Monday, September 25, 2006

Back from the Community Solutions Conference - Part I

A Report from the Community Solutions Conference : Part I - the non-famous people

Well, first I have to say how glad I am to be home. I think Eric was faintly worried that all
the attention would turn my head, and home with its clutter and long list of chores would pale by comparison. But I actually was dying to come home and get to work on all the new projects and ideas that the wonderful people at the conference inspired. I missed my little boys terribly, and got very, very sick of my breast pump. Not to mention that I missed Eric terribly - I think a happy marriage can best be described as the perfect person to make all your jokes and snide comments to, and life without that is very pale indeed.

The trip was great - something big only fell off the plane once, and thankfully it was already on the ground, so we lived. That’s really all I hope for from the airline industry these days. And Yellow Springs OH is a really cool place - if Pat will hire me to be Megan’s slave and Antioch will hire Eric, we’d move in a heartbeat (well…) I especially was thrilled to meet several local CSA farmers, including the famous Andrew, who had been mentioned and described to me at least half a dozen times by the time I actually ran into him on Saturday. He’s already doing more with his farm than I am, and the thing I love best about him is that he’s mad as hell (in fun way) about all the right things, in all the right ways. Since I have a little outrage problem myself, I was thrilled to meet him! I’m also mentally collecting people - I suspect the peak oil movement is going to need a lot of new, different kinds of public figures really soon, and Andrew struck me as someone who could matter a lot (and not just because I want him to pose for my “men of peak oil” fund raising calender - btw, I wish I’d had a camera when I asked Richard Heinberg!). There’s a moral seriousness and authenticity to him that is potentially important.

I must now begin a series of apologies to people I met, adored, want desperately to meet again, and I still can’t remember their names. I’m sorry - I’m like that. I remember about 1/50th of people who name themselves to me, and sometimes it takes several tries for me to get it. Please understand that this in no way is a reflection of my liking or esteem for you, just my own neurological failings.

Larry and his partner, whose name I’ve lost, even though I met her several times (aaaggghhh) were kind enough to drive me back and forth from the Dayton airport, and they impressed me as two of the most practical and clear-eyed people out there. They aren’t sentimental (that’s a compliment from me, btw - I’m not incapable of sentimentality, but it isn’t my favorite characteristic) and Larry especially was extremely perceptive. I would never have noticed that part of Richard Heinberg’s effectiveness was that he has perfect pitch (as does Bill Clinton, according to Larry, something else I didn’t know). The two of them are living a low key, sustainable life in a small, depressed city near Yellow Springs (YS is pricey), and doing it for reasons in part of economic necessity. They are doing all the right things, with no hype and no fuss, and that in itself is admirable. Unlike me, they aren’t proclaiming things from the rooftop, just pointing out how simple and practical it is.

I met many other wonderful people - a man who is planning on transforming a large chunk of his Ontario farm into a permaculture farm, and who immediately connected me with someone who could answer questions about horses. There was the very sweet gentleman with the public health background who was speaking very seriously about zero population growth until I embarrassed him by asking him if he was telling me all this because of the number of children I have (he wasn’t, and it would have been ok even if he had ). There were several couples who read me on ROE2 or ROE3, who came up and told me how very excited they were to meet me. While I was deeply flattered, I hope they went and met some of the really important and famous people there, who merited a great deal more excitement than me.

I met people who had been in the environmental movements and energy movements not for years, but for decades. I met a lovely Amish gentleman who knows more about almost everything I want to know than I do, and who sadly kind of got shafted in the end because short time compelled us to move on from his legitimate question about patriarchy (the shafting was my fault in part - I made a joke out of it, which I often do, but I don’t think I sufficiently acknowledged that I think patriarchal and hierarchical structures are a real issue that deserves discussion). I met people who farm with horses, build amazing houses (one woman showed me the most gorgeous tiny house she designed for herself, and I immediately wanted to move in!), and people who know about almost everything.

I call it human google - want to know the answer to a question? Want to know about land trusts? Tillage equipment for small draft horses? Bicycle powered-washing machines? Ferments for beer? Hand-spindling angora? How much biodiesel it would take to keep the airlines running? What kind of solar greenhouse is best? Turn around and ask the person next to you. If they don’t know, they’ll find the person who does - on average, I think it took less than 3 minutes to answer any single question I had at any given time.

There were so many wonderful other people, and I can’t talk about them all, but I do want to mention Aaron Newton. First of all, he gave me his card the first day, and I didn’t look at it carefully until this morning - he’s *THAT* Aaron, of the powering down blog (www.powering - he’s a terrific writer and thinker, and I’ve actually been reading him for a while, but never made the connection. He’s also an editor of a new Environmental magazines, (also well worth checking out). He’s an absolute delight as a conference buddy - we're both shy about approaching people, and so we strategized together. And he’s my personal pick for the charismatic face of peak oil phase 2, the part where we need a bunch of new figures who can present the message in a way that is compelling to a mainstream audience. I’ve been watching for a while, and despairing that I hadn’t seen anyone (besides Megan Quinn, of course, who is already there) who was fairly young, smart and had the gift of connecting to people. Aaron’s got that, and if I have any role at all in determining who helps introduce the rest of America to this, he’s going to be in it (not that I’ve mentioned this to Aaron - oops, guess I just did!) His wife asked him if he’d picked up a lot of crazy ideas at the conference - well, she has no idea how crazy *my* ideas are.

Ok, on to the famous people next time I get a chance!



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