Summer Research Seminar 2011

After three successive seminar session in Berkeley, QIF once again met in Bar Harbor, Maine, June 19-24, 2011. During the week 12-15 Friends from varying backgrounds and with different perspectives met amongst the maples and pines along the seacoast at the College of the Atlantic. Though approaching our research topics from different angles, we were surprisingly unified in searching for effective strategies for social, economic, political and personal change in response to climate change and resource scarcity.

Afternoons offered time for personal reflection and research. (Keith Helmuth pictured)

Morning sessions included the group in worship sharing and discussion. (L. Joy, K. Helmuth, D. Millar and S. Perrin pictured)

Summer 2011 seminar participants.

A summary of the topics presented:

1. Know Thyself: Introspection and the Figurative Landscape – Steve Perrin
Steve is exploring the most effective way to use his time after completing his book, Know Thyself. His studies have shown that the bulk of our experiences and perceptions are more subjective than objective. He values the uniqueness of the individual. How does this inform our actions with regard to the promotion of non-violence and concerns about climate change?

2. UN Green Economy Initiative (GEI) – David Millar

UNGEI essentially supports 1) payments for environmental services, 2) green shift and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, and 3) safeguarding indigenous peoples and peasant livelihoods. Problems that David identifies with the UN approach: 1) It will be funded with “market mechanisms” all of which are currently voluntary (except within the EU), 2) This will result in “commodifying” the world’s commons, and 3) Corporations have bought their way into the UN process.

3. The Current Situation and Positive Alternative – Ed Snyder
Ed evoked the picture of Wiley Coyote, who runs off a cliff and keeps running on thin air, only to crash eventually – we are running on thin air and are about to crash. People are living as if in denial of reality; it may take a generational shift for most people to recognize the situation. Corporations control business and all branches of government, including at the international level. This has led to plutocracy and extreme economic disparity. Ed taught us that when you are presenting a gloomy scenario, you must also provide a vision of a better world. He described the advances in Mondragon, Spain and Kerala, India.

4. Dancing in the Rays of the Antarctic Sun – Laura Holliday and Joy West
Laura and Joy have made a film based on their travels and perception, exploring diverse cultures and natural beauty on 7 continents. Their goal is to raise awareness and facilitate understanding cross culturally, by connecting on an emotional level with their audience. The film, a mix of video, still shots and poetry, has been entered into 10 film festivals. Joy and Laura are looking for feedback and ideas, especially on funding and how to distribute the film. Some film highlights: incredible natural beauty of Paradise Bay, seal floating on ice flow, Laura’s juxtaposition of her luxurious travel on the Atlantic compared to her ancestors trip on a slave ship in the Middle Passage, La Boca in Buenos Aires, giant icebergs and dramatic skies, powerful poetry about atrocities committed in the name of religion during colonial period in S. America.

5. How Do We Move The Body Politic To Respond To The Climate Crisis? – Shelley Tanenbaum
Abundant information about the climate crisis has not motivated the level of social change needed to mitigate the crisis and respond to its consequences. In order to effectively address the crisis we need to develop and apply more potent strategies for effective social change.

Shelley explored the feasibility and utility of holding a consultation among social change theorists to identify strategies. Modeled, in part, after the consultation of economists who gathered and ultimately produced Right Relationship, this event would bring together 15-30 knowledgeable, skilled social change theorists and practitioners for a weekend or full week to set a framework for developing these strategies.

6. Developing our Energy Future: Residential Heating with Wood in Hancock County, Maine – Gray Cox and students
As an example of how social change manifests, Gray and his students have evaluated the use of local wood as a fuel source in Maine. Local wood as an energy source reduces the carbon footprint, increases energy security, provides local jobs and is part of the traditional identity in Maine. The study looked at why people chose to use or not use wood. Choice appears to have more to do with social identity than economics.

7. Confronting the Latter Days: A Memoir from the Future by Lytton Caldwell – Keith Helmuth

Keith is reviewing Lytton Caldwell’s work in light of how social change occurs. Caldwell’s work made environmental regulation mainstream, yet he was disappointed that environmental law did not go far enough; cultural values did not change along with the regulations.

8. Human Nature and Sustainability – Leonard Joy
How do we mature as humans and as a society? We are now transitioning from an externally directed (laws) society to an internally directed society (means and goals are congruent). What are our shared goals and vision? How do we measure our progress?

9. Restructuring the Economy – Al Connor

Exploring ways to localize our economy to include equity and environmental concerns.

Quaker Institute for the Future