It is deeply satisfying to wake up and read articles like this one from Bloomberg business press on how wind power is putting nuclear plants out of business. Last year in the US $25 billion were spent and new wind capacity. This raised the total grid electricity fraction to 3.4% from wind, with a forecast of it raising to 4.2% in 2013. In 2013 there will be no new nuclear reactors connected to the grid and at least one and possibly several reactors will close this year forever.
So using a rough extrapolation, if these rates continue, in about 7 or 8 years the amount of wind generated electricity will exceed the amount of nuclear power in the US. It is important to remember that many nuclear proponents continue to say that the entire class of renewables are not up to the job of powering the country and instead we should be investing in new reactor designs, most of which cant even be in prototype phase until early 2020′s.
And thus it is worth remembering, that highly paid, well educated, well intentioned, nuclear promoters are stunningly wrong yet again.
At the current rate of traffic to this site, it will break the 1/4 million hits threshold by April Fools. But as satisfying as this is, it is less important to me than what happened the day before yesterday. Which was being politely, but formally debated on another blog about whether festivals can change the world. I am excited about this debate because Rosie is actually part of the Burning Man organization and while she is not speaking for BM inc. in her post, she is certainly an insider, with perspective and experience which many participants can’t have. And i am thrilled about the debate, because i want her to be right and this exchange of perspectives will hopefully help our shared wish for these events to be high in positive impact and world transforming. And of course controversy spikes web traffic, and i love traffic.
Let me try to summarize her points here (but please read her article linked above):
- BM builds community, inspires resilience and resourcefulness.
- BM connects people to feeling empathetically connected to humanity
- BM encourages contribution to crafting a better world
- BM is an antidote to isolation
- BM has sparked many civic and artistic endeavors
Boringly, we don’t disagree on any of these points. As i have written in this blog, i think Burning Man is a tremendously significant event for these and other reasons. Rosie is right to challenge me on the trite phrase “Save the World”. In the ways mentioned above these transformational festivals (like BM) are increasing our chances for survival, empowering and transforming individuals and taking on some political issues. And to be fair, BM actually does this better than any festival i have been to. It is more transformative, it has more active external political initiatives and importantly is memetic in that it replicates regional burns of the same structure (so that everyone does not need to go to Nevada for this experience). So in this sense Rosie is right. Specifically she sez:
And looking at doing the hard and hostile work, let’s again, point to the work of Burners Without Borders: Here is a group of people that formed and built relationships with each other at Burning Man. The individuals that generated this group, likely without knowing it, were in effect training themselves with useful skills by building survival systems in the harsh desert where Burning Man is held. ”Following the 2005 Burning Man event, several participants headed south into the Hurricane Katrina disaster area to help people rebuild their devastated communities” (source). You’re going to have a very tough time convincing me that a festival wasn’t in part responsible for the existence of this humanitarian aid group that is out there in the world doing “the hard work which needs to be done…”
Where i think BM and the other transformational festivals fall short is the notion that these events and the things which they inspire are enough work for us to get where we need to go. I feel that there is a certain type of “lazy activism” in which participants can go to these events and party and perhaps partake in these civic and political parallel projects and think that they have done their share of world fixing. The hype of the Bloom video seems to encourage this “we can do it all if we can make it to these festivals” feeling. Or more simply put, Bloom makes saving the world sound easily accessible. This feels naive to me, i am not sure of Rosie would agree.
We dont really have a disagreement on diversity. Rosie says:
Yes, the majority of music & art festival attendees at this point in time are white…. I had a desire for the event to be more diverse because I believe diversity creates strength and interesting variation in an ecosystem. However, as someone once told me, “You can’t force diversity. You CAN steward it, but it has to be generated by the interest of minority groups/individuals themselves, and then supported by the ecosystem of the event.”
If BM can attract a more ethnically diverse base of participation, that is fantastic. And i also believe that you can’t force diversity. And i am a bit skeptical that this expensive, remote, dominantly white event can morph into something far more inclusive – and i would be happy for Rosie to point out how i was wrong in this, including BM inc.’s plans to deal with this.
And the most dangerous part of the Bloom project (which Rosie does not mention) is the idea that these festivals can play a role in re-indigenization. My intimates who work on cultural appropriation issues are completely unconvinced that this can be pulled off. My view is that i really want to understand how this might work, but i start from a somewhat skeptical place.
They are a useful source of inspiration, of bringing people more alive than they were before the event. This aliveness, this enthusiasm and passion for life is something they can take back to “their regular lives.” I contend that festivals can be an inspiring part of the continuum of one’s life. There is no “regular life” or “default world.” All of your experiences are part of your life and your world.
i totally get her point, and we will have to respectfully disagree. Until participants have significantly transformed their lives (which many have already done, but i don’t think most have) there is a “default world” which they are returning to, which is frequently spirit crushing and strongly discourages the type of radical self expression that BM is so good at promoting onsite.
Where we are highly aligned is when it comes to her posts conclusion.
Festivals serve as a tool in helping individuals connect both to a part of themselves that may have been lost since childhood, and also connect to a tribe that they resonate with. Technology combined with your passionate desire and your aligned action will keep you connected to your tribe, and if you want to be a bigger contribution to the world, you can.
Absolutely, my thoughts precisely.
Rabbit makes me rant. This is a good thing actually. Crystal has invited me to talk at his social movements class and when i pressed him for details about what he was interested on me presenting about, he simply replied “i want you to shock them.”
This got me thinking while Rabbit and i were out walking the dog along he scenic Western Drive of Santa Cruz California. I thought back to the message that i want to push, which was first framed by the McDonogh presentation a year ago, that recycling is very nice, but you should be spending at least that much time figuring out how to better share things.
And more powerfully, that the problem with the vast majority of environmental action is that it requires real sacrifice. Recycling takes some time, biking instead of driving is generally slower and less convient than drive a car, growing your food w/o pesticides is far slower than simply buying commercial produce at the local supermarket. But the place where the biggest payoff is, is in figuring out how to share things. We have 17 cars at Twin Oaks our default world counterparts have 77 cars. This is a huge savings, so you can work much less, but more importantly if we cut global manufacturing by 4/5ths, we could dodge climate change and not hit the wall with peak oil so hard and so soon.
So central to this rant is that the hard thing to change is your own mind. You think what you should be doing is recycling or gardening – and those are important, but they are far less important that figuring out that about 95% of your personal material property sits idle 95% of the time. If you are not working on this part of the problem, you are just another well meaning environmentalist who will watch the world burn.
And the very interesting central point here is the only thing you really have to change is your mind and your social relationships to make this be different (at financial advantage to all involved). So why dont we collectively share more? What a good question, i have some snarky replies, but they dont feel like they add much to the discussion right now.
The name of this post comes from an offer i make to my intimates, usually early in our connection. You can take anything i have, forever, without asking. Leave a note if you think i am going to miss it. This is the lazy way i show up for sharing.
There is a conversation which Acorn has about membership that Oakers basically don’t ever have. It is the spaceship versus lifeboat conversation.
Lifeboat proponents say that industrial capitalism is destroying the planet and chances for survival are slim. And that Acorn represents a lifeboat for people who are trying to escape this disaster. Correspondingly, your humanitarian nature drives you to try to get as many people into the lifeboat as possible and you don’t judge your fellow survivor based on their abilities or merits, instead you welcome them and try to integrate them the best you can.
The spaceship crowd (which i am a long believer of) says we are looking for the best people to take on this mission we are going on. In fact the success of the mission is dependent in large part on us selecting people who have the complex mix of skills and gifts we need to make this journey work well. Some of them are organizers, some of them are inspiring artists and performers, some of them garden and fix things, still other manage computers, cook and take care of and teach kids.
When i was going thru my Acorn clearnesses, one member said to me “i like you okay, but i think anyone who wants to should be able to live here, regardless of my opinion of them.” This is a classic lifeboat position. At Twin Oaks, we are not having this discussion. We are spaceship believers and we select people largely based on their sociability, their work ethic and their skills.
When i was talking with GPaul about this division i posited that “In this debate the spaceship crowd wins, right? Because any single member can block someone new from joining, so if the lifeboat clan wants everyone, the spaceship faction simply rejects prospective members they don’t want and they get their way.”
GPaul was quick to correct me; it is not so simple. You can not just run over the will of a group in the community regularly and there are people who the life boaters get excited about when they are in their visitor periods who they really are excited about having as members, even if they dont want to be blocking others out.
Abigail forwarded me this trailer for a web series on transformational festivals called Bloom.
It left her feeling uneasy and self critical. She wants to support festival culture, but is concerned by what she perceives as self congratulatory and over hyped claims of saving the world. And she is right.
I think festivals are hugely important, I have seen them change lots of peoples lives mostly in positive ways. They can be significant models for all manner of new societies we want to create. And you can’t just dance oppression away, you can’t party away economic injustice and you can’t vacation your way to sustainability, especially in the middle of the desert.
Don’t get me wrong. I am excited about Bloom. If the trailer is any indication, these are very thoughtful funologists. They are looking at the need for rituals in current culture, they are challenging the commercialization of daily life, they get that festivals can heal participants and catalyze personal transformations. They understand that these festivals are a chance to model new behaviors and cultural norms. I applaud this approach and their investigation into the power of these events, especially festivals that are cash free internally.
But there are hazards in promising too much while not significantly shifting things and even reinforcing problematic ideologies in the dominant culture, while deluding ourselves that our good time is much more than what it really is. There is a dangerous new age mix in which mostly white and mostly affluent people can think that festival culture is the key to a better world. The message that comes through to people who are watching it casually is “hey we can solve our problems by going to festivals and dancing and making art.” Which is not true, and feels like a dodge of the hard work which needs to be done in more hostile environments.
These events can be escapist experiences disconnected from peoples regular lives. Where people don’t quit their straight jobs or break out of their stuck relationships and instead save up for the year to spend a week in the wilderness having the experiences they wish they could somehow have all year. The Bloom points out the power of co-creation at these events and that important lasting relationships are built. But largely individuals go home alone – we have not yet successfully exported festival cooperation to the daily lives of most participants. Important work undone.-
Also especially around gender roles, beauty standards and sexual violence. The Bloom pitches the idea of “gender alchemy” with some wonderful words about respect, healing and understanding. Some of these transformational festivals are doing amazing things in these areas, and it is still the exception rather than the norm. I don’t want to throw out this important tool, and i think overall with regard to sexism and reinforcing the corrupt values around objectification, these festivals are mostly setting us backwards.
Where it gets really dangerous is the novel notion of re-indigenization. A word i had not even heard before i saw this trailer. The theory is fantastic: “How transformational festivals honor and support a deep connection with the earth. And the way this is catalyzing a cultural re-encounter between neo-tribal festival communities and representatives of indigenous communities in right relationship.” But, we have to wonder, who chooses these indigenous representatives? What about problems of cultural appropriation and on-going genocide of these indigenous people? I have been struggling with these issues for the past year, and i am confident i am working on them harder than most festival goers and have made pathetic progress myself. So the short answer is “No. Tranformative festivals can’t save the world.” At least not the ones of which i am aware. The Bloom is dangerously over-promising. Yet it still makes sense to have these festivals, to work on these issues, to recognize that we do need models and experiments and to change the lives of participants and the dominant culture. They are important tools, but no substitute for less pleasant, more self-critical and self-sacrificing work which needs to be done in less comfortable environments.
It was a state of the art liberal protest. There were no planned arrests at this action, to make it as accessible and low risk as possible. Celebrates had been arrested the week before. There were 34 people who got arrested after this big march of 45K participants.
What made it state of the art were the websites for the planning and the giant TV screens at the base of the Washington Monument.
What made it liberal was the frequent appeals by the speakers to patriotism and American ingenuity. There is nothing particularly American about climate change, this is a global problem.
And while leadership from the US would be great, we could be working on this from a non-nationalistic angle.
And for this protest, they are using all the tools of a classical domestic political campaign. Senators spoke at the event. The big call was for Obama to keep his promises.
There are many different organizing styles. The one i am currently using in my experimenting with creating a new community is to dream up (often with others) interesting new ideas and see who gets excited about them.
The idea which has been getting a surprising amount of support, as in “tell me when this is happening and i will come up and work with you on it” support, is mass dumpster diving in the Death City area. What we currently have is DC based dumpster divers who leave lots of food behind, because there is a limit both on what they can consume and what they can handle processing in the same night.
Enter the banana brigade. Communards who are interested in helping can join trips up to DC and participate in food processing after late night dumpstering so as to both increase the yield of food captured by dumpstering and increase the amount that is taken from each dumpster, because there are more people eating the food.
It is easy to imagine a group of cooks and food processors who would help cull the bad bananas from the ones which can be used in banana bread. We will start with this monthly in March and see how it goes.
I don’t like to say “never” because, well, you never know. So I guess I tend to operate in a sort of hopeful fatalism, which is why the powerful introduction to Rosa Park’s new autobiography, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks was such a downer. I was looking up Rosa Parks not because it’s Black History Month, nor because I’d heard of the book, but because I’d overheard my 15-year-old daughter and her 16-year-old friend (both offspring of life-long political activists) say, “Who’s Jessie Jackson?” during a game of Apples to Apples.