Category Archives: Psychology of change

Transition NOW! to a Lower Carbon Future

On June 10, 2017, at the Northern Spark art event in St. Paul, Minnesota, Transition groups in the Twin Cities engaged almost 1,000 community members in making a commitment to take action for a low-carbon future. Throughout the evening, bare trees were filled with green leaves of commitment.

But before that magic night could happen, there was six months of work by the artist/organizing team, two community work days, and help from a host of community members. Just like this art project, tackling climate change has to be the work of the people, taking countless practical actions, magnified millions of times, finally shifting the balance.

This video takes you from conceptualization to planning, setup to take down. You can also see the video TransitionNOW! Twin Cities Grove of Life, for more from the evening at Northern Spark.

The Big Day

What Wisdom and Values Will We Need in a Challenging Future?

Tsunami of Love by artist Anne Mimi Sammis

What Will the Future Need from Us?

This weekend I was invited to be part of an elder circle where a group of very impressive “seniors,” with an imposing array of experiences under their belts, was asked to reflect on the question:

What lived experiences, wisdom [and values] do you feel need to be part of what may be a very difficult birthing of an emerging global reality? “

I was so intrigued by this question that I brought a version of it to the core team of my Transition group (where everyone in the room that evening happened to be over 50). We had a rich conversation. See the values and the life experience we believe older folks can bring forward to meet the challenges ahead.

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GrowthBuster Movie Screening with the Filmmaker!

Join Me for a Movie Night

I am excited to say that this month’s movie screening for Transition Longfellow’s movie night will be “GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth” and the filmmaker Dave Gardner is going to be joining us!

Friday, April 13, 7 pm at Walker Community Church, 3104 16th Avenue S.

“GrowthBusters” doesn’t dwell on the hot, hard facts of climate change, peak energy, and biodiversity loss. Instead, Gardner asks vital questions about human psychology:

  • Why is a roaring economy more important to us than human survival on this beautiful and finite planet?
  • What cultural barriers prevent us from acting rationally when we know the damaging effects we are having on  people and places – even our own people and our own places?
  • What are the beliefs and behaviors we must leave behind, and what values do we need to embrace in order for our children and grandchildren to survive and thrive?

I’m excited to have the filmmaker with us because understanding the “problem” of economic growth is both obvious and really hard to get your head around. In a culture steeped in capitalism, with government, businesses and the media focused almost exclusively on growth (consumption, consumerism, GDP, productivity, efficiency, progress), are we even capable of seeing growth as the problem? Can we imagine a future where growth is not the goal? Where sufficiency replaces more-more-more?

Where we truly LOVE our children and our neighbor and our world so much that we actually choose to change? And how do we change? What would a sustainable future look like?

Let’s have the conversation. Join me on Friday the 13th, 7 pm at Walker Community Church.

Being Part of a Transition Group

Beginning the Transition Journey

When my husband and I sat down at a coffee shop in 2010 to talk with two other people about starting a Transition group, I would not have imagined all of the things I would learn and do over the next 7 years. Transition Longfellow has been an expansive experience.

I tell people Transition is a way of thinking and a direction, as well as a local and global grassroots movement. That sounds pretty high falutin. What does it really mean?

Transition Gives Us Back our Self Determination

Every day we make innumerable decisions that individually and collectively have an impact on our world. Our culture pushes us to make those decisions based on what we “want” and  what we “deserve.” And our consumer society is set up to short-circuit our decision-making process by making some things easy (turn up the thermostat), convenient (get in the car), and distractingly addictive (Facebook). It makes other (often better) things quite difficult (carpooling) or expensive (solar).

When you dig deeper into the issues Transition looks at – food resilience, cutting carbon, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels – it changes the way you look at your everday decisions. You ask yourself different questions: “What is the carbon footprint or the collective impact of of this decision? Could I do this another way? Do I really need to do this at all?”

You make decisions in a new way.

Transition Provides Direction

One of the first activities Transition groups do is engage their community in a visioning process to identify what a healthy, sustainable future would look like in their area. What  direction do we need and want to go? The answer to that question will be different in different places. It may be water issues in New Mexico and seed sovereignty in India. I heard from a student, who had visited a Transition group in Bolivia, say that improving male-female relationships and overcoming the damaging effects of machismo was one of the first things the group she visited chose to tackle.

In my neighborhood it could be improving mass transit, getting safer bike lanes, helping to get more homes weatherized and insulated, increasing the number of solar installations on rooftops or getting more people signed up for solar gardens, helping people grow more food, or helping people identify and prepare for the effects of climate change.

In my mind, I see all of those “good things” as part of a big river flowing in the direction of a sustainable, healthy future. There are many streams of effort feeding that river and everyone can be part of it. In fact, millions of people are taking hundreds of millions of actions. Even when some governments or some businesses put up a damn to try to divert us, this is one great big roiling river. We are not alone.

Transition Provides a Structure for Personal Exploration

My husband and my involvement in Transition Longfellow has inspired us to try so many new things: from dropping a car, to finding a new home for 1,079 possessions,  creating an edible landscape and learning to preserve our own foods. We’re more interesting people because of it – and we’re also more skilled.

Last fall I got to meet Brianna Harrington and learned about her project, the 15/30 Challenge. I’m so impressed by her efforts to raise awareness of the tragic wastefulness of fast fashion. From the massive diversion of water to grow fiber, to the childhoods and health lost in sweatshops, to the dumping of used clothes on African nations, ruining their clothing industry and impoverishing their culture. Cheap clothes – fast fashion – for us has had devastated effects across the globe. I hope to take her challenge soon – once I learn how to use Instagram to share my efforts :).

Transition Builds the Local Community and Economy

We have met many, many neighbors. Although I’d lived here 23 years, it wasn’t until we started a Transition group that I knew more than a handful of neighbors. I’ve met at least 150 new people and made dozens of real friends. Some of these people became my support system as I took on the task of providing home care for my dying mother. They cared for me as I cared for her.

As we move further into climate change and feel more of its effects on our health and safety, these relationships within commuity will become even more important.

We have found role models all across the metro area who are doing things to reduce their use of fossil fuels and live a more sustainable life. Lee Olson taught us to grow sprouts. Annette taught us to make jam. Bruce and Aggie inspire us to grow big with their huge garden. And our new friend Lisa is helping us think about preparedness.

We have found businesses to take us in the right direction. Ralph Jacobson from Innovative Power Systems and Bruce Stahlberg from Affordable Energy Solutions have helped us reduce our home energy use. The folks at Gandhi Mahal restaurant have demonstrated how a restaurant can source its food hyper-locally, growing its own veggies and fish IN THE CITY! The Tiny Diner has become a hub for learning and growing by offering food-related classes.

That river of Transition needs businesses of all sizes and business professionals in all fields to stop and ask the questions:

  • “What is the carbon footprint or the collective impact of this decision?”
  • “Could we do this another way”
  • “Do we really need to do this at all?”

And when they do, Transition can make those actions visible so we can all support and learn from those efforts. So we can see that we are, in fact, all in this together.

Talking About Climate on This American Life

Last week while running errands I tuned into the NPR program “This American Life.” I caught the first act of “Hot in My Backyard,” the story of how climate change is impacting Colorado and how Colorado’s State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken talks about it — or doesn’t.

It was an interesting story that left me thoughtful and sad. The reporter had interviewed three other scientists (not Doesken), none of whom will tell the public what they know about climate change. They are making plans to take care of themselves in the difficult future ahead, but they weren’t telling others how to prepare. And who can say that isn’t wise. In four states, climatologists have lost their jobs because they talked about climate change.

The state climatologist who was the focus of this story, Nolan Doesken, seems like a very earnest and honest person. He’s a conservative whom farmers and ranchers have turned to for years for the information they rely on. And he’s so fearful of talking that he’s avoided saying anything for years. When he does finally say something – and the reporter is there to hear it – it’s so little that people don’t even recognize the import of what he’s said.

It’s disheartening that someone who has the trust and respect of the community – someone just like them – can’t find a way to communicate the truth of this dire situation we all face. A person like myself could never reach those people. But when a person in their sphere cannot or fails to communicate the message, how can we hope for the situation to change?

Of course, I can say that because I believe the situation can – and must – change. He may not believe that. Bubbling up throughout the interview I heard what may be the underlying reason for this failure to communicate: a belief that there is nothing anyone can do. That would make sense. After all, why damage relationships, why make people mad, why risk one’s career if there is nothing anyone can do?

He may believe that – lots of people do – and that’s what makes me sad. We really don’t know what we could do if we threw ourselves at this challenge the way we did the space race or the fight for victory in WWII. However, if we succumb to the belief that there is nothing we can do, it ensures there is nothing we will do.

What’s Stopping You? City Biking

There are a lot of things the average American (including us) could do to reduce their carbon footprint, but something always seems to get in the way. At our house, we’re taking a look at ways we can bust through the physical and psychological barriers that prevent us from using our bikes more, using our car less and eating less meat.

We’re Starting With Biking

Peter and I have bikes but we use them primarily for recreational riding. We think we’re ready to shift to commuter biking to work, to shopping, to appointments. In order to make this shift, we need to address some psychological barriers, like our discomfort riding on busy city streets, a feeling of ineptitude about bike maintenance, and a lack of experience combining biking with mass transit in order to do the longer commute that Peter could do for work.

We also need to address physical barriers: getting Peter’s bike adjusted properly, getting proper winter tires for me, getting or building something for carrying more cargo. We have some physical barriers related to back and knee problems, but we anticipate that increased exercise may actually help those problems. We’ll give it a try and see what happens.

Biking Resources in the Community

SPOKES in SewardLast night we took a class at SPOKES on riding in traffic. We not only learned about Minnesota bike laws and where to ride in the bike lane and the main roadway lane, we did some feet-on-pedal exercises on efficient starting, safe stopping, evasive maneuvers around road debris and what to do if you accidentally hit a pothole. There are A LOT of potholes in our area and this has been a big concern of mine. As a group, we had a short practice ride through the most deadly intersection in Minneapolis. SPOKES also has monthly group ride opportunities, which will help us get even more practice riding in traffic.

SPOKES offers open workshops where Peter can go in and get his bike adjusted properly. Volunteers are there to help him do it. And we’ll be signing up to take a bike maintenance class so we can learn how to fix and maintain our bikes ourselves.

Peter cannot get to work using only mass transit. The last leg of his trip is through an industrial area with no transit and no sidewalks. Bringing his bike along for the last part of his trip may be an option, but it definitely will depend upon his feeling comfortable riding in traffic. There are MANY trucks on that road. Our next step will be to do a practice ride to Peter’s work, combining the bus and light rail with biking.

400 Reasons to Fight – 400 Reasons to Care

Record floods, record storms, record heatwaves, record droughts. 2012 was a year for the record books, but one that didn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserved occurred in June. That’s when 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide was recorded in the atmosphere in the Arctic. It’s important to know this because rising CO2 is a factor in all of those other unfortunate records.

It’s important to know this because if we want to have a chance at heading off permanent, deadly climate change, we need to reduce CO2 to 350 parts per million. We’re not even close and we’re heading in the wrong direction.

It’s important to know this because every day you, your family, your business, make choices that can increase or decrease the amount of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) you put into the atmosphere.  And every day you have a chance to make a different choice.

400 Parts Per Million – 400 Reasons to Fight

Why should you take action today to curb your carbon footprint? That’s what MN350 is asking people in its “400 Reasons to Fight” project.

  • Who and what do you love?
  • What makes life worth living?
  • What do you not want to lose?

When you find yourself wondering if anything you are doing will make a difference, pull out your list or the photos of your kids or the dog or your favorite camping place and remind yourself that THIS is why you are making the effort. THESE are your reasons to fight.

Make your reasons visible every day. And if you feel like it, share your reasons with MN350.

Personal Permaculture 1: Observe and Interact

During the first discussion of the Personal Permaculture group, after hearing the principles and ethics, people shared their thoughts about the principle of observation and interaction. A couple of things struck me as particularly important areas to pay attention to this month: measurement, tracking and how we talk about sustainability (we personally, and the media in general).

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Personal Permaculture Discussion Group

Transition Longfellow will be hosting a year-long conversation on Personal Permaculture. January’s kickoff meeting will feature Longfellow master gardener Theresa Rooney. She will provide an overview of permaculture, introducing and explaining the principles and ethics. To learn more, see the Personal Permaculture page under Discussions.

  • Location: Riverview Wine Bar on 42nd Avenue and 38th Street, Mpls
  • Time: 10:30 to noon
  • Dates: First Saturday of each month