Archive for category Resilience

Familiy resilience in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse

Just before the bottom fell out, he’d quit his job, she needed extensive medical care, and their daughter had her ills. They were well-fixed, however, having earned good salaries and socked away lots of $$$ in their 401K’s. Then Wall Street Roulette went bust and he couldn’t get a job, not even call-backs. But they still had bills to pay

They’ve managed, have grown, and are happy:

When something can’t be paid, we go without until it can. We were given a gift certificate for a meal out, and I tell you, that steak tasted better than any other I’ve had in my life. The value of what we purchase is rated by a new metric: what we truly need and will enrich our lives. That’s a lesson I don’t think we would have learned bumping through life with little thought about the cost of milk or gas. And the issues that lay behind those costs — like our dependence on oil and the importance of up-cycling resources to manage our waste — would have remained distant.

Full story at Salon.


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Resilience, 25 Years After Chernobyl

A village remains, Redkovka, Ukraine. And handful of families refused to leave, for this is their home, the church its center:

Most of Redkovka’s residents — about 1,000 people — resettled after the disaster. But the five families there today, including Ms. Masanovitz and her husband, Mikhail, 73, refused.

“This was home for them,” Ms. Markosian said. “This was where they grew up.”

“It was something that I had to understand,” she said. “And that came from just being there and seeing the thread that weaves this entire village together.”

Diana Markosian/Redux A Chernobyl card distributed by the Ukrainian government.

The thread, she found, was love: love for one another and love for the place. Together, the villagers endured the Second World War, Chernobyl and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, they rarely leave. Although a bus drives through, Ms. Markosian never saw anyone board.

A photo essay in The New York Times. And another  at The Boston Globe (owned by NYT).


Teach-in: Shut Down Indian Point Nuclear Plant NOW

Saturday, 30 April, 4 – 8 PM, Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall, 55 Washington Square South, New York City.

The teach-in will feature 3 speakers: Chris Williams of Pace University and author of”Ecology & Socialism”, Tim Judson President of the Citizens’ Awareness Network and Marilyn Elie-Co-founder of the Westchester Citizens’ Awareness Network. The speakers will go into the specifics of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant, it’s power production and N.Y’s useage, the Fukushima disaster and it’s potential parallels at Indian Point, and a broader context of the political and economic use of nuclear power. We will discuss strategy to shut it down.

Organized by Shut Down Indian Point Now!


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Ecology tells us we have limits

Literary critic and philosopher Tim Morris has a very smart post for the philosophically minded: Fighting Modernity with Modernity? No Thanks. What he’s against:

According to one view, humans emancipate themselves from Nature into a more total freedom over its pure plasticity. Yet this would be to continue in the aesthetic-sadistic thought that Nature is a malleable cartoon character who can be stretched and shaped to our whim. And which sadist gets to decide what to do next?

That is to say, modernity has bequeathed us the view that we have the technological tools to push Nature everywhich way we please. So, for example, we can create all the nuclear power we need, and some day we’ll figure out what to do with all that nuclear waste sitting in pools and casks, and some day we’ll figure out how to build plants that aren’t vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. Someday.

He continues:

The question is, now that we know what we know, do we want to continue imagining different kinds of malleability (capitalism, communism) and is that all we want to do? Note that on my view, even if we achieve some kind of physical enactment of our dream—say we have enough political power and enough Earth shaking equipment—we will still be dreaming.

That is, now that we know we’re fouling our own nest with fracking and nuking and deep-sea drilling and all the rest, now that we know that, can we admit that we don’t really know what to do about all those unintended side-effects that keep getting in our face? Can we admit that we are limited, finite beings, and that we should conserve what we’ve got, both for us, and for the other creatures on that share this planet with us?

Do we keep on using tools from modernity’s toolkit to fix a problem created by that toolkit? Or do we see that the toolkit is a rather confusing part of a much wider configuration space?

Maybe we need a new tool kit? One that isn’t so new-fangled modern. One that is both old and newer than new. Let’s look at the truth, conserve what we got, and dance our way into a more sustainable future.


The Great Show Trial of Two-Ought-Ought-Six

In honor of all interweb traditions

It’s not all fun and games here at the Transition Party USA. We get serious on occasion. Here’s the story of how a rival party was born and how it died, all on the webtubes.

It was back in two ought ought six at Bérubé’s joint on Wednesday the fourth of October. Michael decided that it was high time he and his beloved Janet prepared a living will:

There were a few comic moments in the attorney’s office when it sounded as if we were ordering from a sushi menu: we’ll have the maguro in the event of severe and permanent incapacitation, please, and two ebi with extra wasabi if terminally ill. Hold the intubation, and no blood products, thanks—we’re trying to cut down.

Michael continues on a similar vein until a Great Revelation comes to him, which he then passed on to us, the readers of his humble blog:

So it occurs to me that one of the more pleasant aspects of a giant nuclear fireball that consumes all life on earth is that it would render all these difficult decisions moot. I have therefore decided to abandon my commitments to procedural liberalism and political left-progressivism, and to begin working for the We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now party. What’s in it for me, you ask? Peace of mind, mainly.

Just as long as we all perish by being vaporized in the bombs’ total destruction radius, and are not left to wheel shopping carts around the ashen, blasted post-apocalyptic landscape like something out of Cormac McCarthy’s latest. Because that would suck.

Thus was the WAAGNFN Party born in the sixth year of the reign of King “Bring’Em On” Bush.


That left us with a problem: Just what exactly was the WAAGNFN Party (hereafter WAAGNFNP) to do? The party’s major objective – total annihilation of the world though nuclear conflagration – while spectacular, wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that got out the voters. And, in any event, it was a bit late in the season to run candidates for office, whether dogcatcher, assembly-person or governor.

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Art and Civil Society in Tokugawa Japan

With an extension to graffiti in late 20th Century

rainbow CEAZE in the industrial zone

I first published this in The Valve back in 2007 under the title “Tokugawa Blogging: Best of 2006.” I’m republishing it here because it relates to the role Transition Teams are playing in moving our societies to a new, more sustainable, and more human way of life.

Back in September of 2006 I was looking through the current issue of Science and saw a book review (requires subscription) entitled “Through Art to Association in Japanese Politics” by one Christena Turner. Given my interest in manga and anime, the title caught my attention. That Science was reviewing a book on such a topic, that really caught my attention. So I read the review, of Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks and the Political Origins of Japanese Culture ( by Eiko Ikegami.

According to Turner, Ikegami argued that

Japanese sociability is characterized by an extensive repertoire of practices for handling the problem of how to interact with strangers. Somewhere between friends and enemies lies the domain of strangers. Somewhere between intimacy and danger lies the domain of civility. “The degree of ‘strangership’ may be an indication of the degree of civility in a given society,” she claims. Civility permits ordinary people to be confident in interactions with those of unknown or different backgrounds, making it possible to form social bonds in the absence of friendship or kinship.

This is important because modern democracies requires a civil realm where individuals can form voluntary associations “outside the realms of both the political institutions of the state and the intimate ties of the family.” Ikegami argued

that networks of people engaged in interactive artistic and cultural pursuits created the bonds of “civility without civil society” that prepared the population of pre-modern Japan for its strikingly rapid transformation into one of the first and most successful modern nations outside of the West. Art created politics when participation in aesthetic networks taught people technologies of association among strangers that eased the transition toward institutions of a modern political economy.

That had me hooked. Not only would this book serve as “deep background” for my interest in manga and anime – “deep” because it’s about a period, roughly 1600 to 1850, well before the emergence of those forms – but it also promised to be a volume that argued for the social value of art on an empirical basis, as opposed to asserting ideals. Since I’d already argued that it was music that made apes into humans, I was eager to read a more empirical, less speculative, argument broadly, if only loosely, consistent with that. Finally, it seemed that Ikegami’s argument might be generally useful in thinking about how social networks function in the larger society.

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Megawatt Coal Plants Don’t Bring Jobs Home

Utilities sell coal plants by promising jobs in compensation for the environmental hit. A study of “the six largest new coal-fired power plants to come online between 2005 and 2009” indicates that more jobs were promised than were delivered. Writing in The New York Times, Tom Zeller, Jr. reports that “only a little over half, or 56 percent of every 1,000 jobs projected, appeared to be actually created as a result of the coal plants’ coming online. And in four of the six counties, the projects delivered on just over a quarter of the jobs projected.”

How’s the song go? “Sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” And now you don’t even get a job burning the 16 tons. Have we sold our soul to the company store forever?


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