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Guest Post - Chris Magwood - Will People Really Change?

by: Heather on 03/09/2010
Posted in: Guest Posts

Chris Magwood, co-author of More Straw Bale Building and Straw Bale Details, has been thinking lately about social change and how to achieve it. This article originally appeared on his blog and is reprinted by permission. Thanks Chris!

Will People Really Change?

It's pretty easy to despair about the amount of inaction on environmental matters at the …

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Guest Post - John Michael Greer, Becoming a Third World Nation

by: EJ on 02/15/2010
Posted in: Guest Posts

John Michael Greer, author of The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age and The Ecotechnic Future: Envisioning a Post-Peak World has found a new metaphor to help residents of the United States understand what is happening to their country. (This article originally appeared on John Michael Greer's blog, The Archdruid Report on February 10th and is reprinted by permission.)

In the course of writing last week's Archdruid Report post, I belatedly realized that there's a very simple way to talk about the scope of the brutal economic contraction now sweeping through American society - a way, furthermore, that might just be able to sidestep both the obsessive belief in progress and the equally obsessive fascination with apocalyptic fantasy that, between them, make up much of what passes for thinking about the future these days. It's to point out that, over the next decade or so, the United States is going to finish the process of becoming a Third World country.

I say "finish the process," because we are already most of the way there. What distinguishes the Third World from the privileged industrial minority of the world's nations? Third World nations import most of their manufactured goods from abroad, while exporting mostly raw materials; that's been true of the United States for decades now. Third World economies have inadequate domestic capital, and are dependent on loans from abroad; that's been true of the United States for just about as long. Third World societies are economically burdened by severe problems with public health; the United States ranks dead last for life expectancy among industrial nations, and its rates of infant mortality are on a par with those in Indonesia, so that's covered. Third World nation are very often governed by kleptocracies - well, let's not even go there, shall we?

There are, in fact, precisely two things left that differentiate the United States from any other large, overpopulated, impoverished Third World nation. The first is that the average standard of living here, measured either in money or in terms of energy and resource consumption, stands well above Third World levels - in fact, it's well above the levels of most industrial nations. The second is that the United States has the world's most expensive and technologically complex military. Those two factors are closely related, and understanding their relationship is crucial in making sense of the end of the "American century" and the decline of the United States to Third World status.

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Guest Post - Road Art Critique

by: Heather on 10/23/2009
Posted in: Guest Posts

This Friday smile just in from New Society Publisher's own fabulous Jean Wyenberg - a critique of the anonymous road art which graces not only Gabriola, but highways and byways the world over. Thanks Jean!

I really feel that I must give credit to a special breed of artist that seems to be proliferating here on Gabriola - and that is the Anonymous …

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Guest Post - Albert Bates is Planning for a Change in the Weather

by: Heather on 10/20/2009
Posted in: Guest Posts

Albert Bates, author of The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times has been getting excited lately about biochar and its enormous potential for mitigating climate change and improving agricultural outputs. Never heard of biochar? Want to know more? Read on. (This article originally appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of …

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Diana Leafe Christian - Guest Post

by: Heather on 10/01/2009
Posted in: Guest Posts

Diana Leafe Christian, author of Finding Community and Creating a Life Together will be a keynote speaker at a communities gathering this November 21 at La Cité Écologique Ham du Nord, a 25-year-old ecovillage settlement in Québec. The day-long event will celebrate the publication of the first French-language directory of ecovillages and ecologically sustainable settlements in Québec and will feature many community activists including Leslie Carbonneau, author of this first French-language communities directory, and Michel Degagnés, who is a core group member of Cohabitat Québec, a forming cohousing community in Québec City. Diana sent along the following guest post on dealing with blocks to consensus in communities. It makes for a fascinating read. Thanks Diana!

I serve as a consultant to intentional communities experiencing conflict -- ecovillages, cohousing communities, and other kinds of communities. Some communities (and nonprofits, and other groups) suffer unnecessary conflict when they use consensus decision-making but don't really understand that people using the consensus process aren't supposed to block proposals for purely personal reasons. Consensus requires that people block only when the proposal violates the group's shared, agreed-upon values, purpose, lifestyle, and/or behavioral norms, but not someone's personal values, lifestyle, etc.

(If you're not familiar with this decision-making method, it's one in which people modify a proposal in order to meet people's concerns, and then approve it only if everyone can support it, or at least live with it. People don't vote Yes or No. Rather, their three decision options are (1) to approve the proposal; (2) to "stand aside" from the proposal, which means they don't support it but won't stop it; and (3) to "block" the proposal, which means they're stopping it and the proposal is not adopted. In pure consensus, it takes only one block to stop a proposal.)

Several consensus trainers I know suggest that organizations adopt criteria for assessing whether a block to a proposal is a "principled block," also known as a "valid block" or a "legitimate block". This means the organization and/or its facilitator can test a block against the group's agreed-upon criteria, and if it doesn't meet that criteria, they declare the block invalid and the proposal passes.

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