Posts tagged with Lawrence

Good news: The Lawrence Peak Oil Plan is Finished!

In April 2007, Films For Action screened The End of Suburbia to an audience of 180 people, and launched a campaign to have the Lawrence City Commission create a Peak Oil Task force, which would study the local impacts of peak oil and propose recommendations for the city to take action on.

At this time, Films For Action mailed to every commissioner and many of the planning commissioners a copy of The End of Suburbia along with many research documents and a proposed resolution for Lawrence. We also met with two of the commissioners to discuss the idea of a task force. After this, the campaign went into hibernation for a year, when it was picked up again by the Sustainability Action Network, a local sustainability advocacy group (of which I am a member). After giving a presentation on the issue to the City Commission, we were successful in seeing the commission pass the resolution, and now, finally, after a lot of hard work from the Task Force, they've finally finished their report!

The final report will be presented to our City commissioners this Tuesday, December 13th at 6:30pm at City Hall. I encourage everyone that's interested and in support of the City adopting this plan to come down and voice and/or show their support. Many thanks go to S.A.N., the City Commission and the Sustainability Advisory board for taking leadership on this issue. It made Lawrence one of around a dozen of the first cities in the U.S. to pass such a resolution.

Of course, after the plan is adopted, the real work begins, so let's all see what we can do to help the city implement the recommended actions, and think of new ideas to take us even further. If it takes a village to raise a child, the same must be true to create sustainable communities. Directing the future of a city is a tough job, and it seems funny sometimes to think a handful of people could do it alone, without much democratic participation from all the other people who live there. Our city planners (and democracy itself) will surely benefit if we can all think about ways we can get involved in improving our city on a regular basis.

Finally, I want to give special thanks to Michael Almon, a member of S.A.N. who also served on the Peak Oil Task Force for the last two years. Michael has been working tirelessly to help make Lawrence a more sustainable and wonderful place to live, for so many years, and I just have to give him my thanks for all the hard work and dedication he has given to these projects.

Cheers!

Reply

Dealing with Collapse: Why Reaching out to Young People Is So Important

Reaching out to young people is especially critical at this time. With mounting psycho-social stress attributed to an increasingly uncertain future, young people are going to need support grappling with the social effects of the coming collapse. (If this statement seems strong, click the link for context)

The world is rife with uncertainty about our fate on the planet. Declining ecosystems and biodiversity, a quickly destabilizing climate and an end to the cheap energy we're currently addicted to leaves a lot to question. With all this going on, I think it's more important than ever to have elders that can guide young people through this initiation into adulthood - towards fully realizing the world with eyes wide open.

As for myself, I had my personal awakening to this information on my own, when I was 22 - circa 2005. My parents weren't aware of much of this information. My friends were not that political at the time. None of it was taught in school and the mainstream media was still promoting the fantasy-notion that the status quo can just keep rolling along, into a sunset of infinite growth and record-breaking profits.

It was strange to wake up to this world of understanding relatively on my own. My early companions were books like Ishmael, Culture Jam, and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. There was no one in my community that was there to say, "Yes I understand what you're going through. I had my own moment of insight and it was difficult to come to terms with. You feel like everything you were told as a kid was a bill of lies. American democracy, the free-enterprise system, our heroic national history, the ideal of the American dream - where anybody can make it rich if you just try hard enough - all of these cultural memes - together what Kalle Lasn calls "Brand America" appear to have been a sham."

"I hear you. It's a tough pill to swallow, and certainly it must be frustrating to realize you were born into this crazy world. That the world had gone mad long before you were even born. I felt the same thing, but I want to reassure you: a far more joyous and beautiful meaning to the world awaits on the other side of this difficulty. And with so many mass illusions being shattered by the economic collapse and all the other challenges we're facing, everything is now on the table. The world may be crazy, but this is an amazing opportunity, too. We have the potential to completely rethink and redesign virtually every facet of modern life. What kind of paradigm we transition to in the next generation is entirely up to our own imaginations and creativity."

I want to tell the kids growing up today this message. I would have loved to have been told this when I was young, to have some guidance that seemed trustworthy. As more people wake up and abandon the "just go to school, get a job and make lots of money" mantra, we are left without any real sense of an alternative path. What does a young kid do when she realizes that the map she's been given by her parents and school teachers to navigate this world is almost entirely out-dated?

We need new maps to help us navigate the transition, and we need to make these maps available to people of all ages, at a community level as well as a purely informational level.

On an informational level, it has been Films For Action's goal to create this map on our website, divided into the 42 general subjects that we believe are essential to building a society that is just, sustainable and socially fulfilling. As people dive into these sections we believe that a personal and collectively-shared map will begin to reveal itself, where all the dots will start connecting and we'll find the strength and confidence in our life's direction. We'll have a new map to navigate the transition from "Empire to Earth Community," as David Korten puts it.

At a community level, we need to build relationships that support each other during these challenging times, both informally and in our educational institutions. We need each other to "carry the light for each other," as my friend Michael Weil puts it. We need to support the people who are going through this transformation right now, and to be a light to the people who are still asleep, dreaming the old American dream.

More formally, we need to engage with our local schools and colleges. Amazingly, as eco-literacy advocate David Orr writes, "we are still educating the young as if there were no planetary emergency." Schools by and large continue to prepare students for the status quo jobs and market conditions that existed in the 1950s. We need schools that are preparing students for the world that is actually going to exist when they get out of school, not the fantasy world of infinite growth and business-as-usual that is currently being presented. 

I was inspired by my friend Brady Karlin's idea to create "transition" mentoring associations, where college students mentor high school students, high school students mentor Jr. High students, and so on down the ages - enabling young kids to have slightly older peers that support them, while allowing the older generation to get a sense of their own confidence and autonomy - their worth as someone who has something important to teach as well as to learn.

They would embody the transition movement in that these mentoring relationships would focus on helping each other navigate the challenges our society faces, learning the skills that will be essential in a low-carbon world. Ultimately, we need to bring the lexicon and understandings of the transition movement into the curriculum of every class room and department in higher and lower education.

Being the creative research labs of our society, our educational centers have a critical role to play in cultivating a brain trust of creative young minds that are approaching their careers and life path with a firm understanding of the challenges and opportunities they'll have to create a new world.

 

Reply

An Open Letter to Our City Commissioners: We Need Visionary, Creative Solutions to Old Problems

Today's LJWorld editorial about voter apathy got me thinking. I also find our abysmal voter turnout deeply troubling, and I think I may have a solution.

If we want to inspire more people to go to the polls, they need something to get excited about. We're going to be facing some serious challenges in the coming years, and this can easily get pretty depressing to think about. Simply trying to figure out how we can get back to the 'good old days' (pre 2008 financial collapse) isn't going to get people jazzed up, because frankly I think most people know those days are long gone.

What we really need right now is a city commission that can see ways for Lawrence to become a vibrant ecological city as we transition into an era where climate change and peak oil are major realities. Our city commission has done some great things so far. Forming climate change and peak oil task forces were both a great start, and hiring a dedicated sustainability director was a great move. Now it's time we move from these foundation-building efforts to start implementing some really bold actions.

If we can get ahead of the curve now, we have the potential for Lawrence to thrive and attract people and jobs to our city when times get tough, because we spent time preparing while other cities floundered with the status quo.

We have to look at peak oil the way any innovative company would: identify the challenges that $150+ barrel oil is going to bring, understand how that's going to negatively impact your current business model, then think of ways that you can change these negatives into positives, especially considering many companies are going to be blindsided by this change, since they'd prefer to milk short-term profits. Understanding the geological certainty that conventional crude oil has now peaked and is going to get increasingly more expensive is the same as getting a sure-fire stock tip that gold is going to double or triple in the next several years, so dump the Enron stocks before the bubble bursts and make your investments in the coming low-carbon economy now.

All this labors one single point. What we need is vision - a comprehensive view of an alternative paradigm that is better than the one we have now, and which takes the science of climate change and peak oil seriously.

I personally believe that a world with expensive oil could be preferable to a world with cheap oil, if we have the vision to see it.

For example, the end of cheap energy is going to cause globalization to reverse: Wal-Mart's business model is going to stagnate, and local businesses will thrive because the cost of long-distant imports from China, for example, will no longer be subsidized by cheap transport fuels. Local is going to become competitive again.

Relocalization is going to be an essential strategy for cities to thrive in the future - fostering the growth of a fully functioning local food economy, and cottage industries providing essential goods and services. We also need to create incentives for businesses and individuals to start investing in local renewable energy sources and for the city to rapidly support alternative transportation. These options may not be used immediately, but will once gasoline costs more than $5 a gallon (and it's already this expensive in many countries around the world).

What a more localized world means to us as citizens is the re-birth of community. It means strengthening local relationships, and finding happiness in people more than things. It means growing food with your neighbors, slowing down our overly stressful schedules and enjoying more time with our family and friends. There's a new film out called "The Economics of Happiness," and it lays out beautifully how globalization isn't actually making the world happier past a certain point, and that a new economic paradigm based on local community is providing a more promising alternative.

Acknowledging peak oil and climate change does not necessitate a gloomy outlook - it simply means acknowledging the trends of the future and finding creative, positive solutions to adapt to these new realities.

No matter who wins this year's election, I hope all of our commissioners will seize this moment to think creatively and differently about our economic problems, and not rely on the advice of the old economic strategies of the past. They certainly worked once, but it's clear we need to start thinking outside of the Chamber of Commerce's playbook (I can't speak for the local chapter, but the national organization didn't even recognize that climate change was real until very recently, and to my knowledge they're still not even mentioning peak oil).

With a fresh perspective, we can stop trying to make the future less bad, worrying about what we might have to lose; we can start thinking about everything we have to gain from imagining a way of life that's even better than the one we have now.

To jump start this conversation, I want to outline 7 policy positions that I hope all five of our next city commissioners will adopt as a common platform to help inspire and give direction to their time in office:

1) In favor of adopting the Environmental Chapter of the Horizon 2020 Comprehensive Plan, which would ensure that prime agricultural soils around the city would be preserved http://www.lawrenceplanning.org/documents/Environment_Approved.pdf

2) In favor of significantly increasing bike lanes - also known as "Complete Streets" - in the city http://www.completestreets.org/

3) In favor of mixed-use, high-density development - also known as New Urbanism http://www.newurbanism.org/

4) In favor of creating a city feed-in tariff to spur solar power growth by individuals and businesses http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed-in_...

5) In favor of passing a Food Sovereignty Bill http://www.filmsforaction.org/News/Maine_Town_Becomes_First_to_Declare_Food_Sovereignty/

6) In favor of adopting a Zero-Waste strategy that will aim to reduce landfill waste by 90% by 2040 http://www.garyliss.com/id18.html

7) Supports Richard Register's vision of creating ecologically healthy 'eco-cities' http://ecocitybuilders.org/

Cheers!

Reply