Archive for the 'information' Category

An especially busy July on Texada

By Tom Read

We know this July will be a busy month because it's all spelled out in the Express Lines. Texada's monthly newsletter is published by volunteers of the Texada Island Community Society. It's not available online, but off-islanders can subscribe for a nominal fee.

We know this July will be a busy month because it's all spelled out in the Express Lines. Texada's monthly newsletter is published by volunteers of the Texada Island Community Society. It's not available online, but off-islanders can subscribe for a nominal fee.

This seems like the most active July I’ve seen on Texada in years.  A LOT of people are putting in a LOT of volunteer time to bring our community so many interesting events and opportunities this month.  The highlights below come from the Express Lines, our island’s indispensable monthly guide to community happenings, published by volunteers and distributed free to all PO boxes on Texada:

  • Canada Day Celebration at Shelter Point Park (July 1): fun games for kids and adults, a potluck dinner and music into the evening.
  • Sandcastle Weekend (July 4 & 5): skim boarding lessons are new this year, plus recurring favourites such as lipsync, moonbags, the parade, bingo, pancake breakfast, ball games, pork roast, sunrise service, beer garden, food and arts vendors and — of course — sandcastle sculpting on the beach at Gilles Bay.
  • Texada Action Now (known locally by their acronym TAN) meeting about the Lehigh quarry proposal (July 5): an open discussion on a timely public issue. I’ll have something to say about this issue in a future post.
  • Aerospace Camp (July 9 – 11): New this year, and the result of a tremendous amount of preparation, with lots of kids from Texada and Powell River ready for a special hands-on aviation learning experience.
  • Star Lab Planetarium and Stargazing (July 9 – 11): Also new, a close cousin of Aerospace Camp, and open to community members of all ages who want to enjoy “an adventure in astronomy” by day and seeing the planets and stars through high-powered telescopes at night.
  • Texada Fly-In (July 12): A great gathering at the Texada Airport, where locals mingle with fly-in visitors from all over BC to participate in various activities, including talks by aviation specialists, aircraft displays, food, music and entertainment and a performance by the Fraser Blues precision flying team.
  • Texada Library Book Sale (July 19): volunteers are thoroughly reorganizing the Library, resulting in many excellent books available for this special book sale.

This is just a partial list of what’s happening on Texada Island during this particularly busy month. To see the whole rich spectrum of events and announcements you’ve just got to read the Express Lines.

Info-pollen

By David Parkinson

A bee gathering nectar from the fruit of a young Oregon grape blossom. Hive gets nectar, flower gets pollen, in a nice example of symbiosis.

A bee gathering nectar from the fruit of a young Oregon grape blossom. Hive gets nectar; flower gets pollen: a nice example of symbiosis.

There’s more to life than books, you know,
But not much more.
Oh, there’s more to life than books, you know,
But not much more, not much more.

(The Smiths, 1983)

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I believe that it’s important to exchange information among people who are working together to create social change. I suppose everyone believes that, but I wanted to put my money where my mouth is by starting something that I hoped would evolve into a venue for people to talk about what’s going on in the region, what’s going well and what’s not going so well, and what we hope to do to build on the successes or address the challenges.

Aside from this blog, there are a few local email lists that I’m aware of which people are using to exchange newspaper articles and blog posts, online petitions, and other pieces of information having to do with the environment, politics (local and not-so-local), climate change, resource depletion, spirituality, eco-psychology, and a host of related topics. I know, from trying to keep up with what’s going on out there, that this blizzard of information can be overwhelming. I use Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to track just over three hundred online sources of information: mainly blogs and news sources; I subscribe to probably about thirty or forty listservs or email lists; lately I have started to get turned on to some sources of information via Twitter; and on top of all that, I have people who send me email messages pointing me at things they think I might be interested in. All in all, a hefty dose of news and opinions.

I consider myself near the top end of the scale of ‘info-tolerance’. (Which is not a boast, trust me.) But not everything worth reading or knowing about comes to us through electronic media. I am aware that we are all surrounded by people who have vast amounts of valuable knowledge, experience and wisdom acquired through years of study, work, and practice. Lately, I’ve been thinking of some ways we can share some of the things we know, or know how to do, or the things we want to know more about. Everyone is out there reading and learning about some of the same things, some different things; but what we need are more ways to bring all of this knowledge together.

So here are some ideas I’m throwing out there. If you see something you think is a good project to get started and you’d like to help with it, let me know. If you think of something I’ve missed, let me know.

Community bookshelf

Many of us are avid readers of books having to do with peak oil, climate change, food security, community resilience, environmentalism, and many other topics that could be loosely lumped together under the name ‘sustainability’. Most of the people I know and talk to are always telling me about what they’re reading, what they just read, or what they’re looking forward to reading. And I’m a voracious reader who always has three or four books on the go at a time. And so we end up with these books on our shelves, which seems wasteful since they should be out there circulating in the community. And we end up with all of this knowledge in our heads, which also could be spread around more, if we had more opportunities to pass it on.

So I decided to try out a jazzy little internet tool called ‘LibraryThing‘ to start up a little virtual bookshelf that we can use for exchanging books. This nascent project was inspired by Heinz Becker, who recently gave me a copy of Helena Norberg-Hodges’ Ancient Futures, with the proviso that I pass it on when I finish reading it. (Also, it was partly inspired by a similar community bookshelf at the Freakin’ Coffeeshop in Courtenay, which anyone reading this should absolutely visit next time they find themselves in Courtenay; it’s a five-minute walk from Creekside Commons co-housing project, which is also worth a look-see.)

If you click this link, you can see the books I’ve entered so far.

After I sent out my first email about this community bookshelf project, I heard from two people who have started similar projects in the community for book collections of special interest, so it might be possible to organize a single collection of resources which can be freely borrowed and passed around.

Here are some of the good reasons to set up a community bookshelf:

  • People can borrow these books for a longer time than the public library permits. In the case of reference material, that can be important.
  • We can’t always compel the public library to accept donations or purchase books that we might find worthwhile (especially when they are out of print), nor are they likely to stock multiple copies of the same book. Right now, our public library is so strapped for space that they cannot accept all donated books.
  • A project like this can supplement local work on sustainability and Transition. (See below for some ideas on how this could happen.)
  • We could even generate a small amount of money for worthy local causes, through user fees & fines; the worth local cause could be the purchase of books that people feel are worth owning in the community.

Here’s how you can get involved, if you think this is a worthwhile project:

  • If you have books lying around that you think might be of interest to others around the community, and the books are in some way about developing an appropriate and resilient local economy, preserving the natural environment, producing/preserving food, etc., then let me know. I am happy to physically house (and catalogue and track) any donated books until such time as we can find a better home for them. And I’m sure we can find a better home for them.
  • There will need to be some policies about how we manage donations & borrowing, so it would be nice to have some help working that out.
  • If you’re interested in borrowing one or more of the books listed so far, let me know. Let’s get this ball rolling!

Book reviews

Another way to pass information around, especially when it concerns a book, website, blog, or online article that you have just read and enjoyed, would be to write a review of the book or article. Inasmuch as it bears on the sort of thing we discuss here on Slow Coast, I would be happy to consider publishing it. I have wanted to write reviews of some of the things I’ve been reading since I started this blog, but somehow I always find myself with something more pressing on my mind when I sit down to pound out my weekly post.

If there is something you’re reading that you simply must share with others out there, consider writing a review. And if we had a community bookshelf up and running, then people who want to read what you review could find a copy easily and pass it on to the next in line.

“Slow Readers”

A similar idea, and one which (gasp) would take place in the real world would be a book club devoted to discussion of the books and other things we’re all reading. I’ve never belonged to a book club, because I’m not sure I could stand the regimentation of having a number of people all reading the same thing at the same time. But why not have a book club whose main purpose is just to rave (positively and negatively) about books to like-minded bibliophiles? Why not a monthly book club that consisted of five- or ten-minute presentations from numerous readers about the things they were reading? If something sounds worth reading, according to someone’s report on it, then it you can borrow it from the community bookshelf and read it, then pass it along.

Combine this idea with food, award extra points for especially witty or clever reviews, and this could be the hit of the dreary winter months. I’d love to hear about what other people are reading and enjoying. What a great way to build community and share ideas!

Teach-ins

Kicking it up a notch from the book club would be something like a teach-in, in which one person or a group could take on the task of reading, digesting, and presenting the information from a book, online article, or whatever source of information they thought was worth passing along. I’d be willing to do this, and I have a couple of books in mind which I think should be more widely known. Again, this could be organized as a panel discussion with a theme; several people could take on the task of preparing a presentation on a book, or a chapter, or some aspect of a topic. Kind of like a free community-driven seminar.

The upshot is that we have a variety of tools and techniques available which can be used to spread knowledge, skills, and wisdom around more widely. Some of them are decidedly old-fashioned (e.g., sharing stuff) and some depend more on recent technical innovations (e.g., LibraryThing). But if we put them to good use, we can all teach and learn as much as care to.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

To all lovers of books and libraries and librarians: do not forget that the Powell River Public Library will be holding its second public consultation on the subject of a new library facility for the region. This meeting will be at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, July 7 in the gymnasium at Vancouver Island University in Powell River. Please come out and share your thoughts about whether we need a new library and (if so) what your vision is for the future of our library.

Thomas Homer-Dixon on panarchy

By David Parkinson

Podcasts are wonderful!! In our house, there are a bunch we subscribe to and listen to whenever they come out: one for news (Democracy Now); one for media criticism (Counterspin); a few for general shits-n-giggles; and a couple that cover collapse, spirituality, and consciousness. Of those last ones, the two we like best are The Psychedelic Salon and The C-Realm Podcast.

The C-Realm Podcast is hosted by a guy who calls himself ‘KMO’, and he covers a pretty broad range of topics, focusing on petrocollapse, relocalization, psychedelics and unconventional states of consciousness, and the technological singularity.

It’s really worth digging through the C-Realm archives to check out the conversations KMO has had with such important thinkers as Ran Prieur, Sharon Astyk, John Michael Greer, Dmitry Orlov, James Howard Kunstler, Albert Bates, Catherine Austin Fitts, and many others. It’s one of the most amazing archives of real news and real thinking in the world today.

On a recent podcast, KMO’s guest was Thomas Homer-Dixon, who spent much of the time talking about his adaptation of the theories of Canadian ecologist Buzz Holling, who has developed a theory of how complex systems evolve over time. I don’t want to give all the details here; you should go find the podcast, settle down with a nice cup of tea or something stronger, and spend some time listening to KMO’s conversation with Thomas Homer-Dixon — which really turns out to be KMO asking four or five questions and Homer-Dixon giving extremely long and detailed answers, something you will never find in the commercial media, no matter how well-intentioned they are (and they rarely are).

If you’re more of a print person, you might find this short piece from WorldWatch online to be more your style. It’s an adaptation of some material from Homer-Dixon’s 2006 book The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization. Here is an excerpt from the article, in which Homer-Dixon is talking with Buzz Holling:

“Why do you feel the world is verging on some kind of systemic crisis?”

“There are three reasons,” he answered. “First, over the years my understanding of the adaptive cycle has improved, and I’ve also come to better understand how multiple adaptive cycles can be nested together-from small to large-to create a panarchy. I now believe that this theory tells us something quite general about the way complex systems, not just ecological systems, change over time. And collapse is usually part of the story.

“Second, I think rapidly rising connectivity within global systems-both economic and technological-increases the risk of deep collapse. That’s a collapse that cascades across adaptive cycles-a kind of pancaking implosion of the entire system as higher-level adaptive cycles collapse, which causes progressive collapse at lower levels.”

“A bit like the implosion of the World Trade Center towers,” I offered, “where the weight of the upper floors smashed through the lower floors like a pile driver.”

“Yes, but in a highly connected panarchy, the collapse doesn’t have to start at the top. It can be triggered at the microlevel or the macrolevel or somewhere in between. It’s the tight interlinking of the adaptive cycles across the whole system-from the individual right up to the level of the global economy and even Earth’s biosphere-that’s particularly dangerous because it increases the likelihood that many of the cycles will become synchronized and peak together. And if this happens, they’ll reinforce each other’s collapse.”

“The third reason,” he continued, “is the rise of mega-terrorism-the increasing risk of attacks that will kill huge numbers of people and produce major disruptions in world systems. I’m not sure why megaterrorism has become more likely now. I suppose it’s partly a result of technological changes and the rise of particularly virulent kinds of fundamentalism. But I do know that in a tightly connected world where vulnerabilities are aligned, such attacks could trigger deep collapse-and that’s particularly worrisome.

“This is a moment of great volatility and instability in the world system. We need urgently to do what we can to avoid deep collapse. We also need to figure out how to exploit the opportunity provided by crisis and collapse when they occur, because some kind of systemic breakdown is now almost certain.”

And then Homer-Dixon askes:

Can we get through this transition wisely and safely? Not if we refuse to understand its implications and simply continue what we’re doing now. In Buzz Holling’s terms, we’re busily extending the growth phase of the adaptive cycle of our planetary economic, ecological, and social system. In the process, this planetary system is becoming steadily more complex, connected, efficient, and regulated. Eventually it will become less resilient; it may, in fact, have already started to lose resilience.

Obviously, there is very little that we can do as individuals to restore resilience to the tightly-intertwined global systems which are now beginning to fall apart. We can restore resilience on the local level, though, and some of this is starting to happen very naturally and on a small scale, distributed throughout the community; unfunded, underfunded, shoestring, half-assed efforts to get little projects underway.

And meanwhile, the reigning mindset of big glossy top-down expensive ‘community development’ trundles along, unaware that its moment in history is trickling away.


Post facto

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