Almost a month ago I received an email inviting me to join a Google+ group. I was happy to do so, thinking it was a personal invitation rather than one generated by an essentially anonymous algorithm.
Arriving to the group (I went to check it out right away), the post that greeted me also seemed personally relevant to me; in fact my first impulse was that the founder of this group had invited me because that particular post had just been published. I felt an immediate tug to comment but hesitated…
Very soon (what felt like practically right away), I saw a Facebook post in a related “Conversation” group that complemented the Google+ group’s posting—indeed it felt directly relevant, articulating some of my private contemplations about a particular sub-set of dynamics that arose around a Sceenius’ Knowledge Expedition.
Fortunately, I didn’t have time to compose a comment at that exact instant, but the vitality of my visceral engagement meant I kept thinking about the communication I thought had occurred. That is to say, I felt as if a particular message (or messages) was sent deliberately to me, calling upon me to offer up a response. I say fortunately I didn’t give an instant response, because as I have been able to carve out time to explore more, I discovered that the Google+ post was not that fresh; it had been re-posted by someone other than the original author.
Ron’s original post pre-dated John’s invitation by three days. One could argue (I suppose) that this timing lends some credibility to an hypothesis that John invited me because of Ron’s post. Whether or not this was the case is of minor significance, however, in light of the reality of me experiencing it “as if” the meaning of “invite+convergence glyph” was directed personally to me.
It is more likely that the invitation I’d received from John was random: at least its timing with the (second) appearance of Ron’s Glyph diving in social fields post was coincidental. At most whatever motivated the invite to be sent at that particular moment was not accessible to me in the instant of reception—there was no “evidence” nor any “clues” presented to connect the invitation with anything that had happened before—only my suppositions; call them intuition, or wishful thinking, or fullblown fantasy. The experience offers an illustration of what one might call a communication fact: receivers are the ones most ‘in charge’ of deciding what something ‘means.’
My realization of the serendipity of the timing of John’s invitation and Ron’s posting called into question the construction of meaning in my mind, also casting doubt on the associations I’d made about the content of Joe’s Facebook post, How to Create a Group Mind, being a reflection or commentary relevant to the Sceenius dynamics in question. In fairness to my logic, I had not thought that there was any association between Joe’s post and Ron’s. Nor did I draw any overt connection between Joe’s post and John’s invitation. Rather I sensed a more covert kind of parallel process or synergy whereby different members of a group are always representing various aspects of the group’s whole/holistic experience.
Now, I am writing weeks after the immediacy of those deeply-felt ‘turns’ (John—Ron—Joe) and can imagine the labor of memory required for John, Ron and Joe to recall those original moments from their points-of-view. Certainly each of the their individual communication acts (Invitation—Google+Post—Facebook Post) are not seamlessly connected in their minds as part of a discrete flow of sequential experience. It is unlikely that these separate communication acts were collectively conceived as a conscious representation. One could go so far as to say that it’s ridiculous for me to have made such strong associations among them, particularly in terms of sensing myself as an intended audience. Indeed, only John might have considered his invitation to me a direct engagement warranting a designation of me as an interlocutor, but that single act of communication could hardly have been more than a blip in his day. Ron most likely did not have me in mind as a potential audience member/reader of his post. Joe would not (as far as I know) have had any reason to even be aware of me when he decided to re-share his blogentry (originally written two years ago) on Facebook!
This diversity of communication experience is an illustration of what Mikael Bakhtin meant by heteroglossia: everyone speaks ‘their own language’ and, by corollary, comprehends language by making use of linguistic resources and packaging/interpreting perceptions in ways particular to their own particular ‘center’ according to the sequence of events and experiences. Everyone has different reference points, experiences a unique stream of communicative events, and is informed from the on-going transactions of their specific embodiment and particular social position(s)/positionality. These aggregate and cohere in society to create social reality: prejudices, discriminations, and oppressions as well as strengths, beauties and aspirations. This dialectical process is prominently enabled by language: language use, language-in-use, language as transactional for the transmission of knowledges and equally (though often neglected) the perpetuation of identities and relationships through time (see John Carey).
At an emotional level, I would have preferred to continue to flow onward along the trajectory of the imaginary meaningfulness I constructed from those three discrete communication acts! When such acts collapse in mutually shared experience, it seems people do generally prefer to carry on at full speed along that stream. Perhaps there was a way I could have “joined” in a more immediate manner, but I was at a loss to reconcile the complexity of our interaction into a simple reduction that was suitable to the moment without compromising or, worse, appearing to erase an unresolved previous encounter.
Can we hold each other accountable for real? And, in doing so, can we uphold each other’s dignity and respect each other’s learning curves and processes of assimilating new/different feedback?
In other words, how, I keep wondering, can we ever generate collective coherence beyond the easy magnetism of instantaneous grokking when divergence is much more common than convergence, or when convergence self-perpetuates itself only among those who are already like-minded?
What is needed is to enable connection that allows for, nay embraces, tensions of real difference as an essential part of collectivizing.
Michael Holquist, a contemporary Bahktinian scholar and translator, labeled the operational function of language in generating chronotopes as timespace calibration. Bakhtin had realized that the language of a people reveals that people’s orientation to time and thus to space, that culture or society’s overall relation to timespace—the time of spaces. Bakhtin gleaned this from close comparative study of early literature (the Greeks and Romans) and contrasted their similarities and differences with the popular Russian literature of his own time, the first half of the 20th century. Bakhtin suggested that not only does language provide a lens for discernment of past and present cultural and ideological orientations to time (and thereby to space); language is itself a tool for constructing the social realities of timespaces. That is, language dynamics make a significant contribution to the generation of material conditions.
These days, I’m a peripheral, minor participant in several chronotopally-bound conversations. I think of them as contrapuntal. The general trend in most of these conversations is a centrifugal discourse, one that continually re-centers itself as “the” most-important-thing-that-is-happening-now. #BlackLivesMatter is a counterpoint to #Conversation and also to a month-long online encounter last January exploring Dialogue, Deliberation and Social Transformation . #Conversation strikes me as a tech version of the #permaculture movement. Last week Greenpeace dangled human beings in front of a massive oil rig to try and prevent drilling in the Arctic. Egypt nears absolute water crisis. War and unspeakable violence continues to ravage vast populations of human beings on the planet. The patterns of self-reinforcing language use of folks invested in each of these discourses offer slim strands of interconnections, but there is no reason these cannot be made more robust! I suppose that giving careful attention to interpersonal/small group-scale moments of disconnect and divergence (according to diverse beats and varying rhythms) we can identify and forge such mergers.
With time, practice, and increasing skill, this more resilient ‘net’ will spread.
Alliances must be broader, deeper, and more wholistic. We must learn and enact skills of bridging differences in those moments when surface synergy becomes unharmonic, when the rhythm shifts to an unfamiliar score or the beat changes from a familiar cadence to one which feels discomfitting or even threatening. If we are to build hope of overcoming the entrenched systemic inertia of industrial civilization with its myriad comforts and diversions, we must learn to embrace and adopt the explorer’s ethos and curiosity about what’s going on right here right now so that we can discover how to get along into the future in profoundly new ways.
What are working relationships?
Learning, the Permaculture Way was a pre-conference workshop by David Eggleton and me at the 2nd Permaculture Voices conference (PV2) in San Diego. Our session drew about 50 participants, some of whom continued a dialogue that seemed—on the surface—to have a narrow focus but, over the five days of PV2, grew wider, broader and was deepened considerably through Meet-Ups and collaboration with the Mycelium team of facilitators.
A relationship that works is a relationship that does well with difference.
(Roger Fisher & Scott Brown)
For sustainability to function and endure, the overarching relationship that must function well is between people(s) and place(s). A resilient ability to balance the twin goals of being a Whole Person and living in a Whole Place is the aim and outcome of working well with the differences between peoples and places.
Many permies emphasize living in a Whole Place, so the Meaningful Makeover instrument brings an equal emphasis to being a Whole Person by elaborating the “Care of People” permaculture principle with insights from Stephen Covey (author of The 8th Habit and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
Creatively identifying the interconnections and interdependencies between the two “paradigms” of Whole Person and Whole Place yields four working relationships that serve as touchstones for life-long learning and permaculture coaching. With the additional half-hour Diego gave us this year, we asked participants to gather in small groups organized by Working Relationship and come up with a guiding question relevant to their journey through PV2.
Two Paradigms/Four Questions
The Whole Place paradigm invokes two Working Relationships: interspecies and interelemental.
The Whole Person paradigm invokes two Working Relationships: intrapersonal and interhuman.
The overarching questions created by small groups this year were:
- Interspecies: How do we reconcile/balance our desire to integrate wildlife and net biodiversity (whole ecosystem health) with the human need for a system that ‘produces a yield’?
- Interelemental: How do my design elements fit together as a system?
- Intrapersonal: How can we become our best whole selves to care for ourselves, our communities, & the earth while at the same time welcoming the reciprocity of those things caring for us, our communities, & our earth?
- Interhuman: How do I connect with the right people, how do I properly communicate, and how do I create/find community?
Working Well with Differences, Interhumanly
Soirée noted some problems with the phrasing of the interhuman question:
I would like to point out that the three-part inter-human question resulted when we were not able to distill the community question further in the time allotted. It’s my impression that “right people” was not intended to imply some people were wrong but rather how do I find people for real connection rather than a passing fancy. [Also] I’m not entirely clear what “how do I properly communicate” meant to the contributor…
Rick pursued a different but related question: “How can I improve community stability?”
During the Meet-Ups and in the Closing Break-Out Session, we talked a fair bit about trying to increase the diversity of future Permaculture Voices conference participants and presenters. One strategy included becoming more aware of whiteness and how it can unconsciously get in the way of inclusion and diversification. More thoughts about how we/human beings can work well with the differences among us/human beings are shared at this Permavoices page. You are also invited to contribute.
#KRKTR is an open game for everyone interested in developing individual character and social resilience.
Points are earned for promoting and continuing communication, especially across different topics and among different groups. The idea is that both character and resilience are built at the intersections.
- Every Tweet must include the hashtag #KRKTR
- Conference-based players should also include the conference hashtag, e.g., #NCORE2014
- All players, including non-conference players, may include other relevant hashtags
- Official play has distinct start and end times, announced by @KRKTR_HUB (all players are encouraged to follow @KRKTR_HUB but this is not a requirement).
- Unofficial play is continuous.
- This is a good faith game.
- Stimulating laughter is welcome; exercise good taste!
- Playing #KRKTR is an assertion of shine, all players are Bright Allies.
- 100 points per Tweet (remember it has to conform to the Rules above)
- Plus 200 points if your Tweet is a Reply to another’s Tweet (be sure to include the #KRKTR hashtag!)
- Plus 100 points if your Tweet is a ReTweet (don’t lose the #KRKTR hashtag!)
- Plus 500 points if your Tweet is the First Response (as determined by the timelines at twitter.com/KRKTR_HUB and twubs.com/KRKTR)
- Plus 250 points if your Tweet is the Second Response
- Plus 100 points if your Tweet is the Third Response or later; all additional responses earn +100 points
- The Last Response in each thread earns all the points accumulated in that thread: 500 + 250 + 100 x (nbr of additional Tweets) NOTE: The Last Response is determined by the end of official game play as announced by @KRKTR_HUB.
A thread is created whenever Replies and/or ReTweets are made to any original Tweet that includes the #KRKTR hashtag.
- Previous Tweets from the #KRKTR archive can be ReTweeted or Replied to in order to earn points during official game play.
- Threads can originate from any #KRKTR player.
- Threads originated by @KRKTR_HUB may become privileged. (Haven’t figured this part out yet.)
- Serious #KRKTR players are encouraged not to respond to “bad will” Tweets. Let them die alone and quickly.
Advanced play involves careful and strategic use of hashtags to make connections whenever an intersection appears.
Cultivation of a connection across two different discourses (as organized by the hashtag) requires repetition and persistence.
Rather than hashtagging every word, be focused and deliberate about the connection you’re trying to forge.
Prizes will be announced as sponsors come forth with them. (Negotiations are underway. Contact Steph with offers for this and future rounds of play.)
Dominic reminded me that the way we talk needs revision. There is no “solution” to climate change; nothing to stop the forces already in motion. “We have to go through it.” What there are, instead, are ways of living during the escalation of natural disasters. Perhaps, against the odds, if enough of us change fast enough, the living earth will be able to rejuvenate itself and life on earth will persist into the far future.
— Verge Permaculture (@vergepc) March 13, 2014
Note: each subheading links to a summary of Tweets, one for each day of the 4-day conference.
Permaculture Voices is launched
Karl asked the most relevant question: What is the best path forward? Participants at the first Permaculture Voices conference in Temecula, CA spent four days searching out and following their own answers. A star-studded cast of some the living earth’s most well-known champions provided a scientific and ethical framework for the monumental economic, cultural and lifestyle changes required (of North Americans, in particular).
Eating locally grown food is the most obvious feature of permaculture; its discourse has begun to effect public opinion and (some) public policy. However, being a local hero in-and-of-itself is insufficient to guarantee a future for your children and grandchildren. Earth will lose its breathable atmosphere within decades if we persist in delaying fundamental changes in energy consumption and dismantling corporate agriculture.
#permavoices "Agriculture isn't the domestication of plants or animals. It's the domestication of the human species" @tobyhemenway
— Barefoot Provisions (@BarefootPrimal) March 14, 2014
Action Packed Presentation Schedule
If one wanted to notice, there were visible absences in the conference demographics. People of color, women presenters, and international representation, for instance, were seriously under-represented. Some of these imbalances were aired publicly and grumbled about privately, but perseverating on them would be a mistaken use of energy along the lines of the “feedback loops” Allan Savory refuses to entertain in the mission to let cattle (and other livestock) save the planet. Women (especially white women) need to step up and start doing epic shit (echoing Paul Wheaton and paraphrasing Larry Santoyo).
The more significant yet rarely spoken tension is class and the luxurious privileges of whiteness. Not just white skin privilege (which varies according to social class), but the attitudes of whiteness that celebrate individualism and the myth of independence. It’s damn scary to realize that I don’t know enough people with the skills to help me survive; humbling to realize how little I have to offer in regard to growing food or tending animals; and terrifying to consider that not only is my incompetence not unique but rather it’s the norm.
— stephanie jo kent (@stephjoke) March 15, 2014
Building Urgency: Reaching for Permaculture Velocity
Toby Hemenway illustrated why there are no energy solutions that allow Americans (especially) to continue to consume so much power. We have to stop. Now. It’s really that simple. We have to suck it up and suffer for the sake of future generations. No presenters talked about how to make these transitions on a meaningful scale but I did hear of places (cities and regions) where significant progress is underway. Why not in more places?
Allan Savory says we'll need millions more animals out of feedlots and on the land to reverse desertification #permavoices
— Erica Gomez (@ericalgomez) March 16, 2014
There are a lot of excuses to postpone lifestyle change. These (mostly selfish) rationalizations combine with general tendencies of insularity (sticking with one’s own kind) and the drive to take care of immediate family first. The latter is reasonable, but permaculture as a movement can’t stop there. We need more Willie Smits’s and Geoff Lawtons and Allan Savory’s doing good works on massive scales (none of them are American, hmmm) demonstrating and modeling that complexity can be holistically managed and climate change perhaps mitigated by an unprecedented, massively-collaborative surge of homo sapiens seeking to survive.
— Art Farm Panama (@artfarmpanama) March 16, 2014
Reaching for the tipping point
We need better soil for growing food and other critical biomass, and we have to stop the spread of deserts. There are ‘technologies’ – methods, behaviors, attitudes and manual human effort – that can make HUGE DIFFERENCES in a QUICK TIMEFRAME if we JUST START! Biochar is relatively easy and contributes on several fronts. Permaculture principles need to be imposed on all agricultural facilities, asap. Policies encouraging postmodern cattle drives are desperately needed to help reverse desertification around the world.
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Michael Pollan #permavoices
— Taimi Soil Projects (@TaimiSoil) March 16, 2014
The thing is that we in the west (and those in the east aspiring to the west’s lifestyle with disregard for its awful consequences) can no longer have it all. We never could, but the bubble of privilege maintained the aura of illusion for a few generations. I admit I’m worried about how well I’ll hold up when my comforts begin to diminish.
At the same time, I’m honored and humbled to be called to participate in the greatest undertaking humanity has ever faced. Geoff, Paul, Allan, Toby, Diego Footer, Nicholas Wooten, Jessica Schilke, Souki Mehdaoui, Ryan Harb, Elaine Ingham, Doniga Markegaard, Nadia Lawton, yes yes even Joel Salatin and Mark Shepard (but I have to ask if you’re playing too close to the monster?), the other presenters and participants, and all the permies in the community house, with each your own specializations, commitments and passions: THANK YOU for your bright hearts, light spirits, and deep compassion for the living earth.
"When land is managed holistically, the natural carbon-cycle comes back." ~Doniga Markegard #permavoices
— stephanie jo kent (@stephjoke) March 16, 2014
The challenge of making the invisible visible, of bringing those aspects of relationships and identities that have been silenced into awareness and open conversation, was a common problem across seven international research projects explored at a workshop on “intersectionality” hosted by the Center for Gender in Organizations at the Simmons College School of Management.
Q: How many intersectionality scholars does it take to count who’s at the dinner table?
A: One Japanese waiter. (Male.)
Charlotta’s request came toward the end of the 2nd meeting of our Working Group on Research Methods at the “Interrogating Intersectionality” conference sponsored by the Center for Gender in Organizations at the Simmons College School of Management. Charlotta was the last member of our group to present. At this point we had been engaging with each other for about 2 & 1/2 hours, and I was glad that everyone was reminded about our interaction being blogged. We had negotiated authorization during my presentation on the first day, and clarified the boundaries (of who & what might potentially be bloggable) at the start of this (2nd) session while welcoming Lisa to the group.
“I don’t have ownership of this project.” Continue reading “Spontaneous Action Research: Interrogating Intersectionality”
What’s the real difference between CDIs (Certified Deaf Interpreters) and ‘regular’ hearing interpreters? It’s not only language and internalized culture….Something else that could be described simply and taught to interpreters to help them realize one thing to do differently.
This transcript is offered instead of captions for a 14 minute videotaped conversation in American Sign Language with Deaf elders Winchell and Ruth Moore.
The capacity of people with disabilities (or, as FEMA says, “functional needs”) to contribute to emergency response and emergency recovery begins with listening. Participants in a focus group outline a sequence of creative interaction stemming from high quality and careful listening.
A few weeks ago a dozen people who self-identify as disabled gathered at UMass Amherst to begin a conversation on emergency preparedness and accessible emergency response. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, defines those individuals who will most likely require help during a disaster as having “functional needs.”
“We are great listeners”
The most common skill named by participants with established functional needs is listening. We aim to prove that the capacity of people with disabilities to contribute to emergency response and emergency recovery begins here. Continue reading “Listening for Action and Engagement”
“It’s gonna be fast, it’s gonna be hectic!” Which pretty much summed up the party. The early round of appetizers and aperitifs accompanied spirited conversation on topics which ranged from climate shift (if you happened to talk with me) to whatever everybody else (the ‘normal’ people?) talked about. Bringing joy in the now is a skill at which my closest friends excel. But the now is always in flux . . . What storyline are we actually living? What function does a spiritualist approach to the now contribute in the aggregate history humanity is producing?
“There’s a context to this. When you don’t have a talent, wear something.”
It was the Human Sushi Platter’s birthday party. I had thought of suggesting we sing Hey Jude in order to spread a unique tradition, but admiration for the icing completely filled the space between singing the usual ditty and cutting the cake. This was just after the Chammak Challo, of which we were warned: “It’s gonna be fast, it’s gonna be hectic!”
Which pretty much summed up the party. The early round of appetizers and aperitifs accompanied spirited conversation on topics which ranged from climate shift (if you happened to talk with me) t0 whatever everybody else (the ‘normal’ people?) talked about. Next came the main dishes (a food extravaganza) and more conversations. Eventually this example of “smart partying” (thank you Greg Robie) morphed into
- a collective reading of the discourse on happiness,
- concern about who’s on the Human Sushi Platter’s mom’s list of people to buy clothing for (and, later, for whom John will bake),
- a meditation on lovingkindness (interrupted perfectly by the late arriving Bulgarian and Israeli, about whom it was said, “Just when you’re trying to focus on one thing some lovely people come into your life!”
- a discussion of socially engaged Buddhism,
- extraordinary international cuisine (“celery raw drops the jaw”),
- an Amherst Salon talent show,
- exceptionally extraordinary cakes,
- and gifts for the birthday girl. (There turned out to be a butterfly theme. If the game of #KRKTR ever takes off, some massive amount of points should go to the first person who identifies the five people who received butterfly plates from me. Perhaps that’s one of the entry gates for joining the actual competition?! I’ve got Ready Player One in mind….)
The Sonny and Cher impersonation by Hot Mama and Alan followed the impromptu Beat generation-style interpretation by Knightly (fluent in English and French) of a series of satirical rhymes offered (in Spanish) by Rafael. We were treated to poetry from Ogden Nash, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and The Cat in the Hat. Not to mention belly dance gyrations, a cautionary tale to “never play with gypsies in the woods,” and the story of a beloved grandmother’s uninvited visitor who was “not only a thief but also a liar!”
I love my friends’ ability to bring pleasure to each other; such a long night of laughter we had! Do they have the secret of Zizek’s “third pill?” Rather than the dualistic choices presented in The Matrix, Zizek says we need a pill that helps us “perceive reality inside the illusion itself.”
Our fundamental delusion today is not to believe in what is only a fiction, to take fictions too seriously, it’s on the contrary—not to take fictions seriously enough: you think it’s just a game? It’s reality, it’s more real than it appears to be.
The art is to discern which fictions to perceive and thus make more real. Bringing joy in the now is a skill at which my closest friends excel. But the now is always in flux – not just internally (the sway of mood and emotion) but externally too. By external, I’m not just referring to the complications of social interactions such as problems at work, with colleagues, roommates, family members, etc. These constants persist within a larger frame, call it civil society, that is an example of the kind of social fiction Zizek implies. What storyline are we actually living? What function does a spiritualist approach to the now contribute in the aggregate history humanity is producing?
When I told Yossarian that I was in ‘semi-blog-mode’ after my initial conversation with John, she pounced. “Sortof? You’re already making our lives hell with these [Facebook] posts every three days – ‘Australia is burning!'” Her teasing validated my decision, although I still feel conflicted, torn between the desire to remain accepted and compelled to keep issuing the warning. After securing authorization from the host, I announced to everyone that I was in the blogzone. No one objected; a few who were new to this gig of mine wanted to talk more about it. Ginger, for instance, engaged me vigorously on the topic of socially engaged Buddhism, and told me about Chris Martenson’s crash course, “What Should I Do? The Basics of Resilience.” Bombi (who admits he is a Part-time Schmoozer) may have just been poking fun at me/my main question when he exclaimed, “That’s the question that needs to be asked!”
“When are we going to become a superhero team that helps save the world?”
Maybe we cannot, or maybe we will not choose to transform together, or perhaps the transformation will occur but in a less-overtly-connected way than I can perceive. Talking with John, who is confident he can survive for a significant amount of time when the grid goes down for good, I was struck by the pragmatics of his outlook, especially when he said that you/I won’t be able to help everyone, that sometimes—for the sake of our own survival—we will have to say no.
Not a prospect I am looking forward to, at all. John also reflected on the week-long power outage for many people after last fall’s weird “snowtober” snowstorm. “This was a massive storm,” he said, marveling at the anger of people who clearly did not understand the extent of the damage and expected their electricity to simply be back on already! He recounted what an adventure the extended power loss was at first, comparing it to his “best ever” experience when he was in college. Then he said, “After the sixth or seventh day, it wasn’t fun anymore.”
I understand that ‘the now’ is the only timespace in which our actions matter; and, our behavior in the present correlates with outcomes in the future. Not only this, but our actions now ripple into other beings’ present—their now is our now/our now is theirs, too. This simultaneous co-presence extends beyond “regular contact with monks and nuns [which] is the greatest happiness” to humans whose suffering is directly linked to our comfort, and beyond homo sapiens to all the organisms with whom we share the planetary atmosphere.
FEMA has ramped up considerably since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. As shocked as New Yorkers and other Sandy victims are with the proof of vulnerability, the number of domestic fatalities from Sandy stands at 109, while Katrina claimed 1,833. Many of Katrina’s victims were poor, disabled, or elderly. Joan Sutton, writing for the Huffington Post, describes Sandy’s impact on the elderly: “Now, we see pictures of what is called a mountain of debris. Surely it is a mountain of heartache.”
At a multicultural community gathering this past weekend, Jen’s explanation about the absence of clean natural water reserves led to highlighting the one bright spot: the top layer of natural watersheds can still be saved. Since humans need water to survive, this is kinda a big deal!
Ann, meanwhile, is getting ready to move to her next position in DC. The great bat die-off may not be absolute: some colonies in the northeastern US have managed (so far) not to contract the fatal white-nose disease. From what I understand, this is a big deal because we need bats to eat mosquitoes. Without a sufficiently massive natural predator, mosquitoes breed all out of proportion – leading humans (who reject discomfort) to increase the use of pesticides – which (by the way), poisons the top layer of the watershed.
Incontrovertible evidence of the increasingly rapid rate of climate change has visited the continental United States in the past few weeks: Hurricane Sandy, a follow-up nor’easter which dumped nearly a foot of snow across some areas still engaged in recovery, earthquakes on both coasts, and then another one in the south just the other day.
FEMA has ramped up considerably since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. As shocked as New Yorkers and other Sandy victims are with the proof of vulnerability, the number of domestic fatalities from Sandy stands at 109 (138 total to date), while Katrina claimed 1,833. Many of Katrina’s victims were poor, disabled, or elderly. Joan Sutton, writing for the Huffington Post, describes Sandy’s impact on the elderly: “Now, we see pictures of what is called a mountain of debris. Surely it is a mountain of heartache.”
If there was ever a time for creative strategizing at the global scale; this is it. We have to begin piecing together the scattered ecological bright spots, establishing institutional connections among them, and crafting scenarios that can guide the assessment of essential priorities and timelines. All of the things that need to happen (if we want to avert an ugly science fiction future) are not going to happen unless and until a comprehensive plan can be sufficiently sketched out – and we need such a vision of possibility soon.
It is always time for public accountability to progress, and – to date – there have not been enough of us in America thoughtfully considering how to solve this ultimate technological challenge. Roosevelt inspired Americans to prevail in World War II; Kennedy inspired us to the moon. Obama has not yet inspired America writ large, though the potential now exists. To succeed, we will have to learn how, as a society, to move together, better.
The technological solutions required by climate change will probably not be adequately addressed unless
1) such multicultural gatherings as this past weekend’s celebration of Diwali become more common, and
2) participants carry conversations about our knowledge from these safe multicultural spaces forward into productive, public dialogues.
There are people out there from all kinds of backgrounds with special and particular areas of expertise, like Ann and Jen, who are skilled in establishing relationships across social identity differences and equally capable of contributing thought leadership to the invention and implementation of creative scientific and political solutions for today’s complex problems. ‘Cuz here’s the real deal: human societies might somehow manage to do okay without bats, but if the top layer of the watershed goes? The game is going to get a whole lot rougher than it needs to be.