Undeniable Genius Isolated from Other Movements
January 4, 2010
This book is a work of undeniable genius and to that I would add peseverence–the author and his wife Gail Straub have been on the forefront of the personal empowerment movement from the late 1970’s onward, and in many ways this book is a capstone work that bridges from the personal to the neighborhood and aspires to–but does not quite attain–the goal of being globally meaningful. I previously enjoyed and reviewed Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds–Be Part of the Global Warming Solution! but this is the book that moves the author into my pantheon of a dozen world-class thinkers on social change.
Early on the book grabs me in a Buckminster Fuller sort of way when the author emphasizes that not only do we have to re-invent the world, we have to re-invent the process by which we re-invent the world. Of course Jonas Salk and others have addressed that with Epoch B leadership, but not for mention here.
I am totally impressed by the 30 years of hard work at the grass roots level that the author builds on in this book, one of the reasons it is a solid five stars on its own merits.
QUOTE from page 45: “The intial test results from the first 200 households were very promising. Those households on average reduced their annual solid waste by percent, water use by 32 percent, energy use by 17 percent, vehicle miles traveled by 8 percent, CO2 emissions by 15 percent, and achieved financial savings of $255.”
Those are HUGE accomplishments, and severely under-stated because the author does not factor in the “true cost” of the savings, probably closer to $10,000 a person if not vastly more (fuel is actually a million dollars a gallon if you really value the time it took to create the fossil base).
I am totally blown away by the practical value, the spiritual energy, and the global POTENTIAL of all that this book addresses. While sustainabile design and design of government and community have a long way to go, the author and this book are clearly a touchstone for sustainable communities that “in passing” TURN RESIDENTS INTO NEIGHBORS.
On pages 69-71 the author lists and discusses seven broad ways to begin and benefit:
01 Use people’s time more efficiently
02 Make community change relevant to people’s lives
03 Make it easier to participate
04 Organize citizens to take on more responsibility
05 Empower local government employees as agents of change
06 Design a whole-system approach to community change
07 Raise the level of play
The entire book is a handbook for change, and while I do not see a one to one correlation with the Empowerment Workshops that the author leads (search for Empowerment Institute), the book is extremely well-organized with lists of objectives and a regular feedback look and self-awareness pages built-in where the reader can answer questions for themselves to connect directly to the book’s message–teachings is the other word that came to mind.
As I go through the book a second time to scan my margin notes I give up the idea of trying to summarize the chapters or replicate some of the lists–this is a book intended as a reference tool that must be studied. It is also clear that the time and energy required to implement all that is in this book is HUGE. As much as th book speaks to leveraging influence and optimizing time-energy investments, the bottom line is that changing the world one neighborhood at a time is a major undertaking.
Although the book mentions a number of folks I admire (and the list of readings at the end is NOT a complete as a list of all books mentioned in the text) I am slightly disappointed to not see a broader cross-section of social change activists represented–the author clearly connects with Juanita Brown, Michael Dowd, Francis Lappe Moore, and Paul Hawken, but I miss mention of Tom Atlee, Peggy Holman, Jim Rough, Margaret Wheatley, and a number of others, which is why I suggested to Tom Atlee this morning that we consider doing a CONVERGENCE book much as we did with Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace.
Below are eight links–the first four represented in this book, the second four not.
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter
Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World
Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World
Reflections on Evolutionary Activism: Essays, poems and prayers from an emerging field of sacred social change
The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
At Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog, all 1,500+ of my non-fiction reviews can be accessed within 98 categories, including Change & Innovation (109); Civil Society (61); Complexity & Resilience (77); Consciousness & Social IQ (127); Democracy (147); Environment (Solutions) (76); all the way up to Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution (142)and Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized) (49).
As I reflect on this book yet again, a third time, my strongest reservation is that it is still focused on one neighborhood at a time, which is righeous and good, but it does not acknowlwedge the reality that we live in a two-party tyranny in which all of our institutions have failed (see my book ELECTION 200: Lipstick on the Pig), in which our tax dollars are being used to wage war on the world while enriching Wall Street in the aftermath of the deliberate looting by Wall Street of the public.
This book is important–it is not, by any streth of the imagination, “the” most important thing we can do. I am also troubled by the author’s falling prey to Climate Change fraud (see ClimateGate Rolling Update at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog). There are ten high-level threats to humanity, Environmental Degradation is #3, within the latter Climate Change is at best 10% of the threat, and within Climate Change carbon is at best 10% of the challenge–hence the Carbon Trade market is a scam, an attempt to create phantom wealth, an attempt to scale the same kind of fraud associated with derivatives and sub-prime mortgages. It would be most interesting to see the author re-think this book in relation to the ten high-level threats starting with Poverty.
Overall a work of genius, truly profoundly important to our future, but a local step, not a global solution.