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Road to Resilience

My writings here these past couple years are nothing novel: mostly just reflections of writings that have come my way that have helped me understand what is going on. Many of these writings have come to me either directly or vicariously from my wife, the poet.
Our seeming powerlessness to change an out of control growth economy that relentlessly depletes our resources and pushes catastrophic climate change produces among us responses ranging from denial to despair; this is completely understandable. I’ve been trying to argue that our lifestyle and culture are inherently unsustainable and that change will happen whether we direct it or it directs us. The point of frustration is our inability to contemplate, much less begin adapting to, what is a virtual certainty. Lifestyle and culture are the boats that float us. Changing boats when there is no apparent boat to change to presents the predicament.
This predicament is captured beautifully in this quote by poet Joshua Corey in the introduction to an anthology of poetry, The Arcadia Project.
"For the present, we in North America continue to live on a precariously familiar Earth – to breathe more or less clean air, to swim in more or less clean waters, to picnic under oaks and maples in leaf, to chase deer out of our gardens, to sort the recycling, to go for hikes on trails, to meditate in deserts, to eat fruit out of season, to wait in line at drivethrus, to listen to mash-ups on our ipods, to read avant-garde poetry on unrecycled paper, to sing the praises of green consumership on our blogs, to brag about our hybrid car’s gas mileage, to buy clothes made in Bangladesh from Target, to dine at locavore vegan raw food restaurants, and to dress our babies in organic cotton onesies. We are living in Arcadia: that bubble riding atop the forces of history…. This arcadia is a virtual paradise: a phantasmagoria of commodities, an archive of sentimental objects called "trees," birds," and "landscapes" as obsolete and gnomically significant as books of stamps, electric typewriters, or Polaroid photographs. Behind our imperial Arcadia’s gauzy curtains terrible things stand only half concealed – sweatshops, toxic dumps, depleted uranium, drone strikes, the violence administered by oil companies and other gigantic, seemingly unaccountable corporations – but we keep the curtains drawn, peeping only occasionally with prurient horrified interest at oil soaked pelicans and Spielbergian dioramas of Manhattan under water. We are like Adam and Eve had they been able to see the fratricide that awaited them in the land east of Eden – yet we go picking at that apple tree until it’s bare."
Further along, Corey produces another stunning quote from Shelley from "A Defense of Poetry:"
"We want the creative faculty to imagine that which we know; we want the generous impulse to act that which we imagine: our calculations have outrun conception; we have eaten more than we can digest."
In trying to imagine where we are going, I tend to think in terms of rapid turnarounds, like a fever breaking. These come in two flavors: there is the wonderful "change of heart" semi utopian fantasy, and the swift and terrible collapse. At times like this, it helps me to take advice from author and middle-aged curmudgeon, John Michael Greer, who loves to pop simplistic bubbles. Civilizations, he says, take a long time to collapse. Rapid revolution often brings a change in form but not in substance as the new faction tends to mimic the behavior of the old. The key is in mimesis, our incurable habit of trying to imitate that which impresses us. According to Greer, Arnold Toynbee theorizes that a civilization begins to decline when the dominant minority begins to lose the ability to inspire and settles more and more for the power to coerce. Does that sound familiar? As we begin to resist the dominant minority, that is, the wealthy corporate interests, they are dramatically enforcing their economic and political will on the rest of us. At Transition Vashon, we are trying to encourage all of us to start imagining a new world. The best way to overcome the dominant minority is to learn to not depend so heavily on their products. We could reach a point of sudden capitulation, but more likely it will take generations for the current regime to disappear and the new take its place.
One step at a time, we can make common sense decisions, and learn the skills and awareness we need to move into a post industrial world. Transition Vashon is going to facilitate another free Transition study group to start soon. If you are interested, call Steve Graham at 265 9929.
Correction: In my article of Feb. 28, Community Solar!, I incorrectly stated that Vashon Wisenergy offered free energy audits. Greg Kruse, of Vashon Wisenergy, does do audits but is not certified to do free audits. Two companies are certified to do free audits: Watershed LLC, Michael Laurie,, 567 5492, and Revolution Green Power, Kevin Ward,, 920 3805.