Friday, December 19, 2008

Vote for WATER AND FOOD FOR ALL on Change.org

You may know that I am engaged in the Water and Food situation in the world. Everyone should go to bed well fed, and at this time the number starving is just under 90 million or 13% of the world's population.

The idea of water and food for all, put forward by yours truly inspired by my work with the Humanitarian Water and Food Award, has attracted a large response on the competition "Ideas for Change in America" on Change.org. For the idea to come into the final three we need more votes. Please go and take a look at the site CHANGE.ORG and our idea. If you like it, please vote! The results will be announced just before the Presidential Announcement.

The Water and Food Award is registered on the Change.org site.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Expected reduction of oil production per capita will create global emergency

I’m worried. I have just been to a presentation of world population trends by the eminently informative Swedish Professor Hans Rosling from Karolinska Institute. It seem that world population is expected to continue to expand. The good news is that the number of children per woman is reducing in developing countries and stable in developed countries. Still, we are looking at the world overstepping nine billion in 2045.

We currently need to do better to feed the poor and forgotten, who number 890 million, or 13%. So how will the world feed this 34% increase? Modern agriculture requires large inputs of fossil fuel and fossil-fuel based products. At the same time, oil production per capita is expected to fall.

On returning back to the office I started plotting world population trends against oil consumption I managed to (this is back of the envelop stuff) get oil consumption from the International Energy Agency site, and population figures from Wikipedia.

I also reflected on what the professor said: that as standards rose, and in the presence of peace, fewer children per woman were born. This isi the mechanism that will stabilize world population.

Up to 2007, oil consumption per capita has remained more or less stable even as consumption has risen.


To 2005 that is. If you then plot projected population rises against project oil production you get another picture:




This means that we are entering a new era, where each country has less oil per capita. Now, some countries are expanding their population faster than others. This leads to a few scenarios:
1) Those countries that expand their populations fast up to 2045 increase their share of oil and manage to retain or improve their living standards. For those industrialized countries it will mean a faster reduction in oil consumption per capita compared to the expanding countries.

2) ( See graph above.) Each country manages to keep the same proportion of consumption as now. The consequences will be that rapidly expanding countries will have less oil per capita and risk food shortages.
3) Some countries, possibly rich countries gain a larger proportion of the oil production and thereby fast growing countries will quickly face difficulties feeding the population.

From this “back of an envelope” analysis I see some rather stark conclusions:

  • Abandoning economic growth as a goal and concentrating on security of supply of basic needs is a priority.
  • Regardless of the stance taken towards countries with rising populations, all countries need to consider a Powering Down situation as they are looking at a reduction in the availability of fossil fuel in the next decade.
  • Helping the poor and forgotten to rise to a minimum standard that gives food security should be a priority globally.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Got my shop on Second Life


As I blogged earlier, I believe SECOND LIFE (Secondlife.com) offers possibilities to model ideas of sustainability, both as 3D worlds showing sustainable technology, like the Island of Etopia, and to try out the social side of sustainable living in communities, like the Island of Perfect Paradise.
Second life maybe a good platform to spread ideas about sustainable living, and I have set up a bookstall to sell my books and to download extracts from the book as "Newsletters from the future"-The (in) times.

Visitors to the stall can click and come straight to the website to learn more about the book, or download the newsletters for free.

If you have not yet seen my book visit here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I was in line with Keynes!

I am flabbergasted to know that my Imagestreamed suggestion for handling a controlled reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, the set up of an international environmental fund (EMF, based on IMF) was very much like the original proposal from Keynes back in 1944 for a world stabilization fund.

Unfortunately, his ideas were not accepted and the IMF and World Bank were set up instead.

My idea was to tax countries who overshoot emissions targets. His idea was to charge interest on the amount the country was in trade imbalance.

The principle of countries' being taxed on target overshoots is a good one, and could be used for trade balance and carbon dioxide emissions.

It just goes to show the power of imagestreaming, this was an area I was completely green in!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Karl Popper and Climate Science

(Thanks to Greenfyre's - I borrowed an idea or two)

Karl Popper’s thinking was that scientists should work hard to disprove theories. If they don't succeed then it is a working theory until disproved. It’s more rigorous that way.
An analogy might be comparing if you have 2 reports of an elephant. In one case it is a small group of reliable witnesses who swear they saw an elephant in the back garden.

Topo Gigo? Is that you?
In the second case you have thousands of unrelated people who variously have photographs, videos, sound recordings, foot casts, thermal imaging, dentition samples, x-rays, ultrasound images, radar and sonar images, samples of DNA , tissue, hair, saliva, stools etc. Further, all of of these data samples had been analysed multiple ways, all yielding the same result.
Then along comes someone with a handful of pictures of a mouse and claims that it proves there was no elephant in the garden. How likely is it that this evidence will prove conclusive in the first example? in the second? Possible of course, but not very likely.
Trying to prove something always courts discusssion.
The comparison with law is however misleading as in common terms we say ”it was proven he was guilty”. Scientists, to use the law analogy, are expert witnesses. Not prosecutors. Not judges or juries. For law to work you HAVE to make a judgement over causality in order for there to be consequences on negative actions. In the same way HAVE to act is incumbent on governments (ultimately all individuals) who by law represent the stewards of national resources.

Anyway, that's why scientists are sceptics and the media can rightly claim " most scientists sceptical to climate change".

In the case of climate change, take the theory "you can spew out as much CO2 as you like, it will not make a blind bit of difference to the climate system."

There is LITTLE evidence to support such theories. For example.... where has all the extra CO2 in the atmosphere come from? And there is no evidence to show it is all absorbed. On the contrary, experiments to DISPROVE the relation between increased CO2 and increased warming have not been able to rule out a greenhouse effect.

The next theory... Global warming is NOT a life threatening phenomena. Again, attempts to disprove this have not succeeded.

So ... and check the wording here as the double negative throws a lot of people ... it has not been disproved that man-made emissions can threaten life on Earth. We cannot disprove the theory that levels of CO2 over 350ppm create imbalances in climate system.

Now. How are the stewards of our environment - the people we elect - going to act on that? Because we are talking major risk.

Version 1. The voice of sense. Our government, acting on scientific evidence, is working to limit emissions as they may threaten existence.

Version 2. The voice of "science interpreted for ends". Although it has not been shown emissions are completely safe, we are going to continue until the negative consequences force us to react.

Back to your law comparison. That would be like the court, unable to convict the baddies, (no-one could really PROVE it was them!!!) would let them rule the city until people got so fed up with it, or it got so bad the community went under.

That is what we are looking at. It is going to get real bad before anyone does anything.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poverty is telling you something: your turn is coming.

For my part of Blog Action Day I would like to discuss poverty and sustainable development. We live in a world gone mad. By the hour, the ranks of the starving are swelling. Whilst we stare into an abyss of depleting mineral and ecological resources, pushed from behind by population pressures and the voracious needs of the economic machinery we call business as usual, all we can talk about is how to get more money into our system. Let’s just take a few seconds’ time out from this insanity to look at sustainable development. Is sustainable development a solution for poverty?

Let’s start by giving you my view of sustainable development - a simple subject really. Take a geographically defined territory and look at its ecosystem – how the energy from the sun is captured by plants and how the animals live and how water and nutrients cycle around. Next, look more closely at how the animal population is doing, maybe analyzing their behaviour and their interaction with its surroundings. These basic observations will give you some idea of how likely the population will fare as time goes on.

Nature tends to develop towards mature eco-systems. The main characteristics of mature eco-systems are:

* Retention of nutrients and water in the area
* Maximised energy capture from sunlight
* More or less stable populations
* Wide diversity of flora and fauna

Suppose we were to look at an area of forest and the apes living there.

Numbers. The population is breeding rapidly, numbers are rising exponentially.

Trees. Hmmm the forest is being depleted faster than it is managing to grow back.
The state of the population. The apes seem to be doing OK, or are they? Closer examination reveals 15% are in a bad way, they are starving. Even more, 17% or one sixth are frequently sick due to drinking infected water. An even greater percentage are overweight.

Nutrients. The area is leaking water, phosphorus and other essential minerals.

You don’t need to have a degree in advanced systems ecology to see the population of apes will soon start to die off. The forest they rely on is shrinking, and loosing nutrients; they already cannot feed themselves. With our sustainable development glasses on, we take a look at the behaviour of the population for some clues as to what is happening:

* The hungry ones breed more
* The well-fed ones destroy the trees when moving around
* They are incapable of distributing food so all are at a healthy weight

In some ways, this behaviour makes sense: a stressed, hungry population will breed more, perhaps sending its offspring away in the hope they will find a better place to survive in. And the well fed population destroying the very trees it lives off - if there are many, many trees and very few apes it probably would not make any difference. And it makes no sense, from a survival point of view, if they all starve.

Anyway, the outlook for the ape population does not look good. Unless there is some kind of intervention, a radical interruption to the growth they are undergoing, and a rapid behaviour change, we are likely to see a population crash. This would be typified by a rapid drop in numbers to a mere single digit percentage of the original population.

And now to poverty. Poverty is typically defined as having two or less dollars a day to live on. But from a sustainability point of view, we define it as not having adequate shelter, clothing and food to have the capability to develop towards prosperity.

Now we turn our attention to the status of the population of the world. Of the 6,7 billion on the Earth, estimates say 880 million are undernourished (13%) and 1.4 billion (20%) are without adequate food supply. (1.1 million are overweight.)

Our own eco system is under pressure: we are losing forests, water supplies and fertile soil by the day, not to mention that carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere possibly destabilizing our climate system.

The mineral sources we rely on are also depleting. Some estimates say we have used half of all recoverable oil (the easy half at that) and more than a half of coal. Phosphorus, essential for fertilizers has 30 years left.

Behaviour: it seems man’s attention is turned elsewhere; to making money. While ecosystems and minerals deplete, money is growing.

(Strangely enough, although money is growing the poor are getting poorer.)


Faced with choices, we can either aim to preserve minerals and ecosystems or not. Based on our view of man we can aim to provide a standard of living for all or not. This gives us four basic aims. Sadly, current behaviour points to destroying ecosystems and not being able to feed everyone anyway.

Other things that are growing: number of economics prizes to honour the memory of Alfred Nobel , the number of trained economists, scientists, and the number of research papers on all topics including poverty. Interestingly enough, as more prizes in economics are awarded through the years, (39 so far, one was awarded yesterday) the higher the number of homeless grows in Stockholm city(3800, about one for ten) – a short distance from the site of the award ceremony. So poverty is telling you something: business as usual, with its celebrated and rewarded intellectual prowess, cannot be trusted to act as a responsible steward of eco systems. It can’t even feed and house all the people in developed countries.

As with our theoretical population of monkeys, the outlook is not good. There is nothing in our current behavior to give hope that poverty will alleviated and everyone will have food, water and shelter. Not only that, there is nothing in our behavior to show we have the capability to address the inevitable shortfalls due to population pressure on a finite planet. On the contrary, the current behavior is to concentrate on finding ways to increase the flow of money.

We may have already hit our first physical barrier: oil. Cheap oil supplies have peaked and been on a peak since 2005. But demand is continuing. In fact, without pumping large amounts of cheap energy into an economy, it cannot grow. There may be some small margin where efficiency gains compensate shortfalls, but how far can efficiency gains go? Increase in demand, scarcity of availability leads to increased prices, slowing down economic growth.

Population crash or rapid intervention? Try this for yourself, in either case you are probably looking at facing poverty in your life time. Look at where you are now and the way the world situation will affect you as population demands hit physical limits. Think. Where do you want to be? What might get in your way? What qualities and skills do you need to develop to be part of the change?

We need to put the brakes on and we need to do it soon. The monetary system has collapsed, the energy supply system is next, followed by food and water supply. What can you do today?





Blog action day

Friday, October 10, 2008

An entry to the Google contest

Google are running a contest on ideas to help humanity. This is my contribution below.

What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)

Give charitable foundations who offer water, food and accommodation supply and systems, the possibility to use the unemployed (who get benefits and a bonus) to help.

Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)

The idea is to adjust the status of approved charities to allow those providing housing, food etc, the basic necessities of security, to take on unemployed persons to help in their activities.
A basic agreement would be made between a government agency supervising the charity, and the charity, allowing the charity to utilize registered unemployed persons for 40 hours a week, allowing time for the unemployed person to pursue job seeking during working hours.
The charity would be required in turn to make available all or some basic services including food, water or accommodation to those in need and report on a regular basis to the authority.
For example, with extra people to help out, one charity offering meals might be able to set up a food growing project on local wasteland to increase the amount of food offered. Another might be able to offer more home repair services.
Unemployed people would be offered the normal benefit, plus some kind of bonus to assist with the extra costs involved in helping out (travel to work for example).
This is a very simple idea, using organizations already operational and set up to take on extra help. These organizations are also already registered and receiving state benefit in the form of tax relief, so all reporting structures are in place too.
The skills of creating food and accommodation systems increase the employability of the volunteers and also providing food and accommodation brings stability to areas of unrest.
.
What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)
.
  • Despite years of economic progress, food, water and accommodation are still not available to a large percentage of the world’s population and an embarrassingly large number of the inhabitants of rich countries.
  • The corporations set up to effectively provide these, need paying to make a profit and pay overheads and salaries. People needing these services the most are the ones least able to pay.
  • Although many believe in the power of market forces, the presence of the poor, hungry and homeless in any society creates an underlying feeling of insecurity and fear. Knowing you will, whatever situation you end up in, get a roof over your head and fed, gives the security people need to be creative and entrepreneurial, the true basis of prosperity. Insecurity breeds greed and crime.
  • The unemployed feel unable to contribute meaningfully to society.
  • Charities cannot attract helpers. Many are too busy with their work.

If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)
  1. Firstly, Hungry and homeless would be fed and accommodated. Getting in more helpers would leverage the effectiveness of existing charities, making donating to them more effective. For example, calculations show one good farmer can support 50 families a year with food.
  2. Secondly, the unemployed would have a meaningful occupation.
  3. Thirdly, society in general benefits as well fed and secure people are better able to manage their own situation and develop their entrepreneurship, so prosperity grows.
  4. Skills learnt in e.g. urban gardening or local water treatment would be transferred to many, increasing the potential for new businesses to spring up.
  5. Organizations which are strong in delivering this kind of security also bring the potential of peace, and could work alongside the military.




What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)
  • Initially, work on defining the requirements on a charity. Then, setting up the inspection, reporting and bonus system. Some pilot schemes should be tried with selective charities and local authorities.
  • The authority should try ways to encourage charities to cooperate. Using internet based tools to coordinate the work to quickly find volunteers, connect charities with new potential aid receivers, to aid reporting etc, would assist the speed of development.
  • Areas which solved local problems could be encouraged to find ways to export their services to other regions.

Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)

Once implemented, in a city for example, the scheme should reduce the number of hungry people to zero at the same time as the number unemployed without a meaningful place to go to dwindles.
The number of people involuntarily without registered accommodation should drop to zero in time.
Measures: increase/decrease % per month of people hungry. increase/decrease % per month of people homeless. : increase/decrease % per month of people unemployed and engaged in the scheme.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What do drinking water and the environment have to do with each other

What gets me is that we are spending more and more money on cleaning up water to ready it for drinking. Medicines, herbicides etc, are slipping though the purification plants (which themselves require huge amounts of chemicals and energy).

The reason we are spending more and more is because we are polluting more and more. In most places you cannot even drink rainwater. It would make much greater sense if no business or other organisation were allowed to emit either directly or as a consequence of the use of their products, anything that could compromise drinking water sources.We are also seeing in parts of the world such a lack of water that severe restrictions are in place. Again, no business or other organisation should be allowed to use such quantities of water (or introduce technology that uses quantities of water) that the supply of drinking water is compromised.

On the face of it, it seems a simple task for governments to regulate. Ensuring drinking water would decrease health care costs and increase the supply of healthy workers. It would probably stimulate the development of cleantech at the same time it would be a good export earner.

There are a few other connections between water and the environment. Firstly, bottled water. The environmental burden that comes from transport, processing and the use of plastic containers has been well documented in other places.Tap water has less environmental impact. However, because it needs disinfecting, large amounts of chlorine are used to kill bacteria in the distribution network.

We have the choice between bottled water and its environmental burden, and piped water with its long term negative health impacts and sometimes outbreaks of bacterial contamination.The main health problems from tapwater come from chlorine, trihalomethanes and aluminum. Chlorine is a very efficient poison. In normal cases it kills all bacteria and virus in your tap water. In order to be on the safe side and in order to make the chlorine last until the end of the system, water utilities may sometimes add too much chlorine. That is not healthy.

Trihalomethanes: When chlorine breaks down bacteria, trihalomethanes, such as chloroform, trichloroethylene, bromoform, dibromochloromethane, and bromodichloromethane, result. The American authorities have set the limit of trihalomethanes to 100 micrograms per liter. In tap water, the amount of trihalomethanes is normally below 50 microgram per liter, but there are examples of tap water containing up to 1000 micrograms per liter. As long as the water purification plants continue to use chlorine in order to fight bacteria, there is going to be some trihalomethanes in the drinking water.

Aluminum: Scientific studies, in the USA, Guam, Norway and England, have shown a connection between an the amount of aluminum in drinking water and the number of neural disorders. One of these disorders is Alzheimer’s disease, a serious kind of senility which begins with loss of memory and confusion and ends with death. Aluminum is also suspected of increasing the number of “normal” senile dementia and Parkinson’s.

In my book "Inventing for the Sustainable Planet" I envisage a sustainable society living off naturally distilled water: rainwater.

The blog post on the subject is on this link.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sustainable living is living wonderfully

I created this MINDMOVIE as an affirmation to myself and others on what it would be like to live in a sustainable village like an ECO-UNIT. Affirmations are pro sustainability inventions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Herd mentality astutely described on How to save the World

Dave Pollards excellent blog asks why we are looking for leaders now that the counter-sustainable nature of the economic system is coming to light, and blame is being laid left to right.

One of Dave's points is that we don't have any leaders who have more of a clue than the rest of us. And any clue they have is used to make sure they are OK themselves.

Dave hit the nail on the head. With consumer's and taxpayer's money, an education system has been built up. Those with the best educations are those at the helm of banks, corporations, political parties and other bodies who are basically screwing us over.

The majority of people do not want war in Iraq, poverty, and DO want health care and social security. So why isn't it that way? Because we have abdicated to the very people whose education we paid for. And it is just these people who will not take the hit as the economies of the world go into downward spiral. The Latin Americans refused to have anything to do with the World Bank and the IMF and now they are asking ambassadors to leave. Do they know something we don't? Maybe they have been screwed over so many times by well educated Chicago boyz that they have learned something... I wonder...

As the world goes into economic turmoil, it is us ordinary folks who are at an extreme disadvantage. We are unprepared, we do not have robust contact networks, we do not own land or facilities and we are still hoping that someone, somewhere has a good plan. As you say, somewhere there is a LEADER who will, like Robin Hood, take charge. If you are reading this, thinking "naaah they will think of something" just remember that what they are thinking does not have your best interests in mind

Monday, September 15, 2008

The town without cars


It comes up in the book "Inventing for the Sustainable Planet" - modern town without cars. But do they exist? Do they function well?

Of course they do. The Archipelago outside Stockholm, Sweden boasts the car-less town of Söderhamn. Its a great place to visit in the summer, full of life and a great day out. As you see, the houses are close together, you can walk around the town which has a nice, homely feel to it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New version of Sustainable Development model released

sustainable development model
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: strategy model)

I like 350

The 350 group has taken it upon themselves to explain that Carbon Dioxide levels must go down to 387 part per million to minimise the risk of self-reinforced global warming and the Earth reaching a tipping point.
Here at Sustainable Planet we welcome such marketing initiatives. That kind of communication is a great innovative way for people to understand the issues.
Check out the video below....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Money counts? Really? Does it count anything useful?

Max's approach in the book INVENTING FOR THE SUSTAINABLE PLANET, using money as a counting system, is praiseworthy. We have very few other methods of keeping stock and control of what is happening in the world. During the US depression I believe they counted box cars until the GNP method was developed. A sustainability index derived from CO2 emissions and GNP MIGHT be the way to go.

However, as pointed out in earlier chapters, the Porena people abandoned money and the more I read of this book the clearer it is becoming that money as we know it is a dead end.
A case in point: New calculations from the World Bank show the level of poverty in the world to be 400 million more than previously thought. Poverty means to live on less than 1,5 Dollars US a day.

Look: if you have a roof over your head, food to eat and are comfortable and safe in your community you have the possibility to a fulfilled life. If you have a few dollars in your pocket and still have none of that you do not have the basis of living a life in dignity. I'm with the people of Porena. Abandon money as a measure and medium!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wrong thinking on water

The idea of technical nutrients recycling through the technosphere (see my blog on Planet thoughts) brings me to think of the latest talk going on about water. There is a lot of ranting about for example Britain importing water via clothes and food (the water being "used" in the manufacturing process in other countries). This leads to talk about water footprint of a nation.

This is a little missleading as carbon footprint is understood as the carbon being emitted and untretreiveable. Not so for water.


Water COULD be recycled many times over. In fact the equation for a nation is easy.

(Water removed (i.e. left into the sea)= Water input from rain and rivers)/year

The number of times it is recycled depends on needs. Its an example of narrow understanding to think that water can only be "used" once. Dangerous thinking. It means it is acceptable to pollute water. It is THIS that is totally wrong. The 10,000 litres used to make jeans is nothing you need to feel guilty over IF it goes back to be used in other functions. If it is used for jeans and people go thirsty that's a crime against Human Rights. See more on water and footprint at PLANET THOUGHTS

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Holiday in UK shows Peak Oil decline is well on its way

Holidaying in Britain, the country of my birth from which I emigrated nearly 30 years ago, thoughts of sustainable planet were giving way to visits to the pub, fish and chips and long walks in the countryside. Not for long. Wherever I look I see Britain is about to enter a period of deep crisis the root of the problem soaring oil prices as production has peaked.

Maybe it’s because I have been writing about the crisis of sustainability for over five years, maybe it’s because I see this country of my birth with other eyes having lived away so long. But I am in a country sliding into the downturn of the industrial age. All the signs are plain to see. So plain, in fact that the newspaper reports over the space of three days are sufficient to chronicle the start of the inevitable slide into irrecoverable erosion of way of life for Brits and others around the planet.

THE TIMES Monday July 19 2008
Farmers ready to cash in on soaring land prices
The gist: Farm land prices have gone from Per hectare price of 6828 pounds per hectare in late 2005 to currently 12,965. farmers are more than willing to sell as they are feeling the squeeze from rising costs of fuel and fertiliser.
Also from the same newspaper:
]Hungry miners reap rich harvest from potash - the latest must have mineral
The gist: Potash, the potassium containing mineral, has risen from under 100 hundred usd in 1993 to nearly 700 USD/ton this year. Potassium is an essential component of fertiliser.

Cheap flights boom runs out of runway
The gist: the age of budget flights is coming to an end.
Developments are about to price more than five million Brits out of the budget holiday market fares going to go up and will do so for the foreseeable future.
Analysts expect some airlines to be pushed into bankruptcy or be bought by larger rivals.

THE TIMES Monday 25th July 2008
Energy Firms 'conspire to raise prices'
The gist: a report claims that minimum of competition has kept prices too high over the last few years, and that the re is in wholesale price of energy will result in millions of Brits unable to pay their energy bill.
Prices of energy paid by industry is above European levels already and is putting thousands of jobs in manufacturing at a risk.
Energy suppliers are signaling further price rises which is fuelling inflation and creating real concerns of the negative impact on the economy starting a vicious downward spiral in the economy.

THE TIMES Wednesday July 30 2008
Mortgage market paralysis will last for at least three years says Crosby.
The gist A report for the government by Sir James Crosby on the mortgage situation highlights how banks are unwilling to give mortgage loans for house purchase, and this is crippling the housing market as well as
The crunch in credit will give rise to defaults on repossessions.
The level of July is 70% lower than the equivalent period in the previous year.
Comment: TV commentators cite the report as evidence that the mortgage system is broken.

Retail sales slide at their worst rate for 25 years.
The gist; Sales during July are at their worst for 25 years. They believe consumers are reining in their spending in the face of seriously squeezed purchasing power.

THE TIMES Thursday July 31 20008 Millions face 100 pound a month fuel bills
The gist: coming hike of 35% on gas and 9% on electricity will put millions more into fuel poverty over 5 million.

THE TIMES Thursday July 31
[Work until you are 70.
The gist: 100 years after the introduction of state pensions, Britain is facing a crisis. With rising prices, longer lifespan and smaller percentage of the population working, the size of pension money is going to shrink, leaving many of the aged living in poverty and retirement age rising to 70.

THE TIMES Wednesday August 6 2008
Double decline in services and industry puts Britain on the brink of recession

The gist: Economists report the economy is grinding to a halt based on official figures showing manufacturing output fell for the fourth quarter in a row, and overall output fell in services for the third month in a row.

Other signs: wherever we go we see ”For Sale” signs outside houses. And my brother in law just came back form meeting an old friend, a building contractor. After 19 years he is forced to close the business down. There is just not the work for him or his employees.

So there it is, the whole drama of the counter-sustainable rut the nation is in, and the impending long emergency they all teeter on, is being played out, in news reports in the press and in front of me. There was even a TV drama ” Burn Up” about Peak Oil.

Unable to fuel the lifestyle that has grown up post-war with cheap energy, and with the money printing machine of home loans broken, the country is staring economic recession in the face.
This is not just a dip in a normal economic cycle, it is the signs that the country is in such serious difficulty that radical changes are called for before it gets worse.

Britain has enjoyed a long period of economic prosperity, partly endowed by the gift of North Sea oil and gas. Even during this period poverty, homelessness and were not addressed. Admittedly the Labour government addressed fairness issues, but if they were unable to succeed as government coffers were filed with tax income who can they be expected to succeed now. Now the situation is getting acute as millions face poverty.
They are now alone. I fear the same events are playing out in my new home, Sweden.
Except in Sweden such stories and drama tend to be downplayed by the media. Watch this space.

http://Stephenhinton.avbp.net Inventing for the Sustainable Planet

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Book of the blog is available NOW

Friends!

It started in 1996 with me starting to envision what a sustainable world might look like. I have so many hours of recordings and inventions still not published, but the main insights are now in book form, to download as .pdf or to order as printed copy.
The whole book is a novel, rather like a science fiction novel, and is in the form of a road trip through the sustainable world. It's also a bit of an inner journey.

Some parts are original and never published here, others are edited and clarified, polished and illustrated.

If the blog intrigues you, go get the book!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just joined Technorati!

Technorati Profile

We are getting closer to the poverty line

How far is the current oil price stimulated price hikes eroding life quality? It's going fast.
And it will probably get a lot worse as people take the easiest way out, like buying cheap cars.

Just chatting on Second Life yesterday an acquaintance from the US said that she is already eating canned and frozen food as fresh food is too expensive given the rise of gasoline prices and food in general. For a treat she had fresh chicken the other day. What a life! And she has a full time job! It looks to me as if this is all going faster than we could imagine.

Actually, there is a need for real innovation in how taxes are set up. Instead of imposing import restrictions, why not just reduce the corporate tax burden on a sliding scale depending on how many citizens you employ? I reckon you could waive sales tax and tax on profits for corporations and small companies that had one employee or more per $100,000 in annual turnover.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WORKERS OF THE WORLD RELAX

Wonderful film following the theme of my book INVENTING FOR THE SUSTAINABLE PLANET how work should be eased off!
CLICK HERE.

My letter to Joe Bageant

I publish below my letter to Joe Bageant. His latest book Dear Hunting with Jesus tells how the working person in USA ( 65% of the population) is kept enslaved and on the edge of bankrupcy. Even the media perpetuate the myth you gotta be poor and proud and it is your own fault!


Joe!

As a Brit living in Sweden, I am following your observations with interest, and with despair starting to see the same phenomena in Europe coming slowly.

However, that is not at the top of my mind just now; it's Die Hard 4 with Bruce Willis. We rented the DVD last night and I sat down to watch it at the request of the youngest member of our family.

At one point, the baddy looks up the personal details about the hero John McClane (played by Willis) on government computers. This New York cop of Irish origin, had no retirement plan, his personal economy was ruined, and he was divorced from his wife and estranged from his daughter.

But he had saved thousands of lives earlier, in Die Hard 1, 2 and 3. Earlier in the film, he says how heroes are not welcome and he talks about how people want don't to know about them. It obviously does not pay well, but our hero appears to accept it.

I thought about Die Hard when I read your blog! This film is pure indoctrination into just what you are talking about. You are white and of Scots-Irish origin, have to lay your life on the line, because you just happen to be there, and be the one that does something about the situation because you are the only one who can. You find a computer hacker with the same sentiment. You are tough and reckless and do a jig when the bad guy gets killed.

The upper echelons of the middle class, the lackies of the ruling class, are either real bad-ass people who are using the education they got subsidized by the taxpayer to screw virtually everybody and topple the economy, or incompetent jobsworth who put daily life at risk by creating infrastructure and systems that blatantly do not work or are intrinsically unsound.

Talk about art imitating life!

Keep up the good work and saying it like it is!

Steve
Stockholm, Sweden



Joe replies...

Steve,

It never ceases to amaze me on how many variations on the theme can be created. In the end the American working class will always come to see their defeat and consequent suffering as heroic.

I heard a version of this yesterday on the radio as I drove back home from the airport, after having been to the National Conference on Media Reform in Minneapolis. The radio program had a series of ordinary Americans -- people who had triumphed over their lack of health insurance or health care, through their own stubbornness, toil, ingenuity, individualism and sheer grit. Now implicit in this of course was acceptance of the complete lack of health protection whatsoever, and then overcoming that lack.



read the rest on....

http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2008/06/victims-suckers.html#more



Monday, May 26, 2008

The Book of the blog is close to being published!

We are pleased to announce that the book of the Imagestreams and blogs will be available soon to purchase via the website stephenhinton.avbp.net.

Not only does the book explain the inventions with diagrams and links to websites for verifications, it also teaches the methods of Imagestreaming and discusses how to apply the insights to daily life.

Watch this space!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Connecting peace and sustainable development

Sometimes I can’t get things out of my head. It may sound like a long shot, but as I stepped onto the plane to Berlin to attend a Words of Peace conference with Prem Rawat, I couldn’t help my intuition that peace and sustainable development were linked somehow and that maybe the journey and time with him was going to provide some insights.

Landing in Berlin for the first time in my life, old images of the war, the division of the two countries and its uniting cropped up. But there was no wall, no division. strained to work out if I was in the East or West, but no. Just people. This is the way it should be. No divisions. No wars.

War in itself is not sustainable; it destroys environmental, infrastructural and mineral assets for future generations. And just looking after your own nation is not sustainable either. If the planet goes so does your nation.

Already in the video sequences at the start of the event I started to realize the core of the issue. It is about understanding who you are, your own core. The better we know what we are here for the better we can arrange our life on Earth to fit.

In fact understanding who you are, what life is, is a central theme of his message. He contrasted his message with two other schools of thought. One where you are meant not to enjoy or appreciate your life here on Earth, but to follow a certain code in order not to suffer in a life which comes after death. Another says your life now is a result of actions in your previous life and you cannot change it. Prem Rawat’s message is simpler: life is a gift, every breath is a miracle and you not only want to enjoy every moment of your life, but it is perfectly possible.

He talked of those who promote democracy as a way to peace, but commented that in one democratic country most people did not want the Iraq war and they went to war anyway, and in that same country they have the highest percentage of people in jail.

A session the second day focused on the techniques of inner peace that he teaches. I was reminded by something he said earlier: that do not let the situation of the world get at you. The key to peace is inside you, focus on that, on enjoying what you have.

Having spent a very pleasant break in the Berlin sunshine with a sandwich, cappuccino and convivial company of acquaintances new and old, I went back to a questions and answer session having let go of that question that was initially burning in me.

To my surprise, the second or third question was about world peace. I started to form an understanding. When you understand the value of your own life you understand that you cannot abdicate responsibility to leaders. The result of this mass abdication we can see in that there are more educated people on the planet than there have ever been. And yet there are more wars and more people starving. Some of the best educated people are also those who are cheating the most.

A sustainable, world living in peace, dignity and prosperity will come from each individual realizing the value of life itself for themselves and taking back the responsibility abdicated to leadership.

As each individual sows seeds of acting with kindness and dignity, these seeds will grow to a greater world consciousness.

Because life is a gift, receiving the gift with appreciation and giving back in dignity through living with kindness with the people of the planet is the way to live. Ideas of ownership, taking what you want by force or deceit, from the very people who looked after you and made your education possible, is surely no recipe we would like to hand over to future generations.

Rather, the understanding that peace is possible for all, and with it will come prosperity and the opportunity to enjoy the gift of life to its fullest.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Swedish Eco-village veteran shares valuable advice for ICs

Interview with Mia Torpe

Back in the 70s Mia and a few others decided to create an eco-village in a suburb of Stockholm. She still lives there, and is today environmental manger for a large housing organization. Her experience is invaluable for all would-be Intentional Community residents.

Here are some highlights of the advice she gave in a recent interview I did with her.

1) Get a queue and raise the stakes as you go along. Just by asking for USD 10 as a membership fee meant they lost a few people. Then they raised the fee to a monthly one and lost a few more. They required that queue members worked in the association a minimum number of hours, and they lost a few more. From gathering around 4000 names they still had difficulty selling 45 apartments.

2) Start with subject working groups from the beginning. For eco-building so much knowledge is needed if you are to be able to give good input to the building contractor. They had 4-5 groups. These later on organized study circles in which attendance was mandatory.

3) Three levels of purchase. They offered apartments as turn-key, finished shell requiring kitchen, plastering, finishing and simple empty shell.

4) The apartments were slightly smaller than average, focus being on creating more common areas.

5) You all need a common vision that needs formulating clearly.

6) Every project is unique.

7) There was a lot of “like to have” talk from members. In the end, because everything costs, they made a list and voted on the five most important factors to include in the project. This system was very effective for coming to agreement.

8) Mandatory working days are still in effect.

9) Decisions were made by consensus as far as possible. They were able to use the church to host large gatherings.

10) Get books. Build a library of information.

11) If Mia were to do this again she would try to eliminate the need for heating all together and create a so-called passive heating system. She is worried energy prices will increase living costs dramatically.

12) Hold large information meetings. These attract members.

13) Create a communal area - even if it is rudimentary. They could just about afford an uninsulated "barn" to meet in, but they gathered there even when it was cold - drinking beer and socialising. It was well worth it.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Article from the future: Energy Descent

Retford was slow in coming to the realization that ”business as usual” may not keep local citizens’ standard of living at an acceptable level. As they saw energy prices hike many were concerned the local economy was in danger of spiraling down out of control. Many others found it incomprehensible that energy security could be synonymous with economic security. Fortunately, the neighboring city of Porena had embarked upon a successful sustainable development process several years earlier. They turned to Porena city manager, Aaron Heathcliffe, for help. They have now managed to start activities rolling in eight major areas involving just about everyone in the area. Part of the reason for Retford’s success was getting people involved in a way that built a sense of urgency and importance.

But how serious and urgent was the situation? Says Jeff Small, coordinator for the Sustainable Development Office of Retford: “Our starting point was one of a need to understand the situation from the point of view of security of living standards. The national government had delegated responsibility for sustainable development down to the local level. We had received a list of goals to strive for.” Jeff continues, “How urgent was the situation? We had no idea. Some people were saying oil depletion would mean energy price hikes above the annual 4-5% we were seeing. Others were saying market mechanisms would prevail. Interestingly, very few actually knew how things worked in the local region. And even fewer could navigate the figures needed. We found ourselves comparing apples and pears. For instance; how much food do we need (often measured in calories), how much food do we grow (measured in tons) how much energy needed to grow food (measured in liters of diesel)”.

It was just this need to understand the situation that prompted Aaron Heathcliffe to use a data gathering and modeling approach. Based on the local council’s own GIS (geographic information system) he asked the office to set up a project group to find out how the living standard basics were provided. These included water, housing, food, jobs, transport etc. All figures and explanations were to be put into the GIS system so project members could “fly” through the area to gain an understanding of how these systems were working.

Jeff Small again; “The exercise was a real awakening; for example, we do not grow enough food in the area to feed all the population. There is massive commuting every day, and parts of the area are not served by public transport. The system was extremely useful. The group could ask the operator to, say, “show us the number of people living out of walking distance of public transport” – and we could see immediately the information in graphic form on the map”. It was the process of gathering the data that started to create both awareness and multilateral cooperation. For instance, it started to become apparent what was NOT known about water supply. People are just used to turning on taps, and very few had a view of the sewage treatment processes. The data gathering exercises produced very clear and comprehensive information, which the project published. Pictures from the studies helped create awareness for what was to come.

It was the next phase however, that really created the impetus for change. The project team started to bring in representatives of every stakeholder organization. Each basic element of living standard was mapped against the relevant stakeholder organization. The local business association, residents’ association and gardening club got very active early on.
The next step was to ask representatives to review the data, and to evaluate it. They got as the starting point the government goals and security of living standards. They were to come up with risks and priorities. A database related to the GIS system stored geographical positioning data, the issue description, risk and priority. All the data could be aggregated to give a general overview of the risk of potential of shortfall or excess for local residents. What was interesting was that from the point of view of each stakeholder organization’s purpose, as stated in their articles of association, the current situation was not really producing the sort of results they were after. Local businesses were struggling, resident’s associations complaining of falling standards, food quality was poor… Oil depletion risks were changing the situation from uncomfortable to downright disastrous.

Aaron Heathcliffe commented; “we never mentioned politics once. What was interesting was that no-one really disputed where the priorities lay. Maybe some had different ideas about how to solve them, but this fact-based method helped build a basis for consensus”. At this point, the stakeholder organizations were invited to send representatives to work out a plan of action. The plan would include commitments by each organization, so only representatives with enough mandate were sent to the action planning. The plans were based on the shortfall –excess evaluations. Excess would be a resource to use to mitigate shortfalls in other areas, by for example trading with other areas.

In the end, the groups had worked out about eight major areas to tackle and strategies for each. Commitments from the various stakeholder organizations were not enough, however, for real changes to be brought about. For instance, one scheme involved reducing commuting by job-swapping. Although the local business association had set the scheme up it needed employees to volunteer for the changes. To sweeten the deal, anyone who swapped their job would be given a free travel permit. Anyone who gave up their car would be prioritized for housing and so on.

So the next step was for each stakeholder organization to invite their members and members of the public to presentations. The office of sustainable development decided to stage a large exhibition in conjunction with the local May fair. Large displays took visitors through the analysis the project groups had gone through, and other displays asked for volunteers. Most of the key area booths took the form of displays with four sections. In the middle they showed how the area works today – what we have - the left pane showed - why we can’t go on – the right pane: what we need and the bottom pane – what we must do. The next set of displays talked about managing the transition, and the need for overall coordination of efforts. People would then drift to the display “get involved” just before the exit.

One group is planning to re-build some parts of the town to make easy walking access. And they are talking about a canal for energy efficient transport of heavy goods. One priority is diesel for the construction machines. They want to dig ditches and create the conditions for permaculture before the machines become useless. Jeff Small is excited; “from what looked to be a dark future we are hopeful we are headed for an easier, more social life, with a feeling of being closer to nature!”

This is an extract from the coming sequel to the book “Inventing for the Sustainable Planet” http://www.avbp.net/html/porena.html

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Work isn't working revisited... fresh stats



My recent post underlined my position on the state of the world: work isn't working. Very few readers have actually challenged the statistics.

Sad to say, they are getting worse by the minute. Click on the banner to go to the excellent site worldometers. They collect data from all over and publish it real time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fast set up of intentional communities

AVBP accepted an assignment to invent a rapid process to set up intentional communities.

Background

An intentional community is a planned residential community designed to promote a much higher degree of social interaction than other communities. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political or spiritual vision. They also share responsibilities and resources. Intentional communities include co-housing, residential land trusts, eco-villages, communes, kibbutzim, ashrams, and housing co-operatives.

Typically, new members of an intentional community are selected by the community's existing membership, rather than by real-estate agents or land owners (if the land is not owned by the community). Though intentional communities do not claim to be utopias in the sense of perfect places, many do attempt to live a different and better sort of society, and as such many draw on historical utopian experiments or ideas in utopian fiction.

Why now?

We are entering a new age. Although there have been many earlier warnings on the limits to our way of life, the signals are becoming more frequent and stronger. Within our lifetimes we are likely to see drastic effects of oil depletion, ecological deterioration and financial system collapse.

Where Business as Usual lets people down, the stronger the social cohesion, the better the chances of handling the crisis. We like to say that in the absence of financial capital, social capital will pull you through.

Yet the skills of creating social capital – being able to operate in a group as a group – are not common. The experience of intentional community start-ups is that members go through many personal development stages – joining a community is an exercise in personal growth.

So a platform is needed where individuals can come together to experiment in being part of an Intentional community.

In terms of rewarding relationships – the art of conversation and developing true loving relationships with others – we also recognise our culture of consuming popular entertainment and working alone have not provided us with the opportunity to develop deep, lasting, supportive relationships.

PREAMBLE

Two groups I am involved in to set up Intentional communities, one in Second Life and one in Real Life, have been going quite a while. The real life one has been going about a year. It is OK it’s taking time, we are learning, there is a lot of material to help that needs studying. However, we believe a lot of people get impatient with this, who would otherwise join an IC. There is a danger that the project simply runs out in the sand and there is no result.

Furthermore, as signs appear on the horizon to that we are entering a world changing for the worse, the sense of urgency will grow. It would be good to offer the possibility to people to join an IC fairly quickly.

First question: what is “quickly?” Well realistically, a study circle is ten meetings over ten weeks. We’ll take ten weeks as a maximum. Some courses, like weekend courses, stretch three weekends or six days of meetings. We can have that as a minimum. We are not looking to make it happen in an evening although I find that idea really appealing so I’d like to try that too.

The Quest: visit an advanced civilization that has methodologies in its culture for bringing people together to create IC. (Thinking about it, this skill seems to be missing or forgotten in our culture.) I want to come home with practical tools and ways to set up an IC rapidly – to achieve visible results to keep the initiative going.

Tapescript

I start in the departure area. I look up and admire the high glass roof. As soon as I sit down on a bench, the facilitator joins me. He wants a word

‘You finally understood this.’

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘this is a facilitation situation – a process that needs facilitation.’

‘Come on, lets take the train’ he says.

We go to the station and get a large cream coloured train with red stripes. We sit opposite each other.

‘Brief me’ I say,

‘It doesn’t work like that and you know it,’ he says.

‘Enjoy the journey, I’ll tell you when to get off.’

We enter a tunnel, come out the other side, and the train stops.

‘Come on, we are getting off,’ he says.

I recognize the place immediately; it’s the Center of Relocalization from earlier visits. The center is municipally- backed with the purpose to inform and assist inhabitants to switch to a more localized life style.

A meeting is going on. We enter and sit down. People are sitting in rows listening to a person up front giving a presentation.

I get the feeling they have been invited here because of Intentional Communities.

The presenter is asking people what they believe about the future and about the world situation. Of course, I personally believe communities need to relocalize. Someone is talking about the whys and wherefores of relocalization. And why you need to be a certain number of people.

This meeting is one of many that the Center of Relocalization holds regularly. I get the feeling that the center has simply put out an advertisement that they are holding the course, and had some explanatory texts on their web.

The presenter shows a diagram of the area and what needs to happen. People here seem to be on the same page. THAT something needs to happen is accepted. THAT it is better to do it with others is what is being discussed.

‘Is it right,’ I ask the facilitator, ‘that these people have been invited?’

‘This represents the first step for them – an information meeting. They will be asked to put their hand up if they want to go further.’ He says.

‘This guy is one of my best facilitators.’

The presentation ends. Seventy eight percent put their hands up and want to carry on. Each takes a card with contact details and instructions as to what to do next. They are walking away. The next step is to go to the pond. I stroll over with the facilitator – about 30 of us gather there. The rest leave. This is a chance for us to get to know each other. Coffee and sandwiches are served and we walk round introducing each other.

I mingle too. I notice a majority of guys – fewer women.

‘Hi,’ I say to one of the participants

‘How come you are here?’

‘Its obvious. I don’t want to be alone – so much happening in the world I want to be part of a group working on this problem.’

‘What do you do?’

‘I’m a panel beater. You?’

‘I work with facilitation - I’m with this facilitator.’

As I point out who I came with, the guy looks at the facilitator with some respect.

The facilitator is grabbing a megaphone and is in the process of taking charge.

‘We need to go to the next stage,’ he says. ‘We need to take the next step, which is talking about land - estate’. He walks over to a large billboard divided up into smaller squares.

He explains: ‘you have to buy it all – you each buy a share of the land – it is your share. You all work together to solve the situation’. And then the group allocates a house or plot of land for your use within the framework of rules.

The facilitator then points out that there are three areas ready for sale today in the municipality.

A representative then presents the land option in detail. They are really talk each one up; ‘this one is beautiful, this one has existing houses, this one is large….etc’

The facilitator explains: ‘If you DO want to form a group you have to choose one of these places’.

A discussion goes on – people walk around debating the alternatives. I ask the facilitator about the sequence here… why the group should acquire land early on in the process.

He replies that man is territorial – it is so much in the blood – we have to have a common object. It is difficult to form a group without a shared resource like a building or land.

They form “buzz” groups of three in each. I overhear ‘If we don’t have the houses already built we have to build everything from scratch. Another says, ‘I’d rather build the houses myself’. A third replies they could camp in the summer.

They switch groups, one remains, the two who move report from their previous groups. Then they switch again.

The general feeling is it doesn’t matter too much which of the areas are chosen - they trust the municipality – what is important is that they get started.

The facilitator stands everyone in a circle. He asks for a show of hands. It is between option one and two. He asks for people to present their thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each. A new round of voting takes place and they put their hand up but it is still fairly 50 -50.

One person comes with a suggestion: ‘Actually it doesn’t matter as long as we are agreement’. He proposes we go for number one and just do it. The facilitator asks is anyone is against the proposal. Two put their hands up and say why they are against it. But they are not swaying the rest so they are left with choosing to come anyway or leaving the group. One leaves, one stays.

The group has decided on the land, now they have to go and buy it.

I whisper to the facilitator, ‘surely this can’t be right – they can’t buy the land before they work out what they are going to do with it!’

‘Do shut up,’ says the facilitator in an unusually rude outburst, ‘this is OK!’

They go over to a table, the bank are offering a loan to them to buy their share.

I didn’t like it, but I see the group needs something concrete like land. They still have opt out clauses in the contracts and no money has changed hands so I suppose it doesn’t matter too much.

Now they are asked to go to the decision ring, which consists of a circle of stone stools. They are sitting in a circle.

The facilitator again.

‘Now you need to elect democratic representation. I will hand over the running of the group to you. ’

So what he is looking for is volunteers. The group needs a legal board to represent it. A chairman, a secretary, a treasurer and three or four others ...deputies.

‘Who would like to put themselves forward or who would you like to suggest?’

The committee can choose their own chairman if they want to. Someone has been treasurer before and are happy to do it, so they volunteer. Someone has been on committee before, they step forward.

The facilitator takes care of the group decision to elect the committee. He points our that the committee is only for the set up period and a new one can be chosen later when the community is established.

For each candidate he asks if anyone is against and for their reasons.

It all goes fairly smoothly.

‘So,’ he says, ‘we finally have a formal organization. The minutes and complete set of documents to register the organization have been prepared by the facilitator’s organization. They are ready to be sent off to the authorities.

‘Time for a break again,’ says the facilitator. Group members walk around, discussing the place.

‘Impressive work,’ I say to the facilitator. ‘You haven’t seen anything yet,’ he replies.

He ushers the group round a large circular sandy area that looks like it may be a circular car parking space. He gets a stick and draws a large circle, which he divides into several sections.

Each of these sections has to do with setting up the community. He draws a heading in each section; housing, farming, water, social development, energy and recycling. This reminds me of the five stresses of Porena. I think to myself that of course the five stresses are addressed. He describes each of the areas then asks people to walk around and think about which aspects they would like to be involved in. They are to volunteer with their feet. They should think about their first and second choices.

He puts a number in the sections for how many are needed. Housing needs fifteen. People shuffle around some go from first to second choice.

Very quickly, all the numbers are made up.

The facilitator: ‘make sure you get to know each other, and choose one representative for your group’.

They stand in circles to choose their representative.

We have a committee and five representatives from each of the areas that need to be worked on.

The facilitator calls on us to walk up the hill towards a beautiful pavilion.

We will sit here just for five minutes. The idea here is to be silent, to still our thoughts and let everything catch you up.

I notice what a lovely day it is. I feel the sun shining on my face, and the breeze blowing in my hair. We all sit and close our eyes.

Just calming down, taking a break. It’s difficult to be silent as there are so many questions. I sneak at peak at the others who seem to be struggling as well. However, I suddenly feel the power of the group in the silence, Because we are all quiet together, because we are coming together and all have one purpose we can feel it.

The facilitator says; ‘look, we can’t go any further today - if we go too fast we will lose you.

A lot is happening you need to reflect on. However, until next time in your groups you need to complete a task. You have to dimension – quantify, each area for how much do you need of what and when. The group is made of 30, and can grow to 50 families. Those of you here who have partners at home should talk it through with them. Then there is the loan application, the bank will be contacting you.

The organization is formed, the land is allocated but not turned over to the group, everyone needs to talk it though with their spouses. And we will see you back here next week for the weekend course.

I go and thank the facilitator for showing me all this.

He says there is some worked involved in working it all out and shows me a manual, a compendium of possibilities of calculations, general experience of working with these groups before. There is a database of experience the compendium is taken from. And they follow how each group is doing.

The bank is essential. In this case the local municipality, who understood the importance of relocalization and forming communities, have engaged the bank to help. The municipality assigned the land and gave the bank the task of liaising with the facilitator group and the Center of Localization.

I borrow the facilitators eyes. One thing is that the moving around the group does is to get members thinking about estate together. I t helps them visualize what it will be like on their own land. And providing some basics like eating together is symbolic. Then there is the sitting down to make formal decision. Being silent together is something very powerful. In the silence the purpose can be felt. This is not religious.

I leave the facilitator’s eyes.

‘I’ll see you next time,’ he says.

I leave and get back on the train.

Things that surprised me

It is so obvious that the group needs to be agreed on the “what” of the gravity and urgency of the situation. The possibility that community is the answer to “how” is what needs to be got over.

Both the sand circle and the moments of silence were quite profound solutions.

That the local municipality and the bank had got together with the center and its facilitator group.

The need to actually speed ahead with the land allocation – I had never realized how important that is to people.

Learnings that struck me as significant

The facilitation structure helped the group to come together – first sitting together listening, then social mingle, then group decision, voting, consensus and then creating a formal organization and finally volunteering.

If you have the land it’s a lot easier to create the group – something inbuilt in humans.

In the silence is the purpose.

The need to go fast but not too fast – humans have the need to reflect.

Deliverables encountered

  • File/Database of knowledge
  • Descriptions of land available
  • Large presentation
  • Sand circle
  • Circle of decision, formal meeting place
  • Contract to buy part of land
  • Ready-to-complete documents of incorporation

Things I could use today.

I think in forming the intentional community I am working with just now, I will encourage them to get land as soon as possible. But also to consider all the opt out possibilities along the way.

The moment of silence… could be used in all groups.

The volunteer circle could be used at meetings in all volunteer situations.

Other reflections

Of course I asked to see a culture where ICs were common, I did not specify any conditions like in our world today. Especially, today there is no perception of urgency or gravity. I also like the idea that land is already available. How this could be applied to our situation today is something I would like to come back to, after the next follow-up sessions.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The world of work: what are the options?


In my last post I pointed out what must be obvious to many – that work is not working. Too much work is being done to create financial wealth, and too little is being done to secure a sustainable future for coming generations. If we have a world population of 6 billion, say a quarter of them are in work. The others are too old, young, sick or plain unemployed.

Let’s try to make it even clearer by considering the options. On one dimension the impact of work on ecological services provided by nature. Either it will decrease or maintain them. And then you have the dimension generating a standard of living, either work creates an acceptable standard or not.


That gives us four options. The absolute worst one is where work depletes the environment and we don’t create a standard of living worth having. Sadly to say, that is the position we are in today. The United Nations millennium report clearly shows the state of environmental degradation, and levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere are dangerously high already according to some scientists. We have a lot of people starving and a lot more in danger of starving.

Let’s look at this in more detail We’ll use rounded figures for convenience.

  • World population: 6 billion
  • Working population say, a half - 3 billion
  • Number of hours a day worked (average based on 1600 hours a year, 365 days a year) =13 billion hours a day
  • 85 billion barrels of oil a day
  • 14 million tons a day of coal
  • Ecological situation: footprint is 20% above the capacity of the Earth
  • Number of people undernourished: 887 million
  • Number without access to safe drinking water: 1,3 billion
  • Number on less that $2 a day 300 million

Starting from this situation we need to find a better option. Increasing protection of the environment is a GOOD thing. But in practice, if stricter regulations are introduced without the guarantee of living standards being provided, the end result would be even more hardship.

Concentrating on solving living standards for all without taking the environment into consideration will deplete the environment even faster.

The only sensible option to aim for is then securing a standard of living whilst preserving environmental services. That in my opinion requires rethinking work. But that is a very appealing challenge. My earlier envisioning looked at “the go along society”. We could do a whole lot worse.
 
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