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Derrick Jensen "personal change vs. political change"

 
paul wheaton
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I wish to respond to this:

http://dgrnewsservice.org/2015/11/10/derrick-jensen-forget-shorter-showers/


First, I wish to say that Mr. Jensen is one of our great permaculture leaders. I choose to follow a different permaculture path, but I find his ideas refreshing, bold and delicious after a diet of spiral gardens, poorly built cob ovens and greenhouses in the winter shade. And Mr. Jensen's words always make me grow to be a better person.


Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?


And while he makes an extremely good point, I do wish to engage him on this point. And my point will be weird. I wish to say that he is right. And, at the same time, I wish to propose a point that is almost the opposite and say that that is right too.

In fact, I want to add strength to his point, by the words from his book "As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial". In that book he points out that if everybody in the world did ALL of the things that were supposedly better, then it still wouldn't make any tangible difference. I almost cried when I read that because it is SOOOOO TRUE!

I think this is a good point. If we are going to solve all problems globaly (or, perhaps, most problems), we need to at least come up with a scaleable backyard model, and then scale it.

I know i can do the first part - and I think I've done a fair bit in this space already. And there are some days when i think i might be able to do the second part: I have made a mountain of progress, but there are a thousand more mountains to go.


An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much — and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.


Therefore, we need more. Much more. And, as with nearly everything in permaculture, it isn't going to be just one thing, but a long list. And rather than do 50 things that give us 22%, perhaps we need to explore a list of 100 things that give us 75%. Of course, we are not going to persuade everybody. So we really need to step up the game.



Let's look at heat. First there is my article about cutting 87% off of my electric heat bill. Then my stuff about rocket mass heaters. And, finally, the possibility to fully eliminate the need for heat with my wofati stuff.

I have written about and demonstrated many paths to cut overall electric usage while living a more luxuriant life. It is not perfect, but a very large improvement. Further, I would like to point out that a lot of people, when they switch to PV energy, find ways to reduce their electric consumption by 95%! While people that are on the grid are sure they are cutting their electric consumption by 60% are really cutting it by something like 5%. The moral of this story is that people do learn these things.

Transportation: I have many facets to this. At the top of the list is to paint a picture of a life path that eliminates the daily job commute. I advocate residual income streams. Further, I am exploring the space of getting "20 people to live together under one roof without stabbing each other." Such a path could dramatically reduce the need for vehicles. Further still - if 90% of the food is grown at home, that eliminates some trips to the grocery store, which, on a large scale, reduces some food transportation costs. Of course, exploring paths of reducing overall consumption of "stuff" also reduces transportation costs as well as the section labeled "industry."

Now, you might notice that this chart says "U.S.", so it unfortunately leaves out the process where trees (which are mostly carbon) are detroyed (usually through burning) dominantly in tropical areas. Of course, this problem happens wtihin the US also. But I think I recall Allan Savory once saying that the process of converting tree carbon to carbon in the air accounts for more than half of our problem greenhouse gasses problem. So, naturally, a powerful tool in this space is to convert CO2 back into trees as much as possible. Step 1 would be to do what we can in our backyards, homesteads and farms. Step 2 would be to tackle the tropical areas where this is the greatest problem.

Of course, we are back to the issue of "less than 1% of the population doing this" vs. "everybody doing this." But the first first step is to clean up our own yard. The second step is to paint a picture that says "if you use this technique, you triple your profit."


Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.


Ok, let's talk water.

If we grow our own food, without using water (see my stuff about replacing irrigation with permaculture) then we reduce the demand on ag. Further, a lot of the ag folks that are using so much water are paying about 90% of their gross income for that water. If we can show them a path that can reduce or eliminate their water use, that converts directly to profit.

Golf courses: there are ways to have a sharp looking turf using zero water. It has been done.

As for industry: I think it would be good to explore industry that is a huge water consumer. With a strong focus on water drawn from ancient aquifers and that water is not replaced. After all, if an industry, such as raising cattle, draws water from a creek and then the water is returned to the creek .... and the water leaving the property is cleaner than it arrived ... I think that doesn't count.


Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption — residential, by private car, and so on — is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”


And if we dramatically improve things in our backyard .... industry is always looking for ways to cut costs. It won't take long for industry to adopt ideas.

On a more political note: if we stop subsidizing energy, the products that consume huge amounts of energy will have their price go up and will then become less appealing. When gasoline is $12 per gallon (possibly the unsubsidized price), bananas will become more expensive than apples and we will see more people on bicycles. And public transportation will quickly be much smarter.


Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per-capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.


And suppose we have come up with things to make it so that we reduce our waste at home. Effectively. Suppose we reduce 90% of our waste. And we activate the whole "everyone" thing. All of that industry is populated with .... people. The same people that just reduced all of their home waste.

So we start off with the "20 people under one roof" thing. General consumption is typically reduced to half due to you don't need so many things which can be shared among the community. Combine that with growing your own food - surely two or three of the 20 like to garden. And usually 2 or 3 others are keen to cook.

Next, we come up with a large buffet of ways to reduce waste at home. A lot of these are things most people are not even aware of. And now they are aware. Industry has waste - not because they like it, but because they do not yet know of alternatives. Solving this problems usually cannot be accomplished by yelling at them, it almost always requires creative thought. So if we impregnate a lot of these ideas into the brains of their employees, that doesn't entirely solve the problems either, but it does improve the probability that the problems might be solved.


and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology


Well said.


- - -

I guess my approach is to make a long, long list of stuff that people can do themselves, in their back yard. Or in their house. Or on their homestead. And I hope to connect these ideas to millions of people. And I hope like minded people also share oodles of bits and bobs for others to do and they also connect those ideas to millions of people. And those millions tell millions more. And these ideas start to make their way to industry, because industry is loaded to the gills with people.

Further still, with a lot of these ideas I like to attach the word "permaculture". I hope that people will hear the word enough that they will think of looking toward permaculture to find a huge catalog of good ideas to explore.

Earlier I said:

In that book he points out that if everybody in the world did ALL of the things that were supposedly better, then it still wouldn't make any tangible difference.


And so I want to, at the very least, come up with the recipe so that if everybody in the world did all of the things, then it WOULD make a HUGE and POSITIVE difference. It would truly solve most of the world's problems that we are currently discussing in this thread. And it all starts in our homes and in our brains. And I think this path of building good things is more productive than being angry at bad guys.

Let's get to work.
 
Ross Raven
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No one seems brave enough to be the first person to respond...so I might as well be the first up to the plate.

I'm a Dark Greeny surrounded by Light Greenies and Bright Greenies. Im the person to avoid at parties...because I have a tendency to say things like, "No matter how many protest marches you organise or meditating on morning with your brother wales, its already too late. We are going to ride this crazy train right to the end. Adapt or die. Adapt damn it!"

or ," Our dark overlords will probably win this fight because they have all the money to block political change and hire enough mercenaries if the unwashed masses get any traction"

Sometimes I feel like Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead. "How many of you do I need to kill to save your lives..."

Im such a happy ray of sunshine.

Im a fan of Derrick because he doesn't have that filter to hide from the truth that most people have. That said, I don't particularly feel his call for armed insurrection...well...permies just aren't fighters so I don't expect he will get much traction. If it did...see my comment about money and mercenaries.
The assault rifle will remain buried in its hidey hole where it belongs. I don't fight wars I cant win.

But I can grow a lot of food, so I do. I can cut a lot of firewood so I do. I can build quality relationships so I do. I can build resiliency into my life. I can teach others so hopefully there are enough other people building that same Resiliency that they don't expect me to take care of them. Hopefully when the crazy train crashes...Im not on it.

OOPS. I think this is more of a rant than I intended ....but I broke the First Reply hurdle so others may enter

 
Zach Muller
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I choose to follow a different permaculture path, but I find his ideas refreshing, bold and delicious after a diet of spiral gardens, poorly built cob ovens and greenhouses in the winter shade.


On that note i have been watching a lot of permaculture and gardening media in the last few weeks trying to get reinvigorated and its very tough to go one video without seeing something really lame. Its hard to rep PC when you and like 3 other people have great content and the rest is in my opinion fluff or derivative. Not meaning to sound negative, just reflecting my feelings lately about this information.
I havent heard of derrick, but did like his article and he really didnt seem to be pushing too hard for a specific result. Just trying to activate people to think more broadly, which can be good for most.


This quote was how he summed up his article.
We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.


Which sounds well and good, but is more complicated. I've been confronted by alot of people who were attempting to do this and the end result was really just them spreading their personal issues and annoying everyone. Its not always just as easy as becoming an activist and confrontation-->take down. So in my experience it is important to maintain a focus of your energy, which is one reason why the recipe of things that would make a difference is appealing. Spending personal energy and having an impact on the earth planet is inspiring, spending energy to create yet another illusion around myself is a depressing prospect.
Thanks for the uplifting post Paul
 
Tyler Ludens
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The main problem I have with the "confront and take down those systems" idea is that it means "someone" has to confront and take down those systems. The person advocating this has no intention of taking up arms and taking down the system, and if they do, they end up a crazy person shooting up a theatre, or blowing up a government building. Unlike doing our own little personal parts, which we can start doing now and increase incrementally, confronting and taking down the system has to be sudden and massive. Everyone (or a very large number) needs to get on board with the plan (what plan?) at the same time and keep it up until the system is taken down. So in actuality it is less effective than our little personal parts because nothing is really being done except talk.

In addition, in my opinion there needs to be a system which can operate in place of the system which has been taken down. Often the "take down the system" folks don't have much of an idea of what that might be. Permaculturists, on the other hand, have a very clear idea of what that might be (see the final chapter of Bill Mollison's Designers' Manual) and in many cases are in the process of creating it (example: wheaton labs).

 
Ross Raven
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

In addition, in my opinion there needs to be a system which can operate in place of the system which has been taken down. Often the "take down the system" folks don't have much of an idea of what that might be.


Yup. The French revolution is a good example. They knew what they didn't want and achieved removing it...Then the plan went to shit. I fear we will find our selves in the same position.

For those that missed the Dark Green reference, here is the article. http://www.generationalpha.org/shades-of-green/
I figure Paul and many other permies are Dark Greenies Whereas Derrick is a Deep Greeny.

I agree with Paul. But I did notice a tiny reasoning hole in one small part. residual income. Its not really important but I just thought I would throw it out there. As people grow there own food, produce there own heat, plant their own trees and create their own energy... they move out of the consumer economy...and the economy begins to collapse in on itself. Fewer people can afford to purchase Pauls DVDs and such. Residual income streams dry up. So, inspite of this, Dark green actions like permaculture can have Deep Green Results, IE, crash the system. Its self reinforcing.

Consider the Commodities Crash, happening as we speak. Consumers have less cash so they are buying less stuff. Stuff made with commodities. Investors are jumping out of windows. I hope my logic makes sense here. Making your own food and energy crashes the system forcing more people to have to grow there own food and create energy...out of survival necessity.

My only real point here is that having the goal of a 70% reduction is admirable...but its still a 30% increase. Its the 100% which is the real problem for humans to accept. Im finding Way too many things I cant bring myself to give up. Those weaknesses might just involuntarily be removed. LOL. I'll miss coffee.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree with you, Ross. A true Permaculture Revolution might look like collapse of the industrial economy to anyone not practicing permaculture or similar resilient strategies. And as the industrial economy collapses, many of us will have our own little personal collapses as we lose our sources of income, if we're still dependent on the industrial economy. For the young and healthy, collapse of the industrial system may not be too painful, but for the older and ill, who may be dependent on industrial medications (I'm in this category myself) it may spell a lingering uncomfortable ending to life.
 
paul wheaton
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I like this graph:



(source)

I like how it makes it clear that all that industrial stuff is not just an "us and them" thing, but it is all an "us" thing. We have to own our shit.

But even more, it gives us the ability to have traction. We can begin to qualify and quantify our lives. In fact, we can see the numbers so clearly, that we can not only mitigate our own impact, but we could even take steps to compensate for a dozen people.

So this graph suggests that the average carbon footprint in the US is (rounding up a bit), 60 tons. And the world average is (rounding again) 10 tons.

If we consider the wheaton eco scale, we might say that if you are level 2, you cut your carbon footprint to half of the US average, 30 tons. At level 4 you cut your carbon footprint to zero. At level 6 your carbon footprint is, perhaps -600 tons per year. At level 8, your carbon footprint is about -100,000 tons per year.

According to the graph, heating is about 5.8 tons. Since I live in montana, mine might be closer to 8 tons. I now heat almost exclusively with rocket mass heaters. So I think that I have already cut about 6 tons. The wofati experiments might cut that down a lot.

Jocelyn and I work from home. No commute. Although we do travel further on our trips to town. Usually we use a prius C. So, maybe we pick up another 6 tons?

Then there is the large scale seed planting and hugelkultur stuff. Maybe a few tons there this year, but as those plants and trees get bigger ...

Of course we are running some big equipment to do our experiments - that puts a lot of carbon in the air. And we are also conducting forestry practices where we keep our carbon out of the air - so we gain it back.

As we grow more and more food here, that reduces a lot carbon footprint that is embedded in grocery store food. As well as vehicle carbon.

Through these kinds of things, I may cut my carbon to 30 tons per year. So now let's talk about getting it to zero: I need to put a LOT of organic matter into the soil and grow oodles of trees. Trees are made of mostly carbon. Organic matter in the soil is mostly carbon. I have hundreds of acres - so I think I can do a lot of this.

So now, maybe I can get my carbon footprint to be negative hundreds of tons per year. My carbon footprint then compensates for a dozen people or so.

So, all by myself, there is something I can do, in my backyard, to offset the carbon footprint of a dozen people. It can be done!

(granted, my backyard is a lot bigger than the average)



Now the question is, how do I offset the carbon footprint of a thousand people? I don't think the answer is to get more land. I think the answer is to make a long list of small things, and connect each thing to millions of brains.

But you cannot do it without first making the long list of small things.

And you cannot do it if you don't connect the millions of brains to each thing.


Once I have offset the carbon footprint for a thousand people, it becomes possible that I might offset the carbon footprint for a million people. And once I have done that, it is possible to solve the CO2 problem for the whole world. And I never attended a protest, talked to a politician, ran for office, or got angry at bad guys. It all starts with solving these problems in my own backyard. This isn't rocket science. It's just one part give-a-shit and one part hard work.






 
Ross Raven
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paul wheaton wrote:


First, I wish to say that Mr. Jensen is one of our great permaculture leaders. I choose to follow a different permaculture path, but I find his ideas refreshing, bold and delicious after a diet of spiral gardens, poorly built cob ovens and greenhouses in the winter shade. And Mr. Jensen's words always make me grow to be a better person.

-

And so I want to, at the very least, come up with the recipe so that if everybody in the world did all of the things, then it WOULD make a HUGE and POSITIVE difference. It would truly solve most of the world's problems that we are currently discussing in this thread. And it all starts in our homes and in our brains. And I think this path of building good things is more productive than being angry at bad guys.

Let's get to work.


Today, I am digging perennial Jerusalem Artichokes to be used as winter pig food. Yay. He is finally eating it. It is time consuming and not very efficient...But its a bunch more money no longer in the economy. It is an act of civil disobedience. (They want to start radio tagging pigs here) It is quite literally an act of war. Gardens for Victory. Starve the beast.
I'm burnt out on typing so surprised Im bothering to post but Paul talking about Derrick spired me.

I to, find his ideas " refreshing, bold and delicious" after a diet of bongos for peace, bacon flavored tofu for change and voting for the lesser of two evils

So for those less familiar with Derrick, Here is my favorite comedy skit by him.


I do feel that derrick got stuck in the "Anger" and "Depression" phase in the five stages of grief.

The "Acceptance" phase involves putting a shovel in the soil. The end result is my truck becoming a nifty raised bed garden and mini greenhouse. I accept that I will only be able to make it to the market a couple times a year...only when the pass is clear of snow. It will be a week long adventure with a few friends for support...and believe it or not, I look forward to that.

The tag line I usually use when writing is "I have a Tactical Harness and I have a Tool Belt. The Tool Belt is more useful". Its an acceptance phase moniker .
 
paul wheaton
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Here is a video where I show 87% being cut off of the electric heat bill. As with nearly all things, this is not a perfect solution for everybody. But I think it is a partial solution for almost everybody. And a perfect solution for 5% to 10% of the population. I think that this can cut 6 tons of CO2 for 10% of the population and cut at least one ton per american household.

So, for just the US, that's about 200 million tons. But only if I reach all US brains, **AND** the video is persuasive enough.



I think somebody else could make a much better video than I can. And then it might be well on its way to reaching more brains.

And here is my point of the moment: if a person implements something like this and they don't tell anybody, then they have cut a ton or two from the global problem. But if they post to facebook, and it gets reshared once or twice, their impact might be something more like 10 or 20 tons. Then they go out to a few different forums or other social media stuff - they might get up to 200 tons.

200 tons. With two hours of effort.

All it takes is one part give-a-shit and one part hard work.



 
Tyler Ludens
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paul wheaton wrote: it is possible to solve the CO2 problem for the whole world.


I am convinced this is possible.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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My mantra regarding this topic is simple: "What am I currently buying that I could grow or make for myself?"

The last time my loppers broke the answer was wooden handles. One time it was catsup. Another time it was tomatillo salsa.
 
Julia Winter
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This reminds me of a book I've been wanting to read called "This Changes Everything." by Naomi Klein. In it, she argues that the planet threatening nature of climate change leads us to need a world wide people movement to change our very systems.

Whenever I read articles about climate change, I get frustrated because nobody seems to acknowledge the potential of carbon sequestration, not just in trees, but in soil. How many tons of CO2 were sequestered via the Loess Plateau project in China? How many tons of CO2 has Greg Judy sequestered in the soils of his leased (and owned) lands in Missouri? And of course, Alan Savory has talked about the massive potential of carbon sequestration via transforming desertified land into perennial pasture.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Julia Winter wrote:
Whenever I read articles about climate change, I get frustrated because nobody seems to acknowledge the potential of carbon sequestration, not just in trees, but in soil.


Oh I know! All of these solutions are right at our fingertips!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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As a farmer I welcome more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, because it acts as a fertilizer to my plants. More carbon dioxide means better plant growth.

As a farmer in a cold mountain valley, I welcome warmer temperatures because I can grow more and better crops.

As a farmer in the desert, I welcome the extra rain that falls on my farm when temperatures are warmer in the South Pacific.

As a narcicist, I don't care if the stupid things that people have done catch up with them, for example, I don't care if a city that was built at sea level gets incrementally washed away because the ocean level rises.

I have already collapsed my life. I still commute to my fields, (grr) but I do it by biking hundreds of miles a month. I run errands by walking. I often use a small led flashlight at night rather than grid-powered lights. There were 4 quilts on my bed last night... Carbon dioxide emmissions don't seem to be my problem. They seem to be a problem for "The Others" who do not share my world view.

 
William James
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"scaleable backyard model, and then scale it."

Done. Sort of.

It works in the backyard and is also farm-scale, developed within a university context, being promoted also as an advanced method for subsistence farming in latin america where eggs, fish, and corn is the backbone of local nutrition. It closes cycles.
It checks a lot of boxes for me, not all, but a lot.

http://www.permies.com/t/48693/artisans/Reginaldo-Haslett-Marroquin-Regenerative-Agriculture

The only sticky point is the guy says he's specifically not doing permaculture, which is, imho, ludicrous.
William
 
Tyler Ludens
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William James wrote:"
The only sticky point is the guy says he's specifically not doing permaculture, which is, imho, ludicrous.
William


He may think permaculture is some kind of woo-woo, which, unfortunately, some people believe. If only they would come to this messageboard, they would see it is not woo-woo, but very practical down-to-earth stuff!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I also want to add, that I don't think one has to choose between personal change and political change if one feels strongly about things. If one has the energy and endurance, one can certainly do both. Some people can only do a little. What is unfortunate is that most people either don't know what they can do, or just don't care. Change, for most people, is very difficult, especially if it looks like they might be more uncomfortable than they are in the unchanged state. Most people fear change. I know I do. I don't look forward to being more uncomfortable than I am now. And I live a relatively low-carbon lifestyle (no commute, no children, no big-ass house, etc). Is there more I can do? Yep, there sure is. But probably not without significant discomfort.
 
Meryt Helmer
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it is his issues with gender that make it hard for me to listen to the rest of what he is saying. i wish he would open his eyes up to the possobility that gender is not assigned by ones chromosomes or include intersex people in his language as well?

before i learned that about him though i was watching all his videos i could find and finding his language about gender kinda feeling wrong but unable to articulate it while i nodded to the rest of his words.

i am someone who does not identify as female or male but yeah. that is probably not for permies or not for this thread. i think he could reach many more people if he changed his language though and possibly help a lot more people which is sort of sad for me.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm with you, Meryt. I have trouble with genderific language as well. Jensen is coming from a place of abuse, and has not significantly moved beyond it, as far as I can tell. I try to cut him extra slack for that.
 
Meryt Helmer
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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i come from a place of trauma and abuse too. a lot of it and it is why i first liked what he was saying. but yeah. i am glad i am not alone. thank you Tyler!
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
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I have a problem with individualized solutions that are purely consumption-based, which most mainstream individualized solutions tend to be. Much greenwashing amounts to: buy this thing, or stop buying that thing and replace it with this greener thing, or maybe just try not to buy many things in general. (For the record, I support buying less stuff, but I don't think it's a complete solution, and I think that the focus on being a better/more ethical buyer of things often just digs people deeper into the passive and deeply problematic mindset that is the consumer consciousness).

Individualized solutions that are production-based, on the other hand, seem to me to have much more potential to effect change, and I think permaculture does a very good job of this.

I actually think that many of the political victories that Jensen discusses would be unnecessary in a world where everyone was trying to practice permaculture, so arguing that individual solutions will not achieve similar political victories strikes me as rather missing the point. A better question is, to what degree can widely-adopted individual solutions negate the need for such political solutions by fixing the root causes of our social problems?

People seem to have this fantasy that large corporations and government and the military-industrial complex and such things exist against the will of ordinary people, as detached entities that have taken on a life of their own and are managed by a shadowy unaccountable elite. I find this claim to be dubious at best; these arrangements require the support and at least tacit endorsement of ordinary citizens to remain in operation, and if everyone simply opted out they would probably cease to exist. However, people are much fonder of bemoaning such things than they are of actually changing the way they live.

A lot of industrial practice and hideous US foreign policy and such would be dramatically altered if we had a population that, on a household-by-household basis, dramatically decreased our energy needs, produced much of our food and essential goods in the household economy and most of the rest on the community scale, turned waste into yields, and quit relying on buying things as a first solution to every practical and emotional problem that one encounters. Such a population would be much less reliant on industry and government (including the military) and far less motivated to endorse a global system in which jockeying for control over natural resources via military might and technological dominance forms the basis of national power and security.

Another good question is, what social and political problems do we face that are likely to persist even if we achieve a worldwide permaculture paradise, and do we have any effective strategies or tactics to address them, or can we come up with some?
 
nancy sutton
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Wonderful reading here. I agree with Paul, " to paint a PICTURE that says "if you use this technique, you triple your profit*." If more people could 'see' that their real desires .. for security, friendship, health, laughter, creativity, etc (* i.e., true 'profits' :).... can be obtained with less ... John Michael Greer's LESS... Less Energy, Stimulation and Stuff ...then we'd get somewhere. And I guess it's up to us, and Lawton, Savory, Gabe Brown, Mark Shephard, Falk, McDonogh, etc., etc., etc., etc. (such a thrillng list!) to create that 'picture', so folks know there really is an Alternative. Otherwise, as Tyler says, there's no possibility of change. And, as P. Shelley said long ago, 'We are many, they are few." Jensen seems to see only one 'way out'.. the political one, and if doesn't happen 'his' way, all is lost, but...? As B Fuller said, you never change the current situation by fighting it; only by creating/designing a better alternative that makes it obsolete. And he knew whereof he spoke :)

This may be out of line, but I'd like to also say that arrogant human hubris exhibits itself in many subtle ways.. including the 'my way or the highway' mentality; and the scientific materialism that says 'this or that is utterly impossible' (ignoring the long history of scientific 'corrections'). I think that that hubris may be our worst enemy, and I rarely see it pointed out... but I could be wrong :)
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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After going back through all of this, I think I've come to a rather profound thing.

This is 2015.

If a person spends and hour a day reducing their carbon footprint, they can get their carbon footprint reduced to zero. If they have acreage, they can even mitigate the carbon footprint for a handful of people.

But if a person spends and hour a day TALKING about techniques to lower a carbon footprint on the internet can mitigate the carbon footprint for hundreds of people. And if that person has a large audience: millions of people.

60 tons per person per year. Share it. Tell others. An hour a day. And most of it is directly tied to how people can save money.

If one person spends an hour going to a dozen spots on the internet making links to an article about clotheselines, and 100 people actually do it. That's 30 tons in one hour. This person didn't have to actually write the article. They just had to point it out.

Maybe we need to start a thread, here in the cider press, for a list of topics for reducing CO2. One topic could be clotheslines. Then there can be a thread for clotheslines. Followed by 40 posts. Each post is a link to an on-line article about the value of using a clothesline. People can give a thumbs up on the posts with the articles they like best. Once a day, a person can come, find a link and go share. Maybe with their local permaculture group, plus their church group, plus their doomer group, their city repair group, their transition town group, their college alumni group, a few favorite bloggers, a gardening forum, reddit, facebook, twitter, pinterest ... each day they find a new place on the internet where they have never been before and share there .... One day it is about clotheslines. The next it is about hugelkultur, the next it is about starting trees from seeds, the next it is about cutting your heating costs ...

- - -

Okay, one idea led to another and now I have created a whole new thing-a-ma-bob. I call it "spiffy: Save the Planet by Injecting Friendly Fixes Yourself".
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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It seems to me, like I get the most resistance to my efforts -- to reduce my dependence on fossil fuels and the corporations that supply them -- from family and friends that don't want the neighbors to think that we are poor. For example, hanging clothes out to dry on a line is something that "poor people" do. Riding a bike because of a choice to not to own a vehicle is something that poor people do. Keeping the house a bit cooler during the winter is what poor people do. Using a stick to make a handle for a tool is what poor people do.

The culture in which I grew up has a strong tendancy to equate poverty with sin: derived from the idea that God sends riches to the righteous. Therefore, in my area I think that reducing carbon emmissions is sub-consciously viewed as being wicked. What talking points might I use with my neighbors to get around this issue?

 
William James
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
For example, hanging clothes out to dry on a line is something that "poor people" do.


We have a friend who says that she didn't want to take out the trash in her condominium after a glitch in the cleaning company's contract, because she "doesn't live in lebanon or somewhere like that". Apart from being racist and offensive to people living in lebanon, we take out our trash every week and even people in our area who have the privilege of single-family-housing have to manage their own trash, so it doesn't even make sense.

Anyway, if we're at a stage where even taking out the trash is something "poor people" do, I don't think we're going to sell them on, say, RMH's which really starts to look (to snobs, of course) like something homeless people stand around to keep warm. Same as cob could be easily construed as "living in a dirt house".

Poverty-chic has its limitations, I imagine, marketing-wise.

But there are ways around it:
Riding super expensive bikes around town to show you can afford a 1,500$ bike is pretty posh. Retro-fitting your home with better doors and windows (bullet-proof, of course) or other energy savings strategies can skew things toward richy-rich type investment strategies. Buying lots of land and "doing nothing" with it would be a great example of conspicuous consumption that would convert areas to wild nature. But you have to show people you own it and you're really doing nothing with it, or it's no use - socially speaking.
William

As an aside, Derrick has commended G. Bush as being THE leading environmentalist who, by overseeing the largest economic crash in recent times, cut C02 emissions by an insane margin. Much more than any so-called environmental movement could have and in shorter time.
 
Tyler Ludens
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We take our trash to the dump every month or two. Guess we're really "poor!" But yes, the avoiding looking poor thing is important, unfortunately. So, if we're trying to get people interested in permaculture, we need to make it as lovely and inviting as possible, I think.

Oh, I want to add that, as far as I can tell the "poverty = sin" folks don't believe in human-caused global warming anyway, so any discussion of reducing greenhouse gases is irrelevant. It has to be approached completely differently. For instance, we're making massive brush dams in our creek, which should eventually sequester tons of carbon, but if we discuss it with neighbors, we'll only mention the erosion-control and soil improvement aspects, and the fact that we hope it will stop our driveway from being washed out every few years.
 
William James
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Tyler Ludens wrote:So, if we're trying to get people interested in permaculture, we need to make it as lovely and inviting as possible, I think.


Blows your mind that "having a liveable planet" is something that needs a nifty marketing scheme, doesn't it?

People are attracted to Tech. Tech exudes "progress" and "modern".
Sustainable DIY low-tech is kinda interesting to some people, but iPads seem to be much more interesting.
William
 
Tyler Ludens
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William James wrote:

Blows your mind that "having a liveable planet" is something that needs a nifty marketing scheme, doesn't it?


I think a lot of folks figure if it is livable for them, that's good enough. Why should they worry about some other people? Especially some "poor people" somewhere. Not sure how to appeal to these sorts except through some purely self-focused aspect like saving money.
 
William James
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As we're bring up roadblocks, I think the biggest roadblock in my area is a lack of talent. I'm constantly amazed that people don't undertake things when there are huge opportunities to do things at ones fingertips. And the inability to make mistakes, mostly out of fear.
There is a distinct lack of courage to do something that would take up very little time in the beginning and may turn into a second or even a first job.
Or just to invest time in something you're passionate about because you believe you can't make a living out of it so who cares.

It's really a waste of one's time on this earth not to take up some endeavour.
William
 
Alder Burns
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The last hundred or so years of global history reveals numerous examples of more-or-less successful, massive, nonviolent revolutions which definitively took down systems of oppressive power. It happened in British India, in the American South, in South Africa, in Eastern Europe including the former East Germany, and in the former Soviet Union; and that's probably not all. In most or all of these cases these movements were forwarded by large numbers of people who basically had nothing left to lose, and who were willing to fill the jails, and if necessary, the killing fields; without resistance, to achieve their goals on high moral ground. Even a survey of global permaculture efforts will show that the larger progress and scaling up is happening in the Third World. Most Americans still have too much to lose by taking the streets for change. The Occupy movement proved this....all the "powers" had to do was sit tight and wait for winter. What is more, we are a radically de-skilled culture where so many no longer know how to live frugally. The Internet can help with that, while we have it. But many people don't have it in any case.
 
Dan Boone
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Alder Burns wrote:What is more, we are a radically de-skilled culture where so many no longer know how to live frugally.


Not just de-skilled, but also de-tooled. An awful lot of "do for yourself" and frugality undertakings require a minimum of tools. Tools cost money, and are mostly consumerist crap that breaks almost as fast as you can get it out of the store. Good tools -- like the kind my grandpa had in his toolbox -- are brutally expensive, and knowing how to find them is another one of those missing skills.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Dan Boone wrote:Good tools -- like the kind my grandpa had in his toolbox -- are brutally expensive


This is why it helps to have good neighbors, because you can share tools. Building relationships with neighbors is something almost everyone can do, unless you live in a place where everyone is unusually grumpy.
 
Dan Boone
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
This is why it helps to have good neighbors, because you can share tools. Building relationships with neighbors is something almost everyone can do, unless you live in a place where everyone is unusually grumpy.


Not all neighborhoods are equally useful in this regard. But there's a 21st-century twist on it, too. There are half a dozen overlapping regional and local "garage sale" groups on FaceBook in my area. I was able to beg an ancient and disreputable froe from a generous guy 20 miles away who was happy to give it to someone who wanted to learn to use it. Virtual neighbor!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes, I am aware that I am in a particularly nice neighborhood (country road) where folks are interested in looking out for each other. In one of my previous neighborhoods (in Los Angeles) there were also people interested in being neighborly, so it is not, in my experience, a strictly rural phenomenon!
 
Mike Feddersen
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"So it comes down to marketing?" It should come as no great shock. Can you imagine how short a revolution, "It takes a village..." would be if village would have been replaced by commune? So while we do and learn to do, we may need to label the things we do with neutral and non-flowery language. We may need to de-poor our words.

I am a fan of Seth Godin, his books like "Tribes" and "Linchpin". Seth talks about how the Industrial Revolution changed the world we live in. Mentioning modern man's time on Earth as a stack of 400 quarters; each quarter representing 250 years. So our world lived a sort of permacultural existance for a long, long time, but for the last 250 year's we have moved away from a tribal life. The problem is, it takes tribes to sustain life. If all you earn goes down the road, but none stays in your village, town, or family it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a pissed off permaculturist to tell you life is screwed up. A link to Seth's Tribes audio. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://m.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DMnhMYy_BlOU&ved=0ahUKEwi4qrSxh7fJAhVLOSYKHZNKBMEQtwIIGzAA&usg=AFQjCNESH8rGCHHTSy2wfj7cegeapSUqoQ&sig2=6h4VQn2IOruKmtp5yiQQtg
.
A hundred and some odd years ago Andrew Carnegie helped establish public schools to train the factory workers of his tomorrow. The factories are pretty much all gone, along with the factory jobs. Along with factories came consumerism. consumerism is still here.
Permaculture is highly needed, but just because something is needed doesn't mean people will embrace it. But what if those original factory training grounds were used to retrain a new generation of sustainer's?
I could see a program entered into some schools, real clever and sneaky. The program's would have to be disguised as something other than the real agenda.
Instead of teaching kids to feed themselves it will have to be labeled a "Green Initiative". Pretty soon everyone is drinking the Permacultural Koolaide.
 
Mike Feddersen
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On subsidized gas, I pray we throw the railroad under that bus too.
.
I have talked to some driver/ owner operators, when diesel was 4 bucks a gallon they hauled more freight than now. And they earned more; when the fuel costs are lower shipper's think you should work for free.
 
David Livingston
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on a similar vein this guy looks interesting http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/11/27/1454692/-The-Most-Important-Ideas-You-Never-Heard-of-Kurdish-Rojava-its-Egalitarian-Ecological-Revolution?detail=facebook
The idea that the USA could produce the next great left wing ecological idealog amuses me no end as a very leftwing brit (and for those across the pond thats left left left ) and that his ideas are taking root in kudistan among folks who dont even have a country yet .

David
 
nancy sutton
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I just watched 'Racing Extinction', a 1.5 hr documentary. It advocates getting everyone to start with doing just one thing. And uses one strategy of projecting, on city buildings, and other large 'walls', including particle clouds, images of endangered animals, statistics, suggestions, etc, ... getting the message/picture infron of thousands of people. This is at the end.... very inspiring. Their website is 'startwith1thing.com'. And, if 'we' can put a 'picture' of 'doing 1 thing' in front of more and more people.... who knows? Heaven knows, the 'revolution' will not be televised... but 'broadcast' in the belly of the beast... ??

As a very successful marketer said, when people see a different PICTURE, the situation changes.

(Oh, PS.. they do briefly cite the polluting methane production of cattle production, but there's more to the story than vegans usually mention, ala Alan Savory, Gabe Brown, etc.)
 
Erica Wisner
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Doing just one thing is a big plus, I think. Because just one thing usually leads to another.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
It seems to me, like I get the most resistance to my efforts -- to reduce my dependence on fossil fuels and the corporations that supply them -- from family and friends that don't want the neighbors to think that we are poor. For example, hanging clothes out to dry on a line is something that "poor people" do. Riding a bike because of a choice to not to own a vehicle is something that poor people do. Keeping the house a bit cooler during the winter is what poor people do. Using a stick to make a handle for a tool is what poor people do.

The culture in which I grew up has a strong tendancy to equate poverty with sin: derived from the idea that God sends riches to the righteous. Therefore, in my area I think that reducing carbon emmissions is sub-consciously viewed as being wicked. What talking points might I use with my neighbors to get around this issue?



Um... we can step over to the Cider Press if necessary here, but if this is the full on Christian Capitalist version of the God-blesses-the-righteous-with-riches theory, have you considered discussing the actual life and values of Jesus?
There's a lot of emphasis on giving your excess to the poor - let the one with two cloaks give to him who has none, and so on.
Not giving to the church, but to the poor directly. You both now have one cloak each. It sort of implies you are deliberately becoming more like the poor, until you are both the same.
More difficult for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the needle-gate, and so on.

So one talking point for those with nominally Christian values could be the idea that God may send us riches, but they are for us to give away to those less fortunate. If we spend our gifts on ourselves until we we have nothing left to give, we are being a prodigal son or Pharisee, rather than a Jesus or good Samaritan. If we pick our projects right, we can give not only to the person who is hungry, or naked, or orphaned right here and now - we can plant a vinyard that will continue giving to our communities long after we are gone.

The idea that God sends riches to the righteous is an attractively regressive philosophy - it takes all the guilt and burden of injustice off our conscience, at least our conscious conscience. But it leaves us subconsciously guilty - especially if we do have a moral compass like Jesus' teachings to reflect on - and it also makes us frightfully insecure, because now our worth is dependent on something that can be taken away.
My litmus test for "churches" that claim riches are a sign that God likes you, and that giving heavily to the man on TV will make God like you more: if conversely, financial hardship or incurable medical problems result in revoking your membership, then it is not a church, in my opinion. It is a pyramid scheme using God's name as a cloak for immorality.

The churches where I was raised were heavily into solidarity, and stewardship, and social justice, and other liberal Christian sentiments like that. Permaculture is a really easy fit in that crowd, if they're not doing it already.

If it's secular notions of "sin" or "unworthiness," then looking at how the actual rich live can be instructive.
I also grew up around a few old money families, where keeping the expensive Persian rug until it was threadbare was what rich people do, because that's how they stay rich. Buy durable, and use it all the way up.
Old families are wealthy enough they don't need prove it. And they don't need to sell Grandma's house if they don't feel like it - so the next generations can feel at home in the same area long enough to learn something over multiple generations (and have more than enough stuff for multiple generations, too - letting go of some of that durable stuff can be a real challenge when it has sentimental as well as monetary value!)

So poor people and old money know how to save money.
So who tries to prove they are rich by spending extra money? Insecure people. Doing it constantly is pretty adolescent behavior.
But we do have a pretty adolescent culture, don't we?

Unfortunately, adolescent insecurities don't take kindly to being told they're acting juvenile.
The only guaranteed cure for adolescent behavior that I'm aware of is being out of the parental nest for long enough to fully face up to one's own shortcomings, perhaps even exposed to danger which requires mature responses to survive.
And the economic nest is not eager to turn these chicks loose before they're done laying golden eggs.

One of the slower but often effective ways to approach the adolescent, knowing that they are insecure, is to find a point of common ground or common values. They are at their worst in a herd, and at their best if they feel understood and valued as an individual human being. So as with anyone, find a point of common ground.
Caring about your kids, for example, could become caring about the baby being able to play on the lawn without poison chemicals, or wanting to stay healthy by bicycling so that you can live long enough to hold your grandchildren.
Wanting to stay young and fit could be a common feeling - commiserating on diets, then exploring a new one together that involves a lot of whole, fresh food.
While simple pleasures may not be intrinsically appreciated, they can be shared as mild rebellions; "getting away with something."
Huh, you think only poor people hang-dry their clothes? Hanging clothes feels like a luxury to me - because it only happens on days when I have the luxury of free time. It smells good, the clothes last longer, I am outside in the sunshine (because it also only happens on nice days). The time is usually worth more than the money, on busy days - so it's a luxury when I have the time to please myself.
It is also an ideal way to take care of silks, cashmere, and other fine fibers that don't do well in the dryer (and air them to bake out any moths, but don't say that part). You can even do the conspicuous consumption thing without spending money - go into a chi-chi boutique, get a staff person to swap clothing care tips with you, and then name-drop the boutique when telling your neighbor how you always lay-flat or line-dry this particular favorite sweater. Chi-chi consumer advice, Goodwill or home-made sweater, and everybody's happy.

-Erica
 
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