Sunday, June 22, 2008

compelling thoughts

One of the most quintessential aspects of our experience, and one most taken for granted, is thought. It also totally, subconsciously habitual. We do it constantly. If we suddenly find ourselves not thinking for a moment it's shocking.

Try not thinking, for just 30 seconds or a minute. Can you not have any thoughts for 30 seconds? Probably not. Why is that? What is so compelling about thinking that we can't stop doing it for 30 seconds?

Is it something about the thoughts themselves? Perhaps. What is it that we think about? It might be hard to remember. When you start thinking about thoughts and trying to observe them they change. You'll forget that you were trying to observe them or think about them, but then you'll remember again, and then maybe you can notice what thoughts you were having that were so compelling that you forgot about observing them.

Me, I tend to quantify time a lot. I tend to think about how long it is till some event, or how long it's been. I tend to have a lot of conversations in my mind with people about things I feel passionate or frustrated about. Bits of songs and scenes of movies take up a good chunk of the time. All in all, unless I'm intently focusing on something, my thoughts, each individual though in itself, isn't that interesting.

So why can't I stop having them? And where do they come from anyway? Once I start observing my thoughts it gets confusing. Does my mind think them? But if it's my mind thinking them what is doing the observing? Is that my mind too? Is my mind multi-faceted? Am I schizophrenic? It's like there's the observer mind and the thinking mind, and the latter is so strong that the former is generally consumed by it.

We live in a society that emphasises the intellect over intuition or emotion or the physical. We're bombarded by messages and images, mentally stimulating information. Most occupations involve or focus on mentally engaging tasks. The arts and music, spiritual practices, and physical activity are hobbies, pastimes, or things that certain kinds of people do.

There is no room in our society for silence and stillness. This addiction to frenetic activity is a new phenomenon, yet we take it for granted as the way it's always been, and we have no idea what we may have lost.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

the cost of cars

Recently I did a big round of research into organizations and programs working towards sustainability, particularly urban sustainability. I signed up for various e-newsletters. One of them, Sustainlane, has been consistently infuriating me. Hardly better than "green washing" this notion that "green" consumerism will save the planet is at best ludicrous.

The last e-newsletter I got from Sustainlane asked the question , "Are hybrid cars really good for the environment?" I knew what my answer was, and I thought it a good sign that they were asking this question. The article went on from there like this:

"It depends on what you compare them to. Looking at the complete lifecycle of any product, let alone a car, from raw materials to eventual disposal or reuse is incredibly complicated. What's a poor information-starved enviro to do?

Okay, this is looking good, I thought. For years I've been pointing out that if we're not also talking about the "complete lifecycle" of personal vehicles the question of how to fuel them is pointless. But as I read on, the article simply didn't go there. It was all about whether or not to drive small, fuel-efficient vehicles or hybrid, or whether or not Toyota's Prius or Honda's Hybrid Civic is better.

I couldn't take it. I wrote them the following letter.

Dear Editor:

I would like to see Sustainlane do an article on Are CARS really good for the environment? No matter what fuel source we're using, if we want to evaluate whether or not personal motorized vehicles are "sustainable" we have to consider several things.

We have to consider the energy and materials cost in extracting and processing materials used to produce them, as well as the energy cost in manufacturing. We also have to consider the energy and materials cost involved in creating and maintaining the roads and other infrastructure cars require. While we're at it we might want to consider the amount of human and animal deaths caused by cars and car accidents. And then there's the social cost of building human structures and settlements to accommodate car use.

Even fuel source must be considered. Electric or hydrogen are great ideas, but currently most of that energy is produced in nuclear or coal power plants. And there's no way we can produce enough biofuels to replace the amount of petroleum currently being consumed, unless we want to feed our cars at the expense of ourselves.

Studies and information detailing all of this is are out there. It is conveniently ignored by people who want to assuage their guilt by driving a hybrid or an old Nissan Sentra. Please don't enable this behavior. To actually reach sustainable levels of consumption and waste American's are going to have to make substantial changes to their lifestyles. Please, publish information that makes this reality evident and provides hope for the real solutions that exist.

in community,
Sky Blue
Portland, OR

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

the new economy PDX

My friend Brush and I are initiating a process to galvanize the movement towards a more economically just urban environment. Unfortunately I may not be in Portland long enough to attend the first mtg. But I'm grateful for the opportunity to develop these ideas. I want to share the summary of our conversations to date.

Goal of this process:

To support the accelerating emergence in Portland of new economies based
on sustainability and justice, so more and more people can meet basic
needs through local values-based exchange of work and resources rather
than the dominating economy.


Systems that coordinate human needs and desires with time and resources, to sustain and grow life.

Goal for first gathering:

To identify and plan specific and measurable actions to bolster infrastructure for such new economies.

Note that the goal is not to create a new overarching organizational structure to replace or encompass existing systems and organizations. We seek rather to link those systems and organizations, coordinate their efforts, support their expansion, support the creation of new systems and organizations, and help more individuals get involved.

Gathering date

We are considering the second week of July.

Gathering agenda

We are currently meeting with potential participants to define the agenda and the process. It will be tightly facilitated to ensure productive outcomes.

Questions to frame agenda-development:

* What are the existing infrastructure pieces? How could they be improved?
* What new infrastructure pieces would be most valuable? In what order of implementation?
* How can we get these changes going most effectively?
* Who else should be involved?

Please note: this human-friendly gathering will include food, music, and socializing. This is our revolution, and we dance!

Example possible infrastructure pieces:

* Coordination tech
Methods to help different economic systems keep track of each others' activities, support exchange of resources among groups, make it easy for people entering one group to access others, and coordinate large projects involve multiple groups with follow-through

* Revolutionary welcome centers
Space/group that helps new arrivals (to Portland and/or new economies) connect with potentially compatible resources, organizations, trainings, etc. Could include regular public gatherings for economic projects to recruit and request help.

* Anarchist HR collectives
Support for workers and organizations in designing good job-matches,
finding/developing training, managing workflow, engaging conflict, balancing autonomy and collectivity, etc. May also focus on helping folk have access to basic needs (housing, health, food, etc.)

* Capitalism interface collectives
Radical legal, financial, and lobbying crews with skills to create robust interfaces between our emerging economies and courts, banks, and governments, in order to maximize our autonomy, influence, and resistance to co-optation.

* Open Standards for Open New Economies
Open data exchange standards that allow seamless interaction and aggregation of economic information so people can join multiple systems and manage information from one client: goods/services exchange, project management, decision-making, ratings, events, etc.

* Catalysts
Crews who provide start-up know-how and resources to get new collectives running, then leave to start another.

* Cross-pollinators
Groups or individuals that focus on helping deeply different communities and cultures discover how to respect each other, learn from each other, and design mutually beneficial collaboration.

* Your ideas here!