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I’ve been mulling over Al Gore’s movie, and the way we faced food shortages in WWI and WWII, and the energy crisis of the 70’s, and life as a hippy, and Numenism and its Bounty Ministry, and life as we know it today, and I wonder. I wonder just how we got from the united purpose of the World Wars and the dedicated activism of the hippy era and even the more recent bonding of the Murrah Bombing in Oklahoma City to the disenfranchisement and isolation of now – the “I can’t do it” attitude so many people now espouse, and the willingness to let “specialists” handle all of our affairs outside a narrow range of things we feel competent to do.

I’m not a social scientist to pinpoint when this decline began, but I have dedicated my life to studying patterns. The earliest ripples may well have seeded themselves all the way back at the founding of this country – or earlier still. When it began isn’t anything we can change and knowing the beginnings won’t alter how we proceed into the future. The pattern itself is the issue here – the fact that we did change, and the knowledge that having changed, we can change again. “Change Is” and “Everything She Touches, Changes” are two chants frequently sung among the Pagans, yet it doesn’t seem to have sunk into the psyche of the Pagans. Or maybe it did, but the zeitgeist overrode the message.

The point is, we have changed. We’ve become specialists. We produce one tiny thing (whatever it is we do for work) and we consume a great many things. Occasionally, a few of us vote. We depend upon a lot of other specialists to meet our needs and desire: the wheat farmer, the doctor, the teacher, the film industry, the music industry, and so on. Maybe we have a hobby that lets us expand our one tiny thing – maybe we knit caps for preemies, or play the guitar, or bake our own bread. We’ve severed our connections with so many things to build a society of innate specialists. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – specialization has given us computers, cars, and Fair Trade coffee. Specialization freed us to concentrate on one thing at a time. Specialization allowed us sell our skills far outside our local community, making us wealthy. Specialization allowed us to sell our skills far outside our community, destroying that community and severing our ties with our neighbors. Specialization allowed us to sell our skills far outside our community, taking away any personal responsibility for how we destroyed our communities.

Maybe specialization is a good thing, but it comes at a very high cost to us.

What made specialization on this scale possible was cheap energy. It allowed us to pay distant others to provide all sorts of things for us, from entertainment to food to problem-solving. It’s inconceivable to us to live without energy – how will we eat, what will we do for entertainment, who will heal us, who will make our decisions for us? We’ve become so specialized we can’t imagine doing things for ourselves – we wait for a specialist to come up with a solution – a politician or a scientist. Hopefully the solution will be elegant and easy and not cause us to change our lifestyle very much. We’ve put our faith in market-driven solutions on the presumption that those same market-driven solutions got us into this fix in the first place so of course they will get us out.

I was so frustrated at Al Gore’s movie because he presented us with a wide-sweeping problem and then told us in the closing credits that we could “change a light bulb” to fix it. The puniness of what he asked against the enormity of the problem told me clearly that Al Gore was a dedicated specialist. His mind could not conceive of the average American being able to do anything more. His is a mind divided and reliant, compartmentalized, and unimaginative. That is the curse of specialization – the inability to think beyond one’s specialties.

I can, though. See, I’m a Numenist and deeply involved in our Bounty Ministry. Our goal isn’t sustainability, nothing that paltry. No, we’re striving for a thriving, bounteous environment. We can have it, even if we must go through a Little Ice Age or a Long Drought. We can do much more than change a light bulb. We can plant seeds. Real seeds, as in planting radishes, and tomatoes, and strawberries, and seeds as in ideas and suggestions and inspirations.


The specialist mind looks at this huge, overwhelming problem and it freezes up. The problem has so many parts, is so wide-spread, so large, they can’t fit into any of their compartments, can’t imagine any single thing they can do to change things. Someone else will have to take responsibility, and they go back to their lives, convinced that by having thought of the problem, they’ve done all they can do.

We Numenists are people of patterns, of change. And we say we can all do something. Yes, even Al Gore’s little “change a light bulb” thing – it’s a start – a seed. If you change just one thing today, you can influence others to change that same thing. By changing one thing, you open the way to add another little change. Maybe this time, you’ll be influenced by someone else’s change. Over time, those changes will add up. This is a viral social change. If we all pick just one small thing to change – maybe we choose to eat less meat, or use cloth and net bags for shopping, or to ride our bike to work or out shopping or to the park or the movies instead of driving, or to unplug things that are energy vampires (how many clocks do we really need in one room anyway? – the kitchen has one on the oven, the microwave, the refrigerator, the toaster oven, the coffeemaker, etc. Only one needs to be accurate – I pick the refrigerator – unplug the rest when they aren’t in use), or to pick one day a month or a week where we don’t go shopping, don’t drive anywhere, don’t use anything electronic, where virtually everything we do is powered by our own muscles. One thing. One seed to get the others all going.

My First Raspberry

It’s easy. I know you can do it.

We’ve also been advocating locavorism and growing your own food. Putting in a garden is easy. Our ancestors did it without all the nifty tools we have now. We have better information on soil testing and amendments, and easier methods of getting good plants growing without a great deal of labor or expense. If you plant it from seed, nourish it from your compost and don’t need too many drives to a garden center or nursery, you can grow a free lunch! Not only that, but you’ve grown the freshest tastiest food you can eat with a carbon footprint so small it hits the negative numbers – meaning you’re actively healing the earth and making things better. Your compost is reducing the bags of garbage hauled away from your house even as it feeds your garden – a double positive! You’ll get free exercise, too, and reduce the trips to the gym – that means you’ll be healthier, stronger, get lots of good Vitamin D, and still reduce your carbon footprint. And when you’re in the garden, you won’t be depending on other people to entertain you – a further reduction in your carbon footprint.

If you live in an apartment or condo or hi-rise, you can garden in an abandoned lot, or on the roof, or in window boxes or join a community garden or work with your city council to get gardening land allotted to people who want to claim it (like Germany does).

Fairy Garden

More importantly, by planting and tending a garden, you will heal not only the earth, but your community and yourself. You’ll meet your neighbors (maybe for the first time!) and form bonds with them (zucchini bonds!), and you’ll gain personal power through your increasingly diverse abilities. You won’t be trapped into a specialization mindset, but will become the creative problem solver who can provide for yourself and your family not only without diminishing the world about us, but by actively increasing the bounty of the earth. Our relationship with the earth is not and should not be a zero-sum game – and gardening is proof of that.

Daffodil and Itzl

Pick your seed. You can do it. We can do it.

Originally posted to Noddy and Itzl on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 12:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hi Noddy, (10+ / 0-)

    lovely diary, and very well written. I'll try to get a few more eyes on it, as I think what you have to say here is important and very doable - as you so eloquently point out.

    If everyone took one simple step in reducing their footprint, what great strides we could make! Thanks for pointing it out and explaining the evolution of specialization. I had never thought about it before, and it really rings true.

    A proud supporting member of Native American Netroots

    by translatorpro on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 01:02:20 PM PDT

  •  Good diary, but my fear is that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, northsylvania, CA Nana

    if we learn to live in a more ecologically friendly way, the population will keep expanding until the modifications that we've made in our lifestyle aren't enough, and we find ourselves in an unsustainable situation again.  It's inevitable that either we control population growth (along with other measures to minimize our environmental impact) or nature will control it for us.

    •  I think (6+ / 0-)

      if we learn to live in a more abundant and ecologically aware way, we won't commit overpopulation because that would be counter to ecologically awareness and abundance.

      It goes back to our cornucopia concept, which, in its simplest terms, says we must first fill our cornucopia before we have an overflow to share.  Having babies before the parents' cornucopias are full is a selfish act.  Forcing one person to have  a baby when their cornucopia isn't full is an act of cruelty.  

      We can't create sustainability and abundance if we are constantly struggling to meet basic needs or constantly begging for sustenane from other people's cornucopias..

      How many helicoptors does it take to make the color blue?

      by Noddy on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 03:36:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary, Noddy (7+ / 0-)

    and I'm happy to see that it was (or will be) rescued.

    Every action we take create ripples. I've tried to apply that attitude to shopping as well. I ask myself if I really need a particular item, and, if so, if the thing I'm looking to buy is the most durable and multi-functional example of what I need. I also try to buy items made as locally as possible with as little packaging as possible.

    It's probably a tiny drop in the bucket, but I talk about the things I do, and every once in a while someone listens. I got a coworker to join my CSA-- yay for less packaging and more local produce.

    Thanks again for this diary.

    By evening’s end, they had melted into an indistinguishable mass of privatizing, tax-cutting opponents of Shariah law. --NYT on 2nd Republican debate

    by wide eyed lib on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 02:36:39 PM PDT

    •  Can I ask, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noddy, bablhous, ladybug53

      how can you see that it will be rescued?  I know it shows up as a notation that the diarist sees, but can you see that notation as well?  I ask as a Rescue Ranger, because I can't see such a notation.

      Also, it's a mistake to assume that something will be rescued even if you see the notation.  That shows up when something gets queued to the CS queue, but there are other factors that may mean it won't actually be rescued.  I'm not saying that will happen to this diary, just a general statement of fact.  I'll let you all live in suspense for a while... ;-)

      "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway

      by Got a Grip on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 04:09:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  LOL - I have no clue (5+ / 0-)

        I just trust other people when they tell me things like that about DKos.  I just write a few little diaries and respond to comments and read other diaries and make comments, and recommend doaries and check tips jars.

        I'm not sure what "rescued" means, and if it matters, I suppose I could go look it up.

        How many helicoptors does it take to make the color blue?

        by Noddy on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 04:51:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I aimed that comment at wide eyed lib, (0+ / 0-)

          but you should be able to see it, Noddy.  In fact, I thought you were the only one that could.  My understanding was that the diarist could see the notation but others could not.  So I was trying to clarify that and find out.

          But now you know there's a notation there, at least until it either makes it's way through the gauntlet of rescue or doesn't.  Look up at the top and see if you can see it there.  And now, of course, it has a "Rescued" tag, so my feeble attempts to keep that secret are out of the bag.  ;-)

          "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway

          by Got a Grip on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 08:08:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There's actually 2 ways (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Oh Mary Oh, Noddy, Got a Grip

            The first way is a note that I think only the diarist sees - at the top of the diary.

            The second way is one that anyone can see (afaik) - the "Also republished by Community Spotlight" at the bottom of the diary.

            I never knew about the first way until I recently noticed it on a diary of mine that I queued up to another group.


            « When we revolt it's not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because for numerous reasons we can no longer breathe .»
            -- Frantz Fanon

            by BentLiberal on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 10:30:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Even though I'm prolific (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Got a Grip

            my understanding of how DKos works and all the notations and symbols and such lags far behind.  I'm learning, but it's a slow process.

            How many helicoptors does it take to make the color blue?

            by Noddy on Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 08:35:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  It's the 'republished by' feature at diary bottom (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Oh Mary Oh, Noddy

        "Also republished by Community Spotlight."

        Appears in the bottom of a diary as soon as it is queued (happens for any "republish" actually, not just CS).

        « When we revolt it's not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because for numerous reasons we can no longer breathe .»
        -- Frantz Fanon

        by BentLiberal on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 10:27:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, thanks for this diary. (7+ / 0-)

    We've been experimenting with various fruits, vegetables and herbs.  We're still learning what works and what doesn't.

    We live in a townhouse condo and we farm the front and the back of the unit.  We have in-ground planters in the back and frequently grow gourds that reach up into the branches of the tree.  (At one time, we had 15 of them ripening above our heads.)  We experiment with various methods of curing, carving and coloring.

    For the past ten years, when I meet people, I usually manage to 'mention' starting a garden and encouraging them that if they do nothing else, they need to learn how to feed themselves - and others.

    One Thanksgiving, when we were new at this, we had mashed potatoes that grew in our front yard.  It was a memorable meal.  They tasted wonderful and there were no left-overs.

    My son and grandson bake bread. We make our own yogurt and ice cream. Others have noticed and started their little spreads. My daughter and her husband put in a garden last year and were so chuffed at the results, they doing it again this year.

    Keep up the good work.  You're not alone.

    Do what you can with what you have where you are - Guild of Maintainers

    by bablhous on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 06:33:17 PM PDT

    •  It's pretty awesome (6+ / 0-)

      being able to provide your own essentials, isn't it?

      How many helicoptors does it take to make the color blue?

      by Noddy on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 07:00:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The kids are the most impressed. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I remember planting my first seeds - radishes. Selected, I now realize, because they gave such great results in a short period of time.  And that's how I started my children and grandchildren in the Wonderful World of Dirt.

        One of the great-grandkids lived in an apartment with NO dirt available for planting. So we got him a planter box that sat right outside the front door. It was the first thing he checked in the morning and he watered (and weeded) like Old MacDonald.  He even grew a couple of miniature corn plants (with edible ears), some mint and radishes and carrots.  He notices changes in plants now and helps me in my garden.

        It is awesome, indeed!

        Do what you can with what you have where you are - Guild of Maintainers

        by bablhous on Fri Jul 01, 2011 at 10:50:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  zucchini bonding? ha! zucchini BOMBING (5+ / 0-)

    when the zukes get going
    only the brave get cooking
    and cooking
    there was a season when bags of zucchinis appeared (oh the masked marauder) on everyone's front porch.
    "have you been zucchini'd yet?"
    "ah. perhaps tonight"

    thanks for this noddy. happy me reading you.

  •  Grass (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    Its the villain we all must face. Im supposed to hate scottland so I blame them, but i get the feeling my irish ancestors had just as much to do with it.

    It saddens me deeply. I lived in wyoming a while and I find nothing to be as pretty as natural plant growth. And that was in a place that helpfully had cacti that stuck to the ground. (That helps no one, by the way.)

    this boring boring rseources sapping parasitic plant needs to go. It may seem minor but thats only until you realise the volume.

    Maybe I'm smarter because I know cats can be bats can be rats can be hats can be gnats can be thats can be thises. And that doors can be boars can be snores can be floors can be roars can be spores can be yours can be mine.

    by kamrom on Thu Jun 30, 2011 at 09:59:03 PM PDT

    •  Interesting (0+ / 0-)

      Grass grows wild in the UK. It's the default setting if it's not wooded. Veggies grow quite happily here, though some years there might be blight and another aphids. Nonetheless something edible will come about if you wait around long enough.
      My question is: what edible thing grown naturally in Wyoming other than deer and prairie chicken? I had a horrible time trying to fight the bugs and drought in comparatively lush Texas and imagine that  most of Wyoming would present a real challenge.

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