Back to the beginning. Transcript.

Transcript of taped Image Stream: back to the beginning.
Streamed by Max Wahlter, transcribed 2005 11 17

This quest is to find out how the society now living sustainably in PORENA ever managed to develop from a technology – industrial growth community to where I found them on my last visits. Where did they start? (If you have not read about PORENA before visit this link)

If you would like to know we are publishing this read

I depart in a double-decker bus from the centre as usual. Arriving at the walled city of PORENA (if you are unfamiliar with it, the city is built in a circle with a rotating indoor walkway on the first floor.) I go up the stairs onto walkway and start to look around.
The manager I met last time, Aaron Heathcliffe, meets up with me and heads off towards the train station.
“Come on I’ve got your ticket,” he says.
He runs sprightly down the steps and onto the train, with me trailing after.
“Where are we going?” I ask slightly taken aback.
“Away from PORENA to a rural area.”
“Fine with me.”
As the train leaves I ask for a briefing.
“No, no you don’t need it – hang in there.”
I sink down into the soft and luxurious seats, and the train speeds off, reminding me of trains on the continent like Germany or Denmark.

We get off at some provincial station and walk over to what looks like a town hall. Many people are milling around, having tea and being welcomed and exchanging introductions. Aaron seems to know these people and introduces me as “someone who is learning the ropes”.

It feels like we are meeting representatives of something or other, like a city council.
I stand behind my host as he chats and mills around. I have a cup of tea – very nice-, and start to get into that amenable, open conference mode.

Tea time over, we pass though a reception area for the “Offices of Sustainable Development” and into a large meeting room. A podium dominates the room at the front, with lines of chairs facing it. At the rear they have arranged tables for group work.

“A big welcome, everybody, to Aaron Heathcliffe, city manager of PORENA,” the meeting chairman expresses heartily. Aaron talks about how is he going to help us, and share his experience, a knowledge transfer session seems promised. After a few Powerpoint slides he switches into demonstrating a 3D map application. You can see land use, water supply, population etc.

He points out that the place to start is with mapping out the status of conditions for creating a standard of living. This includes the amount of food grown in the area and ability to transport the food, taking it simply. He suggests a jurisdictional area is the easiest to start with, as they often have a lot of data related to an area in that form. Local authorities can cooperate with the community better, lines of communication are simpler.

“When PORENA did this exercise we looked at what it could be like if we simply removed all cars and jobs.”

He is showing how you can “fly through” the map and data in 3D: it shows, water, land etc the current conditions to be able to support a standard of living for the community. It is a simple approach: the amount of food grown in the area, the ability to transport that food, the distance from the city, number of people, the ability to take care of waste etc. Water supplies: what can be gravity driven, the number of inhabitants for the area’s ability to produce food, manufacturing ability and transport to the outside.

If you take cars away, all fossil fuel transport, and look at how things would work. With the right database this approach will work. Especially if you choose a jurisdictional area as official statistics are usually collected at that level.

He clicks us through the animations: “Stuff coming in, stuff coming out, security, food, waste, water, transport etc. In this exercise you identify the basic conditions for a standard of living and what is a possible for the areas and what isn’t. Wind power, local supply of oil, current trading patterns.”

Time for questions “Where did you start in the PORENA development”
“We started with the mapping process. It can be done by anyone, but it does have to be done for each region.”
“Is that your suggestion to us?”

“Absolutely.” Aaron looks serious: “And make sure the information is spread widely. In this way you will bring everyone with you.

For as many as possible to understand the situation is vital. As many as possible need to get a handle on what is happening in the area. For example, what is the lack of fuel situation? Or fuel price impacts. Maybe there are CO2 restrictions. People need to see what the assets of the area are and the concerns the community faces, This kind of investigation can be done by city officials.

“The local paper, what is their involvement,” I ask.
“The local paper is a good asset if you can get them on board. They can spread information.”
“And Corporations?” I try and sound matter of fact.
“Our experience shows that without the availability of cheap fossil fuel a corporation as an organizational unit does not make a lot of sense at all. Look for corporate ownership in PORENA and you’ll draw a blank. That kind of organizational form is not well recognized here, they do not see the point of it. They just do not have any corporations, only “come along” activities! (See earlier*)

Next item on the program is talking about next steps and where to go from here.

The officials need to set up a group to find the information and start walking people through it. Making sure everyone understands it and then drawing conclusions from the data.

Aaron will not return until that is completed:
“I’ll come back when you have done that. The process of collecting information is very important and it must be publicized so it is clear for everyone what the possibilities and consequences are. If you do this right it will create a sense of urgency. And this sense will move developments further”

So my guide has done his job. He hands over the software for them to complete the information.
He comes over to me and asks if he can do anything. I borrow his genius. (That is, use his eyes to see things the way he does.)

I experience him looking at everyone packing up and getting ready to go away – they have a lot of work in front of them. Seeing things the way they are is a good way to start change happening. Possibilities of becoming self supporting will show themselves. This includes the amount of food needed and in which aspects they can be self-supporting.

In terms of social change he sees the seeds are there but there is a way to go yet. I thank him for letting me borrow his genius and ask for a debriefing on the train. We leave the town hall and get into the Pullman train and grab a coffee.

I check with Aaron: “So this place has not yet gone through the process that PORENA went through, and they are just getting ready to kick of their transformation?
“Correct. They are using me to help them”
“So the local mapping is shared by everyone and they can “walk through” it in 3D in different ways so they can consider it from many different angles like population, what they are living on, what is possible and what isn’t. Likely changes are animated and nicely presented.

At this stage they may not be aware of how much information they lack, but as they complete the mapping their awareness will increase. So it is good place to start, they WILL get it.

I ask him about the political aspects of this: like who invited him to speak.
“In times of emergency all political parties come together. There is a state of emergency. And that is the best way to get change to happen, it is hard otherwise. Emergency and urgency.

We have to show the light at the end of the tunnel is a train! When people see that they can’t have a political disagreement about it. Maybe the disagreement is what to do about it but we will see how to handle that further on. The best thing is to have a broad coalition and sense of urgency.

They have a long journey to take.
“Any other advice?” I ask.
“You might want to think about what to look for as the basics of a sustainable standard of living. And you can look into what you can do with the maps of a juridical area – all the kinds of ways of illustrating it from different angles so it becomes clear.”
As the train stops and he asks; “Now you see where the facilitation teams come in?”
I nod my head, “I certainly do, they are quite a useful if wild bunch!”
It suddenly hits me we have not talked about a transport system.
“You never mentioned the transport system”
“No, getting the basics right is the first priority. They have to realize all this themselves.”

The insights are coming thick and fast, I do not want to part from Aaron so I ask:
“The software: can you show me the details of it?”
“Sure.” He invites me up to his office.
He pulls out a large sheet of paper, looking like a playing board from a board game.
In the middle, a map of the area. Around the outside are squares representing each aspect to be analysed. Inhabitants’ health, capability of the environment to produce services, social cohesiveness and organisational stability. Then, the management of the five stresses: nutrition, shelter, mechanical, social security, toxic burden. The software assists analysis from these aspects, both in terms of what is current and what is possible given reduction in energy intensity.

I take my leave.

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