Can Permaculture Voices guide us through climate change?

 

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.

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.

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).

 

https://twitter.com/MontadoFarms/statuses/444884615346798592

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. 

 

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?

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.

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.

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.

 

The Deaf World is Watching. Will we respond?

Whoa-thinknotnotice_BLACKEDOUT

Click here for a related vlog (in American Sign Language)

The second day after Mandela’s Memorial we were greeted the news that the so-called fake interpreter Thamsanqa Dyantyi/Jyantie is schizophrenic. (His claim and apology is being met with a mixture of belief and doubt.) Whatever sympathy he gleans should be suitable to his illness. This does not excuse the government for hiring him. It has apparently fallen to the Deputy Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities to take the heat. Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu explains that Mr Dyantyi “is Xhosa speaking. The English was a bit too much for him.”

That same day, the Deaf community continued to respond to the swell of disappointment and outrage over the lack of real communication access for Deaf people to participate in the Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela. The thoughtfulness of the Deaf world’s formal responses are worthy of careful attention.


‘People of the Eye’ respond with a full range of emotions

  • An elegant news feature from H3TV presents a biography of Nelson Mandela. Presented in international sign language, I learned Mandela’s name sign and a powerful sign for apartheid.
  • South African poet Modiegi Moime renders a beautiful tribute in South African Sign Language.
  • After watching a clip with a CNN anchor, Deaf actress Marlee Matlin explains,

“I can tell he’s thinking to himself,
‘Oh no, how should I do this,
well let’s see what I just did, I’ll do it again!'”

Deaf people have practice tolerating inadequate interpretation. Hearing people often disregard the quality of the interpreter, and many lose patience with this special process of intercultural communication. While “It’s probably safe to say that South Africa’s relationship with its deaf community is historically complex — much more complex than the “fake interpreter!” headlines would make it appear,” as Caitlin Dewey writes, it would be false to assume the problem with providing qualified sign language interpreter only occurs there.

A Certified Deaf Interpreter from the western United States (Utah), Jeff Pollock, makes a compelling argument that Hearing people should also be upset.

“The interpreter does not just work for Deaf people. They work for hearing people as well, [who] want to make sure that their messages are heard by the Deaf community.”

Mr Pollock briefly explains the sign language interpreter certification process in the United States and advocates that these processes of professionalization be taken more seriously.

Don’t move on too quickly…

The first gesture of Mandela-like reconciliation came, interestingly, from the same Deaf South African Parliamentarian who first alerted people to the incompetence of the ‘interpreter’ being televised from the stage.

Yesterday Wilma Neuhoudt tweeted, “Tata Madiba would have understood” while asserting her support for People with Disabilities (PWD).  Her early Tweets correctly used punctuation too, in contrast with every news story I’ve seen to date.Madiba would undestand

Journalists and their editors have been responsible, it seems, in putting ‘fake’ in quotation marks, shifting the focus from the single person—”this male so called interpreter” as Ms. Neuhoudt pinpointed the problem—to highlighting the challenge of people not fluent in a sign language to be able to distinguish quality just by looking.

It is hard to know, from the perspective of the whitewashed west, if there are different cultural values at work, such as factors of relationship or an ethos of inclusion focused on someone(s) other than the audience watching the broadcast. It does, however, seem that Ms. Neuhoudt suggests gender as an issue along with the essential absence of effective communication.

A strong signal for “Hearing” people

Interpreters began monitoring and sharing news reports all over the UK and US.
Interpreters began monitoring and sharing news reports all over the UK and US.

This is more than a “flap over ‘hand flapping’” as it is being sensationalized by an LA Times headline. It is true that Deaf people are embarrassed and even describe feeling “humiliated.” Upon arrival at an interpreting assignment in the US yesterday, a young Deaf consumer barely said hello to me before launching into a detailed description of how upset he feels. Allies of Deaf people and Deaf culture, many of them professional sign language interpreters are also furious.

Confusion about whether the white woman shown signing was part of the service or part of a journalism team at a news station.
Confusion about whether the white woman shown signing was part of the service or part of a journalism team at a news station.

This is the opposite phenomenon to the sensationalized dehumanizing of Lydia Callis’ emergency interpreting during Hurricane Sandy. Then it was all about hearing people’s exposure to the language Deaf people use to communicate, and now it’s all about the show Hearing people will put on while still avoiding real communication.

But the Deaf community has a lot more allies now! Friends who don’t know sign language checked in and shared articles. makesense Exposure to Deaf people and interpreters increases as Hearing people realize there are Deaf people living their lives alongside ours. They are letting us know, loud and clear, that they are watching, and they see.

Deaf people see what “the Hearing” do and fail to do

Sign languages are as complicated as spoken languages. (Braille is a code for written language, not quite the same thing.)
Sign languages are as complicated as spoken languages. (Braille is a code for written language, not quite the same thing.)

Of course Deaf people noticed the failure of communication.  They always do. However they don’t always have the means to let us know they’re watching. In this instance, the failure is so large and so meaningful that—for a few moments, they have us by the ear. Interpreting is not a show. Interpreters do not perform for the sake of a show. Interpreters interpret to enable communication between people who would otherwise not be able to understand each other.

 

 

The Madiba Lives, by Barbara Love

I danced in Trafalgar Square the day Nelson Mandela was released from Robbens Island.

After twenty seven years in prison, much of that time in solitary confinement, Nelson Mandela was released.  The whole world rejoiced, and watched.

In prison, Mandela was a symbol of resistance to tyranny.  His life was a statement of willingness to sacrifice everything, personal freedom along with access to open air and sky, to state to the world how precious he thought freedom, and how deep was his desire to obtain it for himself and his people.

In freedom, Mandela became ‘The Madiba’.  His name, Mandela, became synonymous with “one who fights for liberation”, not only ‘one who resists oppression’.  He became a living mandate for freedom and for peace, for himself, and for the whole world which had become his people.  After twenty-seven years of unjust, sometimes inhumane confinement, he called for truth and reconciliation.  He called for humans, in South Africa and every where else, to reclaim their inherent love, care and connection. He became a living embodiment of humanity’s hopes and aspirations for a more just, peaceful world.

I was proud to proclaim my love for Mandela every chance I got.  It gave me a chance to reach toward the spirit and essence of who he was, and to see what parts of my own soul could try to be like him.

Mandela is dead.

The Madiba lives.

Forever, The Madiba Lives.

 

Creatives versus Doomers: WE Are the Planet

Neal Stephenson has said that he is interested in “the attention span of our society” and comments that we have “350 years of perspective” on the scientific process. In the face of climate disruption, can Cultural Creatives prove the Doomers and Deniers wrong? This week, a symposium at UMass Amherst aims to “Harvest Hope.”

Neal Stephenson said that we’ve now got “350 years of perspective” on the scientific process, and that he is interested in “the attention span of our society” (p. 269, Some Remarks).

Me too.

Twiliocon-developer renaissance 2013-09-19 at 7.41.52 PMLong dialogues are challenging for many reasons. They require perseverance, for one thing, and humility too – because if you stick around long enough you’re bound to encounter perspectives and learn things that cause you to realize some of your own failings and limitations. Thus, long dialogues require courage of a very particular kind. Inspired by some teenagers a few years ago, I began calling this kind of courage “character.” (Specifically #KRKTR, but I will not elaborate upon that digression here.)

Climate disruption and it’s characters

The 2013 scientific report on climate change reiterates  that the “debate on science is over, [the] time to act is now” and another study on the timing of climate change reveals shocking results: “Regardless of the scenario, changes will be coming soon,” said lead author Camilo Mora. “Within my generation, whatever climate we were used to will be a thing of the past.”

DGR quote from Arundhati Roy  2013-05-08 at 10.00.29 AMDeniers are caught up in the zeitgeist, playing the political and social drama. The Doomers have already given up. Guy McPherson leads the charge, passionately arguing that hope is dead and only love remains. Avowed Doomers have a head start on the rest of us, because they believed the science from the beginning and have been preparing for the collapse of industrial society. Those Who’ve Given Up more quietly immerse themselves in the immediate concerns of self-gratification and accommodating friends, family and coworkers. Cultural creatives are exercising a different kind of imagination, proposing a mythological kind of speculative living that holds out the promise of transformation.

“When we realize we are the planet,
we’ll be more inclined to do what’s necessary to save it.”

 ~ Christian Williams
reviewing Journey of the Universe for Utne Reader.

12% of the Solution: Biochar

Twelve percent is not enough, of course, to reverse the damage to the atmosphere. Taken in conjunction with other large-scale initiatives (whether these are led by government or quarterbacked by leaders in localized communities), restoring the soil of the planet—the earth of the earth—is essential. Using principles of holistic design based in geographical features and natural processes, there is no reason why human ingenuity cannot be turned to the creation and implementation of a greenprint for the planet. The only obstacle is us getting in our own way.

Biochar: For the Roots is the first in a projected series of Greenprint videos. A captioned version is available here. The series premieres at the North American Biochar Symposium: Harvesting Hope hosted at UMass Amherst from Oct 13-16, 2013.

The Real Value of Interpreting

Here is the script for the lightning talk I gave on June 15, 2013 at Interpret America’s 4th Annual Summit. It was first published by the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) on their weblog and then in the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) newsletter. The slides continue to receive views too: at Slideshare (static slides),  and Authorstream (animated slides). The video of the talk is contracted to be published by Interpret America.

holding_cloudswaterboathands_SacapuntasI am excited to talk with you today about the real value of interpreting, which is communicating pluralingual relationships into the future. Now, that’s quite a word, pluralingualism, but all it means is two or more languages used at the same time by people interacting with each other.

I’ve been thinking about interpreting in terms of history since the late 1980s, which is when I met Deaf people and began learning American Sign Language. At that time, the American Deaf Community was in the midst of an empowering movement for social change. The Bilingual-Bicultural movement included criticism of signed language interpreters. The criticism focused on what Deaf people called “the machine model” of interpreting. When the profession was established in 1964, it had quickly become dominated by interpreters with weak or no ties to Deaf culture.

Continue reading “The Real Value of Interpreting”

Slow Learning vs Fast Living

I can only offer what I know, what I have learned, slowly and at the cost of many dear relationships. Diversity matters. The differences among us are more important than the similarities, because they enable creativity. Here we are, thrown into consciousness and connection. What shall we make of this precious chance?

(Not) rushing into the urgency of now (while still arriving)

Turning the World Upside Down
Turning the World Upside Down

Every day I face the irony of needing to hurry up to slow down, or perhaps it is the other way around, of slowing down in order to speed up my alignment with lifeforce—call it chi or God or Gaia or maybe it is just with other humans in society, thinking of society as a verb—the actions of living together through culture, work and art. Continue reading “Slow Learning vs Fast Living”

The ANSWER . . . is DIRT (the question is irrelevant)

One of the challenges of inspiring people to care about transforming land to better grow food is making the lifestyle appealing. So far, no go! The aesthetic is monotone: white people playing folk music. This is seriously problematic! Forging alliances is not easy work, but it is meaningful labor.

   Life Affirming & Life Enhancing

cows save the planet

It is the stuff of Douglas Adams-style science fiction, but what if it were true? That cows could save the planet? Not by themselves, but with a little help from their biped friends–especially everyone who has ever harbored a herding fantasy or wants their children and grandchildren to enjoy special elements of the natural world.

Large-scale rotational grazing would require a massive leap of imagination and concerted effort of collective will.  Humans–lots of us–would have to decide to choose to salvage a living planet rather than continue to pretend catastrophic climate change isn’t happening. While most people delay, many people all around the world—alone and in groups—are already acting on the decision to try. Continue reading “The ANSWER . . . is DIRT (the question is irrelevant)”

Spontaneous Action Research: Interrogating Intersectionality

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.

Context:

Q: How many intersectionality scholars does it take to count who’s at the dinner table?

A: One Japanese waiter. (Male.)

“Be gentle.”researchmethodsB

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”

Growing Pains: Emergency Management Interpreting

One of the legacies of persistent discrimination is pent-up emotion. Lack of services and humane consideration adds up and seeks outlets. Get a group of sign language interpreters and Deaf people together to work on solutions to bad or absent communication and inevitably a flood of frustration will arise. Continue reading “Growing Pains: Emergency Management Interpreting”

Listening for Action and Engagement

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”