Tag Archive for 'science fiction'

afrofuturism and #blackspring (new school, #afroturismtns)

welcome to #blackspring!

today as we speak there are actions happening across the country, and here in new york, a massive round of future claiming.

we tend to think and speak of afrofuturism as the far off future, something beyond our current comprehension and planet. but now is the only moment. AND we hope things will be different in the next now. AND I must admit, i am excited about the near future.

what are we about to do after this winter of discontent?

we have been escalating tactics in the face of flagrant injustice.
escalating tactics because we charge genocide,
we charge homicide,
we say no more killing us,
we say no more reckless obstinate impunity,
We say no more white supremacy in governance,

because, we say, black lives matter!

an afrofuturist assertion.

because we see something other than the normative truths of this place…we see something that is NOT here…

we see the future, cast over this devastating present moment.

we see,
and we believe.
we know,
and we bend the world to assert and embody that black lives matter.

that, to me, is the heart of afrofuturism, as i choose to understand it. labels don’t excite me so much, but concepts turn me on. the concept of seeing and creating the future from a perspective that has the lineage of an african seed, of something older and other than western, feels healing to me.

we, of that displaced diasporic seed, who involuntarily reach back to the motherland in our dreams, have been scattered so far from each other.

and in spite of all the odds, we have been resilient.

i cannot speak emotionally about the journeys of the other seed clusters, though i am seeking stories all the time, reading nnedi okorafor and ben okri and credo mutwa and wanting to know more.

but i can speak of the grief stricken journey of the kidnapped african…

and the abused, raped, enslaved, lynched, uprising negro, or in the language of white supremacy, the ‘nigra, or nigger';

the beaten, vilified, billyclubbed, legally unlovable, disobedient and organizing afro-american, or again ‘nigger';

the tokenized, mistrusted, mistaken, misguided, self-loathing, entrepreneurial, hoodwinked and bamboozled, boot strapped, assimilating african american, or ‘nigger';

and the divergent, underpaid, unemployed, sugar soothed, imprisoned, resistant, resilient, awakened, politicized black. Or ‘thug. or nigger’.

so this is a shout out to the uppity nigger beyond all space and time. all along this journey, those who some saw and see as particularly ‘uppity niggers’, i call afrofuturists.

they, we, have cast our lot forward.

lately I’ve been obsessing over the afrofuturism and justice orientation of slave era blacks, because our situation today feels so terrifying, and exhausting and sometimes hopeless, and there’s so much trauma and grief to bear, and yet we survived THAT.

not individually, but collectively.

not all of those black people were afrofuturists, but to focus on afrofuturists in the black social justice tradition, i would note that:

africans leaping off of slaver ships were afrofuturists.
slave era parents teaching their babies a foreign alphabet in the candlelit dirt were afrofuturists.
black women dissociating themselves through to tomorrow while being raped into motherhood were afrofuturists.
those who raised the children of violence and those who chose not to, all were predicting the future and articulating their choices.
slaves who ran to freedom, and slaves who ran to their deaths, were afrofuturists.

it is the emphasis on a tomorrow that centers the dignity of that seed, particularly in the face of extinction, that marks, for me, the afrofuturist.

and of course there are the big ones, whose names have made it through the erasers of history books, into our mouths – harriet, sojourner, frederick, john, malcolm, james, ella, martin, nina, june, toni.

octavia.

now it is our work, and the exciting thing about this time is that we are learning to name ourselves, our distinctions and solidarities. our afrofuturisms and black springs. developing enough of a common dream language that we can be that much more explicit about the real futures we are shaping into existence.

we are touching the future, reaching out across boundaries and post apocalyptic conditions to touch each other, to call each other out as family, as beloveds.

‘all that you touch, you change. all that you change, changes you.’

we are making ourselves vulnerable enough to be changed, which will of course change what black existence means.

octavia butler, who gave us that philosophical spirit poem of earthseed that I just quoted, is a bridge for many of us, between this world, and the narratives that pull us through to the next realm, or the parallel universe, or the future in which we are the protagonists.

this is the essence of octavia’s brood, the anthology of original science fiction from social justice movements which walidah imarisha and i had the honor of co-editing. walidah couldn’t be with us today because she is visiting the political prisoner sundiata acoli, but she sends her love.

what we are all up to, this changing the world willfully, is science fictional behavior.

because all organizing is science fiction.

we are creating a world we have never seen. we are whispering it to each other cuddled in the dark, and we are screaming it at people who are so scared of it that they dress themselves in war regalia to turn and face us.

because of our ancestors, because of us and because of the children we are raising, there will be a future without police and prisons.

yes.

there will be a future without rape.

without harrassment, and constant fear, and childhood sexual assault.

a future without war, hunger, violence.

with abundance.

where gender is a joyful spectrum.
where my nephew would not be bullied for his brilliant differentness.

where each of our bodies is treated like sacred ground, whether we have insurance or not…that one is very real for me right now as i am coming off of a surprise major surgery a couple weeks ago, and that, in addition to the urgency of our movements right now for black lives, and for the planet, all has me in a much closer consideration of the future.

octavia’s brood is 2 essays and 20 pieces of original and beautiful visionary fiction from largely hesitant and skeptical organizers, with breathtaking appearances from some folks who have been creating this kind of work long term – tananarive due, levar burton, mumia abu-jamal, and others.

visionary fiction, (a term which walidah coined, this was what made me start following her all over the internet til she said yes to this anthology) visionary fiction includes sci fi, speculative fiction, fantasy, magical realism, myth, all of it. in addition to this intentional genrecide, visionary fiction intentionally explores:

how change happens from the bottom up,
how change works in collective ways, disrupting the single white male hero narrative,
centering marginalized communities…meaning we are the center of the story, as opposed to the sexy and unbelievably stylish sidekick.
and visionary fiction is hard, and realistic, and hopeful.

it’s neither utopian nor dystopian, its more like life.

in real life, we may make it to a future full of gardens and bicycles, but we may not get to choose who is there with us, and we may never get to leave it.
we may get rid of gentrification but not without violence.
we may get to travel to parallel universes, but only by feeling completely insane in this one.
we may learn to use dissociation and other responses to trauma as a way to teleport and heal, but not without losing our families.
we may create the key to a liberated technofuture, but have to live a life on the run to keep it from being weaponized.
our black skin may become special and valued, but then we have to fight to keep it from those who realize melanin is better for surviving increased sunlight.
there might be angels, but what if the good ones get kicked out of heaven for trying to help us.

all of this and much more is explored in the book. these are writers who mostly didn’t identify as artists, as writers…and yet, we argued, their lives are acts of futurism and creation. when they returned to us on our deadline, and instead of the ten pages we begged for, there were 40-50 pages of new novels and character visitations.

the stories are beautiful. we went through 6-7 edits for each one, loving them up. sheree renee thomas, the editor of the dark matter collections, advised us and let us know they were great. john jennings crafted the cover for us – and created a glyph system, a glyph for each story which is incorporated into the cosmic space of octavia on the cover. i don’t have copies here but if you order online at ak press, use the code octaviafs and you will get free shipping through the end of may. octaviafs.

so…imagination is one of the spoils of colonization, which in many ways is claiming who gets to imagine the future for a given geography. losing our imagination is a symptom of trauma. reclaiming the right to dream the future, strengthening the muscle to imagine together as black people, is a revolutionary decolonizing activity.

when we were in the editing process, these narratives felt important and interconnected – now as i reread the book obsessively, the whole thing feels so audacious. it is massive, the visions of these organizers are in no way small.

and in that way we hope we honor octavia butler’s legacy. she never wrote us a small problem, or a small vision. she offered us nothing stagnant. to speak of her protagonists, i use the term emergent strategy – strategies that create and move complex systems and patterns through relatively simple interactions. if you have noticed a flock of starlings move through the air in a pluralistic dance, or seen geese share leadership moving south, you have seen my movement vision, and what i believe octavia offers one case study after another for:

leading that centers relationship,

decentralization and interdependence,

adaptation…or being in right relationship to change,

resilience, the capacity to accommodate and integrate change,

transformative justice – going to the root of the problem and transforming the conditions instead of just getting punitive and righteous about symptoms,

fractal (or the idea that patterns repeat across scale – the spiral on your finger echoes the spiral of the galaxy, how do we become the small,scale version of the large scale changes we seek?)

and finally creating more possibilities, as opposed to current strategies which seek to narrow options down to one path forward…

some of the key practices that show up in octavia butler’s work, and in octavia’s brood, are collaboration, compassion, curiosity, romantic and sensual and non-possessive love, play, mediation, and the patience that comes from seeing ourselves in a much longer arc of time than we are encouraged to see in the instantaneous culture of the modern world.

so along with touring the book and reading stories to people, we are offering workshops that blend visionary fiction and social justice, in ways we hope are elegant.

one is a training in science fiction and direction action, which we’ll be offering a taste of here. in this we plan actions in some of our favorite sci fi worlds and apply the lessons to our current work.

two is a collective sci fi writing workshop, where we use collaborative ideation to build a world that is a living solution or testing ground to work through a current local issue.

third, i have been offering trainings in emergent strategy, and emergent strategy facilitation. and on one level i am talking about adaptation and resilience and mushrooms and schools of fish and spirals and stardust and stuff.

but what i am really asking, what we are all really asking, what octavia was asking, is how do we who know the world needs to change begin to practice BEING different?

how do WE have to BE for justice to truly be transformative? not them, that massive amorphous them
that is also us,
in our heads and hearts,
or loves us,
or is tired of this shit but is family to us…not them, because maybe they don’t recognize yet that these changes are the key to human survival.

but us, us who are awake and awakening? how do we need to BE for black lives to matter? what do we need to HEAL in ourselves in order to offer a future of any real peace?

or to become the protagonists of this human story – and earn the flip of the page of all the sentient life in the universe?

to claim the future as a compelling place for our miracles?

this is everything.

science fiction is not fluffy stuff. afrofuturism is not just the coolest look that ever existed. the future is not an escapist place to occupy. all of it is the inevitable result of what we do today, and the more we take it in our hands, imagine it as a place of justice and pleasure, the more the future knows we want it, and that we aren’t letting go.

so. start this black spring, start with black lives matter. its the afrofuturist activity of this moment. embody the concept that black lives matter. no matter what your background is, no matter what your struggles are, let black lives matter fill you up, believe it, practice it being true.

all along the journey, all of the afrofuturists i named from movements before this time, all they have been is unapologetically black, uncompromising in their right to take up space. will you promise to do that?

i love you.
black love.

a time traveling emotion

in the moment, i was not ready to feel the feeling, my skin too firm, my faith too solid. when the future all seemed ahead of me, it was easier to fold an emotion into me and believe it was gone, or at least silenced.

when my feelings started to work their way back out of me, to the surface, i was overwhelmed. i put my hands over my mouth to hold it in, but it didn’t matter, i was brimming, screaming.

i am not the only one like this, it may be a human condition, or an empath condition, or a black girl magic. it may even be an epidemic of consciousness. i am not convinced we get to know that.

but in my twenties, when i was gutshaking about things that were leaping out of me like emo tweens, that’s when i learned about the time traveling emotion.

it is like anything else that traverses time, both fully of another time and fully present in the place when it appears. in the case of grief, the time traveling emotion touches into your sadness over a present day experience of absence, and then drags forward a living satchel of the most tender innocent moments, the smallest memory. or perhaps sucks your heart back in time.

my grandfather, impossibly big and godly, hugging me, in his own garage, just out of the near-georgia sun, with the smell of hay and horses around us. it isn’t just the senses, but the complex spectrum of a moment completely felt.

the more i learn to feel, the less time it takes a time traveling emotion to catch me. years instead of decades, hours instead of months, seconds instead of weeks.

i am even learning, sometimes/more often, to feel in real time. and to survive feeling a whole emotion in real time.

with less shame, i say no to anything that wastes my time. i gather and give myself hours that belong to no one else, alone or with healer types. i claim time when i can be in my body and self. and in that solitude, or healing company, i become a defined place for a time traveling emotion to locate, an x on the nonlinear map of my emotional life.

the emotion is a living thing – showing one face when it arrives, and as it leaves i see it’s really a pattern, delta-ish, blood in veins connecting aspects of myself as disparate as lung and toe.

music is one of the systems by which emotions traverse time, both in tone, content and something as simple as age. some emotions stay in the soundtrack of their root memory. there is a janet jackson song that opens the way to an emotion of innocence. a new song can surprise me when it opens the way to something dusty and eager to be felt.

each time traveling emotion softens me, especially those that return often. it’s so humbling to feel something in spite of logic, time, circumstance and thinking the feeling is finished. grief is a sharp visitor, her long nails a surprise in my chest. heartbreak is heavy and fireworky, like full body tears, swollen eyes. joy melts my jaw.

it’s all waves though, moving towards and up, through and beyond. and once i’ve survived an emotion that has reached across time to demand my attention, i feel so resilient. that resilience makes me soft and wide enough to handle the complex mercurial existence of the present moment.

i trust myself to feel, to grow from what i feel, not to run when i sense a feeling coming.

i am a student of this phenomenon that makes time a shape shifter. i still fold moments of particular intensity into me. but now i do so with a bit of a spell attached: i promise, i will be ready for you when you find me.

science fiction TV watch list

out of pure selfish need i asked my network for recommendations of the best sci-fi television shows. i got tons of great responses! below i am sharing the list.

for each show i am including:
a link for more info
where it originally aired if i noticed it
where you can watch it
and (to help discern what’s exciting right now) i noted how many people recommended it.
i also said a few words about the shows i love (and bolded those i vouch for)…
as well as adding some of the key quotes from the recommendations!

(basically i geeked completely out in a true virgo nerd explosion)

i’ll keep adding to it as new recommendations come in. i am especially looking for shows with people of color, women, queer, disabled and different-from-mainstream protagonists.

The List

12 monkeys [SyFy; Yidio or Amazon]

The 100 [netflix]
“kind of terrible, but high production value and interesting colonial themes, but the 2nd season is super violent.”

Agents of SHIELD [Marvel!, netflix] x2

Agent Carter [Marvel, hulu] x3

Alias [netflix] x2

Alien Nation [netflix]

Almost Human [amazon]

Alphas [SyFy; netflix]

Battle of the Planets (animated) [netflix]

Battlestar Galactica x14 [BBCAmerica]
“exceptional b/c of the exploration of religion and faith from an AI’s perspective”
special credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njr3aFpTMyQ One More Episode of BSG

Beauty and the Beast [netflix]
“at least the first two seasons, the Hapa main character kicks ass. Yes, she does way too much for the white boy super soldier with PTSD, aka “the beast,” but she still kicks ass.”

Being Human [UK and US on netflix] x2

Black Mirror x11 [netflix]
“It’s science fiction that’s only about 2-5 years ahead of us, if that. And terrifying.”

Cleopatra 2525 [discs orderable from Netflix]
“but only because Gina Torres is so fine”

Continuum [netflix]
“includes a great corporate-controlled dystopian future”

Cosmos x2 [netflix]

Cowboy Bebop [hulu] (anime) x3

Dark Angel x2

Defiance [hulu]

Defying Gravity x2
(full season on youtube?)

i LOVED the first several episodes of this show and then it got cancelled – rumor has it the rest is online, i am looking for it!

Doctor Who [netflix] x4

Dollhouse [netflix] (from joss whedon!) x4

Earth 2
“great sci fi camp”

Extant [discs for order on netflix] x3
“Halle Berry plays the lead, has a creepy robot child, use a night light after watching it, lol”

Face Off [youtube]

The Fades [BBC; discs for order on netflix]

Farscape [netflix]

Firefly! [netflix] x10

this really is one of the best, most coherent and exciting shows that’s ever existed.
“one of the best ever” “the best!”

The Flash [hulu] x2
“dorky/like eating a lot of Nerds candy and getting a sugar high”

Fringe [netflix] x11
marvelous and weird and intense and love story and awesome.

Futurama (animated adult) [netflix]

FutureStatesTV [http://futurestates.tv/]

“check out Pia, has an all desi cast and almost all desi crew
also check out the Silver Sling episode”

“a platform of independent films. They are stand alone short films (15-30min) but all with a common theme of imagining the US in the future

Ghost in the Shell series (anime, including Arise) [netfix] x2

stunning storytelling

Gotham [hulu]

Harsh Realm [youtube]

Helix [netflix]

Hemlock Grove [Netflix]

Heroes [netflix] x4

Highlander [netflix]

Jeremiah [hulu] x3
“some interesting episodes”

Jericho [netflix]

Legend of the Seeker [hulu]

Les Revenants/The Returned [netflix] x3
“french zombie show”

Lost [netflix]

this show made me realize there’s not enough sci-fi happening on gorgeous deserted islands. the mystery was relaxing in all that sand and sea.

Lost Girl [netflix] x3

“was super into it, till I noticed they killed off literally every POC character and/or showed
them as animalistic, got sad, had to stop watching”

The Misfits [hulu] x5
“british version”

Mork and Mindy [can order discs on netflix]
“ha”

Orphan Black [amazon] x9

yeah this show is great – everything i could say about it would be a spoiler, but i can’t stop watching.
“best acting ever”

The Outer Limits [netflix] x2
original and new

Quantum Leap [netflix] x2

Red Dwarf [hulu]

Rick and Morty [netflix]
hilarious adult swim sci fi cartoon

Roswell [netflix]
“season 1”

Sanctuary [Sy-Fy; kind of on hulu?]

Sleepy Hollow [hulu] x2
“my fav myth growing up and they’ve added magic, American history and an interestingly cheeky reading of several founding fathers”

Stargate (Original, Universe, Atlantis) [hulu] x6

Stargate the movie was one of the first sci-fi things I ever loved, and the shows were satisfying, if a little corny and hyper-militarized.

Star Trek x3 (Original, Voyager, Enterprise!, Deep Space Nine) [hulu]

raised by a trekkie :)
“you can never go wrong”

Star Wars Clone Wars [netflix]

The Strain [FX; can order discs from netflix] x2
“Viva Guillermo del Toro!”

Strange Luck [youtube]

Supernatural [netflix]

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles x3 [discs for order on netflix]
“Second season especially is some of the best scifi I’ve ever watched. Great exploration of AI, consciousness, and morality.”

Torchwood [netflix] x2
“super high cheese factor” “spinoff from dr who”

Tomorrow People [netflix]

Twin Peaks [netflix] x2

V (old and new) [discs for order on netflix]

i preferred the original, though i liked the sexy creepy lead in the reboot.

Warehouse 13 [hulu] x2

X-files [netflix] x2

(and i was passed along this additional reference of Popular Mechanic’s top 50 Sci-Fi shows if you’re still looking for more)

one sentence sci-fi story.

sun sci fi short

And then the blue sky cracked open and it was obvious, too late, that we were in and of the Sun, we’d been worshipping a hole in a great fabric, we were ash, breathing.

packing my octavia butler bag (reflections on the field innovation team boot camp)

i am returning from a gathering that felt like a redirection, or next thrilling iteration, of my life resources.

a few months ago, my friend renna reached out to me because she knew some people who were getting together to design innovative responses in real time to the challenges of disasters.

i have very little background in disaster response, but i do live in detroit, and am as obsessed with apocalypse as the next sci-fi head, and i regularly work with communities who have been devastated by a combination of slow economic disasters and faster natural or manmade ones. so i agreed to go.

and i am so glad i did.

the room was one of the most experientially diverse i have been in in a long time. there were first responders and people who had worked in the disaster response field for years and have published books on it. and then there were veterans, an astronaut, robotics experts, artists, nonprofit leaders, government employees, theater arts facilitators, scientists, writers, designers, makers, hackers, teachers, futurists, technologists with communications tools that made me salivate, gamers.

and me.

we are all volunteers, and most of us have never been part of a disaster response effort. and that is the exactly the point. a few years ago, some people who had been involved in disasters we’ve all watched at a distance or survived – 9/11, katrina, fukushima to name a few – reached out to a team of designers, convinced that there must be more innovative ways to approach the conventional response to disasters. with the design team, they (at the time housed within fema) cultivated a survivor oriented response framework during hurricane sandy. they asked how do we fundamentally transform the experience of survivors? not seeing people as numbers, but as stories, people with futures, sensitive traumatized individuals and communities at a major precipice.

what grew out of this was a project called the field innovation team (FIT). it has spun off from fema to be it’s own project.

it includes a lot of characters and really brilliant people. i met an elder astronaut/pilot with a dry wit that kept me cracking up the whole meeting. i met a man using sci-fi to prototype plans with communities. i met a woman who makes robots that can swim underwater during a tsunami and tell rescue teams where people are, where danger is. i met other people creating robots that can carry supplies and resources to people where there are no/dysfunctional roads, and eventually might be able to lift people out of places where vehicles and helicopters can’t safely reach them. i met technologists envisioning a world where the detritus of natural disasters can be processed through 3D printers to rebuild. i met two facilitators using theater, masterfully, to deepen the relationships of the room, and it felt good to be in their hands. i met techies who are creating communication tools that keep people connected where there is no wi-fi.

i met a safety trainer who told us all to pack our ‘go’ bags – not just for doing this work, but generally to make sure we were ready for the world that exists now, with rapidly changing climate and manmade conditions. what he described putting in that bag made me think of lauren olamina, octavia butler’s perhaps most famous protagonist, packing her bag to survive an unknown future. the whole training placed me firmly in my ongoing question about how we grow in the escalating tension of our times – living on a planet we have abused so thoroughly that she must respond.

i won’t lie – it was a politically complex setting for me. i am used to being in spaces where people generally agree on a set of core values, or at least assume that agreement. in this circle, i could feel the best part of each person there, but knew that many had journeyed corporate, military or government paths on their way to landing in the place of doing survivor-centered disaster innovations. the language was largely foreign to me, i had to ask a lot of basic questions to make sure i understood what was going on, and i was left with so many more questions yet to get answered.

but i felt good that they were excited about my world view. and as i shared what mattered to me, i found that the common thread in the room was not just saving lives, but a passion for community voices being at the center of any response, communities being at the heart of envisioning futures that move us beyond the long-term crisis of inequality as well as the urgency of disaster. i learned a lot more about the resource and legal challenges to handling crises with community direction.

most of the people i talked to agreed that disaster strikes in ways that unveil the social inequalities in a place, in ways that open people up to different pathways than they may have thought possible – it is an opportunity to do what octavia spoke of in the parables: shape change.

i feel like my belief that ‘there are a thousand paths towards justice and liberation’ is alive in this work. from our unchosen starting places, we reached this room, and we were able to hold each other as living intersectional entities between lots of different worlds that need to be not just in coherent conversation, but in flow, if we choose to survive and evolve together on this planet.

over the course of the training, it became clear to me why i, particularly, was there. all the diverse, seemingly random skills i have been developing can be of use for FIT. from my doula training to my somatics training to my sci-fi scholarship to my facilitation and process design work to my auntie skills to my coaching work to my ruckus/allied media conference/detroit learnings. perhaps more than anything else, i can imagine calling on my network of incredible people around the country, dedicated to the local brilliance of their communities.

my vision for my impact as a part of the team is to connect communities i love to resources that enhance local reach in the midst of a crisis. i feel like in most cities in the u.s., i either know (or am one step removed from) a body of local experts – people who love their city, understand it’s dynamics and reactions, understand why people stay there and what could catalyze them to save their own lives, and most importantly, have a long-term vision of justice and growth that can shape the innovations that will work immediately and sustain the right kinds of change over time.

one of the things i have learned in detroit is to seek out opportunity in crisis, and i have come to see this as a foundational emergent strategy. the idea of FIT in and of itself feels deeply aligned with emergent strategy – responding to disaster – unexpected change – in ways that contribute to community resilience long-term.

it is just a beginning, and i have a lot to learn. but i am thinking very, very big again, and it feels magnificent. i am excited to find out who in my network will be amongst the local leaders, healers, doulas, sci fi writers and strategists who will transform the way we as humans respond to crisis.

it feels like sci-fi in practice. and it feels like an invitation you say yes to. i’ll keep reporting back on the experience and lessons. and i hope to hear from those of you either interested in getting involved, or with ideas and feedback on all of it.

now – off to pack my go bag.

science fiction and social justice beginner reading list

i recently gave a talk on octavia butler and emergent strategies in johannesburg, south africa. which was A DREAM COME TRUE so i won’t try to play it cool at all. the audience was brilliant, engaged, and hungry for more readings. i started listing names of science/speculative/visionary fiction books that i would recommend for folks wanting to build their capacity to read sci-fi and speculative fiction for social justice, or with a social justice lens. the idea behind this is that a lot of science/speculative/visionary fiction can be read as case studies and imagination expanders that can help us navigate towards different ways of strategizing on social, economic and environmental justice in real time.

a few folks said, can you send us that list? and that sparked this post, which i have been wanting to write for a while. this is my starter list, in order from what i felt were the easiest worlds to enter to the harder ones. all of these are worthwhile reads. i reserve the right to add on as my memory is non-linear…and please feel free to add on in the comments section!

The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler

20140211-110107.jpg

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (continue on to Speaker for the Dead. i disagree with Card’s sexuality politics, but i don’t believe in only engaging the work and vision of people i agree with)

My Soul to Keep ( and the rest of the African Immortals series), Tananarive Due

The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin

20140211-110332.jpg

Bloodchild, Octavia Butler (short story collection – especially crucial stories are ‘The Morning, The Evening and The Night’ and ‘Speech Sounds’)

Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson

The Inheritance Trilogy, NK Jemisin


Who Fears Death?
, Nnedi Okorafor

Wild Seed, Mind of My Mind, Clay’s Ark and Pattermaster (often grouped together as the Patternist series, or the Seed to Harvest collection), Octavia Butler…(if you can get a copy of Survivor, a book she stopped publishing, it adds pieces to this collection)

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin (i recommend her works as a whole as well – the rest of the hainish series which this book is a part of, the earthsea series, even her translation of the tao te ching)

Dune, Frank Herbert (read as much of this series as you can – it tracks and traces power, culture shift and evolution in ways that are challenging, gorgeous, shocking)

Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago (sold together as the Xenogenesis trilogy, or Lilith’s Brood), Octavia Butler

2312, Kim Stanley Robinson

The Famished Road, Ben Okri

20140211-110459.jpg

Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Train, China Meiville (Also everything else that he has written, especially Embassytown)

Neuromancer and Idoru, William Gibson

Dhalgren, Samuel Delaney (also everything else he’s written, including his autobiography)

20140211-110627.jpg

Canopus in Argos: Archives series, by Doris Lessing

on being a kresge literary arts fellow. :)

i am a kresge literary arts fellow. it’s in the free press, detroit news, and metro times, so it’s real in spite of my ongoing shock.

i have a lot of thoughts and feelings about it.

1. i am a writer.

2. ‘i can sense it. something important is about to happen…it takes courage to enjoy it.’ – bjork (big time sensuality).

3. i am an artist. i am a singer. i am a writer.

4. for years there has been this undertow. i would move forward in my life as a social justice facilitator, worker, leader. and reach some peak, receive some honor or title or role that honored my work. and there would be this undertow – my artist self. my writer self, wanting to write wild speculative poetic fiction and sci-fi erotica and afrofuturist opera, sing jazz in paris and paint entire worlds made of women’s beauties. then the current would move again and i would be chasing sand, rolling in the familiar rhythm of holding space for others to dream and reach for justice.

which i also love.

5. i thought all this time it was a selfish pull. but it isn’t.

6. i thought i could stave the need to write by blogging. but i haven’t.

7. i want to write more and more. on my sabbatical last year i wrote so much my hands were weary, then i dictated things into the recorder. i wrote poems, songs, memoirs, fiction, science fiction, essays.

8. the most exciting writing was the science fiction. the science fiction pathway has been growing for years, and it’s steeped in the learnings about emergence, it’s steeped in my love of octavia butler, and my love of detroit. it’s steeped in my complex relationship to apocalypse.

9. as i have started to write science fiction, and hold space for others to talk about and write science fiction, i have found a juxtaposition of passions. in this space i get to shamelessly be an artist, while still opening and holding a space for the art of imagination and visioning to spread amongst the people i most believe need to be central in the future.

10. late last year i was awarded the BALLE fellowship to do local living economies work – and i was excited, because it was a chance to advance ideas i am deeply aligned with. but as i got into the experience, surrounded by amazing people i respected, i found it wasn’t quite for me – it was for detroit, but i wasn’t the right conduit to get that radical business knowledge to the city (‘i don’t know nuthin bout birthin no bizness!!’). when i stepped back from that space, it was without knowing what else might come my way, and hoping (praying, doing ceremonies, searching) for some way to still keep roots in detroit.

11. i forgot i had applied, it was such a reach. i am beyond the curve – i have not been writing full time. there are many in detroit who have, and i am so aware of their brilliance and hard work. and i thought i had run out of viable options to stay creating and working in this city i love. i had an absence of purpose. i had eeyore eyes looking around my beloved apartment. i was building up my adaptability muscle to let go.

12. and i thought i might be destined to always write on the side of the work i do as a facilitator. in terms of how i made a living. and i was making my way to being ok with that. kind of.

13. i can think of so many incredible artists in detroit who should receive this award. so many it humbles me.

14. it is kresge, with whom as social justice worker in the D i have had a very complex relationship. this is the foundation that funds everything in detroit in some way, things that move us towards justice and democracy, and things that move us away from it. and i wish there were more black detroiters with me amongst the awardees. i see the whiteness, i see particularly the lack of women of color, black women.

they are investing in me, and my intention is to uplift the transformations afoot in this city and play out the potential futures of justice. so the relationship is direct now, and the invitation for accountability intrigues me, challenges me.

15. the money is a major blessing. but even more so is what the people of the fellowship keep saying – ‘we want to support you to become the artist we already see in you’, ‘we will help you learn to connect to resources to be an artist as your life.’ really? really.

16. thank you more than i can fit the words in my mouth to express it. thank you to the panel who felt my writing, to kresge and creative capital and artserve michigan. and to the people who supported my writing all these years, those who funded my sabbatical, to invincible, to my parents, especially my mom who reads every blog post. to my creative partners walidah imarisha and dream hampton, to the sci-fi nerds building community with me. and to the greater force i feel moving in my life, god-is-change, thank you.

17. in the spirit of all of that – i’m going to write. i am going to write as the center of my life! in every way, to the best of my ability, prolifically and unapologetically and as sacred work, work prayer, shaping god.

18. i feel exposed…this feels like a coming out. even though maybe everyone knows how much writing is my center. but i didn’t know it could be honored, that it was that visible mama-i-want-to stuff. i feel like another self, further inside of me, is in the sun. it’s delicious.

19. ‘i predict a graceful explosion.’ – cold specks (elephant head)

Parenting in/and/as Science Fiction

Here is a sneak peek at the draft reader for the Parenting in/and/as Science Fiction session at the Allied Media Conference this week-end! Our session is at 4pm EST :) – there we will deepen the content together and craft a reader for full release!

parentinginandassciencefictionareader (3)

we are the movement generation

wow!

as often happens, i am writing to you in a state of amazement. i just finished the first weekend of the movement generation summer strategic retreats – this weekend was laying out the entirety of our ecological crises, all the stuff i have suspected and felt but didn’t have all the information to back it up. it’s so much worse than i thought, but it really is a transformational and (dareisay) revolutionary comprehension that comes out of having this information, knowing what’s actually happening and knowing what the false solutions are, so that we can be on the right path. the next weekend (in october) will be more about the real solutions we need right now, and what’s already happening.

i took 31 pages of notes, so this is going to be a pretty long post, but i will make it as readable as possible and PLEASE take the time to learn this information and pass it on! i am going to try and capture the key things here – my notes are a jumble of readings, facts, sentiments, a-ha moments, to do lists. hopefully it informs your life and work in some way, though i know it’s hard to capture a live experience in a report back. i’ll do my best.

we were at the occidental arts and ecology center, a gorgeous intentional community which was actually the location of the ‘our power’ action camp that helped to birth the indigenous people’s power project at ruckus. magical, beautiful, education place.

the information was given to us in 5 categories: waste and toxins, water, food and agriculture, climate and energy, and biocultural diversity. we then touched on control mythologies and false solutions, which i will save for a follow-up blog.

readings/things to watch:
Original Instructions, Melissa Nelson
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler (and everything else she’s written)
– Battlestar Galactica
– watch Fresh (documentary on great food systems)
– read Funny Weather

    overview and key terms:

biocyde: death to biology (death to the natural biological growth in an area)
edge: transitions between rivers and land, or different ecosystems.
interior: deep within ecosystems, where an ecosystem is most fully realized (larger predators!)
ecosystem: an entire interdependent system (forest, ocean, HUMAN)

first of all, this age of cars, dvd players, tons of materials, flying all over the place is brief, and peaking. we have been thinking in terms of endless resources – we need to think in terms of being resilient.

fact: you can trace nutrient loss over the last 150 years in california as a result of salmon not making it all the way up to the sierras. their cycle is to go out into the ocean, eat up and get full of rich ocean nutrients, then swim up the rivers to the sierras where they reproduce and then die, leaving all those nutrients there. they used to fill the rivers to such a degree that folks would say you could walk across their backs. when they don’t make it, it depletes the nutrients in that whole region – they are like a 50 pound bag of marine nutrient fertilizer. they aren’t the victim of overfishing, they are the victim of shifting environments which add silt and toxins to the water and make it impossible for them to get up into the sierras.

an example of current non-resilience: the urban southwest. tuscon, phoenix, las vegas, los angeles – once oil can’t pump water to these cities, they will depopulate. what does this mean for organizers on the ground in those places, and the campaigns and victories we’ve been working towards?

fact: we are much more connected than we know – caribbean asthma rates are growing because the size of the sahara is larger and more dust is being picked up and carried by wind across the atlantic. once the glaciers of greenland melts, san francisco, oakland, berkeley and richmond will all be underwater.

fact: the earth has been through many cycles of destruction, and has the capacity to heal – the earth will heal. we are the ones in danger. we are in crisis because we have endangered the earth cycles we depend on.

it’s deeper than pure capitalism – it’s the entire primacy of constant growth. “if the world economy grows at a rate of 3-5% a year from now until 2050 {this is a conservative growth rate for us at this point}, we will have consumed the same amount of resources during that period as we’ve consumed since we started walking on two legs.” – george m…hmm – can’t read that note, i’ll find out and come back to fill it in.

indigenous traditional cultures worldwide have the knowledge of how to care for the places they are in. the thing to understand is that imperialism (constant growth of a nation beyond borders, dirty word folks don’t like to hear but NEED to understand) is based on control…the kind of control that requires erasing the people and traditions in a place in order to implement ownership and a belief system that is better for those in power than it is for people and/or land.

we need to learn to live within the earth’s capacity.

we have to transition to being post-carbon.

we have to begin to think in terms of prosperity, not growth.

it is time to practice cooperative lifestyles and values, collective well being. we’ll need facilitators, mediators, healers, folks who can repair things, folks who create strong systems, folks who are glue in a community.

“we need to grow from a me-centered society to a we-centered society.” – michelle, MG

    WASTE AND TOXINS

gopal and carla (literally two of the wisest, most amazing people i have ever met, and mid-generation members of the ruckus network as well) from MG broke all this down for us:

first, some info on waste!

economy (think home economics) means the management of home and relationship to space/place.

the path of our economy moves from extraction –> production –> distribution –> consumption –> disposal.

we are taught to only see the distribution and consumption parts of it…buy it packaged at wal-mart, take it home and use it, toss in the garbage and it goes ‘away’. we need to be aware of the whole process and the impact it is having on our ecology.

definitions: a long chain exchange is when products come from far away, when we don’t see where the food comes from, who grew it, who packaged it, or where the waste goes when we’re done. a short chain exchange is when the product is local, and we have a direct relationship with the grower, and the waste stays as a part of our local system.

horribly embarrassing moment (not sure how to rank this with the burger king wrapper in my car on the ride home OR the ant infestation in my car on the way to this retreat {i didn’t even know ants COULD infest a car? don’t leave a granola snack in the middle console} OR the two tickets i got trying to get to the retreat on time): we had to own up to how many laptops we have had and i have had an embarrassing 5 laptops since my first job.

but it was designed that way! we learned about “Moore’s Law,” created by Gordon Moore (a father of modern computing), which says “every 18-20 months, computing capacity will either double in speed or drop in price. everything is thus planned ahead and rolled out in 2-3 year computer cycles, endlessly getting faster, smaller and cheaper.”

fact: coltan is a key material in small electronics, and 80% of it comes from the democratic republic of the congo. the current count is 5.4 million fatalities since 1998 by war that is funded and escalated by transnational corporations who benefit from instability in the region.

fact: copper is mined in 1 mile deep exposed tracks. when minerals at that depth are exposed to oxygen (which would never be exposed to oxygen without our interference), it changes them chemically into toxins which can drain into the water.

fact: most factories for electronic manufacturing are in the pearl river valley in china, where the impacts of the toxins are showing up in women’s reproductive systems. particularly dangerous are reproductive toxins, which effect the hormones, and can feminize a population {reducing the number of male births}, and increase miscarriages.

another impact is the use of water. intel is based in albuquerque, and uses 3-4 million gallons of water A DAY from the single fresh water source in the region.

fact: 10% minimum of all waste ends up in the ocean in huge swirling plastic floating garbage piles the size of texas. plastic takes like a billion (not really, just 100 THOUSAND) years to break down, and it doesn’t actually break down to organic materials, just smaller and smaller bits that eventually become part of the food source for ocean dwelling creatures, and those of us who eat them, or eat animals who eat them.

now, disposal paths for electronics lead to landfills or recycling centers (though it’s not unusual for folks to place monitors on the street and just hope someone picks it up. whistle casually if you’ve done this). at the recycling center it is shipped to china, nigeria, malaysia or a u.s. prison where the parts are dismantled for potential reuse. prisons are the number one place where recycled electronics are sent in the u.s. and dismantling is, you guessed it, toxifying for the people doing it.

speaking of toxins!

history lesson: a major increase/introduction of chemicals into our world occurred right after world war ii. about 100 thousand new chemical combinations were introduced to the world at that time – leftovers from war efforts, used for weapons (or gas chamber gases being turned into pesticides!) and now needing a way to be repackaged and used (and profitable) in peace time.

fact: only 10% of these chemicals have ever been tested for environmental impact…we are the guinea pigs.

some science type stuff: most chemicals have the potential to be toxic or non-toxic, depending on how they are bonded with other chemicals. there are relationships that exist in nature that are brilliant, where the chemicals can serve a positive function. however, when tampered with, combined in the wrong ways, or exposed to new elements, they can become toxic.

examples:

a. brominated flame retardants (found in blankets, clothing). this is a family of chemicals based in bromine which can interrupt or interfere with the endocrine (hormones) in our system {leading to feminization of an entire species, tracked by lowering testosterone levels}. think of endocrine disrupters as tiny estrogen pills. the number one place where this chemical family is found is in children’s freakin’ pajamas – that means directly on their skin!! this is what happens when we think of solutions without thinking of whole people on the receiving end. :(

b. thallates. thallic acid is a toxic chemical compound that is combined with plastics to make them softer, more flexible, more durable. these are found in the coatings of pharmaceutical pills (THAT YOU SWALLOW), glue, lubricants, and (super sad) sex toys! and food products!! thallates don’t make a true bond with the plastics, after a while they “off-gas” (literally transform into or release gas in the air – think of the smell in the $1 store and imagine that inside of you). luckily, these are being phased out.

this whole system of extracting materials from the ground in unsustainable ways, producing them with unjust practices that put out high levels of pollutants, distributing them thousands of miles away, selling to consumers in tons of packaging, and then being whisked away to be disposed of in horrific ways – this is called a resource intensive production system…aka – RIP!

we did an exercise where we had cut outs of people to represent the communities we work with, and we had to place them along the RIP path. it was deep to see who was impacted by extraction – indigenous communities who are displaced from their land. participants talked about how their folks work in production factories and are impacted by pollution near production sites (for instance, the chevron refinery in richmond which we are doing an action on August 15th!). we placed our communities as the employees of distribution sites such as wal-mart, and of course all of our communities are trained to be active consumers – we believe what we are sold! and when it’s all said and done, the waste is dumped into landfills in our communities.

after this first presentation we were all shaken and devastated. and we’d only just begun.

    WATER

our presenter was a delightfully brilliant dude named brock. this presentation had a few more solutions in it, and overall reminded me of the beauty of water – water as us, water in us. here are some of the stand out parts of this presentation:

it would be more appropriate to call this planet water, as opposed to planet earth. water is the unique life force here. the water we have is all the water we ever have had or will have. we get an allowance. of all the water on the planet, only 1% of it is freshwater. of that, we have already polluted half. FAIL.

our water system is solar driven (yay sun!). the sun warms up the ocean, lifting water up as gas, which freezes into glaciers of ice and then melts down into rivers, streams, lakes, ponds…fresh water. its a totally natural, cyclical, desalination process.

science stuff: water is a polar molecule, featuring a positive in oxygen and a negative in hydrogen. it’s sticky – it can stick to other water molecules. it can be a solid, liquid or a gas. (AWESOME! nothing else does this!) water cools in its transition from solid to liquid, and liquid to gas.

brock showed us images of water patterns present in brains, capillaries, lungs, streams, clouds. water is an “elucidator of flow” wherein form follows function. the sun and the moon move water around the world, leading to high tides two times a day. water and earth are in a constant dialogue. humans are impacted by these waves too – isn’t that nice?

so…where do we fit into that larger dialogue? every living thing is mostly water. our existence is carbon/sun based, but water moves everything. for our lives – air security comes first, water security comes second, and food security comes third.

“we are bipedal sacks of saline solution.” – brock

“water is the primary measure of how we live on the land.” – luna leopold

loved this: evian = naive. hopefully you know this already, but bottled water is wholly unregulated, and is 2000-3000 times the cost of tap water, which IS regulated. what water companies understand is that whoever owns and sells water controls life.

so right now, the planet is trying to cool down from the CO2 (carbon) blanket we have been building around it, hence we see the changing of glacier ice to water and water to gas. because of these changes, within 75 years our california water source (mt. shasta) will be liquid…not regenerating and melting to give us fresh water in a natural cycle. thirsty = dead. :(

definition: we learned the term positive feedback loop – so basically a change that directly speeds up future changes. for instance, sun bounces off of white solid mass, but gets swallowed by dark liquid. the more the glaciers melt, the more dark water there is, the less cooling bouncing off of solids, the faster the glaciers melt.

boss move: china did a water grab when it got tibet and the himalayas – tons of fresh water.

one quote we were given is that “you can’t protect what you don’t understand.”

but now that we understood more, brock showed us some beautiful solutions!

the main solution is to live within your “watershed”. a watershed is basically the entire water system from glaciers atop mountains down to the deltas where the water reaches the ocean. so – how do we repattern life around a watershed?

we have to shift from a “drain age” to a “retain age”. right now good fresh water drains off our roofs into gutters into pipes into lakes or the ocean. (folks say they don’t want to interact with rain water cuz there’s so much pollution – brock said: “try breathing”) is we retained water from our roofs in catchment systems (like they do in bermuda, for instance) so each home/building was water sufficient, that would be a major shift. water would drain from our roofs into containers where it could be naturally filtered, and then we could use it to water gardens, do laundry, flush toilets, take showers. we could run the water through bio-filters – gardens with fungus in there that would snip the hydro carbon bond and clean the water right up.

parking lots could be redesigned so that water runs off into natural growth areas on the side as opposed to down a drain in the center. in seattle they are redesigning streets to redirect water in ways that greens the neighborhood, supports gardening, and slows down the run-off, saving more water. in LA, treepeople have created water catchment systems under lawns that can actually meet all the needs for a block of homes. in china there were examples of setting up gardened walkways down the center of toxic urban waterways, and the plant systems literally detoxifying the water! we could have fog catchers to catch and drain fresh water!!

in our homes, put a 5 gallon bucket in the shower while the water heats up, or in the sink while laundry water is draining, and use that to flush the toilet! another super easy move to make a toilet more efficient is to put a closed container of water into the toilet. then, you save 6 or 8 or 16 oz of water each time the toilet is flushed.

we used a composting toilet there, like we do at ruckus camps. these things are mindblowing when you start to realize that all the money spent on fertilizers is a total marketing of stuff we produce naturally. our poop – yes poop! – can become a wonderful rich fertilizer, improved by us eating healthy whole organic diets. again not something we should be shipping away to massive processing units.

he even showed these urinal composting things that were basically garbage bins with a urinal on the side. diluting the urine 10 to 1 creates a great fertilizer. i’m not there yet, lol, but EVERYthing has a purpose.

this session ended on a very inspiring, wholistic note.

    “the earth is a living thing – you have to give it love.” – the greening of cuba

that evening we watched ‘the greening of cuba’ (order a copy: 800 274 7826). amazing story of how when the world turned it’s back on cuba, cuba became a increasingly super innovative agrarian society extremely fast. i was deeply reminded of detroit, and wondered if we can ever hope to reach that level of change without total crisis.

    FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

michelle from movement generation led us on this journey, starting with what food is: land, community, culture, health, meaningful work, life

facts:
– less than 1% of the u.s. population are farmers…there are more prisoners than farmers. farmers were 1/3rd of our population in 1930.
– most of the world’s farmers are women!
– the world has 1 billion farmers to feed 6 billion people.
– people in the u.s. spend less of our total resources than anyone else in the world on food, about 12%. the cost for that cheap food is that our health problems are on the rise from over exposure to corn, soy, processed food and livestock grown in unhealthy conditions. cheap food leads to less bio-cultural diversity, less water, more climate change, and tons of waste and toxins (many from growing food where it’s not supposed to be).
– breast milk is the first place where most of us, and our children, interact with the primary toxins of our lives (that said, its still the healthier more natural option than formula, if it is an option for you).

here’s a devastating food system process that’s in place in the u.s. right now: imagine illinois, iowa…all that corn. 92% of the corn grown in this country is from genetically modified seed already!! these require tons of water and synthetic pesticides (only sold by the same folks who sell you the genetically modified seeds). toxins from this genetic corn production seep into the mouth of the mississippi. the majority of this corn (99%) is grown to feed all the livestock animals that are “grown” along the mississippi in little cages. these animals poop out the genetically modified, processed corn toxins which leach into soil and water and continue down into the gulf coast delta area. all of that has created a moving deadzone in the gulf where the chemical combination has killed every living thing; the bottom dwellers (shrimp, catfish) die from toxins, and then everything else that eats them either dies or has to go elsewhere to eat. everything IS connected.

(the reminder throughout all of this is that there are solutions, that the earth can revive from this, there are things we can do…)

more facts:
– only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the desired pest. 99.9% are just out there hitting non-target creatures, such as bees (our pollinators, a creature fundamental to our survival) or frogs (disappearing, or being born with extra legs).
– 16-19K farmers in India have been committing suicide every year because their debts are so high after seeding and planting genetically modified monocrops* (like wheat in the punjab) which destroyed their land for other crops, and they have no option out of their contracts with the seed seller.

* (immediate footnote!) monocropping is a huge dangerous practice – growing one crop in land which ends up wiping out native species and displacing the people who know what to grow on the land (you learn by being on the land for generations – most of us in the room have been stolen from the land we knew, or that land has been stolen from us).

back to facts:
– average person in the u.s. uses 2000 liters of oil to supply their food. that’s a lot. (also learned that average u.s. citizen uses over 130 gallons of water a day, while there are folks in the world getting by on 2 gallons a day.)
– current agricultural practices contribute 20% of the total global climate change impacts.
– the crisis is not some time in the future, people are already dying because of climate changes impacting weather, pests, water. to survive, the planet needs diversity – rotating crops, protecting and nourishing the soil.
– 40-50% of the world’s land is used for agriculture, and 30% for livestock.
– we rely on 8 crops for 75% of the world’s food!
– the danger of monocropping can be seen in the irish potato famine. the irish were only growing 2 kinds of potatoes – when one was wiped out, there were no other options.
– genetically modified foods are also so cheap that they outsell local organic food in markets like oaxaca, where corn is originally from. sadly, once you sign a contract to buy genetically modified seed, you are locked into agreements such as not saving the seed, but buying it again the following year. the monocropping damages the soil and ecosystem such that it’s hard to switch off of the genetically modified crops. monsanto is the seed selling demon company – they have actually sued farmers on neighboring farms because genetically modified monsanto seed caught on the wind and mixed with the neighboring farm’s crop!

my thought at this point was: we want crops, not crap.

two particularly dangerous areas to watch are agri-fuels (also called biofuels) and the scramble to buy up land. redirecting land use from growing food for people to growing food for cars leads to situations where people are lined up for subsidized cooking oil while tons of resources from their area are shipped away for cars. in small local use, biofuels that are gathered from waste can be a good thing, but scale it up and it’s quickly anti-human.

the international scramble for land means that huge areas in africa, the middle east, south korea and elsewhere are being bought to grow genetically modified foods…it’s a new colonialism.

thinking comparatively: a single patty burger sold for a buck in the u.s. equals the entire grain and protein needs of three people in india.

it’s like this: we’re now in a situation where there are people working on two second timers on sandwich assembly lines to make sandwiches for starbucks. everyone is seeing one small part of a massive system that is not serving our health.

even how our health is assessed is not a complete picture – science can be flipped to mislead us. a whole health assessment that covers a much broader spectrum of nutrients than the FDA leads us to choices that are better for people and the planet.

so what needs to happen?

in a nutshell: we need to shift from being cogs in a wheel to feed others –> to being in communities where we feed ourselves. it’s not a situation of going back to old ways, but rather taking back practices and land that we are all from and having healing relationships with land. we need to make the social relationships of food transparent – who grows it, who harvests it, who packs it, who transports it, who cooks it. we are kept in the dark about the whole process of our food.

we need to blend rural understanding of food/economy/ecology into urban solutions (like Detroit has begun to do!).

this was the first part of the presentations where i started crying. the way all these systems have been developed without us and against us is so overwhelming.

i hope you’re still reading, i know this is long, but this is information we need in order to start making better choices in all aspects of our lives as individuals, organizations, communities, families.

CLIMATE/ENERGY

jason and gopal hit us with this one-two punch.

first things first, global warming is the wrong term for this moment. climate change even suggests something more incremental than what we are facing. climate disruption or chaos is more accurate.

we’ll be talking about greenhouse gases – the gases that create the atmospheric blanket over our heads. carbon is 1st of these heat trapping gases. they showed us this effect with an aluminum style hat – once you put it on, the heat on your head has no where to go and your body starts to sweat to cool off. the planet is doing that.

important fact: there is a 40-70 year lag effect in the temperature increase of the planet. the skyrocketing impacts we’ve measured recently are the results of our lifestyle in the 1960s. compare the pollutants and energy use of the 60s to now to get a sense of the future we have set in motion.

feel this: consider that every 20 years (even with the kyoto protocol in place for the last 10 years) we have doubled the entire fossil fuel consumption of known history. like…all use from the ice age till the 1940s is one number. that total number doubled by 1960. that total number doubled by 1980. and so forth.

peak oil is often mentioned, but peak oil won’t stop our destruction of ourselves…its not the end of oil, just the peak, the moment when what we have to use starts to decrease.

we can see the atmospheric impact of our actions every single year.

just like us, climate science is nonlinear and unpredictable. there isn’t a clear 1-1 cause and effect, most of the effects are exponential.

earlier we talked about positive feedback loops. the melting was one example – the greenland glacier now dumps enough fresh water into the ocean each day to provide all the water needs of london or ny.

another piece to understand in this equation is tipping points. a tipping point is a point of runaway change. it’s the moment when you no longer have to push a ball up the hill cause it has tipped over the top and is racing downhill. it will eventually find a new stability, but the rush may not be survivable.

we appear to have reached a tipping point in glacier arctic ice – watching a quick slide show from 1979 to 2007 shows the rapid increase of melting and near disappearance of summer (permanent) ice. this disrupts migratory paths for land and sea animals, many of which are the primary food source for people.

another example is the permafrost – the frozen tundra of siberia is melting. under this is tons of methane gas, which, if released, would lead to a quick, abrupt impact. there would be no recovery from this sort of impact, only rebalance and new life. after the ice age, we were the new life form, for instance – it was catastrophic for the major species of that time. this would be a catastrophic tipping point for humanity.

another amazing thing about earth: earth is designed to store excess carbon, naturally (we call these spaces carbon sinks) – that’s what oil and coal are! we have decided to disrupt that storage process, which is supposed to keep the atmosphere in balance, and go get that exact carbon and release it into the atmosphere. THIS IS SO NOT A SMART MOVE. other carbon sinks are the ocean, forests – forests are like lungs for the planet. the loss of forests is another tipping point to watch.

we were reminded again here that life and the planet will survive. it is human survival that we are discussing. uplifting reminder?

we did an amazing exercise at this point, where we each chose a person, people, or animal to represent, and get into a circle. gopal read off a variety of climate impacts, and we had to step forward if our person/animal was impacted. i was a fox – foxes have showed up repeatedly in my life at key moments and i feel them. we all ended up squished in the center. this was so sad – everyone was so deeply impacted.

but then we had to reach across the circle and grab two different hands. this turned us into a giant knot. our task was then to – still holding on – unknot ourselves. we did so quickly.

knowledge is power. change is possible.

but enough of that hopeful stuff…ENERGY:

jason showed us all of the energy sources being developed in the world – crude oil, heavy oil (like the tar sands of canada), natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar, hydroelectric. currently, 12 countries own 90% of all the known oil in the world. the u.s. is either an ally, at war with, or in control of each of the other 11 nations.

the solutions at this point are to ramp down crude oil and coal fast – no new coal, oil or gas. stop extracting heavy oil, declare a moratorium on nuclear because the costs and potential weapon danger is so high, use some hydroelectric, and increase our end use efficiency (be smarter and more conservative with our energy use). we also need to explore the real possibilities of solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. additionally, we have to ramp down general consumption in the 1st world, think in terms of locally appropriate solutions, and demand that polluters pay the transition.

and we fundamentally recognize that these real solutions are not currently politically viable right now. that is our work.

the final piece of the puzzle was BIOCULTURAL DIVERSITY

my friend melissa nelson came to present this section. she is an amazing woman who is also developing a path around having a multi-racial background and a call towards reconciliation work. we met through the center for whole communities and i am always excited to see her.

she defined biocultural diversity as the diversity of life in all manifestations – biological, cultural, linguistic – within a complex socio-ecological adaptive system.

the key idea is that we are part of one living system. that system relies on diversity of indigenous knowledge systems and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as well as cultural productions such as food, art, medicine, clothes, homes, etc.

she reminded us that our oral traditions carry memories from before the ice age, and then shared with us a quote from wade davis, that the “ethnosphere is more important than the biosphere, because without the ethnosphere we won’t know how to CARE for the biosphere.”

we have to pay attention to emergent properties, symbiosis and synergy – think of ourselves as entwined, entangled, braided, inextricably linked. the “whole is greater that the sum of it’s parts.” think of biocultural diversity like having a whole alphabet to write with from all experiences of the world – our full wisdom.

“the beauty of things was born before eyes, an heartbreaking beauty will last after there are hearts to break.” – robinson jeffers, poet.

melissa mentioned the puget sound canoe gathering which ruckus heard about during the localize this action camp on vashon island. very exciting relearning and practicing of known ways.

a great danger to us is “monocultures of the mind,” as vandana shiva says.

note: folks used to be more multi-lingual – knowing only one language is isolating, but not having a common language can make it hard to organize regionally, beyond borders. this is complex – how many languages do i know? 1.

there are lots of stories in the land that we have forgotten how to read – animals, their scat (poop!), storms, ancient writing, soil, clouds, stars.

melissa reminded us that old sayings have deep meaning if we try to understand them:

“walking the shoreline,” an old ojibwe saying, encompasses walking the literal line between water and land, also between movement and stillness, conscious and unconscious.

another saying, “the moon is in the sky,” means she will always be there.

it is hard to have to use the language of our colonizers to express liberatory ideas and ancient wisdom. but we all have wisdom, we are all from some place, and together, all of us have to learn again, and practice what david brower called CPR for the planet: “Conservation, Protection, Restoration”.

we have to change from seeing “resources” to seeing “relatives”. all our relations – the entire world as we know it. we are not moving backwards, but we are re-indigenizing, moving forward to new-old traditions and knowledge of how to live.

at this point i asked a question which always comes up for me – what about those of us who have been so displaced from our original location that we literally don’t know where we are from, don’t know our songs, our histories, our traditions?

melissa said, “you are fully you, and you are re-indigenizing every day.”

carla broke it down on such a deep level, which i had heard before but never with such an open heart: “your displacement and all that was taken from you, the systemic breakdown of the connection between you and your homeland, that IS your heritage. your ancestors were punished, silenced, displaced, sold, lost – that IS your indigenous experience.”

this was another point of grief, and mourning. it also opened up deep conversations with the other african and african-american folks there…”we weren’t kings and queens…we were farmers! just like everyone else!!” this was exciting, this placed us in the story of our unknown but present ancestors.

there was time to go out in nature and reflect on what our relationships were to the planet. in spite of tons of changes i have made, i wrote up a pretty devastating self-assessment that included deep explorations of my fear, the damage i do, my yearning for a better relationship, my learned classism around who has relationships to the earth and who doesn’t.

i landed, as i always do, on love. my love for the planet has inspired so many changes already, and i know more changes are coming. i feel that i am stardust, earth, water. to reclaim terminology, i feel that the earth is a brilliant symbiotic and beautiful, organic and logical technology, as am i – balanced systems to process matter, data, energy, spirit.

computers are a technology to support humanity thus far…are humans a technology to support the planet and be supported?

we can be. clearly we are in super glitch mode, which might even lead to a total meltdown of the mother-machine that we don’t survive. but love can give us the capacity to see the error of our ways, and humble ourselves to a new reality in which we get to do liberatory work, have meaningful roles, prosperity, health…

in order to do this we must understand the underlying assumptions that have allowed us to get this far. i want to write a whole separate blog on control mythologies (assumptions/stories we are taught which make us easier to control, like: Lincoln freed the slaves {no social movement, just benevolent leadership}, Christopher Columbus discovered America {it was barely inhabited, by people who didn’t deserve to have it, it was for us}, or the American Dream {keep working hard as an individual and you will accumulate material wealth and that will make you happy}) because it is so deep to name these and begin to release them and develop/remember creative mythologies, sustaining mythologies.

although the information was so devastating that i found myself several times sitting with someone else with tears in our eyes wondering why we even thought our small work could matter, i left the weekend feeling like i’d just gotten a massive upgrade in my capacity to envision and execute real solutions. i feel more committed than ever to deep transformation of myself, my family, my organization, my communities. i feel more committed than ever to measuring scale in terms of DEPTH and quantum leaps towards sustainability, rather than broad shallow reforms that slightly delay catastrophe.

we are the ones we’ve been waiting for…we are the movement generation!

surviving apocalypse (what i learned at the movies)

i watch and read an incredible amount of science fiction, and am particularly obsessed with the patterns of how communities function when something awful (plague, natural disaster, alien attack) happens.

here’s what i have learned so far:

1. keep necessary information somewhere other than an electronic device. key addresses and directions particularly. phones and computers are the first thing to go and may even turn against you. only alien technology is guaranteed to work.

2. find food fast. and water. generally know where your walkable food store is, and keep a week’s worth of food and water in your home, as most disasters in movies seem to take 3 days to unfold. if something happens in oakland i have my whole foods looting list ready to go!

3. know martial arts, or some other skill, as a mode of self-defense. people quickly deteriorate under the pressures of hunger, thirst and fear, and it’s a good thing to know how to block at a bare minimum, and especially to sweep someone’s feet out from under them.

4. hone your instinct for telling what kind of people you’re with. the best kind of people to be around during an apocalypse are those who stay cool and even funny in crisis. if you have people in your life not like this, why? you’re gonna have to spend the whole crisis talking them down or dying cuz they freak out. upgrade now. maybe all take a martial arts class together.

5. learn what is edible in your neighborhood. after about 2 days the grocery stores will become a zombie-zone feeding frenzy. a secret garden would be the ultimate in preparedness.

6. whiskey/scotch/bourbon has a variety of uses – cleaning, drinking. yeah.

7. boarding up inside your home won’t help, running around during daylight is a certain disaster, and sneaking around at night is a sure bet They will get you. the only real place to wait out an apocalypse is a bunker.

8. pack a little survival bag (octavia fans know where i’m heading with this one): matches in a ziplock baggy, hand sanitizer, a flask of whiskey/scotch/bourbon, a place to write your apocalypse memoirs and something to write them with, a swiss army knife and a towel. hook that bag in some unbreakable way to your person, because you will be blown around or knocked over or attacked and lose all your stuff.

9. it is extremely rare for people of color to survive apocalypses, but if you see someone who looks like will smith, stick with that dude.

10. don’t go by yourself, don’t split up, and don’t let them leave you somewhere. don’t utter or accept the words, “i’ll be right back”. this is not the time for adventures!

as i learn more from my copious research, i will pass it along. in the meantime, pack your bag, stock your cabinets, and pray for peace.