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Happy Hogmanay

2011/12/31

Tis the season for ‘best of” lists.  So, to quote Julie Andrews,  here are a few of my favourite things of this past year:

Best book on the coming paradigm shift in “business as usual”: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by architect William McDonough & chemist Michael Braungart. In the book, the authors demonstrate how the one-way “cradle to grave” model which environmentalists have been touting as the answer to many of our environmental woes isn’t nearly adequate to the job of creating a sustainable world. They challenge the accepted wisdom that human industry must damage the earth, and instead present a way of design and production that is based on the model of nature itself. The title of the introduction, “This Book Is Not A Tree”, gives the reader a taste of what they are in for. In the chapter “A Question of Design”, McDonough and Braungart point out how incredibly and unnecessarily wasteful our current industrial model is:

Imagine that you have been given the assignment of designing the Industrial Revolution – retrospectively. With respect to its negative consequences, the assignment would have read something like this:

Design a system of production that

  • puts billions of pounds of toxic materials into the air, water, and soil every year
  • produces some materials so toxic they will require constant vigilance by future generations
  • results in gigantic amounts of waste
  • puts valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
  • requires thousands of complex regulations-not to keep people and natural systems safe, but rather to keep them from being poisoned too quickly
  • measures productivity by how few people are working
  • creates prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burying them or burning them
  • erodes the diversity of species and cultural practises

When put like this, the status quo sounds completely insane  – and in fact it is, and many people are coming to recognize that truth. The authors point out that the standard wisdom of environmentalism has been to try to make the system “less bad”. They argue that this needs to be replaced with a vision that requires the system to “be good”.  To be good, Braungart and McDonough suggest, is to take a cradle to cradle approach, like nature, and they provide examples of where this is already being done. I recommend this book for inspiration about how the road to a sustainable future is exciting and desirable.

For more visionary food for thought, my second favourite thing of 2011 is the movie “I Am“.  Directed and written by Tom Shadyac, director of low-brow comedies such as Bruce Almighty, The Nutty Professor, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, “I Am”is the result of a life-changing bicycle accident and the health crisis that ensued. Subtitled “the shift is about to hit the fan”, this movie follows Shadyac as he interviews great minds asking them: What’s wrong with our world and what can we do about it? Shadyac looks underneath the symptoms of a troubled civilization – the war in Iraq, climate change, ocean change, extremes of poverty and wealth – to get a fix on the root cause of this devastation and terrible waste of human and environmental potential. The answers he is given, based on new developments in medicine and physics, question the very foundations of our Western worldview, and reaffirm the message of mystical traditions and indigenous cultures: humans are connected to each other and the world around us, and at heart humans are meant to cooperate, not compete.

To watch the movie, download it on Itunes or go to IAmTheDoc.com.   *Thanks to my sister on the journey, Donna C, for inviting me over to watch “I Am” a few weeks ago, and for my daughters Kate & Emma for finding time in their holiday schedules to watch it with me yesterday.*

My favourite word of 2011 is OCCUPY. This word will feature in 2012 as well, I’m sure. Other important words to look for in 2012 are “oil pipelines” – both Northern and Keystone XL.

My favourite activist organization of 2011 (okay, I have three): Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, and Citizens Climate Lobby.

My favourite new (to me) blogs of 2011: BorealCitizen.wordpress.com and Pathslesstravelled.com.

And now, I’m off to knit legwarmers while hanging out in the rec room, close to the wood stove, with my family.  Wishing all of you (as fellow climate hawk Doug G. put it) Happy.End.of.Life.As.We.Know.It.Year.2012 & emerging into a new paradigm for humanity!


4 Comments leave one →
  1. 2012/01/01 7:50 pm

    Thanks Christine – it’s an honour to be one of your favourites. And I’ll definitely be checking out that film – it looks very interesting!

  2. 2012/01/01 11:05 pm

    You’re welcome, Beth. It’s nice to have another sustainability blogger in my corner of the boreal forest!

  3. 2012/01/01 11:48 pm

    I’d also like to thank you for your kind words of recognition, Christine. Happy New Year & keep up your important work!

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