Seeking to Empower Humanity with the Perspective to Manifest Evolutionary Change Everywhere

In the last few decades, it has become increasingly clear that humanity is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. The problems that stand in the way are not of economical or technological nature. The deepest sources of the global crisis lie inside the human personality and reflect the level of consciousness evolution of our species.

- Dr. Stanislav Grof

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

Where are you taking us Mr. Assange?

To a level of freedom any so-called “freedom loving” people seem to despise, that’s where.

At this point in our social development in the West, there seems to be a collective sense of amnesia about what freedom entails. Being Free means accepting risk, sometimes humiliating, sometimes deadly, resulting from openness and the minimization of sociocentric control and the decentralization of power amongst individual social actors.

And this is most particularly true of knowledge in an era dominated by Information/Technology. The cliché that knowledge equals power means that information restriction (by hiding it behind walls of “confidential” and “secret” labels) creates increasing power inequalities. The last decade has seen an explosion of barriers and restrictive labels placed on information under the guise of national security – is it any surprise that we have also seen our rights concurrently diminished? If you don’t agree, just try to fly on a plane in the US whilst retaining your dignity, let alone any slivers of your right to deny unlawful search and seizure (that would be the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, ladies and gentlemen).

The horror ingrained in both the popular and official reaction to Mr. Assange’s crusade for democratic discourse tells us all we need to know about the depth to which our expectations of liberty have been compromised. Accountability and Transparency are not merely words, they are fundamental perspectives necessary for the guarantee of personal liberty and the functionality of democracy. They do not come with groveling subservience to the status quo, they are fought for constantly in the face of forces that continually seek to deny them as a stepping stone to their own antidemocratic aggrandizement. This is a battle that often turns violent – just ask Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr. - Lech Walesa or Thomas Jefferson.

So before you parrot the party line that Mr. Assange is a threat to the national security of the Free World, consider for a moment who is squawking it out – and what they have to lose by what’s being revealed. For if you can’t even do that, you may as well fit yourself for a slave collar now for as much use you are to your fellow liberty-loving residents of what little remains of the Free World.

For your viewing pleasure on the matter of Fundamental Perspective and Democracy: I leave you with this Holiday Treat.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Can't see the Forest Fire for all these damn burning trees

For many years, humanity was an interdisciplinary creature out of a matter of necessity. Specialization was a high-risk choice, because local conditions could change suddenly and irrevocably – and specialists tend to respond disastrously to change.

Humanity of 10,000 years ago was part hunter, part gatherer, part herbalist, part astronomer, part meteorologist, part biologist, part doctor, part builder, part crafter, part animal trainer, part mystic. You might be better at one thing than another, but ultimately you needed all of these pieces of knowledge to be able to survive. Considering that this was an era that was pre-writing, knowledge was likely crowd-sourced within a tribe, such that the loss of a member or a few-members would not mean the irrevocable loss of all expertise that the tribe relied upon. Being a generalized specialist wasn’t only in your immediate self-interest, it was also in your long-term self-interest (when factoring in your tribe).

Yet, we modern humans are not. Industrial, urban, agricultural society has favored intense specialization. Writing, knowledge systemization and social systemization have encouraged people to excel at one knowledge stream to the increasing detriment of all others. With hyper-specialization, we don’t just have a career – we have become our careers. And while such an approach is absolutely fine in a period of low to no change, in periods of change and population stress – such an approach increasingly becomes detrimental to the survival of the individual, as well as to the ultimate survival of the group.

What better example do we have then the highly dynamic reality of our planet’s recent climate? As the Earth struggles to find a new equilibrium point for the global climate, everything in the planet’s ecosphere is being pushed out of equilibrium and into free-fall. What were previously outlier events – 100-year floods, 100-year droughts, 100-year heat waves, 100-year blizzards – are becoming 10-year, 5-year, and yearly events. And in an eco-climatic free-fall scenario, change does not proceed linearly – it accelerates over time, which is what system theory would tell us (until we hit a new equilibrium).

And yet, the mainstream of humanity is still pretty out to lunch with what’s happening. Why? How the heck did Homo Sapiens Sapiens – the CONQUERER of the biosphere and the hyper-apex predator of the third rock from Sol – manage to CHECK OUT whilst there’s a global, civilization-imperiling freight train rolling down the tracks straight at our faces?

Apart from the fact that we spend over 90% of our lives huddled inside of climate-controlled offices, cars, malls and homes (and are trying to remain willfully ignorant) , we’re also pathetically specialized inside of our happy hermetically sealed chambers of lifelessness. Having trained our brains to focus on pretty much one meme stream of data, it’s difficult for us to review other streams, let alone construct a coherent picture out of several. For the vast majority of us, interdisciplinary thinking is not a skill we are taught in school or the office. We’re essentially taught to be good at One Thing and let the nebulous mass of humanity in our society somehow take care of The Rest.

And since we didn't receive the training to approach the world in an interdisciplinary manner, we are ham-strung in making linkages between events that are taking place in our world. Our ignorance is not just in WHAT is happening outside of our climate-controlled lives, it is how these things interrelate and how they inevitably impact us.

"Backwards Stone Age" interdisciplinary thinking informs us that if we want to minimize risk to ourselves and do something crazy (like minimize our extinction probabilities?), then let's move away from low-lying coastal areas. Let's start growing our own resilient and diverse food crops. Let's expand our functional diet to include things we wouldn’t normally eat. And most of all, let's minimize the external liabilities for own survival (like fossil fuel derived energy, industrial agriculture, commuting 50 miles to work, cheap plastic crap from China, etc.).

In other words – we’re inside of an epic population stressor event: LET'S GET GENERALIZED.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

New Podcast: Inception and Paradigm Change, Part 2 Chapters 1 and 2

The conclusion of my podcast concerning the movie Inception and how a paradigm evolves and chances is now available. Its so good, I had to break it into two parts.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Man they call James...

Friends, Romans, countrymen (and women) – lend me your ears. I come to bury James Lee, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.

So let it be with James.

Madman, misguided, martyr? Or perhaps just a man – angry, desperate and ignored, but a man who was willing to die for what he believed in, right or wrong. A criminal: a man who threatened murder and mayhem certainly – yet in the end, only a man. But as we so quickly do, I’m sure that whoever James Lee was before 1PM EDT Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 will be subsumed into the media swirl and cultural maelstrom of the era we live in.

And even as we speak, the brush is being pulled out and swabbed over what little is known about him. To the great relief, I’m sure, of environmentalists keen to distance themselves from his views – for he is the sort of man that can seem like an axle-stone around the necks of an entire movement. While on the other hand, to the intense delight of anti-environmentalists who cluck gleefully at the day’s events, hell bent on labeling any who care about our species’ survival as murderous extremists.

So before the body is grown too cold, I’d like to give an honest airing of the man’s views – so that if he be damned, let him by his own words be so. It will likely be the last time so small a justice will be paid him.

Here are excerpts from his website - – concerning the reasoning behind his protest of Discovery Channel back in 2008.

“We are running out of time to save this planet and the Discovery Channel is a big part of the problem, not the solution. Instead of showing successful solutions, their broadcast programs seem to be doing the opposite. Shows like “Cash Cab” and “Dirty Jobs” serve as diversions to keep the focus off what is really important, which is Global Warming and Animal Extinction. Why do they broadcast a show like “Future Weapons” that only promise to destroy the planet even more? And their new lineup “Planet Green” is all about more products and other substandard solutions. Do we really need shows like these when the planet is in crisis? No, instead the focus should be on coming up with new formulas that actually work. Why would the broadcasters and programmers focus more on the destruction of the planet rather than saving it?”

Hmm. Is here lunacy? I spy in this some small truth: we are indeed rapidly running out of time to prevent the calamitous death of our civilization from ecosystem failure. And true, Discovery Channel, which in its earlier years was as great an advocate as could be imagined for the Earth, has more recently turned nigh completely to pop TV – while adding insult to injury by having Sarah Palin host a program on the wildlife of Alaska. And I must concede that more militarism and more consumerism are not the responses we truly need to a global ecological crisis. It would hardly seem so outrageous to imagine that the Discovery Channel (the mother company of the channel Planet Green) might focus its mission on continuing to champion for solutions in an era when they are so desperately needed.

“If something is not functioning; there needs to be a change of course. It’s time to bring about new initiatives and try different approaches whether they are conventional or unconventional. It is evident that the old approach is ineffective. We can see this when we watch the news or read the newspapers that their ways are not working. It’s one disaster after another. They are deliberately showing ineffective shows to make it seem like something is being done when nothing is.”

Has this not been the rallying cry of the drive for sustainability since day one? That business-as-usual simply was no longer an option? That innovative new ideas and technologies were necessary for us to move forward? And how ironic the failure at the 2009 Copenhagen UN Climate Conference, the continuing lack of American political action on climate change, and the Gulf Oil Catastrophe - in light of these words from 2008? It seems sad indeed that it takes an extremist with a gun and homemade bomb to push this to the forefront of our minds, when it should be branded there with all the ills we so stridently suffer now, and the more yet we fear to come.

Now here more words – these from this year – from this site:

“The Discovery Channel and it's affiliate channels MUST have daily television programs at prime time slots based on Daniel Quinn's "My Ishmael" pages 207-212 where solutions to save the planet would be done in the same way as the Industrial Revolution was done, by people building on each other's inventive ideas.“

Having not read My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, I can’t speak to the work or the author. But, apart from the tone of the statement as a blunt demand, there’s certainly some sense in doing this to facilitate individual enterprise and initiative. This country is sorely seeking new paths to job creation, and the Green economy has continually been touted as the only real way to do so. Is hoping to spark American dreams of entrepreneurship in the face of a collective crisis total insanity?

“Focus must be given on how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those new additions continue pollution and are pollution. A game show format contest would be in order. Perhaps also forums of leading scientists who understand and agree with the Malthus-Darwin science and the problem of human overpopulation. Do both.”

Apart from the man’s hatred of children, and his vitriolic and tyrannical tone, I see little substance here that smacks of open madness. There has been considerable commentary on our population crisis since the 1960’s and its undeniable impact on our usage of resources, destruction of habitat, and generation of waste. Zero Population Growth was a rallying cry of the 1970’s – which saw its cinematic climax in Soylent Green (a truly dystopic, but sadly not impossible fate for our civilization). And it is fundamentally true that there is no consensus on whether we can feed the current population of the US, let alone continue to maintain the current 7 billion souls on this planet after Peak Oil, since modern agriculture is so heavily dependent on petroleum-based fertilizer and mechanized processes.

“Do all until something WORKS and the natural world starts improving and human civilization building STOPS and is reversed! MAKE IT INTERESTING SO PEOPLE WATCH AND APPLY SOLUTIONS!!!!”

It is interesting to point out that no less a mind as James Lovelock himself – the man who practically invented the modern ecological Weltanschauung – has argued that the only plausible future for our civilization was in “rolling it back”, not in more growth. This is a view echoed by M. King Hubbert, the Shell Oil scientist who originally recognized the Peak Oil scenario and the impossibility of unlimited growth based upon a petroleum-derived economy. Again, the tone aside, the message itself is not anchorless.

(I can't help but point out that he must remind them to make it interesting. Has Discovery fallen so far that they'd forget otherwise? Tsk tsk, Discovery, Inc.)

“Saving the Planet means saving what's left of the non-human Wildlife by decreasing the Human population. That means stopping the human race from breeding any more disgusting human babies! You're the media, you can reach enough people. It's your resposibility (sic) because you reach so many minds!!!”

Now here indeed is madness shown – to think that the anyone in American mass media might undertake any action out of a sense of moral responsibility… well, clearly the man is out of his mind!

But in all seriousness, this and the rest of his eleven point manifesto do clearly show a man that has undergone a significant downward slope psychologically.

“Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! This is your obligation. If you think it isn't, then get hell off the planet! Breathe Oil! It is the moral obligation of everyone living otherwise what good are they??”

“Develop shows that mention the Malthusian sciences about how food production leads to the overpopulation of the Human race. Talk about Evolution. Talk about Malthus and Darwin until it sinks into the stupid people's brains until they get it!!”

“All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions. In those programs' places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it.”

Apart from his admonishment to ‘Breathe Oil’ (not a bad epithet to hurl, in fairness), and the points herein previously mentioned – it is clear enough that we have a man at the extreme of his faculties. Here is a mind overthrown with frustration and rage at a world inexplicably stagnant in the face of an impending ecological catastrophe. I cannot but help but to some degree sympathize with this poor soul, as much as I must take him to account for his unbridled vitriol and destructive hatred – and the manner he chose to exercise it.

So I hope at least that if we have here condemned the man, we have done so with some small degree of equanimity, and perhaps even a touch of compassion in his treatment. I dare say that few in this nation will give him even so passing fair a review as this, being so quick in their rush to put the body in the ground (before even the gravedigger’s work be done). For in the end, as grievous an insult he may have given, and as much risk to life he may have incurred – in truth, the only one that died for what he believed in was he himself. And if that be enough, that some small measure of good may yet be wrought from what passed today, then may we consider ourselves lucky at the gain for so little lost.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A little Revolution, now and again...

Good evening!

As you may notice, I've made a few changes around the blog to try to spruce things up a little. Consider it a form of penance for not posting anything for so long. But like all good acts of contrition, they must be accepted before being genuine - so please let me know what you think about the new look. It would be an utter waste of our time if the setting of the writing was unconducive to its reading.

While I may not have been posting, it has not been for the sin of idleness. I have been hard at work in other areas, most particularly in my own development and some much needed work on evolving my consciousness. We'll have to hope that wisdom flows from maturity... and failing that, irreverence from senescence.

Posts again will flow soon, so patience yet!



For the FeedBurners

For those who use Feedburner, I have created a Feedburner version of the blog:

Please let me know what you think - and if this adds any spice to your life. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Capitol Green Girls

I wanted to plug a fellow blog site that's help making the world a safer place for Green.

Capitol Green Girls is a blog about Conservation meeting Commerce. The authors have a particular insight into the ENGO community, environmental businesses and environmental legislative developments in Washington, DC. CGG also serves to unveil greenwashing in our fair city of Washington and its environs. Greenwashers discredit those trying to make real progress towards long term sustainability, and as a result, undermine the health of the planet.

Consider subscribing to Capitol Green Girls.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thinking about Ecological Integration - Fungi

Fungi are the natural world's ultimate recyclers - returning the energy and resources trapped in waste and death back into the ecosystem.  The fact that they can even decontaminate brown fields (i.e. parcels of property contaminated with poisonous or toxic waste), makes them something of a meme-model for ecological regeneration.  Recycling waste (material, water, etc.), restoring and renovating under-performing buildings and even downcycling all grow (no pun intended) out of this meme.

Moving humanity and our economic systems out of an ecologically dislocated state, and back into an ecologically integrated state, requires us understanding this sort of meme model.  Why?  Because if you want to play the game well, you need to understand the rules first.  Our current way of living is massively inefficient and ineffective at transforming potential energy into realized outcomes.  We constantly fight uphill to accomplish what we want, and leave piles of detritus in our wake: detritus we rapidly disown and remove from human ecosystem.  If we want to do things better (even do them sustainably) and are looking for a role model, looking to Nature is the place to find it.  Our socio-economic systems are only a few thousand years old, the planetary ecosystem is several billion.

Do you think that perhaps the later might have had more time to work out the kinks?  Hmmm.

The fungi meme-model invites us to look at every item of waste as a new potential opportunity.  Our grandparents chide us for the things we so callously discard, instead of repairing or finding new uses for.  Their justification is frugality, but the outcome is still particularly fungal.  They minimized waste in their lives, and ensured that things that left their own material ecosystem had been broken down to the greatest point possible.  Building upon that, if we ensure that everything that leaves our lives does so at the termination of its effectiveness to us, and transitions into its appropriate economic/ecologic niche for renewal (like a recycling facility), we become more intentionally ecologically integrated - and therefore much more effective organisms.

Monday, July 19, 2010

America - Too Big to Fail

I was thinking something in a very similar vein, but this other blog (Common Dreams) has put forward something quite similar - so I felt that it was worth sharing the worthy work of another.

America: Too Big to Fail?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Viable Earth asked to guest blog for 1Sky!

So Viable Earth recently had the honor of being asked to provide a guest blog for 1Sky, an organization dedicated to getting the Federal government to act on climate change.  Their board of directors contains two of my personal Green heroes - Van Jones and Bill McKibben - and they (alongside constitute one of the most powerful drivers of action on climate change in the US. 

So when Emma Fernandez from 1Sky approached me (as the owner of a business dedicated to helping prevent catastrophic climate change) to be their first ever Green business guest blogger I did the only sensible thing possible...

I said "of course!". 

You can check out my blog post here: Empowering people key to cutting climate pollution.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

An Era of No More Direct Action?

As a quick extra for those who read my lovely little blog, I wanted to add some thoughts onto my podcast about the British Petroleum oil catastrophe in the Gulf.

You see, it strikes me as unbelievable the sheer lack of direct action by environmental protestors against BP. I mean, yes - there have been all sorts of things from an attempted citizen's arrest of BP executives at their lobbying HQ in DC, to protesters pouring oil on themselves (even inside the Senate), to coordinated nation-wide efforts like Hands Across the Sand.

But to be blunt - this all seems pretty weak to me.

Once upon a time, organizations like Greenpeace were willing to risk death to protect the planet.  Who doesn't remember when the French military sank the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand's territorial waters?  (Here's the link for those who like their wiki look-ups spoon-fed to them).  And to be fair, groups like the Sea Shepherds are certainly willing to put themselves in harm's way (South Park parodies aside), it feels like environmental groups simply aren't willing to take risks the way they used to.  Where's the massed flotilla invading the Gulf to protest BP?  The takeover of other oil rigs?  People chaining themselves to BP gas stations?

It seems to me like the era of direct action is over.  Either people in the environmental movement decided that direct action was more grandstanding than transformative... or the current generation carrying the planet's torch is a little too well-heeled and a little too law-abiding to want to stir up too much commotion. 

I'd say that if we can put together a dozen ship flotilla to try to lift the blockade of Gaza, then maybe we can scrape together a couple of boats to harass some deepwater oil rigs that should be out of commission until they undergo a safety review?

Oh - but that might get someone in TROUBLE.  *Gasp!*

Podcast #2 - BP, Greenwashing and Real Green Change

Follow the link below to access my podcast server.

Equilibrium Nova Podcasts

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Equilibrium Nova Podast #1!

Equilibrium Nova Podcasts

For your listening pleasure. A discussion about the Unsustainability of Post-Newtonian culture, on an Einsteinian planet that isn't a giant, logical, controllable machine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Global Oil Addiction (i.e. Wake Up!)

Transparency is a harsh mistress.

As promised - proof a relapsing Oil Addict. Yes, during the Low Oil Challenge, a friend of mine traveled to Boston to be part of a baby shower for a married couple with whom we are close friends. I thought that the fact that I was wearing a Live Green shirt would drive home the shear surrealness of the event.

Oil hits Fort Walton Beach FL, Azure Resort - CNN iReport

(Embedded video removed at reader request)

Accountability is even harsher.

Do we call this hypocrisy? Madness? Grandstanding? All of the above?

Possibly. More than anything else, I call it evidence of how dysfunctional things are.

Case in point - the cost of this car trip to Boston per person? Factoring in gas and sunk costs (prorated car payments and insurance), $76.65 each. If we had taken the train and rented a zipcar to get down to the baby shower - the socioeconomic impact (or cost as they say) to us would have been $170.90 each.

That's right - we live in such a skewed world that it costs more to be responsible.

And what about CO2 emissions? To push two bodies from DC to Boston; Boston to the Cape and back; and back to DC...

In a Automobile only: 564 lbs of CO2*
In a Train to Boston and back, and a car to the Cape and back: 440 lbs of CO2*

Considering that CO2 is trading for about $6.35 per metric ton (or 2200 lbs), there's hardly any significant price impetus for me to have chosen taking the train vs. driving.

My point? Until we stop hiding the total cost of unsustainable energy systems, how can we really expect people to choose differently? And when the actual negative ecological and social impacts are so far-reaching, so complex and so devestating that its difficult for us to put a monetary value to them - then we need to do more than just change price signals.

We need to shut the system down outright.

*Do your own math on carbon emissions here:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On Oil Spills, responses and the battle for credibility

Today's post is in the form of a poem. I hope you enjoy.

April Two Zero
Can you recall?
When BO and BP
Went to the Ball

They oiled their pelicans
And shredded their work
Lied to the media
And played quite the Jerk

Stunning scientists, pundits,
Young shrimpers and old
With the fishiest story
That’s ever been told

“Why one thousand,
No five, or maybe five more?
But not ten or fifteen.
And none on the shore!”

“And do not listen”, they clamored
“To the man in the back,
His numbers are quacky
He’s certainly a hack.”

And when the man in the back
Had made quite a scene
And burst on the stage
With a look oh so keen

The crowd in their caution
Looked round about
And between authority and power
They scarce hid their doubt

“The numbers I’ve crunched!
The data I’ve chewed!
Reviewed all the tapes!
And counted all oil spewed!”

His figure, they asked
All the voices in the crowd
“Where is it? How big?”
With a shout oh-so-loud

“Why look down”, he said
“On the carpet you stand.
It won’t fit on a stage
Not a number that grand.”

And at once they looked down
At the expert’s wild queues
Their hearts skipped a beat
And then fell in their shoes

“How enormous!” “How impossible!”
“How hard to believe!”
“Is this really quite possible,
Or do you aim to deceive?”

“Oh no!” shouts the scientist
“I dare not do that.
Gentle-men and women -
What you use as a mat

Is a mere estimate they say
A Conservative Sum
Not to get you riled
Feeling antsy or glum

I apologize for the confusion
Delay or the bore
For eeking this out was, well
Quite the chore

But a billion odd barrels
Between you and I
Is hardly a thing
To even bat an eye

So go back to your homes
And worry not a wink
You’ll soon get your own oil
Out of your kitchen sink!”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Low Oil Challenge, Day 8

Updates about my trip to Boston are coming - including photographic evidence of a relapsing oil addict (yikes!).

In the meantime, chew on this: an article about the health and environmental impact of an American cow. People asked why giving up meat was part of the Low Oil Challenge - well, each cow uses about 284 gallons of oil to raise to slaughter. That's about 6 months of driving for the average American.

When you conisider that au naturale, a cow uses zero oil to become fat and delicious enough to eat (eating grass and not corn - or dead cows), you can start to realize just how big of a problem this might be. And the positive impact that cutting American agri-beef out of your diet can be.

P.S. Personally, I advocate for free-range, grass-fed, organic, no antibiotic bison. It is QUITE tasty.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Live Green's Low Oil Challenge, Day 2

Here's some motivation from another amazing blog - Capitol Green Girls. How much starker the dangers of from oil are when we realize how little we have in tools to fix the damage it causes?

Take These Lemons and Shake Up Green Business

The Gulf of Mexico has been destroyed to the point of no return in many areas -- and that in turn means coastal economies will suffer, including the Louisiana economy already devastated by Katrina. We've been lied to, continue to be lied to, and most likely will be lied to in the future because those of us who were privy to inside information knew the dramatic effects that were taking place in the water, the toll that would be taken on marine wildlife, and the actual events taking place versus those reported in the media. There's not much that can be done now with a polluted water column suffering from toxic shock. What we can do is use this as an opportunity to reinvest in an area that desperately needs it. Forget the emergency funds. Don't worry about businesses that can't possibly be salvaged. Now is the time for new businesses to emerge -- with a greener focus. Those poor souls along the coast won't be able to repair their ways of life or their businesses for quite some time if at all, but they can venture out into new branches of economy.

Dispersants are a joke, but there isn't any one proven solution to patching up a gaping and disastrous, toxic hole in the middle of a water body that stretches past several states. Ironically, despite decades of drilling and the inventions of supercalifragilistic new products every day, the global community is still without adequate repair products. The best we have are: chemicals just as bad as the oil floating on top of the water -- but no one discussed the potential harm they pose to undersea marine life, plugging up pipes with old junk, and of course antiquated booms that are the equivalent of a bunch of toddler floatee wings strung together in the water to prevent the oil skimming the surface from going on shore. Right there. That's an open forum for commerce -- to invent something that takes all others out of the equation while being environmentally friendly and actually helping the problem instead of just sidestepping it.

There are many ways to build businesses around such catastrophes -- to show how green works and that it does work in the face of tragedy. We can focus on more than the Gulf of Mexico slip up. We can invest in other areas downtrodden with less than green circumstances. We can capitalize on ways to help those trying to enhance the country with better, greener opportunities. There are so many untapped intellectual resources out there, but fear and apathy stand in the way. Until we get government to subsidize such endeavors, until we get venture capitalists to see the worth in green economy, until we take that step toward our own inventions, businesses and hopes, we will still be mired in a sea of toxic greed.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Live Green's Low Oil Challenge, Day 1

For those not in the know, Live Green has thrown down the gauntlet about our unsustainable energy situation and our addiction to fossil fuels. In their two-week Low Oil Challenge, participants will seek to not purchase any new durable goods, eat vegan and not buy gasoline.

While I am not able to perform the challenge to the letter (I have to drive to my day job, and I'm not really cut out to be a vegan). I am going to be cutting meat out of my diet, dropping imported food (my apologies to Chilean farmers) and minimizing my driving - in addition to buying nihil novo (nothing new).

I'll keep you posted about interesting developments, but I have to say that I expect that it will put me further down the road towards living sustainably. And that is definitely a good thing!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Reflections on the Green Innovation in Business Unconference May 27, 2010 – Washington, DC

Having recovered from putting in my eleven hours at GIBU on Thursday (yes, 8AM – 7PM thank you), I wanted to offer some reflections on what came out of it.

For those not in the know, the GIBU is an amazing workshop that travels to multiple cities throughout the US which allows participants to discuss sustainability issues that are relevant to them and work collaboratively towards their solutions. This was year two for GIBU, and for me (which qualified me as a wily veteran, I suppose). I frankly favored the format this year over last years – primarily because we were given the expectation of a final product at the end of the day which helped drive fruitful, goal-oriented discussions.

(what’s an unconference?)

As a brainchild of the Ashoka Foundation and EDF, the focus of the workshops is on innovative solutions to real challenges. I spent my day facilitating a discussion on Sustainable Education (which should come as no surprise, really). What was particularly interesting is that it evolved from a high-level focus on training at all educational levels (from kindergarten to professional) into a project designed to radically reinvent public education at the K-12 level. The idea that came out was a “School without Boundaries” – a learning lab that would teach environmental science, Green practices, local farming, energy system maintenance in addition to the core curriculum of math, English and the like, but that required no school building.

Essentially a potentially mobile learning environment, localized within a community, that would inculcate the skills necessary for the students to effectively participate in a resource, energy and ecologically constrained 21st century. With a heavy emphasis on learning through service, students would help improve their own communities ecologically and economically. Furthermore, it would also equip the students with the necessary skills to actively compete in a global Green economy – which is particularly crucial when we realize that over 60% of all American students never receive a college degree. All in all, such a school is a hands-on, collaborative engine for the rapid dissemination of sustainably-oriented learning into society that would also make the communities in which it was embedded more sustainable.

I’d say that qualifies as an innovative solution to a real challenge.

The question that struck me was how to take such a model and apply it to a professional environment. Yes – it would be easy to dismiss such a notion as impossible, until you realize that in order for businesses to stay competitively sustainable in the 21st they must have methods to on-board near-continuous improvements in their ecological impact.

The business of staying-in-business is already highly dependent upon skill improvement and professional development – and the demands to adapt are quickening even for “traditional” skill sets. Add the critical need for sustainable or Green skills and knowledge, and business of staying-in-business will require a significant on-going commitment towards sustainability education; whether it’s bringing training in from outside the organization, or from the company-wide implementation of ideas developed internally. Human enterprise must make strong investments in its own survival in order to last during the difficult times of the 21st century. And in an Age of Information, levels of knowledge enterprise-wide will differentiate the fit from the also-rans.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Confessions of a Fossil Fuel Addict

I look out into the world and watch the slow spread of oil across the Gulf of Mexico creep across the collective consciousness of the country like the dawning realization of a drunk who’s just rammed his car head on into a family van. The screams and spinning wheels prying awake his dulled sense of culpability, and his capacity to grasp consequence.

And to put what’s happening there any less lightly would taint my credibility as a reporter on things sustainable.

Let’s really confront what we’ve done here, as a consequence of our addiction to fossil fuel. We’re looking at the probability that most, if not all, of the Gulf of Mexico will be contaminated with oil for centuries. We can probably write off any chance of the seafood in the Gulf being edible for humans again for a significant fraction of our lifetimes. This assumes, of course, that much sea life is even going to survive. The Gulf of Mexico already has a mini-crisis with low-oxygen levels creating localized Dead Zones (thanks to unsustainable farming practices) – spreading millions of barrels of oil over the Gulf will cripple the normal chemical exchanges that oxygenate ocean water. So it’s entirely possible that the Gulf itself will turn into the new Dead Sea.

And no – we don’t like to hear bad news. And as a professional in a field already overburdened with a reaction against negative environmental messaging (i.e. “you’re wrong and what you’re doing is bad”), I am keenly sensitive to people’s poor psycho-cultural reactions to negative reinforcement. But just as any sensible parent would take preventive measures, however harsh, to ensure their children don’t run out into the street – so too must the environmentally-minded cry foul when the truly foul doth occur.

There are times when only hard medicine will cure the disease. And this surely is one of them.

So let me start this by saying – “My name is Andrew Moore. I have a problem. I am a fossil fuel addict. My irresponsible choices helped create this crisis. If I want to stop this from happening again, I have to make better choices. My future, my children’s future, and my planet’s future depend on it. I want to quit fossil fuels, and I want to quit them forever. And I want to start Today.”

If we won’t own our demons, how to do we expect to conquer them? As Green a life as I strive to live, I still have to take my share of responsibility for what’s happened. And while there are certainly those who are more responsible than others (and they will be held accountable in more ways than one), I refuse to play the hypocrite and shy away from my own culpability in this catastrophe.

So here’s my challenge to you, gentle reader. If you look at this news unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, and feel even a fraction of the rage that I feel watching an entire ecosystem threatened with annihilation, then I call on you to take ownership of what’s transpired. Take a long, sober look in the mirror and admit the role you’ve played in causing this to transpire.

And if that hard dose doesn’t make you want to make some changes in your life, then my fellow citizen of this tiny blue marble: I don’t know what else will.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shamanism, Materialism and Paradigm "Warfare" Pt. 2

So after a slightly longer than expected pause thanks to the near meter of snow we received this month, let's get back to our narrative. I think I've laid out the problem well enough, and since enough breath has been spent laying out this exact same problem in enough other corners, let's get down to what we really all want to hear about: a solution.

("A" solution - I don't claim this to be "The" solution, just for those of you keeping track of semantics at home.)

Now in a way, we already have one - at least in a dogmatic sense. The mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is the simplest and most effective matrix to approach 'stuff'. However, the problem with dogma (religious or otherwise) is that it doesn't stick in the human mind in a constructive way: its the bastard child of understanding and belief. Its what we resort to when reason and faith fail - not when they succeed. So Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is too often used as a substitution for explanation and engagement by institutions and NOT as a tool to guide us (as communities) to become better decision-makers.

But it is, and should be, so much more. Because at the heart of this simple little phrase is a very powerful redefinition of our approach to the things in our life. The word that we quickly glide past in considering this is the first one - "Reduce". Obviously, for those of us living in modern industrial Western society, this is a concept that most of us have no comprehension of. I look around my desk, which I struggle to keep free of clutter, and am confronted with an assault on my senses by THINGS. There are things everywhere, of all types and levels of importance. Thanks to my vigilance, I purge most of the "noise" out of my life - and prevent as much as I can from entering it - but I admit freely that I'm not nearly as successful as I NEED to be. There's still more data hitting my optic nerve than I want each time I glance around.

And I say NEED not just for the sake of the planet, but for my own well-being. Each extra thing in my life is one more thing to worry about. Whether I'm worried about what that thing represents, or what its there to remind me to do, or whether its in the way of something else, or how I'm going to pack it up when I move, or how I'm going to keep it from getting broken; its HERE and has some pull on my attention. Every thing that we add into our lives has a story to tell about its addition into our life, plus its connection to other stories, and a reminder about something or someone at some level of meaning to us.

One of the great contradictions of our era of industrial mass production is that we have dramatically increased quantity while simultaneously stripping away value. The ruling logic of mass production is to shove out as much of something as quickly as possible - which clearly lends itself to a level of quality that will ensure that customers are forced to purchase the same item repeatedly down the road. The things that we own do end up owning us, for all the time, money and attention we have to give to them, to the exclusion of so much else in our lives. Our energy is increasingly directed towards things, not people (including ourselves).

And the Real Cost to us and the to planet of such an approach is high: much higher than we the cost we pay as the purchase price. Energy and resource costs (which are often hidden by subsidies or externalized from the transaction), combined with ecological and social costs of generating this tsunami of under-valued commodities create a terrible hidden cost burden on us that we do end up paying, usually with usurious interest.

And the loss of time in generating, moving, cataloguing, warehousing, utilizing and disposing of it all means far less time to devote to more useful activities, whether productive or pleasureable.

Imagine how much time would be saved if you never received another piece of junkmail? Consider the organization (or organizations) that create it - both the creative side and the phsyical side. Someone's time goes into getting that mail into envelopes, of acquiring postage, of cataloguing costs. Then it has to be given to a mail carrier - whose time is devoted to receiving it, distributing it and delivering it. All to have you, the end consumer, pick it up - look through it, decide whether to dispose of it or not, and then do so. And then there's the waste company that picks up your waste, processes it and finally recycles, inters or burns it.

The time, productivity, brain cycles and stress that go into the continuation of this and so many processes like it constitute a TREMENDOUS loss of human value. And we're not even talking about trees, barrels of oil, or pounds of ink. Wouldn't you be MUCH happier to never receive more junk mail? Of course you would! Because it wastes your time and reduces the quality of life. And as with junk mail, so too does the tsunami of valueless things that flood into and overwhelm our lives.

So when we consider Real Cost vs. Real Value, it would appear obvious Reducing is one of the most sensible approaches for pushing that equation back in our favor, personally and collectively. But that statement in itself is not sufficient to win the day here. This is not a complete solution to the problem - but it opens the door understanding what I'm about to lay on you in the next post.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shamanism, Materialism and Paradigm "Warfare" Pt. 1

Happy January 27th everyone. Not that we need a reason to celebrate, but I'm sure everyone can think of a reason as good as another to be happy.

So, as you may have gathered already - I am taking a very No Fear approach to the topics discussed here. You may sometimes wonder how certain topics relate to end-state sustainability, but rest assured that there is a form of method to my madness. Trying to evolve the human condition forward sufficiently to exist in a state of equilibrium with the planet's ecology requires more than just a tame discussion of technology, science and economics.

The last post regarding politics, specifically political convergences - or at least the birth of a new political paradigm in the United States - is one of those areas that is simply unavoidable in order to have a complete discussion. This post delves even deeper down the rabbit hole into the area of human psychology, culture and *gasp!* spirituality.

So brace yourselves. You've been warned.

Now, part of the inspiration for the topic and title of this post is a workshop I attended this past weekend, concerning basic shamanic practices (provided by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies). It was a "hands-on" affair, which I found particularly rewarding and insightful. And while I am a trained Anthropologist, my approach was participant first and foremost, with "observer" a distant second. Having had some time to reflect and be somewhat more systematic in my consideration of my experience, I wanted to reflect a little on the experience and its relation to human progress towards end-state sustainability.

I will confess that one of the first things I was inspired to do was write a six page rebuttal of the Anthropological community's smirking condescension towards non-modern cultural practices and their proponents. Particularly because taking part in shamanic practices certainly sheds more light on most pre-modern cultural belief systems and human myth than the years of study and research that I've done. But that is far outside the bounds of what I want to focus on here.

The real crux of this post comes down to human paradigms - that is to say, the intellectual and psychological filters that our cultures bestow upon us due to our presence in them. Its clearly been said to death that our post-modern Westernized Globalized culture is highly materialistic. And it should be pointed out that materialism is not inherently vile - from a reasoned perspective Western materialism has directly contributed to the techological and scientific acheivement that we currently have. Furthermore, Western culture's focus on materialism diverted its attention from the contentious issues revolving around religion that nearly destroyed Europe (and still threaten world peace, I might add).

BUT (there's always a "but"), materialism in its current form has become as destructive as the other paradigms it has been trying to displace. Everything else aside (socially, spiritually, politically, etc.), our current obsession with stuff and acquiring more of it has A) bankrupted us financially, and B) is destroying the ability of the planet's ecosystems to support us.

I don't know about you, but being broke and dead is not my idea of a winning solution.

The other easy lay up is the parallel quest in Western civilization to reject materialism. And this is not merely the provence of New Age ideas, this goes back through the many groups and ideas (many some derivative of Christian), past Jesus, and at least all the way to Plato. Unfortunately for this view, rejecting the material world does not make it go away. It has this amazing quality of tenaciousness that has proven to be quite nettlesome for many thinkers and social reformers.

And of course, regarding problems A) and B) above, there are many people in this country who reject materialism (at least in speech) and use this as rational to not care about problems A) and B) (particularly B). If you believe that God has tells you to be "in this world, but not of it", that makes it much harder to sell you on the idea of changing your life ways in order to do something good for that world.

It may not be strange to therefore imagine that perhaps the solution to the problem is a Kantian synthesis of these two paradigms? Which sounds great - until you have to sit down and reason out how that actually would work.

Because it would seem to me that we have some sort of dysfunctional synthesis already. We are surrounded by stuff - are bombarded by stuff, and are practically drowning in it, yet at the same time we shovel it out into the trash about as fast as we bring it into our lives. Its incongruous to believe that would love a thing if we make it deliberately in order to get rid of it. Disposability is a characteristic of a thing that you want to get out of your life.

But more ludicrous is that we make things that are disposable, yet are incompatible with the ecosystems from which we've extracted them. So we take value out of Nature, screw with it, ruin it, use it and then dump it back into Nature where it makes a bigger mess of things.

This isn't just unsustainable - this is pathological.

If this paradigm of thinking were a patient, and I was the psychiatrist - my diagnosis would be an obsessive-compulsive disorder driven by a fear resulting in self-destructive tendencies. Its like we're trying to save ourselves from the material world by destroying it before it corrupts us - ensuring our own demise in the process.

So again, not a healthy synthesis.

In Part 2, I'll talk about my ideas for "a cure".

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I'm going to go straight for the jugular today.

Let's talk about how the Green/Progressive movement and the Libertarian/Tea Party are born from the same pool of American cultural ferment.

Still with me? You may need to read that one again to make sure you caught what I wrote.

Yes, I did write what I meant. And I do so because the time has come to explain why these movements are far less divergent than contemporary political consensus believes - and how the convergence of these two forces will have significant implications for the political and cultural fabric of the country.

Before you dismiss me out of hand, take a moment to consider these two movements AS THEY ARE. The Libertarian movement, which is seeing a recapitulation within the broader Tea Party movement, and the Green movement, which is being increasingly incorporated into the more mainstream Progressive movement, are born out of a disillusionment with certain fundamental assumptions and points of consensus by the national culture about the whole sphere of shared life - economic, political, cultural. While both of the modern movements can trace their current incarnations to the tumult of the culture wars of the 60's and 70's - they represent a bifurcation in focus on the most pressing issues of concern (the Greens the environment on a global level, and the Libertarians the Constitution and the Federal system), as well as a significant contrast in the ideological lenses each uses to judge the world.

But there is much more there that is shared than is not - and it is a quirk of the lingering hatreds of the post-Vietnam era that have prevented these shared visions from becoming clearer. Both advocate for localized, democratic, transparent, lawfully-ordered society. Both embrace the ideals of personal responsibility and economic self-sufficiency. Both reject American militarism and empire-building. And they both are skeptical of modern American society, which they tend to view as dominated by corrupt, counter-productive government agencies in league with over-privileged corporate interests that preclude the effective exercise of the democratic process.

But these correlations have not been sufficient to overcome the points of dissonance between these two movements. The Libertarian/Tea Party generally rejects concerns about climate change and other global problems as part of a "globalist conspiracy", and highly undervalues the environmental crises that are pivotal to the concerns of Greens/Progressives. While the Greens tend to fear Libertarians as reactionary anarchists who reject collective action and seek to undermine the cause of social justice. Worse, there is a fundamental disconnect between the social values of Progressives and Tea Partiers that tends to rapidly hijack any sensible dialogue between the two groups. While social issues (gays, drugs, abortion, etc.) tend to be less of an issue between "true" Greens and "true" Libertarians, they represent minorities in the mainstream movements that have built up around them.

Should Libertarians change their perspectives on the dangers of ecological collapse, and Greens moderate their advocacy for centralized decision-making - we could very well see a significant convergence that would significantly challenge the status quo, both politically AND socially. And what may ironically spur the potential for such a turn of events is President Obama.

Having generated a significant surge in poltical participation by Progressives during his presidential campaign, his ascencion to the Oval Office essentially gave birth to the Tea Party movement. His Presidency has, by and large, managed to please no one but the mainstream political consensus seen as the crux of the problem by both movements. While he certainly has slowed or deferred the reckoning of the American Empire (due to its overreach and near-bankruptcy), there is no hard evidence of any significant structural reforms that change the status quo.

Obama is representative of what the American mainstream considers the best about itself: a meritocratic, color-blind, ethical, thoughtful, world traveling, patriotic almnus of Harvard Law. If the best of the best of the status quo is incapable of leveraging the reforms needed to pull the country out of its slow death spiral - who else can do the job?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010, Welcome to the Future

As it has been said, many times, many ways - Happy New Year. Out with the old, and in with the new. Out with the 00's, and in with the teens. So let's start the year off correctly - by taking stock of society's position so that we can understand the actions we need to take in the coming year.

Bad news first. To be blunt, things are not good. We lack global consensus that there are even eco-climate crises, let alone their severity or the necessary responses - as Copenhagen clearly proved. There is a growing and increasingly organized backlash against definitive action in the US, and a sense of paralysis globally. There is also a spreading belief that the environmental movement is being "hijacked" by large corporate interests - either by manipulating policy to suit their industry, or by greenwashing their products and services.

2010 is not going to be an easy period for those who value the survival of the human species, or the planet's ecology.

Now the good news. There is finally a definite recognition by the major economic actors (specifically the US and China) that the issues we face are global and require a coordinated global response. The weak and limited "agreement on principles" that did come out of Copenhagen presages the potential for something much more significant. Despite the disappointment we can rightfully feel about the proceedings, it must be said that there was a world before Copenhagen, and now there is a world after it. The battle now is not that there is action (there will be, even if the courts and the EPA ram it through the US's economy), but how much, how fast, how transparent (will China allow 3rd party audits?) - and who calls the shots (civil society, lobbyists, bureaucrats, corporations, all of the above?).

The growth of the quasi-libertarian/populist conservative assault on the Green movement in the US, while a significant concern, does prove the proverb "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win". It shows that the efforts of the last 40 years have reached a point of saturation in the national consciousness sufficient to panic those with the greatest entrenched belief in the status quo. It tells me that we've reached a society-wide tipping point, that if followed through upon properly, will unleash the radical transformative change we need so desperately to save ourselves and the planet. And that realization scares the hell out of the people who consider themselves on the other side of argument.

The "hijacking" of the environmental movement is an interesting conundrum, that is truly only appreciable through one's economic/political filter. The one consensus issue is greenwashing - which is a huge problem and needs to be fought tooth and nail by any reasonable individual. There is nothing more certain to dilute and undermine all efforts by our economy to embrace sustainability than in the deliberate misleading of consumers regarding a product or service's environmental impact.

Unfortunately, the rest of the debate is not so neat. I myself embrace and support any efforts made by any organization for or not for profit to become more sustainable. I also think its naive to imagine that corporations will be passive actors in the Green movement. Considering how heavily companies rely upon the planet's ecology to meet societal demands, their realization of their own vested interest in preserving natural capital and ecosystem services will naturally lead them to taking on a great role in the ongoing dialogue. And, to be truly politically neutral, the fact that such large economic actors who had previously been broadly opposed to environmental responsibility are now taking steps to move towards sustainability is nothing less than a resounding success for our civilization.

But, I am not blind to the market pressures that can lead companies to seek to monopolize or restrict access to necessary resources. Corporate involvement in the broader Green movement can not be mistaken for unerring altruism, just as it would be a mistake to cyncically dismiss it as greed-driven grab for power. We, as stakeholders in the planet, must be diligent in our vigilance over the planet's ecosystems and access thereto. We must hold corporations to the same standards that we hold all citizens - no more, no less.