Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rambling about we20

On Saturday night I was out to visit friends. I was amused by a comment about my online profile picture, to the effect that I'm not really so ugly in person. Some of the conversation that evening was about the Internet and how tricky the balancing act of online and offline life is. It's not just about time, but more importantly who we are and how we imagine ourselves to be.

I love Sharon Astyk's blog Casabon's Book. I was looking at her site today and marveled at the clarity of her statement of what the site is about:
Depletion and Abundance are just two sides of the same coin. We're no longer speaking of the future when we talk about climate change and peak oil. So now the project is to accept depletion, and still find a good and abundant way of life, not just for ourselves, but for those who will come after us. We can do this - it is one heck of a challenge, but we have to find a way, so we will. That's what this site is for - finding a way forward.
Last time I wrote here, I said I'm no good at making plans. It's true, I'm not, but I'm still eager to get something together around the we20 initiative. This coming Saturday I'll have a chance to see some of my friends again, and I'm trying to develop a pitch for a we20 meeting the following weekend at my place.

When I think about economics, I think about it from a global environmental frame. With my friends, I often discover I'm really out of sync with their perspectives. Most of the time feel at a loss as to what to say. I want to get together with friends to talk about as Astyk puts it: "finding a way forward" and don't quite yet know how to make that happen.

When I talk to friends about climate change and peak oil, I never get feedback that neither is real, but the discussions always seems to dead end. My friends are busy people doing what they need to do, which in America requires lots of driving around. I talk too much and don't listen enough. Proceeding from the assumptions of climate change and peak oil isn't going to happen unless everyone in the group actually talks about those issues.

Present tense, when we're speaking about economics,mostly we're concerned with making enough money to provide for ourselves. Unemployment is an issue among some of my friends, and it's a subject that we're loathe to talk about. Sharon Astyk's statement about what her blog is about brings climate change and peak oil into the present tense. So how to have a meeting that starts from this presumption is challenge number one.

I've lived in the greater Pittsburgh area for most of my life. I'm very happy that I have old friends, people who've known me for a long while. Really, we share a great deal in common, even if my politics have always seemed on the fringe. My politics have never been terribly coherent. Back in the 1970's a definably leftist cant in politics was often expressed. Some of the leftists seemed fairly conservative to me then, and grew more so. Actually having to get a job seemed to turn their heads around pretty quickly. One way or another we all had to make lives for ourselves.

Early this month Morgan Meis wrote a remembrance of Leszek Kolakowski. Meis discusses an essay "How to be a Conservative-Liberal-Socialist." I loved Meis's essay so much I wanted to find Koladowski's essay online too. I found it.* Morgan Meis writes:
It's impossible to be a conservative/liberal/socialist. Except that Kolakowski did it.
My hunch is most of my friends politics is actually rather along the lines of Kolakowski's Conlibsoc, even if they've never heard of Kolakowski. But there are no Conlibsoc candidates on the ballot, and our talk is usually more present tense.

The point of going on about politics is that Pittsburgh will host the G20 Summit on the 24th and 25th of September. I do have my eyes cocked for various responses to the meeting. It is an important event. As I say, I'm not particularly political, but whenever the subject of the G20 comes up, it seems there's a presumption of political activism on my part. I think my friends aren't willing to acknowledge just how lazy I actually am. Of course I do value political dissent and would be happy to engage in discussions about Seattle 1999. But geez, that was ten years ago. The interesting challenge that we20 puts forward is to make a plan; to talk about now and in the future.

I was hunting through the archives of Transition Culture for ideas and came upon an exercise for visualizing the future. The idea is four characters talking at a 2030 class reunion, the premise they were young people then and my age in 2030. Cards with statements about the characters are to be distributed in the audience so they can join in asking questions about "what was it like?"

I like the idea, but need to modify the exercise so that it can be done without people preparing as actors. Still, the exercise provides a good framework for discussion to think about the present from a future perspective. Many of my friends have children in their teens and twenties now. We are all intensely concerned about them and their futures. So that's rough idea about how I intend to get the ball rolling.

A regular practice Sharon Astyk follows on her blog is to provide updates. The format of the updates follows:
Waste Not:
Want Not:
Ate the Food:
Build Community Food Systems:
I love the list and that people who read the blog often join in the comments with their own updates. I doubt any plan we come up with will be exactly like hers. Still it really ought to be a plan that can be measured in actions taken during a week. Sharing what we do can motivate us to keep on doing and motivate us to do more.

* The excerpt references that it's from Kolakowski's book Modernity on Endless Trial. From that essay I went to the homepage of Mr. Bauld's English. A note on the bottom of the page reads:
Send comments to Brian Bauld, who has just retired from Amherst Regional High School, Amherst, Nova Scotia, in the summer of 2003.
Mr. Bauld created an incredible online resource! I've saved it for my own study, and also to recommend for someone I know who's dropped out of school and is looking to take her GED and get into college.

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