Patterns for Navigating the Transition to a World in Energy Descent

Integral Leadership ReviewIntegral Leadership Review (ILR) has published the paper I presented to the recent Integral Theory Conference 2015, “Patterns for Navigating the Transition to a World in Energy Descent” in their August-November 2015 issue.

Also in this issue is Tim Winton’s reflections on the conference that is worth reading: “A Note on the Field: Thoughts on Integral Leadership Post ITC 2015.”

Jeremy Johnson also did a great job as the official conference blogger. Some of you might be able to identify me in the first photo on this page (Jeremy and Tim were two of my five suite-mates, which also included Chris Dierkes, Gaby McDonald, and Trevor Malkinson).

 

ILR headingILR Patterns for Navigating Intro

Abstract

This paper considers current concerns about resource depletion (“energy descent”) and the unsustainability of current economic structures, which may indicate we are entering a new era signaled by the end of growth. Using the systems thinking tool of PatternDynamics™, developed by Tim Winton, this paper seeks to integrate multiple natural patterns in order to effectively impact these pressing challenges. Some of the Patterns considered include Energy, Transformity, Power, Pulse, Growth, and the polarities of Expansion/Contraction and Order/Chaos.

We tend to have horrible visions associated with downturns and “collapse.” Can we even entertain the possibility that we might be entering a period of decline in energy and standard of living?  Can we re-examine our assumptions about “growth” and “development”? Jean Gebser’s emphasis that every mutation of structure is preceded by a crisis is considered and Howard T. Odum’s ideas about energy as the basis of man and nature informs the discussion. Edgar Morin’s dialogic Method of active inquiry in regards to the interplay of polarities assists in our understanding and response to the complex challenges we face.

Read the paper here.

About ILR, from their website:

Integral Leadership Review – the world’s premier publication of integrated approaches to leading and leadership.

Integral Leadership Review is a bridging publication that links authors and readers across cultures around the world. It serves leaders, professionals and academics engaged in the practice, development and theory of leadership. It bridges multiple perspectives by drawing on integral, transdisciplinary, complexity and developmental frameworks. These bridges are intended to assist all who read the Integral Leadership Review to develop and implement comprehensive shifts in strategies by providing lessons from experience, insights, and tools all can use in addressing the challenges facing the world.

Advertisements

Creative Navigation of Energy Descent: Opportunities for Spiritual and Social Transformation

This blog has been quiet for a little while, as I’ve been busy trying to do some non-blog writing.

I’ve been invited to present a paper at the upcoming Integral Theory Conference in the San Francisco Bay area (July 17-19, ITC), so I’ve been working away at that paper for a while. For a sneak peak on the topic I’ll be presenting on there, check out my presentation in Bellingham, WA on May 21 (see below).  At the conference I get 20 minutes to present.  Here, speaking at the local Bellingham outpost of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (BIONS), I get 1 1/2 hours.
The original title I proposed for my paper was “Patterns for Navigating Transitions in a Descending Energy World.” I’m using the systems thinking tool of PatternDynamics(TM) to address the issue of what David Holmgren calls “Energy Descent,” i.e energy depletion, or “peak oil” – and its association with the idea of limits to growth. And its relationship to integral theory.  The paper has turned out to be a bigger project than originally envisioned, and will likely become a multi-part project.
The blurb for my presentation in Bellingham on May 21, 2015 is below.  For a good introduction to the Integral Theory Conference, check out Jeremy Johnson’s post on The Unthinkable Present.

May 2015 Event

CREATIVE NAVIGATION of ENERGY DESCENT:

Opportunities for Spiritual & Social Transformation

David MacLeod

We will explore the world in crisis and chaos as an opportunity for social and spiritual transformation as we form stronger connections to the earth’s natural patterns and to each other.

This presentation will consider appropriate responses to current concerns about resource depletion, climate change, and the unsustainability of current economic structures; all of which are leading some to argue that we are entering a new era signaled by the end of economic growth and declining fossil fuel energy.

We tend to have horrible visions associated with downturns and “collapse.” Can we even entertain the possibility that we might be entering a period of decline in energy and standard of living?  Can we redefine “growth” to refer to our human potential rather than to our GDP? Perhaps we can learn to expand our consciousness and increase cooperative behaviors as we ride the wave down the peak oil curve.

This presentation will be supported by a new systems thinking tool called PatternDynamics™. Inspired by Permaculture’s emphasis on natural patterns and principles, PatternDynamics combines the patterns of nature with the power of language. The result is a tool which helps us understand and communicate ways of supporting resilience. We will learn some of the dynamic patterns that could assist us in creatively navigating our way through an energy descending world.

David_MacLeodDAVID MACLEOD is a member of the PatternDynamics™ Community of Practice and is committed to community resilience as a co-initiator of Transition Whatcom. He was named an “Environmental Hero” by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, and appointed to a city and county Energy Resource Scarcity/Peak Oil Task Force. He has contributed articles to Resilience.org, Integral Leadership Review, and Beams & Struts. David has been invited to present an academic paper on the topic of tonight’s discussion at the Integral Theory Conference this July in the San Francisco Bay area. David holds a BMus degree from Western Washington University, a Level II (b) accreditation in PatternDynamics™, and a Permaculture Design Certificate. He blogs at https://integralpermaculture.wordpress.com/.

This month’s event is co-sponsored by Transition Whatcom! http://transitionwhatcom.ning.com/

THURSDAY, MAY 21ST

7-9PM (Doors open at 6:30)

Fairhaven Branch Bellingham Library

Fireside Room (Under Steps)         

$5-10 Donation   (No one will be turned away)

Visit the BIONS Facebook page where you can also list your programs and get updates on BIONS events.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bellingham-Institute-of-Noetic-Sciences-Community/343430979582

IONS Websitenoetic.org
All views presented are not necessarily those of IONS or of the BIONS Team.

 

A Holiday Smorgasbord, Part 2: Permaculture, A Vision of a Post Oil World

Today’s installment of our holiday smorgasbord features an approach to the environmental crisis and the energy crisis and the economic crisis that I’m very thankful for…Permaculture.

Permaculture, A vision of a post-oil world

Yves Cochet

Yves Cochet has written the preface to the French edition of David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. Yves Cochet was a minister for the environment in the French national government, and is now an elected member of Euro parliament for the Greens.

In his own Preface in the original, Holmgren was very clear that “Permaculture is a creative design response to a world of declining energy and resource availability…” and that it “was predicated on the likelihood of some degree of collapse and breakdown in technology, economics and even society…”

In my copy of the book I have a star by this paragraph:

Insofar as permaculture is an effective response to the limitations on use of energy and natural resources, it will move from its current status as “alternative response to environmental crisis” to the social and economic mainstream of the post-industrial era. Whether it will be called permaculture or not is a secondary matter.

– David Holmgren

In the new French edition, Cochet shows a keen understanding of Holmgren’s thought. It is clear, it is succinct, and I think very well captures David Holmgren’s message on the essence of Permaculture, and I highly recommend taking a look at the English translation. Translated by Eugene Moreau and edited by David Holmgren.

More than an agricultural technology, permaculture is a vision of the societies of tomorrow, ours, which will be confronted with the evolution of energy and climate systems. Permaculture is not only another way to garden: it is another way of thinking about and acting on the world, a global philosophical and concrete change. At the same time permaculture draws together strategies of resilience in the face of imminent radical transformations, if not collapses.

– Yves Cochet

Download the entire translated preface from David Holmgren’s website here: Permaculture, a vision of a post-oil world.  And join me today in giving thanks for Permaculture!

Crash on Demand: David Holmgren updates his Future Scenarios

Future ScenariosDavid Holmgren, co-originator of the Permaculture concept, published Future Scenarios in 2007, originally as a website, and then published by Chelsea Green in 2008 as a small book (126 pages). He explores four possible human futures as the two great crises of Peak Oil and Climate Change converge into what he has coined our energy descent future.  In my view, this is essential reading. Adam Grubb, founder of Energy Bulletin, characterized it like this:

These aren’t two-dimensional nightmarish scenarios designed to scare people into environmental action. They are compellingly fleshed-out visions of quite plausible alternative futures, which delve into energy, politics, agriculture, social, and even spiritual trends. What they do help make clear are the best strategies for preparing for and adapting to these possible futures.

Three years later, in 2010, Holmgren contributed an additional important essay, Money Vs. Fossil Energy: The Battle for Control of the World. Holmgren describes this essay as “a framework for understanding the ideological roots of the current global crisis that I believe is more useful than the now tired Left Right political spectrum.”  Like all of his work, it is based on a profound energetic literacy, and is quite startling and original, and “challenges much of the strategic logic behind current mainstream climate change activism.”

A year ago, in a December 2012 interview, Holmgren was asked:

What do you see as the biggest challenges in our struggle to control our resources today?

His Answer:

After a lifetime of focusing on the biological basis for existence, and then the energetic basis, I’ve now become more and more interested in money, ironically, after ignoring it for most of my life. On the downside of the energy peak, it’s actually the bubble economies that can unravel so fast, that become almost the most important thing in shaping the immediate future. That bubble economy is, of course, actually falling apart right now. So a lot of the mainstream sustainability strategies assume we have a growing and steady economy. Permaculture works from the basis that we can adapt and do these adaptions in an ad-hoc way from the bottom up, and we’ve been doing that essentially for 30 years without the support of government and corporations. I’m not saying that we’ve got all the answers, but there’s a lot of people out there who are modeling and have been modeling how creative responses are going to happen.

David Holmgren

David Holmgren

The 2013 Update

And now a year later, as 2013 draws to a close, David Holmgren has published a new essay (a 24 page pdf download), which is an update of Future Scenarios, builds on Money Vs. Fossil Fuels, and expands his new focus on money and economy.  The essay is titled Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future.

energy_descent_scenarios-300x207

Six years on, of the four scenarios outlined in Future Scenarios, Holmgren is seeing the Brown Tech scenario as the one currently in play, where the decline of fossil fuels unfolds slowly, “but the severity of global warming symptoms is at the extreme end of current mainstream scientific predictions.” The political system is Corporatist, and emphasis is placed on replacing declining conventional fossil fuels with lower grade fossil fuels, which are both more expensive and also release more GGE (Greenhouse Gas Emissions), which exacerbates Climate Change even further. The introduction to this essay states:

David’s 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.

browntech_logosmlw_bt

In the extensive discussions about money and economy, the influence of systems analyst Nicole Foss (Stoneleigh -The Automatic Earth) and economist Steve Keen (Debt Deflation) are strong and freely acknowledged. Holmgren believes that deflationary economics is the most powerful factor shaping our immediate future.

The basic recommendation (as noted in the quote above) is not much different from what David Holmgren has been recommending for 30 years: to engage in a shift away from being a dependent c0nsumer, and toward being a responsible self-reliant producer for your household and community, and to shift a significant portion of assets out of the mainstream economy and move them into building household and community resilience. These actions not only put us in a more secure position, they also, if engaged by perhaps 10% of the population of affluent countries, might be just enough to shift our economies out of the perpetual growth paradigm we’ve been inhabiting since at least the industrial revolution, and is now only hanging on via  a rising debt bubble. The collapse of the current bubble economy will be painful. However, given that current growth is only being made possible by rising debt, we are not doing ourselves any favors by perpetuating it. As he had previously pointed out in Future Scenarios:

…without radical behavioral and organizational change that would threaten the foundations of our growth economy, greenhouse gas emissions along with other environmental impacts will not decline. Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and may now be the only real hope for maintaining the earth in a habitable state.

Holmgren makes the case that while it may be too late for the Green Tech scenario to materialize, it may still be possible to avoid the worst effects of the Brown Tech scenario (a 4 to 6 degree “Climate Cooker” Lifeboats scenario). A severe global economic collapse could switch off enough GGE to begin reversing climate change, so that the Earth Steward scenario of bioregional economies based on frugal rural agrarian living, assisted by resources salvaged from the collapsed global economy and the defunct national governments, might emerge in the long term future.

It’s not a picture of a bright and shiny future, granted. The last 10 pages or so, however, I found to be quite stimulating, and opened up more possibilities for positive engagement. Topics discussed are Nested Scenarios (different scenarios co-existing at different scales); Investment and Divestment; Formal and Informal Economies; Alternative and Non-monetary Economies; Labor and Skill Vs Fossil Fuel and Technology; Brown Tech Possibilities; Actors at the Fringe; and Not Financial Terrorists (but Terra-ists with hands in the soil). There are also many great footnotes/links worth following up on.

This is a highly recommended essay – essential reading for those trying to make sense of our long term future and how we can best make a positive difference.

[*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 “What is David Holmgren Really Telling Us?” 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

 

Lessons from the Ages, Part 1
Lessons from the Ages, Part 2

Other Related Articles
Conversation with David Holmgren (a 15 minute radio interview, where Holmgren is forced to give concise answers to key questions)
Retrofitting the Suburbs for a Resilient Future (Excellent David Holmgren video presentation of his famously practical vision for the future of suburbia)
Powerdown: Let’s Talk About It (popular recent post by Joanne Poyourow of Transition US)
Downloading Responsibility
(Extraenvironmentalist interview with Nicole Foss and Laurence Boomert)
Climate After Growth: Why Environmentalists Must Embrace Post-Growth Economics and Community Resilience (Rob Hopkins and Asher Miller appeal to environmental activists, urging to let go of the growth paradigm)

Crank It Down

Image

I read two related posts today that I wanted to pass on.  The first is John Michael Greer’s latest, which he calls The Beginning of the World.  He begins by discussing the Mayan calendar, and all of the myriad failed predictions, from apocalypse to a big leap in consciousness. Eventually he comes ’round to his point, the “frantic desire to ignore the arrival of inescapable change pervades today’s cultural scene, even in those subcultures that insist most loudly that change is what they want.” 

And then another point: “Along these same lines, dear reader, as you surf the peak oil and climate change blogosphere and read the various opinions on display there, I’d encourage you to ask yourself what those opinions amount to in actual practice.  A remarkably large fraction of them, straight across the political landscape from furthest left to furthest right and including all stops in between, add up to demands that somebody else, somewhere else, do something.”

And then eventually, a recommended action: “With that in mind, dear reader, I’d like to ask you to do something right now, before going on to the paragraph after this one.  If you’re in the temperate or subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere, and you’re someplace where you can adjust the temperature, get up and go turn the thermostat down three degrees; if that makes the place too chilly for your tastes, take another moment or two to put on a sweater.  If you’re in a different place or a different situation, do something else simple to decrease the amount of energy you’re using at this moment.  Go ahead, do it now; I’ll wait for you here.”

Now, I hope you’ll go over there and read the entire thing – I think it’s worth doing:
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-beginning-of-world.html

And I really love that Resilience.org ran the post  with this picture:

Image

For those who don’t remember, Jimmy Carter gave a very famous speech to the nation in 1979, known variously as the “Sweater Speech,” the “Malaise” speech, or the “Crisis of Confidence” speech. Some blame this speech as one reason he was not re-elected. However, if we had followed his advice, we as a country (United States) would be in a much better position today.

I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I’m proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I’m asking you for your good and for your nation’s security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense — I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

Along similar lines to John Michael Greer’s post, is a piece by Mark Watson, from the Transition Network: Energy Descent is Cool! Even When Its Bloody Cold.

In our household we turned off the oil-fired central heating. We haven’t turned it back on since, apart from on really cold, damp winter days when clothes just won’t dry.

The first winter was tough. We lit two fires a week in the woodburner and discovered the amazingness of the Hot Water Bottle and wearing more layers of clothes. The group’s monthly meetings were important for keeping our spirits up in that first year and we could report on our successes and failures. Going into buildings with the central heating on began to feel unnatural, and going outside on a winter’s day was sometimes warmer than staying indoors. 2010 was easier, though the group was no more, and last year (which was a milder winter) was almost a doddle.

At the Dark Mountain meeting in Norwich that week, Sim told the group, “You know, because it’s cold I’m much more aware of temperature. That it’s warm inside the bed, for example, and cold outside. I don’t pay attention to that normally. The physical season and the outside has really entered my awareness. And this is how humans have lived for most of our time on the planet.”

Energy descent. It’s not particularly comfortable. Though at some point it’s inevitable. Best to start now and make it an adventure.

Both of the posts above reminded me of the great movie, My Dinner with Andre. Here’s one of my favorite slices of dialog:

Andre: What does it do to us, Wally, living in an environment where something as massive as the seasons or winter or cold, don’t in any way affect us? I mean, were animals after all. I mean… what does that mean? I think that means that instead of living under the sun and the moon and the sky and the stars, we’re living in a fantasy world of our own making.
Wally: Yeah, but I mean, I would never give up my electric blanket, Andre. I mean, because New York is cold in the winter. I mean, our apartment is cold! It’s a difficult environment. I mean, our life is tough enough as it is. I’m not looking for ways to get rid of a few things that provide relief and comfort. I mean, on the contrary, I’m looking for more comfort because the world is very abrasive. I mean, I’m trying to protect myself because, really, there’s these abrasive beatings to be avoided everywhere you look!
Andre: But, Wally, don’t you see that comfort can be dangerous? I mean, you like to be comfortable and I like to be comfortable too, but comfort can lull you into a dangerous tranquility.

Andre: I wouldn’t put on an electric blanket for any reason. First, I’d be worried if I get electrocuted. No, I don’t trust technology. But I mean, the main thing, Wally, is that I think that kind of comfort just separates you from reality in a very direct way.

 

In our household, we’ve enjoyed hot water bottles for a number of years now, and have recently added hot rocks to our bedtime routine. The rocks are stored on the heater by day, and get transported to the bed at night. We’ve also found that moderate exercise every day helps raise our body temp and helps us feel more comfortable in the winter. Our Christmas involved gifts of quality drying racks, insulated underwear, flannel PJ’s, and insulated outerwear. All of which has prepared us for the next step in sustainability: the thermostat has been turned down another couple of degrees.

Image

The MacLeod family Hot Water Bottles