The disruptors are the people or events that shake up the status quo, question why things are done a certain way, or introduce an element of chaos or discontent into the system and forces it to evolve, change or adapt. They are the people whose survival or well-being is not dependent on the stability of the system; revolutionary new ideas and significant change rarely come from those whose livelihoods and sense of security depend on things going along as they are.
I recently met with a local organization involved in environmental education efforts to talk about the status of sustainability education in Richmond and Wayne County. In preparing for that conversation, I put together a list of what I see as some of the challenges our community faces when it comes to becoming more sustainable and self-reliant: Continue reading "Sustainability challenges in Richmond"
Is working hard to make personal changes in our lives, especially when it comes to living sustainably, a futile effort in the face of all the other kinds of unsustainable things going on in the world? Is personal lifestyle change effective?
I've asked a version of this question before: Must we become the change we wish to see in the world? You can maybe tell that there's a theme here - impactful personal lifestyle change is not often convenient, and sometimes it is downright scary. But that's not a reason not to spend as much energy and time as it takes to try to live more sustainably, right? Change has to happen with each person individually before we can expect the system to change, right?
Or does it?
I attended a nice talk this morning that tried to answer the question "what is a sustainable community?" It and some other recent exchanges I've had reminded me that there are a lot of fears we have wrapped up in exploring that question. Sometimes those fears prevent us from exploring these ideas fully, or from considering new possibilities for our own lives.
So I thought I would start an inventory of some of those fears, and see what else you might have to add. By exploring our fears and understanding what they are, maybe we can find ways to help each other address them.
When we have conversations about living more sustainably, what are we afraid of? What makes us a little anxious, a little hesitant?
In yesterday's Palladium-Item, editorial board member and local blogger Matthew Hisrich proposed that eating locally, and other kinds of localized consumption behaviors, might be ineffective, or even bad for us:
[W]here does this drive for relocalizing come from? Perhaps it has to do with a vague sense of ethical rightness more than anything scientifically verifiable. University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt classifies such efforts as attempts to attain (and potentially guilt others into) a sense of moral purity. "Food," he says, "is becoming extremely moralized these days."
The problem, of course, is that purity is hard to come by in a world as complex as ours, and simplistic answers often have consequences that their proponents do not intend. Consumers should think twice before jumping on the localvore bandwagon.
I'm all for thinking twice before jumping on any sort of wagon, but I think Mr. Hisrich's logic is flawed in a number of places. Read on for my point-by-point analysis of his column: Continue reading "Is eating locally produced food a bad idea?"
Must we really become the change we wish to see in the world?
On a personal level, I think a lot of us struggle with living out the values we hold - we have aspirations and ideals about ourselves and the world we live in that can seem hard to enact, even when the path might feel clear.
But when you start to talk about how the rest of the world could be - even should be - the conversation goes beyond issues of self-discipline, time management, or having sufficient support and encouragement. When we talk about sharing a message with others about how we want the world to be and perhaps suggest they change their behavior to get there, it becomes a question of whether there's a practical or ethical obligation to already first be living out that existence well as the messenger.
Some people say you have to transform your own life first before you can expect others to transform theirs at your suggestion. Do we?
On Wednesday this week, I experienced the great joy of being a part of what might have been Richmond's first 100-Mile Radius Potluck - where all of the ingredients in the dishes you bring come from within 100 miles of Richmond. It was a great success, with delicious food, good company, and a strong sense of possibility about how local food ties into building a more self-reliant Richmond.
You can view highlights from the event, which was sponsored by ProgressiveWayneCounty.org, in this YouTube video:
Continue reading "First 100-Mile Radius Potluck a success"
These "links for the week" posts are a lame substitute for real blog posts, but I hope you enjoy them anyway. I'm working on some other entries about my experience with "power off day," my preferred task list organization system (it's NOT GTD), the difficulties of personal change in a vacuum, and more on media coverage of energy prices - so stay tuned. But for now:
- Smaller Indiana, a social networking site for Indiana people, with an apparent trend toward IT/design professionals. It's built on Ning, which I'm considering as a platform for a few projects. But mostly I'm just excited to see social networking applied at a more regional/local level - a great trend.
- If you enjoyed Thought to Exist in the Wild, you'll enjoy this bit of satire: San Diego Zoo, Prison Merge. Yeah.
- The Emergency Party Button - oh yes, I will build this some day soon. They even got the music right.
- What You Do Counts - National Geographic selected this film by an Earlham College student as a finalist
- Someone took the time - a lot of time - to create an interesting map of humanity.
- Wired says you can keep your SUV, don't bother paying for organic food, forget about the spotted owl, etc. because reducing carbon emissions is the only real battle that matters. Hmm.
- The Story of Stuff - "From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns."
- The Official Blog of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, and the New York Times article that introduced me to it. I wonder how much comment spam *he* gets?
- Local geek Charlie Peck is still Intel's "fastest geek" - or, how to win $30,000 with just a screwdriver.
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility - the companion website to the book by the same name.
- Local Food Cooperative Management System Software - open source software to connect local food producers with local food consumers. It's one piece in creating a more self-reliant local economy.
I just returned from the Fourth Annual U.S. Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions, my third year in a row attending. As in years past, it was informative, inspiring and very practical. I've come away with another list of 50 things I want to do in my life and in Richmond to help address Peak Oil and climate change. I met some great people doing some amazing things in their communities, and made some connections that I hope will help us support each other.
For now I won't try to record the conference proceedings here (they'll be on DVD soon), but I have a number of blog entries in the works. If you're interested in hearing about some of what I learned, I'll also be covering it in a talk on Thursday, November 15th at 12 PM in a session called "Going Local: Building a Self-Reliant Richmond, Indiana." Join us if you can.