Wednesday, May 18, 2011. We taped a lively chat with Janelle Orsi and Jenny Kasson, co-directors of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland, California. These passionate women are using their lawyerly skills to help people form sharing organizations like worker cooperatives and cohousing partnerships. They're also supporting local enterprises of all types, including reducing the legal barriers to local investment and structures.

On May 14 -- the "350 Garden Challenge" weekend -- we made great strides in our community garden installation. 

The garden site in my local neighborhood in Los Angeles is nearly an acre in size.  The plan combines a traditional plot-style community garden with a school garden and aspects of a community park.

The land is owned by the massive LA Unified School District.  More than a decade ago this land was the site of an active "ag" program complete with vegetable plots and a greenhouse.  Some middle-aged community members who attended the school have offered stories and memories of the times when it was a garden.

Hi, my name is Ruah Swennerfelt and I’m part of Transition Charlotte, Vermont in the U.S.A. My town is quite rural, with working farms, but many residents commute to work in Burlington. My husband and I live in an off-grid house, making our electricity from solar. We also have solar hot water and grow much of our own food. We try to live with reduced ecological and carbon footprints.

After decades of accepting the world as it is ..., we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.
-- President Obama (speaking about the Middle East, 5/19/11)


President Obama -

We want a world as it should be: a world where people quit fouling their own nest, where money isn't the only object, a world where people consider the planet we are leaving to our children.

(Written for Transition Voice - see original post)

Garden photo

Urban gardens fight climate change by reducing food miles and industrial processing. They might even sequester carbon. Photo: Northwest Earth Institute.

Previously in this discussion of what we can do about economic contraction, we reminded each other than the economy is basically the sum total of transactions between people.  At that same basic level, “money” is simply the markers we use to record those transactions.  There is no mandate that transactions between people can only be counted via one kind of marker.  In fact, plenty of perfectly valid and life-supporting transactions can be accomplished without any markers at all.

We have grown up accustomed to a monoculture of the national currency (U.S. dollars, British pounds, etc.) but -- just like in agriculture, just like in human culture -- for a resilient future we'll be much better off with a polyculture.

In the past 20-30 years, the concept of “outsourcing” has stripped most of our local communities of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker – the craftsmen, merchants, and artisans who have skills and know-how to provide the basic goods and services we need for everyday living. Even in these times of economic contraction, supporting our local businesses is essential, because with the transportation limitations that will come with the end of cheap oil, local will become our mainstay.

Become a jack of all trades and a master of one. – David Holmgren, quoting a European Permaculturist

"Jobs" as we know them today -- paychecks from large corporate employers -- are a very recent phenomenon in human history. Within our new understanding of the future economy, this form of earning a living is not too likely to continue.

Even the idea of “green jobs” is deeply flawed. Many of the “green” jobs are completely dependent upon government funding. Most are built upon the presumption of economic growth, and depend on continued societal affluence to get the fledgling “green” industries off the ground. Some so-called “green” industries merely provide green-cast consumption, perpetuating the five-planets-worth-of-consumption which we have told each other is “normal.” Other supposedly “green” jobs are in tech-centric industries, dependent upon oil, overseas manufacturing, and continued supply of trace elements, all of which will be difficult to sustain as we move deeper into the post-peak-everything era.

In our Oct 2010 session about the economy here in Los Angeles, we discussed “Conservation of cash.” In other words: in these times of economic contraction, make the most of the U.S. dollars you do have.  In that session we talked about budgets and getting by on less.  So often in American culture when money gets tight we focus on increasing the inflow: how can we get more cash?  But there is another side to the equation: decreasing outflow.

Think about a bathroom sink: water comes in through the faucet and leaves through the drain.  If the water is flowing in faster than it is draining out, you’ll have an accumulation of water in the basin.  If the level in the basin (the cash in our checking accounts) proves inadequate, we have been well-schooled to adjust the faucet end of things:  “Earn $1000 a week at home!”  “Take advantage of this credit card offer!”  American capitalism carefully avoids mentioning that we have a lot of choice about how much flows out the drain.

On a single weekend, May 14th & 15th, thousands of us will take to the streets, the garden, schoolyard, home, apartment and city hall to take action as part of the 350 Home & Garden Challenge.  Transition US, in collaboration with a multitude of organizations across the country will transform, retrofit and revitalize our landscapes and homes to grow food, conserve water, save energy and build community. And we need YOU to join us. Stand up and be counted, inspire your family, friends and neighbors to do the same.

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