BUILDING WITH THE
BREATH OF LIFE - Tom Bender - revised
draft text 8 Jan.1999
. RESTORING PLANETARY
AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE ON CHANGE
Boredom, frustration, a feeling that what we're doing doesn't matter, that we don't seem to be capable of doing something, that everything is going to hell anyway!
As we get older, these symptoms have happened frequently enough that we know them as the inevitable precursors of major change, of a leap into a new dimension of being. We've seen it in ourselves, and in others. We've seen it with children - learning to crawl, walk, talk, do algebra - that frustration when something new is fomenting, is almost together, we know we should be able to do it, but it hasn't caught spark yet. Being cranky and hard to live with usually goes with it. As the old saying goes, "It's always darkest just before dawn."
It's worth considering that our whole culture may well be in one of those "labor pains" periods. Evolution hasn't stopped. Our present condition is unlikely to be the final and immutable endpoint to which all evolution has worked. What might the symptoms be of this kind of major change on a societal level?
One sure sign is dissatisfaction with the way things are. Inherent in that is a sense of something better to which we are already comparing the present. A corollary sign is when people adamantly and emotionally take divergent positions about how to deal with present "problems." That reflects a strong consensus for change, but not yet consensus on a viewpoint to direct that change. Another sign is the fragmented emergence of elements of that "new something" around us. A sign that we have reached the nexus of change is when a clear vision of how and why things could be better coalesces, and consensus starts to form around it.
We seem to qualify on all levels! Viewed from a "cultural breakdown" perspective, for example, our divorce rates are frightening, leading to punitive attempts to stuff Jack (or Jackie) back into the Box. From an evolutionary perspective, we are demanding far more out of marriage. Caroline Myss says it well in ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT:
"..... most contemporary marriages require a strong sense of "self" for success, rather than the abdication of "self" that was required in traditional marriages....Many people ascribe the breakdown of their marriage to the fact that their spouse had given them no support for their emotional, psychological, and intellectual needs, and as a result they had to seek out a true partnership."1
Robert Gilman, editor of IN CONTEXT magazine, sees
us in evolutionary transition from empire to a planetary cultural period,
with changes in geographic organization, hierarchy, economic base, and beliefs
occurring as great as occurred earlier in change from the tribal to empire
periods. He talks about why our old institutions can't handle the "juice"
of new levels of operation. The dimensions in which the significant changes
are occurring are totally outside of the dimensions those existing institutions
are based in and able to track. Today, for example, while we busily track
gross production in the monetary economy, we manage to ignore what is happening
to our natural capital, human capital and social capital.
Our beliefs, dreams, and fears; and the actual governance of society are changing even more rapidly than our technology. It is these lead changes that are already coalescing around new organizing views of our world.2
Energetics plays a key role in this evolutionary shift/jump now underway, appearing to fulfill the pivotal role of providing the better vision or model of how our universe operates and what our role is in it. Take it either as an old or a new vision. Take it as clarified, confirmed, reforged. Take it merged with, reintegrating, and giving new meaning to the rational/individualistic developments that have given strength to our present culture. However we view it, it is providing an operative vision with far more power, inclusiveness, and success than other viewpoints we have held for a long while.
LIMITS TO GROWTH
Energetics, in combination with our new global capabilities of personal and cultural growth and intervention in natural processes, appears to be emerging on its own into a successful new cultural model. There are, however, other factors which are likely to nudge our more rapid adoption of it. This is true particularly as we discover it to provide a vehicle for resolving intractable problems we have developed and to provide a far more desirable quality of life in the process.
These factors are, of course, the Four Horsemen of Our Material Apocalypse - oil depletion, resource exhaustion, ecological damage, and growth in population and material demands. The spirits they ride are Hopelessness, Hate, Intolerance, and Aggression.
Simply put, the days of our present patterns are numbered. 3We currently put more than 50% of net photosynthesis on the planet to human use.4 All that goes to only one of the millions of species whose complex interactions are essential to the stability of our supporting ecosystems. Within the next 35 years, if nothing changed, population and consumption growth5 would push that to over 100%. The likelihood of even approaching this without total ecological collapse is somewhat slim.
The "ecological footprint" of the land area necessary to supply our urban areas with food, forestry products, and energy already exceeds what can sustainably be maintained without our current subsidy from fossil fuel reserves. The Netherlands, for example, requires 14 times the nation's entire land area to provide and import produce to meet their consumption, while the U.S. consumes 80% more than could possibly be produced without fossil fuels by converting all ecologically productive land to human use.6
Continuation of present growth patterns is expected to exhaust worldwide oil reserves in the next 25-50 years.7 Petroleum economists and geophysicists now solidly project that worldwide petroleum production will peak in the next five to ten years and be virtually exhausted in the next 50 years.8 When we finally run out of oil - that final last drop - turns out not to be an important issue. What is important is what happens when and after oil production peaks, which is happening right now.
"Peaking" is the point where population and demand for oil continue to increase, while oil production can no longer be increased for technical and political reasons. It is where a permanent and dramatic shift occurs from the buyer's market we have enjoyed (cheap as you can pump it) to a seller's market (as expensive as you can push it). It brings a permanent skyrocketing of oil prices. It is the point where the oil available per capita (the twenty "energy slaves" each of us have that have constituted much of our material wealth) begins a rapid shift from a flood to a trickle as demand escalates and production dwindles. Actual "exhaustion" of our oil reserves, in contrast, occurs long after the trickle becomes so small that the timing of that "last drop" is irrelevant. [Ivanhoe graph] [remaining oil graph]
Other studies indicate U.S. resource demands would have to be reduced approximately 80% to achieve sustainability without current fossil fuel subsidies.9 Meanwhile, the ecologically productive land area available per capita is dramatically decreasing. Human population thus already exceeds what can be supported at our present consumption levels as oil depletes.
World grain production was projected by the Limits to Growth model to peak in 1994. Per capita grain production actually peaked in 1984, and has been steadily declining since.10 Ocean fisheries peaked in 1989 and are declining rapidly. Similar limits are be being reached in ore-grade metals, water, and other resources. 11
Increased virulence, resistance, and mutability of human disease vectors is being reported at the same time that population density, mobility and potential susceptibility are increasing.12 Extreme weather fluctuations and consequent damage to crops and buildings are already occurring, corresponding with predictions of early impacts of global warming trends. Larger impact of these trends is expected over the next decades. Last year, for the first time, all five of the most respected global climate warming models - both public and private - agreed. The insurance industry, faced with record payouts, is quickly becoming one of the more urgent voices for change.
Together, these indices suggest that significant change is imminent and probably unavoidable. The good news is that we are now discovering that the changes involved can be significantly for the better. Every study done on energy efficiency indicates that it makes economic sense regardless of social goals. Immense economic savings are possible when we do shift from growth to sustainability.
What we've grown used to and have forgotten is that growth itself is incredibly expensive:
1. Infrastructure Costs - We currently spend somewhere between 33% to 40% of our time and resources on creating the infrastructure to accommodate more people and things.13 Stabilizing growth totally avoids these current expenditures. A population doubling means duplicating our entire stock of houses, water systems, power plants, cities, roads - as well as prematurely demolishing existing ones. It also means spending more on feeding and educating those additional people to adulthood.
2. Costs of Inequity - Growth has been claimed as necessary "to help the poor". In actuality, growth over the last twenty years has dramatically worsened the condition of the poor and concentration of our wealth among the rich.14 It is conscious government policy that has resulted in concentration of wealth to the point where one percent of the population now owns 50% of all our wealth. The median US household income for wage-earners is currently $31,000, with more than 13% of households under the monetary poverty level of $15,000. A fully equitable distribution of personal income would amount to $59,000 per household.15
An equitable society could totally eliminate poverty and support everyone at the current median income level of $31,000 per household. Because of the immense current imbalance in wealth, to do so would surprisingly need 47% less work, and equivalently fewer resources than our current society now uses to maintain poverty and inequality!
3. Debt Financing Costs - To achieve growth, we have also developed the habit of paying for personal expenditures, corporate expansion, and governmental infrastructure alike consistently through debt purchasing (credit cards, government bonds and bank loans). That debt purchasing has resulted in an across-the-board 20% surcharge on our cost of living, without any substantive benefit.16
Together, stabilizing growth and dealing directly with the inequality in our society can permanently release us from almost 75% of our present energy, material, financial and human costs of living, without lowering our material living standard, and without need for any "technical fixes".17
Said another way, greed and growth alone currently quadruple our cost of living.18 These already immense costs will skyrocket as we approach closer to the limits of growth mentioned above.
4. System Inefficiency Costs - Our belief in an endless cornucopia of resources and wealth has also caused us to ignore care and efficiency in all of our institutional structures, production processes, and living patterns. The result is that they have developed almost inconceivable waste - which now represents an equally great opportunity for improved effectiveness and efficiency.
Well-documented research over the last twenty years has shown and is beginning to produce factor of ten savings (90% reduction) in energy and resources needed in almost every sector of society. 19,20
When we put just these four opportunities together, they add up to ways to reduce our resource consumption, ecological impact, and use of our time considerably more than appears needed to achieve sustainability.21 ,22
This overview has looked at these issues very briefly and in isolation. In reality they are interactive. Some give resource savings but not financial or employment ones. Others, as in any ecological system, have multiple and interactive effects and savings. 23
What is important is that the savings possible are far more than enough to totally transform a once frightening prospect of change into an opportunity for significant betterment of our lives.24
Curiously, just making efficiency improvements, without dealing with the underlying values of greed, growth, and violence can only worsen the problems. It would result in us, twenty-five years down the road, having twice the population, fewer resources, and having already used up the opportunities for releasing resources out of our operating patterns to finance a transition to sustainability.25
THE NON-ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF SUSTAINABILITY
The real rewards of sustainable communities, however, go far beyond the material ones inherent in resource efficient buildings, transit-oriented land use, and renewable energy sources. The true benefits of a sustainable society lie in the totally different dimensions of meaning and connection that give such a society its cohesion, meaning and enduring value.26 From those dimensions, we quickly see the true nature of current cultural practices. Our habits of pricing things at, for example, "$49.95" instead of "$50" is at root only a blatant pattern of intentional deceit.
Our true wealth does not lie in the economic/monetary realm. The source of our real wealth is not depletion of our resources, increase in our numbers, or taking from others. As I indicated in BUILDING REAL WEALTH:
"A truly wealthy individual is one who has the love and respect of others and the ability to give; equitable opportunity for the physical, emotional and spiritual health which the natural world can sustain; and opportunity to develop and employ their abilities and to be of real value to the community.
A truly wealthy community is one with a meaningful sense of its place in the universe; a healthy and growing diversity of capabilities, individuals and life forms; and a satisfying spiritual, emotional and material heritage, life, and prospect.
A truly wealthy world is one with a healthy and growing diversity of life forms, communities and capabilities. With this awareness, we can find far more direct and effective ways of maintaining and nurturing our wealth."27
None of this wealth requires taking from other people or other life. It, in fact, requires the opposite - our giving to and sustaining others. A community, for example, which decided to make itself beautiful and interesting, and "make where we ARE paradise", could easily make major reduction in the need for both daily and vacation travel and transportation while making everyone happier in the process.
Not only our wealth, but our well-being also, lies
outside the world of dollars. Some dimensions of that well-being affected
by move to sustainability are:
CURING DISEASES OF THE SPIRIT
As mentioned earlier, our most daunting and seemingly unconnected social problems today stem directly from following the beacons of greed and growth. Unemployment, drug addiction, abuse; crime, obesity, mental and psychological illness - all are symptoms of a single cultural disease of the spirit. They are all temptations present in every society. We fall prey to them through the lack of self-esteem, mutual respect, and being of value to each other and our community inherent in our material, greed, and power-centered culture.
The numbers of people unable to function in our society is increasing rapidly - people destroyed by lack of love, not being valued, absence of opportunity; by resultant abuse, drug and alcohol addiction. They in turn create non-functional families, compounding the damage. To our great danger, we neglect the human, psychological, emotional, spiritual and communal dimensions of life.
To be sustainable, a community must nurture, not neglect, the emotional and spiritual well-being of all. The nature of its work, institutions, and all interactions must nurture self-esteem, mutual respect, and being of value to each other and the community. The principles of equity, security, sustainability, responsibility, giving and sacredness are the healing path for these central diseases of the spirit in growth societies, and living from the heart the way to act upon them.28
LIFE WITHOUT FEAR
It is curious the degree to which, in a world of apparent material plenty, life is filled with fear and worry. Fear of abuse, mugging, rape, murder. Fear of job loss, age, death. Fear of auto accidents, plane crashes, hurricanes, floods. Fear of inadequacy, failure, nuclear war, crippling disease. Worry about what the future may, or may not, hold.
In a community where we each care about, honor, and ensure the well-being of all life; where life is based on equity rather than greed, where we don't have to hide our fears and struggle alone, life gains a security and fullness unknown in a society of greed and growth. When the primary causes of violence and the reasons to fear others are minimized and violence itself not valued as a base belief of society, positive relations are possible. Where we identify with the well-being of all creation, the larger climatic, geologic, and evolutionary patterns of nature are seen and honored from within a different understanding. True security comes from equitable access to non-depleting resources, a stable supporting eco-system, and a real community to support and back our needs and ensure the emotional health of all.
The life-nurturing values and principles upon which sustainable communities are based result in freedom from some of the most emotionally-crippling dimensions of a society based on greed and growth.
AN ECONOMY OF GIVING, NOT TAKING
The economics of a sustainable community are far different from that of a greed and growth centered one. It, of course, employs accounting of full social and ecological costs, and restricts its resource use to renewable ones in sustainable quantities. Instead of single-focus engineering analyses, it employs an ecological one - keeping intact the connectedness of things, and knowing that a real solution isn't arrived at to a problem unless it also helps resolve multiple other problems.
Its economics knows the true value of sharing - of allowing multiple beneficiaries of a single action or product. It accounts for the gifts of the rest of creation in providing for our needs, and our need to provide for its well-being in return. It eliminates the false distinction between work and leisure to restore freedom, and the ability to give, into our work. It looks at meaningful rewards for all we do with all our time.29
But even more centrally, a sustainable community has an economics of giving, not of taking. Giving is an integral part of loving, and loving is the root of holding things sacred essential to sustainability. It enriches the giver and the receiver both, and creates multiple value out of each and every exchange. If 'What can I give in this situation?' is in our hearts every time we talk with or do something with someone, we not only leave a legacy of gifts in addition to our intended interaction, but we generate an enduring climate of trust, mutual caring, thankfulness and happiness which moves outward like the waves in the sea.30
The gift economy of a community based on love and honoring provides multiple benefits, and fulfills our emotional as well as material needs, while supplying the glue of love and trust essential to any enduring relationship.
LIVING FROM THE HEART
Excess material wealth and numbers, inequity, and unconcern for the rest of life poison our souls. Taking from rather than caring for others closes off our hearts. Closing ourselves off from the pain we cause loses us the connectedness that gives life meaning. It sentences us to a life of psychological and emotional barrenness and meaningless existence. The only thing that can alleviate this pain is love, and opening ourselves to the vulnerability and pain of allowing love even in the face of our unloving behavior.31
A world where everyone wears masks, hides their feelings, and closes off connection with what lies outside their skin leads quickly to collective insanity. We grow up thinking we're weird because we're not happy - when all we are seeing is the masks that hide the feelings of inadequacy, unhappiness, anger and confusion of others. We close ourselves off from the flow of energy that generates, pervades and nurtures all life, with resulting illness and atrophy of our own lives.
As energetics reminds us, in truth we can't lie. Our super-conscious interconnectedness knows the difference between what comes from the heart and what comes from the head. In the absence of experiencing living from the heart, we mistake our own masks and those of others for the underlying reality.
The actions necessary to move from a world of greed and violence to one of generosity and giving are simple and can be initiated by any of us. Speak from the heart. Let down our masks. Be willing to be vulnerable, and open our hearts to others. Honor and hold sacred all life. Deal with the roots of our fears. Learn to give. Seek wisdom and joy, not power.
These changes involve humility, trust, and vulnerability; facing and dealing with pain and its causes; dealing directly with hard questions of equity and fairness; and a 180 degree shift in the goals and operation of every aspect of our society.
When we speak from the heart, we speak the truth - our truth. It may not be a universal truth, but it is a real truth grown out of the unique life and experience of each of us. I can take your truth and add it to mine, and find a greater one. Your fear of losing a job if we cut back on overlogging or wasteful oil use is as real as my fear of a bigger collapse if we don't. In the open, we can take each of these truths and bring them together into more inclusive solutions that encompass both.
Speaking from the heart, we can touch real issues, fight real demons, and make real progress. We can achieve true consensus and group support for all actions. With that, we lose all patience with the invisible walls created by our conventional patterns and rituals of conferences and meetings and confrontations which prevent real progress.
Living from the heart is the essence of true
connection needed for sustainable and effective interpersonal relationships.
It yields both the opportunity for others to understand and give to us,
and for us to find right action in our interaction with others. It helps
us gain the true rewards of self-esteem, mutual respect, and being of value
to the community for our efforts - not just the material substitutes we
settle for today.
Living in a sacred way transforms our surroundings as well as our lives. Not promoting consumption removes advertising from busses and billboards and the public eye. Living from the heart transforms our cities into ones which reflect the wealth of passions, not inner poverty. Putting our effort into better, rather than more, our cities can, like Prague, come to reflect the culmination of pouring a thousand years of love into the places we live.32
Learning to honor all of creation gives all of creation an honored place in our surroundings - trees for trees, not trees for shade or cooling or recreation parks. Shrines and places of silence give ways to express thanks, to connect deeply with the rest of creation, to honor the special power and energy of a place, and for our surroundings to express the sacredness with which we hold them.
Sustainable communities provide opportunity for us to make where we are paradise, rather than to seek it through endless travel. Replacing tourism with pilgrimage transforms our energy in visiting and sharing places other than our own.33
Living in a sacred way, our surroundings become sacred to us, and reflect the sacred values underlying our lives. They take on layer after layer of meaning and value to us, and become loved and inviolate in their own right. At the same time, they give power and strength to our lives and direct our actions into healthy paths. There is no way, as Chief Seattle said, we can treat our surroundings without reverence when the earth itself is composed of the ashes of our ancestors.
CHANGE FROM A LEGAL TO A SACRED BASIS FOR SOCIETY
Our society has been based on a legalistic structure - of limited commitments easy to break. In that kind of system, those embracing greed have unmatched rewards and incentives to win. As a result, endless regulations are inevitable to even partly control the damage. The only true alternative is to find a basis for our lives and actions which makes harmful action inconceivable and rare, rather than the rule. Simple regulations then are needed only to embody and convey consensus on right action. That basis for our lives must be a sacred one.
Why a sacred basis of society? As mentioned in the first chapter, nothing less than that - our holding sacred the health of our surroundings and the well-being of all life will ensure that we act strongly enough or soon enough to ensure that health and well-being.
It doesn't take long being with someone we love, to realize that there is no way we can be happy if the person we love is dissatisfied or unhappy. Their happiness is our delight, and their lack of happiness quickly shadows our own. That is the essence of holding something sacred, and the glue of life - not laws and government regulations. All follows from that.
Honor ourselves. Honor others. Honor all life.
When we do that, the absurdity of an agriculture based on violent and futile pesticides becomes obvious, as does that of a medical system based on primary use of anti-biotics to attempt to kill parts of the web of life that sustains us. We learn, rather, to deal with causes of the imbalances that allow unbalanced growth of one part of life.
A basis to social interaction that nurtures rather than drains, tied to creating happiness rather than fighting, creates good and creates wealth for society through its process as well as its product. Its greater effectiveness in managing society's resources is merely a bonus.
LIFE WITHOUT FAILURE
Improvisational drumming is different from traditional western music in a particularly interesting way. Traditional western music has a right sequence of notes and a right way of playing. Improvisational drumming has no right sequence. Once entrained by the beat, drumming leads us without conscious effort to be part of the shared rhythm, and blesses us with the inability to do wrong. With any improvisational music, variations we make within it only enrich the music and make it respond to the immediacy of time and place within which it is occurring.
The music breaks only when we fail to incorporate whatever happens into it. One 'wrong note' is an error. It stands out that we didn't mean it. But if we repeat it again - however odd it may have been - embrace it and draw it in, acknowledge it and incorporate it, it becomes part of the path of the music. It sets the participants a new challenge, and sets the music off in a new direction. A good way to approach life, too, perhaps.
All participatory music makes clear that paying to hear the best performer in the world cannot match the joy of being part of the making of the music, or the dance, or the song. Taking part gives pleasure - to us and to others at the same time. It gives us full-body experience, learning, and catharsis. It leaves us self-esteem rather than a feeling of inferiority and of never being able to equal the professional. It gives us the value of enjoyment, beauty, and pleasure inherent in the rhythms of life, without money, skill, or fancy equipment. What a wonderful model for life - a way of living designed for success, not failure!
"Fail-proof" patterns of work and relationships are inherent parts of achieving sustainability, restoring self-esteem, healing our emotional damage, and learning to honor and know our selves as a vital and integral part of life and the goals we pursue in it. A meaningful identity with the broader flows of life also enrich and deepen our self-esteem and emotional health.
VITAL RESOURCES ARE INNER ONES
Limited material resources make us again aware of the power and value of our inner resources. We've forgotten what many of them are - will, courage, giving, endurance, anger, fear, love, curiosity, passion, intuition, resolution, resistance, wisdom, cunning, compulsion, restraint, joy, wit, hopefulness, rashness, caution, wonder, pride, humility, gratitude, forgiveness - to name a few.
Use of these resources involves us personally in the act of creating. It gives the tangible rewards of self-esteem, confidence, and community respect for our accomplishments. In many fields, the wise use of inner resources is far more vital to accomplishment than any material resources.
These resources acknowledge that our emotions are vital dimensions of our lives coming from our hearts - dimensions to be respected and used as guides and sources of energy, not brushed aside in favor of what comes only from our heads. They acknowledge the power and value of our inherent interconnectedness with others and with all life. They connect us with magic, and the power that lies outside the limits of the rational.
The patterns of life and interaction in a sustainable community give continual reminder that we, and the strengths within each of us, are one of the most vital resources of our society and planet. Our challenge is to develop them rather than ignoring them in preference for depleting material resources.
These dimensions of change alter our inner beings, and make understandable a comment in a book about South African Archbishop Desmund TuTu:
"We Africans speak about a concept difficult to render in English. We speak of UBUNTU or BOTHO. You know when it is there, and it is obvious when it is absent. It has to do with what it means to be truly human. It refers to gentleness, to compassion, to hospitality, to openness to others, to vulnerability, to be available for others and to know that you are bound up with them in the bundle of life, for a person is only a person through other persons."34
These same characteristics distinguish what it is like to live as part of a sacred and empowering world, in absolute contrast to the characteristics of life in a world of greed and self-centeredness.
CHARACTERISTICS OF AN ENDURING SOCIETY
Response to these changing conditions includes actions necessary to ensure our society is rooted in and fully embodies these qualities:
* To ensure all people have equitable access to and share of wealth, health, income, security, education, opportunity, respect, political power, and fulfilling work.
* To ensure that all life has scope to ensure well-being and development of innate capabilities.
* To remove the inequities of power, self-esteem, opportunity, resource access, and emotional health which form the base of fear and insecurity.
* To realize that biosystem health, a lasting supply of world resources, and the capabilities of human and global systems - not material consumption rates - constitute our real wealth. To act to ensure and improve the health and capabilities of these resources.
* To stabilize and restore population to supportable levels commensurate with the well-being of all life.
* To draw materials and energy only from renewable sources and at rates which can be maintained without loss or harm.
* To work within those energy and material use levels to both improve our non-material quality of life and more effectively provide for our material needs.
* To enact full ecological analysis to ensure public knowledge of the true costs of our actions.
* To live within our maintainable incomes, not take from future generations and other life, and to ensure them undiminished opportunity for fulfillment.
* To ensure that all industrial producers assume eternal responsibility for the products and byproducts they create.
* To protect, preserve, and prevent destruction or conversion to other uses of farm, forest, aquatic, and other natural resources.
* To protect natural, cultural and spiritual resources until all jurisdictions restore and enhance their own to levels which meet the needs of their populations.
* To acknowledge the primacy of immaterial rewards in personal and community health and develop giving-based principles of interaction which honor the contribution of all life to what we hold of value.
* To replace our violent forms of obtaining food and resources with ones which are based on consensus and fulfilling the needs of all parties
* To ensure all have roles in the community which offer meaningful self-esteem, mutual respect, and value to the community of all life.
* To acknowledge that our greatest cultural problems are at root diseases of the spirit. To act to improve the spiritual, mental, psychological and community dimensions of our real wealth and their expression in our communities.
* To seek the wisdom and connectedness to restore well-being to all of creation and purpose and meaning to our lives.35
Both pressed and nurtured by the forces of change, we live in a time of immense opportunity. Exposure to new people, new cultures, new ways of seeing and being, give us new mirrors in which to see our own lives - to compare, to question, and to choose the best from any and all sources to create new designs for our lives. It is a time of new vigor and new possibilities. It is also, however, a time which needs to find what fits the uniqueness of the land, the place, and the people - what will take root and flourish with a new, strengthened and enduring sense of rightness.
Each new world we touch brings us in touch with new cultural beliefs and living traditions. On the surface, each is foreign to the others. Each is foreign also to our own places. We can look to places such as Indonesia, where diverse cultures have overlaid and blended together to get a sense of the possible, and also a sense of the problems to be avoided. There is a world of wisdom and opportunity to build upon, select, and make our own into new, distinctly fitting cultures. New combinations can emerge with a flavor and attraction all their own.
Peter Rich, talking about his work with the Ndebele tribe in South Africa, showed a people who have tried on all the strange and crazy "modern" things that have flooded their country - from top hats to tin whistles.36 The surfaces of their mud-plastered homes, which temper the daily temperatures, have exploded with dramatic and subtle geometric design with the advent of European paints, whitewash, and other colored materials. Instead of leaving just "the desert" around their houses, they have created mud-plaster floored ceremonial "porches" defined by sitting-height walls around the houses, investing those spaces with powerful cultural meaning and function. They have chosen what fits into their culture and their lives - with humor and passion, no matter how incongruous it may appear at first - while ultimately rejecting what doesn't fit. That is what we all have to do.
Evolutionary forces are thus both closing off and
opening out new options for us. Such forces give impetus to the energetics
of place, draw strength from them, and are interwoven in their application.
Li, or clarity of intention, gives more nurturing surroundings. But it also
helps us clarify our real goals and needs and what contributes most powerfully
and directly to their attainment.
Sacredness, self-esteem, honoring, living from the heart, giving - the aspects of energetics of place - are the same aspects inherent in attaining sustainability in our culture. Our limits to growth are the nudge; the economic and non-economic benefits of sustainability the carrot; and energetics the framework.
38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© 8 Jan 1999
1 Caroline Myss, ANATOMY OF THE SPIRIT, Harmony Books, 1996.
2 Robert Gilman, Plenary Talk, HOPES '97 Conference, University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts.
3 For more detail, see my "It's Oil Right, Folks! There's Good Times Ahead", XXXXX
4 Extrapolated from Vitousek, Erlichs, and Matson, "Human Appropriation of the Products of Photosynthesis", BioScience 36: 368-74. 1986.
5 Population growth is not someone else's problem. See my "Their Population, Our Problem, Nov. 1996.
6 Wackernagel and Rees, OUR ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT, New Society Books, 1995.
7 See for example, L. F. Ivanhoe's important article, "Future world oil supplies: there is a finite limit", World Oil, Oct. 1995. Also Ivanhoe, "Oil Reserves and Semantics", Newsletter of the M. King Hubbert Center for Petroleum Supply Studies, Colorado School of Mines, Aug. 1996; and James MacKenzie, "Oil as a Finite Resource", World Resources Institute, March 1996.
8 Oil production would have peaked in 1992-93, except that the 1974 "Oil Crisis" brought significant restriction in Mideast production and initiated development of energy efficiency technologies.
9 Personal communications from Friends of the Earth, Washington D.C. See also FOE- Europe data on European needs.
10 Gilman, above, and Worldwatch Institute
11 Conference presentations by Prof. Al Bartlett, Univ. of Colorado, and others.
12 See, for example, Jeffrey Fisher's THE PLAGUE MAKERS, 1994.
13 A detailed study of these costs would be valuable. We can estimate at this time at least a doubling to tripling of all of society's capital expenditures occurs, plus a 50% increase in consumptive expenditures, for population doubling alone, without counting expansion in consumption.
14 See, for example, Keith Bradsher's "Gulf widens between wealthy and poor", New York Times News Service, April 20, 1995; also Ravi Batra's THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF 1990, 1987 and Edward Wolff's Twentieth Century Fund report, TOP HEAVY, 1995.
15 $5,702 billion total personal income, 248,710,000 population, 2.63 person household size. Similar figures occur using national income.
16 For example, interest paid on national debt in 1994 equaled 20.3% of federal outlays (with no capital repayment). Consumer credit outstanding in 1994 equaled $985 billion - 19.9% of disposable personal income and 17% of national income - roughly equally between auto, home, and revolving credit. Finance, and related fields constituted 22% of national income. For more detail on the illusory benefits of these financial shell-games, see my 1993 "Borrowing Trouble", 1990 "Endgames", and my 1984 "Hidden Costs of Housing".
17 For further discussion of how to achieve these benefits, see my 1996 "Some Questions We Haven't Asked".
18 Without growth, our needed expenditures would be 60% (present expenditures less growth infrastructure costs) x 53% (subtracting costs of inequity) x 80% (subtracting costs of debt financing) = only 25% of current expenditures needed.
19 It's now more than 23 years since I first showed that this order of magnitude changes were possible in "Living Lightly: Energy Conservation in Housing" 1973. See Lovins and von Weizsäcker, FACTOR FOUR: Doubling Productivity, Halving Resource Use, Earthscan, 1997 and Lovins and Hawkin's forthcoming NATURAL CAPITALISM, for current work by others. My "Living Lightly", 1973, "Hidden Costs of Housing", 1984, "Amazon Married Student Housing", 1994, "Economic Value of Coastal Forest Lands", 1994, "Bamberton", 1993, "Vitality and Affordability of Higher Education", 1993, and "Transforming Tourism", 1993 showing potentials in several sectors are available at <http://users.knsi.com/~tbender>. In regards to buildings, see also the many progress reports of the Rocky Mountain Institute, 1739 Snowmass Creek Rd., Snowmass CO 81654; work of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, 8604 F.M. 969, Austin TX 78724; and John Todd's work with biological water purification at Center for the Restoration of Waters, One Locust Street, Falmouth MA 02540.
20 For corporate and insurance industry responses to these conditions, contact The Natural Step, <www.emis.com/tns> or (415)332-9394, or Rocky Mountain Institute<www.rmi.org> or (970)927-3851.
21 Based on preliminary Friends of the Earth studies on European and U.S. economies. See also Bill Rees' excellent "Ecological Footprints and Appropriated Carrying Capacity..." in INVESTING IN NATURAL CAPITAL, Island Press 1994, or "Revising Carrying Capacity..." in Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, Jan 1996.
22 For some of the other non-technical, big-jump opportunities, see "Some Questions", above.
23 See Amory Lovins, "The Super-Efficient Passive Building Frontier", ASHRAE Journal, June 1995 for an outstanding example of the interactive and cumulative benefits of energy efficiency in minimizing building operating costs.
24 See "Building Real Wealth", above; and "Shedding A Skin...".
25 There is an urgency to this issue. See, for example, L.F. Ivanhoe's "Future World Oil Supplies; there is a finite limit", World Oil, Oct., 1995 on global oil and population trends, and Richard Duncan's 1995 "The Energy Depletion Arch..." on U.S. and global oil depletion. Ivanhoe also interestingly touches on the falsification beginning to occur in government statistical studies as our denial of resource depletion becomes more acute. Duncan also now projects nearly 100% control of petroleum exports by Muslim countries by 2010, with significant political implications.
26 See, for example, "Shedding A Skin..." above; and "Transforming Tourism", Earth Ethics, Summer 1993. For values, see my "Sharing Smaller Pies", New Age Journal, Nov. 1975; The Futurist, 1976; RESETTLING AMERICA, Gary Coates, ed. 1981, and Utne Reader, Fall 1987. Also Lovins and von Weizsächer's FACTOR FOUR, and Lovins and Hawken's upcoming NATURAL CAPITALISM.
27 Tom Bender, "Building Real Wealth", 1993. Reprinted in IN CONTEXT, July 1996.
28 See my HEART OF PLACE, Dec. 1993, for how these manifest in one aspect of society.
29 See "Characteristics of a Sustainable Society, below for more detail, and my HEART OF PLACE, or E.F. Schumacher's "Buddhist Economics" in SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL, 1974; or my ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN PRIMER, 1973.
30 See my "Sewage is Art - The Healing of Place with Chi", June 1995 for what happens when we apply this to a building project.
31 See my "Shedding a Skin That No Longer Fits", March, 1996 for a deeper discussion.
32 See my "Sacred Roots of Sustainable Design", Sept. 1995
33 See HEART OF PLACE, above.
35 Tom Bender, THE IZU PRINCIPLES, 1994.
36 Peter Rich, Presentation, DESIGN HAS NO BOUNDARIES CONFERENCE, Brisbane AU, 1995