16 March 2008

Learning change: a global warning

Once upon a time
learning meant hunting the wild truth
and gathering fruits of wisdom

Then came knowledge, cultivation
and competing greenhouse cults—

Now we are drowning in data
and don't know where to put it, or how
to find it when we need it.

In this flood of incompatible information
where do you find a cool clear head
among the overweight and overheated?

14 March 2008

Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

This is the latest from Lester Brown and the Earth Policy Institute. “Plan B 3.0 is a comprehensive plan for reversing the trends that are fast undermining our future. Its four overriding goals are to stabilize climate, stabilize population, eradicate poverty, and restore the earth’s damaged ecosystems,” says Brown. “Failure to reach any one of these goals will likely mean failure to reach the others as well.”

A well-considered summary of what will work and what won't when it comes to saving civilization from itself. And you can download it for free!

13 March 2008

Tricks and tracks

Though i never see him,
the fox leaves his line in the snow
for me to read.
His path is a straight one,

not wandering like the dog's,
who is pulled by his nose
this way and that …
nor like the snowshoe hare's.
Fox knows exactly where he's going.

I did see him one morning, a couple of years ago,
brazenly surmounting a pile of planks
to survey his meadow for a minute—
in plain sight, hardly ten metres from the house.
Now why would he do that?

He turned and trotted off,
and nothing since then but his signature.

06 March 2008

A tribute to Ursula Le Guin

I've been neglecting this blog for awhile because the continuing research and revision of my book has been absorbing all my thoughts. But now and then some bit of ‘outside’ reading knocks my socks off, as they say. The other night it was a story of Ursula K. Le Guin's, in her collection The Birthday of the World.

Le Guin's best work (for me anyway) is what i call fictional anthropology. Each of us is immersed in our own culture, and the only way to get some perspective on it is to encounter a different one. Leguin learned this as a child growing up among anthropologists, but must have realized that the genuine encounter depends on your ability to imagine the possibility of people thinking and acting in very different ways, for very different reasons, from those you have taken for granted. Whether this possible otherness has been realized by an actual culture on this planet is not all that important. What counts is that the possibility feels genuine, feels like a life you could be living in other circumstances.

Le Guin's command of imaginative but plausible detail, along with the eloquence and elegant simplicity of her language, make her imaginary worlds seem real enough to care about. But best of all, the reader cares because he sees these alternative cultures from the inside, and not as a detached observer. This is what makes it possible to think and feel outside the familiar box of your own culture. And this in turn gives you a feel for something deeper than opinions and convictions, something closer to the core sense of being alive.