Monday, February 28, 2011
Sunday, February 27, 2011
I was recently ridiculously inspired by this project out in rural Missouri, where a handful of folks are developing an open-source set of designs for the 50 tools a community of 100-200 people (see my entry on Dunbar's number) would need to replicate an advanced civilization.
In the aftermath of this boggling of the mind, I am having a serious crisis of doubt regarding my own skills. These guys are clearly SKILLED. I am in graduate school, thankfully going no further into debt but nonetheless investing precious time in gaining a set of skills that are useful mostly in organizing other peoples' activities and industry. I want to produce. I am learning how to troubleshoot human systems, navigate bureaucracy, and listen/respond to the needs of marginalized people. But more than anything I want to see EVERYONE empowered again in the creation of their world. Of our world. Beginning with me.
That said, I am causing myself a lot of grief, doubting the usefulness of most everything I'm spending my time doing right now. So, as a matter of triage, I need to document what skills I AM learning:
* how to troubleshoot systems of human activity and production, including flow-charts, logic models, and system mapping
* how to write really good memos
* how to use technology and media to communicate ideas
* how markets work, and the basic notions of economics as they pertain to policies
* how to do two-tailed t-tests and otherwise make probability predictions
* something about financial management, especially for nonprofits
* excel for organizing information
* background research
* some business skills in marketing and development, including business plans (at least by the end if not yet)
* basic approaches to policy analysis and advocacy
And some skills I already had:
* basic carpentry
* basic gardening
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Cohen (1968: 42) defines culture as the artifacts, institutions of organizations of social relations, ideologies and all the “range of customary behaviors with which a society is equipped for the exploitation of the energy potentials of its particular habitat”.From "The Shaping of Traditions: Agriculture and H'mong Society" by Gary Yia Lee
Friday, February 18, 2011
I do a lot of listening to podcasts at work, whenever I'm doing a rote task sitting in front of the computer. I have several that I return to again and again, and I thought I'd share them with you.
Nature's Harmony Farm - A wonderful hard-working farming couple that are inspiring to listen to, as much for the sweetness of their relationship as their commitment to farming.
The Survivalist Podcast - This podcast made me finally admit I'm a closet survivalist. Not in every sense of the word, but certainly in some of them. This guy, Jack Spirko, has a fascinating way of framing survivalism that incorporates permaculture and "plan for every possibility including nothing going wrong." Sometimes he really digs his heels in against the government and taxes, but not in a way that insults people with different political views. He is just very clear about his own. He gets an "A" for effort when it comes to reaching across political differences in his interviews, to discuss things of importance to all human beings like food, community, and values.
Agroinnovations - Some of these interviews are great...one with a long-time friend and student of Masanobu Fukuoka, for example.
People would ask: So tell us, Fukuoka sensei...is this Zen farming? He would say, No, no, no, it's got nothing to do with religion, it's just farming. It's just farming. It's a timeless understanding, and if I were to call it Zen farming, then right away you would take my farming and put it into your Zen file, and then that would be a way you could say, Oh I understand it because I can compartmentalize this whole thing and call it Zen. That would be playing into the need of our human intellect to try to understand things, and by doing that, gain control somehow.
[Fukuoka] didn't want to do that, so he said: No, no, all I'm doing here is farming. But when you're a farmer then you're out in nature, and you see all of these wonderful dramas and these things of beauty, and you hear the wind blowing through the trees and so forth, and the farmer has many opportunites to break through and see God directly.
To him, the religions were an unnecessary structure that people have created to try to understand. And understanding is not part of this at all. If you really wanted to set him off, you would just say, Don't you think people can understand nature? And he would say, People can't really, truly understand anything.
From this interview with Larry Korn, long-time friend and student of Masanobu Fukuoka.