New Year Revolutions

Sure I got my resolutions: exercise more, spend more quality time with my family, do more with less.  Those will  have an immense impact on my life and those I love the most. But in this post, I am really interested in starting some New Year Revolutions – things that work on a more macro level. If you are reading this blog, you get that we have some Big Problems and fate has placed our generation as the one to deal with them.  2010 is a critical year – shit for the next decade they will ALL be critical.  Action without purpose is wasted motion, so here are some Revolutions I want to be a part of.


The things that I need to maintain quality of life are made and controlled by people whom I do not know and do not know me.  My banker is a corporation.  My grocer is a chain.  My energy is provided by god knows who.  That disconnect equates to a loss of control.  I give thousands of dollars a year in interest to a corporate bank that cares nothing for me other than my credit score and my income statement -meaning they will turn on me in an instant.  Worse yet, they take that money and use it to fund things that are directly opposed to my value structure.  My local grocer sells products based exclusively on profit margins with little regard for impacts to community or ecology.  I believe in a future that is better than that. Here are my revolutions:

  • Move my Money As much as possible I will seek to shift the power of my money to those that share my value structure.  To fund my commercial enterprises I will seek out Slow Money investors so that the profits of my labor profit those that share my values.  For better or worse, money is power and I want more control about whom I am empowering and who are empowering me.
  • Vote with my dollars. We already do this alot, but convenience still rules the roost too often.  Whether its vending machines at work or Culver’s on road trips far too much of my money supports a future I don’t believe in.  Polyface Farms recently threw out the challenge that if every American abstained from Fast Food for a week it would shut down every CAFO in the country – we fund the current system and to that degree share in its evils.  I want more of my money to promote companies that share my vision for the future and whenever possible are from people I know.
  • Food There is simply too little food grown locally, and almost none stored commercially for local consumption.  Low Input storage of food crops and promoting the local growth of calorie crops is the next Battle to be won in Slow Food.  Romaines and micro greens are great and necessary, but rutabagas and onions in February are where the war will be won.
  • Energy. Dear god do we have a long ways to go here.  The technologies are known and some progress is being made on electricity with wind and PV becoming more accessible.  But liquid fuels are what our built environment is designed for and there is literally nowhere in my entire county where I can buy biodiesel or locally produced ethanol.  That is scary as hell.  Energy production will be a part of every commercial venture I am a part of going forward.


In many cases the skills to accomplish the goals above simply do not exist locally – either because no one has tried it or we have forgotten how.  One Straw is very much about myself and thousands of others working to fill this gap ourselves and even more importantly network and communicate with others to help it go viral.  We can’t do it all.  I will never be a community banker and I am only a passable welder.  But I can grow a potato on a rock.  Here are my Reskilling Revolutions:

  • Teach Others Doing something new, vital, and innovative is great and necessary, but to teach others to do the same is divine.  “Teach a man to fish…” From Gardening 101, to building Hoop Houses, to vermicomposting, to making gasifiers and converting cars to electric it is vital to get more people skilled in the Good Work.  Workshops, webinars, tours, and presentations.  Get ‘r done.
  • Learn Something You can get only so much from books.  At some point you need a mentor.  Teaching others is critically important, but just as important is finding those that know more than you and learning from them so the oral traditions don’t die.  The critical skills like how to hold a hoe, when a jam is thick enough, or how to lay a welding bead simply cannot be taught in books.  When you learn something from someone a little bit of magic is created; some people call it respect.

Rebuilding Community

There is far too much work to be done – one person can’t do it all… not even the incredibly Stalwart Do-ers that read this blog.  I often lose track of this one in my nose down action oreintated pragmatism. Epic Fail. It takes a village, people! There is a growing trend of “ruggedly individual” survivalists, or “preppers”.  A rather terrifying mix of ammunition, gardening, hoarding, and fundamentalist psuedo-religion and half baked patriotism.  And I cannot state too emphatically that it is not a solution to the coming calamity.  News flash psychos – there will ALWAYS be someone with a bigger gun to come and take your tomatoes.  If you are really afraid of the Mad Max scenario being the future, then take a cue from the movie and work to be the community building the refinery and smuggling out the gasoline on the buses.  They had children; they had hope. That said, far too many of us don’t know the names of our neighbors, no one carols anymore, and there are not nearly enough potlucks.  Rebuilding community Revolutions:

  • Join Something.  PTA, Theatre Group, Knitting circle.  Run for local office.  Start a reading group.  If it gives you the ability to say “Hello!” to more people at the post office then it qualifies.  This is so very important.
  • Share Something There are always too many zucchini!  Give some Christmas cookies to your neighbors -guess what, next year they will bake some for you.  Car Pool – who wouldn’t rather chat with a person rather than a dashboard about the story on Morning Edition?  Design shared space into your future – I intend to have cooperative space in the hoop house for energy projects from people I haven’t even met yet.  1+1=3
  • Eat Something Churches and our grandparents understood that since time began the simple act of breaking bread together solidifies community.  If you get together with others put food into the schedule and bring a dish to pass.  Eating creates a space of idleness – a time when it is expected to talk about family, local issues, hopes, and dreams.  A time to get to know people.  The real business always gets done in the hallways after the meeting and is based on trust relationships.   Saving the world is no different.

It all comes down to Resiliency.   When the chips are down, we really have very little idea exactly what the next decade will bring.  But, to put it mildly, I strongly suspect the weather will continue to get weirder, fuel more expensive, and “the economy” more uncertain.   The best way to handle such an uncertain, and likely difficult scenario, is to take the power back from those we have sold it to over the past 5 decades.  At this point I want to have my food, goods, and energy come from those I know and trust and live a life more connected to those around me.  It will be less convenient, it will “cost more”, and it will involve more labor on my part.  But we have sold our future for convenience for far to long and I demand more for my children.

Its time for a Revolution.

Be the Change.


9 Responses

  1. I am so joining you on New Year’s Revolutions! Will ponder and post soon…

  2. Hey Rob,

    Excellent revolutions… In reference to your first point, I bet you already know about it, but there is a Permaculture Credit Union ( They are based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, so investing with them would be a far cry from investing locally, but PCU is a great alternative to most other banks. They invest only in projecst that promote the three ethics of permaculture. I just wanted to let you know in case you didn’t already.

    Happy New Year’s!

    • Chris I just learned of its existence this year and love the concept very much. I am honestly more than a little daunted by the prospect of shifting our money – obviously the biggest bang is the mortgage, but with our intentions on moving in the next 3 years we would likely take a bath on he fees. Same goes for my 401k – I must choose from the options from my Fortune 500 employer. Once in the system it is far too analogous to being caught in a web…

      The biggest change here will likely be in how I fund my businesses going forward – no longer will the Small Business Loan be the knee jerk reaction. Friends and Family with money languishing in bonds or CD’s can invest with me for 5% APR with a delayed principal payment- they make more money, I save money and we both profit by allowing me to push my ideas further, faster.

  3. oooh great post! Revolutions I like it. I prefer to do one thing at a time and plan to do a monthly revolution picking one item a month to focus on.

    My first is to ditch the prepackaged veg and go to the local farms or market instead.

  4. Awesomely inspiring as per usual, Rob. Don’t know how you manage to keep it up, but thank you! And a Happy New Year to you and yours.

  5. Thanks everyone! Since the Bioneer Conference I have been thinking of these 3 “Revolutions” as the items giving us the Best Chance at Transitioning and they’ve become a Goal Statement of sorts for my actions going forward. If a proposed action isn’t pushing two, and preferably all three, of these general categories then I should be focusing on rethinking the action, expanding it, or scrapping it altogether.

    I only have so much time and energy and working within a Goal or Mission statement helps to guide my thinking and keep my passion on task. It pairs well with the working Mission Statement for the Energy Farm:

    To increase the resiliency of communities in South Central WI by developing a holistic system that integrates innovative methods of sustainably producing food and energy.

  6. > Low Input storage of food crops

    Hm…you really can’t beat a clamp for low-input storage.

    Herrick Kimball puts it this way:

    I was reading in Nancy Bubel’s excellent book, Root Cellaring, about storing root crops in an outdoor “clamp.” The idea of keeping carrots and beets through the winter without lugging them into the basement or canning or freezing them appeals to me. So I have made one carrot clamp in my garden, as shown in [the blog post].

    The clamp consists of a shallow hole (maybe 8” deep and 36” around) dug into the soil of my garden. I put a layer of leaves from my yard into the bottom. In the center I stood up a bundle of dried goldenrod stalks. Around the base I placed four beets and a bunch of carrots that I had just dug from the garden. Over the vegetables I placed more leaves, along with some straw I had on hand. Then I heaped a lot of soil over it all and smoothed it off.

    Peasant and native people throughout history have stored various foods in such clamps. I think I am something of a peasant. Hopefully my clamp will work.

  7. […] living, local food) Rob (over at One Straw: Be The Change) had a great post last week about New Year’s Revolutions, and I am totally jumping on that bandwagon. His categories are re-localization, re-skilling, and […]

  8. The economy has affected my family and I have needed to start bringing in some income.

    Instead of looking at the glass half empty, I have decided not to let it destroy me and have made a big change. I started my own green business and hope to find joy in helping the peopel find alternative sources of energy to power their homes and businesses. I am working on articles about flexible solar panels to making solar panels at home.

    2010 will be a great year for me and my family

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