Over the years Transition Putney has hosted numerous lectures and presentations by many foward thinking authors and new economy advocates.

Tina Clark

How do we prepare for a transition to the new economy in Jamaica Plain? Join us for a presentation about the Transition Town movement that is sweeping the U.K and the U.S. Learn what other communities are doing to create local-scale, ecologically-oriented development models to adapt to our changing environment and economy.

About Tina Clark:
Tina Clarke has been an advocate, educator, consultant, and director of nonprofit programs since 1985. She was recently a consultant with Bill McKibben’s global 350.org initiative and the Sustainability Institute. She has been providing professional training and support for community leaders and campaigns for over 20 years. Tina lives in a below-zero energy, passive solar-heated, Platiunm LEED, low-toxic “Power House” that she helped design and build. In 2009 the home won the Massachusetts utility company-sponsored competition, the Zero Energy Challenge, and in 2010 won the NESEA award for zero energy buildings.  The house is free of all fossil fuels and wood-burning, and generated 2.5 times more energy than needed in 2009. Text from The Jamcia Plain Forum


Tom Wessels:

For 3.5 billion years life has not only sustained itself, but has thrived on this planet.  To create sustainable systems we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we only need to embrace the foundational scientific principles that govern sustainability in all living systems. This presentation covers three of these foundational principles: the law of limits to growth, the second law of thermodynamics and its realtionship to entropy, and the law of self-organization. Examples of how these laws work in the natural world will be used to show how they can be applied to human systems like a community or an economy.

Tom Wessels is an ecologist and founding director of the master’s degree program in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England.  He is former chair of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation that fosters environmental leadership through graduate fellowships and organizational grants.  He serves as an ecological consultant to the Rain Forest Alliance’s SmartWood Green Certification Program.  In that capacity Tom helped to draft green certification assessment guidelines for forest operations in the northeastern United States and adjacent Canada.  Tom has conducted landscape level workshops throughout the the United States for over 30 years.  His books include:

“Reading the Forested Landscape”
“The Granite Landscape”
“Untamed Vermont”
“The Myth of Progress”

“Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape” is Tom’s latest publication.

Chris Martenson

One of the great thinkers of our time. Chris offers critical insights and context into these unprecedented economic times and present the necessity to create resilient local economies. His groundbreaking research has educated many people internationally to feel more in charge of their future, choices and assets both individually and in community.

“Chris Martenson, PhD, local to the CT River Valley, is the author of The Crash Course, and his findings have been presented at
the UK parliament, UN, to major corporations, Wall Street, on TV, radio, in print and to millions via his popular website.

 Charles Eisenstein

“The Era of Growth is over.” Why? Because we have already turned so much of nature and human relationships into money that there isn’t much left to monetize. And there’s the little problem of how money is created (debt), and the little problem of compounding interest (there will always be more debt than goods). And, of course, the little problem of living on a little (finite) blue-green planet. But last night 7/1/2010, Charles Eisenstein, author of The Ascent of Humanity and Professor at Goddard College, was quite upbeat in his assessment of the current economic conundrum. There are a lot of very practical ways to adjust to the changes taking place. Charles will soon publish his new book, Sacred Economics, detailing the many strategies for shifting from outmoded growth economics to re-remembering and embracing various iterations of gift economies. Last night he stimulated a lot of good conversation at the Putney Library with some provocative samples of his thinking.

Simply put, anything that we do for someone else without money transacted builds a gift economy. And that same gift serves to shrink the money-growth economy–we contribute to “the recession”. Here’s another way to think about it: interest generating economics have been in play for, I’m guessing, a couple thousand years and globalized only in the past one hundred or so. Modern Homo sapiens have been around for two hundred thousand years or so, so that’s about 1% of history with money or about .05% of our history immeshed in what many of us take as normal: globalized growth economics. What about the other 99 plus percent of human experience? Well, there were a lot of gifts given and received.

The best description that I have found of gift economies is in Lewis Hyde’s book: The Gift. In many, if not most, indigenous cultures needs are met with gifts. If you need some squash seeds and I have some, I simply give them to you. It’s a gift, but not free of obligation. Whomever receives the gift is obligated to “keep the gift in circulation.” I might not be the person who receives the next gift (this isn’t barter), but as a member of my community, I know that as long as the gift stays in circulation, my needs will also be met. When I need something, someone will gift me. There are many stories from indigenous cultures explaining how the most “wealthy” people are the people who give away the most. They are rich in relationships–and relationships are the basis of true security.

One of the main obstacles to genuine community, going back to Charles Eisenstein’s talk, is, as he puts it: “We don’t need each other.” We buy whatever we need. Our transactions lack soul (or spirit). No real relationships (obligations) are formed. If the grocery clerk dies, another takes her place. I might not even notice. An what of the things we sell? If I love my work, if my work is sacred to me, the how can I put a price on it? Money is backed by nothing, so I’m trading something sacred for nothing? How sad. On the other hand, if it’s sacred to me I might want to share it freely. Imagine the possibilities. Perhaps it is difficult to imagine; the current economic system shapes our worldview to a large extent. But, if it is true that the Era of Growth is over, then what takes its place? Charles used the metaphor of birth in his lecture. Birth can be thought of as a “crisis”, but once the baby is birthed, the crisis isn’t resolved by butting the baby back into the womb! We are not returning to a prior state of “normalcy”.

 Charles described his participation in gifting circles where folks gather (in a circle) and each person names something they have to give and something they need. And how simply, and almost magically, relationships are formed, needs are met, and generosity experienced. I remember reading somewhere that indigenous gift economies were described as cultures of abundance, whereas commodity economies were characterized as cultures of scarcity. It makes sense to me thinking of the gifting circle: There is a limited number of items offered, but an infinite number of possible relationships to be formed. Moving toward a gift economy simply shifts the focus from things to relationships as the source of value.

Well, I’ve ended up mixing in a bit of my own thinking in with Charles Eisenstein’s. Consider it a gift! You can visit Charles’ blog site for his own wording of this and other topics. http://www.realitysandwich.com/blog/1736. I expect there will be a lot of continuing conversations as a result of last night’s talk and by necessity as the current economic system either falls apart or gets birthed into new forms.

 You can view a video by Charles Eisenstein here.

-Charlie Laurel