Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Global Climate and Economic Crises Really a Crisis in Values, Author Says at Guelph Resilience Festival

Image result for crisis in values
by Joanne Shuttleworth, Guelph Mercury: http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/5531041-global-climate-and-economic-crises-really-a-crisis-in-values-author-says-at-guelph-resilience-festi/

Andrew Welch doesn't deny there's a crisis. He just has another way of looking at the crisis. And in doing so, he hopes to find a different set of answers. 

Welch is a mathematician by training so it's not unusual that he would use numbers to analyze the state of the world.

But he thinks it's not greed, nor indifference, nor even blinders that are keeping society from making meaningful change in the face of peak oil, climate change and economic instability. 

"It's about values," Welch said to an audience at the Guelph Resilience Festival on Saturday, and ours is a number-based world.

Welch used graphs and charts to explain three different ways of assigning value to something: a marginal value, absolute value or quantitative value.

He used the example of a snow shovel to explain marginal value. If you don't have a shovel and it's snowing outside, one shovel has great value, he said. But every other shovel you own has less value to the point where so many shovels could get in the way of the door that they have no value at all. In graph form there's a line with a sharp upward line that then flattens.

Absolute value is another way to measure value and Welch offered the example of water. "We need water to live, so it is valuable," he said. "But we have lots of it so its value does not continue to rise." In graph form this looks like a hill with a gradual rise and gradual decline.

The problematic way of looking at value is when we use a number-based or quantitative value system and that, unfortunately, is the formula used by government, by businesses and by economists.

Graphically, it's a line with a steady upward incline. It's linear, consistent and limitless, Welch said. It's the cost-benefit analysis; the build a business case scenario; the growth is good idea. And it's unsustainable.

"More is always worth more in this system," Welch said. "There's no concept of sufficient. And there's nothing natural about it."

So it's not corporate greed or conservative policies that are keeping society from responding to the oil crisis or environmental disasters in meaningful ways, but our unhealthy dependence on numbers and growth, Welch said.

That dependence has led to internal conflict as we all struggle with balancing our values as consumers, as investors and as citizens. The consumer in us wants a deal, the investor in us wants growth and the citizen inside wants to do what's right for now and the future.

He said corporations represent number-based values and the push for growth; the marketplace seeks out cheap prices and until recently government and religious institutions acted as our moral compass and represented citizen values.

"We all have these three conflicting values and the proportionate value is different with every person," Welch said. "The problem is there is no entity that represents citizen values at the societal level. As nasty as corporations may seem, they are only doing what we program them to do If we want to change things, we have to reduce their influence and change our expectations."

This prompted discussion from attendees, who agreed that municipal government has more power than higher levels of government to impact people's daily lives. But many in the room felt that government was more concerned with re-election than making changes for long-term benefit.

Is a global catastrophe necessary to force positive change, someone asked?

"Not necessarily," Welch replied. "The major take-away today is to be able to recognize the number-based values and human-based values. No value crisis can be solved from the same value system that created it."

Transition town is a grassroots community project that seeks to build resilience in response to peak oil,{+[}{+1}{+]} climate destruction, and economic instability by creating a local group that uphold the values of the transition network.


Monday, 30 March 2015

Resilience: The Engaging Community Toolkit

by The Berkana Institute: http://berkana.org/sharingourlearning/toolkits/engaging-community-kit/

The mantra for this time seems to be “We’re all in this together.”

At The Berkana Institute, we’ve worked with many communities who’ve made this statement come alive; they’ve discovered the wisdom and wealth present in themselves, their traditions and their environments.

We believe wholeheartedly that community is the best resource to get through difficult times. This is even more important in this age of fractured relationships and extreme politics when it can be difficult to remember what good community feels like, how joyful it feels when we’re working well together.

Berkana is focused on supporting the rediscovery of community. We’ve  joined with Neighborhood Centers Inc. of Houston to create this rich and multi-faceted kit. Both of our organizations have many years of experience in how best to engage community. But this is more than a toolkit; it’s a package of practices that embody our shared philosophy. 

We know that we can rely on human goodness, that most people, whatever their age or ethnicity, want to work well with other people to restore hope to the future. We know that most people are generous, caring and smart. Creativity and entrepreneurship abound in every community, they are not rare qualities of a few special people. And we’ve learned that there is no power for change greater than when a community discovers what it cares about.\

This toolkit contains a variety of approaches for engaging community: information and processes in a rich variety of media, and in both English and Spanish. We want to make it possible for every community - large or small, defined by geography, ethnicity, beliefs, income level, shared pain or shared opportunity - to know how to engage their members to resolve their current challenges and create the futures they desire.

The kit includes (in both English and Spanish):
  • Turning To One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future by Margaret Wheatley
  • The Power of Community, a DVD presentation by Margaret Wheatley. 40 minutes with Spanish subtitles
  • 12 Principles for Healthy Community Change, a set of beautifully illustrated cards containing these principles and questions to explore. Illustrations by Nancy Margulies
  • Large colorful poster of the 12 principles and questions
  • A guide for hosting good conversations
  • “Unlocking the Strengths of Our Communities: A Step-by-Step Guide to Appreciative Community Building.” Developed by Neighborhood Centers Inc. Six questions that uncover the strengths of diverse communities and change the conversations
  • Unlocking the Strengths of our Communities, a CD of materials for printing, including customizable tools, agendas and other resources used by Neighborhood Centers Inc. in their work with communities
  • Articles by Margaret Wheatley and others. A CD for printing articles, with the encouragement to distribute these articles freely
Read about how the tools are being usedWatch a clip from the Power of Community DVD on creating healthy community change.

Engaging Community Kit orders are now being handled via margaretwheatley.com. Please write to info[at]margaretwheatley.com for information on ordering.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

Image result for minimalism
by , Time.com: http://time.com/3738202/minimalism-clutter-too-much-stuff/ 

The first thing you need to know about Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus is that they like to hug. “Bring it in, man!” Nicodemus says as he pulls me in the first time I meet him. “We’re both huggers,” he says, pointing to Millburn.

These two early-30s, overly sunny dudes are The Minimalists, two of the better-known apologists for a lifestyle of less.

Millburn and Nicodemus, both 33, have written two books chronicling how they grew up poor in Dayton, Ohio, achieved six-figure salaries by their late 20s, fell into existential ruts, realized they weren’t happy and eventually shed most everything they’d accumulated for a life in a Montana cabin as if they were modern-day Thoreaus.

Millburn, Nicodemus and a growing number of similarly minded purgers around the U.S. have forgone non-necessities in exchange for a much simpler existence in the last few years. Minimalists like to say that they’re living more meaningfully, more deliberately, that getting rid of most material possessions in their lives allows them to focus on what’s important: friends, hobbies, travel, experiences.

It’s impossible to know how many people live this way, but the ones who have gone public have gained a following. Millburn and Nicodemus launched their website in December 2010 with just 52 visitors the first month. Last year, more than 2 million visited the site, and since then they’ve attracted almost 30,000 people on Twitter and 80,000 fans on Facebook.

Their road to minimalism began in October 2009 when Millburn’s mother unexpectedly died the same month his marriage ended. At the time, Millburn managed 150 wireless and telecom stores throughout south-central Ohio. He had a three-bedroom house. He owned 70 Brooks Brothers shirts. As a 28-year-old, he couldn’t ask for much more financially. But a month of tectonic life changes shifted his thinking about what mattered.

“I had everything I ever wanted,” Millburn says. “But it took getting everything I ever wanted to realize that I wasn’t happy.”

Millburn soon discovered Colin Wright, who was traveling around the world with a mere 51 things (most of us have thousands of things in our home, if not tens of thousands). Soon, Millburn began connecting with others who described themselves as minimalists, and he eventually decided to give it a shot.

He started small, getting rid of one item a day for a month. He chucked his Brooks Brothers shirts. He got rid of his DVDs. He ditched his TV. He sold most of his shoes. Later, he sloughed off kitchenware, tools, electronics, artwork. Eventually, he moved into a smaller home and soon persuaded Nicodemus, his buddy since fifth grade, to do the same.

The two moved to Montana and began writing about their experiences, branding themselves The Minimalists and publishing a book about their collective purge.

They befriended guys like Joshua Becker, a father of two in Peoria, Ariz., who began minimizing in 2008 after realizing he was spending more time cleaning out his garage than playing with his son. “Everything I owned wasn’t making me happy, and worse, it was distracting me from the very thing that did bring me happiness,” he says.

After discussing with his wife, he was soon filling his van with DVDs, CDs, clothes, Tupperware, spatulas, toys, old towels, sheets. The first couple of vanloads to Goodwill were easy, but by the third and fourth trips, he began an inward journey about why he’d accumulated so much. “Was I really that susceptible to advertising?” he asked himself. “Was I just trying to keep up with what the neighbors were buying? Was I trying to impress people? Was I trying to compensate for a lack of confidence?”

It turned out, the answer was yes to all those questions.

Similarly, Graham Hill, the founder of eco-friendly design site Treehugger.com, got rid of most of his non-necessities after years of living in a four-story, 3,600-square-foot Seattle home. Today, he lives in a 420-square-foot studio, owns just six dress shirts and has 10% of the books he once owned. His New York Times op-ed, “Living With Less, A Lot Less,” was one of the Times’ most read and e-mailed articles in 2013.

Hill’s idea is spreading. The so-called “tiny house” movement has taken off in the last few years among people who are looking to drastically downsize. The homes, which are now subject of several reality TV shows, are no bigger than 400 square feet and can often be built for $30,000 or less.

The overarching narrative for many minimalists is this: At one point they were rich, realized things weren’t bringing them happiness, and then they purged. Some of them have received criticism for getting rid of their things when many families are barely getting by, that their behavior is only for people of a certain income level. For the most part, however, it seems that they’re merely real-life examples of what study after study indicates: Possessions don’t bring us happiness.

“As much as we like our stuff, they really aren’t a part of us,” says Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell University psychology professor. “Arguably, we are the sum total of our experiences. It’s almost like building up a resume by virtue of the things that you did.”

Gilovich, who has been studying happiness as it relates to experiences and possessions for over a decade, says there are three main reasons why doing something brings about more pleasure than owning something: experiences become part of our identity; they promote social connections with others; and they don’t trigger the kind of jealousy or envy we often get when thinking about someone’s material things.

“Materially, that thing will always be there, so it’s very easy for people to say to themselves: ‘If I have the experience, it’ll be fun but it will come and go in a flash. At least I’ll always have the thing,’” Gilovich says. “That seems compelling, even if it turns out to be psychologically wrong. But you adapt to it and eventually you don’t really notice it anymore.”

He does, however, believe that there is a sort of experiential awakening happening, in which people truly are recognizing that there is greater value from experiences even though it will always be tempting to buy material things.

“We hold onto these things because we think they’re going to be useful in some hypothetical future that doesn’t actually exist,” Millburn says. “We hold onto almost everything just in case we might need it some day. I learned that the memories aren’t in things either. That’s why I was holding onto so many things because I thought the memories were in those things, but they weren’t.”

Toward the end of our interview, before one final hug, Millburn tells me he’s about to turn 33. And he’s never been happier. “To me, that’s the most important part,” he says.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

How to Kick Off a Shareable Spring

by Cat Johnson, Shareable: http://www.shareable.net/blog/how-to-kick-off-a-shareable-spring


Spring is almost here. Time to throw open the doors, soak in the sunshine, and reconnect with fellow hibernators. It’s also a good time to give away the stuff that’s been piling up in our houses, get seeds in the ground, strengthen relationships with neighbors and discover new places.

Here are some ideas to help make this Spring a shareable one. From community gardens to neighborhood work parties, community swaps, DIY weddings and more, these how-to’s provide ways to share goods, experiences, land and food.


Having a garden is a great way to fuel your body with fresh, healthy food, to connect with the earth, to make friends and to strengthen communities. Whether a small container garden, garden beds in the yard or a plot in a community garden, getting your hands in the dirt is good for mind and body. And, gardens are excellent demonstrations of abundance; there is always more than enough to share.

Photo by Shira Golding


Call it Spring cleaning, decluttering, downsizing or just getting rid of junk, Spring is a good time to look at what you’ve accumulated, determine what you’re using, and give the excess to people who need it.

There are lots of online platforms for sharing stuff including Facebook freecycling groups, yerdle and Freecycle. You can also arrange offline events to swap goods. Here are some ways to get started:

Creative Commons photo by Eve Cristescu


Many sharing events are either kid-friendly to begin with or can be modified to be kid- and family-friendly, but here are a few kid-specific ideas for promoting sharing, community and sustainability this Spring.

Photo courtesy of the Better Block Project


Whether in a city, the suburbs or a rural area, sharing begins with the people around you. Neighbors are key players in strengthening the sharing economy and building stronger communities. Here are a few ways to bring your neighborhood together to socialize, strategize and get things done this Spring.

Party Box Photo by Carol Church


Spring is a primo time to throw a party, or a wedding, or an outdoor gathering. Why not do it shareable-style? From decorations and food, to plates and entertainment, there are, as usual, plenty of resources and talent to go around if we put our minds to it. Here are two examples of sharing being used to throw a great event.

Creative Commons photo by katerha


For some, Springtime means making hitting the road. Whether traveling by foot, bike or vehicle, there are ways to incorporate sharing into vacations of any size.

Airbnb, Couchsurfing, home swaps and more offer alternative to hotels; ride sharing and car sharing platforms including Zimride, Carpooling.com, RelayRides and Getaround can help get you to your destination, shareable-style; and Vayable can connect you with locals who are willing to share the insider’s experience.

For those wanting to get completely off the beaten path, check out the Ultimate Guide to Traveling Without Money. Here are more tools to help incorporate sharing into your travel experience.
These are just some of the many ways that you can kick off a Shareable Spring. Find more ideas, check out Shareable’s how to share resource page.

What are you doing to kick off a Shareable Spring? Let us know in comments.