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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Sustaining Community’

How many times have you heard people who lived through the great depression say that?

shooting marbles
I have heard that phrase countless times from my parents and many of “the greatest generation”.  What a blessed state of ignorance that phrase describes. It is a state of profound and pervasive lack.

  • lack of self-judgment
  • lack of social judgment based on material wealth
  • lack of material pride
  • lack of selfishness
  • lack of spiritual depravity derived from excess
  • lack of covetousness, that nagging need to have more than someone else
  • lack of NEED

It inversely describes a state of abundance, both perceived and real. An ABUNDANCE of:

  • Friends – Real Personal Relationships, not phony, material ones
  • Mutual Good Will and Generosity
  • Confidence that your friends and neighbors, who are in the same boat, are with you, care about you and are watching your back
  • Peace and a sense of Well-Being
  • Focus on things that really count

I’m sure both lists could be extended, but you get the point.

Yesterday, around the Village Thanksgiving table, I don’t recall a single reference to Black Friday or even shopping other than for basic needs or how to do it efficiently. Maybe I just missed it.

I think there is an inverse relationship between real wealth and the preoccupation with buying more stuff. The person who perceives no need is not needy. Regardless of the number of zeros in one’s bank balance, a person who can hardly wait to go shopping for the latest ego-boosting bling, gadget or fad is the one in deep need, and therefore, poor.

That is not to infer that Villagers are financially poor. We’re not, although I’m sure some have more than others. The point is, nobody seems to care too much about who has what. A community that doesn’t continuously focus on or remind us of things we want, either vocally or by the things they flaunt, gives us spiritual space to appreciate things that matter more and that cost little.

In the things that matter, I think we’re on balance, a very wealthy bunch.

Are we blissfully ignorant of our poverty? I don’t think so. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would rather be intensely and joyfully aware of our wealth, but maybe it’s the same thing. As I often remind students in my marketing class at the University of the South, Perception is more important than. . .       NO. . . Perception IS reality.

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To End All WarsTo End All Wars is a powerful, gut-wrenching moral tale that lays bare the core dilemma of True Christians.  Starring Robert Carlyle and Kiefer Sutherland, the movie is set in the hell of a WWII Japanese POW camp in Burma, where a war rages between two factions of prisoners.  It is a philosophical war between justice and mercy, complete with the crucifixion of the leader of the mercy faction.

Since 2011, our world is at war everywhere.  By definition, the war against stateless terrorism defines the battlefield as having no boundaries.  It is, therefore, already an undeclared, unrecognized World War III on the verge of exploding into something even larger.  Every citizen of the world is now a soldier in some sense and a POW in another.

In a surprising twist, this powerful movie makes the case that the real war is not over territory or strategic resources.  It is a war over the soul of every man.

To end all wars;  It is a perennial quest and the hollow justification for all wars.  Is there a resolution, a real answer?  As with most profound questions, the answer is, “it depends on your definition”.

Here is the dilemma:
To take up arms in defense of family, freedom, justice and righteous principles?
Or,
To lay down arms and bear with unbearable courage and unconditional love, the hate of Satanic forces and by so doing, to overcome hate and evil in the only way that it can be ended?
These are the profound questions asked of each of us in this tale based on true events.

These questions are not unique to Christianity.  Gandhi based his life work on reaching a Machiavellian balance between an aggressive but non-violent war and surrender to love.  Thereby, he won India’s independence from England.  But he did not achieve a lasting peace on Earth or even for India.  The realist says such an earthly peace is beyond possible.  And that is true until the war for the soul is won for all mankind.   THAT is the only War with the potential to End All Wars.  It is a costly and intensely personal war.  Few are willing to wage it.  The sacrifices it requires can not be placed on others.

New Testament, Mark, Chapter 8:
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

For anyone who has struggled with the question, “why do we need a Savior to atone for our sins?”,  To End All Wars offers the answer.  Because the Savior’s example of perfect, unconditional love changes us. It saves us from ourselves.  But as the movie shows, it does not work for everyone, only those who embrace the example and live it.  For these, the war for the soul has a happy and permanent ending even if the price is high.  For the rest, war may be an eternal reality.

I highly recommend this film with a warning that neither its Christian ideals nor the graphic violence or language in it are for the faint of heart.  I’m adding it to my list of the Top 100 Movies for Troubled Times.

The Village is for people who seek an end to war, specifically the war of the soul that leads to war against people and nature.  That spirit is embodied in our theme, “in harmony with nature and people”.  Gandhi would have been a welcome resident, though he was not a Christian.  If that kind of sustainable, self-sufficient neighborhood appeals to you, ask here.

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As a college student bout 40 years ago, I read Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau. Like most people of my generation, I spent many years out of the woods, behind a desk, on planes, in endless meetings.  But, Thoreau’s message stuck.  From it, I learned ideas like

  • the importance of living deliberately
  • your stuff will own you, not the other way around
  • the true economics of Life
  • self-sufficiency is both possible and desirable.
  • the importance of living in and learning from nature.

After a career that paid well and exposed me to wealth and society, I have tried to live more simply and deliberately. In this excellent TED talk, Adam Baker does the best job that I’ve seen of recapturing Thoreau’s ideas for modern times. In the fragile, frenetic and uber-materialist world we live in, these ideas are more relevant than ever.

Inspiring experiences and memories are the rewards of a life well-lived. The stuff we accumulate gets in the way of real life.

If you are seeking to live “the Good Life” in the company of like-minded, well-informed, good and intelligent people, you might want to join us.  Inquire here

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This is a good industry article indicating that solar panel manufacturers will go through a major consolidation this year.

Consolidation is a weeding out of the smaller, less efficient manufacturers in favor of low-cost, high-volume, efficient manufacturers.  The remaining suppliers will benefit from lower supply and less intense pricing pressures.  It remains to be seen whether, in the aftermath of lower supply, prices will increase.  They may continue to decline, despite decreased pressure on prices, as new, more efficient technologies and manufacturing techniques are developed.  Or, it may signal the bottoming out of PV panel prices.  Also, there does seem to be some improvement in the economy, at least in some sectors.  This could release pent-up demand from people who have been waiting to invest in solar out of fear over a potential job loss.  If we have industry consolidation (lower supply) that coincides with higher demand, the remaining suppliers will benefit from even higher economies of scale, resulting in higher profitability and perhaps lower prices as low-cost suppliers further consolidate market-share.

By observing general trends in the high tech sector based on silicone chips, one could conclude that prices will continue to decline.  That is, unless there is some other major disruption in the supply chain (like war, political upheaval, etc.)  If prices begin to increase post-consolidation, this may trigger more government intervention and subsidization, which could also be an offsetting factor, although generally, once consolidation has occurred, fewer companies may use subsidies to simply pad their bottom lines, further strengthening their balance sheets and staying power in the market rather than reduce prices.

Industry consolidation is just one factor to consider in determining when is the right moment to invest in Solar technology that moves us further in the direction of off-grid self-sufficiency while staying fiscally conservative.  My sense is that now is at least a much better time to invest in solar than a few years ago.  I’m glad I waited.  Cost per KWh is still higher than grid-supplied electricity.  But the question remains, should I wait longer?  The economy looks to be improving in the short term.

I consider small-scale home based Solar PV not for its economic efficiencies, but more for its insurance value. Long-term, the world still looks extremely fragile.  With the short-term improvement in the economy, this may be the perfect moment to invest in self-sufficiency, whether it is a modest amount of solar PV or a more secure location on which to place it.

Achieving self-sufficiency and sustainability without bankrupting yourself requires a long-term, plodding approach.  Like Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, (remember that from college psychology or sociology classes?) one does not achieve self-actualization until the more basic needs are covered.  PV solar, is at the top of the pyramid.  First, you cover basics like food, water, shelter, Next is energy in the form of least costly and highest efficiency.  Energy for heat and cooling falls in this category.  Passive solar or bio-mass solutions are a much better alternative.    Never try to provide these using Photo Voltaics.  That would be like trying to survive in a famine on an all-corn-fed-beef diet where it takes 15 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.  Inefficient, unsustainable.

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Here, on the Southern Cumberland Plateau, there have been a number of recent attempts to establish a barter community.  One uses Face Book to publish barter opportunities, but it has become just an online yard sale.  A local farmer’s market accepts food stamps and engages in some barter.  Craig’s List offers a section for barter.  Old time rural residents of Grundy, Marion and Franklin Counties have been adept for years at striking good barter bargains.  But the fact remains that barter is difficult.  Matching two needs to two haves occurs rarely and usually with a lot of unsatisfying compromise.  All advanced civilizations rely on some form of universal currency to grease the wheels of commerce and stimulate trade within the economy.

And what of “the economy”?  How’s it going out there?    Even a casual observer will notice that “the economy” is increasingly distant.  Globalization has expanded the marketplace for goods, services, finance, labor and everything else far beyond our reach or control.  One impact of globalization is that it seems the only export growth sector for America is jobs, especially those that are high paying, manufacturing or high tech.  For several decades we have been told that America is a service economy and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing as long as you have a high paying job and can buy cheap things imported from China or India.  That makes you feel pretty wealthy.

Service economies function on lots of credit and lots of consumption.  That worked pretty well as long as the housing bubble and easy credit pumped up our false sense of prosperity.  When that popped, we bailed out the big banks and wall street investment firms with trillions of dollars of inflation generating fiat cash.  Oh yeah, that wasn’t a one-time thing as promised.  We’re still doing it.

Meanwhile, the government keeps telling us that inflation is low and under control.  But those of us not on food stamps have noticed a big difference in the cost of our every day expenses, things like groceries, gas, health care and insurance.  Meanwhile, tried to get a new loan for a house lately?  That huge cash infusion into the banking industry doesn’t seem to be trickling down.  Wonder where all that money went?  It’s still in the toilet and someone forgot to flush.  Can you imagine the inflationary impact if it had actually gone into our consumptive economy?

But the real elephant in the room is the US Dollar’s status as world currency tied to the petrol dollar.  There have been rumblings for some time that it’s time to change that.  In early 2012, Russia began selling oil to China without the intermediary US dollar.  The dike is cracked and many informed people believe it will take more fingers than we have to keep it plugged.   How many guns, fighters, tanks, air craft carriers and military bases will it take to force the world to continue using an inflated dollar?  When the dike fails and another currency becomes the global currency (Can you say Renmimbi or how about Yuan?)  what will become of the good old $US?   I have a framed 100 trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe on my book case as a reminder of what happens to all currencies when there is too much of them floating around to represent the value of their underlying goods and services.  Ever wanted to be a trillionaire?  Just move to Zimbabwe and you can enjoy that status.

These are just some of the reasons we have been considering alternative currencies for a long time.  We believe in proactively preparing for things.  We believe in being self-sufficient. And, there are many more benefits to stimulating the local economy by keeping cash circulating locally.  For a quick look at the benefits and how local currencies can work, take a look at this short video.

Surprisingly, there is nothing illegal about printing your own currency and there are a number of very successful examples of local currencies in the USA.  BerkShares in upstate New York are one of the most successful.  Here is a list of local US currencies.  You will note that, while there are several, they are still uncommon.

We think we have a unique approach to implementing the Sewanee Dollar at the Village on Sewanee Creek.  It can work initially in a very small economy based on systems already in place.  Over time, we hope to grow our economy and the benefits of participation to encompass business transactions in a much larger area.  Interested?  Inquire Here.

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I have often blogged on the importance of making a difference by thinking small, or rather, local.  Meaning, if you want to change the world, start by changing yourself.  Gandhi’s “BE the change you want to see” is the universal starting point.  Failing to do so has delivered to us a shallow culture of hypocrisy and deeply ingrained corruption from the highest levels of boardrooms to the shop floor, from congress and the presidency to the local planning commission or school board.  Epidemic corruption makes for profound distrust, breeding systemic, deeply ingrained cynicism.

The longing for Values and Integrity is why many Friends of Sewanee Creek have told me they are drawn to the dream of living in a community of people who genuinely care for one another, hard-working people of strong, traditional core values, people who are civil and respectful to each other even, or especially, when they don’t agree or have conflicting interests.  That dream can only be realized when each of us commits to be the shining example of the community we want to be in.

That starts with me.  As the obviously imperfect founder of the Village, the self-imposed burden of self-examination can be daunting.  The worst kind of cynicism can be the loss of trust or self-respect that comes from failing to meet one’s own standards to perfection.  And . . . nobody wants to hang out with cynics.

While each of us does our best to live to high standards and values, it is important to think SMALL as well as local.  We need to recognize that it is often the small acts of kindness or civility that can make the biggest difference.

This morning, I ran across an article titled, “The Power of Small Moments”. It got me thinking of the huge task I have set for myself of building a culture of goodness in the Village, let alone the daunting task of being a shining example of what I want to see.  I found it oddly comforting.  I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did.

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In this morning’s email is an article titled, STILL GROUNDBREAKING AND URGENT from nextworldTV.  Here is the text that accompanies an edited version of the original film.

“We’re literally stuck up a cul-de-sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up” – James Howard Kunstler
This is the film that years ago, inspired the spark for the creation of Nextworldtv. Released in 2004, it is still groundbreaking and urgent in it’s message and the questions it raises.
“Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness.
Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream.
But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary.
The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today’s suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Back in January of 2008, (remember 2008? Ugh!) I posted an article about the peak oil phenomenon.  In that post, I referred to this movie, “The End of Suburbia”.  On July 3, 2009, we screened it at the Village amphitheater.  Well, since its release in 2004, a fair amount of oil has gone under the bridge.  Something like seven or eight year’s worth.  Time tends to sort out the truth of predictions.  So, where are we now?  There are many who claim that we have passed the peak and global oil production is clearly in decline.  Predictions that oil companies would be forced to move to ever more exotic technologies and expensive extraction methods like fracking and oil shale or sand extraction, or ever deeper ocean drilling.  These predictions have proven true and with disastrous ecological consequences in the Gulf of Mexico, Canada and the Bakken oil fields.  Yet, the oil industry maintains that the newer technologies have made these methods of extraction cheaper, so there is still plenty of cheap oil.  OK, if so, why does gas at the pump continue to rise at such a steep pace, accented by short periods of relief?  And why is our military still in the Middle East with sabres continually rattling, now at Iran?

On the other hand, one of the claims of the movie is that we are also running out of natural gas that fuels most of our power plants.  That makes continued growth impossible and suburbia doomed.
But T. Boone Pickens, in a TED talk claims we are at the dawn of a new boom in cheap energy on the back of natural gas while reaffirming that “the days of cheap oil are over”.  Fact is, natural gas is incredibly cheap right now.  A financial newsletter that I track says that cheap natural gas, with the build-out of the required infrastructure to replace gasoline for trucks, buses and finally cars, heralds an investment opportunity not seen since the oil and suburban construction boom of the 50′s.  If cheap natural gas is here for the long term, are all our problems solved, with peak oil just a speed bump on the on-ramp to a global concrete superhighway?

Meanwhile, the great recession (depression) rolls on.  America is clearly overextended financially.  Talk of QE3 at the Fed is back in the news.  Is our current financial predicament an outcome of peak oil or, as some claim, evil banker boogeymen intentionally wrecking global economies to bring about a New World Order that will enslave us all?  The specter of hyper-inflation and social chaos still looms as the can gets kicked further down the road.

Hmmmm… Information, disinformation.  Booms, busts, fear, reassurance.  What’s real?  Still cloudy? Tired of guessing what’s coming down or when?  It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.  But, embedded in this doomsday flick is a bright spot.  Notice that the precursor to the Suburban boom of the 50′s was a more genuine promise of grand country living in a few planned, rural communities where people actually had livestock and raised their own food, but still had access to cultural refinements.  These early communities were for the wealthy, while suburbia became a caricature of that dream.  Fast forward to today, the dream of self-sufficient, country living is not reserved for the wealthy.  It’s a more authentic, peaceful way of life available to the rest of us.

Ready to stop the hand-wringing?  I think there are better reasons to check out of suburbia than peak oil.  They go back to a time when people knew and trusted their neighbors, a time when life was less complicated and people lived closer to the beauty that is nature.  It was also a time of creative invention, when Americans were confident in their own practical skills and full of the joy of exploring and learning new things because they could.  Let’s rebuild that life together at the Village on Sewanee Creek.

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For almost six years now, my wife and I have labored to build a community called the Village on Sewanee Creek.  I’ve documented our journey towards self-sustaining community on this blog.  It’s been a fertile time for such an endeavor.

The world seems to be falling apart at the seams.  The poor and middle class get poorer while the rich (1%) get richer and more powerful.  Global economies are in disarray.  There is rioting in the streets of London, Cairo, Paris…  Never mind.  It’s easier to ask what major cities don’t have riots or mass demonstrations.  The world grows more polluted or depleted.  Inflation for basic commodities like food and energy is up while the value of houses and 401k’s is down.  Food is GMO, with less nutrition but more antibiotics, chemicals and other questionable stuff.  Overhead, there are chem trails.  People worry about nuclear radiation from Fukushima.  9/11 and other false flag events enabled the Patriot Act and other constitutional abuses.  The TSA gropes us at airports and now searches bus riders and blocks highways.  Obama’s health care bill is loaded with power-grabbing provisions that have nothing to do with health, but it does a great job of paying off the big insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.  Gun and ammunition sales are at an all-time record pace.  And nobody trusts a government that has gone stone deaf to the governed, but brazenly lines its pockets from the public trough and corporate grease.  Corruption is epidemic at every level.

In the midst of all this, we the people, are divided.  Despite accusations from aspirational, hard-working conservatives, it’s not all about lazy liberals who demand a hand-out.  Nor is it just about greedy, heartless conservatives who refuse to pay reasonable wages or their “fair share” of taxes.   I count myself among conservative libertarians, but hope to have the heart of a liberal without resorting to government theft for th0se in need.  See my comments on “I like Liberals”.

It’s about something much larger going on while we squabble over the diversions.

In this blog, I have maintained that the answers are in individuals coming together, living with less greed, more honesty, more charitably, working hard and keeping what we earn.   We have to rebuild local communities where there is trust and relationships flourish.  Freedom is won and retained by people who are prepared to assert their freedom by being less dependent, especially on government.  All that is hard work, swimming upstream against a putrid popular culture that is super-saturated with gratuitous violence, sex and greed.

So, forgive me if I am sometimes overwhelmed with feelings of impotence.  I feel like I’m preaching to a very small choir (maybe a quintet?) and ignored by the masses.  So, when I discovered the video, Thrive, it was a breath of fresh air.    While I can’t vouch for its free energy solutions (simply not qualified to comment), the rest is spot on.  I love what it has to say about taking back control of our country and the world.  If you haven’t seen this one, please watch it.  There is a lot of information here.  Well worth your time.  I’m adding it to my list of “Top 100 Movies for Troubled Times”.

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Several years ago, I built a 2,000 square foot greenhouse on our land so we could grow food for our family all winter long.   We had gardened successfully on the same spot in prior years.  Greenhouse gardening was new to us.  It took a while to figure out what to grow and how to grow it in the winter season, but last winter we determined to fill it with cold tolerant vegetables and not heat it at all other than the free solar daytime heat.  We knew it would have too much capacity for us to use, so we invited other Villagers to share in the work and the produce.   We dined all winter long on fresh cabbage, carrots, kale, spinach, beets, lettuce, radishes, onions, broccoli and cauliflower.   We worked together in the greenhouse and later making sauerkraut from the bumper crop of cabbages.  Delicious.  But the best payoff was in relationships.

I want to share an email that my wife, Becky, just received from Judy (cc to me).
It gladdened my heart to see the fruits of sharing.  Sharing:

  • Transforms relationships.
  • Demonstrates trust and love.
  • Stimulates generosity in return.

The Bible teaches,

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”   Ecclesiastes 11:1

When I was a child, I used to wonder, “so who wants soggy bread?”    :)

Here’s the answer:

Hi Becky,
 
I finished filling my kraut-bucket with cabbage today, and wanted to say thank you for sharing the produce from your greenhouse.  Although we spent a few hours there planting/thinning/weeding, our reward has been greater than effort expended.  Not to mention that it is your greenhouse, your seed, your water…  
 
I’ve been wondering how you determine what is fair when it comes to sharing the fruits of our labors.  I don’t want you to feel that we are taking too much advantage of a good thing!
 
My concern is that things not go to waste because there isn’t time or energy to harvest what was planted.  I am willing to help you put up the vegetables–as an additional ‘payment’ for what we receive.  For example, I’ll chop your cabbage and bottle it (you provide the jars); the finished product is yours. Maybe I can help get the last of the beets bottled…  I know you have MANY other things that could be occupying your time.
 
Please don’t hesitate to let me know what I–and Tom–can do to best help keep things moving along!
 
-judy.

Thank you Becky and Judy and Tom and George for your example to us all.

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Brace Yourself:

Below is the full text of a long post  followed by 1stVillager commentary.  It’s a great article and well worth the time.

Is deception no longer an adaptive human strategy?

by Kurt Cobb

“A lie is as good as the truth if you can get somebody to believe it.” So goes the cynical maxim. Naturally, it contradicts the accepted public morality embodied in the saying: “Honesty is the best policy.” That saying is attributed to Miguel de Cervantes though it has been repeated by many others. I rather think that the ancient Roman satirist Juvenal had it right when he wrote: “Honesty is praised and starves.”

The way to understand these contradictory statements is in the context of evolutionary success. Animals bear deceptive markings and patterns to camouflage themselves from predators. And, animals have been known to act out lies to deceive their fellow animals. William Catton Jr. relates such a story in his book Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse:

One of the chimpanzees at the Gombe Field station provided a modern demonstration of this. He had acquired an ability to open locked banana boxes. But he seemed to know it was unwise for him to do so in the presence of other more socially dominant apes who might attack him and take the bananas. To solve the problem this ape perfected the acted lie. By striding purposefully away from camp as if on his way to a good food source, he tricked other apes who would amble after him for a few hundred yards. By doubling back alone to the then deserted camp, he could open a banana box and peacefully enjoy its contents in the absence of the other chimps who, having seen there was no food in the camp other than what was confined to boxes they could not open, did not return with him.

It’s no surprise that humans have also found deception to be a useful survival skill. Certainly, it is useful in hunting animals. Even today we use the duck blind to conceal the position of the hunter. But deception as an adaptive behavior finds its true test in relations between humans in warfare, in sports, and even in commercial activities. We are more likely to deceive those whom we consider part of the out-group since they represent a possible source of resources for the in-group to which we belong and whose survivability we want to enhance. My in-group, however, is constantly shifting. Is it my family? Does it include my friends? How about my community? My nation? Those whom we consider appropriate targets for our cons depend on what group we place ourselves in at any moment.

All of this was brought to mind by the recent failure of the Harper administration in Canada to overturn a law which prohibits lying on news broadcasts. The change was sought to enable a Canadian upstart cable news channel dubbed Sun TV News to adopt the same style as the Fox News Channel in the United States. Apparently, lying is part of the format and not being able to lie would prevent Sun TV News from fulfilling its proper role in the world of Canadian media.

Does that mean Canadians are getting the truth elsewhere? Well, not lying is not always the equivalent of telling the truth. If you lie, it means by definition that you are saying something you know to be false or at least should have known to be false. But if you are simply mistaken, then people don’t call you a liar. They usually try to correct you.

So, there are two kinds of misinformation which we are subjected to every day in human affairs. The first is merely incorrect information. It may very well be the best estimate of the truth by the teller. If we detect the error, we call it an honest mistake. If we don’t detect the error, it may have the same effect as a deliberate lie would have on our actions.

For example, it is passed off as more or less incontrovertible that the human economy can grow indefinitely without either running out of resources or destroying the climate. The argument is that high prices for any scarce resource will lead to the discovery of more of that resource or to substitutes for it. All of this will happen in time to avert any catastrophic collapse of human industrial society.

Even among some who accept the reality of climate change, there is a belief that the offending emissions can be brought under control through technology alone, that alternative carbon-free energy sources can be deployed rapidly and in sufficient capacity to replace our current level of energy production from fossil fuels, and that geoengineering projects can be constructed if need be to alter the incoming amount of sunlight or absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We will thereby save ourselves from civilization-destroying climate change while continuing to live pretty much as we do and with economic growth intact.

People who make these claims are, in my view, simply mistaken about the extent of the challenges. We cannot know for certain whether such people are wrong. But we can judge their chances of being right to be slight based on the evidence. The results of believing such information if it is false can be just as serious as believing intentional falsehoods.

This brings us to another kind of communication that is constructed of outright lies. Claims by industry-funded think tanks include that the Earth is not warming; that if it is, human activity is not responsible; and that such warming will somehow be beneficial to humans on balance. All these claims can and have been shown to be false by the actual scientific evidence. Another demonstrably false assertion is that there is no consensus among climate scientists that humans are changing the climate through their actions.

Catton explains in Bottleneck that the purpose of deception is to create a “false or misleading definition of the situation.” The ability to deceive depends on two things, the skills of the deceiver and a situation in which the deceiver’s words or actions will be interpreted as truthful. The generally rising prosperity of the last 150 years leads most people to conclude that the future will be more or less like the recent past, namely, continued economic growth with few constraints. So, claims of continuous growth fall on fertile ground.

Those who attempt to deceive the population about climate change also have experience as their ally. Catastrophic consequences tied definitively to climate change are difficult to demonstrate. And, most people have not been touched by frequently cited examples: Hurricane Katrina, the record 2010 floods in Pakistan, the shrinking Arctic icecap. Their experience tells them that at most climate change is benign.

The trends revealed by scientific research are far more troubling than the average person’s experience. While the scientific community has endeavored mightily to communicate these trends, the task has proven difficult because of the abstract nature of much of the scientific knowledge which must be communicated. This has made it fairly easy for the fossil fuel industry to muddy the waters with misleading and outright false information skillfully planted in major media outlets.

In the past deception may have been an adaptive behavior for the human species. But, as with any trait, changed circumstances can render previously adaptive behaviors maladaptive. The changed circumstance is that humans are now so numerous and so powerful through their technology that they are are able to undermine the very biosphere which supports their survival.

And, since humans coordinate their activities primarily through language, it stands to reason that if that language is now used most effectively to create a false or misleading definition of the actual situation, then the human community will not be able to act appropriately to ensure its continued survival in the face of multiple threats such as climate change, fossil fuel depletion, soil erosion, water pollution and so on. The ability to deceive then has become so counterproductive that it threatens humans with extinction.

Could this trait be somehow moderated to allow a more realistic assessment of our situation? Partly this would require a new definition of who is included in our community. If the definition remains narrow–for example, my climate-change denying friends in the fossil fuel industry–then there is little hope for change. If the definition can expand to all of humanity, then the need for deception is diminished. I no longer consider people halfway across the globe as part of an out-group who can be regarded as enemies and may be deceived without moral concern.

But overcoming deception will also require the inclusion of scientific information and observations not normally incorporated into what most humans call their experience. Of the two tasks I’ve outlined, this second one seems the more difficult.

It is discouraging to conclude that a human behavior which has been selected for by nature to enhance our survival has now turned against us. But in this way, language–which is perhaps the highest achievement of humankind–could become our undoing.

Kurt Cobb is the author of the peak-oil-themed thriller, Prelude, and a columnist for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen. His work has also been featured on Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique, EV World, and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights.

Original article available here

My Turn:

One level below the practical implications of this debate is a disturbing conflict for Christians.
Said Christ, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  When challenged, “who is my neighbor?”, he declared my neighbor is all humanity.

Yet, common sense and experience teach that at the survival level, “Honesty is praised and starves.”  My experience building an intentional community based on a combination of the golden rule and a self-sufficiency work ethic teaches me that with few exceptions, the world functions on the level of base self-interest.  People crying out for a return to Christian principles regularly engage in deception that is harmful to others simply because it works.  In its most cynical form, the preachers of many organized religions are exposed as the greatest hypocrites, calling for mutual love while plundering the gullible under the cover of religious piety.  So, even the advocates of “pure religion” are among the least trusted.

The call for mankind to unite under the banner of enlightened self-interest assumes a confidence in universal enlightenment that is more quixotic than Christ’s call to love all mankind equally.  In the disinformation age, truth ubiquitously couched in half-truths, smothers any possibility of getting to ultimate truth.  As noted, the modern religion called science is equally compromised by special interests.  It has come to the point where one must do “primary research” in order to trust the conclusions.  Secondary or second-hand science is no longer trusted.

“And, since humans coordinate their activities primarily through language, it stands to reason that if that language is now used most effectively to create a false or misleading definition of the actual situation, then the human community will not be able to act appropriately to ensure its continued survival in the face of multiple threats … “

One could infer from this that language is the problem.  But the problem goes much deeper than language.  Language is but a tool of deception, perhaps the singular tool in a devil’s tool chest that distinguishes humans from lower animals.  But the author’s final sentence clarifies,

“The ability to deceive then has become so counterproductive that it threatens humans with extinction.”

This nugget approaches the truth.  Language is not the root of the problem.  The problem is fundamental morality.  But to clarify, the root is not the ability to deceive, but deception itself, the common assumption that “Honesty starves” and survival depends on deception.  That takes us back to Christ’s call to love ALL others as yourself, not just pretend to love others as yourself.

The fog of the disinformation war is penetrated by appealing directly to an ultimate source of truth.  In science, primary research, done by a competent, meticulous scientist can yield truth to that scientist.  Once public, having left the scientist’s hands and forced through the sieve of special interests, it becomes suspect.  The same can be said of religion.  Some still cling to an older notion that the ultimate source of truth is God.  As with the newer religion of science, personal revelation (the spiritual equivalent of primary research) is the only sure way to knowledge of the truth.

I am hopeful that mankind will come to its collective senses, taking a higher road that leads somewhere other than death and destruction.  There seem to be two potential paths leading to salvation.  One is the path of universal enlightened self-interest through education, logic and scientific inquiry leading to enlightened choices.  The other path embrace Jesus Christ’s call to morality, rejecting petty self-interest in favor of the Golden Rule.  Ironically, the destination of both paths is enlightened self-interest where people love others as themselves.  Many believe there is a fork in the high road forcing us to choose a mutually exclusive secular or spiritual option.  There is no such fork.  Truth is truth, whether revealed through either the rigor of scientific or spiritual inquiry.  Both paths require rigor.  If forced to bet on one path over the other, I bet that the spiritual path has been historically more successful in elevating human behavior than the path of universal scientific inquiry.  For me, no such choice is required.  In the face of man’s power to annihilate himself and evidence that he is well down that path, we must take up Don Quixote’s challenge to “dream the impossible dream”.  But I can’t get my head around that dream unless equipped with more than a lance.  Mankind must do the right thing not only because it is logically in his selfish interest, but also because it is right and moral.  He will get there when armed with truth discovered both through scientific and spiritual inquiry.  Thinking such a quest is possible while equipped with only half the tool-chest is worse than quixotic.  It is foolish.

Full disclosure, I am a Christian and a Mormon with the spirit of Don Quixote.

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I’ve been exchanging emails with some nice folks who went to Italy to set up a ministry, ended up staying for an extended period, but are soon ready to return to America.  Laurel asks some great questions.  As I summarized what’s happening in the Village, I felt pleased with our progress and decided to share it.  The names were changed for their privacy.
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Hi Laurel,
I’ll do my best to answer your questions within the text of your letter below.

From: Tom & Laurel Fitzgerald
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2011 3:07 PM
Subject: Greetings from Italy

Hello,

We are seriously considering purchasing two lots at the Village. I believe my mother would be happier on her own lot.

I’ve spent many hours looking over modular home floor plans and trying to familiarize myself with the whole building process. We’ve never had a home built before – let alone considered trying it from overseas.  I am the kind of person to research and understand before moving forward – but then I am ready to move quickly as I’ve already spent all that time organizing all the steps and making the decisions ahead of time.

I’ve given some thought to your question about job/income.  Because we couldn’t think of actually living there earlier than 24 or even 30 months from now, it is a difficult question to answer.  However, Tom has agreed that a really neat goal would be to create a job/income via a joint-venture with others at the Village who want to create a business.  How or what this would look like, we are uncertain.

There are others here who are interested in working together to create income.  That could take any of a number of different forms including a partnership/joint venture with joint ownership or separate, yet synergistic businesses, leveraging different skills.  I have found from experience that with the best intent and integrity, partnerships are almost always problematic and tend to create friction.  So, personally, I prefer the latter option.  Some ideas and opportunities might include:

  • The Ensigns (lot 2) are deeply into the “maker movement”.  Fred plans to start an alternative energy company that builds hybrid solar systems (passive heat and PV).  He is an amazingly innovative guy with a tremendous work ethic.  He will do well no matter what he attempts.
  • George Jones recently purchased a very expensive training program that he has generously offered to share with anyone in the Village.  It teaches one how to set up an online retail/wholesale business starting simply with eBay, then graduating to building a website and social media, etc.  He is a bio-chemist and also plans to build a still for ethanol fuel production.
  • Ted Thomas (lot 12) is retired, but he has a PhD in plant genetics and really knows his stuff.  Some time ago he developed a strain of grass used on golf courses that has some wonderful characteristics.  He has indicated an interest in growing turf on plastic sheets for commercial applications.
  • Michael Stevens (lot 11) has had his own business from before he moved here developing websites that attract a lot of visitors and paid advertising.  He continues to do well with that business.  His wife, Sherry, recently got a position teaching at nearby University of the South and loves it.
  • The Fords plan to be here in the spring.  They are accomplished musicians and currently operate a recording studio that they plan to re-open after they move here.  Being close to Nashville will be good for them.  You can listen to their music on  their website.  Proximity of the Ford’s new home to the amphitheater will also be excellent. They are excited about spearheading the community performing theater effort with Village children and whoever else wants to join in.  I’m also excited about finally putting together a Village band so I can enjoy jamming together on my sax.
  • I continue to put time into developing the Village, but in this economy, real estate isn’t profitable.  So, I’m developing other sources of income too.  Recently, my wife and I discovered a health supplement that has made a big difference in our health.  We were so impressed that we have decided to take it on as distributors.  I’m also looking at a couple of other opportunities.  My escrow/title agent tells me there is still opportunity at the low end to buy and flip houses.  The key to success is buying them right and she has an inside track that she is willing to share.  Also, I have a small invention I’m working on that I will test market soon.
  • The cost developing the Sewanee Creek logo, website, blog and brand can be put to better use as the community develops.  Our combined output from gardens or other cottage industry projects can be marketed under the Sewanee Creek brand.  My wife is an expert quilter.  She has put her skill to good use recently making handbags.  She markets them at local markets and on her Facebook page.  I have experience in brand development from a career in chain retailing.  Michael’s website building expertise and George’s training program could be valuable there as well.
  • One of the most critical pieces of any business is human capital.  We have managed to attract some of the best.  There are more that I haven’t mentioned who own property here, but haven’t relocated yet.  I think we are already well positioned to thrive, not only as a self-sufficient community, but one that continues to attract talent and business innovation.

I’ve seriously been looking into the bed n’ breakfast idea and have already decided to go the short-term rental route which requires paying tourist taxes and registering a LLC. I believe we could generate a lot of interest in the location by Europeans, even if it is not a typical tourist stop in the US.

Marketing is always a big challenge, so your connections in Europe would be a BIG plus.

My one concern is that with all of my searching to read the covenants, I could only find a file speaking of it being updated with a Word file attached, but it didn’t show up on my browser. Would you be willing to send a copy of that to us? It would be very helpful during this stage in which we are exploring, dreaming, and researching.

I’m sending a copy of the covenants that were registered with the county several years ago.  You need to know, however, that I intend to make some revisions to them, in the direction of fewer restrictions.  I used a neighboring development’s covenants as a model early on because I was an inexperienced developer.  As I learned and fine-tuned the philosophy of the Village, I decided to opt in favor of greater personal freedom for private property.  That’s why I removed copies of the existing covenants from my website.  The only rules for house construction that will remain are the requirements for a large covered porch and restriction against permanent trailers.  I think porches are important to encourage interaction between families.  We don’t want the village to be a low-end trailer park littered with junk.  As written, the covenants on tree-cutting require my approval to cut trees over a certain size.  Those covenants will disappear for land outside the natural preserve.  I have lived in suburban developments before where the covenants were onerous and ridiculous, especially for a rural environment like ours where we want to encourage mini-farms with animals and technological innovation.  The intent of the changes will be to avoid excess regulation.

I’ve also been kicking around that idea Becky has about starting a retreat. That could be a very interesting idea and if she is looking for collaborators, combined efforts might prove more profitable. Tom and I have experience in organizing church retreats and mission team retreats. We’ve also worked at a Christian retreat center and between us have experience in the areas of housekeeping, laundering, food prep/service and preparing an inventory database for the maintenance crew. If this is something she is interested in dialoguing about, I would welcome that.

We would be all over that idea, except that the nest egg we started this project with has hatched and flown off. :)  Not enough left to build a nice retreat with right now.  Working together to service such a retreat would be fabulous, spread some of the work and a lot of fun, I think.  We look forward to a better day when we have some extra cash to invest with no more debt.

Completely changing the subject, we used electric golf carts at that retreat center for dropping off dirty laundry, delivering clean laundry to the various linen rooms, moving cleaning supplies between buildings, moving food from the storage shed to the dining room, for answer maintenance calls and bring supplies, and for carting flowers from the greenhouse to the various flower beds.

I like that!  We have a bling golf cart that could be used for that if we build the retreat.

And speaking of flower beds, I’m interested in understanding how the community garden works? Can anyone participate? Does one sign up? Is there a rotation? How does it all work, exactly? Does the community garden include a small orchard? What about the greenhouse? Is that your personal endeavor, or is that a community project?

Right now, the community garden is wide open.  Those who live here now have all opted to spend their time and energies building their own gardens.  As each lot has plenty of room, it’s just more convenient to tend a garden closer to the house.  The primary purpose of the community garden has always been more for socialization and learning than for production.  We have solved for socialization and learning by rotating every week between families on our private plots.  Each week, usually Thursday, we all get together to work on a project designated for and by the Village owner on that weeks rotation.  Last Friday was our turn.  We had four (4′X10′) cold frames made of PVC and 5-year greenhouse plastic sheeting. They weren’t being used and had been left outside the big greenhouse and damaged in the wind.  We repaired them and since Becky and I aren’t using them this year, lent two to George and two to Michael.  I think Michael is actually going to use them as shelter for his pigmy goats.  We put the two for George on the raised bed garden that we all built a few weeks ago on his property.  Hopefully by next week, the seedlings that we planted a few weeks ago in our greenhouse will be mature enough to transplant to George’s cold frames.  As for the greenhouse, it is our personal property, but it is larger than we can use in winter (2,000 square feet) and we are happy to share it with Villagers in exchange for help in it.  It’s working out great.  While the men worked on the cold frames on Friday, the women worked cleaning out the remnants of our tomato, pepper and peanut crops.  So, even sharing it with others we still have a lot of empty beds that need planting right now.  Everyone is really enjoying working together and sharing.
Back to the community garden.  I built some raised beds in the Commons early on with improved top soil from the local worm farm.  George has planted and tended some herbs there, but other than that, it hasn’t been used much.  The Lewis family, who are building their house now and aren’t here yet have volunteered to take it over and raise a crop this spring.  It will be good to see it being put to good use, as George will no longer need it.  As demand increases in the future, there is plenty of room to add more raised beds in the community garden.  But it’s interesting how things have evolved with people helping each other on their private land.  I think that’s even better than the common area garden.

I hope this answers your questions.  Don’t hesitate to call or write again if you have more.

Happy day of rest,
Laurel

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My wife and I have always thought that our location is optimal for living through difficult times.

Our intuitive sense was recently validated by the foremost expert in the field.   His name is Joel Skousen and you can read all about him, his analysis of world conditions and his consulting business on his website.

The third edition of his book, “Strategic Relocation” was released for sale this year.  It includes:
* 200 new pages with detailed analysis of every state and province in the US and Canada
* All new color maps for regions, provinces, and US States, showing threats, private and public land use, population densities, roads and terrain
This book can be purchased here.

A few months ago, I received an email from Joel.   He said,

“You’ll be pleased to know that the Cumberland Plateau received the highest rating for any area in the East in the new 3rd Edition of Strategic Relocation.”

In a follow-up conversation with Joel, I validated that his rationale matched mine.  If you would like to know what and why, you can buy his book or you can drop me an email, call (931) 442-1444 or send me a message from my website.

Preppers might also be interested in one of my older posts on the ten best places to survive in America.

On a side note, Mr. Skousen recently pointed out that Atlanta has the largest disparity of wealth of any large city in North America.  Thankfully, we are several hours drive from Atlanta, but that’s also fortunate for Atlanta residents looking for a safe haven within a reasonable driving distance.

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On SewaneeCreek.com, my blog and preamble to the Village Covenants I have stated that the only rule of great import in the Village should be the “golden rule”. I also recognize that this rule may be the most difficult of all commandments to live in its fullness.

Some time ago, I recorded in my journal that for the past several mornings, our family spent our morning hour considering Christ’s monumental Sermon on the Mount. I marveled how he wove together sometimes seemingly contradictory concepts, presented back-to-back, not only achieving complete harmony between them, but a richness, depth and texture only seen or felt when the tapestry is viewed as a whole, stretched out on the wall and illuminated. One such observation was his comments on being non-judgemental, immediately followed by a caution not to cast our sacred pearls before swine. At face value, the determination of who qualifies as “swine” requires judgment. But stepping back from the tapestry, I was stunned to behold the picture of a supremely wise, quiet and untrammelled person who sees no need to judge others for their shortcomings because he is so focused on overcoming his own. With such a focus, he is so much at peace that he also feels no compulsion to share (or foist) his wisdom upon others who may not understand or appreciate the subtleties of truths he holds dear, having learned them by the hard knocks of personal struggle and knowing that without similar struggle, understanding does not follow. He walks his path at peace with himself, caring about others and prepared to love and uplift them without judging and without compulsion.

With this beautiful tapestry in full view, my heart-felt at peace. I wanted only to understand and emulate the words of the master.

Recently in reading Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography, I observed this same great spirit of peaceful wisdom. Gandhi commented that Christ was his greatest example and that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is the best example of how we should live. Yet, he commented, the people who least understand or practice Christ’s teachings are Christians. Whether that is true or not, I do not know. But I do know that mature wisdom dictates that we follow the principles laid out in this supernal sermon and lay aside our petty tendencies to judge, to exercise compulsion or to arrogantly consider ourselves above any other of God’s creations, our brothers and sisters.

Although I hold myself as a flawed, yet sincere disciple of Christ, I have discovered nuggets of great truth among all peoples and all spiritual traditions of the world. I hope that, just as the great Gandhi, a Hindu, was able to recognize the wisdom of Christ’s teachings, we can open ourselves to truth wherever it is found, meditate upon it, personally adopt and emulate it and become people of deep and abiding wisdom, faith, hope, and love for one another.

Can that happen in a world so full of strife? Are the principles taught in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount really practical to live? Though many would dismiss it as impossible in our modern, complex and competitive world, I submit that it is no more difficult, no less possible than it was in Christ’s time. And if we are to find peace in this life, the ONLY way.

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There seems to be a general consensus among people that times are hard and will likely get harder.  People are fearful and dissatisfied.  Some who are awake to the fragile nature of our world are frantically provisioning for all sorts of real and imagined calamities.  While it’s good to prepare, our best preparations are not in things.  They are in us.

This is illustrated in a book I finished just last evening.  Unbroken is the true story of Louie Zamperini–a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero.  It tells of his horrendous suffering as a castaway on the Pacific and in Japanese POW camps, of deprivation, hatred, redemption and his resilient, unbroken spirit.  I awoke peacefully this morning thinking of a journal entry I made several years ago.  I had completely forgotten and was surprised to find a second notation about a dream I had where I too was an Olympic runner.  Funny how much the subconscious mind remembers and connects when all is lost to the conscious mind.  Here are some excerpts from my journal.

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3/24/2009 – Journal Entry

I have a new favorite scripture.

Philippians 4: 11-13
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

As our family read this passage, I was inspired by Paul’s strength and courage in a Roman prison – for 5 years.
We had a wonderful discussion about what it was that made Paul so strong in the face of deprivation of everything that normal people hold dear – especially his freedom. It strikes me that the last verse holds a key.
Paul asserts with infinite confidence that he can do all things. What caught my attention was the why and how of that strength. I noticed that in the King James Version it does not say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Instead, it says which strengthens me.  The antecedent that which refers to is doing through Christ.  By doing His will, acting on His eternally wise counsel, we are strengthened. Paul emphasizes an important part of that counsel when he says he has learned to be content in whatever state he finds himself.  In modern terms, “happiness is not in having what you want, it’s in wanting what you have”.

I am filled with His Spirit, His strength and His peace most, not when I am on my knees begging for it, but rather when I am doing my best to do and be as He counsels…. then I am strong, capable and confident that I can do, be and withstand all things. In those moments, a deep sense of peace distills upon me and I am happy regardless of what is going on around me.

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Some one hundred years ago it was determined that the average American had about 70 wants, things he desired to have. A similar survey was taken of his grandson and he had nearly 500 wants on his list and today, I’m sure that number is even higher. Why? Because people are not content in what they have!
(Joe Guglielmo)

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10/9/2009 - Journal Entry

In the past few months I haven’t thought much about this scripture.
Last night I had a strange, vivid, unusually coherent and powerful dream that seemed to last most of the night. I dreamed I was in the Olympics as a sprinter and surprisingly (as I dislike running and have no talent for it) won a medal. After the race, there was a great deal of pomp and confusion.  We were dressed in regal clothes with lots of patriotic emblems and medals representing our athletic accomplishments.  We were taken to special stores where we could buy more commemorative stuff and shuttled about for photo op’s and interviews. At one point the whole group was asked to think hard and come up with 100 short quips about goal setting that could inspire others.
In my dream, I came up with only one statement. It was “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”.

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Paul was right.  Self-Sufficiency is not about physical preparation as much as it is about spiritual and mental preparation.  We must learn to be at peace, strong, contented in whatever state we find ourselves.   A wise man once said, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”.  Prepare your state of mind by wanting less.

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For those in the Nashville area, this Saturday, July 16, 2011, I will host, along with my esteemed colleagues, a 2-hour discussion on preparedness colonies.  We will discuss pros and cons of different types of colonies, how to find, connect, evaluate, join or build one.  What makes a colony succeed or fail?  What do you need to be an effective member of a colony?

You can find out more, sign up and RSVP for this workshop at
http://www.meetup.com/PROVIDENTLIVING/events/22957301/

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What do you want to surround yourself with?
I wanted to write something for you about this, so I Googled “surround yourself with” and here is the advice that came up on the first page.

I agree.  I NEED to surround myself with the best, the extraordinary, so that I can become my best.  That’s easier said than done.  It takes work to attract and keep the best in your life, especially if you are looking for people who are better than you are.  I have spent the last five years of my life with that single-minded goal, to attract extraordinary people to the Village.  Our list of permanent residents is still small, but it includes people of extraordinary talents, skills, accomplishments, experiences and character traits.   To name a few, these highly accomplished people, all with post-graduate degrees in their field and stellar life accomplishments, include among their skills:  published philosopher and writer, chemist, plant geneticist, musician, Sr. business executive, successful entrepreneur, web developer, teacher, world travelers, electronics/communications expert, linguists, etc.  If you include those who have purchased land but have not yet built and moved in, the list becomes too long.  Overlaid on these skills are values of hard work, positive thinking, humility, mental toughness, creativity, generosity, mutual caring, independence, self-sufficiency and a strong desire to be part of a cohesive, sharing community.

Have you noticed that on my website, the request for information page includes a text box that asks an unusual question?  “Tell us a little about why you are interested in living in the Village on Sewanee Creek and what you would bring to the community as a neighbor.”  Do you know of ANY other developments where land is offered for sale, but applicants are asked to justify their contribution in terms other than dollars?

I don’t refer to myself as a “developer”.   My primary focus is building this community, so my business card says simply “founder”.  Unlike developers whose work focuses exclusively on subdividing, meeting government codes and selling, I actually live here and have different, vested, personal interests.  So I spend the bulk of my time blogging to attract extraordinary people, then interviewing and observing to understand whether they would be happy and contribute here.  When a person buys land in the Village, only a little of the value they are getting is in dirt, trees, creeks and a nice view.  They are buying years of my single-minded labor to assemble a community, a circle of extraordinary people.  For some, it is hard to recognize tangible dollar value in that.  Those who think the above quotes are only nice platitudes won’t join us in the Village.   They are unlikely to commit to the lifestyle we aspire to or even discover my website with its carefully crafted key search words.  And that is good.  We aren’t looking for average people who have money but don’t get it.

For those who strive to surround themselves with greatness, with people who will lift you higher, people who are like-minded, passionate, intelligent, creative and so on, to these the beautiful land is a nice incidental.

That Village residents understand and value this was recently demonstrated to me by one of them.  We were on an outing together to Nashville to see my favorite play, Les Miserable.  As we drove together I took the opportunity to discuss some community business.  I mentioned that property values in the Village have stayed significantly higher than any nearby as indicated by recent sales.  I sought their views on changes to the covenants because I want to make them as minimally restrictive as I can while maintaining the beauty, tranquility and productivity of the Village.  A Villager with two young children dismissed higher property values.  “Resale value is irrelevant to me”, he said.  “I plan to live here the rest of my life.”  Then he added, “I just want to be sure you will continue to be selective with the quality of my new neighbors.”  BTW, this young, extraordinary man is our post-graduate philosopher/writer/entrepreneur and I would say he gets it.

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I have long been puzzled by the appeal to return to a gold standard.  Yes, I know that gold has been the traditional repository of value throughout the centuries.  But what makes gold intrinsically valuable? Is it its lovely yellow hue? Its soft, malleability?  The fact that it doesn’t rust?  Or is it that, along with these nice features, there is simply a limited supply that inhibits inflation?  A currency that is backed by it should therefore not be inflatable.  That too is true, but this all seems too simplistic.

The wealth of the world is continuously increasing in line with its population, increases in productivity, scientific knowledge and technology.  So why should a fixed amount of currency representing a rapidly changing store of value be a good thing?  Wouldn’t that result in massive deflation as world economies expand? This begs the question, what is wealth?  Is it money?  Obviously not. If we were to assume that gold is money, would it BE wealth? No, it is only a medium of exchange that symbolically represents wealth. Money is simply used to grease the wheels of commerce. It is an intermediary tool used to move in and out of different forms of real, tangible wealth.

Wealth is actually food, water, shelter, clothing, cars, trucks, trains, planes, fuel, electricity, farms, manufacturing and production capacity, washing machines, blenders, microwave ovens and even electronic gadgets that people value for making our lives more pleasant.

It’s a very long time since I studied macro economics in graduate school, so I’ll admit to being a little rusty. But I was fortunate to have an excellent professor who had held a fairly senior position at the Fed, but had rejected it in favor of a libertarian philosophy.  He was an avid follower of economics Nobel Prize winner, Milton Friedman. I learned that control (expansion and contraction) of the money supply is the primary means of manipulating economic power and that power is currently under the exclusive control of a highly centralized and private banking system. As an inexperienced, young student, I lacked the practical perspective to understand the implications of what I was learning. Some 35 years later, I’m beginning to get it.  Ok, so I’m a slow learner.

To the extent that a person is reliant on a money supply that can be manipulated at the whim of another private entity, whether that is in the form of gold, paper currency, electronic blips on a computer, tulips or puka shells, we have lost the ability and freedom to manage our own lives. We are unwitting serfs in a modern feudal system shell game. We are sheep in a farm being repeatedly sheered through intentionally created boom/bust cycles of inflation/deflation and a villainous system of usury.

Is there a means of escape? Yes, but it is an inconvenient one.  People the world over are so conditioned to value convenience and comfort above all else that few would be willing to take the prescription. I know a little about the value we place on convenience. I personally created the business plan and negotiated the deal for 7-Eleven Thailand with the CP Group when I worked for the Southland Corporation. 7-Eleven is the world’s largest operator of convenience stores. Thailand, with about 6,000, now has the 3rd largest number of 7-Eleven stores behind the US and Japan.

Can you guess the ultimate convenience I am suggesting we need to ween ourselves from in order to gain back our freedom and stop the theft of personal wealth?

Contact me to explore the answer.

Visit the Village on Sewanee Creek Website

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I have occasionally hinted in my blogs that “I like liberals” or that I feel a strange kinship with some aspects of progressive thought.  As I have written these things, I cringe a little inside, expecting to be castigated by conservatives for association with such hated labels.  Finally, here is a piece that explains my feelings.  Here is the core of my hope that there is ample reason to believe that a majority of Americans from both ends of the political spectrum can find common cause if they will cast off the labels and think for themselves.

Thank you, Tom Mullen, for articulating this so well.  I include the full text of his article as well as a link to the original below.

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Why Progressives Might Enjoy Atlas Shrugged
By Tom Mullen

I had the opportunity to see Atlas Shrugged, Part I on Saturday in the only theater in which it is being shown in Tampa, FL. It is currently running at Cinebistro, a specialty theater where you can enjoy a high-end meal and fine wine served at your seat, which is very similar to a first class airline seat. Admittedly, it is just the kind of venue that progressives might associate with an elitist gathering of selfish capitalists. However, the movie itself tells quite a different story than they might expect if their understanding of Rand is limited to her interviews with Phil Donahue or Mike Wallace.

Like libertarians, Rand’s Objectivist economic theory was rooted in what we today call “the non-aggression axiom,” which Thomas Jefferson and the liberal faction of America’s founders called “the law of nature.” According to this philosophy, each individual has an inalienable right to keep the product of his labor and to dispose of it as he sees fit. The non-aggression axiom forbids any individual or group from using force to take away the justly acquired property of another. Neither does it allow for anyone to interfere with voluntary contracts, as long as those contracts do not involve the initiation of force against anyone else.

This prohibits the government, which is by definition the societal use of force, from redistributing wealth or enacting laws which go beyond prohibiting aggression. Establishment media figures who interviewed Rand immediately focused on the implications of her philosophy for social safety net programs, charging that Rand’s philosophy would not allow for programs for the poor or handicapped. While this is true, it obscures the most important implications of Rand’s philosophy for economic policy in the United States.

What would likely startle progressives watching the film is its emphasis on the evils of what free market proponents would call “crony capitalism.”  This is completely consistent with the novel, which demonstrates that the beneficiaries of government regulation supposedly enacted for “the common good” or “the benefit of society” are really the super-rich. Indeed, the film never criticizes the beneficiaries of social programs. Instead, it spends all of its time demonstrating the difference between those “capitalists” who acquire their wealth through government privileges and those true capitalists who acquire their wealth by producing products that consumers voluntarily buy.

This is a crucial distinction that has eluded progressives from Woodrow Wilson to Michael Moore. After seeing Moore’s film, Capitalism: A Love Story, I pointed out in my review of that film that there was very little that libertarians would disagree with. All of Moore’s criticisms of what he calls capitalism are really the result of crony capitalism. The biggest culprit in the economic collapse of the last decade was the Federal Reserve, a central planning/wealth redistribution institution that Rand explicitly condemns in her novel. Unfortunately, Moore incorrectly concludes that the economic distortions, inequitable distribution of wealth, and widespread harm to middle and lower income Americans were the result of a free market.

Rand would agree completely with progressives on the injustice of today’s American corporate state. That might also surprise progressives who probably assume that Rand would have supported the mainstream Republican policies of George W. Bush. Not only would Rand have condemned Bush’s version of state capitalism, but she was openly critical of Republican hero Ronald Reagan. When asked by Phil Donahue about Reagan during his administration, Rand said in so many words that he should have stuck to acting.

The only opportunity that progressives might have to disagree with anything in the film is the portrayal of the labor union official who tries to sabotage Dagny Taggarts launch of a new railroad line. This encounter takes all of about 3 minutes of the 113 minute film and is not a condemnation of labor unions in principle, but rather the illegitimate power that corrupt union officials can wield because of government privileges.

However, the true villains in the film are not union officials, beneficiaries of entitlement programs, or any other group associated with progressive philosophy. The villains are exclusively corporate executives and the government officials they get in bed with to illegitimately acquire wealth. The heroes are those who acquire their wealth by productive achievement and voluntary exchange. If one had to sum the film up in one sentence, it is an effective demonstration of the evils of crony capitalism and its difference from a truly free market.

I encourage progressives to see this film and to read Rand’s novel. If there is one thing that I hope they take away, it is that even great wealth can be acquired legitimately, when it is the result of human beings trading the products of their labor with the mutual, voluntary consent of all parties. Once progressives begin making the distinction between legitimately acquired wealth and wealth acquired because of government privilege, they will find libertarians and all other proponents of truly free markets standing by their side, fighting the evil corporate state.

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I pray that the deep chasm dividing Americans will be healed around our common desire to live free in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity, our birthright.


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Since I left my job and had time to pay more attention to what is going on in the world, I have spent untold hours/days/weeks/months/years trying to sort through the deluge of information and looking for insight.  What is real; what is true?

This video deals with the problem of information overload.  It makes the point that the most valuable commodity is NOT information, but insight and how one achieves insight.  Our schools do not teach how to think any more.  Hence, our children don’t know how to act, only how to react.  And powerful entities can now more easily pull the strings of media to get us to react in ways that benefit them.

A hopeful insight towards the end is that, if you spend the time to sift the data, you will reach a point at which all the noise becomes background, you are able to see through the data overload and know how to act.  It is at that point that one can achieve a sense of peace with what is happening around you and what you are doing about it.

Taking it a step further, if you surround yourself with people who have insight, people who act instead of react, that sense of peace can be institutionalized in the community and life can be good.

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Feedback from our Preparedness fair last July was excellent but with plenty of room for improvement.

On breadth of content, we received high marks.  But because there was so much going on, a lot of folks struggled to get involved in all the activities they wanted to, even with repetition over two days.  Things were tightly scheduled, so people were rushed getting from one venue to the next.  This resulted in the most consistent piece of feedback, the desire to have more focus and depth at the expense of variety of topics.  Incidentally, the fair happened to fall on the hottest day of 2010.

In response to experience and feedback, this year we will have two one-day events, one in the Spring and one in the fall to correspond with planting and harvest seasons.   That should assure comfortable temperatures and it leaves room on the calendar for the Village’s traditional Independence Day celebration.  The name is being changed from Fair to Workshop to reflect the increased focus on fewer activities, but by having two events this year we can compensate for fewer varieties at each workshop.

I am especially thankful that this year, the burden of coordinating, setting up and preparing for the Fair won’t fall on me.  Last year, I spent three full months getting ready.  This year, coordination and most of the planning is being handled by our newest Villager with the help of the Provident Living meetup group out of Nashville.  If you plan to come, please register with the Provident Living meetup group at http://www.meetup.com/providentliving/ Make sure you RSVP and add a comment if you plan to camp on Friday night.

That should be enough background on the main changes.  So, here’s what to expect for our Spring Preparedness Workshop.

To see info about last year’s July Preparedness Fair, click

http://1stvillager.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/hands-on-preparedness-fair-workshops/

or

http://1stvillager.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/preparedness-fair-the-village-permaculture/

or

http://1stvillager.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/preparedness-fair-at-the-village-on-sewanee-creek/

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