All posts by thinkofitasanadventure

About thinkofitasanadventure

My husband Peter and I attended a sustainability conference with Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute in 2010. We learned some hard truths about climate change that shook us to our core. We knew we needed to transition away from fossil fuels as soon as possible, for the sake of our children. We initiated a neighborhood Transition group (Transition Longfellow). It became the center of our lives. In 2019, we downsized and moved to a tiny rural village. It's a whole new way of life and we've got a lot more learning to do. We're choosing to continue to "think of it as an adventure."

Change, Multiplied

by Leslie MacKenzie, blog 6

Six years ago, Transition Longfellow hosted a year-long discussion group we called “Sustainable Finance, Sustainable Life.” The goal of the group was to talk about how members could bring their finances in line with their sustainability values.

The conversations were wide ranging, covering questions such as:

  • Does the way you spend your money and your time reflect how you value the environment?
  • How does our consumer culture make it difficult for you to make the changes you want to make?
  • How would your life look different if you used less fossil fuel – if things slowed down?
  • What would a steady-state (sustainable) economy look like? One that does not consume more resources than can be recreated, that doesn’t “borrow” from our children’s future?
  • How can we invest our money and resources today to ensure a future for our children tomorrow?

(Looking back on that list, these were prescient questions for what we would face in 2020. What happened when the world slowed down? Quite literally, we could breathe again!)

In its first year, the group focused on personal changes – how people budgeted, where they banked, how they invested. In its second year, we went broader – how do we create bigger change in the world.

The Power of Influence

I remember sitting in a circle one evening in the church basement where we met, talking about our “circle of influence.” Who do you know who you might influence with the information you had been learning? Where might you bring in a new perspective or new ideas?

When we first went around the circle, most people said they didn’t have any influence, or maybe only with their immediate family members.

man woman talking
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels
grandma granddaughter talking
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When it was my turn, I shared that I had been very concerned about the fact that the City of Minneapolis did its banking with the #1 home foreclosure bank during the recession of 2009-2011. This bank had done tremendous harm to our community and why were we not banking with a local bank with a better track record?

My City Council member had regular coffeehouse hours for constituents, so I went for a visit. I brought with me a packet of information about Sunrise Bank, a B Corp (a social benefits corporation), a certified Community Development Financial Institution, and a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. B corporations balance purpose and profits to drive “a global movement of using business as a force for good.”

I suggested he look into changing how the city banks and that he consider Sunrise as an option. (I also told the bank I would be talking with him.) He said the city would be examining its banking relationships at some future date (which I thought at the time would be sooner rather than later.)

Now we went around the circle again and the stories of influence potential were bigger. One woman said that her employer had recently surveyed employees about their retirement options. She hadn’t responded but now she would. Family members, neighbors, church friends, employers … everyone could think of someone. And everyone committed to talking to someone about something they had learned.

Lots of Ways to Create Change

For many people, when we think of the need for change, we think of protests and lobbying. Those are two ways that we can work for change. But some people are just not comfortable doing that, whether its fear, anxiety, uncertainty, shyness, or because they believe those techniques are ineffective.

There are other ways to move change forwardeven if you are shy.

Everyone has a circle of influence. Even if your personal circle is small, it may include people who have a larger circle of influence. Sometimes it takes just one person in the right place to start a trickle of change that later becomes a torrent.

Influence is not the same as access. Just because you can talk to someone, that doesn’t mean they will listen to you or act. Relationship and readiness are going to factor into that equation.

But rather than think there is little you can do, it may be more empowering to think that there is something you can do within your sphere of influence, and like a raindrop in a pond, it can ripple out.

Learn More

For the shy and anxious among us, you may find inspiration and direction in Frances Moore Lappé’s book, “You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear.” Amazon reviewer Trish Boyles said:

“This book is unbelievably timely and written in such a way that its inspiration easily translates into personal understanding and action. We truly are living in a culture of fear, and though the recognition of that is an important first step, “You Have the Power” explains the necessary subsequent steps we need to break out of that culture and live our lives in a powerful, authentic way… Like so much of Ms. Lappe’s recent work, the underlying sensation that change IS happening further inspires the reader to re-view the way he/she looks at fear. A society changes when individuals change, this book is a guide to making that individual change.”

For a more academic – yet still highly readable and practical book that touches on the power of influence, see Doug McKenzie-Mohr’s, “Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing.”

Learning the Lessons of Love and Loss, Hope and Sacrifice

By Leslie MacKenzie, MDST 485, Blog 4

Sometime around 1890, in Perth, Scotland, my great-great-grandparents made the difficult, possibly desperate, definitely courageous decision to send half of their children to America. Away would go three adult sons – a blacksmith, a tailor, and a soon-to-be farmer – and two sisters. The youngest immigrant was Helen, my great-grandmother, just 16 years old.

They traveled by ship across the Atlantic and through the St. Lawrence Seaway until they arrived in Duluth, Minnesota. New life took hold in this new place and news was shared via letters, taking a month or more to travel back and forth between America and Scotland. I have some of those letters

So why am I thinking of my great-grandmother, Helen Elder, at this time?

The Carbon Footprint of Travel

It’s vacation time and I’m hearing from a lot of folks who are planning to fly to visit family members who live in other states or other countries.

Unfortunately, flying is one of the more climate-destructive things that middle and upper-class Americans and Europeans do. I’ve flown numerous times in the past. Most people I know have flown somewhere. So I’m not speaking as a purist here, but going forward, I’m going to try to do better.

Because regardless of the reasons – or excuses – we give for why we fly, it doesn’t change the fact that flying is bad for the atmosphere and the climate, and no amount of carbon offsetting will undo the damage. We more than doubled our air travel between 2000 and 2015 and that’s the wrong direction.

Continue reading Learning the Lessons of Love and Loss, Hope and Sacrifice

Critiquing the Critique of Deep Adaptation

In 2018, I came across an academic paper entitled “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.” Early in my career I worked as the managing editor of two academic research journals so I understand the process of academic review and what an academic paper looks like (ho hum). This was like no paper I had ever seen before.

“Should you be spending time reading the rest of this article? Should I even finish writing it?”

Continue reading Critiquing the Critique of Deep Adaptation

“You’re on Your Own”

By Leslie MacKenzie

I have been part of a story gathering project for the past six months with Transition US, a national (and global) resilience-building movement. I’ve been interviewing people across the nation to hear how they saw a problem in their community, envisioned a solution, and then took action to make their community more caring and connected, more sustainable, and more resilient.

In January I interviewed Judith Alexander and Deborah Stinson of Port Townsend, Washington. In 2005, they were part of a small group of volunteers who went to Bay St Louis, Mississippi, to help that little community of 10,000 with cleanup after Hurricane Katrina. As federal dollars poured into New Orleans, this little community struggled without help and without funds.

When the volunteers returned to Port Townsend, they realized that their own coastal community would be just as vulnerable if/when they were struck by a natural disaster (in Port Townsend’s case, an earthquake). What could they do now to be ready then? Judy and Deborah met with the recently formed Local 2020/ sustainability group and asked if they would take on a preparedness project.

Continue reading “You’re on Your Own”

You Cannot Go Where You Cannot Imagine Going

By Leslie MacKenzie

In 2019, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 76% of respondents would describe climate change as a crisis or a major problem. Despite that large number, 62% said tackling climate change would require little or no sacrifice on their part.

More than half of respondents said they wouldn’t pay anything out of their pocket to fix the problem. Fewer than half of respondents were willing to pay $2/month as a tax on their electric bill; about 25% said they would pay $10 a month.

Someone else should pay … companies that burn fossil fuels and the wealthy. Those with the least incentive and the most to lose should take the lead, Americans have decided.

Not surprisingly, that hasn’t happened.

Continue reading You Cannot Go Where You Cannot Imagine Going

Telling a New Story to Create a New Future

Blog 1: Leslie MacKenzie, MDST 485

What if the greatest challenge facing our planet today is not a global pandemic, or creeping global fascism, or a fast-rolling climate catastrophe, but is instead the misuse and impoverishment of our collective imagination?

Could it be that our stunted political imagination is responsible for hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths because we failed to imagine how a universal basic income could have allowed every American to isolate for 2-3 months? This would have deprived the virus of new hosts long enough to die away, allowing our economy to safely reopen.

Could it be that our failure to imagine how facing difficult truths really could set us free has allowed our nation to fall into the cesspool of disinformation and outright lies upon which facism thrives?

  • As we face a world on fire – Australia, California, the Canadian arctic, Siberia …
  • As we face a world under water – island nations, Bangladesh, a million acres of U.S. farmland …

Could it be that it is our impoverished cultural imagination, rather than our lack of technological solutions, that has prevented us from taking action to save our lives and our planetary future? A cultural imagination that feeds us endlessly recycled images of material success or violent apocalypse and yet utterly fails to provide examples of caring, cooperation, and successful low-carbon ways of living.

Continue reading Telling a New Story to Create a New Future