What Is PatternDynamics?

I’m excited for our workshop to begin tomorrow morning, and as I was waiting for Tim’s arrival I was studying some of his material.  What follows are all Tim Winton’s words, but I’ve organized and put together various statements he’s made to form another summary of what PatternDynamics is about.  There’s still a little time left to Register here for the workshop!

Living systems have a very, very refined capacity of awareness. An awareness that can sense a wide range of subtle signaling between the parts to coordinate into some kind of dynamic system.

This shared awareness is the consciousness of a system of its identity and purpose (the Source pattern). “Source” is the original and central unifying force of a system – the primordial pattern of organization at the heart of all systems.

A “system” is any set of parts that come together to form a whole.

“Dynamics” is any process that integrates and coordinates the complex functions that occur within and between systems.

“Patterns” are patterns of organization observed in nature and in all living systems.

As mentioned above, there is a wide range of subtle signaling that occurs between the parts of a system to coordinate it into some kind of dynamic system. There is a constant coordination and integration and balancing of the fundamental patterns of organization occurring that have kept nature’s living systems thriving for hundreds of millions of years.

PatternDynamics(TM) is a form of communication based on these patterns of nature as a new kind of language. They are a set of diagrams designed to communicate a clear set of principles anyone can learn. These principles will enable us to understand complexity and learn systems thinking.

The Patterns can be used to identify tensions in the flow of our human systems and organizations, and when we balance and integrate the Patterns, our systems will achieve a greater level of enduring, thriving health.

Each Pattern has a fundamental Polarity which has the potential to become unbalanced. As we increase in our awareness of our systems and the patterns within them, we will learn how to better balance and integrate the Patterns that have fallen out of balance or become unintegrated.

Living systems do this superbly. That’s why we want to bring living systems consciousness into our organizations. Living systems have an amazing capacity to adapt and change and keep thriving in a range of circumstances. If we can bring that into our organizations, then our organizations can, in turn, steward the environments they exist in better.

Ultimately this will contribute to the development of planetary civilization.

Tim Winton on the Foundations of PatternDynamics

This is a reblog of a post I did a year ago.  It features an audio recorded in 2006 of Tim Winton answering a question about grounding mind in body. He touches on Permaculture, Integral theory, PatternDynamics, and  –  the importance of building a capacity to understand dynamics in integrated whole systems and the capacity to develop awareness.

Click to listen to audio file:  Foundations of PatternDynamics

Tim posted on his blog, “This talk was recorded as part of the Certificate 4 and Diploma programs in Accredited Permaculture Training I taught at Permaforest Trust. This was recorded at the beginning of the second semester in 2006, probably in late July or August. It is interesting to go back and listen to how I was thinking about PD at the time now that it has developed into something more tangible 6 years later.”

As I was listening, I decided I wanted to transcribe a short section.  That short section got longer and longer.  Someday I’ll probably transcribe the whole thing and post it again. I hope you find this as interesting as I do.

“…I am wholly uninterested now, after having witnessed lots of failures, in ‘sustainability’; because there was no attempt at working with self or culture. It was just a focus on nature – those failed. I don’t really have an interest in perpetuating that failure. I will not introduce you to that failure.

I would like to integrate acting on nature through Permaculture and other practices with acting in culture – that’s about storytelling, it’s about framing worldviews, it’s about collective understanding – that’s story and myth. And also introducing practices on self – that’s about developing awareness. Opening up this space where everything you thought was not you becomes you. The only way to do that is to sit in awareness and witness all this stuff. Then, all of a sudden, the boundary fades. That’s human development.

Integrating all those things is a very cool thing to do, and is very powerful. I think that’s what we can offer, and in developing PatternDynamics as a discipline or a modality, what I’m hoping to do is to give you a tool to develop your own integral capacity for sustainability. If you can understand the dynamics in integrated whole systems, you can understand where to intervene to create health where it will have the most effect – how to relieve disease, how to open up the flow. There’s no rational way to understand it- it’s too complex. You can’t understand this by learning ‘A’, learning ‘B’, learning ‘C’, learning ‘D’ and then coming out the other end. You don’t just have A,B,C, and D, you have the whole alphabet, and they’re all swirling around in this great interconnected dynamic play. There’s no way to comprehend that holistic dynamic one bit at a time. You have to develop the capacity to understand the dynamics.

The only way to do that is to stand back in awareness and see the patterns. Patterns are the only way to really understand fluid dynamic integral wholes. And that’s what the universe is, and that’s what we have to get a grasp on.

Both David Holmgren and Bill Mollison [co-founders of Permaculture] have keyed in on this. They know that patterns are how you understand wholes. Ken Wilber also keyed in on this. He calls Integral “The pattern that connects” [a phrase borrowed from Gregory Bateson – another pioneer of pattern literacy]. He’s just taken that natural step beyond ‘if everything’s connected,’ that means my awareness is connected to the awareness of the universe. There’s not such a separation between my experience and the experience full stop – you know, ‘out there’. It’s a natural extension.

So we’ve got a natural resonance between Integral and Permaculture through their understanding that patterns are important to understand integrated wholes.

…PatternDynamics is a base pattern set for understanding – it’s a tool, it’s not reality, it’s just a tool. It’s an educational discipline to help you gain an integral capacity for understanding integral dynamic systems.”


Tim Winton just finished a PatternDynamics™ One Day Workshop in Oakland on Jan. 18th.  There will be another One Day Workshop in Bellingham, WA on Sunday, Jan. 26th.

The video below is a 23 minute intro to PatternDynamics.

What is David Holmgren Really Telling Us?

David Holmgren’s latest essay, Crash on Demand, appeared on his website initially with little fanfare in December.  My post (Crash on Demand: David Holmgren Updates His Future Scenarios) was perhaps the first online response (posted December 17th).

Now the peak-oil blogosphere is roiling with commentary, with lots of different positions being staked out.  Jason Heppenstal characterizes Holmgren’s position as advocating “any means necessary” to protect life on earth.

Nicole Foss at The Automatic Earth mostly supports Holmgren’s position, but offers her own lengthy essay to stake out her nuanced position.

Rob Hopkins at Transition Culture, taking on one of his heroes, calls Holmgren “naive and irresponsible” and then quotes Nicole Foss out of context to boot. Guy McPherson was (apparently) even less kind to Foss. Kevin O’Conner at C-Realm calls him out on it and sets the record straight.

Joanne Poyourow at Transition U.S. in turn seems to imply that Hopkins is beginning to paint himself into the Green Tech Stability scenario, rather than that of Energy Descent (Steady State folk then claim they are misrepresented).  She is careful to make her position clear: “I am not advocating for intentionally creating an economic crash.”

Then legendary permaculture activist Albert Bates offered up convenient charts so that we can see where all of our favorite Collapseniks fall into his 4 quadrant map. Do they lean toward Ecotopia or Collapse, toward Peaceful Transformation or Violent Revolution? He shows Holmgren moving from Techno-optimist into the “Violent Revolution” quadrant, which I would strongly challenge.  Bates later clarified that the “Violent Revolution” tag is not meant to mean physical violence necessarily, but those “willing to push the agenda with acts of defiance of state authority.” Nevertheless, that nuance is easily lost when just looking at the chart.

Finally (so far), Dimitry Orlov has joined the fray, claiming that Holmgren has “proposed a new approach” because previous mainstream environmentalist strategies (including the Transition Towns movement) have had such a negligible effect.

For me, all of the commentators named above have valid points and important perspectives that are good to hear. However, it is very easy to misrepresent the views of the people being responded to…as I’ve likely unintentionally done above.  I will be attempting to sort some of this out in a series of posts.

Today I want to discuss my contention that  most of the writers named above, whom I have a great deal of respect for, seem to me to be missing the nuance of David Holmgren’s thinking.  These deficient interpretations then are stretched and amplified as they bounce off one another in the blogosphere.  No one seems to be noticing that the actual actions Holmgren recommends haven’t changed much since he wrote Permaculture One in 1978.

I hope I’m forgiven for using extended quotes in an attempt to make things more clear.

For example, here is David Holmgren in 1994, concluding an essay titled “Energy and Permaculture“:

To summarize…

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (in that order).
  • Grow a garden and eat what it produces.
  • Avoid imported resources where possible.
  • Use labor and skill in preference to materials and technology.
  • Design, build, and purchase for durability and repairability.
  • Use resources for their greatest potential use (e.g. electricity for tools and lighting,
    food scraps for animal feed).
  • Use renewable resources wherever possible even if local environmental costs appear higher (e.g. wood rather than electricity for fuel and timber rather than steel for construction).
  • Use non-renewable and embodied energies primarily to establish sustainable systems
    (e.g. passive solar housing, food gardens, water storage, forests).
  • When using high technology (e.g. computers) avoid using state of the art equipment.
  • Avoid debt and long-distance commuting.
  • Reduce taxation by earning less.
  • Develop a home-based lifestyle, be domestically responsible.

And here is part of his introduction in last month’s Crash On Demand:

My argument is essentially that radical, but achievable, behaviour change from dependent consumers to responsible self-reliant producers (by some relatively small minority of the global middle class) has a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.  It maybe a slim chance, but a better bet than current herculean efforts to get the elites to pull the right policy levers; whether by sweet promises of green tech profits or alternatively threats from mass movements shouting for less consumption.

It’s the same strategy advocated in both papers: Move from being “dependent consumers to responsible self-reliant producers.”  The only thing that has changed is that he’s now also saying, (I’m paraphrasing), “by the way, engaging in this behavior just might help crash the system a little bit sooner.”   It seems to me that this invitation is designed to bring into the permaculture fold the environmental activists that are already attempting to avert climate catastrophe by ever more defiant or desperate means – from McKibben campaigning against private oil companies (see my post here) to Klein calling for revolt (see my post here) to Jensen who claims that “the task of an activist is to confront and take down systems of oppressive power.” (see my post here).

Holmgren writes, “disillusioned social and political activists are just starting to recognize Permaculture as a potentially effective pathway for social change as 20th century style mass movements seem to have lost their potency.”

Their methods are not showing to be effective, whereas the Permaculture/Transition approach will not only put them and their community in a more secure position, it just might also “have a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.”

And yet, the way Holmgren’s position is being presented in the blogs, you might think he was saying the opposite. Such was the impression of Lou, who left this comment on Hopkins’ blog:

If you agree with David [Holmgren] come and join us at [Deep Green Resistance link]…

Holmgren states up front in the introduction that “this provocative idea is intended to increase understanding.” This indicates to me that he’s using the suggestion at least partially as a rhetorical device.

On page 14, Holmgren writes:

An argument can be mounted for putting effort into precipitating that crash, the crash of the financial system. Any such plan would of course invite being blamed for causing it when it happens.

Note that he doesn’t mount the argument, he instead, choosing his words carefully, says “an argument can be mounted.”  Then, a few paragraphs later:

Before considering whether this is a good idea or not, I want to consider whether concerted action by limited number of activists could bring it about?

He has still not decided whether this thought experiment is a good idea or not. Now notice the nuance in Holmgren’s words as he concludes Crash on Demand:


Mass movements to get governments to institute change have been losing efficacy for decades, while a mass movement calling for less seems like a hopeless case. Similarly boycotts of particular governments, companies and products simply change the consumption problems into new forms.

I believe that actively building parallel and largely non-monetary household and local community economies with as little as 10% of the population has the potential to function as a deep systemic boycott of the centralized systems as a whole, that could lead to more than 5% contraction in the centralized economies. Whether this became the straw that broke the back of the global financial system or a tipping point, no one could ever say, even after the event.

Discussing such possibilities may be counterproductive and may brand us as crazy people, a doomsday cult or even terrorists. Maybe it is better to keep focusing on the positive aspects of these bottom up changes that are acceptable to the average citizen, better physical and mental health, more fun and empowered children who can survive and thrive in a world of dramatic transformation, while minimizing our contribution to harm to nature and others.

On the other hand, bringing these issues out in the open might inspire desperate climate and political activists to put their substantial energy into permaculture, Transition Towns, voluntary frugality, and other aspects of positive environmentalism. It just might stop the monster of global growth after all other options have been exhausted. Rather than spurning financial system terrorists, we would welcome the impacted and vulnerable to the growing ranks of terra-ists with their hands in the soil.

Did you notice that Holmgren begins by pointing out the ineffectiveness of traditional activism (much as Hopkins does here). He then acknowledges that his provocative suggestion that “reducing consumption and capital enough to crash the fragile  global financial system” might actually be counterproductive. “Maybe it is better to keep focusing on the positive aspects of these bottom up changes…”  Here he seems to back away a little from the idea of intentionally crashing the economy, coming back around to his common Permaculture message of the past 30 years.

And then he tells us why he offered the suggestion in the first place: to inspire activists “to put their energy into permaculture, Transition Towns…and other aspects of positive environmentalism.”

He’s not a terrorist after all – he’s the same “terra-ist” he’s been all along. He’s not inviting us to take to the streets, but rather to put our “hands in the soil.”

Like Joanne Poyourow, I want to make it clear that I do not support the idea of intentionally creating an economic crash.  We’ll go into this in the next post as we look at Nicole Foss’s own thoughtful essay.

shop_principles_800s-400x400My deepest hope is that after all this discussion ABOUT Holmgren’s ideas, that people will actually read his work, especially Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. The theme of the book is energy descent, the same theme as the latest paper. The book rises above any particular strategies associated with Permaculture and offers broad principles that can be applied at any scale to the problems of a society that has reached the limits of growth.









[*Update 8/06/14*: After you’ve read Crash On Demand, you might want to also consult the single page Crash On Demand: Concise Version which clarifies and attempts to answer questions, such as “Is David saying that the system will crash anyway and by scaling up permaculture activities will fasten the inevitable, or is he really calling for non-violent efforts to crash the economic system,  to save the planet, or is he not calling for that?” Hopefully this post, as well as my blog posts “Crash on Demand and “David Holmgren: I Haven’t Really Changed My Message” will also answer these questions.]

Related, on Integral Permaculture:

David Holmgren 2011 Interview: Strategies for the Transition
Nicole Foss on Deliberate Attempts to Cause System Failure

David Holmgren 2011 Interview: Strategies for the Transition

The peak oil blogosphere is currently awash with responses to David Holmgren’s latest essay Crash on Demand (which I wrote about here on December 17th).  The distortion of his views seems to be increasing with each post, in my view.

In my reply to Dimitry Orlov, I wrote:

No one seems to be noticing that he [Holmgren] did not propose a new approach at all. He is still advocating for the same approach he’s written about for the last 30 years: reduce consumption and be domestically responsible. I don’t agree with the huge shift in [Holmgren’s] position that Albert  [Bates] has put on his chart. The only difference is that this time he has associated his suggested strategies with the idea that if enough people put them into practice, it just might tip the already fragile global finance system over the edge. I think he’s throwing this idea out there primarily to attract what he calls “the disillusioned social and political activists who are just starting to recognize Permaculture as a potentially effective pathway for social change.”

Stay tuned – I’ll have more to say very soon, as I’m preparing  a new post on the subject.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share an interview with Holmgren that took place in 2011.  Below the video are my notes…I call them “notes” rather than a transcript, because they are not 100% verbatum.

Interview of David Holmgren by Luke Miller Callahan at Groaction.com.

The Upcoming Transition Away From a Fossil Fuel Based Society: David Holmgren Talks Strategy

2011 GroAction Interview with Luke Miller Callahan

How Do You Spend Your Time?

1/3 time spent on home based self-reliance and local community
1/3 time spent speaking and teaching
1/3 time spent on research, especially “over the horizon” research on the world we are moving into.
Enjoys the balance of doing hands on work and conveying the big picture of where we’re heading in the world to people, to empower them to do things with their hands.

Empowering People to Do the Small, Local, Bottom Up Actions

I think that, while the big political movement stuff is always going to be in some ways more exciting – and there’s certainly some exciting aspects of that emerging in the world now around the notion of demanding that someone do something, I don’t think those things really help change the structure much, unless people are also making the changes themselves.  Because the changes people make themselves are double insurance – they are insurance against dysfunctional or anti-social behavior by elites (and there’s certainly plenty of evidence for that), but they’re also the way we model the world that we’re actually wanting to be, because in a lot of ways it’s a matter of being able to crawl before you walk. The sort of world we’re trying to construct, I think it’s actually impossible to construct that top-down. It has to actually be rebuilt bottom up, in parallel with the crumbling system. And then as those models become more real, it’s possible to get some degree of top-down reform/support for those things. But if they don’t actually exist, if we don’t have the working, living solutions, then it’s very hard for policymakers to say “Yes, we’ll have more of that, and less of that.” They can’t actually create the things we need. The things we need are all very small, localized, particular, and large scale systems just can’t do that.

Do the systems in place now need to come down?

Things develop in parallel to a fair degree and there’s an ambiguity between how much needs to be rebuilt from scratch, and how much is a matter of reform. The old debate between reform or revolution. Permaculture comes from the premise that you’ve got to design from first principles. A whole lot of the ground design principles built into our society, which have been functional in the past, aren’t functional in the future, and you can’t necessarily just modify them beyond certain limits. Example: material growth is very much built into the foundations of the system we’ve got. In regards to climate change, we know that a proven strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to contract the economy, but no one ever discusses it as a serious strategy. That tells us how deeply committed our system is to perpetual growth. So it’s hard to know at what point that could actually be part of a serious discussion at the levels of policy. I suspect it’s not really possible. There’s always got to be this fabrication – oh yes, we’re going to reduce our impact on the environment by all sorts of means, but we’re not going to question growth…even when the evidence is that that growth is not occurring…

Faith in People

It doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless for the possibility of positive things coming out of a national level or an international level.  But the assumption is, that because those are big and powerful systems, and because we need positive change very fast, that that is the predominant place we have to have faith in. I think the reverse is true. The predominant place we have to have faith in is for the ability of people, as like fast moving intelligent new life forms, like the early mammals replacing the dinosaurs. That humans individually and collectively without rigid institutional structures can think on their feet, and can incorporate both the long term vision stuff that we associate with big institutions and long term planning – that humans are actually capable of that… We’re capable of responding to the immediate environment around us in ways that institutions can never be capable of, but we’re also capable of some of those things that we associate with institutional capacity – the long term wisdom and ability to understand complexity. And maybe that’s part of the inheritance of the modern world, because people in the past didn’t necessarily  have that on an individual basis. But it is possible now if people want to look and learn for humans as individuals and communities and families to have virtually the intelligence that we previously associated with institutions and societies.

Crisis as an Opportunity

Any system that has rigidity in its structure around past, proven ways of doing things is obviously reluctant to change out of those patterns. It takes a big shock break that apart. We know that occurs in nature, we know that occurs in our own lives, the way a health crisis can trigger a reorganization of our lives, and we can see that happening in society around us… The crisis becomes an opportunity to leverage the system in certain ways…Interest in things like Permaculture is counter-cyclical to the economy…focus changes to family, connection to nature, basic needs…It’s not that they run and change, but they turn their heads in a different direction.

Effects of Peak Oil

Of course, crises can unfold in different ways. You mentioned peak oil. A lot of peak oil researchers tended to think that that would come through astronomical prices for oil. Recent evidence suggests the current economy can’t cope with oil prices much higher than they are now, because it produces recession if not depression. Rather than seeing astronomical oil prices – which is imaginable in a world structured very differently from ours – our current economy depends on oil being very cheap. It is quite surprising the way that comes about. People think energy and food will become more expensive, and therefore those things won’t be available…What’s often missed is that long before there’s no food in the supermarket, all of the discretionary, luxury, service parts of the economy have contracted back, and energy and food are still available, because you’ve gotten rid of all the other stuff. When things contract, you dispense with the luxuries, the extras. And of course, that’s what most of our economy is.

…Although the strategies of people growing their own food are important, they’re not important in the way that some simple survivalist motivation that might drive some people to do that. They’re really around a reconnection around a more frugal, simple way of living where you can provide for some of your own needs and reserve the money you have for the things you can’t produce yourself. Historically, people growing their own veggies is one of the things people can do for themselves. Beyond food, it’s about having some skill that you can trade with some other person. Whereas a lot of people have skills that can only be bought by a large institution like a bank or a corporation or government department…Whereas, if you know how to fix cars – and that might be counter-intuitive, because you think there are going to be less cars driving around – that might be true, but there might be more old cars that need to be repaired, rather than new cars that don’t need repair. So skills as a mechanic is a tradable skill for self-reliance, maybe almost as much as being able to grow food and have a surplus to provide for others.

Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability

There is an assumption that modern life is about movement from one place to another each day, and that it is a completely natural experience…and that to be a member of society, that’s what you have to do. Whereas, a normal society operating with limited energy will have most things done where people live.  Some people will move each day, but a much, much smaller proportion. What that really means is that the places where people are living, and especially in our car based societies with their extensive suburbs – that is, these spread out areas of suburban development and small towns – that’s where we have to re-create the economic activity so that we don’t need to move, rather than the notion that we just need efficient forms of transport. Efficient forms of public transport would be lovely to have, but we are moving into the crisis so fast that a lot of what we’ll have to do is adapt in place of where we are.

I’ve been for many years an advocate of the idea that the suburbs, rather coming to an end, as suggested in the pioneering peak oil movie “The End of Suburbia,” is a place that is adaptable (in a counter-intuitive way) to a low energy future. This is partly because of an accident of history – certainly not  to do with sensible planning and forethought, but I don’t think the prognosis for suburbia are as bad as people suggest; on the contrary, the idea that dense urban cities are more efficient, is, I think, questionable, if not dangerous in a world of serious energy descent.

What Will the Transition to Self-Sufficient Suburbs Look Like?

It will happen at a number of levels. Firstly, because it can be started incrementally, you can start with one household garden within the limits or under the radar of regulations and social censure from neighbors – without having to get the whole of society to agree. When you’re in a multi-story apartment, there’s a very limited number of things you can do until everyone in that apartment or whoever owns it agrees.  So the piecemeal nature of suburbia allows models to develop ahead of when society understands it needs to do this…Secondly, the level of space that exists give a lot of opportunities to start productive activities…Thirdly, shared households and having boarders can create economies of scale in the household economy…

The Biggest Barriers to Retrofitting the Suburbs

A lot of people have moved beyond the obvious barriers, such as pride of individual ownership, and always wanting the better and bigger for themselves. But other barriers remain:

1)      The degree of disconnection between neighbors and the regulatory structure of sharing households, mother-in-law apartments, etc.

2)      The sense of privacy and psycho-social aspects of sharing housing. We are uncomfortable in exercising power – what if I have to ask my tenant to leave?


In a counter-intuitive way, the loss of asset-values is actually what is needed to bring the values of real estate down to where it’s possible for people to actually live in those places without enormous debt. Some of that, of course, is tragedy for current owners, but might actually be opportunities for others who currently don’t own. In a world where houses might end up at 20% of their past values, then people might be able to contemplate very frugal living with minimal income to support being a…[?]

Suburbia is not just going to disappear overnight…it’s going to be sitting there, and somethings going to be done with it, people are going to be living there some way or other. We’re not going to transform our cities overnight, we’re going to transform our behavior overnight.


The current industrial food supply will not be abandoned soon. To build the parallel system, the backyard garden agriculture to provide a part of people’s food needs is the breeding ground for a new generation of farmers – that is one of its prime functions, where a small percentage of people learn to become quite good at it, and start to do it commercially, and then the open space in our cities starts to become converted into urban agriculture. Managed animals will be used in urban areas for landscape management and dairy products. There is a big opportunity in the tree crop realm – much more of our diet could come from tree crops rather than field crops.

Preparing Society

What we need most is examples of surviving and thriving doing these things, so that other people can see that those people are doing well. And those people need to be organized enough so that they can pass on something of value – “here are some seeds, here’s a garden fork.” Being able to offer what is needed to replicate the success. You can’t get replication unless you have lots of local, working examples. They need to be local examples – nature changes from one place to another very, very fast – you can’t just download all the standardized information off the internet as a global set of information.

The Transition Movement and the Permablitz

The Transition movement is very much founded and based on Permaculture design principles, and is an attempt to do this in a more organized way. There’s been a lot of criticisms about the weakness of those efforts compared with the scale of the problem, but it also has been more than an attempt to actually bring these issues beyond arm-chair discussions to active engagement in the community.

The Permablitz idea started locally, and this concept has spread around the world informally, and locally more formally with funding… The positive, “get in and do it” stuff is one of the strongest motivators for a lot of people, rather than “The Grand Plan.”

Energy Descent Action Planning

But I think there’s also been efforts, and I’ve been involved myself locally, with the idea that’s come through Transition, with the idea of what’s called the Energy Descent Action Plan, or Energy Descent Action Planning, where we could do this in a slightly less chaotic and more planned way. But, my comment on that is that what that requires is a very, very different sort of thinking than what is characterized as local government or community planning in the past. Not just because the things we need to do are different, but because we have to give up that idea that we can lay it all out as a plan, and we have the resources and the budgeting and then we will just implement it. It’s much more chaotic than that.

We’ve suggested there are three broad levels in the process. The first is what we call the No Regrets Actions.  Things like “why don’t we plan a garden?”  Good idea anyway, not a big investment or cost or difficulty, and maybe really useful.

Then there is the Long Term Investment Actions. It might be putting photovoltaics on the roofs or planting food trees in the public streets. Something that does involve more substantial investment and a deferred benefit in the future mostly.

Third, the Responding to Crisis Actions. The opportunities that come from chaotic and unpredictable change, whether natural disasters, financial disruptions, or shortages of oil – whatever it is, those things that break the system.

Chaotic Change

Environmental activists have been very polite and not pointing out when natural disasters are immediately happening (“well, this is what climate change looks like”). Big disasters are also an opportunity to leverage change in the way people see things. That’s when people do change. Most people don’t change when things are just trickling along, getting slowly a bit more difficult.

It’s about society reading signs around it that it needs to change, and that change is coming. We have all sorts of interpretations about why that might be. I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to believe in climate change or peak oil to start to behave sensibly, to look after their own interests and the interests of their children and grandchildren.  An understanding of peak oil and climate change certainly helps to understand the complexities that are unraveling in the world, but I’ve argued quite strongly that it doesn’t really matter whether these crises are caused by geological climatic realities, or whether they’re caused by evil actors, or whether they’re caused by a God who is punishing us for our sins. It all means we’ve actually got to change what we’re doing.

So I’m sort of ambivalent about that issue of the first thing is to hammer into people that they’ve got to accept a particular explanation of what’s going on in the world. I don’t think that is necessary.

Tom Atlee on TPP: Act Now

This is a “reblog” of Tom Atlee’s latest post, “Act now re TPP and Fast Track (toxic to democracy).

I’m not sure that “clicktivism” is a very effective form of activism, but it can be helpful when a quick response is needed. As noted at the end of this article, both Credo and MoveOn have petition campaigns going that you can support.   Now here’s Tom…

Dear friends,

In my blog post The rapid growth of serious responses to climate disruption, I mentioned the movement to protest the secretly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) that could have profound impacts on democracy, on public health and welfare, and on the fate of the planet.

This issue has now become urgent. On January 9, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Camp (R-MI) introduced the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014 to promote the President’s “fast track” authority. This bill would facilitate passage of deeply flawed trade agreements such as the TPP with little deliberation or even input from the public and Congress. This issue is important right now because a vote on this bill is expected before the end of the month.

“Fast track” means that the President would sign an international agreement and then send it to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote within 3 months with no room for amendments and a maximum of 20 hours of floor debate.

This hasty approach to trade agreements may have been a bit more reasonable when it was first used in 1974 when trade pacts only involved traditional trade issues like tariffs and quotas.

But today it just doesn’t make democratic sense. It is promoted by the corporations and investors who profit from these agreements – and by public officials and media who they support or who share their monetized worldview. But the lack of debate doesn’t help the vast majority of us because today’s big trade pacts cover a broad range of issues that impact us every day, including the environment, investment policy, labor, government procurement, consumer protections and many more things. These things need to be considered very carefully. It is therefore critical for Congress to maintain its constitutional authority to oversee trade policy – and for us in the grassroots to ensure that Congress approves only trade pacts that protect communities, workers, consumers, and the environment BEFORE such pacts get finalized.

TPP is an alarming case in point. It contains clauses allowing foreign companies to directly sue national governments in private trade tribunals to either nullify laws and policies that might reduce their corporate profits or to suffer very steep financial penalties. This makes companies more powerful than democratically elected governments. It would devastate the ability of citizens and national, state, and local governments to pass environmental, labor, and consumer protection laws that protect our communities and our children.

To make matters worse, we’re being blocked from discussing all this in an intelligent, informed manner. Except for a few leaks from WikiLeaks and others, most legislators, the public, and the press have no access to the evolving content of this agreement. To a remarkable extent, that privilege has been reserved for a select few trade representatives and corporations who will benefit from the TPP, with the periodic negotiations continuing in secret. A few Congresspeople on key committees have access to the draft agreement in a guarded room where they cannot take notes and are forbidden to communicate what they might read in its many hundreds of detailed, complex pages. What’s going on here?

Senator Elizabeth Warren says “I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.” (I appreciate Sen. Warren’s straightforward articulation, rare in among politicians.)

It might be a different story if most trade agreements like TPP actually enhanced the quality of life for citizens and our prospects for future generations. But they don’t. They are most often broadly damaging to all ordinary people concerned and to the natural and social commons we share. As a Popular Resistance newsletter notes, “The TPP is an issue that unites the movement because it affects not just workers but the environment, regulation of finance, Internet freedom, food safety, and healthcare and gives corporations control of virtually every aspect of our lives.”

If you find yourself concerned about the implications of all this, please get better informed and take appropriate action soon.


= = = = =



The message above and the links below come largely from a progressive populist perspective – protecting US jobs, democratic governance, and the environment. However, many on the Right are also upset about TPP and Fast Track, particularly because those initiatives involve a significant loss of US sovereignty. On the other hand, some commentators favor TPP because, while jobs are lost in the US, employment and middle class life in other countries may improve. All these arguments are worth discussing. But none of them addresses the most important and least discussed argument: Society’s urgent need for rapid transformation toward sustainability.

I believe that TPP represents a societal “tipping point” in our ability to shift civilization from self-destruction to sustainability. Most immediately it would gut our capacity to protect people and nature from ruinous exploitation and to ameliorate runaway climate change. But that is only one way that TPP – and most other proposals and arguments from both the Left and the Right – fail to turn our civilizational TItanic from its fatal course to collapse and possible extinction.

Truly addressing climate change – AND peak oil AND many other emerging crises – requires that we shift our global economy away from consumption (especially emissions-generating consumption) towards a low impact, high quality way of life. This involves a shift from wasteful material production and trade to enhancing people’s ability to live healthy enjoyable lives together without lots of stuff.

Part of that would include REDUCING employment – in ways that would actually make life better. Imagine if we used technology not so much to increase productivity for profit but to make employment one option among many — to “de-job” the economy into something more sustainable and enjoyable. What if we applied our technological wizardry to do the following:

▪ to take over more and more jobs (remember the old term “labor saving devices”?) in a way that made 50% unemployment and a 20 hour work week actually attractive norms, augmented by a lot of passion-driven small entrepreneurship and simple living;
▪ to enable more do-it-yourself, collaborative, and local production – from 3D printers and high-tech gardens to crowdsourced games and modular, long-lasting designs for products;
▪ to encourage and enable bartering and sharing (especially locally) of most physical resources – car shares, tool shares, book shares, garden produce shares – so that we all don’t need to produce, store, and transport so much stuff in the first place; and
▪ to enable gifting, sharing, and co-creating more of what really makes life good – learning, thinking, loving, appreciating, dreaming, accomplishing, feeling secure, pursuing our personal interests and passions, and just having fun together. These are exactly the kinds of things that today we don’t have much time for because we need to work and shop and consume lots of “stuff” that actually doesn’t make us so happy.

If our national and global economic policies were designed to move towards THAT sort of economy, the loss of jobs in the US would become an asset, while global trade could be about increasing the ability of people in “developing” nations to have enough of the right kinds of stuff to reduce struggle and suffering while not drawing them into the profit-driven, anxiety-ridden, unsustainable consumption rat-race that Western civilization desperately needs to recover from.

This brief description only hints at the tip of a vast sense of possibility that is emerging among alternative economists and others (including us here, see http://co-intelligence.org/Economics.html). Pursuing those remarkable possibilities will take a focused and sustained effort. In the meantime, it is urgent that we head off developments like the TPP and Fast Track that would make it even more difficult – if not impossible – to change the course of civilization towards a world that truly works for all of us, in a truly deep, wonderful, and sustainable way.

= = = = =


Here are some links if you wish to find out more and act with some knowledge under your belt…

Wikipedia covers fast track and TPP from a non-advocacy perspective with some coverage of the controversy…

Information on TPP and Fast Track from a protest perspective. Any of these will prove eye-opening.
http://www.flushthetpp.org/ (contains a short educational slide show)
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37073.htm – 10 minute video
http://billmoyers.com/segment/yves-smith-and-dean-baker-on-secrets-in-trade/ – 33 minute video

Anti-Fast-Track petitions (parentheses show number of signers as of this message) – all of which include educational materials:
MoveOn (16,941): http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/congress-dont-renew-fast
Credo (170,000): http://act.credoaction.com/sign/fast_track?nosig=1%3Fsource%3Dchaser&rd=1
Public Citizen (11,934): http://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12263

Media organizing (letters to the editor, etc.)

Protest action organizing site (includes upcoming actions and past actions)

Embodying the Patterns of PatternDynamics

In my previous PatternDynamics post (Following the Way Nature Organizes Itself to Deal with Complexity), I focused mostly on giving a fairly brief explanation of the underlying theory. In this post I’d like to share a little bit about the embodied experience of some of the Patterns that occurs during the PatternDynamics One Day Workshop (coming up Jan. 18th in Oakland, CA, and Jan. 26th in Bellingham, WA).  Rather than being simply a linear, left brain information gathering day, we are invited to be active participants in an experience-based learning organization.

Note: I will be leading a short 40 minute session on Jan. 18th in Bellingham where we will get a taste of  this easy group breath and movement practice. More details here.

Participants are asked to stand in circles around the 7 first-order Pattern diagrams that are  laid out on the floor (Rhythm, Polarity, Structure, Exchange, Creativity, Dynamics, and Source). Tim Winton then teaches these seven Patterns through simple breath and movement patterns alternating with brief definitions, compelling examples, and group discussion.


As it goes along, it starts to become clear that each movement is not separate and distinct from the others, but instead each one builds on the one that came before. This serves as a powerful example of how integrated the patterns really are, and that they are all there all the time. What changes is what we focus on, and what perspectives we bring to bear.

Tim Winton:

That’s where we really bring living-systems consciousness into organizations, because living systems … have a really amazing capacity to adapt and change, and keep themselves thriving in a range of circumstances. If we can bring that capacity into our organizations, then our organizations can in turn steward those environments better.

Near the beginning of the workshop it is explained that “Source” represents the fundamental pattern of organization at the heart of all systems, and that the Source of any organization is its identity and purpose. “If the identity and purpose is strong, there’s a strong sense of self-organization.”

Workshop participants are asked to take part in an experiment, “to create a really strong and intentional identity and purpose for our work today. Our identity and purpose is to form a temporary learning organization – a model system with our bodies, our minds, and our awareness.” Consensus is reached on a  “Source Commitment” statement that identifies the identity and purpose of the temporary learning organization that is being created.

It is fascinating to experience how embodying the patterns physically and in a group setting serves the learning process. What is really memorable is the sense of being part of a living organism, consciously experiencing our roles as both “part” and “whole,” as well as the process of signaling and responding as parts and wholes. At the conclusion of the first go-around on the ‘Dynamics’ pattern during last year’s Bellingham workshop, there was spontaneous laughter and applause. One participant commented, “That was delicious! Mmm… I could just eat that up!”

I think this is the best advertisement for the workshop – so I created a very short YouTube video teaser with slides and audio; the music at the end is the Monkey Puzzle Orchestra, featuring me on muted cornet (the cd is now available – I’m on tracks 2, 5, and 7).

Another woman’s comment: “I feel very charged, and alive. It feels like the whole field is charged, not just me.”

Tim Winton:

I think living systems have this kind of awareness [that we had a taste of tonight;] there’s a very, very refined capacity to sense the signaling between the parts to coordinate into some kind of dynamic system. Having a language for how that happens, and being able to share this language, will help coordinate the source of our own organizations, which then are the foundation for supporting the environment and the planet.

If you’re interested in learning more…

Register for the Bellingham workshop at Eventbrite: Click Here.

Download the One Day Workshop work book here.

Visit www.patterndynamics.net

Awakening to Vitality: An Intimate Nine Month Community Experience

As I am busily preparing to host the PatternDynamics One Day Workshop on January 26th, which I wrote about in my last post, I want to take a timeout here to let you know about another valuable offering.  Awakening to Vitality, like PatternDynamics, is an integrally informed  program that really resonates with me, and I heartily endorse it.

Dr. Deb is a dear friend and colleague of mine, a Naturopathic Physician, Transformative Educator, and Visionary Guide — and founder of Vital Medicine: a truly unique approach to health and healing.

If you’ve ever longed to …

  • Integrate your spiritual practice and your embodiment
  • Create a new, thriving relationship with your Self and your Vitality
  • Recognize the call of your inner, embodied wisdom … and learn to follow it.
  • Release models of self-care and healing that no longer serve you.
  • Enjoy focused, One-on-One mentoring on your health (and everything that means!)
  • Take time to reconnect, reflect, and restore in a spectacular natural retreat setting
  • Experience rich, interactive group work with an intimate group of kindred seekers
  • Heal your Self as you heal the planet.
  • Devote yourself to your vitality … even as you grow and evolve.
… then this unique program might be perfect for you.

Dr. Deb Zucker, ND, LMP

Dr. Deb Zucker, ND, LMP

Awakening to Vitality
An Intimate, Nine Month Community Experience
Guided by Deb Zucker, ND, LMP
February – November, 2014

Vital Medicine recognizes that “health” is about far more than nutrition and exercise: it’s about your sacred relationship to your Self, your world, and your calling.  Dr. Deb’s approach transforms your very relationship to healing.  It connects you with your own inner wisdom and supports greater intimacy with your body, your evolutionary journey, and all that you are.

Awakening to Vitality Dr. Deb’s new, 9-month program that weaves together everything you need to awaken more fully to yourself and create profound transformation on every level.

This program is limited to 10 participants — and will likely only be offered once a year.
If this sounds like something you are SO ready for … or if you’re just curious about what this whole approach includes,  visit the program page:

Full disclosure: If you register, and mention you heard about it from Integral Permaculture, I will receive a commission. Please let Dr. Deb know you how you found out about her offering.

P. S.  New to the Vital Medicine approach?  Make sure to check out the program page, where you’ll find a generous sampling of free resources to support your relationship with your Self and your health. It’s all right here.  Enjoy!
And to get an additional sense of what Dr. Deb’s outlook on things is about, check out her essay posted at Beams and Struts: Pointing to the Moon.