythical community of perfectly like-minded people. I hear more and more that someone can’t have a relationship with their neighbors and the people near them, and need to move somewhere else… Perhaps that’s an unintended consequence of the internet, no? Now that we’ve experienced the joy of little clubs filled entirely with people focused on X or Y shared thing, we’re less able to get along with the people whose common connection to us is a place, or a history or a more formal relationship?

Unless we are willing to ask “is this really good for us, now and forever?” we are likely to be trapped in the assumption that the next thing will magically set us free. And it won’t. The next thing will further invest us, and move us a little closer not to a solution, but to a collapse.

[Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker concurs, but for a different reason: Despite the strength of social networks’ weak ties (giving us access to essential information and critical connections), the social network form of “activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.” And that’s not really activism at all.]

The Spectre of Deflation: Economist Mike Maloney tells a bankers’ conference he is predicting chronic deflation, to the point banks collapse, tax revenues drop, governments cease functioning, defaults soar, currencies collapse, stock markets tumble, even commodities collapse in value, as money supply seizes up and capacity to spend plummets toward zero. It’s all due to unrepayable debt levels — in the US $60T when you add it all up, and $180T if you add in the deficiencies in current value of pensions, medical and social security liabilities, that also need to be funded (and cannot possibly be). I’m not sure that he’s right about $10/bbl oil in the near-term, or about gold’s value soaring by additional factors of 10, but Ilargi has persuaded me his logic is mostly sound. What he’s missing is that, when people run out of money to spend, they won’t be able to buy gold either, so its price will also fall. [As Dmitri Orlov says, “the ultimate commodity in which to invest is not gold or shotgun shells but people you can trust”.] It’s compelling viewing nevertheless, even though he stomps off the stage at the end when he’s told he’s run out of time. The video has 2 parts; the link above is to the first half.


Living Intentionally in Ethiopia: Awra Amba, a small intentional community in Ethiopia, where religious observance is prohibited and everyone’s work is equally valued, is a model for both struggling and affluent nations. As in many communities worldwide, because the soil is now so poor, it’s not self-sufficient, but they have found ways to live comfortably through local trade. Thanks to Tree for the link, and the one that follows.

Worker Co-operatives: The Natural Form of Business: Once the domain of artists, credit unions and tradespeople, the co-operative movement is shifting to the service industries. [And speaking of co-ops, Dwight Towers writes about co-op movement founder Robert Owen and his Equitable Labour Exchanges, that used a local currency denominated in hours — where everyone’s time was valued equally.]

Practicing Presence: Richard Moss struggles to explain in an hour what he says can take thousands of hours of practice: To know that we are not our thoughts and feelings, get beyond our brain’s controlling ego, let go of stories and just be in the present. This video gets better at the end. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

The Benefits of Natural Burial: Natural burial is greener than cremation. Thanks to Beth Patterson for the link.


financial share of profits

“This is Very, Very Bad”: Paul Krugman in the NYT sums up the foreclosure mess as the simple continuation of a massive and ongoing government-backed fraud perpetrated by US and global financial institutions against homeowners and taxpayers. Why is it allowed to continue? Because as the chart above shows (from, financial services make up 1/3 of US profits (and GDP). Only the war industry is comparable in size. Without banks and wars, there simply is no US GDP. Without these two industries, and rising housing values and consumer spending, there is no US economy.

We Can’t Even Be Bribed to Eat Well: New research suggests we are now so addicted to food that is processed, chemical-laden and saturated with fat, salt and sugar, and so frightened to actually prepare foods ourselves, that even when good food is easy and inexpensive we choose junk food instead.

Pipeline Safety Hazards Highlighted: We know (thanks to BP) about sloppy construction and lax safety in oil and gas exploration, and last month I highlighted the dangers and hazards in Alberta Tar Sands oil pipeline construction and operations. The NYT reveals that construction and operation of gas pipelines is equally lax. Profit before people and our environment.

Obama’s Bloated Run-Amok Security Machine Gets Worse: Glenn Greenwald explains that, out-Bushing Bush, Obama is now justifying secrecy about his assassination program against alleged enemies of the US (even US citizens) on national security grounds. He’s essentially saying that if the US government decides it wants to kill you, you don’t even have the right to know of that decision, or that it was involved, or why it made that decision, or to appeal that decision or charge them for their action. Madness.

Big Pharma Gets Medicinal Herbs Banned in EU: Intensive lobbying has paid of for Big Pharma and Agribusiness which successfully pushed the European Parliament to make its only competitor, small medicinal herb producers, meet staggeringly expensive registration and testing rules that effectively put them out of business. Thanks to Tree for the link, and the one that follows.

Monsanto Kills: Their “safe” Round-Up herbicide is now connected to birth defects.

Nature Conservancy: Just Another Front for Mega-Polluters: Take a look at the Nature Conservancy’s “Leadership Council” — talk about a rogues’ gallery of the world’s worst corporate citizens. Thanks to Keith Farnish for the link.

Google Amps Up the Echo Chamber: The president of MoveOn warns that, now that Google automatically customizes our search results based on past search history and other information in our profiles (at one point you could choose to opt out of customized search and see what ‘everyone else’ would see as search results), there is an even greater risk that we will only be presented with information and viewpoints that conform to what we already believe.

(whew, that was a depressing round-up; bet you’re ready for some…)


This Is a News Website Article About a Scientific Paper: A brilliant parody of modern-day science reporting. Falling-down funny, and a bit scary. Thanks to Karen Hay-Draude for the link. [In the same vein: Robert Neuwirth’s Circle of Caveats — thanks to Brian Hayes for this link.]

Imagining What’s Possible: A lovely post-peak-oil animation by Anita Sancha. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link, and the one that follows.

If Jealousy is Biological, Why Do Gays Get Jealous?: Author Christopher Ryan dissects a study showing that jealousy is independent of sexual orientation, and concludes that jealousy is a conditioned, learned behaviour. It stems, he argues, from endemic abandonment issues in modern societies where babies are deprived of natural, constant touch and attention from parents, and reinforced by a society that promotes heterogeneity, jealousy and monogamy as a means of psychological control. He supports his argument by referring to the pro-hetero, pro-monogamy, pro-partner-as-possession messages in popular media (exemplified by the nauseating song When a Man Loves a Woman).

The Suck Fairy: Ever noticed how, just sitting on your bookshelves, the books and films you thought were wonderful when you were young, are, on rereading or reviewing, pretentious, unbearable, awful? Jo Walton blames the “suck fairy”. Hilarious. Thanks to Bowen’s Corbin Keep for the link.

The Aching Voice of Patty Griffin: Two songs to reconnect you with your heart. The videos of both songs demonstrate the astonishing creative potential of YouTube-type sites; mashed up by Patty’s fans, they mesh perfectly with the music and lyrics and are works of art in their own right:

(1) The Kite Song:

(2) Making Pies:

pedal power marc roberts

cartoon by Marc Roberts

Pedal Power!: A high-speed pedal-powered monorail. And a 60mph pedal-powered car. And if you drive on short trips (<5 km or <3 miles) the Swedes will embarrass you into bicycling instead, and reward you if you switch. Thanks to Tree for the links.

John Cleese on Creativity: Geoff Brown provides the notes. “Sleep on it…  Avoid interruptions… Create boundaries of time and space for creative work… And understand that to know how good you are at something requires the same skills as to be good at that thing.”

The Hedgehog Song: A song from the 60’s, for all times. “You say all the words and you sing all the notes, but you’ve never quite learned the song.”

Keziah: A Profile of Courage: What if you couldn’t just sit by and watch the horrors of daily life that children face in Haiti’s storm- and poverty-wracked cities and towns?

Wanna Be My Neighbour?: You can pick up this cozy little number (ten minute bike ride from my place) for just $7M. No housing bubble here, uh uh.


From Dave Bonta:

The Machinery of Time

The time machine was our only answer to the apocalypse we’d set in motion. Some chose to travel 10 million years into the future, by which time, they figured, new multicellular organisms would’ve evolved. Others of us decided to go back & try to change history. Someone thought she could help Carthage win the Punic Wars. Someone else wanted to insert a fable about hubris into the Homeric epic. But the backwards travel unraveled us, thinned us out & made us ineligible for death. We appeared only in mirrors, or to people with second sight, provoking fresh terror at a haunted world. When after millennia of helplessness we reached our own birthdays, we crumbled like the pages of a burnt book.

From Chris Corrigan (Thanks to Tenneson Woolf for the tweet): “Emergence is when everybody takes something away that nobody came with.”

From Antje Duvekot:


Judas Iscariot is kicking up seashells and he is cursing
He’s being tortured by the roaring in his mind that won’t surrender the scene
And even here alone in the dark, a thousand eyes are burning holes into his heart

Jesus, he was the schoolyard martyr, was every mother’s perfect son
Not like Judas In the back of the schoolbus invisible to everyone

Well, there was lots of love in between Joseph and Mary
Joseph was the head coach at the high school and they were living down on Judas’ street
They’d be pitching Sundays in the grass and usually Judas’ father would be drunk off his ass

Last night Judas’ father threw his son against the wall
And that’s how you learn to become invisible
And it may well have been any day like the rest but the tape shows him moving
And he’s standing in the hall, he’s never felt this alone before
He’s walking through the door and it’s springtime

Judas Iscariot is kicking up seashells and he is cursing
And if he stands here long enough maybe he will turn to stone and wash away
He won’t find the bullets on that fated morning and he will wake up from this dream

Jesus, he was the schoolyard martyr, was every mother’s perfect son
Not like Judas In the back of the schoolbus invisible to everyone

Also from Antje Duvekot:

Long Way

We bid our friends goodbye, we promised we would write them
And headed north up 95 Into the great unknown
We turned up our stereo and felt so reckless and alive we didn’t know who we would be
We didn’t know where we would end up when we headed down that road
A little food and our guitars in the backseat and that old cello
The one that would get stolen in a town in Idaho

And it’s a long way to Michigan and back, and it’s a long way
Cause it’s a long way, the clouds upon our backs, and it’s a long, long, long, long way

And I have never seen reflections of the cleanest of blue as the Minnesota lakes
Those were the longest nights of wood smoke and Northern Lights
As we talked until the morning came the light of glowing embers
As sweet as I remember among the rustling of the trees
The legend of the harvest moon and sweet ballad of the loon
I felt as ancient as I was meant to be

And it’s a long way to Washington and back and it’s a long way
Cause it’s a long way, the clouds upon our backs and it’s a long, long, long, long way

I called you from a payphone In windy, cold Missoula and then from Midland in the rain
A place as proud and sad as the South Dakota badlands
It touched me more than I could explain
The dirt poor reservation where the Avala nation tries to hang on to its ways
Feather and Peyote pipe and a six pack of Miller Light
Sits on the dashboard of a beat up Chevrolet

And it’s a long way to Tennessee and back, and it’s a long way
Cause it’s a long way on the worn out heels of Kerouac and it’s a long, long, long, long way

Out in California we touched the other ocean
And I still have that jar of sand In the Arizona desert
The sky goes on forever, you’ve never seen a thing as grand
And North Montana was cold, she keeps her secrets frozen
Under glaciers way up north
And people have got lost up there in the home of the grizzly bear
And you can ask the mountain but the mountain doesn’t care

And it’s a long way to Delaware and back, and it’s a long way
Cause it’s a long way, the clouds up on our backs and it’s a long, long, long, long way
It’s a long way on the worn out heels of Kerouac and it’s a long, long, long, long way

From Robert Bly (from the collection Eating the Honey of Words):

The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog

I never intended to have this life, believe me –
It just happened. You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they wag but can’t explain.

It’s good if you can accept your life – you’ll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it. Your face thought your life would look

Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed.

Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers,
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you,

But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow.
Your life is a dog. He’s been hungry for miles.
Doesn’t particularly like you, but gives up, and comes in.

What if you could fly like a bird?:

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3 Responses to Links and Tweets for the Month: October 15, 2010

  1. Pingback: Links and Tweets for the Month: October 15, 2010 - Dave Pollard at Chelsea Green

  2. Curtis Ogden says:

    Thanks for this and for your other writings. I have been enjoying working my way through Finding the Sweet Spot, which refreshing hits the mark in looking for the intersection of personal purpose and market demands grounded in the critical consideration of sustainability. I will be in Toronto the week of October 25th, offering a training at the Ontario Trillium Foundation in partnership with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. Wondering if perhaps there may be an opportunity to connect. More about our work at the Interaction Institute for Social Change here ( and here (

  3. Pingback: One Stop Thought Shop

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