Rapid Transition Strategy
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Mimetic Strategy
- 3 Movement of Movements
- 4 Engineering Culture Change
- 5 Mass Volunteerism
- 6 Direct Action
- 7 Global Re-training
- 8 Community Forums
- 9 Social and Political Organizing
- 10 Messaging the Transition
- 11 Social Networks
- 12 Online Identity
- 13 Social Technology
- 14 Economic Models
- 15 Art/Culture
- 16 Religion
- 17 Pacification/Demilitarization
- 18 Radical Solutions and Prospects
- 19 Culture of Debate
- 20 Conclusion
- 21 Appendix
- 22 References
A preponderance of scientific evidence tells us that industrial civilization is transforming the planetary ecology at a rapid pace. According to the National Academy of Sciences report, "Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change," “The rate of climate change now underway is probably as fast as any warming event in the past 65 million years, and it is projected that its pace over the next 30 to 80 years will continue to be faster and more intense." We confront a variety of known and unknown factors, including species extinction and ocean acidification, that threaten our collective future. There is real potential for a rapid rise of global temperatures and the engagement of many positive feedback loops in the climate system, potentially leading to depopulation or even an extinction-level event for the human species in the near term.
At the same time, we are experiencing accelerated technological innovation, an almost overwhelming increase of information in every field, and a global awakening of ecological and political consciousness. Through a coordinated movement of civil society, we have the potential to transcend or supersede the current world system, based on Capitalist economics and nation-state governance. Such a systemic transition may be necessary for our near-term survival.
We appear to be reaching that threshold where, as social ecologist Murray Bookchin warned, our world “will either undergo revolutionary changes, so far-reaching in character that humanity will totally transform its social relations and its very conception of life, or it will suffer an apocalypse that may well end humanity’s tenure on the planet.” We would need to orchestrate a massive effort to transition immediately to renewable energy sources, "degrow" and "deindustrialize" our society, remediate and replenish natural systems, plant forests and local gardens on a massive scale.
The current global political and corporate order seems incapable of making the deep, structural changes necessary to forestall or prevent an ecological collapse. Rapid climate change could lead to increasing famines, droughts, refugees, terrorist attacks, and wars over natural resources such as fresh water and fuel. We have a moral responsibility to prevent the worst outcomes, to the extent that we can.
Confronted with these scenarios, how do we develop and distribute an alternative? One question is whether sustainability and economic equality are inextricably linked. According to Bookchin “The private ownership of the planet by elite strata must be brought to an end if we are to survive the afflictions it has imposed on the biotic world, particularly as a result of a society structured around limitless growth."
Many social theorists have proposed that the only legitimate alternative is the constitution of a truly free society, where political power is decentralized, with local communities functioning as autonomous elements, producing their own food and energy. These local municipalities and regional orchestrations would be meshed together in bioregional alliances, within a planetary confederation.
A systemic paradigm shift seems necessary to bring human activity into alignment with the limits of the biosphere. The principles of this paradigm shift to a regenerative society have been explored in previous sections of this Wiki. The question we now need to address is, How could such a transition be brought into manifestation? We would need to overcome the tremendous inertia of our current social, political, and economic system. We would need to mobilize a mass movement of global citizens who believe in a different vision of what our future could hold, and have the inspiration and fortitude to bring it into being.
A change in paradigm would have a number of requirements. We would require universal pacification, the liberation of knowledge and the commons from private control, and an equitable sharing of wealth and resources. This transition would require a comprehensive retraining for the mass populace, who have been conditioned into a consumerist worldview, as well as various identifications, based on nationality or religion or cultural background. We would have to demilitarize global society, deindustrialize to a certain degree, and transition to a worldwide manufacturing and transport system based on renewable sources of energy.
Any movement toward a post-carbon society must convey the truth: that the future continuity of humanity on the Earth requires shared sacrifices, in many areas, from the present generation, for an unknown timeframe. However, this truth can be expressed as a part of a communications strategy that is inspiring, positive, and non-divisive. Memetic analysis has revealed that global warming, species extinction, and climate change are insufficient motivators or drivers for coordinated social action, on a large scale. Similarly, calls to “deindustrialize” or “degrow” our civilization do not motivate the multitudes into action.
The movement must convey a sense of incandescent hope and possibility. We require a vision that is inspiring, accessible, and sensible, for the multitudes. We must define not only what we are fighting against, but what we are fighting for.
The transition to a post-carbon world is inevitably destined to unite our human community as one. An effective communication strategy will begin with this sense of unity - it will convey the tremendous opportunity presented by the crisis. Through our response to it, we can transform our civilization in accord with humanity’s greatest hopes and highest ideals.
The movement could promote, as a positive goal, that humanity intends to establish a social infrastructure which provides universal abundance, liberating humanity, as a whole, from insecurity and insufficiency, as well as meaningless and tedious labor. This can only take place within an ecological framework that restores and replenishes the Earth’s natural systems. We would integrate indigenous design principles with postmodern technics and advanced automation.
As a model, we propose a future civilization - a new planetary culture - without debt or nation-state boundaries, where everyone on Earth receives a basic subsidy, where free access to knowledge and information is a basic human right. We also propose that humanity’s quest for scientific knowledge and technical mastery can be integrated with religious faith and mystical modes of self-realization, through a creative synthesis. Since past human conflicts were based on resource insufficiency, we can envision that, in a future state of sustained abundance, most forms of conflict will be outmoded
Humanity must commit to elevating its beliefs and practices, through an evolution of global society, where we apply our technical powers, rationally and systemically, for the benefit of the whole. This requires a planetary concordance. The mass media acts as a tool of indoctrination. Most people believe they have little power and no responsibility for the state of the world. Media entrains people into a consumerist, passive state. This trance can be broken through new media campaigns and social movements that combine an alternative vision with an immediate plan of action.
Such a movement would need to use social media, mass media, and direct action techniques to garner universal support and global consensus for the transition to a regenerative culture, a truly liberated society. Iceland’s recent success in rewriting its constitution through an open-source process provides one model or template for what can be accomplished on a planetary scale, where all of the Earth’s peoples are recognized as equal stakeholders in our shared future.
If we agree on this goal and this messaging, then the question remains: How do we accomplish such a transition? What are the means to establish a truly planetary civilization, in a short time-frame? What follows are some notes on these questions. Over the next year, we intend to develop a strategic plan of action, and then execute on this plan.
Movement of Movements
Metta Center for Nonviolence Education is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 focused on exploring the potential of nonviolence principles in addressing individual, societal and global needs. Through their partners and programs, they help bring about a paradigm shift toward peace, justice and healing in relationships, communities and society as a whole.
The Metta Center has developed a Roadmap Compass towards a nonviolent movement of movements. The Roadmap is a way of making the movement visual and set the tools activists can use to build community, train nonviolence principles and create and pursue strategic thinking toward the realization of goals.
The Roadmap is composed of 7 main areas, all of which possess a space for community conversation.
1. Environment: From a Dead Planet to a Living Home
Most people have already recognized and begun responding to the needs of a living and sustainable planetary environment. However, we still need a greater sense of belonging and reverence to our environment and all the life it supports. We must retrieve from indigenous traditions this sense of belonging as a second nature.
Examples of Environment Actions:
- Urban planning
- Local farming and consumption
- Protecting wild areas
2. New Story Creation: From a worldview of separateness to interdependence; because how we see ourselves and the world around us changes everything.
The exponential growth of science that began with the Renaissance and ultimately led to industrialism on a global scale has brought us many benefits, but at a high cost. It has contributed to an increasing lack of clarity about who we are, why we are here, and how to relate to one another and the natural world. The problems we are experiencing today, from personal to environmental, are rooted to the “story” that made industrialism possible – a story in which we are material entities compelled to seek satisfaction in the consumption of increasingly scarce resources. Yet a shift in emphasis across many fields of modern science, facilitated by breakthroughs in physics, has brought to light a more encouraging picture of human nature, one that is aligned with the deepest traditions of human wisdom and the environment.
Examples of New Story Creation:
- Creating the New Story (research)
- Sharing it (alternative media)
- Passing it on (education)
3. Peace: From War Systems to Stable Peace.
War fighting is the most destructive of all human institutions. However, it is possible to end it in our lifetime. A new order to bring about stable peace is starting to appear across civil society and even in national and world governance. This shift from war to peace will be difficult for many draw their sense of meaning, pursuit of security, and financial profits from war. We must inform ourselves about the encouraging developments towards a new way of being and a new concept of security, especially through the global spread of nonviolence. We must develop these actions systematically and spread our vision and courage.
Examples of Peace Actions:
- Peacekeeping (unarmed civilians)
- Peace-building (ending world hunger)
- Peacemaking (creative dispute resolution)
4. Democracy & Social Justice: From the Dominance of the Few to the Uplift of All.
New levels of connectivity powered by communication technologies, greater mobility, and other innovations, have enabled people to experiment with new forms of leadership, community, and business, all built on the concept of unity in diversity. We can and must build a community where everyone has an equal right to well-being and to be have their voice heard.
Democracy & Social Justice Examples
- Functioning democratic institutions
- Nonviolent leadership models
- Restorative justice (replace the prison industrial complex)
5. Vibrant & Need-Based Economies: From Scarcity to Abundance, From Transaction to Trust.
Today’s economic culture based on the artificial expansion of human wants and greed, while our world’s resources are increasingly scarce, is the most obvious sign of alienation in the industrialized world. We already have the tools to build an alternative: new ways of organizing business systems and corporations (e.g. Mondragon cooperatives), small-scale experiments in intentional communities (e.g. Transition Towns), ‘gift economies’, and many others. Above all we need to refocus our search for fulfillment from the consumption of things to the building of networks of cooperation.
Examples of Vibrant & Need-Based Economies
- Gandhian economics
- "Gross National Happiness"
- Alternative communities (transition towns)
6. Climate Protection: From Reckless Exploitation to Reverent Regeneration.
Humanity has never faced a more urgent need for cooperation on a mass scale as we face today. We must mobilize our adaptive capacities to find a way to live that is not merely sustainable, but that will leave behind greed and fear and bring about a human evolution based on living in harmony with all creation. Nonviolence is the way towards this transition.
Examples of Climate Protection
- Alternative transportation
- Safe, renewable energy (← 350ppm)
7. Person Power
What is cultivated in oneself extends outward. To bring about change in others and in our social order, we must first model within ourselves the positive behaviors and states of mind that create nonviolence. We can understand this by analyzing our punitive justice system as an outward expression of fear, and global corporate capitalism as an expression of greed, and also war as the expression of our society’s addiction to anger on the largest scale. We have the power to change all these systems by cultivating a new energy based on love, generosity and respect.
5 daily practices to facilitate the shift within as we strive to shift the social order outward:
- Boycott the corporate mass media and its low image of the human being;
- Learn everything you can about nonviolence;
- Establish a daily practice that brings you in contact with the workings of your own mind, like meditation;
- Interact more personally with others and resist any impulses toward dehumanization;
- Articulate your highest vision of the world and get involved in bringing that vision into the service of the world.
Engineering Culture Change
The first stage of the process - although various stages may happen in parallel - requires the consolidation of the global community of progressives - “cultural creatives” - behind a unified vision. The tens or hundreds of millions of cultural creatives, worldwide, who share similar values can be trained, through the Internet, to realize themselves as leaders and educators of an emergent new society. As a self-identified vanguard, they can hold local teach-ins and work with various communities to define a path to resilience. Social technologies and social networks are probably the best way to organize and orchestrate the cultural creatives into a cohesive force.
Ideas & Applications:
- Create hybrid games (games with online and inlife components like hybrid college courses
- Create art that inspires awe in the audience. Promote pre-existing awe-inspiring artworks. Art is a safe place for paradoxical and contradictory ideas to coexist in harmony. Show people that if art can do it, so can they. It is the perfect place to grow spiritual and scientific ideas into a cohesive theoretical framework. Apply scientific principles to the creation of art. Art illustrates through content and structure. Put humans back into science.
- A group could write an honor code informed by psychological and biological basic needs for well-being for all consciousnesses, as well as the laws of physics and the scientific method. Businesses and business-governments offer distraction and the illusion of safety and permanence in exchange for individual rights. It might be a good idea for a group of people to determine what makes a member of Homo sapiens sapiens a human. Determine what a human being’s basic needs are, and come up with a biological universal bill of rights for human consciousnesses. Then a group could determine the basic needs and rights of all consciousnesses. Individuals could choose to accept or reject the bill of rights. Those that accepted it would signify their acceptance somehow, a fashion or by wearing symbol, they would then identify with the movement. The movement would require that members adhere to local laws and work within existing governments to effect change. It’s a meta-nation or meta-culture that works with established systems and local governments to effect change. Individuals can choose to reject the monarchy of consumerism and embrace the bill of rights of universal consciousness. Not a pledge but a personal adoption of life-affirming principles based on the U.S. constitution and other texts that empower the individual while fostering group unity and equality of all group members. Make every human (every consciousness regardless of the media it inhabits) a member by default.
- Create a new mythology based on old stories and myths about atonement, oneness, interconnectedness, and the cosmogonic cycle. Ever since the invention of human culture it has been the task of creators, innovators, and explorers to create and revise myths. A group of artists united by a single, detailed and cohesive vision could create a universal myth for humanity and relevant to the lives of humans existing today. Artists can translate complex ideas into physical symbols and mental narratives using applied memetics. The creation of a unified myth is a bottom-up, outside system approach. It might make use of a bodhisattva archetypal hero. Source myths could include Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Lotus Sutra, The Upanishads, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, etc. Professional creatives and the public could collaborate with online technology.
- In order to address the public’s detachment and avoidance of climate change, show them why they need to make lifestyle changes. Then show them how to make those changes in a stepwise method with easy, specific instructions gleaned from various wisdom traditions as applicable to contemporary issues and situations. Mobilize people into action by giving them a specific mission that matches their needs for well-being and spiritual development (or philosophical worldview). Connect them. Create a hero, an archetype of the age, as a successful example of how to accomplish the mission.
- Develop and promote memetic theory and show artists how to apply it to their work
- Create an association of concerned artists whose work evidences the need for transformation (intentional artists)
We need to launch popular initiatives for ecological restoration that mobilize the multitudes to accomplish practical tasks. These include programs of reforestation, urban gardening, restoring local watersheds, conservation, and painting the rooftops of cities white to reflect the Sun. A global transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energies must be carried out rapidly, within the next decade. While this seems a “mission impossible,” it can be re-framed as a great adventure for the human species, for global society. Such a transition will lead to a new flourishing of human potential.
- Initiatives for ecological restoration. Make it pleasurable for people. The act of volunteering should inspire feelings of well-being in the volunteers and those they serve. When that is not possible, reward them with perks. It is an innate bias of the human biology that prevents people from understanding something they haven’t experienced yet. The movement is asking them to change their understanding, values, habits, and lifestyles. People are being asked to change the way they experience life and they generally don’t often make such changes unless faced with an imminent threat to their personal well-being. The movement could make the effects of climate change relevant to people’s lives. Instead of scaring them with phantom terrorist threats, show images of the dying earth. Immediately counterpoint such images with two to three possible positive outcomes.
- Change costs people energy. The movement could build toward a system that rewards people with feelings of safety, health, and well-being in exchange for the discomfort of change. The reward system could be based on an understanding of memetic energy.
Volunteer cadres can be trained in techniques of bioremediation developed by Paul Stamets, John Todd, and others. To attract young people, the ecological crisis can be “game-ified” by creating contests, campaigns, and reward systems that build ecological resilience and restore natural systems. Voluntary initiatives, on a mass scale, can be organized through social technologies, where individuals receive “rewards points” for socially and ecologically beneficial actions. These reward points or credits can function as an alternative currency, augmenting or supplanting the current money system.
Myra Wani is a concept for an advanced global network that can be best explained as a new operating system for humanity. The goal of Myra Wani is to achieve an existence that is healthy, sustainable and abundant. The design of Myra Wani is transitional. The initial design will plug neatly into the current global structures, modifying them slightly to meet the goals of the network. The focus on money is easily overcome by introducing transparency and profit capping. Excess profit can be redirected into projects that are helping to create positive change. The design of Myra Wani is far stronger than the systems used by the world’s largest corporations. This strength will allow us to phase out the unhealthy corporate practices that are destroying our world. Over time, further modifications will be possible, and over time this project will lay the foundations for a more efficient and effective system of growth, development, which utilises community and technology to make better use of our planetary resources. 
Study and imitate organizations that succeed in bringing people together for a common cause. Some examples include 12 Step, MoveOn, The Forum, traditional religious organizations, and trade unions. Particularly relevant initiatives include Occupy, 350.org, The Zeitgeist Movement, The Evolver Network, Bioneers, Greenpeace, Transition Town, and MoveOn.
Social and Political Organizing
The rapid transition to a regenerative society will require a melding of bottom-up and top-down approaches to social organization. Sophisticated techniques of marketing and branding can be systemically applied to outreach to different sectors of human society, applying techniques of social psychology and insights from anthropology. The movement will develop simple, direct language and streamlined goals to help communities evolve ecological practices, in stages.
An interdisciplinary approach treating everything but personal experience as imperfect theories can be used. The scientific method adapted to lifestyle and personal beliefs is an effective strategy for changing behavior and belief. A phased approach may be necessary due to the self-selecting nature of knowledge (experience aligning with cultural information).
Messaging the Transition
The movement for ecological restoration requires shared sacrifice, during this transitional period. Media campaigns can promote new concepts, such as giving up private vehicles, exotic travel, and excess possessions for the future of humanity and the Earth. We will need to apply new measures and standards of success, such as the “Happiness Index” developed in Bhutan. Wealth holders and public influencers can demonstrate their commitment by making particular pledges, which then become social initiatives that anyone can voluntarily join.
Paul Hawken’s Wiser Earth made an initial attempt to bring together a global “movement of movements” for progressive ecological and social goals. This effort was hampered by a poor technological platform. It is now feasible to develop advanced social networks[AT35] that facilitate community building, as well as the efficient sharing of skills, knowledge, and resources. We require a planetary network of local as well as virtual communities moving rapidly in the direction of resilience and autonomy, who engage with the mainstream system and create forums for open dialogue.
Corporate tools like Facebook and Twitter provided a readymade infrastructure for the mass awakening of the Arab Spring and the global Occupy movement. But these networks are not designed to facilitate cooperation, participation, or democratic decision-making. A movement of planetary transformation requires new social technologies. The next tier of social technology will help communities self-organize, share resources as well as social and intellectual capital, link together progressive initiatives globally, and support democratic participation based on rapid education, as well as training in cooperation and transparent communication. Rather than data-mining users and selling their information to corporations, new social networks will protect user data. Reciprocity, authenticity, and respect will become core values of the next generation of social networking platforms.
- Respect Network - Doc Searls’ The Intention Economy: Transform relationship between individuals and companies / institutions to one of mutual respect based on authenticity and shared values.
- A pedagogy of play. Current pedagogies are informed by consumerist values of top-down approach. A pedagogy of play empowers individuals to learn at their own pace in their own way. The pedagogy of play will link common life experiences with post-carbon lifestyles and beliefs, post-carbon ideals. Hybrid games, online and inlife gameplay. In the process of playing the game people complete tasks and gain new knowledge that benefits others and their gaming experience.
A transition to a regenerative society requires a new economic paradigm. The evolution of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin reveal the potential for a rapid switch from the current monoculture of money, mediated by Central Banks, which are controlled by private wealth holders, who seek to protect their short-term interests. New social networks can disseminate alternatives to the current monetary system, designed to support ecological and social progress. The current monoculture of money can be superseded or displaced by an eco-system of instruments. This may include mutual credit clearing houses, time-dollars, and a global trading currency with a negative interest rate, designed to make excessive hoarding of wealth obsolete.
The movement can outreach to cultural influencers, technology innovators, wealth holders, and public artists. Public artists can now reach their audience of millions directly through social media. A consortium of cultural influencers can band together in an alliance to promote rapid social evolution and culture change. If enough artists and influencers band together, they could impact the mass media.
A global movement of civil society will develop new alliances with religions, indigenous cultures, outcast populations, and fundamentalist movements. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism provide a readymade global infrastructure of local communities. They continue to exert a tremendous influence over the lives of billions of people. Each religion contains within it a code that can be accessed for building a just and sustainable world. Skillful outreach can integrate the spiritual yearnings expressed by the various religions, overcoming parochialism. As a byproduct of the movement toward a post-carbon world, humanity will be forced to overcome factionalism and divisiveness - to unite in solidarity.
Radical Solutions and Prospects
A series of diagrams/maps representing a perceived movement toward a coherent, integrated planetary paradigm. It is still in the process of being revised, but the driving question behind these diagrams is: “If I were a sentient entity at the scale of our planet, given what is currently available, what would I need in order to function?” 
Permaculture Solutions to Climate Change
Permaculture Solutions to Climate Change is an essay by Starhawk, from September 2014. Starhawk is one of the most respected voices in modern earth-based spirituality. She is the author or coauthor of twelve books, including The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess and The Fifth Sacred Thing. She is also one of the founders of Earth Activist Trainings, which offer intensive seminars that combine permaculture design, political organizing, and earth-based spirituality.
From Starhawk’s essay:
Permaculture is a system of ecological design, originated by two Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, in the ‘seventies. It’s now a worldwide movement of practitioners, researchers and teachers who look to nature as a model that can show us how to meet human needs while regenerating the environment around us. The genius of permaculture lies, not in any single technique, but in looking at how multiple techniques can be woven together into systems that are more than the sum of their parts. It offers both practical tools and an ethical framework for change.
The major obstacles to addressing climate change are not technological or even ecological. They are political, moral, and spiritual, a set of beliefs and power structures that are driving the twin crises of environmental breakdown and social disintegration.
“Greed is good” has been the watchword since the Reagan era, and the exaltation of selfishness, individual and corporate, has led to political gridlock, crumbling infrastructures, environmental devastation, and the impoverishment of the 99% while the 1% concentrate wealth beyond the dreams of emperors. Climate change cannot be solved in this framework that honors the accumulation of wealth over all other values and exempts it from all responsibility.
To address climate change, we need a radically different ethic, one based on the values of caring, sharing, and mutual responsibility that are core values of almost all human societies and religions. We are not single, isolated actors, we are interdependent and to thrive, we must be accountable to the whole.
Indigenous cultures and those who live close to the earth have always known that we cannot take endlessly from a system without giving back. Philosophy and religion, both Eastern and Western, have preached compassion, fidelity, and told us to love our neighbors as ourselves – albeit that these virtues are often more preached than practiced.
Permaculture offers a simple, secular framework of ethics that can guide us: ‘Care for the earth’, ‘Care for the people’, and ‘Care for the Future’, which implies the imperatives to return surpluses into the system, limit consumption and take no more than your fair share.
We need a clear framework of values in order to confront the immense vested interests which both continue the damage and prevent us from employing the tools of regeneration. And we need to transform those ethics into policies and programs.
What would this look like in practice? Imagine a world in which permaculture’s three ethics were the basis of law and policy.
- 1. Care for the Earth
- Corporations and individuals would be required to insure that their enterprises were, at minimum, harmless to the community and the environment and sustainable – not using more resources than they replenish. Even better, enterprises should aim to be regenerative – improving the health and biodiversity of the surrounding environment. Below I will discuss what some of those regenerative practices might be.Resources would be directed into research and programs that would help the transition to a regenerative technology and economy. Imagine where solar technology might be right now if the billions that have gone into nuclear power had gone into research on renewables! Work that restores damaged ecosystems and heals toxicity would be valued and paid for and new jobs would be created.
- 2. Care for the People
- The mandated purpose of corporate and individual enterprises should be to meet human and environmental needs and desires while providing lives of prosperity and dignity for everyone involved.Productive enterprises, from businesses to agriculture, would be rooted in local communities, serve them primarily and be accountable to them. No longer would they be free to roam the globe in search of the cheapest labor and most lax environmental and safety standards.Technology and economy would shift away from their bias toward concentration of resources and power to wide distribution of resources and power. This might look like solar panels on every home instead of nukes, and financial policies that penalize instead of encouraging the hoarding of wealth.Those who engage in work that helps people and the earth would be encouraged and rewarded, as opposed to our current system, in which anyone who aspires to be a teacher, a farmer, a healer or even a firefighter is penalized, while those who manipulate abstractions and exploit others are rewarded. An immense amount of labor and brainpower will be needed to make the transition, and resources should flow into programs to educate young people for these challenges, provide jobs and financial support for making needed changes, and retrain workers in exploitative industries.
- 3. Care for the Future
- We would shift rapidly from a fossil fuel economy toward one based on renewable sources of energy. We would stop exploiting resources that cannot be replaced, or limit their use and find ways to re-use and recycle them. We would develop industrial ecologies, where the ‘wastes’ of one industry become the raw materials of another.We would assure health care for all people and a free, quality education for all young people as a right. We would provide programs to re-educate and train older people, as well, to adapt their skills for new forms of work and to deepen their enjoyment of life. We would pour resources into research and support for the transition to regenerative forms of agricultural and industrial production. New businesses and enterprises would be judged not on their monetary return on investment but their EROEI: Energy Return on Energy Invested. For example, industrial agriculture, with its massive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, heavy machinery and transport of products, uses 15 calories of fuel to produce one calorie of food. http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-07-22/the-energy-cost-of-food While it may be profitable financially to the big corporations that supply chemicals, pesticides and fuel, its EROEI is disastrous!
This is just the scaffolding of an ethical framework. Once we have such a framework in place, we can use it to test our decisions. Should we build a new nuclear power plant? Considering the incalculable amount of damage it might cause if something goes wrong, we’d stop right there. But we might also consider the lack of facilities for dealing with nuclear waste, the immense amount of energy needed to construct a plant—much of it in the energy needed to make concrete which has a huge carbon footprint, the centralization of power a nuke represents, and the limited number of jobs it produces. A better alternative might be to put those hundreds of millions of dollars into a mix of rooftop solar, wind generators, and research into new forms of solar energy that would not require rare earths or other nonrenewable materials to make them.
We can also test the nuances of our personal decisions. Should I put solar panels on my house, or use the money to replace my old, leaky windows? Most likely improving your windows and insulation will have a better EROEI and might support a local business. Should I eat meat? No, not if it’s factory-farmed somewhere thousands of miles away. Yes, if it’s local, grass-fed beef from a producer using regenerative holistic range management techniques. Should I fly across the country to comfort my dying mother? Yes. You’ll add to your carbon footprint, true, but you’ll be a better, more whole human being which may further the effectiveness of everything you do for the rest of your life.
Practical Solutions and Strategies:
The strategies and practices I will discuss below can augment the transition in our energy systems and technology, but they are no substitute for rapidly reducing our use of fossil fuels. We need to stop pumping fossil fuel carbon into the atmosphere and instead turn to safe, proven renewables. I have focused less on this because there is already so much written about it. Alternatives to fossil fuels exist, they are already viable and rapidly becoming less expensive. Germany—not the sunniest place on earth—now gets 30 to 50% of its electricity from solar panels!
The problems in making the shift are not technological—although with more resources put toward research and development even more efficient alternatives can be created. The obstacles are economic and political, and they must be addressed with political pressure to hold oil companies and polluters accountable, remove subsidies from the fossil fuel industry, and offer tax incentives, rebates, retraining and retooling and subsidies to further the shift.
Carbon Sequestration the Permaculture Way
We are already past what scientists believe is the tipping point, already seeing major changes in the ice, the oceans, the tundra. Is there any way we can turn it back and safely pull some of the excess carbon out of the atmosphere?
A permaculture approach would point us to four interconnected areas, all of which use nature’s own methods – plants! – to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it safely in soil, where it can heal and regenerate damaged systems.
Soil as a Carbon Sink
We all know that burning fossil fuels has overloaded the atmosphere with excess carbon. But much of that excess may also come from our agricultural practices. Healthy, fertile soil is full of humus – soil organic carbon. When the ground is tilled, or forests are clear-cut and the soil is exposed, that carbon oxidizes into the atmosphere. In other words, it meets air, joins up with the oxygen, and becomes carbon dioxide.
Looking on the bright side, this means that the soils of the world are carbon-hungry. If we fill that need, we can pull excess carbon out of the atmosphere in ways that are safe and have thousands of other benefits. Rebuilding damaged soil restores ecosystems, improves our food security, prevents erosion and restores compromised water cycles. Unlike untried massive geo-engineering schemes, it has no down side. It is exactly what we need to do, even if climate change were not a factor. http://www.epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id=212894
Soil as a Living System
Until the 1980s, scientists who studied soil looked mostly at its chemical composition. When researchers began investigating the biological life of the soil, they discovered a rich, interlocking ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, micro-organisms, micro-arthropods, worms and other animals who work together in symbiosis to produce soil health and fertility. Researchers such as Dr. Elaine Ingham http://www.soilfoodweb.com have developed practices to support the soil food web. Paul Stamets http://www.fungi.com has explored the powerful potential for fungi and mushrooms to break down toxins in soil and restore health and fertility.
A sane climate-change policy would support this research and more.
Compost and Compost Tea: Cities would separate organic matter from garbage and compost it – some already do. Composting clinics would be established where people could learn to compost their own food wastes. Composting would be taught in schools as one of the basic life skills, along with the three R’s. Compost tea brewers that create rich inoculants would.
Vermiculture: Communities would establish worm banks to encourage vermiculture and compost tea brewers to create rich inoculants. Mycelium banks would be created in every community to propagate local strains of beneficial fungi that could be used for food, medicine, to improve soil fertility and break down toxins. Compost toilets and methane digestors would be legalized and subsidized, especially in rural areas, to deal with human and concentrated animal waste.
Biochar: Forest waste, and some urban waste streams such as cardboard and wood scraps, can produce biochar, charcoal made under special conditions that preserves much of the carbon in its source and turns it into rich habitat for micro-organims. Biochar can be added to soil as an amendment that increases fertility, provides habitat for beneficial micro-organisms, and helps to hold water.Cities could establish their own biochar kilns to process some of their waste streams. Rural areas could build kilns to handle the thinnings from forestry and some of the agricultural residue. The heat from the kilns could be used to heat buildings or water or to produce electricity. Super-efficient biochar woodstoves can be used to cook food while producing biochar, and they could be distributed throughout the less-developed world to help conserve wood supplies while producing soil amendments. Albert Bates, in his book The Biochar Solution, explores these and many other exciting possibilities. http://www.amazon.com/The-Biochar-Solution-Farming-Climate/dp/0865716773
Trees and Forests
Preserve the Pristine: We would impose an absolute moratorium on the clear-cutting of old growth, including boreal, temperate and tropical rain forests, which are huge sinks for carbon and irreplaceable sources of biodiversity.
Sustainable forestry: We would shift away from ecologically damaging clearcuts to sustainable practices, selective harvesting, pruning, and thinning. We’d revive ancient techniques such as coppicing and pollarding, and find uses for poles and smaller timbers.
Reforestation: We would fund and encourage tree planting - not timber factory monocultures but diverse forest systems. Cities would plant street trees for shade, beauty and fruit, and might maintain community forests in outlying areas for recreation, wood, and ecosystem management. Marginal areas such as the Sahel in North Africa can use Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration to restore woodlands and provide forage and firewood.
Agroforestry: Food for humans can be grown in many ways that preserve and encourage forests. Row crops can be surrounded by hedgerows or interplanted with allees of useful trees. Food forests produce food, fodder, fiber, medicine and more in systems that mimic natural forests. ‘Fedges’ are food-producing hedges. City parks could plant food forests that would provide opportunities for urban dwellers to forage and feast on nature’s bounty.
We could phase out industrial agriculture and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and shift to organic agriculture and regenerative growing techniques that preserve habitat and build soil. To make this change, we could give farmers and ranchers financial support and incentives.
Perennial Food Systems: Much of our agriculture is based on annuals, grains and vegetables that live for one season and need to be replanted. Instead, we could support the research and development of more perennial crops, that do not need constant replanting, and use the thousands of species available, from tree crops to berries to herbs, to establish perennial food systems. Eric Toensmeier has a great resource for perennial plants on his website: http://www.perennialsolutions.org/meet-eric-toensmeier-perennial-solutions-edible-permaculture-books-videos-workshops-organic-gardening.html
Low-till and no-till food growing systems: Systems exist for growing annuals in ways that involve minimal tilling. More research and support for farmers to adapt these techniques would aid in the shift away from erosive soil disturbance.
Local food systems: Cities could establish nearby agricultural zones, protecting prime farmland from development. Suburban lawns can be transformed to productive gardens or food forests. Farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture partnerships where consumers link directly to farmers, market gardens, roof gardens, school garden programs and community gardens are all strategies to help shift food production back to local areas. The Local Food movement is already growing, and could be encouraged with tax benefits, grants and subsidies.
Grasslands co-evolved with grazers and predators, and need both for their health. Grasslands store fertility in the form of soil organic carbon, underground where it will not be released into the atmosphere by fire. They have the potential to be enormous carbon sinks by replenishing soil fertility, which will also heal erosion and restore damaged water cycles.
Where possible, we can restore predators and keystone species where possible—for example, bringing wolves back to Yellowstone regenerated the ecology of streams and forests by changing animal behavior.
Holistic range management, also called mob grazing is a powerful tool to reverse desertification. It was developed by Alan Savory who now directs the Savory Institute. http://www.savoryinstitute.com/ Livestock is managed by grazing in bunches confined to small areas that move frequently, which mimics the way wild herds behave when predators are present. Grass is grazed down hard, the thatch is broken up and pounded into the soil and fertilized with the animals’ wastes – and then they move on and give the grass time to recover and regrow. With each grazing, the grasses shed roots underground which decay and build soil. Ranchers can run more livestock per acre than with conventional methods, while regenerating marginal land. See Alan Savory’s TED talk at: https://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change
Water is one of the key issues in a parched and overheating world. And water is a key necessity for life, for the growth of plants and the viability of soil life. Permaculture offers powerful tools for harvesting and conserving water and rehydrating the land.
Water as a human right: Water is necessary for life. Communities should be in control of their own water systems. Water should not be privatized or viewed as a source of profit. In a world where water is becoming ever more scarce and precious due to climate change, polluting water should be not be allowed. Industries that by their nature pollute water should be required to restore all water to drinking-water standards. Practices such as fracking which endanger underground aquifers should be banned.
Water as a right of nature: Not just humans depend on water. It’s the key driver of multiple ecosystems, of fisheries, wetlands, migratory birds, and all of life. Other creatures besides us also have a right to water, and safeguarding that right will, in the end, benefit us by fostering the survival of healthy ecosystems around us. Adopting water conservation methods and farming techniques which are not wasteful of water can allow us to maintain healthy river flows for fisheries and an adequate supply of water for all.
Water-harvesting earthworks: Swales – ditches with berms on contour – ponds, keyline systems which move water slowly across the landscape, mulch, and many more techniques exist which can slow, spread, and sink the water that falls on the land, infiltrating the soil, building water lenses and replenishing aquifers, and preventing erosion by capturing runoff.
Urban water harvesting: In urban areas, mini-swales, rain gardens, curb cuts and porous pavement can harvest rainfall and infiltrate excess into the land, reducing the need for watering and preventing the overload on sewers during storms.
Roof catchment: Roofs can be fitted with gutters to capture rainwater and direct it into storage tanks, making it available for gardens and other uses.
Graywater: Water from laundry, showers and sinks can be captured, filtered with simple systems and used to grow trees, shrubs, ornamentals and lawns.
Aquaponics: Greens and fish can be produced in systems that recirculate the water. The fish wastes fertilize the plants, the plants clean the water. These systems use 70-90 per cent less water than conventional farming and can produce large amounts of food in small spaces. In greenhouses, they can produce greens all winter in cold climates.
Laws, regulations and policies: In some places, rainwater catchment or graywater re-use are illegal. Laws and regulations need to be changed, and model codes developed that will be easy for regulators to adopt.
Making the Transition
Many of these solutions have something in common. They involve more thought, observation and labor than conventional practices. In a world in which unemployment is a huge problem, this could be a benefit. But in an economy set up to favor heavy inputs of energy rather than inputs of labor, it’s a drawback. To make the transition feasible and sustainable, we need a new form of economics.
Our current economy is designed to maximize profit and concentrate wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many and the planet. A sane economics would instead favor and reward those practices which lead to a healthy ecology and a thriving community. That’s a huge transformation. Some steps along the way might be:
Hold Corporations Accountable for the Damage: If I were to go into my neighbor’s house and slip poison into her dinner, I’d be a criminal. But if a corporation poisons the water, the soil, or the air, they are rarely penalized beyond at most a financial slap on the wrist. As a result, the environmental and human costs of their products and practices are not part of their accounting, they are ‘externalities’. And responsible corporations are penalized with higher costs of production than those borne by irresponsible companies. Governments can change this by requiring financial and legal liability from corporations. The tar sands would shut down if the companies involved had to pay for the cancers downstream. No nukes could be built in the US if our government no longer provided insurance for the builders. Oil companies would soon go out of business if they had to pay for the Gulf Oil Spill or shoulder the real costs of broken pipelines and spills.
Government action: Governments, through taxes, grants and subsidies, can help us make the transition to a regenerative economy.
Investors and funders: Private investors and funders, large and small, can put resources into programs and enterprises that help make these needed shifts.
Entrepreneurs: Inventive and energetic folks can start new businesses that follow the ethics and employ regenerative practices.
Consumers: We cannot shop our way out of climate change. The needed changes are too big, and the destruction is too vast, for us to simply buy green and assume that will be enough. But we can make choices to support local businesses and producers that care for the earth, the people and the future, and help keep their enterprises viable.
Hope and Action
The earth, the people, and the future, are all at stake right now. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is directly related to the concentration of wealth and power here on earth, and we can easily feel overwhelmed by the task of transformation. We need both huge, systemic changes, and immediate small reforms, and both seem difficult to make. But we have many solutions available to us, and many reasons to let hope galvanize us into positive action.
The solution to both our social and ecological solutions is the same: community. Restore the community of caring and sharing, understand that community means the interconnection of people with the environment and natural communities that sustain us, restore power and resources to communities, and trust in the resilience of the community of life. We have already altered the world, and it will never be the same again. But if we take action to stop the damage and employ the solutions, if we partner with nature and our great earth-healing allies, it can still be a beautiful, thriving, life-sustaining place for ourselves, for the life around us, and for future generations.
Culture of Debate
We must foster a culture that popularizes an understanding of complex, often ambiguous social, political, and technical issues. This requires an infrastructure for civic debate. Alternative media networks can develop rapidly, melding user-generated content and professional productions. CurrentTV is one prototype. Mainstream media obscures vital ecological and social issues while focusing on meaningless distractions. Social technologies could support the rapid dissemination of vital information about the state of the world.
- Promote people’s imagination and free will to empower them to make changes on a local level. Noncorporate media. Peer reviewed social wiki. Noncorporate social network. Without appropriate peer review and appropriate guidance, this will only generate more consumption, use and abuse.
In the past times of strife and war, humanity has demonstrated its ability to come together for a common cause, forming initiatives where the collective accepts shared sacrifice for the greater good. These periods are often remembered happily, even joyfully, by those who experienced them. Human beings possess an intrinsic altruism, as well as an innate capacity for political organization. Our current social system denies and suppresses these positive traits, to support a system of hierarchical control, ruled by specialized experts.
The transition to a post-carbon world is the most difficult challenge that humanity has ever faced. We still confront collective denial, as well as the system’s tremendous inertia. If we can change our social practices quickly, we can avoid the most destructive possible outcomes. These include our possible extinction as a species. We have the potential to embrace this challenge and undergo a rapid evolution of consciousness as a species, making a transition to a regenerative society, a new way of being, where humanity realizes itself as one planetary tribe, and all take care of all. That is the silver lining in the dark cloud.
Organizations and Attempts
- Charity Water
- Gates Foundation
- Myrawani.org, (2014). Myra Wani. [online] Available at: http://www.myrawani.org/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2014].
- Endless Beginnings, (2014). Emerging Complex Meta-System for Collaborative Planetary Solutions. [online] Available at: http://allisasis.com/emerging-complex-meta-system-for-collaborative-planetary-solutions/ [Accessed 30 Jul. 2014].