[Speech given at the Science, Wisdom & Future Conference]
Transition, Opportunity, Resilience & Celebrating: How can we move through these most interesting times.
By Bob Banner
Laughing yoga: for one minute. I briefly asked people to rise and to look at one other person. If they knew the person or not, it didn’t matter. On the count of 3 I asked them to start laughing. And if they were only faking it, that was okay. The mantra is fake it until you make it!
We talk about food diets 24/7. We rarely talk about our media diet. What goes in, what goes out, what makes us feel good what makes us feel bad. Who is controlling our diets? Why are most media outlets intimately linked with advertisers mostly advertising products that will end up in the landfill. To create this madness of creating false needs, to grow an economy that basically kills life is totally unsustainable, let alone anti-living!
What about a media that truly nourishes us? I was a nihilist. I absorbed bad news. I was obsessed with what was not working in the world and it tainted my perspective thoroughly.
I recall the time I read a really positive report (I recall it was about Costa Rica not having a military and how it was using their monies for human affairs). I remember how it felt, how I felt. It was as if some chemical change emerged in me… a visceral epiphany of genuine hope. I recall wanting to get on the top roof of my rented garage and yell out into the world exclaiming that the world was beautiful and that we could change it and that people had the power to do something about it. I got hooked. I wanted more and more good news, more positive stories about cool people doing courageous and outrageous things. I wanted not just ethereal possibilities but wanted practical realities… I continue to search for people who are making wild differences in our world and I support them.
And this enthusiasm feeds me, nourishes me. Remember, the root of the word “enthuse” is to “be filled with the gods.”
How can we cultivate that nourishment in others and support their love and joy for what they do and who they are as beings. How can we relink our sacred wound to our livelihoods so our day jobs become our places of healing and transformation and passion?….
We also need to understand the secret of happiness: giving our gifts, being of service to our community. That’s what makes us happy! Our culture has it backwards. It strangely (but not so strangely when you look at it from a corporate power macho grabbing Taker perspective) believes that by accumulating stuff will make us happy, but its actually by giving that gives back to us in ways that we cannot even comprehend. This reminds me of something James Hillman once said: “We always seem to think about what we need to be doing for ourselves. Why not ask what your community needs from you?”
And rather than spend some time on the incredible challenges of our day with climate change, economic instability and peak oil I want to briefly describe my “end of suburbia” moment. After seeing the film End of Suburbia [how many people have seen it?] I saw the thread of oil weave throughout my day and life and saw how totally dependent I am on cheap oil. The toothbrushes, the fertilizers, my tennis rackets, clothes, tennis shoes, telephones, frisbee, aspirin, antihistamines, chap stick, vitamins, mouth wash, deodorants, blinds, lamps, carpet padding, and thousands more… I was awestruck and dumbfounded for weeks. There was a mixture of fear, fascination, denial, acute curiosity and some altered states of consciousness where envisioning a future without oil was weak and befuddling. And then I eventually did what I do… research and publish articles about it and show films and enter into dialogue with others about Peak Oil. And then I realized I was becoming one of those pioneers I was searching for who no one wanted to listen to, who shunned me.
One factoid ought to suffice it for the peak oil discussion: the energy in a quarter gallon of gasoline is equivalent to my working really hard for 5 weeks; a typical car fill-up in a tank of nearly 11 gallons is equivalent to 4 years of hard human labor [according to Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns model].
And Peak Oil simply means that we have reached the peak of production and that demand now is increasing over supply and we are now at the end of the cheap oil Party!
I wish to spend some time talking about Crisis as being the main impetus for change. We just need to look at our intimate relationships to see that often times a divorce, a death or cancer can be that impetus for change to become that more loving compassionate and non-judgmental human.
Or we deny it and shove it away so we don’t have to change… sort of like all the fixes we see in our daily conversations:
• the government will know what to do
• technology will solve it
• religious leaders will help us get through these bad times
• the aliens will save us in the nick of time. (my favorite)
This reminds me of seeing a typical suburban house with tons of solar panels on their roof and in their backyard to compensate for their energy use. No thought of changing behavior; no thoughts of conserving. Just business as usual, consumption as usual… or worse still is hanging on to the new age belief that abundance for yourself is all important! Its not any different than that of the militant survivalists.
We see change as challenging and yet we are affluent. How about being resilient and compassionate when your job has left the US, or the bankster gangsters have stolen your pension and evicted you from your house. Or when food is no longer being shipped thousands of miles since the truckers have decided to strike or that the price of gas has gone through the roof?
Are we prepared to take seriously the notion of “Evolve or Die?” Often I hear people including myself saying it rather flippantly. But who will bury the dead? Who will prepare the dying and aged and the ill? Will hospice become a global corporate institution mandating who and how we will die if there’s not enough to go around?
We will look in all the other directions rather than the one basic one. Reminds me of the Sufi story where Nasruddin looks for his key out in the street just because theres light there even though he didn’t lose them there.
Velcrow Ripper is a filmmaker on a quest to discover what emerges in the depth of suffering. In his film called Scared Sacred he goes to the hot spots throughout the world, Afghanistan, Bhopal, Iraq and others to learn first hand of incredible suffering. What he discovers are people who emerge from such unfathomable suffering to become beams of light: compassionate and warm and full of love and service. [Are these the new evolved pioneering souls that Barbara Marx Hubbard spoke about at this conference?] His next film is called FIERCE LIGHT where spirit meets action which is advertised on the back cover of the HopeDance on your tables.
So lets get to the good material, the positive stories. So where are the pockets of sanity, where are the people and examples of a new world, holding a new vision of the human as we encounter these major shifts that are upon us. I declare that not only is another world possible but it is here and now all over the world. It’s the million people movement Paul Hawken writes about in his Blessed Unrest. The subtitle explains it: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.
City Repair actually took over public spaces in their neighborhood intersections in Portland, OR. It was actually against the law to do it since “public space” doesn’t meant really the public. Some gutsy folks (Mark Lakeman is one of the main instigators) crossed the line and got arrested and soon, after years of working the legislative system, Portland now has ordinances throughout the city to allow for people to actually use those public spaces. On many corners in a Portland neighborhood (nearly 30 intersections) one will ﬁnd a tea house, a cob bench, a freebie box, a kiosk that alerts people to pot lucks and trades in the neighborhood. They often use the entire intersection for a full blown block party. Strips of public space are turned into ﬂower or vegetable gardens. All the beginnings of village life with not much talk of doom and gloom or inevitable collapse but of happiness, old fashioned neighborliness, collaboration and communion. What is being birthed rather than focusing on what is collapsing.
Bioneers: a great annual event where an umbrella of various pioneers in biology (thus the word bioneers), spirituality, ecology, politics, agriculture, mushroomology… every pioneer imaginable who is working to change and shift the world to one that is sustainable and socially just.
Locavores: People who make a commitment to eat only food grown within 100 miles of their home.
Growing Food Party Crew: young people having fun removing lawns in front and back yards to replace them with gardens and food forests.
Ojai Economy Group, [see page 3 of the new HopeDance] where a group of friends came together to start a new economy in Ojai with gifting, barter, local currency, investments of green businesses, giving back to non-profit volunteers… to create a sustainable local economy. Gutsy, taking a stand, pioneering souls – TODAY, not an ethereal or imaginary “solution” but something REAL! [And check out their Summit in September, 2009 at Meditation Mount in Ojai.]
Transition Towns in Totnes England: the key words are how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change? the subtitle of the Handbook is From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience. On their website they have changed it to read: an evolving exploration into the head, heart and hands of energy descent. This is a major movement finally entering the US. Such mainstream papers as the NYTimes Magazine, Elle, Common Ground and Orion have published articles about it.
[And I’m happy to report that Paso Robles and SLO County have become recognized official Transition Towns… 153 and 155 out of 170+ throughout the world.]
Energy Descent Plans of Portland, Ventura, Kinsale, UK and others are being worked out, strategized and implemented. And not necessarily FROM the government but from the people who put pressure on their governments to DO something about this.
There are examples of experimental living globally: ecovillages, intentional communities, cohousing, all attempts at living more sustainably… and living harmoniously… and more fail than succeed. It may be because of relationship issues, communication methodologies, money, fantasies, expectations, ownership of property issues or a plethora of other reasons. At times comfort zones are being stretched. We are changing slowly and sometimes I wonder if we have enough time. Van Jones in a speech in the Bay area to a Pacha Mama audience said:
People are always talking about their comfort zones, you ever heard that expression? “This is outside of my comfort zone.” Grow your goddamn comfort zone then, okay? ‘Cause we are running out of time. My suggestion is, grow the comfort zone.
I think this is key. I think if all of us allow ourselves to stretch we might even find out that it’s fun. Somehow there are emotional security issues in just hanging out with the same people, the people who believe like we do. But let’s stretch especially with people who we may not like or people we have traditionally rebuffed (or vice versa). What about seeing the commonalities we share, like our DNA and our need for the basics of water, food, shelter, energy and livelihood (and beer). This is very true for me and perhaps we don’t need crises. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can get there by having more fun, more celebrations.
Heres the Dalai Lama who speaks on this issue:
“There’s too much emotion, too much negative emotion: frustration, hatred, anger. I think that’s the greatest obstacle. So I think as a ﬁrst step this should be cooled down. Reduced. Forget these things. And I think for the time being, we need more festivals, more picnics. Let us forget these difficult things, these emotions, and make personal friends. Then we can start to talk about these serious matters.”
Check out the article called Peak Ego and the Ego Descent Plan by Bob Banner