Exploring Katrina with Sustainable Approaches

FROM: Tom Atlee <cii@igc.org >
* The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440

"Have the past struggles succeeded? What has succeeded? yourself? your nation? Nature? Now understand me well - it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary?" -- Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

I will be sending several emails to you in the next couple of days, and then you will have almost two weeks of silence from me as I attend another gathering for intensive inquiry about our global situation and how to respond creatively, this time in England, at a location sufficiently off the beaten path that I will be mostly offline.

Thankfully, there are many voices now calling for accountability, compassion, aid, and justice. My own voice will call for building our capacity to transform our civilization into something more collectively wise and intelligent, something that continually finds new ways to work for all life.

This particular mailing brings to light some interesting ideas for using Katrina for positive, sustainable change. Tomorrow I will send one on "Talking to Katrina and Each Other" and a collection of responses to the mailing on love and systems change.

Coheartedly, Tom


I recommend exploring the WorldChanging blog http://www.worldchanging.com where Alan AtkKisson's great essay is posted. I just read the excellent "New Orleans: Everything has Changed" by Alex Steffan http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/003436.html . The whole blog is filled with positive, useful material -- sort of a Whole Earth Catalog blog. Use the categories list at the top of each page to find articles that interest you.

Here's a hot tidbit from http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/003454.html "Design, Disasters and the Value of Thinking Big" by Jamais Cascio Good disaster design should, in my view:

* Be decentralized, and thereby less likely to be rendered inoperative by damage to a centralized facilities, etc.

* Be in the hands of the general public, so as to leverage technology that is already in use and that people are likely to have with them when disaster strikes, so they can get up-to-the minute information.

* Be two-way, so that the general public and/or responders who may be the first to come upon an emerging problem can feed information back to authorities.

* Be redundant, because various technologies have distinctive strengths and liabilities that may render them unusable, or, make them crucial fall-back options.

* Allow dissemination of information in advance, so they can be quickly activated and/or customized in an emergency (instead of requiring massive data-dumps in the midst of a crisis).

* Foster collaboration, because multiple agencies and jurisdictions may be involved and will need to share information from a wide range of sources on a real-time basis.

* Be transparent, so as to determine when changes are needed and that undesired functions are not being performed.

* Default to harmlessness, so that when systems fail (and they will), they can fail gracefully, in a way which does not itself make problems worse.

* Be usable by the old and infirm, as the median age is advancing steadily around the world, and the senior members of society have their own ergonomics and anthropometrics.

* Make the Invisible Visible, so as to give people a chance to see danger before its too late, whether water-born pathogens, leaks of toxic chemicals, or overcrowded evacuation centers.


The pumping of highly polluted waters from New Orleans (and elsewhere) into Lake Ponchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico is extremely bad for the environment. And the proposal to use chlorine to kill the germs will add further to the damage. I don't know if it is too late to contemplate the use of natural remedies in this case, but their existence should be widely known, and the issue thoroughly discussed as a result of Katrina, since this problem will repeat many times in the future. Among the resources available on this subject:

John and Nancy Todd of the New Alchemy Institute

http://www.vsb.cape.com/~nature/greencenter/newalchemy.html http://www.ratical.org/co-globalize/DO_JohnTodd.html

have done exceptional work on the bioremediation of toxics, with totally organic water purifications systems.

Paul Stamets has identified toxics-cleaning mushrooms http://www.alternet.org/envirohealth/19680/

One unverified report that's circulating http://tinyurl.com/dq8da says that Effective Microorganisms http://www.emamerica.com is also a very powerful toxic clean-up agent and that "Jon Mackey, founder of Whole Foods, is willing to purchase all of the stocks of EM from the production plant in Tucson, about 25 tons, and ship it to the New Orleans Disaster Relief. Once there, each gallon of EM can be activated 2000 times from its original quantity, which would total 50,000 tons."

A good book to have on hand for future catastrophes is NATURE'S OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS http://ucpress.edu/books/sc/pages/SC50995.html .


For an imaginative quick way to start getting gas consumption under control, Vicki Robin writes:

Here's something every driver can do right now to address the rising prices at the pump and looming gas shortages.

I drive a Honda Insight with an electronic miles per gallon gauge that gives me constant feedback on my driving. Every millimeter of pressure on the gas pedal shows up instantly, driving that little line of lights down towards 0. Every bit of coasting drives them up towards 100 mpg. Getting that line of lights to dance upward becomes a game. Getting the total average mpg per tankful to ratchet up becomes a challenge. In the process, I've become a champion gas-saving gal in my little 2-seater silver bullet. All from feedback. This game saves perhaps 20% in gas consumption. At this moment, that's significant. With a tank of gas for ordinary cars inching over 50 bucks a pop, just the financial savings alone might attract you to installing such a miracle meter in your car. You can - and it will pay for itself in a few tankfuls. Right online at http://tinyurl.com/dxf4q you can buy a little $30 "vacuum gauge" your mechanic can install in an hour. Before my insight, I always installed one on my dash. You could try your local auto supply store as well. A "vacuum gauge" is not quite as jazzy as my onboard computer, but that little needle will still train your foot to be lighter than Fred Astaire's.

Behind the utility of saving money is the imperative in this moment of using less oil. Our supplies are vulnerable - politics and storms can both wipe them out. Violence associated with diminishing essential resources is an age-old problem for our species. Wars are fought over water, food and fuel. People turn mean, hoard, abandon their neighbors, disregard calls for sacrifice when they fear their personal needs won't be met. They vote down collective solutions like public transportation while they have access to oil.

Retooling the whole fleet of American cars to get better gas mileage will take many years. Building public transportation that is so good that people would rather use it than their cars will take even more years. Getting the right policies in place that reward efficiency and penalize waste will take ongoing political wrangling. But if everyone in the US put one of these little $30 gauges in their cars, we could better defend ANWR. We could reduce the temptation to bully other nations for their oil. Imagine the whole fleet of American cars with little vacuum gauges driving delicately down the highways at the optimum gas-saving speed of under 60 miles per hour. Imagine a 10% or more reduction in demand for gas. Imagine arriving at destinations a little less frazzled. Imagine bumper stickers that say "I know my MPG - do you?" "Driving for a solution - MPG meter on board". Imagine a little thing each of us can do that would actually help this big mess. Of course the big work of engineering a more fuel efficient fleet, changing policies, building public transportation and developing new sources of energy all needs to be done. But what's the little guy to do in the meantime? I say, spend $30 and join the exciting game of getting that gauge to go in the right direction.

By the way, I regularly get 52-55 miles per gallon. Please save me from my gloating by getting an MPG meter too. PS - I know acknowledgements are the custom in books, not emails, but I want to briefly bow to the late Dana Meadows who introduced me to systems thinking. For Dana's article about her experience of that mpg gauge on her Honda Insight, go to http://www.sustainer.org/dhm_archive/index.php?display_article=vn844insighted
PPS - What if, with the stoke of an executive pen, such meters were required equipment along with air bags? Hmmm. Know any executives...

Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440

Informant: Martin Greenhut


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