Many people are frustrated, trying to get some kind of reliable picture of where our country and our world are heading.  We see governments – many governments and at all levels – faltering.  We see corporations focused solely on their profitability – regardless of their impact on people or environment.  If we look at the “big picture,” we are in a time of massive change.

The 2012 prophesies of the Incas have been seen as predictions of the end of the world.  Actually, they are the end of one phase in our civilization, and the beginning of a new phase.  But transitions – from how we’ve been enjoying life to an uncertain future – can be uncomfortable and, worse, fearful.

Following are some thoughts from ”D,” one of the collaborators in my book, Sustainability.  They paint an interesting picture of the coming changes.

“We’ve been in “Winter” before … in the Dark Ages.  It’s a time when many have great fear … but also a lot of quiet innovation.


“It’s a time when people live in smaller villages.  The population is more dispersed, because of food.  Such villages are already forming in England.  Some villages will have specializations, such as specific religions or specific technical skills or trades.  It’s a time when some villages do amazing things … and others live in hovels.


“The spirit of each village is vital in determining how individuals thrive – or don’t thrive.  If some live in fear, they’ll attack those who are different.  Or – people might also ask what each person can do for the village, to enhance quality of life there.


“If we think of the Dark Ages, it was a time when cathedrals were built, as a celebration of a place … God shining on their community.  Guilds were also formed, to teach others some craft or skill;  they became “communities within communities.”  Artisans protected their apprentices, and gave them the tools they’d need to start their own business.  Guilds led to wealth, through trading.


“The Dark Ages was also a time of magic.  Many did not know the mysteries – which were passed on selectively.  People could try a lot of new things;  if only a few could do those things, it was “magic.”


“It was a time in which a few wanted to rule the many.  When people live in fear, they look to others to lead.


“It was a time when some arts thrived, when some knowledge was lost to most, and when many things were discovered – such as hybridization.


“It was a time when many did not travel very far – and many of those who did were either misunderstood or revered.  People see strength being within a community and chaos existing outside a community – which is dangerous.


“The times we have begun to enter will have many similarities.


“It’s a time for change from oil and cars to whatever is next.  It’s a time of scarcity, and cities have the potential for a lot of starvation – even including potential “Mad Max” scenarios.  And national governments are already proving to be ineffective in addressing any of these eventualities.


“When ‘Spring’ does arrive, there will be a high probability that we’ll find a world that has learned to work together.


“In this transition, existing communities and homes need to learn how to evolve to sustainability.  People won’t be able to sell their home and move to a new one in “Winter.”  (There may be some new homes, mixed in with existing.)  Some communities are changing … their codes, their infrastructure, etc.  Food is a very important component.  And people coming together in a community will engage in more bartering – which leads to greater diversity.


“There could be a cluster of new sustainable homes for 150 people that is near an existing community.  It could provide a demonstration of what can be done.  Their people can work with an existing community, in concert.”


The analogy that “D” uses, likening the transition we’ve already begun to the Dark Ages, provides an interesting perspective.  The technology for transforming existing homes to greater levels of sustainability exists, and is increasingly commonplace.  Our Garden Atrium project simply weaves many of these technologies together.  The little booklet on our web site provides homeowners with step-by-step instructions for achieving that transformation.  The blogs provide details about saving power – and even generating your own electricity for far less than you pay now.

The ingredient of greatest importance, food, may require a collaborative effort by a group of people in a community.  When the Mott Foundation provided the technical expertise and funds to clear the abandoned houses that made up 40% of Flint, Michigan’s inventory, and when the city rejected the change in zoning from “residential” to “agricultural,” they doomed a potential flow of food – and employment – for their population.  You’ll need to work with your community to cause changes to happen that can provide everyone with a reliable source of food.

Some communities are already making the change.  Many, many more need to do so.

I’m not sure this is the happiest picture to share.  Transitions can be difficult – very difficult.  I think of the Indiana Jones film involving the search for the Holy Grail.  The third test was the “Leap of Faith,” which required him to step out into what seemed a bottomless chasm.  Feelings of fear would have stopped him.  And they’ll stop us, as well.  We need a positive determination to cause the changes to happen, and to not live in fear.

The effort and the discomfort will be more than justified.  And …

We’ll enjoy a measurably better quality of life than we’ve ever known before!

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