Welcome Kendra Pierre-Louis (JustMeans) (blog – MoreThanStuff), and Host Riki Ott (author Not One Drop) (UltimateCivics)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way To A Green Planet

Kendra Pierre-Louis has crafted a powerful little manifesto for social change agents who seek to challenge and change the status quo. Her book, Green Washed, largely assumes that readers know the grim state of affairs – basically, Peak Everything and Ecosystem Collapse, and have chosen to “do something” about it by buying into the myth that we can comfortably shop our way to a greener, more sustainable planet.

Green Washed offers a timely course correction. Like skeet shooting, Pierre-Louis takes aim at one green alternative after another – I’ll give examples in a minute – and explains why, in clear, concise terms and a welter of facts mixed with biting wit and humor, each is a wrong-headed choice that merely further entrenches the status quo.

But what really makes this book useful for social change agents is not the facts. Let’s face it: politicians don’t listen to facts. If politicians had listened to some 2,000 climate scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change twenty years ago, we would have more than a snowball’s chance in hell at sidestepping the climate crisis.

Most ordinary folks don’t listen to facts either, and instead frame their world-view or social construct on a story narrative. For example, several million dollars’ worth of feel-good but misleading ads funded by the major climate deniers – the oil and coal industry – completely stalled the momentum towards clean, green energy sources initiated by Al Gore’s grassroots campaign based on hard-core facts of climate science.

The point here is that when enough people believe in a different story and act on their beliefs, the world changes and so do the power holders. As New York University media scholar Stephen Duncombe put it, “Truth and power belong to those who tell a better story.”

Pierre-Louis gives us the tools we need to deconstruct one of the dominant myths propping up the status quo, namely that we can shop our way out of this mess. Basically, a lot of alternative choices are, as she says, “less about environmental sustainability and more about mitigating guilt.”

For example, sustainably harvested, organic cotton designer jeans or t-shirts are still cotton, and a single cotton t-shirt requires about 400 gallons of water to produce. Worse, the water used to produce some 73 percent of the global cotton production does not come from easy-to-replenish rainwater, but from scarce groundwater reserves that, once used up, are gone for many human lifetimes.

How about food? Increasingly, people are becoming aware that industrialized agriculture depletes and pollutes water and soil with massive inputs of fossil fuel-derived fertilizers and biocides ­– and that this system consumes three calories of energy for every one calorie of edible food produced. It’s not sustainable. Pierre-Louis makes a case that the “buy local, buy organic” food counter-movement is important more for upending a food system that “creates artificial cycles of boom and bust, of feast and famine,” than for its smaller ecological footprint. She points out that simply consuming less will reduce waste: about 40 percent of food that is produced in the U.S. is discarded and, of that, nearly half ­– 42 percent – is thrown out by the consumer. That translates to 300 million barrels of oil per year, millions of gallons of water, tons of greenhouse gases produced from rotting food in landfills.

See what I mean about heavy on the facts? It borders on mesmerizing.

In a series of dedicated chapters, Pierre-Louis shoots down “green” cosmetics and cleaning products (a lot of ugly, harmful chemicals are hidden as “fragrance” or “proprietary” trade secrets); “green” cars (the manufacturing process emits tons of greenhouse gases, roads chop up habitat and erode social life); “green” buildings (see cars for manufacturing issues, just build smaller and from repurposed material); “clean” coal (one of my personal favorite passages in this illuminating book); and the insanity of growing food crops for “biofuel” or plastering deserts with solar panels or wind turbines that all leave a dirty carbon footprint during the manufacturing process and other parts of the use cycle. Blam! Blam! Blam!

Upon demonstrating that consuming less – a lot less – is critical for living within the limits of our renewable resources, Pierre-Louis then takes aim at what is preventing us from consuming less: the structure of our economy. Simply put, consuming less will collapse our economy since our economy is based on endless growth. But endless “more” is inherently impossible on a planet with finite resources.

Forced to choose between collapsing the planet and crashing the economy – and having made a case that technological cleverness will not save us, Pierre-Louis observes, “We can’t change the planet’s ecological limits, but we can change the economy.”

Then Pierre-Louis gives us the beginning of a new story. She decouples the myth that economic growth leads to human well-being and draws a connection instead between the planet’s environmental well-being and our well-being. The new economy rests on four pillars: “economic self-reliance, a pristine environment, the preservation and promotion of culture, and good governance.”

As Pierre-Louis points out, many communities and some countries are already starting to weave these core human values into the fabric of their societal laws and institutions. The nature-based, locally-based, and rights-based movement will take all of us working together for change. Rights-based community organizing is pushing the transition to the more sustainable and genuinely democratic new world order.

Social change is intervention: it is action meant to change course of events. Green Washed contributes to movement-building by helping readers change their own story, and by providing readers with information to recruit others to the movement. By gaining more insight into how to challenge underlying assumptions and deconstruct the old story, readers will help create a cultural shift to open the collective mind-space for political change to occur.

141 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Kendra Pierre-Louis, Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way To A Green Planet”

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Kendra, Welcome to the Lake.

Riki, Welcome back to the Lake and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Hi everyone –

Kendra, share with us why you think green consumerism is so appealing?

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Hi Riki, thanks for hosting.

Good question. I think green consumerism is appealing because who doesn’t love to shop? Since the end of WWII we’ve been encouraged to shop, and green consumerism taps allows us to keep shopping. It lets us think that we can continue the same behaviors and save the earth instead of hurting it.

Unfortunately, that paradigm isn’t quite true.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

The first part of Green Washed is about why this paradigm isn’t true. You’ve given great examples supported by good facts. Let’s cut to the chase: why is wrong with the mentality of shopping our way to a greener future?

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

When did green consumerism = shopping become popular? Was it started by the environmentalists or manufacturing industry?

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 4

For three reasons.

First, because it doesn’t touch the fact that in order for “green” consumption to be “sustainable” we have to use resources at a rate slightly slower than they renew. So bamboo takes 5-7 years to renew itself but if we’re using resources faster than that rate, well we’re going to be cutting down forests to create new bamboo farms.

The second reason is because it’s really, really, really hard to know what’s “green”. Either because the scope of sustainability makes it hard to measure, companies lie, or because we’re not (as individuals) very good at balancing the costs to the environment vs costs to our own health.

HeidiJVierthaler April 29th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Is this a text only Salon? Many still can’t log in and are frustrated.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to BevW @ 5

Good question. That’s not covered in Green Washed but I bet Kendra knows…

Elliott April 29th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Welcome to the Lake Kendra and Riki…

Kendra – How long have you felt we can’t solve our eco problems without upending our economy?

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

The final reason is kind of complicated so I wanted to give it a separate bracket.

It’s the idea of market choice.

Right now the landscape is such that people who want to buy green can buy green and those who don’t care about that stuff (or can’t afford to) don’t have to. As long as we’re operating under a “free market” paradigm then we’re putting green into the same “calculus” as looks or affordability. When really it’s a value system that the framework of shopping was never intended to fold into it.

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

We are checking on that now. Thanks

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Yes. People have to create a password at Firedoglake and login. I think. Lemme check.

HeidiJVierthaler April 29th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

We are discussing entry to this on the facebook event page.

nocorporatepersons April 29th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Riki, it’s Lisa Marie. There are a bunch of people trying to get into the event, but they are not getting the email with a password. Can you pass that on to Bev, please? I sent her an email.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Elliott @ 9

Hi Elliott, that’s a great question. In truth it’s only been the past five years two things sort of happened that forced me to deeply question this idea. The first is that I moved to VT and had to suddenly drive 60miles a day for work. I went from never driving (I didn’t have my driver’s license before I lived in Vermont), to driving a ton and being acutely aware of how much my eco-footprint was being dictated by forces somewhat outside of my control.

The second is I moved back to NYC where people would feel really proud of how “green” they were because we all live in tiny apartments/houses, never drive, shop at whole foods etc. But we consume as much as anyone, so I really started to wonder about the effects of these choices.

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

NOTE: if you do not have your password – please email me at: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com – I’ll check on it.

DonnaY April 29th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

most people are not willing to slow down on the consumption of anything.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 8

That is a great shopping and while I’m not 100% sure I would postulate that it was a synergistic thing between environmentalists who felt compelled to do something and what’s easier than shifting the things you chose to buy? And green companies targeting into that market segment.

The early green companies (think seventh generation) really were for environmentalists and targeted at environmentalists. I think as the growing awareness of toxics in our society expanded, green became more mainstream, and the message shifted from don’t buy these things AND get socially engaged to green shopping as a method of social engagement.

lovealaska April 29th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I would love to hear more about how countries/communities are using the new paradigm: “economic self-reliance, a pristine environment, the preservation and promotion of culture, and good governance.”

eCAHNomics April 29th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Green consumerism is not scalable.

Too expensive for most people, as industrialization is all about the race to the bottom, of which workers wages are the prime target.

Besides, if green consumerism ever became big, industrial corps would either take it over (heavy regs on being able to use the organic label is an example of that) or take it out.

I do the eat local & don’t waste food, bc I live where there are still a lot of organic farmers (a growing number in fact), I can afford the higher prices, & bc it tastes like real food. None of the farmers I buy from are certified organic. I just know them.

Gonna try raw milk for the first time next Friday. It’s from one of the farms I haven’t visited yet.

BTW, I HATE shopping. I’m in my late 60s and my fondest wish is that I never have to shop for anything except food again. Unfortunately, clothes do eventually wear out.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to DonnaY @ 17

That’s a cynical way of looking at things :)

I think people ARE willing to slow down their consumption but only in exchange for something else for it – more time with family, with friends, for real leisure. We just have to create a compelling picture of something else.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

As you point out in your book, the economy has trumped health and the environment — things that we value and are necessary to life. But our notion of “progress” has folded into growing our economy; i.e., shopping. So what is a definition of “economy” that we can live with (literally)?

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 20

It’s funny, the older I get the less I enjoy shopping too, but I think it’s important to realize its not a question of individual choices as much as how we frame our social choices.

suthnautr April 29th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Sorry, wrong spot – deleted my answer here.

suthnautr April 29th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 12

Since I saw the invite until the time I was able to get to this page took me 50 minutes. And the ONLY way I did it was because someone on the Facebook page placed a direct link – which I asked for 50 minutes ago. Next time you seriously have to fix this. I lost 50 minutes of work time and now have no time for this break. Next time – whoever sets these up here – please hire a Search Engine Optimizer to tell you what a landing page URL should look like. Thanks. Hope this chat is interesting for everyone. Also, when I went to the login section to register the site Internet Explorer warned me that you were downloading a file to my computer. I don’t know what file it is, it could be malware, spyware or anything else – I’ve never seen this before and there’s no warning or explanation. Riki – I wouldn’t deal with these people if I were you. That file download business is shady and bad practice. I’m David Curtis. You and I met. I produced the video of you over there are Hernando Beach last year.

Meagan Morrison April 29th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Somehow there needs to be a massive paradigm-shift in our value-system of “stuff” versus quality of life, or rather respect for life, a value on life.

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

For new readers –
You will have to refresh your browser to follow along:
PC = F5 key, MAC Command + R key; or that arrow on the URL bar.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 22

I like the traditional definition of economy, meaning thrifty management. An economy shouldn’t be about “Growing” this mathematical equation but rather learning how to manage our resources well for the health and well-being of a country’s (or the world’s ) inhabitants. I really like the framing that Bhutan is using (which I mention in the book) of including concepts such as Gross National Happiness to track the full well being of a country. I also like the New Economics Foundation metrics http://www.neweconomics.org/

Meagan Morrison April 29th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

How do you imbue a value set on a culture that values inanimate objects over respect for life?

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to suthnautr @ 24

The Post becomes “published” at 5:00PM Eastern, then it is searchable. It then becomes available to everyone on the home page.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to lovealaska @ 19

It started with Bhutan in 1972 and Gross National Happiness to replace the GDP as a measure of societal wellbeing. B/c as we know, GDP measures money exchanging hands, no values attached. At first people laughed: HAPPINESS? come on. Then Seattle picked it up in 1991 and now some 300 communities in the US alone are experimenting with using GNH as an index of progress. Transition Towns which are mentioned in Green Washed are one example. Communities are finding we can’t create a new economy with the old measure of progress.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I totally agree. The question I want to throw back at you is how do we collectively work towards that? I know that in part it’s not through furtive purchases at the supermarket but by making our value systems publicly known an acting on them in ways that may make people around us uncomfortable (though that is not the same as being rude).

Dearie April 29th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I’ve been very impressed by how my local farmers’ markets have grown over the past decade. I do think people are becoming aware that real food tastes better, that community is enhanced when citizens support their local farmers, and that these markets actually bring community together. In the past years the markets have added beef and lamb vendors and even fish mongers in the harbor. Wonderful!

DonnaY April 29th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Not meaning to be cynical. Maybe just where i live. We do what we can and much of it can be done at a savings rather than a cost. Growing some of our food at home, catching rain water, composting, daylighting, turning off the AC,etc. By no means do I feel like I am even making a dent in what could be done but I am definately in the minority in my suburban neighborhood. So from my experience I have not seen the reduction in consumption, or even the desire.

tuezday April 29th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Kendra, can you talk a little about how big agra has gamed the “organic” label so that it is now so watered down to be almost useless (in grocery stores at least)? For instance, a month or so ago I bought one of those 2 pound boxes of spinach at Costco. Somehow this organic spinach was trucked from California to central Florida and managed to spend a month in my fridge and remain edible. Now either spinach has a much longer shelf life than I expect, or there was nothing organic about it (I didn’t buy because it was organic, just because I wanted it).

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to lovealaska @ 19

Sorry I missed your comment and I notice that Riki has answered your question. But yes she’s correct Bhutan and Transition towns are both using those as a mechanism. So is the New Economics Foundation is doing work around this as well (http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/high-street-uk). It’s out there! We just have to be better about looking :)

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to lovealaska @ 19

Also need to add all the second bill of rights efforts in the US like Envision Spokane and the local right-based ordinances that are asserting municipality control (see http://www.celdf.org) and the MoveToAmend.org efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution: corporations are not persons, money is not speech.

Leo April 29th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

One of the best and most underestimated ways of “growing” wealth is simply to work with renewable resources – for example a single seed has almost unlimited potential to create true wealth for a huge number of people.

eCAHNomics April 29th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I have always hated shopping. It just gets easier not to the older one gets.

As for framing choices, its the 1%ers who set the choices for society. They need consumers to make profits and rents, so they create consumers thru clever manipulation & marketing.

They have more bucks to spend on that than any small green industry would ever dream of having.

Can’t have more leisure in an economy when increasing numbers have to work longer hours-more jobs just to buy junk goods at Wal-Mart.

nikki caputo April 29th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I have been contemplating consumerism, human nature, misanthropy and the host challenges/opportunities we face today. I believe, cradle-to-cradle manufacturing addresses many of these issues…and although we are far from there, there is a movement towards…which we (citizens, consumers, community members, etc.) can propel.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I liked your very simple definition in Green Washed:
to live within the limits of our renewable resources. Then you point out that our dependence on NON renewable resources has pushed our economic system beyond where it is possible to live w/in the limits of our renewable resources.

nikki caputo April 29th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

One man may hit the mark, another blunder; but heed not these distinctions. Only from the alliance of the one, working with and through the other, are great things born. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

How do we remediate this toxic legacy? What are the cultural underpinnings of combat with our environment? Misanthropy and myopia frame our sense of intolerance and hatred of our own species. Who and what belongs where? Many in the environmental movement claim humans do not have a functional role in the environment; this fuels a sense of alienation from the environment of which we are a part. There is a certain absurdity of judging nature based on nativity. At what point in time is an organism natural or alien? Medical anthropologist, Sydney Ross Singer proposes an alternative environmentalism. Modeled after alternative medicine, this approach targets preventative measures that strengthen and fortify our environment much like an environmental health care prescriptive. It is his belief that the war-like default setting of our society is radical to destructive discrimination of humans and other species alike…to social and environmental injustice.
Society is rapidly specializing and diversifying. Global societal shifts, afforded by advances in communications technology and social networking, have been sowing seeds for change. Civic environmentalism is escalating. Grass-root networks, recognizing the fickle climate of policy-making, are building social capital and encouraging timely active citizenship through social and community-based campaigns. This movement is restructuring governance from the exclusivity of traditional top-down approaches. Greater responsibility is beginning to be shared between regulators and the regulated, fostering a reawakening of public participation and democratic practice.
Collaborative learning circles are blooming to greet the complex challenges faced by modern society. Collaborative conservation or socio-political governance, involves sharing of responsibilities amid multiple stakeholders. Coalitions of unlikely bedfellows are forced to innovate their way toward consensus. Collaboration rearranges typical power polarities and encourages adaptive management. Adaptive learning incorporates feedback loops for adaptive policy engineering. Innovation born from collaboration can help to dissolve the differences that have fractured our nation and our world.
Government influences the fabric of our daily lives, yet people are able to incline government (and market) to institute changes. Active citizenship and collaboration are vital to developing feasible, efficient, effective, equitable and adaptive strategies. We are living in exciting and uncertain times; we are bearing witness to nature’s economy, punctuated financial collapses and great social awakenings. We have the opportunity to create the change we want to see. Now is the time to rise to the challenges that are before us. As the Hopi prophecy states, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

leonardo April 29th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 22

I would hope that an economy we could live with would be based upon the values you just cited, Riki. In other words- currently we are shopping and when we spend- we are buying (to a large extent), the destruction of health and the environment- among other things. If we were instead- spending on items which either slowed down the destruction, (have to start somewhere)- or aid in preserving and improving health and the environment- wouldn’t we be pendulum-swinging-our-way into prosperity, with a sustainable economic model based upon sustainable values? It’s very difficult for me to accept that there are no solutions. I can accept that there is no will- but it seems as if solutions abound.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Dearie @ 33

Yep, the uptick in farmers markets is great, but they haven’t made much of a dent in conventional agriculture. One of the larger points that I’ve tried to make with Green Washed is that organic/local/conventional are traditionally presented as either or when in truth they coexist side by side. So even with the uptick of local and organic, we’re still flooding the Mississippi with agricultural chemicals, and the Gulf of Mexico still has a massive dead zone in it each summer from agricultural waste.

nikki caputo April 29th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to leonardo @ 43


Meagan Morrison April 29th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 31

GNH: Gross National Happiness Index. A slow, grassroots shift is occurring on a global scale. I believe it is slower in this country than in other nations. Some nations have taken to burning Monsanto crops, but not here in the US. It’s the US that is falling behind, that is still blinded to its own backwardness. We are already behind China and Germany in green technology. That is the fast growth sector of our economy, I’ve read, yet our leadership continues to fail us in leading the way. We are trying to lead our leaders. NO to the XL Pipleine. NO to GMO’s. NO to fracking. YES to wind turbines. YES to solar. YES to any clean energy we can possibly get our hands onto. When will our leadership fall into line with our demands for clean energy and a safe, healthy environment?

nikki caputo April 29th, 2012 at 2:38 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 4

i love this discussion; i need to leave due to a conflict with work…but i do so appreciate community-building platforms such as this! Thanks!

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I believe more and more communities and people ARE working towards “protecting what we love,” as I tell fifth graders. There is a complete disconnect betw the policies coming down from Washington DC (drill baby drill) and what people want — the ability to pass a livable planet onto their children. So people and communities are taking it upon themselves to build more self-reliant communities, which means ability to protect what we love (value) including food, water, local energy, local economy. I think this is where the eat local, eat organic food movement started. To learn more about this, visit http://www.yesmagazine.org and http://www.bioneers.org.

leonardo April 29th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to nikki caputo @ 45

I’m a huge fan of cradle to cradle design- no doubt

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:42 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 39

No but that means we need to take a step back and think about work with dignity, jobs with dignity etc. The rights that we have as workers weren’t handed to use they were fought for.

nikki caputo April 29th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

“clean Energy”-like everything is complicated…large solar arrays are not the same as distributed grid PV; mega wind farms in forested landscapes and/or migratory bird corridors are not especially ideal; large dams vs. microhydro…..the reason i am splitting hairs, is simply to elucidate that all of the above subjects are very complicated and it takes a village (outliers included)–all stakeholders to really try to make sense of our challenges and feasible solutions/opportunities.

nikki caputo April 29th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Thank YOU ALL!

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to nikki caputo @ 52

Thank you for participating while you could.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to leonardo @ 43

Good grief! Green Washed is all about solutions — but the premise is that we need to do more than shop and that shopping won’t get us to sustainability. Solutions abound. Like coupling human wellbeing to environmental wellbeing instead of the economy. The economy of the future, I am seeing it now emerging, blends skill-sharing, bartering, community currency, worker-owned businesses, etc. and is not so dependent on actual money. It is based on a greater diversity of skills and knowledge than just money.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to nikki caputo @ 51

Yes, clean energy is really complicated, but that’s because we’ve moved away from the concept of local solutions. We’ve sort of adopted this “big is better” paradigm when in many cases the solutions are going to be relatively local and small.

leonardo April 29th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

If our leaders in Congress and our State Representatives are purchased by such entities as the Koch brothers through campaign contributions, etc…doesn’t that mean that our true leaders are the Koch Bros and other similar entities?

So shouldn’t your question be: When will the Koch Bros fall into line with our demands for clean energy and a safe, healthy environment?

Meagan Morrison April 29th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to nikki caputo @ 51

Nikki, is no transition time needed? I would love for everyone to just “go off the grid,” but you have to offer people alternatives. People aren’t necessarily willing to change their behaviors, their unsustainable livelihoods, etc., so extremely. Go ahead and split hairs, I agree with what you are saying. I can’t see Donald Trump canning his own food, but I can see him putting up a wind farm. “Transition Time”. What do you think? Do you think our culture, as a whole, can or will cleanly transition so dramatically to purity of lifestyle as you suggest? I *wish* it were so. Please give me cause to be more optimistic. :)

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 54


It’s about moving away from shopping as social action, and individualism and more towards community and reduction. It’s less stuff, more people AND nature and finding ways of creating economic and social systems that reflect those values/needs.

Meagan Morrison April 29th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to leonardo @ 56

Agreed. Corporate entities (such as those of the Koch Bros.)are not imbued with parallel value systems.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

It’s pretty clear now that the transition off fossil fuels will take a social movement. It is not going to happen through the politicians. In fact, that’s what’s holding things up! So the faster we the people create parallel institutions in our own communities, share successes and failures to learn quickly from each other, the sooner we will be able to drag our politicians towards the inevitable energy shift. We have to approach this like the Abolitionists — we don’t start in Congress. Pulling down pillars that support the status quo (like shopping our way to sustainability) also help!

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 60

There are communities doing that. In appalachia some communities have said no to coal power and yes to wind instead. The trick is that while we’re working at the bottom we have to also deal with the structures at the top to support the changes were putting into place. Institutions are supposed to be tempering effects and in recognizing that they’re just doing their job.

Leo April 29th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

One thing we have to do is to build community and support around people who are making desirable transitions. When this happens, the transitions will spread.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I think it’s also important to recognize that a completely “pure” lifestyle isn’t sufficient to green the planet. Business, agriculture, have to get their acts in gear too.

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I have seen this in other communities, Marin County, CA, went to generating their won green power for the county – off of PG&E grid. Then PG&E tried to get law passed to prevent other communities from doing that. It failed on the ballot.

There will be push back with big money.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Leo @ 62

YES! Lead by (community) example, and also move away from traditions based in glorifying consumption.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to nikki caputo @ 51

Kendra devotes several chapters to de-bunking “clean green” energy. Yes the good way to transition to green energy is diversify our energy portfolio or options in our own communities and regions. The bad way is what the politicians are largely subsidizing (in our so-called “free market” economy) and what you mention: mega-farms of solar panels or wind turbines. Again, communities are coming up with solutions; politicians are coming up with ways that support the current power holders and status quo (big corporations).

seaglass April 29th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Have you ever heard of the Transition town movement started in England a few yrs. ago? It sounds like what your talking about.

karenjj2 April 29th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Welcome Kendra, great topic.

I wonder how many people would be interested in the family value of closing all retail stores on Sundays? Back in the “olden days,” Sundays were for church, visiting family, family outings, etc.
Would also be great for community endeavours on Sunday afternoons. Can you see the Evanjelicals supporting this? Southern Baptist Church? Catholics?

lovealaska April 29th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Sometimes it feels to me that the alternative communities are getting trampled. I read about federal raids on purveyors of raw milk and buying clubs, I read about the attempts in New Zealand to shut down small agriculture since it cannot meet the so-called safety standards required. There could be a day when farmer’s markets are shut down by big ag in the name of ‘food safety.’ My big fear is GMOs—how can we control Monsanto when our political leaders are in bed with them? I DO love how online information dissemination has put the squeeze on Kashi cereal and caused them to engage in damage control. But, then, this is an example of corporate whitewashing. Kellogg’s trying to protect its ‘organic, natural’ label.

sn1789 April 29th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Great topic. I look forward to reading the book….Whole Foods is (of cousre) a libertarian scam designed to part Bobos from their money….but, overall, dense urban settlements are more green than suburbs and most rural living as well. Manhattanites do produce significantly lower levels of C02 than most other Americans. Green enlightened shopping is a myth…but so is “small is green.” Economies of scale and scope might not appeal to the romantic green imagination but they are real in terms of most efficient use of resources.

ptery April 29th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I have been thinking of the shallowness of our reponses for some time. I traveled around with Finisia Medrano , who talks about her work here “Growing Up in Occupied America” and I have since been living at Dignity Village, a self run un-housed occupation/now a non-profit, working it out a lot faster than Transition towns. We have been making decisions here for some time, looking at creating a place for healing and a lot of it happens here!
We have attracted Sharif Abdullah, and his work is here: Commonway.org, he is helping us catch up, and also looking to us as some potent seeds to a new society.
The transition towns is a priviliged community in many ways, and needs to step out of its enclosed exclusive community mindset, that isn’t entirely conscious.
In looking to sustainable community, there are still the unasked questions about class, and race, and genocidal/colonial processes that are still running strong through our consciousness, unexamined, while the voices that want to connect to us about these realities are locked away in prisons, mental wards, streets, New Orleans, the Gulf…
This is where the wholeness of our hearts will be reclaimed in these conversations and the clean up work it is asking us all to participate in!! Open Dialogue is a proces that has the strength of communication to get us through all this. It was founded in Finland!
There is no away!! but our minds are capable of continual denial. If we are to survive we must use our minds and travel a path of creative vision. we must have hope and do the work.So much of my work and others is carrying the vision of a world that works for all, This is so outside of the main stream, it is a struggle to hold the vision.
Thanks for writing this book!!

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to karenjj2 @ 68

It’s interesting because I used to live in Southwest France and even though the French are pretty secular it’s a tradition they’ve maintained. Even supermarkets and bakeries were only open briefly on Sunday mornings, and only a handful of restaurants stayed open. It took me months to get settled on the idea that there was a day in which it was difficult to engage in consumer behaviors, but you’re right it made life a lot better. I think society as a whole would benefit from having one day in which retail establishments were closed, I don’t know if it has to be Sunday though (giving a nod to lots of other religious traditions)… I’ve always hated Wednesdays ;)

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to leonardo @ 56

Hahahaha! Forget that! The stock markets will collapse long before the Koch Bros. turn green. And I think we’ll also have a Constitutional amendment that strips these corporations of human rights and debunks speech as money before the Koch Bros. go green. The trick is to outlive the Koch Bros. and focus on what it is WE want to create — as we continue to block more wrong-headed ideas.

vancecarruth April 29th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Megan, I wouldn’t expect too much to change so long as we have one politcal party determined to ignore science and to forge ahead with encouraging the consumption of “things” for the sake of having “things”. If both parties agreed on some of the basics described here we might make some progress, but so long as there is an unwillingness to agree on ANYTHING, things will only deteriorate further.

sn1789 April 29th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

To not only go green, but also expand freedom, freedom from the necessity of work. One day a week to rest and also shorter business hours for retail. It is a recursive feedback mechanism. Give people more free time and they won’t need to go shopping at night, and you can close stores earlier, and you can have more people with more free time, and have a society that lives within renewable resource limits.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 70

The picture of cities and urban effects are more complicated. That is, if you factor in the fact of materials destroyed on their behalf – Manhattan doesn’t have many factories but there’s someplace churning out their take away containers on their behalf – the environmental picture gets less rosy.

I love cities and I plan on remaining in cities but it’s important to recognize that cities are kind of weird in that all of their “stuff” comes from someplace and gets thrown away someplace else and that is somehow ignored. We do rate high on using less CO2 because of less driving, but CO2 isn’t the only environmental problem, and it’s important to recognize that while CO2 is a problem it’s a canary in the coal mine. That is it’s our leading, most pressing environmental issue but not our only one. Even if we could magically get rid of our climate problems, we’re still running out of fish in the worlds oceans – a vital resource for many of the world’s populations – biodiversity loss is rapidly expanding, desertification is exacerbated by global warming but not caused by it etc.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Look, we’re in the midst of the transition, not at the leading edge of it. We don’t have to recruit everyone to the movement, we just have to recruit ENOUGH to tip things. That tipping point is closer than we think, in part because of things like the BP disaster, the tar sands spill in Michigan, and the Keystone XL proposal. A whole new wave of “accidental activists” have swelled the ranks of the traditional environmental activists. And there are health care activists, peace activists, workers, etc. — the people who poured onto the streets during Occupy last fall. They aren’t going away. They’re regrouping.

leonardo April 29th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 54

I should have been more specific- I meant solutions which can work within particular elements of our current economy. i.e.- I look at the Gulf and the upended economy there- and I think:

Well- the infrastructure for seafood processing and distribution is still intact- it’s just hobbled as a result of the shrimpers and other seafood faring folks having had their livelihoods disrupted. Fewer people trust the safety and cleanliness of Gulf Seafood- so what would happen if we aggressively pursued aquaculture up and down the coast and remediation of water and soil within that process? (as such remediation is indigenous to aquaculture)

In unison- what if we made massive efforts to convert the entire trucking and processing part of the Gulf Seafood economy- towards more of a green energy makeover? (There are tons of ways to do that) Sure it would take tremendous effort and investment- but it would be investment in remediation of the Gulf- as well as investment in a sustainable economy with values adjusted towards health and the environment. (Not to mention clean seafood from the Gulf would be a boost in confidence for the entire economy)

Such would be a solution that maintains the economic model but adjusts the value system [within] the economic model. Everybody who had and needs jobs gets their jobs back- but the jobs now benefit health and the environment as well as the economic necessity of providing food.

I’m entirely satisfied with slowing down to the speed of shared skills, barter system, community currency, home gardening- [the Amish With Internet]- I’m just attempting to ascertain how we make such an adjustment within huge populated cities without tremendous loss of life?

How do you envision the transition taking place?

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to vancecarruth @ 74

One of the things I’ve found useful is removing CO2 from the debate. We don’t have to talk about it because it usually goes hand in hand with other eco-issues, ones that you end up on far steadier ground when talking with people who hunt or fish and who aren’t normally considered “environmentalists” but who can see what’s going on in their ecosystem. Some of the most ardent environmentalists are hunters who feel disconnected from the larger environmental movement that often positions the environment as this pristine thing that no one should touch. We often forget the words of Edward Abbey, “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

seaglass April 29th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 73

The environmental damage already caused is daunting and might in of itself collapse the economy sooner then later. The rising seas and the ocean acidification problem are going to really ramp up as we go forward in time and all these issues are starting to cause other feed back loops to happen ( like increasing methane releases due to the permafrost melting in the Arctic and the opening of the Arctic sea bed to increased penetration by sunlight. As temps. rise and water starts to become a big issue were facing possible resource wars at a level never seen before. Add the rising population as well and somewhere up ahead is a reckoning.

HotFlash April 29th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 60

Absolutely! Our ‘leadership’ is seriously compromised, but luckily, the solutions we need are on a personal/neighborhood scale. We can just end-run around them! My local electricity provider included a breathless offer of a $650 credit if I installed energy-efficient air-conditioning — woohoo!

I already have *very* energy efficient air-conditioning. I live near the lake (*very* conscious choice on my part) and I installed casement windows that catch the evening breeze off the lake. The rest of the time we do it the old-fashioned way (we sweat). But we have it way better than my grandparents, we can wear shorts.

Meanwhile, I am currently installing a pop-can booster for my home heating system. Heh.

So *many* stupid, wasteful uses of energy, based on (way too) cheap oil and electricity. My pet peeve is stop signs — totally impractical for a horse-powered vehicle, totally unnecessary for a pedestrian or bicycle, existing only so that cars dont crash into each other or pedestrians. But here we all are, stopping and starting, the cars wasting who-knows-how-many barrels of oil in doing so. Oh, and the electric corkscrew (really!).

jest April 29th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

What are your thoughts on the LEED & green building requirements? What parts of them are useful, and what should be done away with?

Dearie April 29th, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I grew up under religious laws that closed everything ‘for god and family’ on Sundays, and I think it is a ridiculous idea to want to go back to that! The biggest crowd I ever saw at my local farmer’s market was Easter Sunday! I was astonished…..and gratified. Families of all economic levels were wandering through wonderful produce and introducing their kids to concepts of good food and community support. I saw new things I’d never seen at our market: pinquito beans from Lompoc, new kinds of asparagus. Farmers brought out their best. It was a family event! Sundays are great days for buying fresh and supporting our local farmers and giving families something special to do together.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 75

That’s a really great idea and one I hadn’t really thought about but I think you’re right.

In Montreal one of the things I loved was that shops were open later, later in the week mimicking people’s natural social patterns (i.e. you’re more likely to want to head out on a Thursday with the work week almost over, than on a Tuesday), even the mall opened later (around noon) and closed earlier (around 6) than I was used to. My friend said it was out of respect to the workers.

sn1789 April 29th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Modern consumerism rose in the wake of the second industrial revolution of capitalism. With taylorist/fordist production techniques, internal combustion engines and electric motors the ability to manufacture goods increased dramatically. This caused over production of consumer gooods (in economic terms) in relation to people with money and cultural norms of mass consumption. In order to draw down over developed stocks of manufactured goods state and economic policies were put in place to expand the middle class for high mass consumption (FHA money for housing etc.) Additionally, both consumer credit and marketing/advertising expanded across the 20th century. Consumerism has less to do with bad ideas inside people’s heads and more to do with propping up the rate of profit in capitalism. The institutional patterns of economy shape the behavior, which in turn, shapes the consumerist consciousness.

HotFlash April 29th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to karenjj2 @ 68

What???? How would this help anything?

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to seaglass @ 67

Yes. Transition Towns are examples of what we’re talking about. It’s values-based which is the same as rights-based b/c once a society has identified and articulated its VALUES (e.g., Declaration of Independence), then the next step is to weave the values as RIGHTS into the social fabric in laws and institutions (e.g., the Constitution and Bill of Rights). Part of the struggle here is that corporations usurped human rights (over the past 130 years in America) and are now using those illegitimate rights to overturn democratically-enacted laws. Democracy and sustainability are entwined. We can’t have one w/o the other. So the TT movement will need to include human rights based organizing — and parts of it have.

ptery April 29th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Leo @ 38

Yes, this is true.
If you want an expansion of this idea, read Martin Prechtel’s newest book: “The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive..”

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to jest @ 82

Complicated :)
I like that LEED has standards and has people thinking about building performance.

The problem is that (and I touch on this in the book) the greenest building is one that’s already built, and the media likes “new” so attention tends to be paid more on the new, shiny, LEED buildings, not the boring, LEED retrofits, even though the latter are greener and more important (though again not LEED’s fault).

Also, execution and building maintenance is vital to LEED and you can have a certified building that’s actually really inefficient (though they’re working on that).

The other problem, and this isn’t LEED specific but “standard” specific, and that problem is that the LEED performance is based on “standard” building performance. That is LEED buildings have to achieve xxx% better than a conventional building. And conventional buildings are pretty awful in material use and energy use so we’re trying to improve over a pretty abysmal standard. I mean if our standard for Car was a hummer than a Toyota 4-runner would look super efficient by comparison, but we’re kind of ignoring that our standard is pretty messed up in the first place.

Finally, LEED makes no bones about whether a structure makes sense – you can have a 10,000 square foot “green” home. And yes, it may use less energy and better materials than your normal 10,000 square foot home, but does anyone really need a 10,000 squarefoot home apart from maybe the Duggars?

Leo April 29th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to ptery @ 88


Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 86

By freeing people from the “need” to shop. Yes in theory it could shift shopping to other days of the week, but since shopping is our #1 leisure activity I doubt it. It would force people to become more creative about engaging in other activities… or you know just send us to our computers to internet shop ;)

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to vancecarruth @ 74

I agree the outlook is depressing if one only looks to the politicians for change or for initiating real change. Luckily the politicians are not the be all, end all. I’ve had amazing discussions with fifth graders about “bio-mimicry” (modeling solutions off what nature does). When I visited Santa Barbara in late January, a sixth grade class had just watched Baggit and made national news as the class got the city council to ban plastic bags. The world is changing under the noses of the power holders. AND I predict more extreme weather disasters will recruit more “accidental activists” to the movement, not to mention more economic crashes.

karenjj2 April 29th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 86

see #84

HotFlash April 29th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

but does anyone really need a 10,000 squarefoot home apart from maybe the Duggars?

My parents both grew up in big families (7 and 8 kids), in houses that would today be considered cramped for a family of four. I do think that fewer people is a big part of what we need to be considering. I suggest good access to birth control and, if that fails, safe legal abortion, although the traditional approach (war, famine, pestilence) seems to have a lot of support these days.

HotFlash April 29th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

And how would it do that? I am sorry, but I do not understand the mechanism. Could you pls explain?

HotFlash April 29th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to karenjj2 @ 93

In Montreal one of the things I loved was that shops were open later, later in the week mimicking people’s natural social patterns (i.e. you’re more likely to want to head out on a Thursday with the work week almost over, than on a Tuesday), even the mall opened later (around noon) and closed earlier (around 6) than I was used to. My friend said it was out of respect to the workers.


ptery April 29th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 92

I am in total agreement with working with Young people. They have the power to shift this whole thing. One, because they really really care, Two, they can have a much more profound influence on their parents than anyone else. Three because they don’t have the mental strictures on their minds the same way an adult who is holding down a job does.
Lastly, the city government folks I have encountered are too busy trying to keep their actions in line with the laws, codes, and yes their constituents to some degree, worrying about staying around for another election… Lots of anxiety, not a lot of freedom..

So, how do we somehow encourage them to trust their own thinking. This is an uphill battle in schools that are designed to teach obiedience, and to drug those who don’t fit in at earlier and earlier ages. And, in one case, a six year old child was taken away from school by police. Of course a child of color.
I am hoping that more and more young people see through the illusion of their parent’s power,to see the limited thinking that is still going on.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to lovealaska @ 69

I actually wrote a policy paper a very long time ago, and I think one of the things that gets forgotten is that industrial agriculture was a response to small scale agriculture that was sometimes (at least in the course of US history) filthy.

As in fecal matter in the milk, cream poured off, and chalk added to make the skim milk less blue and more white.

I support local agriculture and I like local agriculture, but industrial seemed like a relief solution to questionable agriculture that regulators had no capacity to regulate. Pasteurization was a response to milk that was killing people – often children – and governments who felt they couldn’t make sure that the milk was clean could at least make sure that dirty milk was sterilized.

I bring this up, because it’s important that while in recent years it’s easy to get cynical and feel like legislation was designed to simply fatten wealthy people’s wallets, in many cases rules have a history that made sense in the context of their time. In moving forward we should know our history to avoid replicating these mistakes.

Raw milk can be safely consumed (and it is delicious), but there have been incidents in the US where milkers flouted the safety rules created specifically for raw milk and people got sick.

sn1789 April 29th, 2012 at 3:27 pm


Those take away containers are churned out in suburban and rural spatial forms as well. It is not the lack of factories that I was referring to. High density settlements allow for a complex division of labor (which economizes resources) and allows for more efficient usage of space/energy. X amount of materials destroyed that get allocated to rural or suburban built environments consume more energy (and transit system materials) than X amounts of materials destroyed that get allocated to urban built environments. In urban areas you can (1) use rail and buses (2) reduce resource usage due to multi-unit buildings. This isn’t just a matter of C02 but also concrete, metals, bricks, glass etc. CO2 was just an example. The “stuff” of rural areas and suburbs also comes from other places, and thus this stuff-at-a-distance issue impacts all three spatial forms (rural, suburban, urban). Same with the other issues you mention (biodiversity, forestry, desertification). These all cross cut rural/suburb/urban issue and thus don’t speak to efficiencies of spatial form.

If you are going to fore go the spatial, energy, and resource efficiencies of scale and scope associated with high density urban spatial forms then you are essentially saying there will be either a slow and intentional, or (far more likely) rapid and violent draw down of the world’s population of humans.

ptery April 29th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 95

I think having days where people don’t shop, is quieting the streets, and have to do something else. This opens up space for something else.
If we do have days off, we need to support the sabbath, and also the Friday day off that Muslims observe as well, that could be three quiet days!!

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:28 pm
In response to leonardo @ 78

Power Shift is planning its first regional conference in the Gulf this year to take a look at the energy options and jobs that can help diversify and shift the region. It’s a start — and one the BP disaster opened as an opportunity.

I see the transition happening as a snowball effect as the more resilient communities survive the oncoming climate-economic-energy shocks. I don’t see this happening in a vacuum of theory and politics, but rather in response to oncoming catastrophes. Let’s face it: we’re heading to some very rough sledding on climate shocks. People will be looking not to government for solutions but to neighbors who more gracefully negotiate the shocks.

leonardo April 29th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

This is SO beautiful that you wrote this Kendra- thank you. It is like reading Beethoven.

I was at a Literary Conference in 2011- and Eddie Harris who wrote Mississippi solo- was asked by an audience member- [What can we do to get the youth and others who are constantly playing video games and texting on their i-phones, to get them educated regarding the environment and our water resources?]

Eddie answered: [You can take a kid to the nearest creek, stream, river, lake or ocean so that they learn about nature and experience nature. If they do not know the environment exists, how can we expect them to CARE for the environment?]

Kendra- your words also hearken back to the creation of Point Reyes National Seashore- when Clem Miller and others managed to influence support of the creation of the Nature Preserve by facilitating field trips for Representatives from Washington D.C. to Point Reyes, Ca- so that they were forced to look upon the natural beauty of the land and water- to understand what needed to be preserved.

Thanks again for your wonderful points here-

sadlyyes April 29th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

yup,heaad for the woods,streams ,mountains beaches
ITS FREE…and beautiful

hackworth1 April 29th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

No but that means we need to take a step back and think about work with dignity, jobs with dignity etc. The rights that we have as workers weren’t handed to us – they were fought for.

Are workers rights declining or are they improving? We know that wages are being systematically depressed. A relationship exists b/t workers rights and wages (depression of wages).

Which jobs are dignified? Is any job better than no job?

How does birth control factor into Green?

ptery April 29th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

This is where local rule and historical transference of wisdom, as well as local ability to continue the thinking process is vital. When rules are made out poorly, such as in the case of the pasterization of milk, where forcing people to be cleaner or get out of bussiness makes more sense than to make sure poopy milk is pasterized.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to jest @ 82

Kendra covers them in the book and summarized them in the review: the manufacturing process for new materials produces GHG. If you’re building a home, go with repurposed materials, downsize, don’t plop it in some bear’s backyard (demolishing habitat), and make it energy efficient.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to HotFlash @ 95

In a lot of countries stores just aren’t opened one day a week. So like I mentioned upthread when I lived in Southwest France stores were mostly closed on Sundays. Shopping is Americans #1 leisure activity which suggests we shop for reasons other than need. If you make it so they can’t shop on Sundays (and in France grocery stores were open in the early morning), people will naturally buy less stuff since their purchases aren’t driven on need as much as on access. Overconsumption of stuff is a critical piece of our environmental problems, so it makes sense that limiting access to consumption limits overconsumption.

I wasn’t so much into the religiousness of the idea as the idea of stores being closed one day a week.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to ptery @ 105

I’m right there with you. I only brought it up because I think it’s critical that people take the wide view; the narrow view has caused us many problems.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to ptery @ 97

A growing number of teachers have realized the corporate influence in schools is teaching kids the opposite of what they need to learn. THere’s hope: Rethinking Schools offers wonderful material as does Yes! Magazine. Coming very soon like June 1, my group, UltimateCivics will be posting our new mini-course for high school students, Rethinking Democracy.

It’s easy to see the negative stuff, but like green shoots after a fire, the creative ideas are sprouting in lots of places.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 99

A couple of thing – I was not anti-cities. I believe in increased density and it’s many co-benefits. What I was pointing out is that when calculating urban effects, urban consumption is often under calculated because we don’t produce things directly, we create waste indirectly.

A friend moved from London to NYC and stopped ordering take out because she couldn’t deal with the sheer volume of takeout waste that New Yorkers produce vs Londoners. It’s something to keep in mind.

seaglass April 29th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 101

I agree. The time for heading this off is over. The PTB are evil morons and don’t care what happens to our shared home. The whole bunch needs IMO to be hauled up in front of a very public equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials only this time for the environmental disaster they’ve facilitated with their nonsense. Such a mock trial with the World’s top scientist giving public testimony day in and day out would serve to focus humanity on this ongoing crime and the massive effects its going to have on everyone’s lives soon. We might not have the power yet to imprison these people and to shut down their criminal Corps., but we have the power to Shame them and disgrace them in front of the world. Look what happened to CEO ISMAY after the Titanic sunk. For his surviving he was disgraced. That’s what we have here on a massive scale. The 1% think they can buy their way around this for themselves and their families and the rest of us can literally go to hell as far as they’re concerned.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to leonardo @ 102

Edward Abbey was pretty awesome. The other thing is early exposure to nature (like before the age of 12) is critical to getting kids invested in the environment.

Dearie April 29th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Kendra@111: I SO agree! And that is something school teachers can help with….without being attacked by the Xtionists. Every child who plants a Blue Lake bean and sees it sprout and grow and give him/her delicious beans will remember .. and be a better citizen for that.

sadlyyes April 29th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

i love SW France was there last month…the street markets put the food stuffs on the sidewalks for all after the market is over…how sensible

leonardo April 29th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 101

I believe that I am hearing and understanding what you are saying now. We will be beaten into submission by more events such as Fukushima- BP , etc…and therefore great loss of life is likely a given.

So you are focused on the creation of these resilient communities as a preparatory step for survival? [I am not panicking- I am just inquiring lol]

Am I understanding then, that your take on the matter- is that within the current economic infrastructure- the big fixes are likely just not possible because among other things- we do not have enough time to make the necessary adjustments?

Perhaps I’m reading you wrong- just looking for clarification.

CTuttle April 29th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 106

Aloha, Riki and Kendra…! Here on the Big Isle we’re pushing our County Council to accept repurposed and alternate materials like bamboo…

Here’s a great article about it, and I do plan on attending that Council meeting… Big Island Green

sadlyyes April 29th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 109

my 82 year old neighbor,can NOT read his bank statement…why is this not taught

sadlyyes April 29th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

yuppers…i was 5,sent to the mountains…what glory

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 104

Hormonal birth control has persistent environmental effects. I’m just kidding. Though it is important to recognize that pharmacology is a growing environmental problem.

I avoid the birth control conversation for a few reasons. The first is we live in a hegemonic and patriarchal society, and population growth tends to be happening in the developing world, and women are viewed as the safeguards of reproduction. So, we’re putting the blame at the hands of those who are actually least in control of their own destinities. As education and wealth increases birth rates decline. The paradox, naturally, is that as education and wealth increases consumption also increases. One American consumes far more resources than your typical Tanzanian for example.

So accept what I’m about to say is focused primarily on the US and on people who are in a position to make choices about their reproduction – men and women.

Of course fewer people on the planet is better for the earth. But that isn’t an absolute rule. 0 people on the planet isn’t necessarily better – indigenous people have been found in many parts of the world to increase biodiversity. So it is totally possible for human beings to make nature more diverse and generally more awesome.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is the way we’re currently living doesn’t allow for that. So, fewer people, living in ways that enrich the planet would be great. And the way of getting there isn’t mandating it, but by creating a culture that respects LIFE including planetary life and encourages people to live within reasonable limits.

Yes, I’m advocating for positive peer pressure ;)

sadlyyes April 29th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

my posts are not appearing

Dearie April 29th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

And, I want to welcome the participants who registered at FDL just for this book salon. I hope you will come back and join us in discussing and trying to deal with problems we are all facing at the hands of our corrupt government. Thanks for joining us today!

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 104

Any job might be better when you have no job but communities that get smashed for “progress” (like Cordova, Alaska was after the Exxon Valdez oil spill or the Gulf fishing communities after the BP disaster) are starting to realize that all jobs are not created equal. These communities are organizing, identifying core community values, then encouraging businesses that are compatible with the community’s values. Hence, the local business push. And the green jobs push. In the Gulf, people started asking, “Why can’t we have jobs that don’t kill us?” As this spreads, more jobs will have dignity.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 116

This is really cool. I’d love to learn more as this develops!

bigbrother April 29th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I do not use the term green…instead sustainable works for me. I grow all I can in limited space. Always have sprouts in the cabinets. Lettuce and other “easy grow” produce. I even have a wheat patch and plan “Three Sisters”. I like building stuff and used throw away materials like shower doors for green house.All my furniture is off oof the street. Companion planting to produce fertilizer naturally, So I always have fresh produce so can you. All the leftovers are compost. I capture the rain from roof gutters to water the garden. Get free horse manure.
Think “Local Control”. Live sustainably and be the example not the preacher. Some thoughts. Stay active and healthy.

sadlyyes April 29th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

where are my posts?

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Dearie @ 121

Sorry I realize I only answered half your question.

To me a job with dignity has two halves. The first is on the side of the employer, does she or he treat his workers with respect? Do they pay them a fair wage that allows them to survive in a decent fashion (pay rent, pay food etc)? On the employee side the question is, is your job necessary to society? Does your job make society better? I live in NYC where garbage men are paid well, have solid benefits, good rights and perform a vital service – that’s a job with dignity I think. Defining “better” is tricky, but I think art, music, etc all provide vital, necessary services that can make society better (or worse by reinforcing negative tropes).

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

We only have a few more minutes. Any last minute really pressing questions?

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to leonardo @ 115

Yep, yep, yep.
I’m not panicking either. Each ending has the seeds of a new beginning. Other cultures have collapsed b/c of the same mistakes we are making now. Our survival (or al least some people’s survival) is IMO rooted in our communities, especially those with access to resources and ability to meet their basic needs. Sustainability is really only possible, I think, through community. THere are just too many tasks for “just plain livin’” as folks say in Alaska. People need to organize at our most basic level–community. (Michael Meade The World Behind the World is a good read.)

BevW April 29th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Kendra, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and how to fight green washing.

Riki, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Kendra’s website(s) (JustMeans) (More Than Stuff) and book (Green Washed)

Riki’s website(s) (RikiOtt.com) (UltimateCivics) and book(s) (Not One Drop)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

I’d like to thank all the new readers for stopping by today, and we hope to see you back at FDL. – bev

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Thank everyone for coming out,Riki for hosting, and Bev/Fire Dog Lake for putting everything together!

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

The sweetest definition of sustainability I’ve heard is: Respectful relationships.
Think about it. Relationships betw. people, humans and non humans, humans and the planet…
That’s where we are realizing we need to head.

Kendra Pierre-Louis April 29th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 131

That’s a GREAT definition. Thank you for sharing it.

Riki Ott April 29th, 2012 at 3:58 pm
In response to BevW @ 129

Bev, Kendra, all,

Great discussion! Ultimate Civics.org will be posting (in June) some tools to help shift dialogue into action and organize for change — the real change towards a more sustainable, democratic future.

leonardo April 29th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to Riki Ott @ 128

I’ll look into Power Shift and I’ll definitely purchase Kendra’s book. I’m so very grateful for the forum and the opportunity to engage in such important discussion.

When I met you in Oakland [Oilpocalypse], Riki- we spoke of surviving these times. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are in the world. To me, you stand as tall as Bob Marley, Albert Einstein [Message To Posterity] and Muhammad Ali. You are one of my precious favs.

Thank you for that.
Be well.


bigbrother April 29th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

The big influence of marketing pushes consumption. People like nice things. I like your book and sense of a practical approach. There has been success in marketing healthy lifestyle and organic diet. In 1969 I worked in the blooming organic food industry I have not stopped learning. Self awareness and awareness are yoga benefits that I was then learning. So much going on!

Meagan Morrison April 29th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thank you everyone!!! :)

HotFlash April 29th, 2012 at 4:10 pm
In response to ptery @ 100

Sorry, you lost me at ‘supporting the sabbath’.

juliania April 29th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Sorry to be very late on here – it looked like an interesting discussion. Perhaps a more knowledgable FDL contributor than me could at some point address the debunking of renewables Riki references in her introduction – I didn’t see any questions on that front. I understand some problematic areas like biofuels and materials needed for manufacture, but the dirtiest carbon footprint is, I think, coal, so I’m not sure why solar and wind are off the table. Can anyone help me with that? We face such a dilemma with computers and cell phones and the like – anything manufactured really. It would seem to me a responsible capture and recycling program might compensate – but I freely admit, I’m no scientist – I just live near a whole lot of them working on these issues and eager to perfect clean energy generation, or at least cleaner energy generation. And I don’t think it is a matter of buying one’s way out, but rather of improving planetary and human health.

Feral Chile April 29th, 2012 at 9:43 pm

“So I can’t understand why solar and wind are off the table. Can anyone help me with why they are off the table?” Tis a good question and nicely asked. Thank you! Let me give it a shot. I have not done all the math, but if you gave me time, I could go a ways towards “properly” answering the question … so for now I will shoot from the hip and, I hope, and do believe, my heart. — It you are an immigrant from Italy, and you never get off the boat at Ellis Island, how can you hope to become “American?” I find if I push back from the table and stop dining on —-the relentless cheerleading for “growing,” “developing”, and “stimulating the economy,” with “technological innovation” —–then I can live sustainably like my ancestors did for thousands of years —-without wind turbines and solar panels. You may laugh, but I grew up a bit more that way than most -grew up Amish in a America. For real. Then one day, (ok, there is more to say on this :>) I got off the horse and buggy, joined Americana and went far into techno – got a degree in physics. Now in my older age, I am beginning to walk home to reconnect to my native indigeneity – to re-learn, if I can, what I have forgotten of that sense of my primordial condition. Care for walking, could share field notes from a catastrophe: “prowess of civilization?”

juliania April 30th, 2012 at 5:56 am
In response to Feral Chile @ 139

Thank you for responding to (I think) my question. I agree wholeheartedly with the proposition that less is better, and myself live a life that is simple as much as possible. That, however, was not what I was asking. You and those on this forum for the most part seem to have taken offense at the marketing of renewable energy rather than its scientific aims, (though you point to deeper philosophical convictions tying to the dangers of expansionist economic aims as well.

It seems to me that the general idea of conservation applies with respect to the development of renewables, and I was hoping someone could tie that down scientifically for me. For instance, I do make use of electricity and I warm my home (minimally) in wintertime. Also, climate change is very real for me. Conserving as much as I already do, I would very much like to use a cleaner form of electricity and heat my home in a way that doesn’t affect the environment as much as burning a log of wood does. Just as a practical matter, no philosophy involved.

I did find online information that coal (which is used in my area to generate electricity) is in a 974/50 ratio to solar as far as harm to the environment, and that the energy and degradating materials used in a solar panel’s construction is ‘paid for’ after a short amount of use.

I will agree, though, that if we don’t use electricity at all or manufacture anything that hurts the environment, that would be very good for the planet. I too walk home but I do put on a light (one at a time) and I cook, and I type and read on a computer. I also eat, and even plants have lives. Best would perhaps be if there were no humans at all? Somewhere there has to be a balance, and your science degree ought to be helping us find that, I do believe. Renewable energy projects seem to me to be activities which go in the right direction. Anything can be commodified and blown out of proportion, but haven’t we rather seen it demonized by corporate power than otherwise?

elisemattu April 30th, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I was very happy to find this discussion.

One thing about the green washing – it seems that in order to be an environmentalist, one must reiterate the big MEMEs that are out there. I cannot tell you how many people I know who consider eating a hamburger to be the worst thing ever. Yet I live in an area where there are many small family farms. The methane the cows emit is offset by the greenery around the cows. For every cow, there are acres of trees and bushes.

The cow’s home environment supports a plethora of wild life. Foxes, coyotes, bobcat, skunks, possums, raccoons, deer, hare and rabbit, skinks, snakes, toads, frogs, and birds. Tons and tons of birds. From raptors to the smallest finch and hummingbirds.

Meanwhile, the same people who blather on about cows being bad, drink tons of wine. The difference between your typical vineyard here in Lake County and the cow’s pasture is tremendous. Pesticides are used that go down DEEP into the subsoil environment. There are not only few animals on the thousands of acres used by vineyards – there are not even any insects to help out the bird population. I sat in a friend’s living room one Sunday, and during our three hour visit I saw exactly four birds come to he miles of vineyards that she has leased her land out to. In a forested area, I would have noticed been dozens if not hundreds of birds.

But there is an Orwellian-style mind-takeover of the “green” crowd. Four legs are bad, and no legs are good. At least, that is what your typical vegetarian wine drinker has told themselves they can believe, as they sip the Chradfonnay that daily takes a huge toll on our environment.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post