Here're a few things I'd like to share about the weekend.
Holly and I attended 7 sessions:
- Emotional Resilience -- Caroline Baker
- Rentier Debt and the Collapse of Debt-Based Finance -- Gail Tverberg
- How Civilizations Fail: A User's Guide -- John Michael Greer
- The Myth of Energy Independence -- Tom Whipple
- Understanding the Limits of Renewable Energy Systems -- Gail Tverberg
- The Age of Limits as Spiritual Practice -- Caroline Baker
- Progressing Towards Collapse -- Dimitry Orlov
We also attended Saturday evening's open forum session moderated by Orren Whiddon. Holly had to work today, so we took off after the third block yesterday.
While we were down there, Holly and I went down and ran into Katherine Watt as well as a few other familiar faces we've seen before at the farm. We also ran into a number of transition folks from other areas, such as from New York and Virginia.
This was the first conference of what will likely become a series. The organizers were quite pleased by a turnaround besting 170. Some came from as far away as California and Sweden.
The tone of the event was a bit more grim than we usually get to in the Transition movement; it was about tackling the more difficult discussions such as the fabled "elephant in the parlor" head on, and not really about "even small steps are helpful." Sweeping economic collapse throughout all industrialized nations, the end of consumerism and material wealth, likely mass population die off (and can there be any ethical decisions on who should die first?), societal collapse (such as that seen in the former Soviet Union and now being seen in Greece), and so forth. The key word was "Collapse" rather than "Transition" (although, many presenters did give a nod towards the Transition movement). It is very easy to be overwhelmed at a conference like this, fall into one of the earlier stages of grief (denial, despair, etc) and loose momentum on existing transition projects. I personally found myself focusing mostly on the Inner Transition aspects, such as those topics discussed by Baker. Indeed, it was most rewarding to me to focus for a while on the darker side of the message, allow consideration for the loss of much that I know and love to be likely, including my own life, and tackle it as a grieving process. While I'm still in some form of that (Holly noticed me acting aloof or "lost" in Wegman's last night), I did come back with the notion that I still want to continue full force into the Transition movement. I also want to highlight a part I think is missing or perhaps hard to hear; that we all need to hear different messages at different times. It is not all positive, but that doesn't mean that "dark" emotions are "bad" or necessarily regressive either. That said I'm not one to willingly stay in a negative or "down" state permanently, especially if it is not conclusive to healing. As I stated during the "popcorn" open microphone session, I don't believe I've changed any priorities at this conference; I've only progressed towards some and deepened my understanding towards a few others. There were also some there who were quite positive about embracing the grim sounding "collapse" (I think we do when we call it "Transition").
As I was also expecting, not all voices (presenters and attendees alike) agreed on all points. While we all seemed to agree there was a growing enormous series of problems the world over, not all agreed on climate change being man made, and there were a bit of literature floating around that seems to border into the "conspiracy theory" department (but then whose to say what is truth without knowing it first hand?). I took what I learned with a grain of salt, challenged what I heard that seemed off, and tended to agree with the overall message, that all we are considering are predictions, which are hard to make accurately, especially about the future. The bigger question is, among all things that appear poised to happen, if they do happen, which will happen first? What effects will we each see?
Much of the information presented, in particular the canon session material, Holly and I had heard at least in part elsewhere, such as in the Chris Martenson Crash Course, the Transition Companion or in other places. Some things especially in the "hallway track" were new to me, such as the perspective that those underprivileged today are "already crashed" or already in a state that may resemble what many of us who are privileged today may face. Many folks the world over may not really care about Peak Oil since they already have a bigger problem, and this is more about a "white man's problem" or a "people with privilege problem;" the pending "Peak Oil Crash" is seen by those being voiced by some here as a time when those with privilege will loose it, so it may be a bigger concern to those already with oil-enabled privilege. We also tackled (briefly) the broad issue of social inequity, how it is still not better these days, and what potential do we have for the future, both good and bad. Social equity will likely remain a key consideration of Transition.
- Collapse now, avoid the rush! -- John Michael Greer
At any rate, one of the most influential messages I received this weekend was actually just before we left town in the form of a fortune cookie : "You need to live authentically, and you can't ignore that." Call me cheesy, I think I'll follow it.
 For those who like authentic southern providence, home style Chinese food, Peking Garden in the mall is closing this week; I think their last day open is Wednesday.