Joanne Poyourow's blog

In Sacred Economy, Charles Eisenstein poses the seemingly outrageous idea that money should be sacred. In this he means that a good bit of the mess we’re currently in is because we have lost this sense of the sacred and the special – the connected and interdependent nature of transactions between people.

Eisenstein advocates for a moneyless or “gift culture.” He asserts that, anthropologically, people didn’t have barter transactions as we think of them today. Rather, he says, the transactions were more like gift circles, where borrowing and lending and buying and selling and gifting were virtually indistinguishable.

A status report about Transition in Los Angeles

In early writings about the Transition movement, one of the guidelines was to "Let it go where it needs to go." Don't attempt to control the growth of your budding initiative or local group. Allow it to develop -- "organically" if you will -- however it needs to.  Given the unique dynamic between individuals on our initiating core teams, given the particular issues in our local communities, given the preexisting status of transition-oriented activity around us, what needs to happen next in one localle has been quite different from what needs to happen next in another.

I've already written about the early development of Transition activity here in the greater L.A. area. (part I, part II) At this point in time, our city hub is a little over 2.5 years old. Next month will mark 3 years since the initial public gathering when we first began using the word "Transition" for what we have been doing in the initiating group since 2005.

In these three years, Transition action in L.A. has grown from one active local group with a pretty little food garden, to a city hub (TLA) plus eight-going-on-eleven active local groups holding public meetings under the banner of the Transition movement.

Here in Los Angeles, we currently have between seven and twelve local Transition groups (depending upon at what stage of development you wish to begin counting them).  And we're eager for more.  The nature of our greater L.A. area is that eventually we will need to have in place a vast network of local groups, each neighborhood working on this process.

I'm frequently being asked for tips on how to get a new local group started.  As I sat down this week to write it out yet again, it seemed like the kind of info that might be of interest to other groups (both Transition and not-yet-Transition groups).  So, I decided to post it here.  If you're contemplating beginning a Transition group in your local neighborhood ...

It's a no-brainer to be attacking consumerism.  "Zero waste" is a concept that even massive city departments are embracing.  "Unshopping" is no longer unfamiliar.  People are finally beginning to get that the "Reduce, reuse, recycle" jingle has more than just the final element.  Hooray!

Meanwhile, within the Transition movement, we understand that we must change not only our outer, physical world, but our inner landscape as well.  That means the psychological and spiritual aspects of this great turning within society.  We are faced with changing our outlook, our world view.

I have been inventing, scheduling, and organizing public events for 20 years, 5 of those years in the topics of the Transition movement.  And consumerism is a huge issue -- Consuming events.  I'm not talking about how low-waste your events are.  (At this point in time, striving for low-waste should be second nature.  Striving for powerdown events whenever possible is necessary too.)  Now I'm shifting to the inner landscape:  Do your audiences "consume" your events?

When an international peak oil celebrity comes through Totnes, Rob Hopkins often posts a brilliantly insightful interview with carefully crafted questions and thoughtful interchanges.

Last week, Nicole Foss (pen name "Stoneleigh") came through Los Angeles.  Rather than sitting down for an hour or so of focused interview like it sounds Hopkins does, ours was a multi-day visit unfolding amid the stark realities of our Transition operations.

Nicole arrived on my doorstep a few hours early while I was still scrambling to print future events fliers for distribution at the evening's event, and simultaneously giving my homeschooled daughter a spelling test.  I made lunch while Nicole availed herself of my wifi.  Soon we were dashing off to connect with other members of the Transition LA team, copy the fliers, dress for the evening, then jump into our carpool.  (breathe!)

On May 14 -- the "350 Garden Challenge" weekend -- we made great strides in our community garden installation. 

The garden site in my local neighborhood in Los Angeles is nearly an acre in size.  The plan combines a traditional plot-style community garden with a school garden and aspects of a community park.

The land is owned by the massive LA Unified School District.  More than a decade ago this land was the site of an active "ag" program complete with vegetable plots and a greenhouse.  Some middle-aged community members who attended the school have offered stories and memories of the times when it was a garden.

After decades of accepting the world as it is ..., we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.
-- President Obama (speaking about the Middle East, 5/19/11)


President Obama -

We want a world as it should be: a world where people quit fouling their own nest, where money isn't the only object, a world where people consider the planet we are leaving to our children.

Previously in this discussion of what we can do about economic contraction, we reminded each other than the economy is basically the sum total of transactions between people.  At that same basic level, “money” is simply the markers we use to record those transactions.  There is no mandate that transactions between people can only be counted via one kind of marker.  In fact, plenty of perfectly valid and life-supporting transactions can be accomplished without any markers at all.

We have grown up accustomed to a monoculture of the national currency (U.S. dollars, British pounds, etc.) but -- just like in agriculture, just like in human culture -- for a resilient future we'll be much better off with a polyculture.

In the past 20-30 years, the concept of “outsourcing” has stripped most of our local communities of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker – the craftsmen, merchants, and artisans who have skills and know-how to provide the basic goods and services we need for everyday living. Even in these times of economic contraction, supporting our local businesses is essential, because with the transportation limitations that will come with the end of cheap oil, local will become our mainstay.

Become a jack of all trades and a master of one. – David Holmgren, quoting a European Permaculturist

"Jobs" as we know them today -- paychecks from large corporate employers -- are a very recent phenomenon in human history. Within our new understanding of the future economy, this form of earning a living is not too likely to continue.

Even the idea of “green jobs” is deeply flawed. Many of the “green” jobs are completely dependent upon government funding. Most are built upon the presumption of economic growth, and depend on continued societal affluence to get the fledgling “green” industries off the ground. Some so-called “green” industries merely provide green-cast consumption, perpetuating the five-planets-worth-of-consumption which we have told each other is “normal.” Other supposedly “green” jobs are in tech-centric industries, dependent upon oil, overseas manufacturing, and continued supply of trace elements, all of which will be difficult to sustain as we move deeper into the post-peak-everything era.

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