A Small Medium at Large

Nov 8, 2018  Galen Chadwick

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.  The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” (John Schaar)

“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing.  I prefer that to knowing answers that might be wrong.  I don’t have to know and I’m not frightened by not knowing.”  (Richard Feynman)

Predicting scenarios around the theme of collapse, and advising people how to build their career track around this information, is as old as civilization.  Back when urban populations first lived in gated and heavily fortified residential developments, “blowing the shofars” was common and the tweets regularly featured news of various prophets “crying out from the wilderness.”  

This guy Aristotle wrote that “if we knew the future, we could not change it; and if we can change the future, we cannot know it.”  However, recent strides in cloud computing and in transpersonal field consciousness have upset our past ways of thinking to the point that these topics are better left for larger newspapers.   

The ability to predict the past is no easier.  My talent as a small medium was first noted by my 3rd grade school teacher when I nailed the start of both the American Revolution and the Civil War within a few years of their actual occurrence.  “The farther back in time, the more mutable the conditions,” I explained patiently, “which makes prediction of actual start-up times tricky.  As we all know, the same conditions of uncertainty apply equally for predicting the future.”  

I was quickly informed that predicting the future was a crowded field, so I dabbled in aura-adjustments and selling crystals for a while, a lucrative profession, but finally gave up predicting the past at psychic fairs because nobody would pay me.  If I could predict the future I would have known that in advance, of course.  Now I limit the display of these preternatural abilities to an occasional “hammering the obvious” within a close circle of friends, their pets, or the odd panhandler. 

“You’re living a lonely and loveless life,” I’d say to a client, “because you’ve essentially been self-possessed and afraid all along.  You want to hear that you survive, that there is some magic crystal or self-help book that will make you happy.  You are always seeking to know, to educate in order to protect yourself, to save yourself.  But it’s all because you do not want to go through the sacrifice, the moral change.  And you cannot live until you find yourself by losing yourself.”

Now that lingering questions about my past have been cleared up, I turn to my March 21st column, which introduced four choices for the future, and rejected collapse psychology for the better option of radical relocalization.  I advanced the theme of steep descent because change is coming and resisting change will prove even more traumatic.  The various initiatives that FRC volunteers are taking are small-scale, but I see them as seedlings which- if allowed to propagate- have the potential to improve conditions dramatically within our own lifetimes.  My contrasting of these scenarios for the future has the following objectives:

First, to challenge habitual mindsets, consumerist expectations, and the trance of exploitation and extraction as implanted into our heads from the time of birth.  Scenarios open up new windows on the future by momentarily taking off the belief-filters, attitudes, and hidden assumptions that cloud the mind’s eye.

Second, by examining the underlying factors that are driving the pivotal events of our time, we can better convey our options before the tides of change render all choices obsolete.  The goal is the restoration of independent food and energy systems to each watershed community in one generation.  The need is to awaken our elected leaders to their duty, and community service clubs to a great mission.  

Third, I write to inspire creativity and action; to draw folks together in a common effort to create a culture of sustainable abundance.   Our expectations of normal conditions during the coming decades are based upon what has come before.  To the extent that we believe in the world view of marketers and educators, we are all “progressives.”  Meaning, in the words of Balzac, we “have no workable vision of the future, only a notion of progress, which is an extrapolation of the present.”  We predict by extrapolation.  People remember the recent past better than things long ago, and often generalize from personal cases, not the big sweep of history.  

With this bias noted, I’ll pick up where I left off in the last issue.  When societies undergo collapse, it comes in five cascading stages.  The first thing to go is the financial system.  The overarching reason that environmentalism has not panned out as once hoped (and predicted Since Earth Day, April 22nd 1970), is because the participants, let’s call them the Greens, typically see no connection between the monetary system and sustainability. The focus has remained upon corporate bad actors and “greed” for the last half century.  This is a fatal flaw.

Bioregionalism, defined as the belief that human activity, including environmental and social policies, should be the based on ecological or geographic boundaries, (e.g., the whole watershed FRC 20 Year Plan), fails to ignite popular support precisely to the extent it subordinates rather than includes economic and political realities as equals.  At a deeper level, we disregard the limited functionality of our type of money, and ignore it as a sustaining force underlying our present woes.  

The problems that environmentalism faces, and the solutions it seeks, will not be solved with ideological purity or by virtue signaling.  But systemic change can be achieved quickly by changing the architecture of our current monetary system.  Today’s interpretation of money needs to be revisioned by the Green movement or it will remain forever corrupted by it.  Economic reformation must accompany, if not lead, the bioregional approach to instituting an Earth friendly future.  

The near term solution is to create complimentary currencies designed to fulfill social and ecological functions that the national currency does not or cannot perform.  A variety of such non-traditional currencies are already in large-scale operation (such as Japan’s health hours), and will be left for a later time. Now I just want to emphasize the possibilities that a local currency brings into being.   

When two complimentary economic systems are allowed to operate in parallel, the competitive global economy remains fueled by mainstream existing national money systems, and cooperative local economies thrive with a complimentary currency.  Most people would be involved in what economist Bernard Lietaer has coined the ‘Integral Economy,’ in which mainstream money systems produce financial capital, and local communities produce social capital.  These systems operate in symbiosis with each other and are called ‘Integral’ because it incorporates ecological, care-taking, and altruism into the economy in ways that the official economy dismisses. He writes:

“What was most surprising to me was to discover how remarkably close we were to implementing such a solution once before, back in the 1930’s.  However, governments at the time did not seem ready to give this approach a real chance.  The Zeitgeist of the 1930’s favored strongly hierarchical and centralized solutions to all problems.  You will also see that these experiments were stopped by governments, not because they were not working, but because they were working too well without the need for central government involvement.” 

None of this is theory.  We are dealing with real-life experiments, often at enormous scale, and which have been going on in a wide variety of places, sometimes for decades.  Set aside for a moment the insight that millions of American citizens operated peacefully “without the need for central government involvement.”  And set aside who might be stopping genuine human progress.  

Imagine, if you can, the millions who love our planet coming together to adopt a care-based currency.  I list the following environmental organizations in hopes that the reader, if a member or contributor to one of them, will take this discussion on money to their people, and urge the creation of a “Planet Dollar,” or some such, to unify these memberships in a demonstration of their core message.

World Wide Fund for Nature; Green Peace; Friends of the Earth; Audubon Society; Sierra Club; The Wilderness Society; The Nature Conservancy; The National Wildlife Fund; The Water Keeper Alliance; The Union of Concerned Scientists; The Environmental Defense Fund; The Student Conservation Association; The American Hiking Association.  I could list many more.  

Unfortunately, the bean-counter’s expectation to “make money on money itself,” guides the planning in every one of these organizations.  Instead of using money as a simple medium of exchange, they operate with an interest mentality, a built-in bias to disregard the future.  The higher the return on investment (ROI), the more extractive is the attitude.  All these groups use a type of money that expressly serves a short-term grasp of reality versus genuine sustainability.  Why?