Huge carbon sink in soil minerals: New avenue for offsetting rising greenhouse gases

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Originally posted on sciencedaily.com

Written by Eric Sorensen

A Washington State University researcher has discovered that vast amounts of carbon can be stored by soil minerals more than a foot below the surface. The finding could help offset the rising greenhouse-gas emissions helping warm the Earth's climate.

Marc Kramer, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at WSU Vancouver, reports his finding in one of two related papers demonstrating how the right management practices can help trap much of the carbon dioxide that is rapidly warming the planet.

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New Agraria Interactive Map!

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We're all very pleased and excited to present Community Solutions' new Interactive Map of Agraria! This beautiful representation of our vision for Agraria, developed in partnership with local artist and Antioch College professor Michael Casselli, helps us illustrate and communicate our ideas and plans for this expansive and diverse land. From environmental renewal to education to local business to scientific study, it's all represented here. Just visit the map and click on any icon for a short description. We'll see you online, at the map and on Giving Tuesday, November 28!

A Shift, And An Opportunity, At Agraria

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Written by Community Solutions Executive Director Susan Jennings

Dear Friend—

This year will go down in our organizational and in international history as one of surprise and shift. Organizationally, there is nothing more surprising than the fact that we are currently packing our offices in preparation for our move into a renovated workshop on Agraria, our recently-acquired 128-acre farm on the outskirts of Yellow Springs.

At the root of the swirl of planning and activity surrounding Agraria is a shift in organizational focus. By far the largest project in our 77-year history, Agraria is allowing a grounding and expansion of our community education and outreach. Already we have engaged with dozens of neighbors, farmers, and students in a visioning of the possibilities for Agraria, including:

·         Research and education around soil and water health and biodiversity

·         Restoration of Jacoby Creek and its banks in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy

·         Support of the regional food system through farmland rentals, production of soil amendments, and a native plant nursery

·         Partnerships with Central State University, Antioch College, and Yellow Springs and other regional school districts

Agraria provides a synchronistic platform for the integration of our organizational focus areas of resilient communities, regenerative land use, community economics, energy democracy, and being the change.  You can read on our interactive map about our long-term vision for Agraria.  

Agraria is both a mirror and an outgrowth of two larger, international paradigm shifts.

The first shift is an increasing recognition of the regeneration of soil as an important climate tool, with carbon sequestration in soil integral to the two latest international climate agreements.  Cutting-edge research suggests that regenerative land use could account for 37 percent of the solution to climate change.   Farmers and environmental organizations are at the heart of soil research and action; the Rodale Institute recently unveiled a Regenerative Agriculture certification.

Our hope is that Agraria can serve as a pilot and a model for land use practices that regenerate soil and sequester carbon.  We have been travelling to other farms, including Polyface, The Land Institute and The Arbor Day Foundation, to explore our options, and have also been attending national meetings around land use, cover crops, and soil regeneration. We will share what we are learning at our March 9th Regenerating Landscapes symposium, as well as in our first issue of The Journal of Agraria, due out this spring.

The second shift is the development of community leadership that is effecting important change.  While the local to global movement is decades old, the failure of many of our larger systems to respond constructively to environmental, societal, and economic crises has galvanized action across the planet.

We heard about many of these movements (including Via Campesina, Mondragon Cooperatives, and Mutual Aid Networks) at our inspiring October conference on The Economics of Happiness. We are also seeing community leadership first hand with the purchase and development of Agraria, with friends and neighbors assisting both financially and with trail building, skill sharing, and citizen science.  You can continue the conversation at our December 21st Gratitude Walk and Open House at Agraria as well as in next year’s educational events.

We are grateful for the support and encouragement we have received for what we view as a community asset and resource for building regional self-reliance. We invite you to join us as a financial partner-- matching our organizational leap with a special pledge—by becoming an inaugural Steward of the Soil and committing $1000 a year for three years. Combined with our business and investment strategy as well as a capital campaign, these yearly gifts will help to put us on a solid financial footing for the long term.

With gratitude for your support, and with best wishes for a hopeful turn of the year,

Susan Jennings

Executive Director

Middle School Students Present "Into the Wild" at Agraria

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Written by Community Solutions Staff Member David Diamond

McKinney Middle School seventh-graders culminated their months-long “Into the Wild” project with a presentation and public exhibition on October 26 in the historic barn at Agraria, the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions’ farm and center for regenerative agriculture. Much of the students’ research and inspiration came from a three-day camping trip with faculty and parents down the Little Miami bike trail. The students biked 53 miles, camped out for two nights, researched local history, and canoed and waded in the Little Miami River to study macroinvertebrates.

Kate Lohmeyer, health and physical education teacher for grades 7-12, was part of the teacher leadership team for the interdisciplinary project. All the participating teachers were “in some way, avid participants in the outdoors, either focused on exercise or just being in nature,” said Lohmeyer.  “We thought it would be great to share that with the kids. It turned into this wonderful experience.” Under the direction of science teacher Rebecca Eastman, students also studied macroinvertebrates in Jacoby Creek on Agraria. Holding the exhibition night in Agraria’s barn “was a great way to culminate the experience for our students,” said Lohmeyer.

“It was thrilling to see families enjoying each other at the Agraria presentations, and also to share in Jacoby Creek research that intersected with students’ ‘Into the Wild’ inquiries,” said Susan Jennings, Executive Director of Community Solutions. Since buying Agraria last March, located just outside Yellow Springs, the local non-profit organization has seen the location’s enormous potential for experiential education. Plans for Agraria include installation of a school garden and construction of a bike path from the high school to Agraria for use by both students and community members. “We’re excited and honored to partner with the Yellow Springs Schools on cutting-edge agricultural curricula for Agraria,” said Jennings. “Their Project Based Learning experience and leadership will help us to develop programs that also benefit students from Xenia, Springfield, and Dayton.”

Lohmeyer also sees many opportunities for schools—not just in the barn, but throughout the 128 acres of Agraria farmland. “There’s a push from all levels, K-12, to try to do things outside,” she said. “The more Community Solutions can collaborate, the more people will want to take advantage of that space. I know people are looking forward to it.” 

Help support education at Agraria by donating to Community Solutions on Giving Tuesday, November 28!

A Deep Springs College for Women

Originally posted on newyorker.com

Written by Carrie Battan

Photograph by Laura Marcus / Arete Project

In mid-June, a group of eighteen young women arrived on a makeshift campus in mountainous, rural North Carolina, thirty miles from the nearest interstate and a long hike from reliable cell-phone service. They made themselves as comfortable as possible in small, unheated, unfurnished cabins. Soon, they were cooking soups and stews from vegetables grown on the property. The members of the group, who mostly wore hiking boots, cargo shorts, and old T-shirts, were attendees of the Arete Project, a summer program launched four years ago to provide intellectually curious young women with an experience similar to the one offered at Deep Springs College, the experimental and highly romanticized school in the California desert, which was founded in 1917 with the goal of preparing young men for the vague and lofty goal of “a life of service to humanity.”

Like Deep Springs, the Arete Project offers an alternative to the standard model of American higher education, one defined by three “pillars”: physical labor, academics, and self-governance. Every class, or “cohort,” must determine, from the day the women arrive on campus, the rules by which they will live and work together. Students have minimal connection to the outside world; in the past, cohorts have restricted phone and Internet usage to brief periods or places on campus. No drugs or alcohol are permitted. A potent mix of practical training and idealism, this education is designed to imbue students with a “selfless devotion to world and humanity.”

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From Brussels to Arkansas, a Tough Week for Monsanto

Originally posted on nytimes.com

Written by Danny Hakim

Opposition from France and Italy doomed a European Union vote on Thursday to reauthorize the world’s most popular weedkiller, glyphosate, a decision that came hours after Arkansas regulators moved to ban an alternative weedkiller for much of 2018.

The decisions are a double blow to the agrochemical industry and particularly to the chemicals giant Monsanto. An appeals committee of European officials will convene this month, though, to weigh again whether to continue to allow glyphosate just weeks before its registration expires. The chemical is the main ingredient in Roundup, one of Monsanto’s flagships, but its patent has ended and it is now made by much of the industry.

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Look At the Big Picture, Avoid Groupthink, Remember History

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Originally posted on Resilience.org

Written by Community Solutions Fellow Kurt Cobb

A friend of mine recently outlined as follows his method for thinking about important issues: Look at the big picture, avoid groupthink, and remember history.

First, the big picture. People too often think only about the narrow field in which they work or the community or nation in which they live. But whatever the topic, there is always a context that includes the rest of the world and the interplay of actors and forces in many locales and fields of endeavor.

Let me provide an illustration (not one provided by my friend). If I want to understand the state of renewable energy in the United States, I’d certainly want to know also the state of that industry in other countries including their regulatory regimes; the structure of their industry whether public, private or a combination; and the state of research and development. I’d also want to know how renewable energy fits into the total picture of energy use, for example, its current share of consumption compared to competing sources of energy and its growth rate. Further, I’d want to know about the emergence of electric vehicles, a major new user of electricity, and about the industry that produces them. I wouldn’t stop there, but what I’ve outlined so far conveys the scope of inquiry that I’m recommending.

Next I’d want to check into any relevant claims made in the media and by family members, friends, and co-workers in order to avoid groupthink, that is, believing something merely because I’ve heard it from others. For example, if someone claims that the dominant form of energy in human society in 2030 will be solar (and someone did), I would want to find the basis for such a claim if there is one and also see if the current trends suggest that this is likely. Just because some smart people believe that something will happen doesn’t mean that it will.

Finally, I’d want to know something about the history of the renewable energy industry in America and abroad. What does that history tell me about what is likely to happen in the future? And based on what we know about the history of energy transitions in the past from coal to oil and then to natural gas, are various claims about the speed of the current energy transition to renewable energy plausible? Of course, no one can know the future. But when people make claims about the future that have no precedent, we should be skeptical and cautious.

Of course, these steps—looking at the big picture, avoiding groupthink, and remembering history—require time, concentration and reflection. It’s simply not possible to do such research for every issue that crosses one’s path. So, humans take shortcuts much of the time. They focus on what they know from their own experience. They recall what they’ve already read in the media and heard from those they know. They dispense with any serious study of the history of a subject, assuming that current knowledge is all that they need. (For minor daily issues this process may indeed suffice.)

Beyond the difficulty of doing one’s own research, there is the difficulty of standing apart from friends, family, co-workers and others in one’s social circle. Voicing an opinion that runs counter to the prevailing view can net one ridicule, dismissal and even social exclusion. Moreover, most people don’t want to believe that the world they’ve constructed in their heads may be flawed, perhaps dangerously flawed. If you are the person telling them this, you will probably not be in line for thanks.

The greatest difficulty comes when our research produces information that challenges our own foundational beliefs. This potentially creates a crisis that could require acceptance of a whole new worldview. If accepted, this new worldview can strain relations with practically everyone close to us who may not only be surprised but possibly dismayed by our sudden change of outlook.

There are very few people who can engage in such independent inquiry on a regular basis and retain their mental balance. Being open at all times to the possibility of changing one’s worldview can be anxiety-producing and exhausting. In order to maintain peace of mind most people avoid any thorough examination of topics that could force an alteration of their worldview.

It’s no wonder then that our political, economic, and social culture encourages people to avoid the big picture, succumb to groupthink, and ignore history. It’s much easier to maintain our peace of mind if we simply conform our opinions with those around us and avoid a tedious examination of the facts.

However, the price we potentially pay is that we will get blindsided by what in retrospect seems an obvious problem. That’s when most people finally adjust their worldview to new realities. But by then, any damage is generally already done.

 

How to Start a Regenerative Agriculture Movement in Your Community

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Originally posted on EcoWatch.com

Written by Regeneration International

The most important, although as of yet little known, new paradigm shift and set of practices in the world today is regenerative agriculture, or rather regenerative foodfarming and land use. Regeneration practices, scaled up globally on billions of acres of farmland, pasture, and forest, have the potential to not only mitigate, but actually reverse global warming and, at the same time, provide solutions to other burning issues such as poverty, deteriorating public health, environmental degradation, and global conflict.

The world-changing promise of regeneration lies in the fact that a large scale increase in plant photosynthesis (i.e. drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere, releasing oxygen, but transferring a major proportion of carbon into the plant roots and soil) made possible by fundamental changes in farming, grazing and land use practices, (along with the transition to 100 percent renewable energy) across billions of acres, can drawdown enough excess CO2 from the atmosphere into our living soils, plants, and forests to reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate.

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Agroforestry: An Increasingly Popular Solution For a Hot, Hungry World

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Originally posted on Mongabay.org

Written by Giovanni Ortolani

  • Agroforestry integrates trees, shrubs, and crops in a system that functions well together — it covers over 1 billion hectares of land worldwide and its best known examples include shade grown coffee and chocolate.
  • Indigenous peoples have practiced agroforestry for millennia but this technique is now gaining popularity with farmers everywhere.
  • Agroforestry mitigates climate change through carbon sequestration and also benefits biodiversity, water cycling, food security, and more.
  • This is the first in a yearlong series about farmers and communities implementing agroforestry worldwide.

At first glance Cameroon’s western regions seem lush, but a closer look shows a land degraded by overgrazing, unsustainable cropping practices, deforestation of vegetation for firewood, and uncontrolled bush fires.

Still, some plots teem with biodiversity: coffee grows under the shade of banana trees, while nearby there are African plum trees (known locally as safou), cola, oranges and timber trees like mahogany. To the untrained eye this might appear to be natural forest, but is in fact the fruit of agroforestry – the growing of trees with crops.

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Better Land Use Can Achieve 30% of Carbon Cuts by 2030

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Originally posted on EcoWatch.com

Written by Tim Radford

Land use is often a forgotten priority, yet those of us who wish to contain global warming and avert catastrophic climate change have a natural ally: the land.

As nations plan to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, an international team of scientists has calculated just how much the natural and farmed world could contribute to future stability by absorbing ever more carbon dioxide.

The answer is: up to 30 percent more than anyone had first thought. Natural climate solutions—a way of saving protected forests, conserved marshlands and carefully managed farmland and pasture—could deliver 37 percent of the carbon mitigation needed by 2030.

And if governments, farmers, river authorities, land managers and foresters made the best choices, such steps would mean that the world had a 66 percent chance of containing global warming to below the 2°C target agreed by 197 nations in Paris in 2015.

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Economics of Happiness Conference--Thank You!

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We wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who made the Economics of Happiness conference so beautiful this past weekend. Participants, speakers, staff members, and visitors all contributed to an atmosphere of productive interaction and optimism. This gathering was so transformative, it made us want to do this all the time! For memories, we have started a gallery. Enjoy the photos we have so far, and keep checking back as we add more over the next few weeks! 

Global Warming ‘Costing Taxpayers Billions.’ Here’s How to Fix It.

"The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse." (Photo: commondreams.org)

"The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse." (Photo: commondreams.org)

"The soil solution."

Originally posted on CommonDreams.org

Written by Ronnie Cummins

Another report sounding the alarm about climate change. Another missed opportunity to talk about the most promising solution: regenerative agriculture.

The New York Times yesterday cited a new report by the notoriously conservative Government Accountability Office (GAO), which said “climate change is costing taxpayers billions.

CNN also reported  on the GAO study, which calls on Trump to “craft appropriate responses.”

The CNN coverage noted several initiatives to combat climate change undertaken under the Obama administration, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to lower carbon emissions on a state-by-state basis, and the Paris climate agreement, which saw almost every country agree to voluntary limits on future carbon emissions.

The current climate-denying Trump administration wants to scrap those, and other climate initiatives, in favor of prioritizing corporate profits.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing because once again, a major report on the costs—financial, social, environmental, political—of doing nothing to slow runaway global warming focuses exclusively on reducing carbon emissions. As usual, this new report fails to mention that even if we achieved zero emissions tomorrow, we’re still in big trouble—unless we draw down and sequester the billions of tons of carbon already in the atmosphere.

And once again, a major report on global warming fails to acknowledge that we have the tools readily at our disposal to draw down that carbon, and we know how to use them. They are regenerative agriculture and land-use practices outlined in a recent Stanford Woods Institute report, which says:

If you want to do something about global warming, look under your feet. Managed well, soil’s ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated, according to Stanford researchers who claim the resource could “significantly” offset increasing global emissions. They call for a reversal of federal cutbacks to related research programs to learn more about this valuable resource.

The federal government has no problem subsidizing, to the tune of $20 billion/year  —GMO monoculture crops that degrade the soil and play a significant role in making global warming worse.

But Congress has no problem cutting back research on how to improve soil health as a means of combatting global warming?

Fortunately, other governments are incorporating “the soil solution” into their policies and plans to combat global warming. The most significant is France’s “Four for 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate” Initiative launched by the French government at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015.

In the U.S., some states are taking steps of their own to enact regenerative agriculture policies, notably California, Vermont and Massachusetts.

If your state isn’t on the list, maybe it’s time you start building a Regeneration Movement in your own community?

It’s time to stop ignoring our best hope of cooling the planet. If federal lawmakers won’t help, we need to make sure our local and state officials get on board.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Community Solutions Featured on The Atlantic's Website

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Community Solutions and its founder, Arthur Morgan, feature prominently in this recently published article on TheAtlantic.com

What America Is Losing as Its Small Towns Struggle

To erode small-town culture is to erode the culture of the nation.

Written by Brian Alexander

Seventy-five years ago, The Atlantic published an essay by a man named Arthur Morgan. The essay, “The Community—The Seed Bed of Society,” appeared in the February 1942 issue, and was later expanded into a book called The Small Community: Foundation of Democratic Life. Both the essay and the book were arguments on behalf of communities, especially small towns, which Morgan believed had been abandoned by modernity to become “an orphan in an unfriendly world … despised, neglected, exploited, and robbed.”

The social good of such places, Morgan insisted, was being “dissolved, diluted, and submerged by modern technology, commercialism, mass production, propaganda, and centralized government.” While many big-city residents might not worry about the fate of small towns, Morgan believed they should because the “controlling factors of civilization are not art, business, science, government. These are its fruits. The roots of civilization are elemental traits—good will, neighborliness, fair play, courage, tolerance, open-minded inquiry, patience.” These traits are best transmitted from one generation to the next in small communities, he argued, from where they are then spread throughout entire societies. To erode small-town culture was to erode the culture of the nation.

At a time when many small towns are in crisis—facing economic decline, drug addiction, despair—when economists and pundits recommend giving up on small towns, telling their populations to abandon their homes to find economic opportunity elsewhere, Morgan’s 75-year-old plea remains a trenchant warning. Some modern-day sociologists and historians, while not buying everything Morgan said and wrote about small towns, agree with his main point: Such places are vital threads in America’s fabric.

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Economics of Happiness Conference: One Week Until Early Bird Registration Ends

Let the countdown begin! Don’t miss the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions’ annual conference, The Economics of Happiness, on Friday, October 20, and Saturday, October 21, 2017, at Antioch University Midwest, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Early Bird registration ($200 for Community Solutions members, $250 for non-members) ends on October 6, one week from today! Tickets are also available for individual sessions and keynote talks.  

This year’s conference offers a host of opportunities to redefine what is possible and explore the creation of vibrant local economies that focus on meeting real human needs through our ties to community and nature. It will feature internationally recognized speakers, including Charles Eisenstein, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Michael Shuman, and Anthony Flaccavento, with presentations and workshops on a range of topics :

●        Globalization v. localization

●        Mutual aid networks and cooperatives

●        Revitalizing rural communities

●        Creating self reliant communities

●        Building local food systems

●        Local and social impact investing, community banking, and local currencies

●        Screening and discussion of the film trailer for Jim Merkel’s film Saving Walden’s World

●        Tours of Agraria, Community Solutions’ recently purchased 128-acre farm, which is being developed as a center for research and education on regenerative agriculture

●        Pre and post conference workshops on tree identification and a tree survey of Agraria; installing mini-split heat pumps; and slow money and land conservation

Please join us for this insightful, inspirational and transformational gathering! For more information and to register, click here

A More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible: A Book Review

Written by Community Solutions fellow Carolyn Baker

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For nearly a year before the publication of my book Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times, I was aware that it was going to be part of Andrew Harvey’s Sacred Activism Series to be published by North Atlantic Books. I was also aware that Charles Eisenstein’s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible would be included in the series, being published at approximately the same time as my book.  As a colleague and friend of Andrew Harvey, I was more than excited about the series, having followed his passion for the concept of Sacred Activism since the publication of his first book addressing the topic in 2009.

For decades I had realized the necessity of integrating activism and the sacred, but no one had yet articulated the deeper meaning of both concepts or demonstrated why one cannot flourish without the other. As a huge fan of Eisenstein’s work and Andrew’s mission, I was thrilled to be included in the book series, and the burgeoning of that enthusiasm compels me these many months after publication to review The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. And at the same time, I must note a few discrepancies in my perspective as I journey alongside Charles and his phenomenal body of work with which I deeply resonate.

Not only do I resonate with Charles’s frame of reference, but like him, I have frequently been accused of being naïve and idealistic. Some responses to A More Beautiful World have reverberated with this indictment which is likely to be leveled at any body of writing that invites us to “feel good.” After all, the title is charged with three volatile words: Beautiful, hearts, possible. These are likely to draw cynical critiques like a magnet draws iron filings. However, I personally do not believe that feel-good writing is entirely suspect—as long as the author is capable of taking a cold, hard look at the inescapable realities of our predicament, and of course, from my perspective, Charles is adept in doing just that. Moreover, he repeatedly empathizes with how challenged both we and he are in embracing a new paradigm as a result of the old story embedded in our psyches, products that we are of industrial civilization. As I read his incisive commentary on our predicament, naïve is not a word that leaps to mind, yet all of us, including myself, navigate a dying planet with myriad blind spots only because we are fallible humans.

Hospitality toward divergent opinions is a skill that must be cultivated in a binary culture that insists on “this” or “that,” “right” or “wrong” as a result of the legacy of Cartesian dualism. Perhaps the most onerous challenge for any of us is consciously forging a perspective sufficiently humble so that we can utter what in this culture are possibly the most difficult words: “I don’t know with certainty, and I could be wrong.”

I note this because A More Beautiful World posits in a number of places that if we can’t imagine a more beautiful world, it is due to our wounding. On the one hand, this may be valid, yet conversely, the plethora of research that is now coming to the fore on mass extinction and catastrophic climate change reinforces the possibility that in addition to our wounding, we may be reaping the terminal consequences of having created the ugliest of worlds which will result in the extermination of most of life on earth. Certainly, our wounding as inhabitants of industrial civilization has created human beings that have a great deal of difficulty imagining a more beautiful world and many of whom hold all things visionary with contempt. This is the reality of our inner world, but the external one we have participated in shaping may imminently silence forever our banter about “wounding.” I do not say this lightly, but rather as a student of the wonder and wounding of the human psyche for my entire adult life. We stand on exceedingly precarious ground, I believe, when we essentially declare that if others resist our perspective, it is due to their wounding.

Correspondingly, A More Beautiful World asserts that we are at a transition between stories. On the one hand, this may be so, yet I must also wonder if we are only at the end of a particular age. The anthropocene in which we may now abide may or may not ultimately include humans. I certainly do not believe that all life on earth will become extinct, but rather that most human life will within the next century. I can only wonder how any surviving humans might respond to the notion of A More Beautiful World That Our Hearts Know Is Possible. Will the horror they have endured make them terminally cynical, or will they long for and imagine a new story?

Eisenstein writes: “Many speak of ‘hospicing a dying civilization.’ This book argues that their despair arises from the same source as the crises themselves, and that as we transition to a new Story of the World, things become possible that had seemed miraculous before.” (257) Again, we are told that this kind of perception results from our wounding. But more debatable is the implication that despair serves no useful purpose when in fact, one could argue that despair serves us exquisitely in a number of ways. I have never met anyone who is awake to the collapse of industrial civilization and the collapse of ecosystems who has not experienced some form of despair over long or short periods of time. Despair is often a lightning rod that quickly transports us out of the old and into the new. Moreover, despair is an antidote to hubris and the illusion that business as usual can continue. Thoroughly metabolizing the trite statement “You can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet without consequences” is an utterance filled with despair—and yet, it is inexorably true, and the level of despair it evokes is a necessary midwife of our awakened rebirthing.

It appears that Charles is polarizing an attitude of emotionally and spiritually admitting oneself to hospice willingly, with creating a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible. On the one hand, these perspectives may be inimical, but on yet another level, they are absolutely congruous. I can do everything in my power to create a more beautiful world even as I accept that I am probably in the process of exiting this planet. In fact, that may be the supreme purpose of adopting a hospice perspective. In summary, despair may lead to acceptance of the full extent of our predicament which may inspire us to become radically compassionate, creative, connected Interbeings. Those indeed are the ingredients necessary for creating a more beautiful world.

In order for this to happen, we must, as Charles asserts, “get to the bottom of the ecological crisis” which catapults us to the fundamental issues of our existence.

“And what, exactly, is at the bottom?” he asks….“At the bottom of our civilization lies a story, a mythology…a matrix of narratives, agreements, and symbolic systems that comprises the answers our culture offers to life’s most basic questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Who do things happen?
  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is human nature?
  • What is sacred?
  • Who are we as a people?
  • Where did we come from and where are we going?” (4)

From my perspective, whether we are in hospice or merely transitioning to a new story or both, these questions constitute our overarching assignment in the time we have left, and they form the crux of my work in the wake of our predicament. The pivotal task, I believe is an invitation offered on Page 66: “Imagine yourself on your deathbed, looking back on your life. What moments seem the most precious? What choices will you be the most grateful for?” This is hard-core hospice work.

Throughout the book we are asked to consider, as we are in all of Eisenstein’s work, that we are not separate from the natural world, not separate from each other, not separate from other species, not separate from anything or anyone in the universe, but rather that we are part of “Interbeing,” to which he devotes an entire chapter. He specifically names the characteristics of Interbeing in this chapter and summarizes the fundamental precept which is: “…that we are inseparable from the universe, and our being partakes in the being of everyone and everything else. Why should we believe this? Let’s start with the obvious: This Interbeing is something we can feel. Why does it hurt when we hear of another person coming to harm? Why, when we read of mass die-offs of the coral reefs and see their bleached skeletons, do we feel like we’ve sustained a blow?…The reason it hurts is it is literally happening to ourselves.” (16-17)

As with the bullet points enumerating what is at the bottom of the ecological crisis, Charles continues to illumine the spiritual nature of our predicament:

Cut off from nature, cut off from community, financially insecure, alienated from our own bodies, immersed in scarcity, trapped in a tiny, separate self that hungers constantly for its lost beingness, we can do no other than perpetuate the behavior and systems that cause climate change. Our response to the problem must touch on this fundamental level that we might call spirituality. (46-47)

Thus, according to Charles, the primary technology of Interbeing, in my opinion whether in hospice or elsewhere, is service—service to something greater than oneself.

This is what we must emulate if we are to cocreate the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. It is also a way to transcend the separate self, since to bow into service is to merge with something greater, something whose power to precipitate change extends beyond our understanding of causality. (218)

In addition to metabolizing Interbeing and expressing it through service, we are also invited to pay very close attention to what hurts us. In other words, to work consciously with the emotions—a cornerstone of my work for several decades. At the beginning of a chapter entitled “Attention,” we find a quote by Dan Emmons: “What most needs attention is the part of us that we seek to avoid feeling. When we have tended to that, we are changed, and the world changes with us.”

We cannot pretend to prepare for societal and ecological collapse while ignoring the emotions that surface as we do so. In fact, according to Eisenstein:

Just as attention, by itself, has a power to heal beyond any remedial action one might take, so also does telling the truth about what is happening on Earth have a power to alter the course of events. Again, it is not that no action will result. It is that when we digest the information, who we are changes, and therefore what we do. (150)

As I have argued throughout the course of my work regarding the need for joy, pleasure, creativity, humor, and the celebration of beauty, Charles describes the more beautiful world his heart knows is possible which is a far cry from the permissible forms of “happiness” this culture offers by way of consuming, escaping, and mindlessly ignoring the death of our planet.

The more beautiful world my heart knows is possible is a world with a lot more pleasure: a lot more touch, a lot more lovemaking, a lot more hugging, a lot more deep gazing into each other’s eyes, a lot more fresh-ground tortillas and just-harvested tomatoes still warm from the sun, a lot more singing, a lot more dancing, a lot more timelessness, a lot more beauty in the built environment, a lot more pristine views, a lot more water fresh from the spring. (154)

As you read this, pay attention to what you feel in your body. Nice, right? And so it is and should be. Personally, I love it, and at every point on this journey of collapse, transition, Great Turning, or hospice living—whatever we may prefer to name it, I discover the urgency of holding in my heart and my body two things that feel at times almost impossible to contain there, namely the more beautiful world my heart knows is possible and a planet that is barely on life-support.

Nowhere in the book does Eisenstein mention the human shadow—a part of us that is unconscious and the opposite of all that we claim to value as decent, compassionate, caring, and just. He argues consistently for the inherent goodness of humans and vigorously against anything resembling inherent evil. For me, this is a precarious position which underestimates the complexity of the human psyche and sets the stage for enormous sabotage of a more beautiful world. Perhaps Charles would argue that my insistence on including the shadow in any vision of what is possible is a result of my own wounding. And so it may be, but in fact, Carl Jung declared that 80% of the shadow is pure gold. That is to say that if one is willing to own it and work consciously with it, the shadow has the power to transform as well as destroy because the shadow is a strategic energetic apparatus in the human psyche which has the capacity to both destroy and sustain as the poet Czeslaw Milosz asserted: “What has no shadow has no strength to live.”

Declaring that humans are inherently good or inherently evil confines us to an untenable polarity—a polarity mirrored on the one hand by purveyors of New Age thinking and a “Bright-Sided” world as Barbara Ehrenreich names it, or on the other hand, the world of fundamentalist Christianity marinated in “original sin.” As with most polarities, wholeheartedly embracing either side is astonishingly effortless. No tension, no conflict, no problem. But what remains is yet another binary story. Much more agonizingly difficult is holding the maddening tension of the opposites: the possibility of realizing a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible alongside the possibility that we are inhabiting the last hours of life on Earth. No one I know is able to hold that tension consistently without alternating from one side to the other. We incessantly waver: The optimist succumbs to the doldrums while the pessimist insists that despair and cynicism have eliminated from them any vision of possibility. Ah yes, but they are still breathing air, and as long as they do so, somevision lives in the psyche and body.

The complexity of the human psyche must be honored, and the shadow must be made conscious. I believe this is an essential part of the change that Charles asserts must happen when he states that “something has to happen in us in order to initiate us into our full power as changemakers.” In other words, changemakers can’t make radical and lasting change unless they are changed themselves, and for me, this involves tending the shadow.

Perhaps you are asking how I could defend Eisenstein’s vision of a more beautiful world when I invite humans to embrace a hospice perspective. Isn’t such a vision a waste of time and energy for beings on the brink of extinction? In fact, I would argue that it is precisely because our condition is terminal that we must imagine a more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible. We take this vision with us into hospice, not because there is any guarantee or even possibility that it will come to fruition, but we embrace it because it will instruct and fortify us as we navigate our demise. On the one hand, we do everything humanly possible to manifest the vision, acting as if we have all the time in the world, and on the other hand, we savor every new day as sacred because it may be our very last. The vision, you see, is for the world, yes, but it is also for each of us. It may be an integral aspect of the dying process, and one must ask oneself: How do I want to die? What image(s) do I wish to hold in consciousness as I breathe my last breath?

A More Beautiful World That Our Hearts Know Is Possible offers the most urgent question we must ask in this moment—whether it is a hospice moment or a visionary moment. That question is: Who am I? When we deeply, heartfully, mindfully devote our lives to answering that question, it will be easier to hold both hospice and heaven in the same body. In fact, it will be impossible not to.

What's Different About the New Economy?

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While there is no one definition for the “new economy”, most folks working in this field would probably agree on a few basic elements that distinguish this economic approach from the current dominant economic model.  I’ve attempted to summarize those below.

Six Elements of Emerging New Economies, Contrasted with the Dominant Economy

1) New economies are more just, work better for people.

The dominant economy has used tax, trade and patent policy to greatly favor huge corporations and the very wealthy over small businesses and working people, leading to extreme levels of wealth concentration at the top alongside stagnant wages for working and middle class people, and growing poverty.  The very wealthy pay lower taxes on much of their income than do teachers and truck drivers; giant corporations pay an effective tax rate that is 6 – 8% less than what small businesses pay.  Trade policy grants corporations the right to sue nations, states and communities over health and environmental protections. You can’t make this stuff up.

In the new economy, small businesses and family farms create more jobs per dollar of sales; by purchasing from other local businesses, they create ‘economic multipliers’ that add much more value to the local economy than do chains and big boxes.  New corporate forms, such as the Benefit Corporation, which commits a business to positive social and environmental outcomes as well as financial profit, are also emerging in the new economy, with over 1000 nationwide.  Some localities have begun to use Community Benefit Agreements to hold big corporations legally accountable for the promises they make.  These and many other creative measures ensure that economies work for people, not the other way around.

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Project Seeks to Put End to "Food Desert"

Economics of Happiness Conference speaker Lela Klein was interviewed in last Sunday's Dayton Daily News...

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Q: What is the Gem City Market project all about?

Klein: The Gem City Market will be a vibrant worker- and community-owned full-service grocery store on lower Salem Avenue, just across the river from downtown Dayton. The incubation of the market has been a community-driven effort aimed at addressing the needs of Daytonians who live in what the United States Department of Agriculture considers a food desert. The Market will be a vital community asset that provides much-needed access healthy and fresh food. It will also include on-site health and nutrition classes and programming to encourage healthy choices and teach cooking techniques.

Q: What is GDUCI?

Klein: The Greater Dayton Union Co-op Initiative is a non-profit organization committed to incubating worker owned businesses that bring good jobs to Dayton. GDUCI incubates worker-owned startups, and provides technical support to existing businesses converting into cooperatives. GDUCI builds financing and management models and business plans to launch cooperatives with the highest chance of success, and we build ownership culture within our co-ops through training and leadership development.

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Screening: Economics of Happiness, We the People 2.0

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Community Solutions is co-organizing our fall conference, The Economics of Happiness, with Local Futures and Helena-Norberg Hodge. In anticipation of this exciting gathering of international, national, and local people experienced at creating regenerative and resilient local economies, the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs will be showing two documentaries on Monday, October 2, starting at 7 pm—The Economics of Happiness, from Local Futures, and We the People 2.0 about creating community rights. Both Helena Norberg-Hodge, from Local Futures, and Tish O’Dell, from CELDF (the subject of We the People 2.0) will hold workshops and discussions during the conference.

The Economics of Happiness:

An award-winning documentary film, The Economics of Happiness, which spells out the social, spiritual, and ecological costs of today’s global economy.  Importantly, the film also highlights the many benefits of a shift towards the local and showcases some of the steps people are already taking worldwide.

We the People 2.0:

We the People is a visual essay about the loss of democracy in the United States.  The film utilizes both original footage as well as found footage to describe a profound change in thinking at the grassroots level. The story unfolds through the eyes of rural people who have faced decades of toxic dumping, drilling and mining in their communities.  We learn with them that the reason why, in spite of all their efforts, they “get what they don’t want, again and again,” is because they are, by law, truly powerless in spite of propaganda that says they live in the “best democracy in the world.”   These people come to understand that the reason they can’t stop the destruction is that the US has become an oligarchy, run by the corporate few who ignore the rights and will of the people.  These people are frontally challenging our corporate state; thereby saving nature and themselves. Thomas Linzey, a nonprofit attorney’s inspiring words shows how, we, the people, can turn this around and lay claim to our democracy. This movement is building as you read this, not just in this country but around the world; our film shows how and where it all began.

Click here to register for the Economics of Happiness Conference!

Globalization's Blowback

Originally posted on localfutures.org, co-sponsor of our upcoming Economics of Happiness Conference

Written by Alex Jensen

A recent study of air pollution in the western United States made a startling finding: despite a 50 percent drop over the past 25 years in US emissions of smog-producing chemicals like nitrogen oxides (NOx), smog actually increased during that period in the rural US West – even in such ‘pristine’ environments as Yellowstone National Park. Most of this increase was traced to “the influx of pollution from Asian countries, including China, North and South Korea, Japan, India, and other South Asian countries.”[1] That’s because over the same period that NOx emissions declined in the US, they tripled in Asia as a whole.[2] In media reports of the study, China and India are described as the “worst offenders” of this fugitive “Asian pollution”.[3]

Left only with these findings, a reasonable conclusion would be that the US has become more environmentally enlightened in recent decades, while Asia – particularly ‘developing’ Asia – is a veritable eco-reprobate, sacrificing not only its own but global airsheds to choking pollution. The new, anti-environmental EPA director, Scott Pruitt, recently expressed this view in explaining why the US should exit the Paris Climate Accord: “[China and India] are polluting far more than we are.”[4]

What’s missing?

A similar study of global air pollution drift in 2014, focusing on China and the US, made comparable findings, but included an important factor missing from the more recent study: production for export. Among other things, the scholars of the older study asked how much of the Chinese air pollution drifting to the Western US was occasioned specifically in the production of exports for world markets (including the top destination for Chinese manufactures, the US.)

The answer? In 2006, up to 24% of sulfate concentrations over the western United States were generated in the Chinese production of goods for export to the US.[5] Applying these findings to the more recent study, it’s likely that a significant percentage of the Asian nitrogen oxides now choking the US West were also emitted in the production of goods destined for the US.

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