It’s Time to Vote

Vote button

I was recently asked via email if I was going to be providing voting recommendations again this year. Here is my response – for those of you who live in Whatcom County, Washington.  (If you live elsewhere, please feel free to use the Voting Information Tool at the bottom of this post.)

Thanks for asking.  I can imagine that many of you, like me, are really turned off by the all of the political ads coming at you from radio, TV, and direct mailings. The most frustrating part is that most of the money being spent on these ads are not doing anything to seriously educate the voting public, but rather simple messages that have been researched by marketing experts to push buttons in order to achieve knee jerk voting reactions.  I received a big two page fold-out mailer the other day that had a bunch of scary looking guns on the front. I opened the page, hoping to see some informative content on the inside, only to find two totally blank pages, except for a box in the lower right corner telling me to vote yes on 594!
I urge you, however, to put this distasteful phenomena behind you and remember to cast your ballot. It is as important as ever.  The small races close to home may be more important than the big, national races, and your chance of making an impact are higher here as well.
Case in point: If you care about the proposed coal port at Cherry Point,  I believe the most important races for those of us in Whatcom County are the neglected Charter Review Commission. The safest recommendation for the commission is to straight up vote only for the Democratic party endorsed candidates. The Republicans are mostly supporting a proposal that would take decision making power regarding the coal terminal out of the hands of the County Council and giving it to the County Executive. They are also supporting redistricting, which will restrict people voting for County Council to only vote for the district they reside in.  This would give conservative candidates in the County a distinct advantage. Both of these moves are “pro coal” moves.  See Flip’s list of Democratic party endorsements below.  You can vote for 5 commissioners in each district, but in one case there are only 3 candidates endorsed, and you don’t have to vote for more.
In general, I think the choices are pretty straightforward this year.  Tim Johnson, of Cascadia Weekly had an astute observation: “You vote for the individual, but you elect the caucus.”  In other words, there may be some likable Republican candidates, but the current Republican caucus has become extremist and toxic, and by electing good Republicans, you strengthen that toxic caucus, unfortunately.
I agree with the voting recommendations of Riley Sweeney in his 2014 Voting Recommendations post, mostly with Cascadia Weekly (see page 10 of the Oct. 14 issue), and with Flip Breskin (below).  So there’s no need for me to say more than recommending you take advantage of these resources.
From: “Flip Breskin”
Date: October 24, 2014 11:46:42 AM PDT
Subject: [Fl!pPix] Pix For Politics


For newcomers to this list: I send a single email (clearly labeled) just before
elections, describing how I am voting and why, without asking you to vote my way. Other
than that, my Fl!p’s Pix list is almost exclusively about local music and arts. You can
ignore this email if you’re not interested in what I think of politics.

Initiatives & Ballot Measures
Advisory Votes
Charter Review

Here is how I am voting this year, plus a bit about what I’ve learned in general. I am
not asking you to vote my way. If I’m asking you anything, it’s to go do your own
research and make up your own mind! And to please, please VOTE! In this election, the
conservatives are doing well at turning out their supporters by frightening people about
liberty to own guns, abortion, higher taxes, and jobs at any cost. If progressives do
not vote, we will lose.

When I first started doing Fl!p’s Pix For Politics, my original motivation was that I
couldn’t tell anything much about the judicial races from the voter’s pamphlet. I always
wound up talking with my dad and other attorneys I know and trust (lots of them play
music!) to see who’s good. To some extent it’s less about their politics than whether
they pay attention from the bench, rule carefully, play fair, don’t get overturned. This
year was much easier than usual.  Vote for the incumbents; they’re doing fine. I

CHARLES JOHNSON. His opponent has never practiced law in Washington State. That would be
crazy for the state supreme court! Not qualified.
DEBRA STEPHENS. Her opponent is campaigning on a single issue: reform of the State Bar
Association Disciplinary System, which disciplined him! Whether or not the system needs
reforming, a single issue candidate is not a good choice for the state’s high court.

We have a choice between two very different philosophies: support for the PUD being run
only for the benefit of big business, or run to best serve the whole community’s needs.
The coal trains are the single biggest issue, but the basic difference in philosophies
between the two candidates will show up across the board.

In the current set-up, Bob will be out-voted two-to-one, so we won’t see different
results from the voting.  Where we will see a difference is in transparency.  Bob will
daylight the subsidies we, the public, give to industries. Bob’s opponent, Jeff McClure,
already guaranteed our water to the proposed Cherry Point coal refinery – 2 billion
gallons a day – for the next 30 years. McClure put the needs of huge corporations over
the needs of the farmers who feed us. Some single issues are worth my vote.

This one was easy for me this year.  There are dramatic and important differences in the
positions of the candidates before us. On candidates I’m voting with the Democrats. 
Here’s their website:

US Congress  District 1 Suzan DelBene
US Congress District 2 Rick Larsen
State Senate District 42 Seth Fleetwood
State House – Position 1 District 42 Satpal Sidhu
State House – Position 2 District 42 Joy Monjure
State House – Position 1 District 40 Kris Lytton
State House – Position 2 District 40 Jeff Morris

A few notes:

SETH FLEETWOOD. Seth has been a reliable and progressive public servant on the Whatcom
County Council & Bellingham City Council for many years. The Republicans managed to
gerrymander him out of his own district and are making his need to move to stay in the
race into a campaign issue. (Snarky…) His opponent, incumbent Doug Ericksen, has
consistently worked to protect loopholes for the oil industry and other powerful
interests while voting to cut funding for education. Ericksen has also been the biggest
roadblock to passing the Oil Transportation Safety Act. He does not support access to
safe and legal abortion, and the state legislature can have a profound impact on
Washington women’s access to all forms of reproductive health, including birth control.

SATPAL SIDHU is an educator, businessman, local religious leader, and enthusiastic
American By Choice. He created local education programs that specifically create local
jobs for local students. Highly effective at creating common ground.  He’ll help end

JOY MONJURE is someone I’ve known for decades. She’s been a mover & shaker – creating
the Procession Of The Species parade; founding the Food and Farm Finder; growing the
Farm to School program; serving on the Everson City Council; and she’s been working for
years on local water issues. I’m voting for her with great pleasure. Her opponent
incumbent Vincent Buys is ineffective.  In four years in Olympia, he passed only four
bills, three in his first year, and one in the last three years. Vincent also thinks
women should pay more for health insurance because we cost more for reproductive health
care and he, as a man, shouldn’t have to pay for that. He does not believe in the
Affordable Care Act.


I-1351 YES Reduces classroom size
I-591 NO   Remove firearm background checks
I-594 YES  Closes firearm sales loophole

Notes on I-594: In states with very similar laws, women are dramatically less likely to
be killed by domestic partners. I think this one is very important! I was worried when I
heard that our sheriff had come out against this, but he will have to stand for election
in the County, and supporting I-594 could be expensive for him in the future. Former
Bellingham police chief Don Pearce is a major spokesperson in favor of I-594. To
volunteer for this campaign, please contact or
206-450-5790. And talk with your friends.  Let’s do it!

Just maintain them. These are on the ballot because of a Tim Eyman initiative that
requires the public to vote on anything that “raises taxes” including closing loopholes
or extending measures that already exist. The vote does not actually make a difference. 
It’s advisory only. And voting costs the public money to do.  Thanks Tim…

The Whatcom County Charter Review Commission is a unique political event that happens
every 10 years. Each County District votes for and elects 5 citizens to sit on the
review commission. They will meet occasionally in 2015 and propose ballot measures to
appear on next year’s general election ballot. (Copied from the Democrats mailing).

This election has boiled down, once again, to coal. Republicans have two goals: district
voting to make it harder to elect progressives, and shifting the decision on the coal
trains from the County Council to the County Executive. Here are the Democrats’
endorsements. I think it’s worth going with their slate this year to have the best
chance of keeping public influence over the coal train decision.

District 1
Todd Donovan
Barbara Ryan
Eli Mackiewicz
Thomas Stuen
Alie Walker

District 2
Susan Gribbin
Judd Morse
Bob Bandarra
Stan Snapp
Kate Blystone

District 3
John Lesow (I am SO impressed with this man!)
Richard May
Chris Johnson
(They endorsed only three for district three, and I don’t know enough to say.)


“The Voting Information Project (VIP), developed by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Google, and election officials nationwide, offers cutting-edge technology tools that give voters access to the customized information they need to cast a ballot on or before Election Day.

VIP is offering free apps and tools that provide polling place locations and ballot information for the 2014 election across a range of technology platforms:”

To learn more about the Voting Information Project, visit here.

talking to people

Lissa Carter at True Beauty Always has another well-written and insightful post that reminds about the perils of us vs. them thinking, and of the importance of interaction, listening, and talking: “Turns out, if you want to know what someone is thinking or feeling, the most accurate way to find out is to ask them. Which requires us to talk to people.”


imageRecently my son and I attended a week of surf camp.  We had an incredible time swimming all day, gathering seashells, meeting with old friends and new, and yes, even catching some waves. In the afternoons we learned about the wider ecosystem of the beach we were surfing on, attending talks by the Cape Fear Riverkeeper and the founder of the Plastic Oceans Project and participating in rain garden maintenance with the Coastal Federation.

The Plastic Ocean Project slideshow affected my son profoundly.  After showing us some of the damaging effects plastics have on the turtles, fish, mammals, and birds of the ocean, and reminding us that the ocean is ‘downhill from everywhere’, Bonnie explained that one simple way to take action is to refuse a plastic straw at restaurants.

My son became an anti-straw zealot on the spot. And since we’ve been on the road visiting family for the past week, he’s…

View original post 1,130 more words

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

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.

PatternDynamics: Following The Way Nature Organizes Itself to Deal with Complexity

The natural world is staggeringly complex, and yet amazingly elegant in how it manages the multitude of interconnected parts into organized, unified wholes that thrive.  What is the secret for harnessing this elegance for use in human systems? Tim Winton found that observation of the most common patterns found in the natural world led to the development of high level principles which can then be used to address the most complex challenges that human systems face.

After learning some of the common patterns found in all natural systems, we can then begin to recognize these patterns in human systems , and learn how to balance the ones that are skewed, and to integrate in the ones might add a greater level of enduring health. We can “make a deeper difference by changing the system!”

change the system

PatternDynamics is a systems thinking tool for creating systems level change that Winton has been developing over 20 years as he’s worked in diverse fields, including: environmental services contractor, organic farmer, sustainability educator, designer, project manager, consultant, executive leadership, and corporate governance.

What is unique about PatternDynamics is that it combines the patterns of nature with the power of language, to produce a sustainability pattern language.

In a recent paper by Barrett Brown, referring to a study he had done in 2012 of top performing organizational leaders, he observed that these top leaders “use three powerful thinking tools to design their initiatives and guide execution. They are (a) Integral theory, (b) Complexity theory, and (c) Systems theory. These models help them to step back from the project, get up on to the balcony, and take a broad view of the whole situation. They use these tools to make sense of complex, rapidly changing situations and navigate through them securely.”

And famed Permaculture teacher Toby Hemenway (author of Gaia’s Garden) recently posted on his blog the following recommendation:  “To enrich our ability to use recipes and put them into context, without engaging in a full-blown design analysis from scratch, we can use pattern languages. The term was coined by architect Christopher Alexander to mean a structured grammar of good design examples and practices in a given field—architecture, software design, urban planning, and so forth— that allow people with only modest training to solve complex problems in design. … Like recipes, pattern languages are plug-and-play rather than original designs, but they allow plenty of improvisation and flexibility in implementation, and can result in rich, detailed solutions that fit. A handbook of pattern languages for the basic human needs and societal functions, structured along permaculture principles, would be a worthy project for a generation of designers.”[my emphasis]

PatternDynamics is firmly rooted in Integral theory, Complexity theory, and Systems theory, and as well contains Permaculture’s emphasis on patterns and principles (PatternDynamics was developed during Tim’s time as Director of the Permaforest Trust, a 170 acre Permaculture education center in New South Wales, Australia). In addition a fifth strong influence was Alexander’s ideas on pattern languaging. These five robust theories and practical application tools provide a very firm foundation that will continue to support PatternDynamics long into the future as it continues to evolve. It is probably not the recipe book that Hemenway envisions, rather the patterns are more like a set of key ingredients from which we are invited to collaborate to c0-create the needed recipes for a given context.  The goal is to facilitate collective intelligence.

Tim Winton“The key to complexity is systems thinking, and the key to systems thinking is patterns. The key to patterns is using them as a language – an idea I borrowed from architect and mathematician Christopher Alexander’s book ‘Notes on the Synthesis of Form’.”
– Tim Winton

Systems thinking itself is complex and difficult to learn, which is why the series of Patterns in PatternDynamics can be so helpful in simplifying that complexity – “If we don’t have a symbol for something, it does not become enacted in our reality” Winton says.


Secondly, as these Patterns become part of a shared language, this gives us the ability to collaborate with others –hence the facilitation of collective intelligence.  Noting the increased complexity in our human systems, Winton states that “No longer is any one person brilliant enough to solve the complex problems we face; we really have to use our collective intelligence.”  This innovative method of facilitating collective intelligence is proposed as an essential 21st century skill.

Speaking for myself, after completing the Level II training in PatternDynamics, I notice that I am starting to see “wholes” much more often, in extremely diverse systems.  Everything from systems at work in my own body, to systems in organizations I’m involved with, to the systemic problems facing our world, and all the way up to long term processes going on in our universe.  Being able to see these wholes then helps the next step – ideas are flowing more easily on how to balance and integrate to improve the health of the systems I am involved with.

Therefore, it is with some excitement that I am preparing to host a One Day PatternDynamics Workshop on January 26, 2014 here in Bellingham, Washington.  Click Here for more information about this event. A workshop is also being held in Oakland, CA on January18th – more info here.


To read a longer article I co-wrote about an introductory workshop I attended last year, go here: Integral Leadership Review

And here is a 23 minute introductory slide show with audio by Tim Winton:

Much more info can be found at the PatternDynamics website here:

How to Say Thank You During the Holidays

My friend Alan Seid over at Cascadia Workshops has a new post and video which offers a great glimpse into the world of Non-Violent Communication (or “Empowered Communication”), and is very appropriate for the season.

Do you sometimes feel awkward about expressing a Thank You?

Have you ever had the sense that the other person isn’t receiving your expression of gratitude in the way you meant it?

During the holiday time there is an increased opportunity to give and receive gratitude with the people in your life.

Expressing gratitude and appreciation can feel empty, or it can leave us feeling very connected and fulfilled, depending on how it is given and received.

In this short video, I share insights into the different ways to share and be heard when expressing thanks and appreciation.

A Valuable Tool

I appreciate Alan’s post above, as I have found this tool – Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication process (NVC) – to be extremely helpful. It can initially seem clunky and awkward, and it has its own lingo to get used to. The important thing using this process is to become committed to holding an “NVC Consciousness” as you struggle with the tool.


Stripped to it’s bare nuts and boldts,  the following components of NVC are relevant to me in regards to how to grow my communication skills, and how I would like to be communicated with.


1)  NVC Consciousness tells us that all anyone is ever doing is trying to meet their needs, and all anyone is ever saying is “Please” and “Thank You.”

Any time anyone is saying anything that sounds like judgment, blame, criticism, or a demand, you can know that they are merely providing you with a “tragic expression of an unmet need.” So you can translate that they are simply asking for you to please help them meet a need, or thanking you for the gift you’ve given them that met a need. All we ever do is try to meet our needs, and all we ever say is “please” and “thank you.”


2) As much as we can, we want to eliminate blame, judgment, and criticism from our communication with others and with our self – eliminate our own tragic ways of expressing ourselves. We call these expressions tragic, because these expressions rarely result in actually getting our needs met. The beginning point of this process is to begin making Observations rather than Evaluations.  Just the observable facts and direct sensory experiences.  When we learn to separate observations from evaluations, things become so much clearer, and the triggering of others greatly diminishes.


3) As much as we can, we want to clearly distinguish what we are feeling (physical sensation + emotion) from what we are thinking. Thoughts are mental, and include beliefs, ideas, and opinions. When we can learn to disentangle the feeling body from the thinking mind, we will be that much closer to true clarity, and less likely to accidently judge others.


4) We need to get in touch with our own true needs – our survival needs, but especially our “thrival” needs. When we can learn to disentangle what our true needs are from our strategies we’ve become glued to, we can see a much richer range of options. (Example: When we tell someone “I need you” this specific person is merely a strategy to meet our need for companionship and love, not the true need itself)


5) Requests. After we’ve gotten clear about needs vs. strategies, we realize we no longer need to be tied to specific strategies, and we can change Demands to Requests.  Requests are concrete and doable, and can be distinguished from Demands by how we respond when the answer is ‘No.’

Brief outlines of the essential components of NVC by Jim and Jori Manske can be found here:
I recommend the following pdf files: NVC Components; Four Choices on how to hear any message; Needs Wheel (based on Rosenberg, Spiral Dynamics, and Manfred Max-Neef), Feelings, and The 4 D’s of Disconnection.
The primary directive of NVC is to create life affirming connection.  Take a look at this chart on Empathy.

If you like Alan’s presentation above, he offers a FREE video training series, and I think you will really enjoy and find to be valuable. Check it out here:Free Videos from the Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program

Top 10 Hits – Resilience and Energy Bulletin

Reposted from

Formerly known as Energy Bulletin, celebrating 10 years online, this is a great time to review some of the great articles posted there over the last 10 years. In the next post I’ll share my own favorites.
– David 
by Staff, originally published by  | NOV 15, 2013

Ever wondered which articles have been accessed the most at and Energy Bulletin? Here’s the run down…What have been some of your favorites? Please let us know in the comments section at the bottom. Top 10 Hits

1. Closing the ‘Collapse Gap’: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US
by Dmitry Orlov, Dec, 2006


2. A DIY guide to wicking beds
by Rob Avis, May, 2011


3. The Brief, Tragic Reign of Consumerism—and the birth of a happy alternative
by Richard Heinberg, Jul, 2013


4. What kind of tree do acorns grow on? 
by Gene Logsdon, Dec, 2007


5. Solar Energy : This Is What A Disruptive Technology Looks Like 
by Brian McConnell, Apr, 2013


6. How to build a chicken run in 157 easy steps 
by Brian Kaller, Jan, 2013


7. When agriculture stops working: A guide to growing food in the age of climate destabilization and civilization collapse
by Dan Allen, Mar, 2013


8. Commentary: Why peak oil threatens the International Monetary System
by Erik Townsend, Jan, 2013


9. The Hard Road Ahead
by John Michael Greer, Mar, 2013


10. Electric velomobiles: as fast and comfortable as automobiles, but 80 times more efficient
by Kris De Decker, Oct, 2012


Energy Bulletin Top 10 Hits

1. Closing the ‘Collapse Gap’: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US
by Dmitry Orlov, Dec, 2006


2. The Five Stages of Collapse
by Dmitry Orlov, Nov, 2008


3. Who has the oil?
by Aaron Pava, Nov, 2007


4. US military energy consumption- facts and figures
by Sohbet Karbuz, May, 2007


5. Why Our Food is So Dependent on Oil
by Norman J. Church, Apr, 2005


6. Soil food web – opening the lid of the black box
by Bart Anderson, Dec, 2006


7. Our American way of life is unsustainable – evidence 
by Chris Clugston, Aug, 2008


8. Peak phosphorus
by Patrick Déry, Bart Anderson, Aug, 2007


9. A shale gas boom?
by Dave Cohen, Jun, 2009


10. Energy Payback of Roof Mounted Photovoltaic Cells
by Colin Bankier, Steve Gale, Jun, 2006