Friday, December 7, 2012

Los Angeles Green Festival

I love festivals and more so when they relate to the environment, sustainability, and people's well-being.  So I was thrilled to hear about the Los Angeles Green Festival which took place the weekend of November 17-18 (http://www.greenfestivals.org/la/updates/).

I went on Sunday since Saturday became the first time ever I have watched an entire football game, UCLA vs. USC, and the first time we won against 'SC since 2006! Go Bruins! Having studied social identity in graduate school, I now cannot help seeing it at play in nearly every aspect of human social life! Team sports provide an excellent example of the "Us vs. Them" group identity concept and the perceptions and behavior that result. How's that for geeking out!?


But back to the topic at hand. The LA Green Festival was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which I realized I had never been to and it is gigantic!  I checked in and got free entrance since I am a member of the Sierra Club (more social group identity!), walked through the doors, and stopped dead in my tracks. The hall was enormous and so filled with banners and colors and sounds and excitement that I had to duck behind a booth and orient myself on the map to avoid getting overwhelmed!

Presentations and vendors at the Los Angeles Green Festival


I attended three talks at three different stages for three hours in a row but enjoyed them and was uplifted by the consciousness and passionate actions of the various groups and individuals presenting.

I started at "Food Justice and Equity: Transforming LA's Urban Food Desert," in the Community Action pavilion, which included speakers from the Community Coalition for Responsible Community Development (http://www.cocosouthla.org/), Community Financial Resource Center (http://www.cfrcla.org/) and First 5 LA (http://www.first5la.org/).

They are addressing issues of limited access to fresh, healthy foods in lower income areas of Los Angeles, restrictions to small businesses and lack of investment of healthy food companies in those areas.



Next I ran over to the Green Living stage and listened to "Community Food Shed" with speakers from Food Forward (http://foodforward.org/), an awesome organization I volunteer for that harvests "excess" fruit from locals' garden fruit trees to donate to shelters and food banks; Nichols Canyon Co-op (http://nicholscanyonco-op.com/), and South Central Farm CSA (scfcoop.southcentralfarmers.com) which you may know about through the poignant 2008 documentary, "The Garden" (http://www.thegardenmovie.com/).

These organizations are focusing on producing and distributing food locally for healthier, more resilient communities.



Finally, I headed to the Main Stage for "The Medium As the Message: Transmedia for Eco-Social Change" with actors Ed Begley, Jr., Rachelle Carson-Begley, Raphael Sbarge, and Esai Morales.

I was hoping for something educational about utilizing different forms of media but unfortunately it was mostly promoting the Begley's upcoming TV show about constructing their eco-friendly house.

Esai Morales performing a song at the Los Angeles Green Festival


With the last couple of hours of the festival, I explored all the vendors from solar panel companies to organic food producers to recycled art to yoga and beyond. I got plenty of fun and delicious samples, but most importantly I met an amazing array of highly motivated people doing things every day to help others and decrease their community's impact on our environment. I even ran into some old friends!


It was a very educational, uplifting, and fun event and I highly recommend it. It is held in multiple cities so check back for the 2013 schedule:  http://www.greenfestivals.org/

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Collapse

 


I finally finished the weighty (both in mass and subject!) book Collapse by Dr. Jared Diamond. I was lucky enough to take his course "Past Societies and Their Lessons for Our Own Future" while a student at UCLA and had long wanted to read this book. Its daunting 525 pages of amazingly detailed research, narrative, and analysis was well worth the time and I highly recommend it, even if you choose to skim the specific data and technical details and just focus on the larger analyses and conclusions. At the very least, read Part 4, "Practical Lessons," which is the most salient to informing our current course of action.

If you decide that those 525 pages are not in your future, here I highlight and briefly comment on what I consider the critical points Dr. Diamond underscores in Collapse.




World-airline-routemap-2009
By Jpatokal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) 
or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons


The broad introductory understanding we must start with to truly grasp how complex and interconnected is our world:
"Thanks to globalization, international trade, jet planes, and the Internet, all countries on Earth today share resources and affect each other [...]." (p. 119)


Diamond found that five factors played a role in the collapses or successes of past as well as more modern societies. Four vary in their significance among cases, but the one that proves a significant factor in every case is "the society's response to its environmental problems".  This makes perfect sense to me considering we, like any living thing on Earth, are part of a finely tuned natural system upon which we rely for our survival.



"The remaining solution to the tragedy of the commons is for the consumers to recognize their common interest and to design, obey, and enforce prudent harvesting quotas themselves. That is likely to happen only if a whole series of conditions is met: the consumers form a homogenous group; they have learned to trust and communicate with each other; they expect to share a common future and to pass on the resource to their heirs; they are capable of and permitted to organize and police themselves; and the boundaries of the resource and of its pool of consumers are well defined." (p. 429)

This list of conditions is surely reflected in the Holigent philosophy and would be part of the guidelines in forming Holigent communities.





Canal-Walk-Food-Court


"It appears to me that much of the rigid opposition to environmental concerns in the First World nowadays involves values acquired early in life and never again reexamined [...]" (p. 433)

"It is painfully difficult to decide whether to abandon some of one's core values when they seem to be becoming incompatible with survival. At what point do we as individuals prefer to die than to compromise and live?" (p. 433)

"Perhaps a crux of success or failure as a society is to know which core values to hold on to, and which ones to discard and replace with new values, when times change." (p. 433, emphasis added)




powered by Fotopedia

Former Vice-President, Al Gore giving his presentation "An Inconvenient Truth" about
global warming, and who, although brought great attention to the growing problem,
was unable to spur the unprecendented political efforts required to solve it.


"[...] it calls for a leader with a different type of courage to anticipate a growing problem or just a potential one, and to take bold steps to solve it before it becomes an explosive crisis. Such leaders expose themselves to criticism or ridicule for acting before it becomes obvious to everyone that some action is necessary. But there have been many such courageous, insightful, strong leaders who deserve our admiration." (p. 439)

In our current social, economic, and political realms, who will those next leaders be who are wise enough to keep an eye on our future? And will we support them thereby aiding our own well being, or will we hold them back to our own detriment?




Rally for the Right2Know About GMOs March 26, 2011
Photo by Alexis Baden-Mayer

"To me, the conclusion that the public has the ultimate responsibility for the behavior of even the biggest businesses is empowering and hopeful, rather than disappointing. My conclusion is not a moralistic one about who is right or wrong, admirable or selfish, a good guy or a bad guy. My conclusion is instead a prediction, based on what I have seen happening in the past. Businesses have changed when the public came to expect and require different behavior, to reward businesses for behavior that the public wanted, and to make things difficult for businesses practicing behaviors that the public didn't want. I predict that in the future, just as in the past, changes in public attitudes will be essential for changes in businesses' environmental practices." (p. 485)

This chapter was about "Big Businesses and the Environment" but I think the assertion Diamond makes applies to businesses' social, economic, and political practices as well. So strong expressions of public attitudes such as The Occupy Movement and The Zeitgeist Movement should not be discounted as ripples in the pond but taken seriously and supported as the primary way individuals can create enough public pressure to make big businesses, politicians, and social groups change their ways for the good of society.







Dr. Diamond places into 12 groups the most critical environmental problems that impacted past societies and that intensely challenge us today:

(1-4) We are destroying or losing: natural habitats; wild food sources, especially fish; biological diversity; and soil and soil health.

(5-10) We are approaching the finite limits of: easily and cheaply accessible fuel sources; freshwater; Earth's photosynthetic capacity; the levels of toxic chemicals our environment and bodies can tolerate; the stress tolerable to ecosystems caused by introduced nonnative species; and the effects of global warming our planet can handle.

(11-12) Human population growth and increased individual and collective human impact on the environment.


In regard to those dozen categories of problems, Diamond asserts:
"Our world society is presently on a non-sustainable course, and any of our 12 problems of non-sustainability that we have just summarized would suffice to limit our lifestyle within the next several decades. They are like time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years." (p. 498, emphasis added)

"People often ask, 'What is the single most important environmental/population problem facing the world today?' A flip answer would be, 'The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!' [...] because any of the dozen problems if unsolved would do us grave harm, and because they all interact with each other." (p. 498, emphasis added)

"At current rates, most or all of the dozen [...] will become acute within the lifetime of young adults now alive." (p. 513).  Diamond argues, and I agree, that it is nonsensical for people who make all sorts of efforts to ensure a good life for their children would continue doing things that increasingly harm the world in which their children will be living 50 years from now.




2006 homeless at mcdonalds
By David Dennis [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

"The prosperity that the First World enjoys at present is based on spending down its environmental capital in the bank [...]. [...] It makes no sense to be content with our present comfort when it is clear that we are currently on a non-sustainable course." (p.509, emphasis added)

"In fact, one of the main lessons to be learned from the collapses of [...] past societies (as well as from the recent collapse of the Soviet Union) is that a society's steep decline may begin only a decade or two after the society reaches its peak numbers, wealth, and power." (p. 509)

Hmmm, perhaps some stage of this decline is what we have been experiencing here in the U.S., which we insist on calling a "recession" to pacify ourselves, and is what is going on in the EU and most other countries as well...



"Today the world no longer faces the circumscribed risk of an Easter Island society or Maya homeland collapsing in isolation, without affecting the rest of the world. Instead, societies today are so interconnected that the risk we face is of a worldwide decline." (p. 519, emphasis added)


Diamond retains reason for hope in part because since we humans are the cause of our problems, it is in our control to stop causing them and find solutions. He asserts that the answers lie not in new technologies, but in social and political will to apply solutions already within our reach (pp. 521-522).



Money for nothing - geograph.org.uk - 877223
michael ely [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
An advertisement in the UK photographed shortly before the recession hit.

In terms of those past societies explored in the book that avoided collapse, Diamond identifies two choices that seem essential in their successes, which involve "[...] the courage to practice long-term thinking, and to make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they have reached crisis proportions." And a serious reappraisal of values keeping only those that aid the society in its changing conditions and giving up those that impede or harm its ability to adapt.

"They may inspire modern First World citizens with the courage to make the most fundamental reappraisal now facing us: how much of our traditional consumer values and First World living standard can we afford to retain?" (p. 524).


Parents with child Statue Hrobakova street Bratislava


Pages 556-560 of the Further Readings section, details specific ways in which individuals can help tackle the critical problems detailed in the book, starting right now.


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Zeiteist Media Festival - a visual and auditory feast

The Zeitgeist Media Festival was awesome! The organizers had kindly invited us to table during the event and we had a nice setup in the beautiful lobby of the Avalon Theater in Hollywood. They did a great job of putting together a well-organized, informative, and fun festival full of art, music, film, and poetry.




We talked with more people than ever and I realized that it was so much more fun than tabling at other events because those who understand the fundamental philosophy behind the Zeitgeist Movement are already prepped to understand the Holigent concept. Not only to understand it, but to know how needed it is and to get excited about making it happen!




The amazing thing about The Zeitgeist Movement is how diverse its participants are. We talked to high school students, seniors, men, women, artists, architects, lawyers, people of all ethnicities... What they all have in common is a deep and globally aware consciousness, intelligence, and enthusiasm.

Occasionally I stepped from the lobby into the theater and absorbed some of the rich and diverse sounds and sights of the festival. It was a unique and inspiring event to experience and be a part of. I look forward to future Zeitgeist events and fruitful collaborations.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Democratic Distractions




The California Democratic Party held it's executive board meeting in Anaheim from July 27-29. We registered as observers and to table during the event at which party members attended various caucus meetings and held board member elections. Our goal was to talk with those in leadership positions about "The Holigent Solution to Reconstruct America" and how the Democratic party could change the gridlocked and confrontational campaign tone to one of hopeful, constructive discussion about the Holigent project.

We met and talked with leaders of the Peace Alliance who were also tabling, other organizations, party board members including Chairman John Burton, and Congresswoman Karen Bass who gave a strong and engaging speech during the luncheon. While the party figures expressed support for the Holigent project, the overall response was that until after the elections, at least, politicians will not start talking about a new project.




Since the time leading up to the election is critical, they cannot be distracted from their campaigns for election, reelection, or for various propositions. But what is really the distraction and what should really be the priority? Of course, from my point of view, I see all those current political and campaign activities as distractions from a comprehensive solution to the diverse issues they are all, in their fragmented ways, trying to address.

It's like a game of chess. Politicians get so involved with moving around their pieces trying to gain the upper hand, meanwhile the board itself on which they stand is crumbling.

Attending the event was a great learning experience and we met many interesting people, but the major outcome for us was accepting that political parties are not going to be the pioneers of social and economic innovation. And so on we move in a different direction!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Multiple Dimensions at the LA Times Festival of Books

Holigent had a nice big booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held on the lovely campus of USC. We created a brief hanging display introducing our founder's story and motivation for developing the Holigent concept.






On both days of the weekend festival we had wonderful volunteers helping out at the booth and enjoying the festival which was overwhelmingly expansive and included a large variety of vendors, authors, and organizations.






As an attention grabber and conversation piece, we placed one of my dad's original Holigent Urban Village models at the front of the booth. Interestingly, kids particularly loved it! Throughout the day children and teens were drawn to the model, pulling their parents over to it, asking questions and telling me where they would live in it.





My theory is that since so many toys and games are now digital, this miniature city made of good old fashioned three-dimensional wooden blocks was extremely appealing.  Let's face it, we humans live in and are attuned to interact with a three-dimensional world. It's what is most familiar to us and what most fully engages all of our senses. No matter how vivid a digital "sim city", you cannot feel it's texture.






Despite our ever-advancing technology, we are people, not machines. Our thoughts and feelings can never be fully expressed in sound bites, tweets, or status updates; our complex, colorful world can never be reproduced by pixels; quality of life can never be measured in gigabytes; and a caring caress can never be felt through a computer screen.


Cannot and should not. As society evolves, a great challenge will be how to best utilize technology to enhance our lives without letting it shred the delicate social fabric that is the essence of our humanity.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Earthquakes and Denial - lessons from an Earth Day fair





 
Holigent had a booth at the Beverly Hills Earth Day fair and farmers market on Sunday, April 15 where we enjoyed beautiful weather after the morning chill passed.

 







Between taking turns manning the table and talking with people, we shopped the farmers market picking up unbelievably fresh local produce beautifully displayed in colorful piles. There were stands selling unique dishes as well from tamales to crepes to barbeque that individuals and families enjoyed at umbrella-shaded tables.









Other booths included nonprofits, city organizations, and businesses all with a focus on improving sustainability and healthy living. There was even an earthquake simulating trailer in which, after signing a waiver, you could experience the equivalent of an 8.0 earthquake! I actually wanted to try it but thought it might not be the wisest choice right after eating my vegetable tamale lunch.




(Photo from www.quakecottage.com)



It made me think however, of a vivid comparison: Holigent.Org and that earthquake simulator actually have something big in common:

The simulator educates people about the violently scary but real danger of a major earthquake that will shake California at some point and that although we can't predict when with much accuracy, we can and should be as prepared as possible now... However, most people barely have a sufficient first aid kit in their home let alone a comprehensive earthquake disaster plan and supplies.

Likewise, Holigent.Org educates people about the violently scary but real danger of socioeconomic collapse, which again we cannot pin a date on but should absolutely prepare for to the utmost right now... However, again preparedness on a personal, national, or any level is practically zero.

Why?  Why do people, time and time again, choose denial over preparation until it is too late?

Perhaps a psychologist would say it is a means of emotional self-preservation that soothes the mind from stressful worry.  All I have to say is the backpack full of earthquake supplies I keep by my bedroom door is a lot more soothing to my mind!




A major difference is that unlike an earthquake, socioeconomic collapse is under human control. Yet we still are making next to no major, organized effort to avoid such a dismal scenario.

Shouldn't we make the Holigent Solution our "societal collapse prevention and preparedness kit" right now so we can stop lying to ourselves and have true peace of mind?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Speakers at Zeitgeist Day at USC

We were invited to be guest speakers at Los Angeles ZDay 2012 at USC on March 10 representing a potential stairway from our current broken system to a new system and a sustainable global vision such as that proposed by the Zeitgesit Movement.




We had a great experience at the well-organized event and talked with numerous individuals from all walks of life who are interested to know more and get involved with The Holigent Solution.






It is impressive to me that while most movements in history were largely driven by a certain demographic, current movements such as Zeitgeist and Occupy are so very diverse - understood as relevant to and supported and/or participated in by people of all genders, ages, occupations, religions, political views, etc... It is a reassuring sign that humanity is waking up - understanding that today's interrelated challenges threaten every person on Earth.


If you missed ZDay, you can catch videos on YouTube, including our talk: