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LIFT Review: Choosing a Sustainable Future: Ideas and Inspiration from Ithaca

CHOOSING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE: IDEAS AND INSPIRATION FROM ITHACA, NY. By Liz Walker
Did you know that Lyttelton Timebank was the first one in New Zealand? Margaret Jefferies, of Project Lyttelton, made a visit in 2004 to Ithaca, New York, with Helen Dew of Living Economies, after attending a conference on complementary currencies, and came back and started Lyttelton Timebank in 2005. Since then, Timebanking has gradually spread all over New Zealand. So has Living Economies, the backbone of the LIFT Library.

Margaret is a real “kick-starter”, which is why she visited Ithaca, because that city has a history of initiating ideas and systems that are focussed on community, sustainability, cooperation, local production, environmental stewardship, social justice, and honest prosperity.

This book, published in 2010, covers a huge range of developments in that area of Ithaca City and Tompkins County, famous for its Cornell University, its liberal politics, its Farmers Market and so on.
As the world’s population becomes increasingly based in expanding cities, and focussed on making money, the qualities of village and small community life are easily lost, along with our connection to nature. But grassroots action valuing cooperation between people and respect for all life is growing in many countries, including New Zealand. LIFT Library has much material on this aspect.

This book is a leader in this area. I urge all LIFT members who care about improving our local world to read it (as quickly as possible, so others can too!) and choose an aspect introduced here that you can focus on yourself. In the meantime, if you go to Youtube and look for Liz Walker, Ecovillage in Ithaca, you’ll see her background, which got her into writing this book.

Here are just a few topics from the 15 chapters, that I feel are especially relevant for us here:

Learning from the First Nations (in our case, Maori)
Growing a local food culture – Farmers Market, Greenstar Cooperative Market, Community Supported Agriculture….
Green Building/Green Energy – EcoVillage…
Building a Livable City – smart land use and transportation alternatives – including bikeability and walkability, biodiesel, the Commons….
Local, Living Economy – Sustainable Enterprise and Entrepreneur Network, Transitioning to a Local Economy, Local Currency (Ithaca Hours)….
Educating for a Sustainable Future – at all levels….
Getting the Word Out – Alternative Media (remember, this was written before the internet took over)
Health and Wellness for All – Whole Community Project, Healthy School Food Project…
Addressing Racism – a problem that is obvious in the US, but is bigger here than we like to admit..
Ithaca is Gorges – (referring to the local beauty of nature) Energy Boom, Water Quality Bust? (sounds like us!) Preserving Our Natural Legacy…
Turning Waste Into Gold – Waste as a resource, Garbage Capital, Green Purchasing….
Local Government and Institutional Change – Cornell University’s Climate Action Plan 2009 details – the goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050 – we’re a long way behind!....
Changing Culture, Changing Lives – Save a Forest…Plant Yourself, SewGreen…
Art at the Heart – Ithaca Celebrates - festivals, arts, theatre, creativity…. (sounds like us!)
Bringing it All Together – Creating a Positive Future, Transition Towns, Specific Tools for Building a Future….

I strongly recommend this book to LIFT members who are interested in helping improve our world in small, ground-level, local ways. An easy read. One of the best in the library!

LIFT review: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

“DRAWDOWN: THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE PLAN EVER PROPOSED TO REVERSE GLOBAL WARMING” edited by Paul Hawken 2017


This is one of the most important books to arrive in the LIFT Library. Not many books on climate change have a constant tone of positivity – this one does!

When strangers ask me what is in the library, I say something like: “Ways to fix the world”. This book is like a 240-page encyclopedia of 100 ways to “fix the world”, not just the issue of global warming. It echoes many books from many sections of LIFT, including environment, economics, food, and community.

The book (and Youtube clips about it) shows that there are many methods that can achieve various levels of effectiveness in solving the problem of global warming. The information has been gathered by a huge worldwide team that over 3 years “gathered comprehensive lists of climate solutions and winnowed them down to those that had the greatest potential to reduce emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere.” ‘Drawdown is that point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline on a year-to-year basis.’

The top 80 solutions are divided into broad topics, and then each described in full, including their effectiveness in drawing down of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the year 2050, and where possible the net cost and the net savings in US$. The broad topics are: Energy, Food, Women and Girls, Buildings and Cities, Land Use, Transport, Materials. Then there is a section of Coming Attractions – inventions and innovations that are close at hand.

One of the aspects I really appreciate is that the solutions described (in easy-to-understand language with fascinating stories and beautiful coloured illustrations) “lead to regenerative economic outcomes that create security, produce jobs, improve health, save money, facilitate mobility, eliminate hunger, prevent pollution, restore soil, clean rivers, and more.”
Many of the top 80 solutions described relate strongly to issues here in New Zealand that can create argument and frustration – such as Farmland Irrigation (#67); Walkable Cities (#54); Trucks (#40); Mass Transit (#37); Silvopasture (#9) (new to me)– the integration of trees and pasture or forage into a single system for raising livestock, from cattle and sheep to deer and ducks” ; Plant-Rich Diet (#4); Reduced Food Waste (#3).

Wouldn’t it be great if our government (whichever, after September 23rd 2017!) got into action on the policies so strongly supported in this book – and thus made a genuine difference to our contribution to worldwide efforts to contain global warming, as well as helping our society and our economy into a better state of health.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate

Naomi Klein

This is one of the most important books in LIFT.

It explains everything about what’s wrong with our world (well, almost!). It tells us about everything that is being done and that can be done to change the situation and save our future (well,  almost!).  If Naomi Klein had included any more topics the book would have been too heavy!  

Read more

The Big Shift: Rethinking Money, Tax, Welfare and Governance for the Next Economic System

by Deirdre Kent

This book was launched at the Living Economies EXPO, 31st March – 2nd April, in Lyttelton. Many of the topics in it were discussed during the three days of inspiring presentations, panels, Open Space discussions and free-time chats.

It’s a very short book, 93 pages, and can easily be read in one morning if you don’t follow up on the many footnotes indicating useful backup information in books (some in LIFT) and online links.
Most of it will be easily understood by the common reader with no background in economics, because it is full of real examples of failures and successes of various methods of managing economic systems.

Unlike most books on the topic, the author presents on p.5 a summary of the book’s proposed new system, so you don’t have to plough through the background to reach the conclusions. Then you get the detailed proposals, with examples of past and present failures that cause the need for change, and successes proving the value of the suggestions. Climate change is one of the big risks the world faces, especially with the fossil fuel issue, bringing the need for action now in the economic world, if we want to successfully adapt to the next economic collapse. Buckminster Fuller is quoted: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” This book’s new model will include a money system, a tax-and-dividend system and a partnership model of governance.
“1. From bank-created money to a consciously designed and publicly created and controlled currency.
2. From ‘ownership’ of land and resources to sharing the values of the commons.
3. From domination to partnership.”

Why should a reader who is not an economist read this book?

“Though banks and oil giants have size going for them and ‘corporations rule the world’, their size is also their weakness……Smaller groups can be more nimble.” Think of the effectiveness in NZ of the waves of small-group action in the anti-smoking movement, and the Nuclear-Free groups. “If small communities reassert their right to govern and reclaim some major functions, the corporations won’t know who to sue first.”

And here in Lyttelton and greater Christchurch we already are stepping along the way of transition, for example with worker cooperatives, social enterprises, savings pools (and hopefully Christchurch dollars); in other parts of New Zealand other initiatives have been set up – land value rating (local tax) systems in Wellington and Napier, and a community land trust for Kotare village; and public banks rather than private have been hugely successful in the BRIC countries.

The book concludes with 20 brief statements of the positive results of this “BIG SHIFT”. My favourite is “No.2 - New life in industry, and a sea change in horticultural and agriculture methods.” But I applaud all of them!

Lift Review: The great disruption: how the climate crisis will transform the global economy

The great disruption: how the climate crisis will transform the global economy

Paul Gilding, 2011

There are many books and films telling us that our world as we know it is coming to an end. This one does too – but in a very wise and balanced way: the world as we know it is unhealthy and harmful, so we need to change our ways to make it a better one, and avoid the worst possibilities.

The author refers us back to books and activists in the past, as far back as Thoreau (1817-1862), Rachel Carson in 1962, ‘The Limits to Growth’ in 1972 – and many more who should have been heeded earlier, when it would have been easier to transition to a more comfortable world.

He became an activist at 17, in the anti-apartheid campaigns, so he knows what can be effective. In his working life he has been a labour union organiser, a member of the Australian military, a fulltime antinuclear campaigner, joined Greenpeace and become the CEO of Greenpeace Australia, attended many international conferences including the Earth Summit 2002, and then set up Ecos, a consultancy which worked with some of the world’s largest corporations, hardwiring sustainability into their business planning. This project is just one example of an achiever who does not simply attack a group or activity for causing the problem – he finds ways to get them to change themselves, in their policies and practice.  This is based on his conviction that no matter how vividly a picture is painted of the coming crisis caused by climate change, most people are not going to feel empowered to take action until it hits them in their pockets – then they will seriously consider changes in their lifestyles and priorities and investments.

Gilding cites World War II as an example of our capacity to respond to a crisis when forced to. He believes that a war-like response is required now.  “Over the years of World War II, we saw rapidly decreasing inequality, decreasing individual consumption, decreasing material living standards, and yet rapidly increasing public health, and all with a huge degree of public support. Life expectancy during World War II for civilians increased at more than twice the rate of any other years in the twentieth century even as so much death surrounded them.”

The book is full of examples of what is needed and how it can be achieved, in such a way that I simply had to keep reading.

Optimism is a key component of his work as a motivator and as a writer. “Hope is a stance. It’s a belief system I choose to work within, because it’s more effective - it makes me feel better. And most importantly, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela did not win their particular movements by advocating despair.” And this book excels in providing examples of changes already being made, that create hope, and energy, in the reader.

This makes it a “must-read”!

 

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LIFT's Reviews & Summaries

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 Wanting to read one of our great books but just don't have time?

Just ask Juliet for a summary, she has several available by email including:
  • "Blessed Unrest", by Paul Hawken
  • "Fleeing Vesuvius", by FEASTA and LE
  • "No More Throwaway People", by Edgar S. Cahn
  • "Sacred Economics", by Charles Eisenstein
  • "The End of Money and the Future of Civilization", by Thomas H. Greco
  • "The Future of Money", by Bernard Lietaer
  • "We the People", by John Buck and Sharon Villines