Reskilling: Why it Matters

If you’re unfamiliar with the term reskilling, perhaps it has a Small-is-Beautiful, DIY, hippie commune, neo-Luddite, back-to-the-land vibe. What you may not know is that reskilling is bedrock for the Transition Movement founded by Rob Hopkins which holds that: “… in a carbon constrained and localized world, communities will have to provide for many of their basic needs which means possessing the skills to do so.”

Of course, basic needs are open to wide interpretation. For some of us, it means fast, reliable Wi-Fi. Some of my most adored people would put shampoo, conditioner and a hot comb on their list of essentials, right up there with waterproof eyeliner (mine!). I kid, but seriously, we are so used to enjoying potable water, hot showers and plug in everything, we don’t think twice about what it takes to produce them, or what happens if they for any reason become unavailable.

I think of reskilling as a way of reclaiming the know-how that previous generations – parents, grandparents, trusted elders — passed down to us, along with values like thrift, making-do, cooperation. If even some of us embrace down-shifting, cutting back on our demands for generated power, it just might give the earth a chance to recover from decades of over-extraction.

A lot of people have been energized by recent events and in my area, weekly demonstrations along the motorcade route to/from the so-called ‘winter White House’ were a thing, along with Town Hall Meetings, and steady pressure on one’s Members of Congress when s/he doesn’t speak for you. All good, all the time. But I believe quieter forms of resistance to consumerism and the damage it is doing, belong in the mix. Reskilling IS Resistance.

So, could you make fire if you had to? Milk a cow? Forage for wild food? Sharpen tools without electricity? How about capture wild yeast to make bread? Mend or repair clothing? Could you distinguish between edible or poisonous mushrooms, or navigate using a simple compass? If these sound like Boy Scout badges, bingo! The point is, there are as many ways to reskill as there are people willing to teach what they know. But don’t take my word for it.

Check out the Firefly Gathering (thank you, Dylan Ryal-Hamilton), in Asheville, NC which begins June 29 and goes for four days. Everything from Archery and Blacksmithing Basics to Zen and the Art of Wood Splitting, over 100 classes and still growing at this writing, are being offered. No one is saying this specifically in the FAQ’s but it seems obvious to me that people go there eager to teach, AND learn. I am excited about experiencing  this event first hand…maybe next year.

More reading on this topic here:

What Is Reskilling Anyway?

Green Hand Initiative. Blogger Clifford Dean Scholz has a stunning article on Navigation.

http://www.skills-for-life.org/

http://greenhandsreskilling.weebly.com/

Parallel Multiverses

If you have been caught up in the circus that has become Washington DC since the election, and to some extent, mea culpa, it is refreshing to remind yourself that a lot of exciting and beneficial things are happening elsewhere, that in fact, we live not so much in a universe, but a multiverse. So even with the anti-science miasma currently threatening our country, there is good news to be found about the future of our species.

Of course, you’ve heard of Elon Musk, Tesla and the plans to build colonies on Mars, heck, the man is a multiverse in one body. But much is happening below the radar of popular culture and social media that suggests that many smart people in different fields remain optimistic about the future, and are busy developing ‘workarounds’ to accomplish their goals. In addition to Musk, people like Michael Bloomberg (http://www.npr.org/2017/04/26/525675189/michael-bloomberg-and-carl-pope-on-climate-of-hope) and Paul Hawken (Drawdown: http://www.drawdown.org/)

It seems clear that we have to focus on the issue of energy: how we make it, store it, conserve or waste it, use and abuse it. Without clean, renewable energy solutions, our economy will tank. Even Exxon knows, and has known, that for a fact. What and when, remains to be seen.

Actually, the centrality of energy in human endeavor has always been true, starting with the only energy we had, namely, human energy, aka muscle power. When our reach began to exceed our grasp, some proto-Elon picked up the first rock or stick or bone and used it to pound something (and/or someone, alas) into submission. (At some point, it seems clear that our ancestors began to divide up tasks necessary for survival according to gender, but let’s leave that for now.)

Eventually, it dawned on him or her that this naturally occurring object could be manipulated, possibly improved, in some way to make it more efficient. Probably tool making was a lucky accident like most scientific discoveries (or recoveries), maybe even the making of fire. Recall that amazing scene in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece, 2001, when the ape suddenly tosses a bone toward the sky. In a blink of cosmic time, we became the only species who could build machines powerful enough to launch us toward the stars. If this sounds as if I’m channeling Neil deGrasse Tyson, guilty!

Let me assume that if you’ve been following Transition Tales for any length of time, you know that I (mostly) want to focus on what is working, or could work, to benefit our society and all of us. The last seven months have been deeply disheartening, and many have been as drawn to dystopian fiction as I have (Hulu’s film based on Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, comes to mind). Perhaps you have turned to history for an understanding of how we got into this mess, and more importantly, how we get through it. And in the business community founded on settled science, I see a glimmering.

So, if like me, you’re ready to recharge your batteries, I have two suggestions.

  1. Solar power is inevitable and solar co-ops are a way to bring dedicated environmentalists together with folks mostly interested in independent energy choices. (https://transitiontales.wordpress.com/?s=solar+energy) In the Sunshine State, they are long overdue, but forming quickly with many enthusiastic supporters. Take a look at Florida Solar United Neighborhoods (I’m on a steering committee for Palm Beach County’s first co-op launching October 4): http://www.flsun.org/
  2. I suggest you sign up for Green Tech Media, https://www.greentechmedia.com/, and give yourself a crash course in what lies ahead for energy, the who’s who and what’s what. Clear effective communication: podcasts, webinars, white papers and videos, and so far, FREE. You could do worse than read this just released article that calls out Energy Secretary, Rick Perry’s forthcoming report for the BS it is. https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-countries-with-the-most-wind-and-solar-have-far-fewer-outages

And if you haven’t had your fill of the Beltway Follies, this mud’s for you: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/covering-americas-climate-troll-in-chief

Why I do not support a pedestrian bridge over Okeechobee Boulevard

Walkable West Palm Beach

Building a pedestrian bridge over Okeechobee Boulevard comes at a high price, trading pedestrian convenience for commuter convenience. In this post, I provide a number of reasons why I think the Okeechobee pedestrian bridge is the wrong solution to the challenge of crossing Okeechobee at Rosemary Avenue.

  • People will not use it. Pedestrian bridges can work when they get you from point A to point B without adding more time and distance to your walk (such as a third level parking garage connected to an office building’s third floor via a pedestrian bridge). In the case of the Okeechobee Boulevard crossing, pedestrians will have to ascend and descend a set of stairs just to cross the road. Most people will choose to cross at street level rather than take a significant detour up and down steps in order to cross. See: Pedestrian bridges, from Pedestrians.org

  • Wheelchair users and moms…

View original post 988 more words

Post-Consumer Waste: What to Do?

Until I assembled this random assortment of stuff from around our house, I thought we were doing pretty well as an environmentally-aware couple: rejecting plastic straws, carrying our own bags, going meatless, driving an EV, all things about which we’ve gotten diligent and even a touch self-congratulatory.  Now, I’m not so sure. How to dispose of these items without sending them to The Great Pacific Garbage IMG_1077Patch has become an obsession of mine.  So please forgive my attempt to infect you with the same.

Of course, our voluntary behavior modification falls into the category of First World problems and may be of little or no impact on global warming that is already locked in[1].  So, why bother? One answer is, if enough of us to whom so much is given do something, perhaps we can buy some time for solutions that will benefit all. Case in point, this week, Floridians overwhelmingly voted Yes on Amendment #4[2] that supports affordable solar power in the Sunshine State.  This is an excellent shift with legislative muscle, but there’s another side to this that gets short shrift: we are still not doing enough to train ourselves to live within planetary limits.  As the saying goes: to live more simply so that others — and not just our own species — might simply live.

No matter how you look at it, dealing with First World consumption and waste is a wicked problem that isn’t going away without a huge movement — individual, local, state, and national. If you need convincing about how this issue deepens the have/have not chasm, you must read Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.  For the design perspective, try William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of information about addressing the issue of post-consumer waste — it turns out there’s money to be made in reclamation of many materials  — and you’ll find some helpful links below.  But let’s state the obvious: the best place to tackle waste is to begin at the beginning: “Think before you buy or toss,” advises Bridget Johnson of Green Girl Recycling.  And that second thought should include not only the item purchased itself but how it is packaged.  This is a special interest of mine as I used to write for both the manufacturer of a popular clear bottling plastic and for a packaging trade publication.  So I should know better than to find myself in this dilemma: true, clear containers make salad greens look inviting and maybe keep them fresh longer.  But can the plastic be recycled back into pellets?  In most cases, the answer is No, though some come close to that ideal, and may wind up in other value-added products, e.g. PET bottles to construction materials.  That said, I’m better off choosing loose greens and vegetables as I do when the farmers markets are in full swing in my area, or those with minimal wrapping.

Hearing aid batteries.  They are small, but you may go through a lot of them in a year.  Best advice from the experts: look for those that specify Mercury-free. These can be safely disposed of with household waste. More info here: http://www.seniorcitizensguide.com/articles/pittsburgh/hearing-aid-battery-disposal.htm  green-recycling-iconPackaging (paper and blister plastic) should also carry some version of the familiar chasing arrows recycling symbol.

Durable Packaging.  The handsome heavy case you see in the photo did a fine job of protecting the mini-speaker that works with my Bluetooth-enabled smart phone, but what a bear to recycle!  A month after I purchased it, I haven’t figured out how to recycle the various heavy-duty plastics it came in, or even if I can at all. Maybe I can use it for storing cotton balls or pens.  My electric toothbrush, an appliance I have come to rely on for optimum cleaning, is another puzzle. What to do with the so-called disposable brush part which is made up of so many materials, molded plastic being just one?  Anybody?  Of course, nearly all plastics are petroleum-based, so we’re basically supporting an industry whose negative environmental impact is well documented.

Health and Beauty Aids.
  The lipstick, tooth picks and bug sprayer are similarly problematic because they are either made from or packaged in more than one type of plastic.  True for most HABA items whether bottles, tubes or jars.  The containers themselves may carry a recycle # designation, but the caps almost never.  Even if every part was designated recyclable, I honestly cannot imagine the municipal facility that would separate them appropriately, so chances are these will wind up in landfill forever.

“Doggie Bags.”  Time was, you got a little brown paper bag for leftovers. Today, not so much.  So here’s how it goes.  Styrofoam #6 is cheap to manufacture and has many uses, from life rafts to ubiquitous fast-food containers.  It cannot be recycled with other plastics.  Restaurants are not going to stop using those god-awful styrofoam clam shells until we 1. stop ordering more than we can eat (a whole other problem), and/or 2. start bringing our own packaging for leftovers, or 3. municipalities start banning the use of the material as San Francisco just did.

Where can you turn to?  Your local municipality’s solid waste authority usually has a website (mine: http://www.swa.org/) with a ton of information of what can be brought to the facility, often translated into short handy guides.  Most take CFL bulbs. Many take large appliances.  We may eventually see a roll out of  the Extended Producer Responsibility that makes the producer responsible for the entire life-cycle of a product. Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_producer_responsibility  This goes well beyond Product Stewardship, though that is also a hopeful sign: http://productstewardship.net/products/mercury/resources/programs/business

Incandescent bulbs cannot be recycled, but since they contain no toxic material, you can safely add to household waste.  Retailers will often take back fluorescent bulbs, printer refills and even a variety of electronics.  Best Buys has been a leader in this and has won awards for the service.  See Electronics Take Back: http://www.electronicstakeback.com/how-to-recycle-electronics/manufacturer-takeback-programs/

There is even a strong Business Case for Product Take-Back: http://www.triplepundit.com/special/circular-economy-and-green-electronics/is-there-a-business-case-for-product-take-back/

And finally, my favorite FAQ’s from Grist’s green expert, Ask Umbra: http://grist.org/article/umbra_faqs/  Many layers of information by simply clicking on internal links.

___________

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2016/aug/15/climate-urgency-weve-locked-in-more-global-warming-than-people-realize

[2] http://miami.cbslocal.com/2016/08/30/amendment-4-would-make-solar-cheaper-for-property-owners-2/

Slow Is Beautiful

Being Slow means that you control the rhythms of your own life.  ~ Carlo Petrini, Slow Food Founder

As life lessons go, a car wreck on a highway notorious for its fatalities is perhaps among the most life-altering.  Even before a speeding sedan and concrete highway divider interrupted what started out as a normal morning’s drive home from an overnight in Miami, I was feeling a nagging desire to control the rhythms of my life better.  I will be 75 this fall, an age when many of my peers are busy checking exotic destinations off their bucket list.  I wanted exactly the opposite: to travel less, be more selective about how and with whom I spent time.  Now, I would perforce have that opportunity.

Almost every day the local paper brings a grim reminder of how fortunate we were that Sunday morning: the airbags deployed, the seat belts prevented head injuries, we were both healthy and fit, and a trio of young people, heading home to Georgia, pulled over to gently assist two injured and confused old people from their wrecked Honda Civic, and call 911.  Whiplash is a nasty, nagging injury, and a broken collarbone disabling.  But we could and did recover.  “You’re lucky,” the ER staff kept saying as they took vital signs, hooked up the IV, ordered X-Rays, a CAT scan. At the end of that day in a noisy, crowded ER, we got to go home, with a sling for my arm and pain prescription.

Impossible to imagine how we would have gotten through the first weeks without the help of our adult children and many generous friends.  Police reports and insurance paperwork, dealing with a junked car, wait for no one.  Prepared meals, groceries, laundry, a ride to the orthopedic center, were all cheerfully provided so we didn’t need to drive until we were ready.  Never, I remember thinking at a low point.  Is never soon enough?  With little discussion, we decided against replacing the Honda, and turned down the rental to which our insurance policy entitled us. For at least a month, while I took a leave of absence from my yoga teaching and my spouse from his gig, playing piano at a retirement community, we were living the ultimate slow down mantra from my yoga teacher’s handbook, ‘no place to go, nothing to do.’  And puttering around the house, taking naps whenever, felt strange for a pair who preached the gospel of ‘when you rest, you rust,’ who had made ‘retiring retirement’ their later life mission (and small business).  “Wait,” said one of our older grandsons, “you mean the 2young2retire people are … retiring?”

We are still not the retiring kind, but some adjustments in how we live were necessary. The accident turned us into that rare household in our condo community with a single car, a leased Nissan Leaf plugin with a range of 80 miles under ideal conditions — 45 mph, no AC.  Most people don’t roam much further in a day and neither did we.  But that range wasn’t going to work for the long road trip we had been planning this summer.  It wouldn’t even get us to Green Cay, a favorite birding wetland, or to Miami, even if we took back roads and stuck to the 45 mph limit. Now was the time to try TriRail for a lunch date in Delray Beach: 25 minutes from station to station, a five minute free trolley ride to Atlantic Avenue.  Why more people don’t use this affordable, clean, reliable North-South transportation in lieu of the multi-lane nightmare that has become I-95, is a mystery.  Why more people who have the time, or can make the time, don’t take a page from William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways and really see America, is another puzzlement.  I could be wrong about this, of course. But my small sample of perennially jammed multilaners and sparsely-traveled rural routes suggest otherwise.

blue highwayRecently, on a trip to the Northeast for a graduation, milestone birthdays, and a wedding, we decided to stay off the interstates see what the back roads were really like in five different states: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. For this, we acquired an old-fashioned paper map and although, alas, the roads are no longer blue highways, they meander and wind pleasurably, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to brake for u-pick strawberries, lemonade stands, and out-of-the-way diners. Although Least Heat Moon and Charles Kuralt are no longer practicing the art of the slow road, there remain lots of small towns where time seems to stand still, and it seems to me the locals are good with that.

Around lunch time one day, we found ourselves on Route 13 just over the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.  At Milford, where we would pick up 101, we passed a small free-standing building with a verandah and a packed parking lot.  A U-turn brought us back to Papa Joe’s Humble Kitchen, where at barely noon, there was a line almost out the door, luckily most of it for take-out.  The people behind the counter were friendly and clearly, this is a neighborhood destination for working folks including uniformed first responders. The menu includes fried pickles, a burger recipe that includes ground salami, and perhaps in deference to their visitors from Canada, poutine: French fries topped with curds and gravy.  It was Friday, Fish Fry Day, featuring the best fried haddock sandwich we’ve tasted to date.  I didn’t notice whether there were 2 or more calendars on the wall — Least Heat Moon’s marker for excellent roadside food — but this is exactly the kind of experience that restores one’s faith in the goodness of ordinary people carrying on, and we could certainly use that about now.  If you’re ever in the area, stop by and see for yourself or go find a humble kitchen of your own to brag about.

Sprawl is getting worse in my adopted state, despite the obvious risks from rising seas to property and personal safety, and with that comes more congested highways, more frantic, multi-tasking, speeding drivers, more accidents.  Our own brush with disaster six months ago made us hunger for a different, more human rhythm to our days.  So far, so good.

Recommend: Rand McNally Easy to Read New England

Fans of the original book, check out Blue Highways Revisited

Now Hear This

Last Friday evening, I was in good company and I don’t just mean the company of other artists at The Box Gallery’s The New American Patriot: Climate Art in the Public Interest, though the work — mostly visual — was often powerful, and my contribution in keeping with the theme.

FreeVector-23So Little Time: A Spoken Word Performance on Climate Crisis in Four Parts is a 15-minute compilation of poetry and prose drawn from several sources and includes one original work.
I had been thinking about doing such a piece for over a year, as my passion for climate and women’s issues began to overlap. Putting the show together was fulfilling in itself in that I drank deeply from a very large spring. I am grateful to the curators for accepting my proposal and to the friends who showed up to hear my performance, and hung in there despite significant acoustic challenges.

As I need hearing aids myself, I know intimately how frustrating it can be to miss what is being said. But those who struggled to hear me are only part of the good company in which I found myself during the performance. It later dawned on me that my voice – and I don’t mean to overstate this relatively minor event given the scale of the issue – was just one more that isn’t being heard because 1. There is too much other noise, 2. Listening well is an endangered skill, and 3. We have trained ourselves to turn a deaf ear to whatever messes with our worldview. And that is a huge part of the problem for which there is no other solution but to do what climate scientists, activists, shamans, actors, writers and poets have been doing: keep telling the inconvenient truth, in as many places as possible, in as many ways as possible with the intention that words will become deeds. Just keep on keeping on. And I plan to.  If my readers have thoughts about venues and/or other outlets, including social media, I’m all ears!

I am immensely grateful to Green Writers Press for permission to use work from So Little Time: Words and Images for a World in Climate Crisis, compiled largely by poet/climate activist, Greg Delanty. I also chose, and was granted permission to use, a poem by Rachel Lewis, a 2014 winner of the Cape Farewell/ Young Poets Network Competition for poems exploring climate change. And I drew from The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground collection, under fair use permission. My friend, Jean Cavanaugh, allowed me to quote from an uplifting Facebook post entitled Scarcity is a Myth. We all deserve a hearing.

I end for now with a poem from So Little Time.

Global Warming ~ Jane Hirshfield

When his ship first came to Australia,
Cook wrote, the natives
Continued fishing, without looking up.
Unable, it seems, to fear what was too large to be comprehended.

More:

See internal links for my sources, including the excellent volume, So Little Time (available from http://greenwriterspress.com/books/our-first-books/so-little-time/, Amazon and other book outlets). The Guardian’s collection, curated by UK poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, is read by actors, James Franco and Jeremy Irons, among others.

Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner speaking at the UN Climate Leaders Summit in 2014

Almost anything by Wendell Berry

Women + Climate Activism, Clearly

It’s time to bring these two together in my life: my passion for women as spoken word artists and climate activism.  No surprise, Eve Ensler is out front on this: the woman who made it ok to say vagina out loud is doing the same for climate change.  Her new one-woman show, In the Body of the World based on her acclaimed 2013 memoir, is being performed in New York City right now, and I would give much to be there.  But I will have to be content — and I am — to host a meeting of Women Aloud at my home tomorrow, to begin preparing for The Vagina Monologues 2017 at The Brewhouse Gallery, Lake Park, Fl.  And a new opportunity could be on the horizon for me/us.

no-gender-justice1This morning, I wrote this proposal to artist/activist colleagues who are co-curating a show in my area:

Proposal for The Box Gallery, The NEW American Patriot: A Climate Action Exhibition, July 1, 2016 through July 10, 2016

Vision:

Some of our most beloved poets and spoken word artists have been and are taking the role of shaman on behalf of climate crisis and our endangered ecosystem. Their prophetic, urgent warnings were being issued before the scientific community reached consensus that human-caused climate change threatened all of life. Their testimony about the living world of which we are a part, are a necessary act of patriotism for our times. These men and women express rage, despair, grief, and surprisingly, what Buddhist sage and teacher, Joanna Macy, calls ‘active hope,’ — the very act of creating art that we take into ourselves and act from. We should be putting their words on billboards, creating community service announcements from them, slipping them under every door, and reciting them to all who have ears to hear.  Because, as poet Greg Delanty’s book puts it, we have So Little Time.

Mission:

To create and perform a script of poetry/monologues/rants, both original and from derived sources (as permission is granted), for a series of live, 15-minute performances during The New American Patriot: A Climate Action Exhibition, at time(s) and location(s) to be determined and mutually agreed upon, for a maximum of three performances. Material will be organized thus:

  1. How we came to this
  2. What we risk losing
  3. What do our hearts say
  4. What we must now do

Logistics:

Performer(s) will need a designated performance space, high stool(s) and audio support for each 15-minute show. Recorded incidental music may be used to introduce and close each segment.

Respectfully submitted: Marika Stone, producer The Vagina Monologues and You Can’t Say That!, 2015, founder, Women Aloud, “a troupe of spoken word performers interested in exploring ideas and issues relevant to women of all ages. We are nonprofit. Proceeds from our shows will go to registered women’s charities.”

This is new territory. I’m both excited and terrified at the thought that my proposal could be accepted, which is a great place to be. Stay tuned.

The Box Gallery

Women Aloud

Wendell Berry on Climate

Green Writers Press