Ute’s Stilts-Walk for Democracy (Jan 20 and 21)

By Ute Engelke (Transition Palo Alto)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In an effort to restore democracy in this country I am excited to walk on stilts on Friday in San Jose and on Saturday in Palo Alto at the “Move to Amend” event (for details see below).

I would love to see you at the event, but if this is not in your locality I hope you will participate in a “Move to Amend” event in your town. Please go to http://movetoamend.org/ and join this fast growing movement for a constitutional amendment to firmly establish that human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights and that money is not

Friday Jan 20
“Occupy the Courts,” sponsored by Santa Clara County Move to Amend in coordination with many other events around the country
St. James Park, San Jose
Noon – 2pm (includes a march to the Federal court and City Hall)

Saturday Jan 21
Help commemorate the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to unlimited political spending by corporations
El Camino and Embarcadero, Palo Alto
11:30am – 1pm

Here’s a link to more information about Occupy the Courts:

and here’s a link to learn much more about Move to Amend:

Getting to San Jose:

You can get to St. James Park easily by taking the 522 VTA bus down El
Camino to the Santa Clara and 1st stop. Here’s the schedule: http://www.vta.org/schedules/SC_522EA_WK.html. Caltrain and light rail also have service to downtown San Jose.

You may also want to watch http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-citizens-united-v-fec/ and see why I am so excited to be part of this movement.

Image of stiltwalker is from Image from Rdikeman via Wikimedia Commons


Charles Eisenstein to speak on Sacred Economics – Dec 18

Films of Vision and Hope
Sacred Economics Today

Announcing a special non-film opportunity: Films of Vison and Hope is sponsoring a special evening with Charles Eisenstein, author of The Ascent of Humanity, and Sacred Economics, and narrator of the widely-viewed video “Occupy Wall Street — The Revolution is Love” (http://tiny.cc/ws07b).

Sacred Economics Today

Learn about the changes happening today in the money system, how we can all active change agents, and how to change our own relationship with money.

  • How the financial system is falling apart, and what might come afterwards
  • How what’s happening now is part of a larger process
  • How the transition will affect our connection to ourselves, other beings and the planet
  • How can we better fulfill our life’s purpose
  • What constitutes true wealth and what love has to do with it

We’ll talk about how to apply the principles of Sacred Economics to our own lives, goals, and activism. We can indeed live in Sacred Economy today, seeding cultural rebirth through our words and actions.

Sunday, December 18, 2011
5:30 pm Community potluck
7:00-9:30 pm Talk

At WorldCentric, 2121 Staunton Ct., Palo Alto, CA 94306
FREE, suggested donation $15 to cover speaker-related costs

Register at http://sacredeconomics.eventbrite.com

About the speaker: Charles is a teacher, speaker, and the author of numerous works, including The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics. His writing focuses on themes of holistic health, consciousness, economics, and civilization. His writings on the web magazine Reality Sandwich have generated a vast online following; he speaks frequently at conferences and other events, and gives numerous interviews on radio and podcasts. His short online YouTube video “Occupy Wall Street — the Revolution is Love” received over 100,000 views in November. See the video at: http://tiny.cc/ws07b . A Yale graduate in philosophy and mathematics, Mr. Eisenstein has served on faculty at Penn State’s Department of Science, Technology, and Society, and is currently on the faculty of Goddard College’s Health Arts and Sciences Program.

For other Bay Area Tour dates see: http://www.connectionaction.org/event

Tour Co-Sponsors Acterra, Bay Area Community Exchange, Bay Localize, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Connection Action Project, Evolver Bay Area, Films of Vision and Hope, International Society for Ecology and Culture, Silicon Valley Action Network, Silicon Valley NVC, Transition Albany, Transition East Bay, Transition Palo Alto, Transition San Francisco, Transition Silicon Valley, Transition US

Transition Palo Alto sponsors Introduction to Resilience Circles

By Thomas Atwood

On a balmy September evening in the Bay Area, 27 people gather at World Centric in Palo Alto to learn about the resilience circle movement. Many are already participants in Transition Palo Alto, and bring a mature understanding of the ecological basis of our collective pain. Others come at the invitation of friends, or out of curiosity. They’ve come to learn about local consciousness raising groups that face economic stress together in a supportive setting. As the evening progresses, the group experiences the power of a primal ritual. Some might attend the same event and argue that a ritual never took place. But, like any good story, it always happens when humans tap into the collective wisdom of the faces around the fire.

Debbie Mytels recording "cultural messages."Debbie Mytels recording "cultural messages."

An opening reading from Meg Wheatley, Turning to One Another, sets the tone. Each voice contributes a line of the reading in turn, as though a Greek chorus had arrived just for the occasion. A round of introductions reveals a cast of characters that you might stereotype as comfortable, middle class residents of Silicon Valley, ground zero of American prosperity. The magic begins.

“What are the economic signs of the times?” facilitator Debbie Mytels asks. The room erupts with a familiar narrative. Small, local businesses are closing, and we’re seeing more empty storefronts. So many people don’t have health insurance, and six of them here in the circle. Adult children are living at home with their parents. Business people are running our education system. Worker productivity has increased over 40 years, but wages are stagnant. America has become an auctioning block of deep online discounts. Sailboats are going for a bargain at $2500. People who still have jobs are doing the work of three or more people. Employees of huge global enterprises are anxious, stressed, isolated, crying at their desks, and taking large doses of antidepressants.

The list goes on. A Stanford professor asked a student to lecture on dumpster diving. A technical writer with a PhD in English from Stanford couldn’t get a three-year supplemental employee contract renewed at a global software company. Another PhD had to go to Korea to find a job. People we know are internalizing the pain and blaming themselves, taking unhealthy solace in spectacle, illusion, and fast food. When the anesthesia wears off, the pain returns.

After an outburst of insights like these, the reading for Facing Economic Change simply cements in what’s already been said. Tough times lie ahead, and we are in a stage of fundamental transition. We won’t have more debt-fueled economic growth, and our economic model is not ecologically sustainable. A resilience circle is a place to support one another and prepare. The choir in the room wants to burst into song, but first the facilitators want to discuss cultural messages about the economy.

As more voices contribute to the circle, the burgeoning energy of the narrative takes on a life of its own. The media glorifies the wealthy and sets impossible standards, too many of us taking comfort in the hope that we’ll become “one of them.” Pundits foment fear. Talking heads scapegoat the poor, immigrants, feminists, gays, academics, the “elite liberal establishment”—anyone we don’t know well enough to hear their story. “You’re on your own.” “Be afraid.” “The world is divided into winners and losers, and losers shouldn’t get anything.” “The private sector and the invisible hand of the free market will fix everything.” “Go shopping.” “It’s your own damn fault.”

People are ready to talk about themselves, and the agenda opens the floodgates. The group breaks into pairs for a discussion question. “What are one or two ways that the economic crisis is touching you, or someone you love?” After ten minutes the group reconvenes to share back, and facilitator Thomas Atwood can’t write fast enough on his easel pad.

It starts with everyday frustrations, such as the distractions of an interrupt-driven lifestyle, hidden fees and penalties from banks, and 40 minutes on the phone trying to cancel a DSL service. It gets worse. Six people in the room have no health insurance, and one gave up in frustration trying to get through the process of comparing plans. A brother in law was laid off at age 65 just as he was asking for time off for surgery. One participant attributes a huge rent increase to a landlord trying to recoup his stock market losses. Another person had a 53% rent increase in January. A sister with a ten-year-old daughter has been homeless for three years, making her way through the shelter system and relying on the generosity of friends. Another woman volunteers for a rotating shelter at her church. After a series of job losses, a sister who started out as an Executive Director of a San Francisco non profit has given up on having a professional life in the US, and is now working in Afghanistan. A friend is living in a truck in the parking lot where someone works. Financial stress is forcing one woman to sell her house, which she characterizes as “her paradise.”

Mytels handles the logistics of next steps with a deftness born of years of experience as a community organizer. The group will take the seven-session curriculum from the national Resilience Circle Network together and finish by Thanksgiving. After working out the details, the group closes by standing in a circle and reading an excerpt from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: “… I am not yet discouraged about the future. Granted that the easygoing optimism of yesterday is impossible.”

As if leaving is difficult, many linger in the room for conversation and debriefing. By 3:41 AM, Bart Anderson (a Transition Palo Alto organizer) has set up a Yahoo Group for the new resilience circle, saying that “I was keyed up after the great meeting of the Resilience Circle, so I thought I would use some of that energy productively.”

“It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.”

From The Moon Is Always Female, by Marge Piercy

Thomas Atwood greeting people at Palo Alto's first Resilience Circle.“Author Thomas Atwood greeting people at Palo Alto's first Resilience Circle.”

From Thomas’s bio:

I believe that the role of the magician in society was more interesting in antiquity, and I occasionally revive the “trickster” role in the persona of my magician alter ego, Alfonzo the Conjuring Fool. Alfonzo is crazy about the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco (See http://www.faithfulfools.org). HIs magic tends to surprise him as much as it does anyone else, fostering awareness of mystery and of the real-world misdirection and shell games going on all around us.

Speaking of foolishness, I earn my living as a technical writer in Silicon Valley. My poetry envisions relationships among spiritual, psychological, and scientific perspectives on the human condition.

I am learning to be a community organizer, because local and regional relationships have the best chance of surviving the coming collapse of an unsustainable industrial civilization powered by cheap oil. So I work with friends to organize resilience circles and build hope for a soft landing.

Grand Boulevard Initiative

Envisioning the Future of El Camino Real

Speakers from VTA, Strategic Economics, and ReConnecting America discuss:

  • Bus Rapid Transit along El Camino Real
  • Economic and environmental impacts of clustering jobs and homes on a transportation corridor
  • Successful corridor development

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
7- 8:30 PM
Sunnyvale City Hall
City Council Chambers
456 W. Olive Avenue

Sponsored by the American Planners Association of Northern California, Strategic Economics, VTA, ReConnecting America, Sunnyvale Cool, Urban Habitat, the City of Sunnyvale, Greenbelt Alliance and the Grand Boulevard Initiative El Camino Real.

“No on 23” grassroots group opens in Palo Alto

Logo for the new campaign in Palo Alto, No on Texas Oil

Logo for the new campaign in Palo Alto

Walking home on El Camino, I saw a storefront festooned with campaign signs saying “No on 23” and “Stop Texas Oil”. It was the newly opened headquarters for the Stop Texas Oil campaign. From their website:

“California already has on the books one of the toughest anti-global warming laws in the world (AB 32), and it goes into effect next year but not if a bunch of Texas oil companies get their way.”

Several people in local Transition meetings have brought up the “No on 23” campaign, since it ties in with the Transition concern about global warming. This particular group concentrates on the grassroots campaign, as opposed to the media campaign. This fits in well with Transition’s grassroots orientation.

The campaign workers John and Spencer are fresh-faced young men, not long out of college. They seemed to respond to Transition’s slogan of being “more like a party than a protest.”

If anyone is interested in volunteer work such as phone banking, house parties, or handing out flyers at farmers’ markets, you can contact the local office via the website at
or at their office at 3491 West El Camino Real, Palo Alto.

For a detailed, non-partisan report on Proposition 23, see the entry on BallotPedia:

Coming hot issue – anaerobic composting plant

A proposal that is sure to be hotly debated in Palo Alto is the anaerobic composting facility near the Baylands.

On the plus side, the plant would handle organic waste such as yard waste, sewage sludge and food scraps, turning them into compost suitable as a soil amendment. Electricity would also be generated. Proponents point to cost savings in waste disposal, as well as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since waste would not have to be transported elsewhere.

Opponents object to the use of 8 acres of what was to have been parkland.

Visualization of the proposed anaerobic composting facility

Visualization of the proposed anaerobic composting facility

This proposal involves issues dear to the heart of the Transition Movement: recycling, green house gas emissions, energy self-reliance and composting. 

One positive role for Transition would be to encourage informed and respectful debate. Other communities are watching us, so we have an opportunity to set a good example

Explaining the technical aspects of the process is also important. For example, how many people know what anaerobic composting is? What are the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions of the proposal? Why might energy self-reliance be important in the coming years?

More information

UPDATE (Sept 27, 2010). Post Carbon Institute just posted a chapter on Waste from their Post Carbon Reader. The complete PDF and a short video are available online:
Climate Change, Peak Oil, and the End of Waste
by Bill Sheehan

UPDATE (Oct 5). Volunteers are now gathering signatures to put the proposal on the ballot.

Related news article from the BBC: Oxfordshire town sees human waste used to heat homes

Anaerobic digesters in Palo Alto?

Transition Palo Alto member David Coale writes:

I’d like to invite you to a presentation on the potential for anaerobic digestion to convert Palo Alto’s 60,000 tons/year of organic waste into green energy and high quality compost.

The presentation will be on Wednesday, March 24 at 7pm at World Centric, 2121 Staunton Court in Palo Alto.
World Centric is located behind JJ&F Market on the opposite corner.

Anaerobic digestion has the potential to save the City more than $1 million per year while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. It could generate $1.4 million worth of green energy, enough to power 1,400 homes. Retiring our sewage sludge incinerator would save $800,000 worth of energy and $200,000 in waste ash disposal. The compost would be worth $200,000 per year.

The only feasible location for an anaerobic digestion facility is at the entrance to the City landfill next to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, not far from where we currently compost. The challenge is that the landfill is scheduled to become part of the 126-acre Byxbee Park, and rezoning about eight acres (7%) for composting would require a vote of the people.

Come learn more about anaerobic digestion and how you can help make it a reality.

For more information, see the Anaerobic Digestion Factsheet (PDF) that David also sent.