Freedom and Unity is Vermont's fitting slogan, calling us to pull together, as we stand apart.
Envisioning the future is challenging. Below you will find a curated list of articles and books. These suggested readings offer different points of view on what can be done to create a sustainable future for us all. Hopefully, this time of isolation will provide you the opportunity to read these postings and that they may spark your imagination!
“The general slowdown we are living through is advantageous. Recognizing this requires us to shift our fundamental view of change, innovation and discovery as unalloyed benefits. We need to stop expecting ceaseless technological revolutions. We need to worry about what mistakes we will make if we carry on assuming that slowdown is unlikely and new great shifts lie just around the corner.
The time has come to properly contemplate what will happen if things stay much the same as they are now, while the rate of change simply slows down.
An era is ending – and this was obvious years before the pandemic arrived. The great acceleration that has occurred in recent generations created the culture in which we still live. It created our current expectation for a particular kind of progress.”
Humanity and the earth is suffering from a worldview disease leading to a voracious self-destruction. It is a set of values or qualities, held with religious conviction that transforms all novelty into itself: economic growth, control over circumstances, progress, individualism, exploitation of nature, domination of strong over weak, and freedom-as-entitlement.
This voracious worldview is enabled by fossil energy sources, but not caused by it. Carbon neutral will not address the disease, only mitigate its effects. This worldview’s values are enabled by tools, especially tools of war, but not caused by it. Banning sales of automatic weapons won’t address it. And these tools of war, when owned by the military, won’t ever be banned. How money and financial systems are designed facilitates the worldview, but aren’t the cause of our dire condition. They are the handmaidens.
The industrialization of agriculture did not merely uproot lives, bad as that was. It went far toward destroying the land itself. Topsoil is a complex substance, home to thousands of microscopic organisms. It is a fragile balance of elements and requires steady attention from an experienced eye. When it is doused with heavy chemicals and repeatedly plowed, it dries up and blows away. Billions of tons of topsoil have washed or blown away under the regime of industrial agriculture.
There is one really important reason why we need to rebuild local life, which has been hollowed out by the needs of the economic machine in recent decades, and indeed centuries: that reason is resilience.
The struggle around climate change is huge — almost impossible-to-imagine obstacles to overcome that stand in our way — but it is also really important to remember that absolutely anything that could happen will only happen if we let it. If we get to the climate hellscape that is four degrees [warming above pre-industrial temperatures], which is the path we are on now if we don’t change course, that will be because of what happens starting now and heading onward. That story is entirely up to us to write. I mean, it is basically impossible that we avert two degrees with conventional decarbonization — but those are human obstacles. They are not scientific obstacles. If we really mobilize, we will be able to avert some of the most dramatic impacts.
What sort of future economic systems are now feasible? What choreography would allow them to come about? In the fullness of the Anthropocene, what does a hard look at the relationships between ecosystems and economic systems in the broadest sense suggest about our collective future? Ecological economics was ahead of its time in recognizing the fundamental importance of nature’s services and the biophysical underpinnings of human economies. Can it now assemble a blueprint for a ‘reconstruction’ to guide a way forward?
what sort of future economic systems are now feasible? What choreography would allow them to come about? In the fullness of the Anthropocene, what does a hard look at the relationships between ecosystems and economic systems in the broadest sense suggest about our collective future? Ecological economics was ahead of its time in recognizing the fundamental importance of nature’s services and the biophysical underpinnings of human economies. Can it now assemble a blueprint for a ‘reconstruction’ to guide a way forward?
Forced to shelter in place, most of us are coming down with a bad case of cabin fever. Instead of worrying about the future and whether that scratchy throat you woke up with this morning is something serious, plant a Victory Garden.
During World War II, those on the home front were dealing with food shortages and rationing, as well as fear and anxiety. George Washington Carver promoted the idea of what he called Victory Gardens, urging people to grow their own food, mostly as a way of supplementing their rations, but also as a way to boost morale.
How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real
For those of you wondering how to turn life and ideas into fiction. Gibson is one of the best authors to study.
Some speculative writers are architects: they build orderly worlds. But Gibson has a collagist’s mind. He has depicted himself as “burrowing from surface to previously unconnected surface.” His language connects contemporary jargon, with its tactical-technological inflections, to modern states of anxiety and desire. (His chapter titles include “Death Cookie,” “Ordinary Sad-Ass Humanness,” “Tango Hotel Soldier Shit.”) The novels register the virtual world’s micro-expressions—the way, when we’re still half asleep, the first Web site of the day opens as “familiar as a friend’s living room”—and attend to the built environments we take for granted, made from Styrofoam, cardboard, glass, silicon, wood, paper, leather, stone, rubber, and plastic, each subtype of material possessing its own distinctive look, feel, smell, weight, and history.
What we propose in our book is that in order to make it through the challenges of this century, we’ll have to reconsider our relationship to the earth, which is fundamentally a spiritual issue.” We moderns, they argue, have clung for too long to a negative conception of liberty that shuns notions of moral obligations and interconnectedness. Such an ideal of liberty is the spiritual precondition for our wasteful and decadent industrial system, preventing us from distinguishing our genuine needs from our covetous desires. Moreover, Servigne argues that we crave a new “common story,” a sense of collective meaning that embeds our individual liberty within a higher purpose and an ethos of responsibility vis-à-vis the natural world.
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In The Future We Choose, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac–who led negotiations for the United Nations during the historic Paris Agreement of 2015–have written a cautionary but optimistic book about the world’s changing climate and the fate of humanity.
Deep Economy - Bill McKibben
In this powerful and provocative manifesto, Bill McKibben offers the biggest challenge in a generation to the prevailing view of the economy. For the first time in human history, he observes, “more” is no longer synonymous with “better” – indeed, for many of us, they have become almost opposites. McKibben puts forward a new way to think about the things we buy, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the money that pays for it all. Our purchases, he says, need not be at odds with the things we truly value.
Transition movement cofounder Rob Hopkins tells us, there is plenty of evidence that things can change, and cultures can change, rapidly, dramatically, and unexpectedly—for the better. He has seen it happen around the world and in his own town of Totnes, England, where the community is becoming its own housing developer, energy company, enterprise incubator, and local food network—with cascading benefits to the community that extend far beyond the projects themselves.
From disappearing livelihoods to financial instability, from climate chaos to an epidemic of depression, we face crises on a number of seemingly unrelated fronts. This well-referenced book traces the common roots of these problems in a globalized economy that is incompatible with life on a finite planet. But Local is Our Future does more than just describe the problem: it describes the policy shifts and grassroots steps – many of them already underway around the world – that can move us towards the local and, thereby, towards a better world.
The size and severity of the global climate crisis is such that even the most committed environmentalists can drift into a state of denial. The award-winning writers collected here have made it their task to shake off this nagging disbelief, bringing the incomprehensible within our grasp and shaping an emotional response to mankind's unwitting creation of a tough new planet.
The Collapse of Western Civilization – Naomi Orestes
In this haunting, provocative work of science-based fiction, Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway imagine a world devastated by climate change. Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called "carbon combustion complex" that have turned the practice of science into political fodder. Based on sound scholarship and yet unafraid to speak boldly, this book provides a welcome moment of clarity amid the cacophony of climate change literature.
In Local Dollars, Local Sense, local economy pioneer Michael Shuman shows investors, including the nearly 99% who are unaccredited, how to put their money into building local businesses and resilient regional economies—and profit in the process. A revolutionary toolbox for social change, written with compelling personal stories, the book delivers the most thorough overview available of local investment options, explains the obstacles, and profiles investors who have paved the way. Shuman demystifies the growing realm of local investment choices—from institutional ending to investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges, crowdfunding, and more. He also guides readers through the lucrative opportunities to invest locally in their homes, energy efficiency, and themselves.