Sunday, July 17, 2016


This might make a great workshop

In 1975 because of the oil embargo there was a great interest In “simple” living.  I lived off the grid at that time, with no electricity.  Did have a car.  I taught a night continuing ed class at one of the local college.  In my naivete (and arrogance), I thought I knew what simple living was (not in anyway like the 3 billion people in the world that lived that way not by choice but by circumstance.

Having said the above, there was an exercise that was interesting.
The first class I suggested that for a couple of days whatever they touched, they would ask:
     What is it made of. 
      Where does it come from
     Do I need it.
     Can I make it myself.
      How much energy is in it.

How much electricity does an American home use?
In 2014, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,932 kilowatthours (kWh), an average of 911 kWh per month. Louisiana had the highest annual consumption at 15,497 kWh per residential customer, and Hawaii had the lowest at 6,077 kWh per residential customer.

What if you were allocated 1/10th of average use – approximately 90 kWh a month; how would you use it?   That is 3 kWh a day.
How about three times that much 270 kWh a month; 9 kWh a day.

Here are your appliances choices, click link for larger chart:
Here are your tool choices:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Beyond Belief

 This another essay by Dave Pollard that I share with his permission. Note the URL to the original.

Beyond Belief (repost)
Posted on June 8, 2016 by Dave Pollard

I am reposting, in their entirety, the ten articles I wrote that were published in SHIFT magazine (which is now on hiatus) between 2013 and 2015, since some of the links have changed and so that my blog contains the full text of these articles (useful for searches etc.) Thanks to SHIFT for the graphics (much better than my originals), and for publishing and editing my work.
I’m not spiritual. Really.
image: from a video made by a fan of Deva Premal’s Moola Mantra, original source uncredited

People often ask me if, in my self-proclaimed state of joyful pessimism and contemplative gratitude, I’ve finally discovered spirituality.
I insist that I have not.

Just about everyone I know who self-identifies as “spiritual” also believes our civilization will somehow be ‘saved’ from collapse (by science or technology, or the market, or wise leadership, or human ingenuity, or by a god or gods, or by a massive human consciousness-raising). What good is a ‘spirit’, after all, if he/she/it can’t save you from perceived disaster?

No thank you, no salvation needed here.
I’d like to think that most non-spiritual people have moved on, as Derrick Jensen puts it, “Beyond Hope” for saving our culture and our species. Tom Robbins says we now have no choice but to “insist on joy in spite of everything”.

We who are resigned to the inevitability of civilization’s collapse strive instead to be unattached and equanimous, but not nihilistic or depressed about it. We humans can only be who we are, and who we are is ignorant of complex systems and preoccupied with the needs of the moment. So it is. Life is wonderful and worth living every minute anyway. No soul or striving or sacredness required.

But a little voice inside me says: “That sounds kinda spiritual to me. Borderline Buddhist even. Are you sure you’re not spiritual? You throw around the word Gaia as a shorthand for all-life-on-Earth, but it sounds pretty Goddess-like. You have a picture of her in your mind, some kind of wise, wild, beautiful meta-creature?”

And I must confess that my belief that complex systems are unfathomable, and cannot be known or understood or ‘managed’ or predicted or changed or controlled by humans, no matter how rich or powerful or organized or skilled or motivated, sounds not dissimilar to the faith that some ancient peoples had in some higher, invisible, awesome power.

And I am on a journey these days to try to really see what I know intellectually – that my self, my mind, my sense of being all-of-a-piece, my sense of separateness, my sense of self-control and my sense of time are all illusions, conceptions, ideas that are extremely useful in surviving day to day, but ultimately false. If that truth-seeking isn’t a spiritual journey, what is?

Although it’s defined a thousand ways, spirituality is ultimately about belief, and faith. For most who call themselves spiritual, it is about belief in something larger and more important than ourselves and our species, and faith that there is a purpose to our struggle and a meaning to our lives.

I don’t understand the need of spiritual people for purpose or meaning or something larger than everything-that-just-is, the need for something to strive for and to progress towards.

My great-great grandfather, who lived through the Long Depression (which lasted from 1873 more or less until 1896) wrote in his diary about his duty to do whatever was necessary to leave things better for his children than they had been for him. This was the era of robber barons, urbanization caused by bankruptcy of family farms, and child labour, an era which followed a period of relative agrarian prosperity and equality. He was spiritual. He had faith that his struggle and belief would be rewarded in the afterlife and through increased opportunity for his children. He never lost his faith. His children and grandchildren would contend with WW1 and the Great Depression. 

Whether he was rewarded in the afterlife is anyone’s guess.
We boomers were really the first Western generation in recent history to challenge that faith en masse. Many of us became secular humanists in youth, and believers in the gods of money, markets and technology in middle age. Or were “born again”. Most of us have now become salvationists of one kind or another, seeing the world through very different evolved worldviews, and defining life’s meaning and their purpose accordingly.

These days we also have the advocates of scientism whose faith is, paradoxically, in scientific certainty and the knowability of everything. Science, its advocates contend, can ultimately solve any problem, reduce everything that can be known to simple equations and perfect models, and allow us to transcend our bodies and live anywhere, forever. It’s the new salvationist religion of science that, preposterously, self-identifies as atheistic. The myth of progress expresses itself in many different ways, each with its fervent and unshakable believers.

But every generation has its skeptics, and I think the boomers, the first generation whose rebelliousness was largely celebrated rather than suppressed, has retained more than its share. And just as we have politically moved Beyond Hope, we have culturally and philosophically moved Beyond Belief.

Stephen J Gould argued in Full House that the emergence of vertebrates (let alone humanoids), even in a physical environment ideally evolving for life as we know it, was a one-in-millions long shot. If we manage to render life on this planet extinct, he said, there is very little chance of it re-emerging in any fathomable time span, and even if it did re-emerge, it would almost certainly be unrecognizably different from the web of life that emerged from the primordial soup a few billion years ago. Our search for extraterrestrial life (at least in the sense we define the term) is foolish, he would assert, and the search for extraterrestrial “intelligence” (some form of life we could communicate with), is absurd, and based on nothing but faith, a will to believe in something in spite of its staggering improbability.

This does not sit well with people who argue that life tends to emerge and grow in complexity and resist “death” tenaciously whenever and wherever it can. Life, these believers assert, is predestined, the will of all existence. No matter that such belief is tautological.

So what does it mean to be “Beyond Belief”? It means appreciating and embracing complexity, and accepting that we cannot ever hope to fully know, predict or control complex systems (including our bodies and the microcosms within them, and social and ecological systems, and our planet, and all the macrocosms beyond it). It means accepting that in our study of science and technology (including the so-called “social sciences”) we may devise interesting and useful, within limits, models of reality, but that these are only absurdly simplistic and limited representations of reality — stick men on cave walls.

It means challenging everything you are told, everything you believe and everything you want to believe. It means appreciating and accepting what is without pretending or hoping to fathom it. It means becoming humble. It means learning to live without the need for meaning or purpose or progress or something larger and more important than the miracle of what just is, what has evolved from the universe’s infinite random walks through possibility.

OK, I used the word ‘miracle’. That’s pretty spiritual, isn’t it?
Nope, afraid not. ‘Miracle’ comes from the proto-Indo-European word meaning to wonder and to laugh. That is what awaits those who can let go of their beliefs and faith. To wonder, and to laugh. To notice. To really see. To really be.

Beyond belief, that is all that you need.

Technology’s False Hope (and the Wisdom of Crows)

This is an excellent essay, I post it with permission of the author (note URL for source)

Technology’s False Hope (and the Wisdom of Crows) (repost)
Posted on June 6, 2016 by Dave Pollard
I am reposting, in their entirety, the ten articles I wrote that were published in SHIFT magazine (which is now on hiatus) between 2013 and 2015, since some of the links have changed and so that my blog contains the full text of these articles (useful for searches etc.) Thanks to SHIFT for the graphics (much better than my originals), and for publishing and editing my work.

“What have we to do but stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards
in an age which advances progressively backwards?”
— TS Eliot, Choruses from The Rock
Only a decade ago, I was part of the Strategy and Innovation Core Team for a huge multinational consultancy, and writing exuberantly on my (then-new) blog about innovation and technology and how they could possibly save the world. The image above, from the Credit Suisse First Boston New Economy Forum Synthesis, describes a universal “technology development process” popular at the time. One of the leading business speakers in those heady days was Chris Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution, whom I more or less idolized.

And then something happened. My own research into the history of innovation and technology suggested that, rather than being the result of rigorous process, excellence and inventiveness, most enduring technologies of any value seemed to be the result of fortuitous accidents, or were the throw-away byproducts of massive, outrageously expensive military programs. Complexity science was by then throwing serious doubt on a lot of accepted theories about how change actually happens in organizations and societies. Ronald Wright’s book A Short History of Progress and similar works by Jared Diamond and others argued that ‘progress’ was an illusion, and that all civilizations inevitably collapse (taking the capacity to support their technologies with them).

We actually likely lived healthier, happier (and often longer, when we weren’t eaten by predators) lives in prehistoric times, it seems, way back before the inventions (or more accurately discoveries) of the first great technologies (the arrowhead, fire, the wheel, and then abstract language and later, agriculture (which Richard Manning in Against the Grain says should more accurately be called “catastrophic agriculture”), enabling the unnatural human evolution we call “settlement”. Settlement brought with it a blizzard of new problems for technology to solve (most notably infectious and emotional diseases), and each well-intentioned new technology has produced yet more problems, arguably greater in number, size and intractability than the benefits the earlier technology provided.

Nothing is new in any of this. Back in 1994, in his book Beginning Again, David Ehrenfeld described our civilization’s technological underpinning as a ragged flywheel, over-built, patched and rusty, spinning faster and faster and now beginning to rattle and moan as it inevitably comes apart.

In the past decade, disillusionment with innovation and technology has grown. Christensen’s work has been largely discredited by a review (by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker), with the benefit of hindsight, suggesting that “innovative” companies don’t ultimately fare any better than those they “disrupt”. A recent study by Peter Thiel in MIT Technology Review claims “technology stalled in 1970”. As global corporate power is consolidated in fewer and fewer hands, he explains, there is less and less motivation for innovation and more wealth to buy it out and squelch it, with the help of armies of IP lawyers.

My own research in recent years substantiates this claim. My greatest learning from 35 years in (and studying) organizational culture has been that size is the enemy of innovation and that most of the useful and creative things that happen in large organizations happen through workarounds by people on the front lines, in spite of, not because of, the cultural tone and processes established at the top. Looking back at hundreds of expensive strategic and change-oriented programs and projects I was involved with (including not a few that I led myself) there is almost nothing left to show for them ten, or even five, years after they were conducted.

The most damning critique of the Kurzweilian technophilia that so many bright people now embrace comes from John Gray, who devotes an entire chapter of Straw Dogs to deconstructing the idealistic and uncritical notions that technology, in the long run, steadily and sometimes astonishingly improves our lives. He writes:

If anything about the present century is certain, it is that the power conferred on ‘humanity’ by new technologies will be used to commit atrocious crimes against it. If it becomes possible to clone human beings, soldiers will be bred in whom normal human emotions are stunted or absent. Genetic engineering may enable centuries-old diseases to be eradicated. At the same time, it is likely to be the technology of choice in future genocides. Those who ignore the destructive potential of new technologies can only do so because they ignore history. Pogroms are as old as Christendom; but without railways, the telegraph and poison gas there could have been no Holocaust. There have always been tyrannies, but without modern means of transport and communication, Stalin and Mao could not have built their gulags. Humanity’s worst crimes were made possible only by modern technology.

Whether we believe that innovation and technology ultimately make the world better or worse, there is now overwhelming evidence that they are unsustainable in any case. Between economic over-extension, energy over-dependence, and the ruination of our atmosphere and other environments by our civilization and its technologies, it is now almost inevitable that we will soon see a collapse that will make the Great Depression, and perhaps even the five previous great extinctions of life on Earth, look like nothing.

This collapse is going to require us to live a much simpler, more local and more diverse and place-dependent life. We are destined to be very nostalgic for the good old days of modern technology as soon as it is gone, and that’s likely to happen soon. Modern technology requires cheap energy, and, notwithstanding the recent power games between the US and Russia temporarily and artificially driving down oil prices, we are quickly running out of it. Modern technology requires massive standardization and globalization, and without cheap oil, cheap foreign labour and cheap raw materials, none of which is sustainable, we cannot expect it to last much longer. A barrel of oil replaces six person-years of labour, and when those barrels become unavailable or unaffordable, the vast majority of what we all do is going to change drastically.

But at least, you may insist, the Internet will survive and it will allow other technologies to continue to thrive even if they must be manufactured and operated more frugally and locally. Dmitry Orlov, as he explains in The Five Stages of Collapse, clearly doesn’t think so, and the staggering cost and time required to keep the Internet afloat when the economy is in free-fall seems utterly unsustainable as server farms become luxury items and people’s time is diverted to living sufficiently in the real world.

Likewise with other technologies we pin great hopes on for our future, or have come to take for granted: solar panels and other expensive and resource-dependent goods; the private automobile; non-emergency airplane travel; the miraculous products of the pharmaceutical and plastics industry (including synthetic fibres); industrial agriculture; the mass media, and anything that depends on a reliable and consistent electrical or communications grid.

What will life look like without oil-powered technologies? It will vary hugely from one increasingly-isolated community to the next. Much will depend on the state of the land (the quality of the soil, its capacity to produce sustainable food, the proximity to abundant healthy clean water, its vulnerability to drought, floods, pandemics and natural disasters induced by climate change), the number of people in the community that must be supported, their cohesion as a community and their physical and mental health, essential skills and capacities.

It will depend on our collective ability to live sufficiently, not extravagantly, and to be resilient to change. Dmitri Orlov, in Communities That Abide, says such communities need three qualities: (1) self-sufficiency, (2) able to self-organize and recover in the face of calamity, and (3) mobility: not being tied to any one place. Most modern technologies don’t fit well with such a model.

Ronald Wright not only wrote the aforementioned A Short History of Progress, but also the novel A Scientific Romance, which depicts life in the present-day UK centuries after collapse. When I read it, I was struck by how much our ancient human nature (as scavengers, more like crows than fellow mammals) comes out in his vision, and how much the world he describes resonates with the world described in Pierre Berton’s book The Great Depression. Both books describe worlds that are accepting (or even resigned), self-supportive, full of struggle and joy, and only occasionally (and briefly and spectacularly) violent.

Both books describe people initially trying to perpetuate their technologies, to make them work illogically in a world where the underlying infrastructure can no longer support them. And both books describe how people finally let go of these technologies, and free themselves from dependence on them.
It is not so terrible, a world without modern technologies and the Internet. It is the world hoped for in Mark Kingwell’s The World We Want and Thomas Princen’s The Logic of Sufficiency, though it will not come about as elegantly as their authors would have hoped. Technology has always offered us false hope, and continues to do so (the latest technological “miracle” sold to us was fracking). The sooner and more gently we let go of it, and our dependence on the systems that it underlies so precariously, the sooner and more gently we can begin to make our way to a more resilient way of living.

Crows, a spectacular evolutionary success both with and without us, have much to teach and show us in this regard. They have almost no technologies, and those they have discovered (e.g. the elaborate use of hooked sticks) they hold lightly, using them for non-essential, amusing tasks. They have a sophisticated sense of fun, and creatively use their leisure time joyfully and exuberantly whenever and wherever it’s available. They love, support and teach each other without expecting reciprocation. They adapt themselves to places, instead of foolishly attempting to adapt their chosen places to them.

Technology’s false hope can bring us only disappointment, sorrow and suffering. It’s time to learn to let it go, gradually but starting now, and give up our dreams of “smart” technologies that are too smart for our own good. In so doing, we will embrace not progress and the wisdom of crowds, but resilience and the wisdom of crows.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Raising Children - A Wrong Turn 10,000 Years Ago.

The depth of research done since I had my experience in 1968 and even more since I wrote the piece 1998 is wonderful.  Much of it is above my pay grade so to speak but the work is available to read and learn. 

The concepts here are of critical importance for having a future.


In 1968, while fishing on the causeway between Miami and Miami Beach, I had an epiphany. I had just finished a BS in anthropology and had studied psychology for many years (and went on later to get a degree, become licensed and practice for 20 years).
I was looking at the skyline of Miami (boy I bet it has changed) and realized that it couldn’t go on. “Civilization” was asking too much of us. We are too separated from nature.  We are too pack in together.  Our original child development situation had warped.  Our connection to our brethren had been lost.  We had allowed our hubris and arrogance to blind us to our situation.
In 1972, Limits to Growth came out.  So besides not being healthy for humans psychologically, sociologically or spiritually, we are creating an unsustainable, environmentally devastating and devastated world.
 Then Energy for Survival by Wilson Clark, Energy Basis for Man and Nature by Howard T. Odum and Elisabeth C. Odum, The Fires of Culture by Carol E SteinhartTechnics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford,  Creating Alternative Futures: The End of Economics by Henderson, Hazel.

This comes from an essay I wrote around 1998.
Consider it this way.   If humanity is seen as a person who is 100 years old, the first 99 years of her life would have been spent as gatherer and hunter.  She would have only one year to adapt to the changes in family structure, living arrangements, child rearing and all the other pressures and stresses that the shift to agriculture brought.  This same 100 year old person would have five or six days to adapt to the enormous changes brought about by the industrial revolution.   And less than a day to adapt to the mass of information made available by electronics.
Each adaptation moves us further away from the original social and physical environment of our emergence.  Is it bad or wrong?  This is not the criteria.  There is no fault.  Each accommodation comes from necessity and is the best we know at the time.  At the leading edge of human history is an accumulation that can expand and deepen the knowledge of our travels. It can also cause great confusion and grief.                                                                             


The list of hunting and gathering childrearing traits I had learned in anthropology was one of the underlying reasons for my reaction in 1968.  So I went looking again recently which is one of my ways to understanding.

I was fortunate to find this book when doing an interlibrary search.  Narvaez, Darcia; Panksepp, Jaak; Schore, Alan and Gleason, Tracy.   2013.  Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development.  Oxford.  London.  
Darcua Narvaez listed the experiences of our earlier evolution and development.

•   Lots of positive touch – as in no spanking – but nearly constant carrying, cuddling and holding;
•   Prompt response to baby’s fusses and cries. You can’t “spoil” a baby. This means meeting a child’s needs before they get upset and the brain is flooded with toxic chemicals. “Warm, responsive caregiving like this keeps the infant’s brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,” Narvaez says.
•   Breastfeeding, ideally 2 to 5 years. A child’s immune system isn’t fully formed until age 6 and breast milk provides its building blocks.
•   Multiple adult caregivers – people beyond mom and dad who also love the child.
•   Free play with multi-age playmates. Studies show that kids who don’t play enough are more likely to have ADHD and other mental health issues.
•   Natural childbirth, which provides mothers with the hormone boosts that give the energy to care for a newborn.
Ross A. Thompson added in his entry "Adaptations and Adaptations"
·   cosleeping with caregivers
·   Living in social groups (i.e. high social embeddedness)

I wrote Darcia Narvaez and she sent me several of her papers and names of other books. I am interested in researching further the psychological and social result of not having our original childrearing practices.


I think our present political, economic, social, and environmental situations not only here in the USA but also globally in many places is bring home to roost the wrong turn we took some 10,000 years ago.  I think this modification came with horticulture/agriculture and we have become more estranged ever since.   I believe it may well be at the root of our assault on nature and the multiple dilemma that we now face globally.  I also believe the Dumbar number (groups of 200) may have been more critical than we know.  Moving beyond a certain group size undercut social control of individuals and unleashed again our assault via technology on nature.

Consider this:
Insecure attachment. Crittenden (1998) and Fosha (2003) describe three psychological ways in which infants adapt over time to habitual non-responsive caregivers developing forms of insecure attachment: “feeling but not dealing,” “dealing but not feeling,” and “neither feeling nor dealing.” When the caregiver is rejecting or inconsistent, an insecure attachment develops with that caregiver. When caregivers are rejecting of a young child’s overtures for affection or need satisfaction, the child learns to suppress emotion and develops an avoidant attachment (dealing but not feeling). When caregivers are inconsistent in response, the child learns to use affect as a way to get attention and needs met, shutting down cognition (since it is unreliable predictor of caregiver behavior), developing an ambivalent or anxious attachment (feeling but not dealing). When the child is abused, the child does not develop in feeling or thinking and ends up with a disorganized attachment (neither feeling nor dealing). Those with insecure attachment become inflexible and self-centered in social situations—they emotionally withdraw, attack or manipulate.
Narvaez, D.    2014. “Natural Morality, Moral Natures and Human Flourishing.”   In B. Musschenga & A. van Harskamp (Eds.), Why be moral? On the capacities and conditions for being moral. [Springer Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy] Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.


“Moral Heritage1: Engagement of the Heart”
Narvaez, Darcia; Panksepp, Jaak; Schore, Alan and Gleason, Tracy.   2013.  Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development.  Oxford.  London.

“The companionshop care that children receive in these societies contributes to the capacities for social enjoyment and face-to-face compassionate morality, providing a baseline for what I call an engagement ethic”.  pg. 94

“The engagement ethic comprises capacities such as social pleasure, presence, reverence, sysnchrony and intersubjectivity, empathy, mentalizing and perspective taking.”  pg. 106.

“Presence.  Full emotional presence, or resonance with the Other in the moment, represents one of the key features of the engagement ethic.  Presence is relational attunement to life in the vicinity, encompassingthe sense of connection to all of life.” pg. 96

“Reverent hospitality  .  .  .  .  Reverence is a perception of the phenomina related to a thing or entity, its being-nature” pg. 97

“Synchronized intersubjectivity involves emotional attunement with Other.” .  .  .  .  Our bodies, as social animals, have ‘evolvedsympathetic detection  .  .  . of the motives inherent in one another’s ways of moving’ and our social cooperation ‘depends on this mysterious intersubjective sympathy.”  pg. 98

Empathy is attunement with another’s feeling and needs.   The ability to feel with another – to feel the same emotion – is fundamental to the mammalian mind.  pg. 98

Perspective taking.  Early experience with intersubjectivity facilitates the development of the neurobiological underpinnings for perspective taking or mentalization, the ability to imagine another’s viewpoint and understnd what might be motivating their behavior, a critical capacity for effective human relations.  pgs 99-100.


In addition, I think our original milieu maintained constraint so we maintain an ongoing sustainability:

I believe there are five natural factors that determine and will continue to determine our history and future.
* All life reproduces to the maximum their environment allows(population density).
* All life will use all the resources in its environment to promote its present living (population pressure).
* Much of life manifest an us against them protectionism (even plants release poisons to the soil to protect their territory. This is the convergence of territoriality (which is manifest by all life) and the need to belong for this dependently social animal called human.
* We are immersed in an environment of our own making and our "brilliance" threatens us with unintended consequences (whether agriculture or nuclear power).
* Groups larger than the small group of 30 to 200 people, which is the social environment in which we evolved for a million years, creates power-over and inequality.
These five factors are a natural part of life and being human. For more detailed exposition:


Some Bibliography

Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution: Culture, Childrearing and Social Wellbeing (ed. with Valentino, Fuentes, McKenna, & Gray; OUP, 2014)

Narvaez, Darcia; Panksepp, Jaak; Schore, Alan and Gleason, Tracy.   2013.  Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development.  Oxford.  London.