February 14th, 2009

heart's desire

Valentine's Day!

It is Valentine's Day.  I check Wikipedia and read the complex history of this day which really did not begin with the exchange of candy and gifts.  Even Chaucer who is credited with the introduction of romance really was speaking of an arranged marriage between children.

And yet it is lovely to have a day dedicated to romance, heart, and love,  and all that I read suggests that we need to spend money, that trust needs to return to the market place, so I suppose it is a day to begin and yet, I consider my day.  It is raining, rain so gratefully received that it is incredible bliss just to sit and watch it come down and listen to it.  I picture our local reservoirs filling, the ducks having a wider place to swim and breed, more protection.  

My Valentine's Day is rich in everything but a boost to the economy and my heart feels strong in its pulse of love and hope, with an extra little pump for those who need it, who have not learned like dear little three year old Zach, the benefits of being "good."

We speak of living from the heart, from that central part of our being, and using it as our guidance system.   The heart knows and there is something about the image of those two lovely hills rising, then, reaching down to a point to say, yes, we will fulfill, yes, we will explore and journey, questing in the expansive, joyous realm of love.

Happy Valentine's Day, a day of Peace and Love!

alan - joshua tree bloom

Planning -

I went out for a walk today and met up with a neighbor I haven't seen in awhile.  Again, today, I learn of another who has lost his job, her son who was an electrician.  I say we need to trust that the economy will come back, that it is not time to sell retirement stocks.   I believe that, and, ....

So, here is Stewart Brand's summation of the talk at the Long Now Foundation last night.

The text of Dmitry Orlov's SALT talk is posted at his blog here.
The slides he used for a famous 2006 talk, "Closing the Collapse Gap," may be found here.

Stewart Brand:

With vintage Russian black humor, Orlov described the social collapse he witnessed in Russia in the 1990s and spelled out its practical lessons for the American social collapse he sees as inevitable.  The American economy in the 1990s described itself as "Goldilocks"---just the right size---when in fact is was "Tinkerbelle," and one day the clapping stops.  As in Russia, the US made itself vulnerable to the decline of crude oil, a trade deficit, military over-reach, and financial over-reach.

Russians were able to muddle through the collapse by finding ways to manage 1) food, 2) shelter, 3) transportation, and 4) security.

Russian agriculture had long been ruined by collectivization, so people had developed personal kitchen gardens, accessible by public transit.  The state felt a time-honored obligation to provide bread, and no one starved.  (Orlov noted that women in Russia handled collapse pragmatically, putting on their garden gloves, whereas middle-aged men dissolved into lonely drunks.)  Americans are good at gardening and could shift easily to raising their own food, perhaps adopting the Cuban practice of gardens in parking lots and on roofs and balconies.

As for shelter, Russians live in apartments from which they cannot be evicted.  The buildings are heat-efficient, and the communities are close enough to protect themselves from the increase in crime.  Americans, Orlov said, have yet to realize there is no lower limit to real estate value, nor that suburban homes are expensive to maintain and get to.  He predicts flight, not to remote log cabins, but to dense urban living.  Office buildings, he suggests, can easily be converted to apartments, and college campuses could make instant communities, with all that grass turned into pasture or gardens.  There are already plenty of empty buildings in America; the cheapest way to get one is to offer to caretake it.

The rule with transportation, he said, is not to strand people in nonsurvivable places.  Fuel will be expensive and hoarded.  He noted that the most efficient of all vehicles is an old pickup fully loaded with people, driving slowly.  He suggested that freight trains be required to provide a few empty boxcars for hoboes.  Donkeys, he advised, provide reliable transport, and they dine as comfortably on the Wall Street Journal as they did on Pravda.

Security has to take into account that prisons will be emptied (by stages, preferably), overseas troops will be repatriated and released, and cops will go corrupt.  You will have a surplus of mentally unstable people skilled with weapons.  There will be crime waves and mafias, but you can rent a policeman, hire a soldier.  Security becomes a matter of local collaboration.  When the formal legal structure breaks down, adaptive improvisation can be pretty efficient.

By way of readiness, Orlov urges all to prepare for life without a job, with near-zero burn rate.  It takes practice to learn how to be poor well.  Those who are already poor have an advantage.

                                                --Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand -- sb@gbn.org
The Long Now Foundation - http://www.longnow.org
Seminars & downloads: http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/

Alexander Calder's Kitchen!

Prayer Dogs!

In the book by Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, she has a section on prairie dogs or prayer dogs as some call them.  They love to stand and welcome the sun and watch it set. 

Here is a section from the book:

In 1950, government agents proposed to get rid of prairie dogs on some parts of the Navajo reservation in order to protect the roots of sparse desert grasses and thereby maintain some marginal grazing for sheep.

The Navajo elders objected, insisting, "If you kill all the prairie dogs, there will be no one to cry for the rain."

The amused officials assured the Navajo that there was no correlation between rain and prairie dogs and carried out their plan. The outcome was surprising only to the federal officials.  The desert near Chilchinbito, Arizona became a virtual wasteland.  Without the ground-turning process of the burrowing animals, the soil became solidly packed, unable to accept rain.  Hard pan.  The result: fierce runoff whenever it rained.  What little vegetation remained was carried away by flash floods and a legacy of erosion.