Reaching for what Good Looks Like; the four keys to happiness; envisioning fossil-fuel freedom & local autonomy; System Justification Instincts & how to manage them; towards cosier, homier neighbourhoods; restoring our relationships to the wild; Cost...
Reaching for what Good Looks Like; the four keys to happiness; envisioning fossil-fuel freedom & local autonomy; System Justification Instincts & how to manage them; towards cosier, homier neighbourhoods; restoring our relationships to the wild; Costa Rica’s enduring systemic overhaul valuing education, nature and equality; Margaret Mead Citizen groups; the Paulo Friere two-step & honouring our Caterpillar Fears.
Written, Produced, Financed and Composed by Heather McLeod in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Song lyrics and (sometimes) chords on the episode page for which they were composed this season.
Welcome to the Finale of Season Two of Something Different This Way Comes. Nine episodes over the last nine weeks, and I wrote a new song for each.All of which you get to hear again in this episode.Starting in the middle:
Oh the Places You’ll Go
As I review all the information and conversations covered this season, I start seeing a vision of the we need to steer towards. So buckle up - the places we’ll go in today’s episode are visionary. What Good Looks Like is the theme of the season. And the more I add up how these good changes, how these shifts and rebalances add up, is all about neighbourhood. Cosier, homier neighbourhoods. More Sesame Street or the King of Kensington.
Less of those box-store parking-lot labyrinths that made it hard for me to remember which City we were in to stock up on groceries or gas or pop in and replace swim suit bottom I forgot to pack for our Western Road Trip last summer. Because they all are so much the same.
The future I think we need to steer towards (because it is What Good Looks Like) is more one of a kind. More bespoke. More tailored to and connected with the specific piece of the planet in which it is rooted and with which it is working to adapt to this Climate Crisis.
The future I think we should steer towards is walkable. More neighbours you know, more you do in your neighbourhood. Neighbourhood schools and jobs. Neighbourhood businesses and watering holes. One of a kind neighbourhoods that are widely inclusive, including so much variety among the people who call it home. Welcoming neighbourhoods that are not just affordable - they ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met. No hunger. No homelessness. No medical needs unmet. No one excluded. Everyone is okay - easily, respectfully, inclusively where they live. And where we all know what goals we share, and celebrate our progress towards them
A few years ago Arno & I spent some time in Glasgow. My sister married a Scotsman in Scotland so we came. And the coffeeshop we went to was popular with municipal workers perched on stools with their walkie-talkies and tools dangling from their belts and the TV above the counter tuned to the local news which updated in every cast how much of the energy used in the City that day had been from renewable sources. From Solar and Wind and Wave. And when it got to 100% bells literally rang on all those municipal workers walkie-talkings dangling from their belts and they looked up with bit goofy grins and high fived on another. How cool is that?
…On lifting Chigaco
You Can Count on Me
let’s take a moment to talk about our system Justification instincts. Why it is hard work for us to embrace change. We are all deeply wired to resist it. I mean the history we study looks closely at times of societal transformation,but take a step back and what is most striking is how long and how oftenpeople live with social structures that are unfair, that are inefficient. Systems that don’t benefit the majority of people in them. Why doesn’t that majority change those systems to their benefit? That is the question.
I was just listening this week to an interview with John Jost. He’s a psychologist at New York University who researches why our instinct is to defendand support our systems, even when they don’t benefit us. System Justification. We all have it. His evidence is so strong! And kind of daunting.
We resist change, even change that makes sense and benefits us.
And yet we make great changes: women won the vote. Apartheid was repealed. Waterways have been cleaned and pollution stopped. Aerosol sprays no longer burn a hole in our ozone. Residential Schools were closed. Indoor smoking was banned. Same Sex Marriage is legal.
Big changes - but they didn’t happen because someone figured out they should happen and let everyone know. Big changes are not binary actions - we used to do this, then we stopped and did something else. Big Changes are paradoxical venn diagrams of shifting expectations, the fruits of committed, persistent efforts that overlap and interact and inform one another. Necessary and important changes for the better take work. They take organized efforts. They take time. They take the courage to talk, then to gather and act, and they take persistence.
Be an Ancestor that did good with your time on this precious planet. Like Betty Carpick recommends in the finale of Season One.
That’s what good looks like.
When we build those connections to other people, strengthening our commitment to the qualities that make us most proud to be Canadian: our health care, our education, our democracy, how we welcome immigrants and support refugees,how fairly and equally we treat one another. We have so much to be proud of, so much to build on and reinforce.
We have made mistakes, grievous mistakes, and overlooked or excused great harm. We are riddled with systemic justification and can certainly do better. But we know how to do good. We want to be fair, to include everyone, to adapt. This is our time to up our game again, fill the gaps, raise our bars, check our blind spots, this is our time to gather everyone in and make sure we’re all respected, we’re all included, we’re all empowered we’re all okay
Which is going to mean clearing away from bottle necks. Bottle necks that choke off good work done by caring, hard-working experts collaborating together to combine their good ideas into a better, multi-faceted solution.Like the rebuilding of New York City after Hurricane Sandy. And the restructuring of Holland’s ancient cities to adapt to the extreme water rolling towards the Sea in the extreme weather of this Climate Crisis.
I am thinking of systems that squeeze people and their good work out. I am thinking of commitments to fear that block and trip up opportunities to Do Good. We need to trust more, to delegate and finance and simplify. We need to roll back over sight and policing and raise expectations and opportunities
That’s the Good I think we should be steering towards.
And this is our time to reconnect with our Mother. Mother Earth. All the wisdom of the wild. Her water. Her connections. Her teaching. Her desire to heal and help and restore. We need to stop pretending we are better or wiser or should manage the wild and figure out how to be humble, connected and led by the wild.
This is a huge, fundamental change.
But that is where the power is. That is the source of our wealth, our security and happiness. The wild. We need to restore it, and our connection to it, in every way we can.
This land, our home, is rich because it is wild. Our history of exploitation and extraction, imposition and mismanagement is recent.And the Nations who live sustainably for the generations upon generations here in what we call North America before European Colonialism came, and indeed all over our wee planet. The people who stayed home sustainably, have defended that wild even through when those who left their own Native home to imposed themselves and their unsustainable ways on other people’s land. Even through these impositions of exploitation, degredation, extraction and inequality, so many Nations have defended their homes, so that we have as much wild wealth as we now have. To restore from, to learn from, to connect to.
This is not a competition. This is a quest. We need to build relations with all our relations. Human and non human. That is the key to our resilience and restoration of a healthy balance of a sustainable human presence on this beautiful, incredible planet.
Less mowing, More Growing (from the Ground Level Lessons Season Debut)
Changing our relationship with our planet is at the heart of the good change we need to reach towards. That means building our autonomy too. Building our independence from Global Food and Supply Chains. In season one I talked to Brendan Grant of SleepyG organic farm in Pass Lake, and he had done the math. It’s not a question of whether or how, it’s a question of when.
What cannot be will not be.
And investing our limited resources into making food grown unsustainably a huge distance away from where it is eaten does not make sense. We as a species have built a system and subsidized it, so that well-traveled complicated food costs us less than whole, locally grown food. Like imagine trying to make cheerios all by yourself. Grow the oats. Gather the honey. Then what a production. Just think what it would take.
Oh the inefficient use of our global human resources lead to a box of cheerios being a cheaper breakfast than a loaf of sour dough bread and home made jam. Brule Creek Mill grows and mills flour right here in Thunder Bay. Pick wild blueberries or pick your own strawberries at Belluz Farm. We could make sugar beet sugar right here in Thunder Bay - a technique Canada perfected back in the Second World War.
But as someone who has been growing much of the food my family eats and buying locally or through the Silver Mountain Food Group buying bulk organic essentials I can’t currently get locally. I can tell you eating local is not feasible one household at a time. You need skills - gardening, preserving, cellaring, cooking, food management skills that take more time than we have. And you need time that is not easily found. But most of all, it is so much more fun and easy to do in bulk together. We are social creatures. We need to bring community back into our food production.
That’s what Good Looks Like.
We have to start making our own cereal. And stop subsidizing the global food systems that are unsustainable. And that means changing how we grow and keep food. That means growing and harvesting what we need without imposing our ideas of efficiency on the soil, water and air. But working with the wisdom of the wild so we feed ourselves and rebuild our precious soil, water and air.
We can decarbonize our planet even as we feed all eight billion of us. The science has been done, the precedents are there. It will take effort, and persistence, and more hands in dirt at least as we transition from fossil-fuel follies to restoration. There is plenty of plain old grunt work pretty much everyone can help get done. And I got to say, gardening is healing work, it can heal the earth and it can heal our hearts. It would feel good to roll up our sleeves and all pitch in a little more easily - together.
And growing food locally also means storing food locally. It means local storage of fruit and vegetables - spaces built for that purpose so things that are ripe and ready to harvest for a few weeks a year, are fresh to eat through the many months until the next year’s harvest. It means local canning, dehydrating and fermenting. It means all hands on deck when a harvest is ripe. It means greenhouses and indoor gardening for winter greens. It could mean so many good things we know how to do.
And we will get better at doing season after season - gardening keeps you humble and discourages inattention. It keeps you grounded, literally. That’s one of the Good Things I think we should steer towards - local food as a part of our seasons and community culture. Demanding that the subsidies that make internationally traveled and chemically preserved food cheap gets shifted to local food systems.
We could make local food free and sufficient to feed us all.We just need to decide that’s where we want to go - and keep persistently pushing towards that goal. Prepared for the inertia and balderdash of system justification.
Sustainable farming means saving the mother micro-cosms in healthy soil, so that the soil deepens and grows richer with every harvest. It makes me think of Dr. Seuss and Horton Hears a Who -those billions of living things in every handful of living dirt, close relations to those essential partners who live in our digestive tracts and turn the food we eat into the nourishment that feeds us. We are a single and small part of such a miracle of life. Its systems are too vast, ancient and interconnected for our brains to fully grasp. We catch glimpses and are awed, and tempted to assume we get the whole of it and can outsmart Mother Nature - as my son Sam warned against in the first episode of this season: Ground Level Lessons. We need to get out of the way of Mother Nature.
And that means dismantling things that we now know do more harm than good. Like chemical-based farming practices. And the dam on the Black Sturgeon River that Phil McGuire has known since it was built in the 1960s. We need to save the mothers.
Save the Mothers
You think Canada is fair and democratic now? You’re proud of our education and or our healthcare? I think once we up our game, fill those gaps, build on our values - you’ll see really homey, unique communities. So much more to be proud of, to be a part of.
When I imagine this new autonomy, where all basic needs are met, I imagine great Thunder Bay organizations in every neighbourhood. A Dew Drop Inn in every neighbourhood with a Roots Community Food Centre and urban farm, an Underground Gym & a Boys & Girls Club, an Evergreen Community Centre and a Debruin’s Greenhouse, a SleepyG Food storage centre and a Brule Creek flour mill and bakery; a 55+ Club; a repair cafe and a library, sports spaces, counseling services, Elevate supervised injection and harm-reduction services, free and fabulous addiction care supports of all kinds. I imagine food gardens and so much more growing spaces. Wild spaces honoured and supported as oasis and links keeping us rooted in our mother earth and connected to this wild world.
I’m afraid I just hit you right in the Status Quo there (to quote the System Justification specialist John Jost). I got your systemic justification defenses ringing in your ears, screaming out: impossible, focusing on all the obstacles between that vision I think we should steer towards and where we are now. The way we know so well. The systems built into our hopes and plans.
So - let’s just sit for a moment here with grief and fear
I am sad - I grieve the cost of good changes we have denied ourselves.I grieve the species now extinct. Forever gone. So many we didn’t even get a chance to notice before we erased them, casualties of our impact on this world. I grieve the people who have died in this Climate Crisis. The homes lost and that will be lost. I grieve the sorrows we will lessen when we make these good changes. Until we change, those sorrows will continue and they weigh on my heart.
When we gain this greater democracy, this greater autonomy, this better inclusion there will be less sorrow, less to regret. And then I will regret all that we lost by not doing it sooner
And I am scared.
Scared of all we will get wrong, because perfect is not on the pick list. Less bad is better, but it won’t be perfect. And that’s scary too.
Do What You Can Do
As we shift from global supply chain dependant, to significant local autonomy we won’t just grow the food we need. And store and cook it. We will grow our local production of other things we need too. The efficiency of mass production will sometimes be insufficient to outweigh the cost and risk of transport.
So we will stockpile differently - the allure of failing to stock-pile essentials should have been sufficiently tarnished by the PPE crisis in early COVID. The cost and delays of transport as we transition swiftly away from Fossil Fuels will encourage stock piling. And the business case for local production of all kinds of things will improve. With tools like 3D printers and our incredible capacity to put heads together to innovate and problem solve, I think micro-production is in our near future.
That and the return of the repair shop. Ben & I have been volunteering as fixers at Repair Cafes here in Thunder Bay. So far we’ve had two and at both we had more fixers than we had people coming in with things to fix. So we brought along our own things to fix together. And man what a great time. So satisfying to figure out how to fix, to have the right tools or skills, and to succeed. Yes we saved something from the trash, but oh it is so much more than that.
When I lived at Castlegreen Housing Co-Op we had a staff of a few repair people, and a tool shed anyone could borrow from. Though more often I would ask the repair staff for advise on what tool to use and they would drop by and simply fix it for me. The library has lending libraries of gardening tools and fishing gears. There are so many ways we could more efficiently pool our resources.
And connections are built not just through conversation, but through working together.
Communities that share work, that’s powerful stuff. I think that’s something we will be doing more of as we work our way through this time of transition.
Through this climate crisis that has made Air Conditioning not a luxury but a necessity even here in chilly Canada. The heat dome that killed hundreds in Vancouver last year could hit any of us, raising our temperature & humidity to the killing point.
Making sure everyone has a home, and that home is as energy efficient as it can be, heating when it’s cold, cooling when it’s hot, clean air without the carcinogens of Natural Gas appliances - we’re going to need to up our game to pull that off. We’re going to invest in neighbourhoods and renovations of private spaces, as a community we are going to invest in one another.
We cannot afford to fail to meet these basic needs.
All Bring Our All
I want to talk for a minute about Costa Rica. Did you know that Costa Rica has not had a standing army since 1948? In 1948, after years of exploitive economies and unrest there was a revolution. A Civil War. In Central America, a region bedeviled with unrest and inequalities until and since that time. But with that revolution Costa Rica made some systemic changes all at once that have made such a difference.
Having won the civil war with an army, the winners disbanded all armies - including their own. Instead of investing in military roles and tools, they invested in education, equality and in restoring their wild spaces.
The vote and other civil rights had been denied women and people who had been enslaved, or their family had suffered slavery - that wrong was righted - all were made full citizens.
Banks and insurance companies were nationalized.
Now the country is proud to have more teachers than police officers.
They have taxed fossil fuels heavily since the 1950s and invested in renewable energy. They also invested those fossil fuel tax revenues in restoring their forests, so that they have gone from 47% forest cover in 1990 to 60% forest cover now.
Costa Rica is richer because of these choices they made and stuck with through many changes in leadership over many decades. Costa Rica was not able to do this because it is a rich country. Our capacity to make these good changes has little to do with how much money we have and everything to do with how we choose to invest what we have. Our capacity to make good differences happen has everything to do with people.
People who gather in a Margaret Mead circle of caring citizens and start practicing the Paulo Friere Two-Step
The Paulo Friere Two-Step
I wish for us all to find our Margaret Mead Circle. Or circles. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has. Which makes me think of bees.
When I look at the fields around our house during the Spring honey flow they buzz. There are so many pollinators, our honey bees and so many more wild pollinators. And they are getting things done, transferring nutrients, sparking life, feeding their babies. They are social creatures. They all go home and work within their small group - all committed to get the important things done.
We have the advantage of the broad perspective. We have been to space and seen our small blue planet with his miraculous tender skin of life of water, soil, air and deeply interconnected life.We have changed so much on this planet, we have work to do: we need to clean up after ourselves, we need to break our bad habit of using fossil fuels. We need to stop allowing there to be Have Nots among us, we need everyone to be okay. We have work do so, absolutely.
But oh man can we ever get stuff done.
The pollinators don’t need a grand scheme, they work as at the hive level, small groups. But add up the impact of all those little things done by all those small things. And their small groups and man - it’s beautiful, powerful stuff.
Love Love Love - Buzz together our Hive Mind
So there you have it - the Finale of Season Two of Something Different This Way Comes. A summary in song. Each of which was debuted in an episode this season that I hope you listen to. I learned so much. Thank you for listening and for all that you do.
I would be so glad to hear what you are learning and thinking and doing. How you are supporting the good changes you are steering towards as we adapt to this Climate Crisis. And plant the seeds to restore the carbon balance on this planet. How are you being an ancestor? What have you read or done, watched, heard or witnessed you think would inform the next season of the show? Let me know atwww.SomethingDifferentThisWayComes.caand let me know if I can share your words through my newsletter. You can sign up for that if you’d like.
This podcast is a personal project. I speak only for myself. I write, record, research and compose this all. And if you enjoy my work and would like to pitch in towards my costs, that would be so very welcome. You can find a link to my GoFundMe page atwww.SomethingDifferentThisWayComes.caas well as my blog detailing those expenses and all donations received.
Season three will start in April. Happy holidays. May these long-nights be rich in friends, fun and connection for you and all you love.
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