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On Sunday I reported to my SolSeed colleagues and various relatives on the trip I took to Biosphere 2 last month, at the end of a two-week vacation that mostly involved visiting relatives in California and Las Vegas.

On Monday I found out I’ve been accepted into the Pachamama Alliance’s Game Changer Intensive program, which will supposedly require 3 hours per week for seven weeks starting at the end of March. Whether this will help me get over my aversion to seeking leadership roles in activism remains to be seen.

On Monday evening I attended a meeting of WAmend, the coalition that formed a couple years back (thanks largely to the efforts of the Get Money Out of Politics working group of Occupy Seattle) to pass a resolution in Washington State supporting a pro-campaign-finance-regulation and anti-corporate-personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This year’s initiative campaign is just getting off the ground, but looks like it has a much better chance of success than last year’s, which failed to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. This time we’re better organized and will have much more time to collect the signatures, since we’re targeting the 2016 election.

On Tuesday evening I went to a talk at Seattle Town Hall by Denis Hayes, founder of Earth Day, talking about humanity’s (and especially Americans’) love affair with cows, and proposing we aim to cut national beef consumption to about half its current level. In response to my question about the opposing extreme claims of the Savory Institute and the Worldwatch Institute about livestock’s impact on the climate crisis, Hayes and his wife took the middle ground, supporting the UN’s numbers on their current impact (14-16% of emissions rather than Worldwatch’s 51%) and asserting that using livestock to draw down gigatons of carbon is “crazy,” although Savory’s grazing methods are hugely beneficial in other respects.

On Wednesday I left work early for an abbreviated Democracy School program from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (four hours instead of the usual 1-3 days). The presenter, Kai Huschke, described CELDF’s view of the legal “box” that supposedly prevents activists from ever succeeding in blocking destructive corporate projects, and laid out their plan for local community ordinances that “break out of the box,” state constitutional amendments to make those ordinances legal, and ultimately a partial rewrite of the U.S. Constitution to favor the rights of people, communities, and nature over those of corporations. (Unsurprisingly, a WAmend member was in attendance and passed around a sign-up sheet for volunteers.) Kai emphasized that the campaign would likely take decades, just like past efforts to expand people’s rights (particularly the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements), which he observed were always followed by a “spring back” toward centralization of power. But he also said we don’t have time for an “incrementalist” approach because “the climate is collapsing.” This seeming contradiction, plus the fact that I carpooled to and from the event with two fellow volunteers for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which has in fact worked within the system to block over 150 destructive corporate projects (coal-fired power plants) and schedule over 180 existing ones to be shut down, only reinforced my conviction that abolishing corporate rights can’t be a prerequisite for solving the global climate crisis.

On Thursday evening, during the SolSeed online work bee, I wrote an email to author Steven Wolfe (which I had been meaning to do for months) asking why his novel, set in 1992 and partly in Tucson, and supporting the concept of Gaia giving birth to new worlds, didn’t mention Biosphere 2 once. He responded the same evening, saying he supported Biosphere 2 and had even said so on his blog, but the idea of including it in his book just hadn’t occurred to him.

This morning I woke up at 5 after a crazy semi-lucid dream about living in a Mars colony that was “invaded” by giant aliens who gave us peanut butter and wanted us to make movies about them. The only reason I’m currently making time to write a blog entry is because I gave up on falling back asleep. I really need to do something about my worsening insomnia.

Tonight I’ll be making matters slightly worse by going to a birthday party for my author/activist friend Saab in Edmonds, from which I likely won’t get home until 11:30. Then tomorrow I’m attending a legislative town hall event at Redmond City Hall, where I’ll hopefully get the chance to ask my state reps a question about the bill currently in process that would have Puget Sound Energy and other Washington State utilities stop using coal-fired power from Montana and replace it with renewable energy.

My alarm goes off in a few minutes, so I don’t really have time to go into depth on “what it all means,” but the headline is clear: I’m diving back into activism even though I still think we’re probably all doomed.

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Obama Elects to Come to Copenhagen's Conclusion, Not Beginning
...thus moving from "Hi, let me give you an inspiring 'good luck' speech and then head off to collect my Nobel Prize while you all get on with the hard part," to "Hi, I'm here to actually help close the deal on a general agreement that could lead to an actually respectable treaty when the language is finalized next year."

I would type more, but I have a video to finish for the upcoming Longest Night Festival, a SolSeed event to be held in east Portland starting 12 days from today. Aren't deadlines great?
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I finally decided I couldn't wait any longer--I had to get rid of that boring "Thoughts on the Environmental Crisis" title, which virtually guarantees me a permanently small readership.  I needed something short and catchy, like Technozoic.  But since I couldn't think of anything clever and original offhand, and had reluctantly decided that trying to become "The SolSeed Eco-Blog" put too many constraints on what I could say, I decided to use Brian "Space4Commerce" Dunbar and his sometime nemesis, Bruce "Space4Peace" Gagnon, as a model.  (There must be an alternate timeline where they're allies; after all, as far as we're presently aware, the commercialization of space is the alternative to its dominance by the military.)

But wait, I thought--while I'm very interested in space colonization and growing new biospheres, that's a pretty small fraction of what I write about on this blog.  So Space4Life isn't really a good enough title.  Making it OpenSpace opens up at least four possible interpretations:
  • The outer-space aspect, of course: if Open is a verb, the title clearly refers to the opening of the Final Frontier for colonization by the seeds of Gaia.  Which is fine, as long as we don't repeat the evils of the first colonial era by landing on already-living worlds and overexploiting/exterminating their inhabitants.
  • The classic environmentalist stand for Open Spaces: the preservation of natural landscapes, both as habitat and for the enjoyment of hikers, campers, and sometimes even hunters.  It's a good time to be promoting this ideal, with the release of acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns's new film, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," coming out next month on PBS.
  • As an abstract metaphor, with "Life" referring to the process of living, usually in an exclusively human sense.  This would cover, albeit obscurely, the political and economic issues I discuss: for example, America needs to maintain public space for free and open dialog, rather than surveilling the heck out of us and pouncing on whoever trips a computer search algorithm looking for words that might be related to terrorist activity.
  • On a similar note, there's the reference to Open Space Technology, which was used to organize the first two SolSeed events and is very Web 2.0: the conveners just provide a space and an open wall where any participant can tape up agenda items.
As long as I was changing the title, I decided a facelift for the site's appearance was also a good idea, allowing for a subtitle and more horizontal space for my entries.  Let me know what you think!
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The long-term goal of the organization called SolSeed is to become an intentional society, with a large number of people living in the same place, a number of businesses and industries, art and culture, etc.  It will be a society of "starfarers," that is, the type of people who are able and willing to commit to massive long-term endeavors such as seeding the galaxy with life.

Solseed is like a religion in some respects.  But unlike most religions, certain governments, and other human institutions such as the global capitalist economic system, it has no interest in converting everyone to its way of life.  The goal is to find people who want to be starfarers, in the broad sense described above, and see if they like us enough to join.  In short, SolSeed wants to be a non-totalizing society.  This is based on our core value of respecting and welcoming difference.

Yet, paradoxically, the sum of all organizations who hold that value, what Paul Hawken calls "the movement of movements," is itself totalizing.  It wants everyone to respect and welcome difference, which implies the abolition of all prejudice.  The only aspects of any culture that this broader movement abhors are those which treat women, gays, minority ethnic groups, people of other social classes or castes or faiths or political beliefs, as second-class citizens.

This "intolerance of intolerance" seems to turn the ideal of respecting difference upside down, because so many of the world's cultures have deeply ingrained prejudices, such as those built into the division of gender roles that was arguably necessary up until relatively recently, when modern technologies and practices made pregnancy less of a limiting factor in women's lives.  In asking such a culture to give women the right to hold paying jobs and even start businesses, as the burgeoning microcredit movement does, aren't we demanding that they give up what makes them unique and become just like us (or even less prejudiced than we are, in some especially hypcritical instances)?

Perhaps, to some degree.  But the purpose of such demands is to grant an oppressed group the freedom to fully express its own uniqueness, collective and individual, and it's held as an article of faith in the movement of movements that this flowering of difference more than makes up for anything that is lost in the process of turning a culture upside down and shaking the prejudices out.

P.S. Happy hottest day in Seattle in recorded history!  Let's see if we can avoid celebrating this again next year!
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“What does it mean to 'Bring Life' to each of us, to all of us, and to the entire galaxy?”

- Theme question for SolSeed's first organized event

“Rational hyper-intelligent critters would realize that even hyper-intelligent critters can make mistakes and having backups is a good idea. In this case having a terrestrial planet people can live on [without high technology] in the event of a really massive systems crash is a good idea ...”

- [ profile] bdunbar , in a comment thread here

“Taking and not giving back, demanding that 'productivity' and 'earnings' keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World these vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: and not only most of humanity--most of the World, animal, vegetable and mineral, is laid waste in the process. The System may or may not understand that it's only buying time. And that time is an artificial resource to begin with, of no value to anyone or anything but the System, which sooner or later must crash to its death, when its addiction to energy has become more than the rest of the World can supply, dragging with it innocent souls all along the chain of life.”

- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, pp. 480-481

Many sources agree that more solar energy falls on Earth's surface in an hour than humanity currently uses in a year. But according to Nikolai Kardashev, eventually we could reach a point where we use it all, along with every erg of available nuclear, chemical, and geothermal energy this planet can produce.

Okay, in actual fact you can be a so-called Kardashev Type I civilization just by using a total of around two hundred quadrillion watts, however obtained. But let's take it literally for a moment. It's a pretty insane idea, really... )

As if Type I weren't crazy enough, Kardashev Types II and III involve harnessing all the energy of a star and a galaxy, respectively. The premise I don't buy here is that increasingly advanced civilizations must always use ever-growing amounts of energy.  It's infantile, really--why assume that there is no such thing as “enough?”

Now, I'm all for getting out there and building some colonies and big solar arrays in space, on Mars, and on extrasolar planets. Even a Ringworld or a Dyson sphere could be pretty cool if we figured out how to do it right. But I think that in all these adventures, we're really going to want to take samples of our biosphere along for the ride. It's what created us, after all--and for the time being, we really can't live without it.
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Yeah, I haven't been doing something productive every weeknight, as I'd planned--even if you count shopping and suchlike.  Either I tell myself I'm not feeling up to it, or I sit at the dinner table reading a novel and then don't have time (at least not if I want to watch one of my four TV shows after checking email), or whatever.  It's kind of sad, really.  What's even sadder is that even on unproductive nights, I often end up getting to bed five to ten minutes later than I prefer.

One of the ideas I had for organizing this project was to reserve each day of the week for a specific activity.  I'm not sure whether this was wise, but at any rate, Wednesday was going to be blogging day--and I certainly have enough ideas for posts to do one a week.  While I did decide to post twice in the first week, I missed the second week entirely and skipped last week as well.  Meanwhile, of the other tasks, I've only worked on music compositions twice and posted transferred and revised content to the new SolSeed site once.

I think I may need to start writing a description on my calendar of what I do each evening or my lame excuse for doing nothing.  Except that if it starts filling up with excuses, it might just depress me and make me even less motivated.  Please post your opinions!

March 2015

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