More and more lights are being switched on in the basement. In fact, we’re almost full up! We’ve got three shelves going now, the bottom one with heat mat, the top two for “growing up” and cold germinators. I also have a couple of flats sitting on the shelf in the porch, behind a curtain: they’re medicinals, Aconitum carmichaeli and Giant Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorium), that like it dark and like to start in cool soils to warm up with the weather.
Today I added Good King Henry and Sea Kale, also, in medicinals, Self Heal (Prunella vulgaris), Echinacea purpurea, Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Hyssop and Motherwort. And as for fruits: Goji (Lycium barbarum). LOTS of Goji.
The Goji berry forest. The seeds came packaged in their fruits, which were eaten.
Amie planted her own seeds weeks ago and had her first bite: microgreens, kale and chard!
To prevent damping off I added an oscillating fan to the setup, and brewed a big pot of chamomile tea. Some for them, some for me.
The other day when in the car she said she didn’t mind looking out the window on short trips, she didn’t get bored. I said, Well there is a whole world to see. She said, Yes, and I haven’t even seen all of it! I said, It’s not possible for one person to see all of it. I’m sure David Attenborough hasn’t seen all of the world.
Me: “I doubt he’s seen Wayland.” (where we live)
Amie: “What?! No way, Mama, of course he has seen Wayland!”
Well, of course he has, silly me. It is the center of her universe.
This is an attempt to reboot my reporting. I am discovering a lot about the world, others, and myself, at record speed. Gotta write it all down! And I’m going to need some new Categories. Here’s where the blog undergoes its next transformation.
In our town, where can a group of people go where they feel at home? Not just “welcome”, but at home. That is, where can they just show up on the spur of the moment, without having to “book” the place, pay a deposit or a fee, sign a disclaimer, or wait on a waiting list, and feel safe and comfortable?
The “community” or “meeting rooms” at the Town Building? They cost money, they have gatekeepers, schedules, waiting lists. The library? The room is free, but for the rest it’s the same as with town buildings. The public parks come nearest, but we’re really looking for a place that is warm and sheltered.
So much for the public spaces.
Religious places are private, and usually very welcoming to community gatherings, especially when they’re about Care for People and Care for the Earth. But cost or entry may depend on membership. Strapped for cash, they sometimes charge over $400 an hour if they believe yours is a “function”. Even if they charge a little just to cover the sexton’s efforts to clean up after you (a tip off, as we’ll soon see).
The only place in our town where we can drop in at a whim and make ourselves (relatively) comfortable is the local coffee shop, a Starbucks. Only during opening hours, of course, and it’s only polite to consume at least one cup of coffee, and not to bring your own. When Starbucks is closed, or if the group is too large for the small space, the only place we can go is…. the mall in the next town over! Seriously, it’s where the Girl Scouts have to hang out: the mall, or Friendly’s, neither of which is within walking distance. These places are commercial spaces and artificial, soul-sucking environments.
That Starbucks with its sit-down-have-one-drink-and-stay-as-long-as-you-like policy is so popular and public (free) libraries are so overbooked, illustrates the demand for, and the lack of, a common space in our town.
I see it as one of Transition Wayland’s projects to start a conversation about this, to poll the need for it and to find out, together, how we can make it happen.
One of the issues people bring up when I go off on a rant about common spaces is: who will take care of it?
I read somewhere that of all the kinds of spaces – public, private, commercial, common – it is the common space that is often the most cared-for. That’s because it’s where we make ourselves home, and we feel a fondness for it that demands that we keep it clean, much like our own houses. If a common space is well-defined, well-organized and well-loved, we won’t feel the need to delegate its care to the sexton, the barista, the anonymous cleaning crews at the mall or those who keep the Town Hall clean on our tax dollars – all paid people. It’s ours, we feel responsible for it, so we’ll take care of it for free.
As for rules? Some rules are necessary, of course, but they will flow from common decency and common sense. It is under those rules that everyone who enters and uses this space are equal. Indeed, common space may yet be the only space where equality is possible.
Who will pay for it? What about liability? Who will hold the key and is a key even necessary? All questions worth asking. So let’s ask them!
Does your town have a common space? Tell us about it!
I wrote some time ago about needing to do something beyond my own backyard. It didn’t take long before I figured out what that should be. Transition!
(Almost exactly a year ago I attended Transition training in Boston. You can read about it here and here.)
Taking advantage of a rare intrepid, or should I say now-or-never moment, I called my library to reserve the Meeting Room for
an introductory talk about Transition Initiatives by Tina Clarke
a book club for reading Rob Hopkins’ Transition Handbook (three evenings)
three movie showings – not decided yet which ones, probably one on peak oil (or should I say peak everything?), one on our food predicament, and one on the economic situation.
I know that’s a lot of events, and it’s all just to find fellow initiators, that is, to get to the first stage of starting a Transition Initiative. Though I hope that, simply by speaking to people to get them to come to these events and advertise in their communities and newsletters, I will find some before April.
I let the date depend entirely on the availability of the Meeting Room, and so April it is (I’m lucky, some town’s Meeting Rooms are booked for over a year). And so…
April 2011 will be Wayland Transition month!
Meanwhile I also reconnected with the trainers and the fellow transitioners on my state’s Transition ning site, where we explore our values, share our practical efforts and look for news and support. One of my first discussions was about localization, and I shared some thoughts on “being local”:
As I am calling around my town, trying to get places to hold the Transition Wayland events in April 2011, I am confronted (in a good way) with “the locals” and especially with the question: “Am I a local?”
The I in question – that’s me – knows the answer: yes! It took me a while to get to it, but that’s a different story.
I speak with an accent. I’m from Belgium (Dutch-speaking), I moved here 13 years ago (and moved into this town, 2 years ago), and I speak English well enough, but people think I’m from Ireland (go figure).
On the phone with the library’s administrative assistant, organizing the book club for Rob’s *Handbook*, I was (kindly) asked: “Are you from here?”
Are you a local?
I said, “Now I am!”
It brought home to me the welcome principle – which Sharon in Casaubon’s Book and several other have been espousing (cf. Adapting in Place) – that our home, our place, our locus is, simply, where we live.
So not, per se, “where we come from”. Though it is great, I hasten to add, to also have come from here (wherever you are), to have stuck around until now, to have already gotten to know your place and the people, and to be known. But we should not let the lack of such a past deter us from being “a local”. If circumstances or one’s own choice (poor or not) have only just brought us here, so be it. It’s about now, and the future.
I have let the lack of such a past (not an American, not a New Englander, not a Waylander) deter me. It made me shy, made me feel undeserving, in a sense, like I should be an observer for a while and wait for an invitation, to deserve a voice. But now I am beginning to think that it might give me an edge, this ignorance about how things are done in this town, the fact that no one knows me. This was an important realization for me, and one of the factors in getting me going again.
So you could say I’m inviting myself, or rather, have already invited myself, and so, true, I am new, but hey, I am here!
Do you think about the future? Do you wonder what it will be like? Or do you live like it’s always going to be the way it has been?
I found at least 5 entries like this one, all in drafts, abandoned. As I prepare for the growing season with more resolve and urgency than ever before now that my apprenticeship is over (ha!), I need to line up my motivations like a general does her troops. This is just a declaration, not a proof or demonstration: others are supplying the data much more clearly and comprehensively than I ever could.
1. We’ve got problems
I believe that sometime in my lifetime, and certainly in the lifetime of my daughter, life will be changed, drastically. This is because three changes are already happening.
(I believe that) there will be a chronic shortage in oil production and thus cheap oil. This year, in 20 years, I don’t know, but in my lifetime. This will not just affect the heating of our houses and our trips to the grocery store, but also the delivery trucks’ trips to the grocery store, and the farm equipment that “grows” our produce, and the factory equipment that put together all those plastic containers for our shampoos, and the pharmaceuticals producing our medicine, etc. (cf. The Oil Drum)
(I believe that) increasing debt, decreasing value of money, hyperinflation, the precariousness of globalization and the lie of never-ending growth will soon mean the end of any value to our national currency, the end of imports, the closing of businesses and banks, rampant unemployment, the end of the middle class as we know it, and the cessation of public services. (cf. The Crash Course)
Climate Change and Overpopulation
(I believe that) the Earth is changing and that it’s too late to do anything about it (if we ever could), that several tipping points have been already been (b)reached. The effect is the disturbance of the climate pattern upon which our agriculture and settlements developed and rely, and thus a growing difficulty for growing food and maintaining our towns and cities. This means a growing number of climate refugees and massive immigrations of our immense world population.
I believe that even just one and certainly all of these events together will lead to collapse. I don’t believe it will be as bad as zombies or The Road, but I foresee some hard times and, at the very least, the end of the way we live our lives today.
I can’t say that it is my hope that this won’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great if it didn’t. If, for instance, we found some renewable, clean and omnipresent source of energy, freely and democratically available, capable of powering our fleet of vehicles and our agricultural and factory equipment. Oh, and if it could also reverse the climate change tipping points… Sounds like heaven on earth to me, but I’ll just go ahead and prepare for if that doesn’t happen.
And it’s not like we have a lot of time. Collapse is already happening. Maybe not to me, or you, but to many in this country, in the world, and to whole countries even, to some degree or another. But for reasons that will become clear, here I just want to talk about myself, my family, and my neighborhood.
Still, I have hope. I hope that (for myself and my community, at least), collapse will be gradual enough. I hope it’s not a precipice, but a staircase, and that at each step enough people will (have to) take sufficient action to “catch up” on the decline. I hope that we can descend gracefully: without famine, violence, the destruction of culture and civilization…
A funny thing, though, this hope. I hope it’s reasonable (unlike “aw, come on, nothing‘s going to happen!”). It will require hard work and sacrifices, but we could pull it off. And to those who say “forget it, it’s too late, TS is really going to HTF,” I say “I hear you, but you know what? I have no choice but to hope. My child leaves me no choice.” I must do my best to make my hope, her hope come true.
4. Starting descent
How do I do this? We, myself and my immediate family, have already started to power down. For instance, this month, February 2010, is our 16th month of the Riot for Austerity. In the Riot we try to decrease our consumption of oil, water, electricity, and consumer goods, and our production of waste, all to10% of the US national average. It’s tough! We’re almost there with certain things, but not anywhere near 10% with others.
We changed our eating habits: less meat, less food, more bulk, dry goods, and very little eating out. We are establishing a large food garden, with a hoop house for a winter harvest, and hopefully a beehive soon, and chickens. We work on our food storage and emergency supplies. The immediate goal is to grow and store enough and a healthy variety of food to feed two families, and to plant an extra row for the hungry. You can find more details of our lifestyle changes on the “What We Do” page.
Why are we doing this, making these sacrifices in the time and the land that is still plenty? Do I think it’s going to make a difference to climate change? I’m not that naive.
But I do it out of principle: to take more than what one needs is to be greedy and bad for the soul.
I do it because, when I make something myself, with my own time and genius and effort, I take responsibility for it and I take care of it as a thing that I love. When I buy it, I just get the responsibility, like an extra price tag, easily snipped off. I “take care” of it only because it cost me so much – or, more frequently, I don’t take care of it at all, because it cost me so very little. I want to take control, responsibility, and care.
I want to be prepared – practically and psychologically – for a future with less cheap oil, less income, less security, more manual labor, the need for different kinds of skills, etc.
I do it to set up a model for others, for when circumstances will force them, too, to adopt such a lifestyle. That’s my next point.
5. A model
We take these and many other actions as an average (middle class) family, with an average income and debt. We can’t bring in the big machines to flatten the land and mow down all the trees that shade our vegetable garden. We can’t tear down our 1950′s ranch and put a zero energy house in its place. We can’t buy the $1000 compost toilet, the photovoltaics, the hybrid car. And that’s good, because that makes our place an attainable model for anyone in our quite average situation around here.
As people start realizing they can no longer afford the $300 electricity bill, the $4000 oil bill, or the cable subscription, we can show them that it’s possible both practically and psychologically, for them to descend without hurting and actually even gaining something. For we don’t need television and video games to entertain ourselves, and digging in the garden is better exercise than the gym, and eating from that garden is healthier than take-out. I hope to demonstrate by example that living with a little less at a time does not need to hurt.
6. Will that be all?
Do I think that what we are doing and working on – this 90% reduction in consumption of this and that, this 50% (?) self-reliance in food, this reskilling, etc. – will be all that is required of us?
Not by a long shot! But as a first step it’s the perfect preparation for the second step.
Which is? I don’t know. Ask me on a good day, then ask me again on a bad day. All I know is that what my family and I are doing right now is not what will be required, at some point, of all of us, and that after that, there will be even more.
Think of it. When oil hits $5, or $10, or $50 a gallon? When the shelves in the grocery store stay empty? When we are freezing in our houses? When half the people on the street are unemployed, and one third is homeless to boot? When a shift in climate wipes out a major crop? When the majority of us can no longer ignore or evade the situation, because our money can’t buy anything? Now we’re talking collapse.
There are times when I think the worst and that head-for-the-hills feeling flares up. When, in essence, I lose hope. But I squash it. Many reasons make it impossible for my family to pack up and dig in. It wouldn’t work for me to want to live as if collapse has already happened. It would wreck my family and isolate me. That’s not what I’m aiming for.
So if in the eyes of some I take it too fast, and in the eyes of others I take it too slow, so be it. I hope I’m hitting that golden mean, but I also know that mean is sliding down as we speak, until at some point “too much” and “too little” collapse into one.
In the meantime I hope the forerunners can be helpful, by their example, to the masses descending behind them. But if there’s suddenly going to be a whole lot of people barreling down that ever steeper and narrower staircase, it would be good for those who are ahead to install a railing as they go. Or else we’re all going to end up in a big, crushed heap at the bottom.
That railing is relocalization, but about that, next time. It takes a lot out of me to write this, and it takes a long time to write, because I know that most of you don’t agree, and I feel I have to be argumentative, on the defensive, and watch my words. While I just want to say it like it is for me, so we know where I stand.
As I was vacuuming I deplored (again) how often the work of a homemaker is lost. It is lost when half an hour later the flour gets spilled and a day later the dust bunnies are convening under the sofa again. It is lost when the dishwasher is full – or empty – again. It is lost when we step into the made bed, put on a clean sweater, finish the meal… And it is lost all over again when at the end of the day I tell myself:
“I didn’t get anything done again!”
Usually the latter refers to the work on my novel and my garden. I clearly don’t reckon all that invisible work that doesn’t get paid, or appreciated even by the one who does it.
But I feel I want to mark it. It is a large part of my life, after all. I played with the idea of recording it in the blog, but how monotonous that would be, for reader and writer alike! Monotony – doing the same thing, over and over again – is the essence of this work, after all, no matter the tunes we dance and sing to.
So once in a while I write it down in my handwritten journal. Recently:
Woke up, got myself and Amie dressed. Breakfast. Dropped off Amie at preschool. Cleared breakfast table. Made beds. Dusted furniture. Vacuumed whole house. Emptied dishwasher. Filled dishwasher. Handwashed big pots and pans. Wiped stove and kitchen counters. Picked up Amie. Prepared and ate lunch. Cleared table. Emptied dishwasher. Filled (laundry) washer, ran it, emptied it. Hung laundry to dry. Moved some of the woodpile. Refilled wood basket. Snack time. Played “Max” ten times. Prepared dinner, set table, ate. Cleared table. Put leftovers away. Soaked beans and split peas for soup tomorrow. Dishes. Got Amie ready for bed. Read story and stay with her until she’s asleep. Cup of tea and write this. Got nothing done today!
I can only imagine how much less I would get done if I also had to drive my child(ren) to extracurricular activities, and/or if I had to get to the gym and hairdresser and…
But of course that wasn’t all of my day. For instance, I played “Max” ten times because Amie insisted we get all the animals home safe, and I got to spend most of that time marveling at my daughter’s efforts to reconcile the lives of the chipmunk, the squirrel and the mouse (and their babies, waiting for them in the tree) with the hunger of Max, who would get sick if he only had treats and got nothing wild to eat, and maybe the mouse was worth sacrificing because it has only one baby, whereas the bird has three…
Still, at the end of it, that’s how my day felt. The journal entry may not be a statement of (all) the facts, but of the feeling of accomplishment, which was zilch. In that sense it is a true entry. And in that sense, it has to be recorded, once in a while.
During the Transition Training we watched a lot of images and videos of Transition Initiatives, and at first I watched them with mixed feelings of joy and anxiousness. My heart sank because I inevitably thought: “I can’t make that happen.”
That sinking feeling stems from the fact that, though I arrived here over 11 years ago, studied, married, bought a house and had a child here, I still don’t feel at home. Why? Not because of the people around me: I have found each and every one of my colleagues, neighbors and friends – Americans or not – to be sincerely welcoming. So it must be me.
I always assumed children have a natural sense of being at home, for I myself, as a child, felt at home, without ever a shadow of a doubt. But was it because of something a child does or is, or was it because of what my parents did and modeled? Or was it because of the place?
The place was Antwerp (Belgium), a city within half an hour’s drive of the city where my grandparents and aunts and uncles all lived. A place where my family can trace and place our ancestry as far back as the 1700s. And a place with a culture in which “migrating” is the exception. You see, Belgians don’t leave Belgium: the emigration rate is less than a percent. And Belgium is a small country, about the size of Maryland, so children “leave” (for college, or to live) to within at most a two hours’ drive away from their parents. In my family I was the third (out of four now) in the span of two generations to move abroad, which makes my family exceptionally migratory.
Let’s put this in context. The United Nations Commission on Population and Development concluded in 2006 that only 3% of the world population is an international migrant (with most migrants moving from developing to developed countries). The kind of mobility within the United States that makes for big moves, in contrast, is high: the Census of 2000 determined that, within 5 years, no less than 8.42% of its respondents had moved to another state and an additional 2.86% to a foreign country. That number has in all probability gone up in the last couple of years.
So let’s just say that my Amie is seeing a home very different from what I saw as a kid. We see family once or twice a year, not every weekend. Mama and Baba have strange accents – and so does she, insisting on “woh-T-er”. Mama and Baba can’t vote and they don’t know how to negotiate certain communal systems. So I am afraid that Amie will not know what “home” is, or that she will call “home” something that I would call but a weak version of my own rich childhood memory of home.
And so I must ask myself: can I, dare I, make this place my home? What if home means not just the core family of the three of us, not just lengthy visits (visits: that says it all) from grandparents and aunts and cousins, not just local traditions with good, good friends that we see often… but also the wider culture of a hometown?
The Training helped me realize that I should make this hometown happen, for myself, for Amie, and that it is possible. That this what a Transition Initiative could mean to me, my family, and the people in my community: not just becoming more resilient in the face of peak oil, climate change, and economic crisis, but first and foremost what our trainer called “becoming indigenous toyour place”: coming home.
I discovered Rob Hopkins’ book, The Transition Handbook, about two years ago and it immediately struck me as the right approach to our problems – climate change, peak oil and economic crisis (all bound up together, of course) – and to our solutions (grassroots, positive, pro-active, hopeful, inclusive).
It still took me a long time to try to act upon my enthusiasm. I tried to set up a meeting in my town to see who would be interested (and no one showed up, which I ascribe entirely to my awful advertising skills). This debacle did result in making a friend in a nearby town, and he urged me to take the Transition Training. I signed up and attended a training in Boston, led by Tina Clarke, about three weeks ago.
That’s the background. Now where do I start?
I’ll start with a conversation I had today with a mom at Amie’s school. It was the first time we talked and we sparked. As the kids played we spoke very passionately and openly about what moves us. From issues at school and global social justice we bounced into… peak oil, climate change, the end of the world as we know it. Only, I didn’t phrase it like that. I called it “this terribly exhilarating and terribly frightful time when we must all be heroes and activists and rise to the occasion of saving the world. Just here, in X [name of our town].”
What was that all about? Where was my usual hopelessness, helplessness? It’s still there (ha, I should be so lucky), but I am rising above it by stepping outside myself into a local community. There I can make a difference: “think globally, act locally”. So I explained:
See, these are the facts, and I laid them all out (my attitude changed, not my brain): oil is in everything and it has peaked, but not in time to stop the burning of it from frying the planet, our health, our spirits, and this economy is just going to get worse. This part took about 1 minute. What took longer was the “this is what I am doing about it” part.
I started with myself: I am taking back my food and my health, by gardening, by buying local, by keeping chickens (soon), by beekeeping (soon), by Independence Days, and I am lowering my consumption, by Rioting for Austerity, by Freezing My Buns, etc.
But that’s not enough: now I want to re-localize my life to within my community, by promoting community gardening and orcharding, or by organizing workshops on how to build with local materials, or by relearning to have fun and make art together, or by helping to retrofit and weatherstrip houses, or by setting up emergency supplies, or by giving frugality and sewing workshops, or by starting a bulk food co-op, or a local currency, etc.
I put it so that, even if my friend didn’t “believe in” peak oil or climate change (terms I had mentioned just that once), she could still find one or two items on my list that would appeal to her (thus the “or”s). She could still see how our town, the place she invested in and where she is raising her kids, would be better for it.
That’s what finally dawned on me at the Training. That’s what I think Transition is really about:
all-inclusive: whoever shows up is the right person
non-prescriptive, non-directive: give people access to good information and trust them to make the right decisions
Let it go where it wants to go, which is where the community takes it
As our wonderful trainer said:
Transition happens when someone says: I have a gift (any gift) to give to the community. And the reply is: Be welcome! And thank you! And here is what I can give to you!
As such Transition is a “movement” only in the most basic sense of a change. It is not a “group” but, simply, community. Those who start it and guide it somewhat aren’t “leaders” but facilitators. It is not a “label” in the pejorative sense but only very basically a name, because it is facilitated by an organization that shares its experiences and its tools – free of charge, run with ‘em and let us know where they are taking you so we can learn from you.
This realization was important for me. I abhor conflict. I was scared to be a Transition initiator and facilitator in my town because I foresaw people confronting me on “Peak Oil” and “Climate Change”. “Prove it!” they’d say. How could I? [shudder]. But now I realize it’s not about peak oil or climate change, it’s about Community.
So, you deny climate change? That’s fine, but can you show me how to sew this quilt? Or what are your ideas on a local currency? Or do you know what’s wrong with my lettuce? Or… [trails off having too many things to do to stand around arguing, already!]
I set up the kindling dryer – very simply the old soil screen under the shed roof. Amie and I hauled some more kindling, because I figured once it starts snowing it won’t be visible and for the picking anymore.
I also finished the putting to bed of the beds. As I was looking around when I was done, I thought I would share some pictures and show you parts of our property that I rarely show. Click on the thumbnails to see the image larger.
This is the view North (from the Front”, see below):
three large beds under straw, two smaller beds to the right, which will be mainly berries and herbs. We hope the grass corridor in between will withstand the runoff erosion (the grass didn’t take too well) until we fix the problem next Spring (see below).
There is a very large bed in front of the house (16 x 4 feet) for herbs.
The veg garden (hoop house still without plastic) lies to the West of the house.
Behind the house is a large backyard, which is just trees, forest floor (no grass to speak of), and a playhouse. It is entirely enclosed by a chain link fence, and that’s where I hope to keep the chickens.
Around that fence runs a strip of “wild” area, home to squirrels, chipmunks, birds, snakes, foxes and deer, and behind that runs a lane 0f conservation land that forms a great wildlife corridor.
Above is a 180 degree view, from East (driveway) to West (veg garden) – so curl the image around your field of vision. I labeled it so click on the image for a better view. From East to West:
loam under blue tarp on parking lot
the driveway runs from behind it down to the street
a “wild” thicket which in Summer provides a lot of privacy, the mosses there are beautiful and we’re leaving it as it is: maybe a narrow path with a small moss-covered stone bench hidden in the thicket.
I drew in the proposed ditch which will carry runoff and rainwater to a small wetland below
the two terraced beds you see to the left in the picture above
grass pathway that leads down to
the “Front”: septic leach field, bad subsoil, choked with weeds and mostly shaded: our greatest design challenge
three beds you see to the right in the picture above
more “wild” thicket where we could grow mushrooms
two tree stumps that we’ll make into a bench
more wild area behind that, where the horse path runs all the way to the back of the property
I know, it’s quiet here. First of all, we’ve been ill – Amie is much better now; we’re now even doubting whether it was the flu at all. Secondly I took the Training for Transition last weekend and I am still exhausted and exhilarated – too much so that I can’t yet write about it.
Today we are going to Thanksgiving with friends. It’s the first time in our 11 years in the States that we’ve been invited to have Thanksgiving with Americans. (Not that I was waiting for that; the coincidence just occurred to me.) I think we’ll add something to the party: our friendship and gratitude, of course, as well as an Indian (DH) and a European (myself) and the peaceful combination of those two (Amie).
Wow, Sharon has another great blog entry up: Dreaming a Life, about radical lifestyle changes – “whether they come from adapting to a deeply damaged climate or from addressing the crisis, whether they come from adapting to depletion or from enduring it.”
Sharon points out that much of the political unrest we are seeing comes from the fact that people are realizing that they have been lied to, that they can’t “have all the things they want – a future for their children and an affluent present now.” Sharon also warns that “unless a true and comprehensible story is offered, false ones will be taken up, and used as bludgeons.”
She goes into why we like being lied to, why we make it so easy to be lied to, and why it takes so long for us to finally see the lie. We are constantly fed dreams not of our own making, and we aren’t autonomous enough to dream differently, creative enough to make our own dreams. We “imagine ourselves as unique because we choose among a large range of commercial options – we can decorate our kitchen with baby ducks, pigs or flowers; can choose between coke or pepsi, can decorate our bodies within a range of a dozen or so arbitrated ‘personal styles.’ Given the sheer number of commercial choices, it is perhaps no wonder that we imagine that this is sufficient to constitute an identity and a dream.”
And, she points out, the “green lifestyle” we are offered is just part of that manufactured dream. It does not constitute the radical lifestyle change that will come for all of us, because “there will never be a society in which everyone can have a personal hybrid”, and because “even the rich having them is a disaster.”
The math is really clear – there’s not enough climate leeway, not enough water, not enough food, not enough money, not enough oil, not enough gas, not enough dirt, not enough phosphorous, not enough rainforest…. not enough left in the world to avert disaster if we have rich people, who see themselves primarily as consumers in a consuming world, and who live as we do now.
Which means we need an American (and European and Australian and Japanese…) dream that can work – and we need it fast.
And it’s up to us – the rich people – to imagine it and promote it.
It can’t be a nightmare. It has to be, Sharon writes,
immediately accessible. It cannot require vast creative energies, because honestly, most people don’t have them. It cannot require that everyone go against the grain, because, quite honestly, most of us go with the grain. It cannot require that we build an imagine entirely internally – you have to be able to go look at it.
I am taking this to be my personal challenge. I choose to believe it is possible. How do we already live that dream, and how and where do we show it for all to see?