Vlogging My Way to the UK

It’s been a long time — months — since I posted here.  Got caught in a whirlwind until December 6, then — after settling in my new long term (at least 1.5 years, until I go to Scotland) — I took a few months off for R&R after six hellacious years.  (See my previous post for that story.)

But now I’m finally back in the saddle and ready to rock and roll.  I have big plans for the remainder of 2017 and 2018 that include putting several courses — two intro (Complexity 101 and Earth 101s (short) plus one advanced course — into video course mode and will sell them here as well as on Udemy.com.  More on that soon.

I am also taking steps for an extended visit — 6 to 12 months — in my genetic homeland, the UK, especially Scotland.  I have big plans for that trip, and will decide while I’m there whether to return to the US.  There are several factors in that decision that can’t be addressed sufficiently until I’m there.  I’ll discuss those another time.

My next post here will be my first public vlog post, and will offer an overview of my plans outlined above.  More soon ….

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Struggle & Sacrifice for Education about Earth

I’ve long said that if I don’t tell my own story, someone else will, and it won’t be the one I’d tell.  Therefore, this post offers an explanation of why after 16 years work, as founder of Ermah Ge, I continue to struggle to accomplish its mission: to teach the principles of complexity sciences and geophysiology applied to nature, Earth, life, human organizations and societies to as many people as possible in the face of abrupt climate change.

[**  [I have put that organization and web site into moth balls for an indefinite period of time while I work on other  projects of my own.  Ermah Ge will be revived at a later time.]

This is a very personal story of sacrifice and financial hardship.  It’s probably the longest post I’ve ever written on this blog.  As a result, fewer will read it.  But then, it’s been a long, hard six years, and there were decades leading up to them, and I wanted to chronicle them.  This is my story, at least the last few years of it.

I write this in Bangor, Maine, where I came three months ago to explore the possibility of basing Ermah Ge here. (I’ve decided not to for several reasons; I am going to Dover-Foxcroft, Maine instead).  But hard as I tried, I couldn’t make things happen in Bangor.  I found venues where I could teach, but I didn’t have enough budget for advertising.

To be clear, I’m very poor.  I started getting social security early several years ago at age 62; thus I get meager payments.  It’s barely enough to pay even inexpensive rent, let alone buy food or anything else, including advertising, which is  expensive.  Everything I own in Maine fits into the back of a full-sized pickup truck.  Furniture-wise, I own two folding chairs, a small folding table, and a 30” wide piece of firm foam for a mattress.  That’s it.  I own no motorized vehicle — only a bicycle (which for six winters in Maine has been a challenge) — no property, no stocks or bonds.  My savings account has $1 in it, just enough to keep it open.

Moving out of the Owls Head apartment, May 2015. It was furnished; none of the furniture is mine.

Another layer of struggle has been that since I’ve had such a hard time selling my courses in Maine, especially in summer when few want to be in class during the glorious Maine summers, I’ve had to move a lot.  Thirty times, to be exact, and #31 is coming next week.   The longest I’ve been able to stay in one place was six months, the shortest about six days.   I’ve only had my own apartment three times.  Other places were rooms in someone’s home or a boarding house.  Some of those were short-term couch surfing in someone’s home while I explored a new town or city, looking for more permanent quarters.  Every place is different.  I describe the experience as, living in other peoples places with other people’s things, rules and issues.  At times, it’s been hellish.  But the worst part has been never really getting settled, often living out of boxes and crates for weeks at a time.  Pack, move, unpack, repeat.  Belongings get stored here, then there, then in two or three places.  Stuff gets lost.  There are times when I have to ask myself, “Where is item X?  Is it here or stored there?”

So, why do I keep struggling and sacrificing to earn a living teaching what I do, and making Ermah Ge a successful organization/corporation with a global reach?  Why don’t I just give up and “get a job”?  For one simple reason: I believe strongly in what I’m trying to do.  I think it’s important.  So do my associates and students who have supported me for years.   I have argued for years — and still do even more strongly now — that complexity sciences and geophysiology are not only necessary to understand the abrupt climate change event that has begun and will challenge the existence of our civilization in coming decades, but also crucial to effectively address it.  In a nutshell, those sciences must serve as the foundation for new cultural maps to guide us this century and beyond, replacing the obsolete and dangerous cultural maps that we have blindly followed for several centuries based in the scientific paradigm of mechanistic reductionism.

I’ll state right up front that the last six years have been harder and darker than any period in my adult life.  Harder than a divorce, my doctoral studies — including an oral exam from hell — and the death of both parents.  Combined.  The way I describe those years is this: I almost made it six times, but every time, I got body slammed.  Sometimes it was just plain, dumb bad luck; other times, it involved people that my associates and I trusted, but should not have.  Sometimes it was both.

I write that not seeking sympathy — I’ve gotten great support from friends during that time, and — along with my sense of the importance of this work — it’s kept me going.  I say it instead to emphasize that I am very committed to the program that I have developed, and explain why I’m still struggling.

Some background.  I’ve always been an avid outdoors person.  I started hiking at age 6.  Then came hunting and fishing; my family was very poor, so that helped put food on our table.  Then came camping in my mid-teens, backpacking since 22, and rock climbing in my 40’s.

I’ve always been fascinated by nature and life.  I have vivid memories from childhood of sitting outside in warm sunshine looking at the trees and sky in utter amazement of it all, wondering how it came about.  I wanted to know, but no one could explain it to me.  The best answer I got was, God created it.  But I found that … less than satisfactory.

All through high school followed by 16 years of university — four degrees in biology and mathematics, finishing with a PhD in evolutionary ecology at University of New Mexico, Albuquerque — the story about nature and life that I was being taught in academia was not congruent with what I experienced in nature.  It felt too mechanical, and failed to explain the awe-inspiring sensations that I felt in the natural world.

In 1990, at age 40, after finishing my doctoral studies in evolutionary ecology, I took a full time position at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque teaching biology and mathematics.  I was hired to teach the traditional biology and mathematics that I’d been taught in school that filled all the text books — and still does — based in mechanism (the world and everything in it is a machine) and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Me at a party at Lynn Margulis’s house, 2010

(Darwin got natural selection right, but the neo-Darwinians of the early 20th century — and continuing today — did not adequately explain evolution.  Lynn Margulis, Charles Darwin’s 20th century counterpart, my most influential mentor, taught me why.  In my newest course, Earth 101, a short course, I explain why in introductory fashion, then much more thoroughly in advanced courses.)

In 1992, after breakfast with my girlfriend at a famous Albuquerque diner, we went to a bookstore next door where I found an entire shelf of books about complexity, self-organization, fractal geometry, chaos theory, Gaia theory, and other topics that now form the basis of my educational program.  I bought $230 worth of those books — a large box — many of which I still own.

I began to devour them.  It became clear quickly that a new scientific story of nature was emerging that was fully congruent with my experiences in nature, but radically different from most of what I’d learned at university, as different as day from night.  (During my doctoral studies, two forward looking professors had told me of this new science, but they were not allowed to teach much of it.)  Clearly this represented a revolution and renaissance in sciences.

I wanted to teach the new sciences at the community college.  I wrote several course proposals, but the members of the curriculum committee — who were trained and trapped by the more traditional approach — would not approve them.  I offered them covertly in my courses when I could, and many of my students liked them more than the traditional stuff.  I watched excited faces as light bulbs blinked on.

After 7 years of struggle with heavy workloads (top 5 in the US), low pay (bottom 5 in the US), and horrible politics, I resigned my job at the community college along with 16 other full time faculty (out of 84 in arts and sciences).

I moved to the Pacific NW, and after some migratory exploration, I settled in Eugene, Oregon, where I invested about $100,000 of an inheritance from a relative that I’d never met (my deceased mother’s cousin) into a private school.

At first, we called it Prototista — after a kingdom of nucleated microbes — then later renamed it Euglena Academy, after one of those nucleated microbes — single-celled, photosynthetic, and very mobile — the first microbe that really excited me in high school when seen through a microscope, darting around like a jet in water.

I leased a 2500 sf warehouse in Eugene.  We cleaned, dry-walled, painted, and upgraded electric and plumbing.   I decked it out with couches, chairs, tables, wood stove, kitchenette, conference room, a loft with a dry bar, a 6000W professional sound system, two theater-sized projection screens with projection equipment.  It had the look and feel of a San Francisco loft space.  Week nights, we held classes there, from 5 to 20 people each.

We were not accredited — by choice — and offered no diplomas.  Students — mostly professional and retired adults — studied for the sheer joy of learning.  The principles lead to a radical, at times awe-inspiring change in how we view everything: nature, Earth, life, organizations, even every day life, even cooking.  Often on the weekends, we played music — I had connections to top DJ’s — danced and partied.

I knew one thing for sure then: I am an excellent, passionate teacher.  It’s one of the few things I do well.  I love teaching new ideas to people.  I love the challenge of making complex scientific and mathematical ideas palatable so that even science- and math-phobes not interested initially can grasp them, even be excited by them.   At the community college in New Mexico, I was a very challenging instructor with high expectations who gave written “essay exams” rather than multiple guess — and some of my students hated me for that (until it helped them in their advanced programs).  Yet my student evaluations were consistently high: 4.7 – 4.8 out of 5.  So I thought teaching as an independent free-lance educator would be easy.

I was right: the teaching was easy.  But running a business was not.  I learned quickly that I am a content person, a teacher and writer — not a business person.  I had nearly zero business skills.  I hated the business side of things, especially business plans and bookkeeping.  And marketing and advertising was not much easier.  Having been taught as a child to be humble and not boastful, promoting myself and my work was challenging.

Yet, I managed to keep the doors open at Euglena Academy for ten years.  But in 2010, after ten years of struggle, almost broke after my inheritance was spent supplementing the school and cashing in my 401k from the community college, after 2.5 years of no days off, I closed the doors, said goodbye to dozens of advanced students  — some of whom were my closest friends —  and moved to Maine to pursue a relationship with a woman I met in Oregon, but who lived in Maine.  I was also seeking a new culture.  I was tired of west coast culture, especially the new age-ism that was so rampant in western Oregon and California.

That relationship did not last long.  Body slam number 1.  It ended very painfully.   I’ve never experienced emotional pain that deep before.  The months following the ending were the darkest of my life.  I questioned everything, including life itself.  I thought about suicide, and even developed a plan to carry it out.  Fortunately, my love of my work — and again, my sense of its importance, to keep these ideas that I teach alive — saw me through that painful time.  Healing took years.

But during that healing time, I fell in love with Maine: its geography, geology and ecology.  I loved its ruggedness.  I saw the same kinds of forest ecosystems here at 400’ above sea level that I used to see backpacking at 11,000’ in the southern Colorado Rockies.  Maine winters were character-building, especially since I’ve owned no motorized vehicle in Maine, only a bicycle.  But my backpacking/mountaineering experiences, knowledge and equipment got me through.  I had good insulating outer garments from backpacking in winter.  I often grocery shopped using a backpack, even in winter.

I soon learned that Maine’s culture is equally rugged.   It’s people are more authentic, having endured centuries of climatic and economic hardship — unlike much of the west coast.  New agism was here, but far less and more covert than in Oregon.  Maine is now home.  As long as I live in the US, I will live in no other state.

I arrived in Lewiston, Maine — just north of Portland —  in July, 2010, where my lover lived.  Not only did the relationship not work, neither did Lewiston.  I had trouble even getting people to attend free lectures, let alone enroll in a course.  I taught only one course there, a free one at Bates College in their community education program.  I went broke after one year, spending all the money from sale of assets from Euglena Academy.  I put out an SOS to 30 people in Oregon and Maine, asking for help.

One was a person I had met on Facebook, Carmine Leo — now a close friend and associate — who owns an old 26 acre farm near Skowhegan.  “Come on up”, he said.  “I’ve got an extra room in the attic.”  And lucky for me, Carmine is also a life coach teaching the principles of emotional intelligence, a set of skills that help us identify and respond to emotions within ourselves and others.  He played a very  important role in my healing; and he brings those skills to Ermah Ge to help people deal with the fear and denial about climate change, essential if we are to effectively address it.

So I moved up there in summer, 2011, one year to the day after my arrival in Lewiston.  It was there — further north into the interior, the outback — that I first experienced the real Maine.  The further north one goes here, especially north of Augusta, the more rugged the country, the more authentic the people.

Beginning in October that year, after offering three public lectures in Skowhegan about climate change— attended by 100 people — I taught my first class there: Climate 101, about abrupt climate change from the perspective of complexity sciences and geophysiology, a science that studies Earth as a self-regulating, complex adaptive system.  Unfortunately, the message of that class is not good news.  When viewed from the perspective of complexity and geophysiology, the abrupt climate change event that has begun and is accelerating is bad news, far worse than is being portrayed by the media or even by most climatologists.  Yet Mainers are brave people, and for the most part appreciated being told the hard truth.  (As author Dianne Dumanoski wrote, “In times of danger, bitter truth serves us better than sweet lies.”)

There were ten in the course, one of whom, the late, great Jim Murphy — who understood my teachings deeply due to his strong background in science — owned an apartment building in Waterville.  At the end of the class, he said, “You need to be in Waterville.”  He offered me a free apartment for six months if I’d move there.  He also contributed financially to my work several over years until his tragic and untimely death in an automobile accident in 2014.

So I moved to Waterville in December, 2011, where I taught multiple courses during 2012.   All were about climate change and what to do about it.   I didn’t get so much interest in courses about complexity sciences  and geophysiology per se, let alone applied to living systems, which is much more fun and important.  Climate change was the interest there.  (I’ve had to work hard over the years to help people understand the crucial importance of complexity and geophysiology for understanding and effectively addressing climate change.)

Several students in those courses convinced me to let them build a non-profit organization around my work so that we could seek significant funding to support it.  There were 14 people involved, all older, experienced professionals, including two professional fundraisers.  We had plans to seek a 6-figure budget to start, then go global with our outreach.  I worked hard for ten months to get that organization up and running.  We filed articles of incorporation with the state, developed our bylaws with help of a non-profit attorney, and found 501.c.3 fiscal sponsorship until we could get our own, a long process.

But in November, 2012, just before board elections, the organization disintegrated in a most unpleasant way.  We learned that secret political agendas existed among seven members who did not support our mission; they only claimed to do so, and planned to use the organization for their own agendas.  Friendships were lost.

That was body slam number 2.  Once again, I was broke and nearly homeless.  I moved back to Carmine’s farm.  Six of the original 14 are still working with me in Ermah Ge; the 7th was my friend from Waterville who died.  

Months later, after we sorted out the details of what led to the failure, a philanthropist who had seen one of my lectures offered me $30,000 to travel in mid-Maine for six months teaching about climate change and how to address it.  But the money was to be administered by a relatively conservative environmental organization.  I had only two weeks to develop a proposal and a presentation for the board; I needed two months.  In the end, they rejected my proposal, refusing to administer the funds.  They felt that my message was too dark, my proposed solutions too radical, and they didn’t want to associate with it.  Body slam number 3.  Broke again.

Belfast Bay, a subset of Penobscot Bay

Then, I migrated to Belfast (Maine, on the coast) where I had new friends I’d met during my work, and during meetings with various transition town groups.  It was there that I formally named our organization Ermah Ge.  I rented an inexpensive apartment right on the bay.  I lived there for 7 months, offering about 2 dozen free lectures.  They were poorly attended.  Belfast is a lovely community, but there was little interest there in my teachings.  They’re more focused on art and gardening. I gained only 4 students, none from Belfast.  It was time to move on again.

Within a week, I was contacted by a top executive of the prestigious Camden Conference.  One of their members had seen one of my Belfast lectures on climate change.  He invited me to offer a lecture in Rockland as part of a lecture series leading up to the conference, the theme of which that year was climate change.  In February, 2014, two weeks before the conference, I offered a lecture at Rockland public library attended by 60+.  It was standing room only.  The lecture was very well received.  Afterward, I was thanked, tipped, and asked when classes could begin.  My response was, as soon as I could move to Rockland.

That process took two months since I was — again — nearly broke, and knew no one in Rockland.  I put out an SOS to my mailing list from the Rockland library lecture.  Eight people stepped up to help me find a place to live, and start a course.  That course was Complexity 101, my basic principles flagship class, in which climate change was little discussed.

In June, I found living quarters in Rockland: a guest room in the basement of the home of two of of my students, offered rent free.  In July, I rented an office and teaching space in the old Rockland high school building that had been purchased and refurbished by an entrepreneur who planned to create a center for culture, art and education.  I taught several classes there, and offered public lectures.

My office in Rockland

In September, my associates and I were approached by an education foundation — also based in the area — who had learned of our work and seen some of my lectures.  They wanted us to integrate our program into theirs, and offered us a budget of over $300,000 for 2015.  We joyously jumped at the chance.

But once again, fate reared its ugly head.  The founder of that foundation was funding their program as an oil broker.  When the price of oil fell in autumn, 2014, so did their budget, and our promised budget vaporized.  Body slam number 4.  Once again, I was broke and homeless.  (Homeless because one member of the couple in whose home I had a basement room became seriously ill and they understandably wanted the house to themselves.)

High tide at the “beach” at Owls Head; at low tide, there is a beach.

Friends offered me an apartment in their home on Owls Head peninsula, 400 steps from the open Atlantic.  I walked on the beach every day for five months, even during blizzards.  That place kept me sane, and helped me heal.

Then came several months work with an innovative marketing/advertising company that offered to get us rolling with an ad campaign pro-bono until we started making bank, then, they’d take a small share.  There was to be a new web site involved.  They had an extensive globally-connected network of associates in everything from advertising to project management and web site development to financing.   Five months into plans  — and again a huge amount of work — I discovered that one of the principles was a vocal advocate of a political movement that is considered to be a domestic terrorist threat in the US.  I severed connections.  Body slam number 5.  Months of work out the window.

A month later, I lost my apartment when my friends had to ask me to leave due to a family emergency; they needed the apartment for a family member who was in need.  I understood and supported their decision — family must come first.  But it was still body slam number 6.

That was late spring, 2015, as summer approached.  Summer is my hardest time to recruit students for courses, especially in Maine.  Once summer arrives, few want courses, understandably.

So in May, 2015, I packed up my meager belongings, put most in storage (knowing I would return to Maine), and retreated to Oregon for five months to teach classes to old friends and students, and retrieve some belongings that had been stored there since 2010.  Yet too few of my Oregon learning community were free to take classes on such short notice.  So my income was very meager.  I left Oregon in November, mostly broke, again.

A big vine covered pine in north central Florida

I went to Florida to visit college friends from 40 years ago, for some R&R, and to take a break from Maine winter.  It was good to see my friends, but I hated Florida’s weather: high 90’s F and humid in December with mosquitos.  And that winter in Maine was one of the mildest on record.  Just my luck.

I eagerly returned to Maine in March, 2016, where I landed in the tiny town Dexter to work on a climate / weather seminar with an associate, meteorologist Edward Hummel.  (We expect to unveil that full seminar in early 2017, and a shortened one-day version in November, 2016.)  I thought I would be able to supplement my meager social security payments by teaching courses.  But as in Belfast, there was no interest.  Dexter is a farming community with a very bad economy and little interest in science.

So, in July, after two exploratory visits that excited me, I moved to Bangor.  I wound up in a rooming house in Brewer — across the river — for three weeks, one of the worst places I’ve ever lived, worthy of an essay of its own.  I was concerned for my safety there.  Then, serendipitously, I met my current landlords [now past tense] during a coffee house conversation, and moved into a room in a nice house with them.

However, as I said above, Bangor is a tough town to get things started in without an advertising budget.  So with the intention of offering some programs here after I have a better budget, I’m heading to the much smaller Dover-Foxcroft.

For a small town, it’s an amazingly dynamic place; one can sense the cultural evolution, and there’s a higher level of intellect there than in most smaller towns.   I’ve already got collaborations going with Center Theatre (I’ll offer a lecture series there starting this fall), Piscataquis County Adult Education Cooperative (where I’ll offer three courses after the new year), and the Piscataquis County Chamber of Commerce — a very innovative chamber, I’ll add — who is encouraging me to pursue a state micro-enterprise grant to get Ermah Ge to the next level.   Video production also continues; my video courses will contribute significantly to earning a living starting in 2017.

My move to Dover-Foxcroft will be my 31st move in six years.  I’m tired and a little dis-spirited.  But I’m still confident that with luck and the right connections, I can make it, and climb out of a poverty pit.

If only I can avoid any more body slams.

{Quick update on Monday, February 6, 2017, three months after I wrote this essay.  I landed in Dover-Foxcroft — or DoFox as I call it — on December 6.  I love the town; THE nicest I’ve lived in Maine.  I’m living in a very affordable (rent assisted by HUD), wonderful apartment — truly one of the nicest I’ve ever lived in — surrounded by hundreds of acres of beautiful Maine woods where I walk almost daily … at least 4 times per week.  I’ve had two months of R&R, unpacking boxes, getting settled in, arranging the apartment to be liveable.  I’ve recycled most moving boxes — as a ritual of sorts.  I’m happier than I’ve been in years, at times almost giddy with glee.  Now, I can get my work done with Ermah Ge … more coming about that in the next blog post …}

A tiny chunk of Dover-Foxcroft from the bridge over Piscataquis River; image by Robert N Ring

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2016: Whither Alder Stone & Ermah Ge?

Saturday, December 26  — Happy new year!

I write that before the official new year on January 1.   For me, even though the calendar still reads 2015 for five more days, it’s already 2016.  That’s because we’re several days past winter solstice — or Yule — and with my planetary, Ge’an perspective, the start of a new solar new year is more important than human-made calendars.   But I won’t quibble if you disagree.  What ever floats yer boat.

And I’m not creating this post to argue about such fine points of interpretation.  There are bigger, more important goals afoot.

This post is the first of the new year, and signals an increase in post frequency.  Due to circumstances largely beyond my control — unfortunately, since they were not always pleasant — I’ve not been in a proper creative head space to blog often, and also often lacked the time.  That’s changing now.

Topics for the next few weeks?  In no particular order

  • My current status in the state of Florida for an overwinter experience — although nothing even remotely similar to “winter” is occurring here.  Like most of the east coast, we’ve been in the high 70’s and (mostly) low to mid-80’s since I arrived in early November.  I call this hot and humid, and not fully pleasant for an acclimated Maine-iac.
  • An update on video production and updated slide shows for the Earth 101 course series (Complexity, Biology, Geophysiology, Climate and Adaptability, including a new video series about outdoor gear that play a role in Ermah Ge’s adaptability program, but are also just fun!).  I’m converting all slide shows from Prezi — which had become stale — to Apple Keynote, and recording videos.  I’m making progress, and happy with the results so far — as are others — and looking forward to accelerating a bit more.
  • I will be returning to Maine after winter — the question is, when and how, and to where?  I’ll share an evolving plan to answer that question.
  • My goal to use posts  here — along with videos (some posted here), teleconferencing, an online forum and — when necessary — email — to communicate next steps for me, Ermah Ge and other associates (to the extent that they wish to participate).  My intention is to take Ermah Ge (EG) to a whole ‘nuther level, a new far more dynamic attractor state in 2016.  Working title for this  next phase: the emergence and self-organization of the Ermah Ge Transcontinental Learning Community.   I am 100%, no holds barred committed.  Failure to do so by the end of 2016 — next winter solstice — is not only undesirable.  I’ll save the consequences for another time, should the need arise.  My goal is that we won’t even need to discuss it.
  • A more clear articulation of the crucial importance of Ermah Ge’s unique programs and curriculum, and clarification of our central foci:
    • Complexity sciences applied to living systems, especially cells, organisms, ecosystems and Ge
    • A new focus on non-equilibrium thermodynamics (NET), using the stunningly excellent book Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics and Life by Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan, which I am rereading now for the dozenth time in preparation for a transcontinental reading seminar and lecture/video series associate with it.
  • Other topics to be named later, but that’s enough for now.

Please stay tuned.  Please bring friends.  Subscriptions are welcome, but I only accept subscriptions at this point from people using real names with a verifiable email address.  (Sorry, spam is horrible and very annoying for admins.)

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Question: Oregon or Florida: Where will I be in September?

Answer: Florida in November

Update, Saturday, November 21, Ocala FL (original post was in July in Portland OR): I have updated this post with minor edits. Videos and documents linked in the original post are no longer available. They are now mostly irrelevant, and are being preserved in my personal files, updated to reflect current reality. I’m leaving this post up as an outline of my circumstances back then — and as context for why the answer to the question is, “Oregon in September, but Florida in November.”

Update, Wednesday, July 8, Eugene OR: This post was originally written and posted in June.  As of this date, I have received enough support to guarantee that I’ll stay in Oregon through August … at least.  I have found an office, though still lacking a full time living/sleeping space (temp only for now).  I am in Eugene for the next few weeks to have conversations with people here about what I have in mind if I stay in Oregon until late next spring or early summer.  The outcome of those conversations, along with ongoing networking in Portland to build a learning community here will determine my decision.  I’ll leave my original post here for context.

I have produced a video [deleted; no longer relevant] that is an open letter to Oregonians (contact me for the password if you wish to watch it but didn’t get an invitation), but viewable by others in Maine, Florida, Cali, and elsewhere.   It addresses a new and unexpected issue: that without commitments from Oregonians, I will be unable to remain in Oregon past June — even after arriving just one month ago.

I hope that potential supporters will watch the video, which is offered with a very personal touch, and conveys information about my circumstances that cannot be easily conveyed in writing.  Yet,  this blog post will provide:

  • a condensed summary of the points discussed in that video.
  • links to the video, a related document (endorsement letters) and a related video

Please forgive my blunt tone.  I’m NOT trying to be rude or offend anyone.   But I’m not going to sugar coat my situation and put on a smiley face.   Viewers will see and hear my stress, and that I am less upbeat than in an earlier video [deleted; no longer relevant] that I produced for Oregonians before coming to Oregon in May, seeking help with my transition.

I need viewers — especially in Oregon — to understand my rather dire situation, my frustrations caused by sacrifices and even suffering during five hard years in Maine that have caused me to be years behind schedule, and why I must make this decision because I cannot continue to live with such uncertainty in my life hovering on the edge of poverty.  I’m seeking compassion for a friend and mentor that has something substantive and important to contribute to your community at a time of impending planetary crisis.

Please ask questions before making assumptions or drawing conclusions.

The main point: Even though I arrived in Portland Oregon less than a month ago (May 20), things are not working out as I had hoped, and I now have to make a decision — beginning some time during the week of June 22 with final decision by June 30 * or earlier — about whether to remain in Oregon for a year or more, which I very much want to do — or go to Florida in early July, where I have close friends offering me a free, comfortable, private place to live and work on video production, which I intend to use as my main source of income starting in summer.  Videos will also allow me to make Ermah Ge’s crucially important program available world wide —- more on that below.

The main factor in my decision will be whether people in Oregon are willing to commit to invest in several Ermah Ge learning shares over the course of the summer to insure that I am able to supplement my meager finances in order to find a stable, comfortable place to live for a year and purchase a new computer (to replace my two aging ones that are no longer fully functional) for video production and mobile presentations.

If I have to leave Oregon, I don’t know when or if I’ll be back. This is neither threat nor extortion nor sour grapes, but based entirely on a need to protect my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health by finding a stable, long-term, peaceful, aesthetic private living space of my own, first after moving 17 times in 8 cities in 2 states in five years.  

Issues addressed in this video, some of which are addressed in a FAQ [under revision for updates] addressing these questions:

  • Why did I come to Oregon?  [See below]
  • Did I fail in Maine?  (Short answer: emphatically not; we have only just begun.)
  • Will I teach in Eugene?  Yes, but I wish to base in Portland.
  • How can you help? [see below]

I begin with this: Why did I come back to Oregon earlier (May 20) than I’d planned (winter 2015)?

  • Plans to ensure my support for summer in Maine could not be completed due to factors beyond our control, including notice that I had to vacate my apartment because of an emergency in my landlords’ family, plus two other factors discussed in the video.  [Another factor explained in the May Hello video, but not this one, was the fact that last fall, a company in Maine promised me weekly for two months an advance payment of $20k for work on an ecological consulting position.  I postponed coursework to begin work on that.  It never arrived.  The same people guaranteed another Ermah Ge associate and I, in person, a six figure budget for 2015 to head up the science education component of their foundation.  Of course, that never came, either.  In both cases, we were shown paper work with credible signatures from credible sources in both the corporate and federal governmental realms to demonstrate that the projected, very-large-scale funding was indeed eminent.]
  • To establish Ermah Ge learning communities (LC: a major EG concept) in Portland, Eugene, Hood River and (?) linked (digitally) to a transcontinental LC network with nodes in Maine, Florida & elsewhere.
  • To teach advanced courses to Oregon students on EG’s Advanced Studies Track, and find investors in EG learning shares in Oregon.
  • To seek a collaboration with a branding, marketing, advertising and web site development group (after a tragic collapse with such a group in Maine last April — one major factor in me leaving).
  • To experience Portland’s culture of food, music, art and community (after living in rural and small town main for five years).

That is followed by a reminder of my view of current conditions on Earth. I feel strongly that big, big changes in climate are eminent.  Civilization is in danger, and BAU must end.   Ermah Ge’s Earth Studies Program is not only timely and relevant, but crucial for dealing with this planetary crisis.  Therefore, I continue to seek financial (and other kinds) of support for our efforts.

We have a letter supporting that assertion, signed by 15 professionals along with personal endorsements by several associates, advisors and students in Maine asking Oregonians to support our work while in Oregon.  And here is an endorsement by an Oregonian.

Next, I address why I am compelled to make this decision so soon after arriving in Oregon.

  • First and foremost, it’s about my physical and mental health.  I’ve been forced to move 17 times in 8 cities in 2 states in 5 years, some of which were pits and dives.  And I’ve done so with no motorized vehicle of my own (not even a rental truck; I moved twice in the dead of winter on foot; and I had to do all my shopping on foot or bicycle, even in winter).  At times, my belongings were scattered between three places in two cities so that I didn’t even know where things were.  (“Is that item in Belfast or Rockland, and which storage area?”)
  • Since arriving in Portland May 20, I’ve been staying in a living room in a small apartment, where neither I nor my host have any privacy.  I slept on a couch for three weeks — causing agonizing neck pain — until I bought a small (27″) inexpensive ($75) futon.   For a person who values an aesthetic living space of his own, my years-long quasi-nomadic experience has been hellish.  Thus I have a deep emotional and spiritual need for a stable, long-term, peaceful, aesthetic living space from which I do not have to move for a long time, where I can focus on video production.
  • The final tipping point came when the next set of temporary quarters (a basement storage area) in Portland — promised for three weeks while I sought more suitable quarters — fell through last weekend.
  • I’m nearly broke — because the last few months in Maine were tough —- please see my FAQ.  So I must find some level of commitment from Oregonians if I am to stay in Oregon.
  • To be affordable,  plane tickets have to be purchased weeks in advance.   Hence, I need to make this decision by the end of June; I cannot further delay video production.

Finally, what needs to happen if I’m to stay in Oregon?  How can people help me stay in Portland?

  • I’m not asking for a hand out, but a hand up.  I’m willing to work for it.  My colleagues and I think I have developed a world-class educational program that is interesting, timely, and crucial for the long-term existence of our species.  [See endorsement letter linked above.]  Obviously, I’ve kept going, sacrificed, even suffered — the last five years have been more hell than heaven by far — swimming against extremely difficult odds for five years — most would have quit (I’ve been called repeatedly “tough as nails”) because I believe so strongly in my program and Ermah Ge.
  • I need to get commitments for purchase of a minimum of 5 learning shares. That’s $5000 minimum to help me get through summer, pay for a place to live, and buy a Mac Book Pro for video production and mobile presentations.  Not all of that will come from Oregonians, but they need to contribute substantially to that goal if I am to stay here.   There will be investments from other states as well contributing to that goal.
  • An Ermah Ge learning share is NOT like a corporate share that yields dividends, but like a CSA share that yields food from a harvest — in this case, food for your mind.  Shares can be used to pay for seminars, courses, tutoring, consulting, videos, etc.  You invest in Ermah Ge in advance of course work or tutoring, etc, then the costs are deducted from your share account at a negotiable rate.  “Commitment” does NOT mean shares need to be paid for — only committed to.  They can be paid as part down, then quarterly or even monthly.  Several people can share a share; for example, two people buying half share each = 1 share.   A person or group could even underwrite several shares, and get paid back as others invest.
  • Substantive enrollment (or commitment to enroll) in courses so that Oregonians can review of basic principles before continuing advanced study; the intro courses have evolved, contain new knowledge and new modalities of learning that were not part of the course five years ago.

If you are interested in helping, please do not send money yet.  I won’t collect any money from Oregonians until I am confident that I can reach my financial needs short and long term.  Just let me know if and how you would like to contribute.

Thank you.

Posted in Climate, Education, Personal, Socio-political, Systems | Comments Off on Question: Oregon or Florida: Where will I be in September?

Complexity 101 online course introductory overview

This is a momentous day.  Last evening, Friday, June 5, 2015, I uploaded part 3 of a 2.5-hour introductory overview lecture of our flagship class — Complexity (Systems) 101, the entry point into our entire Earth Studies Program — to Ermah Ge’s new site for online courses.

It is here — but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this introduction for context before jumping in.  (Note: you’ll have to “enroll” — meaning register with user name, email and password — before you get to the lecture and course offerings, but “enroll” doesn’t carry any payment or commitment.  You’ll get to make a decision about that at a later time.)

{Speaking of payment, I’m sincerely hoping that — even though it will be a few days before the first lesson (science as a way of knowing) is posted —  some viewers will pre-pay for the class.  My transition to Portland has been costly, and I need to rent a room here, plus purchase a new Mac Book Pro (since both my computers are on their last legs) to facilitate video production and for mobile presentations.  I anticipate posting one less per week until completion.}

By year’s end, I intend to make all of our “101’s” — our introductory courses in system sciences, biology, geophysiology, climate and adaptability — available as streaming videos.  Then, anyone any where on Earth will be able to watch free introductory overview lectures of each course, then enroll in the class, pay with credit card or paypal, and begin the course.

Students and associates have encouraged me to do this for years, and I’ve intended to.  But all the technology to do so has only recently become available at a reasonable price point, most notably an online host for our courses.  (I chose Fedora after much consideration; I like their service and business model.)

Overall, I’m quite happy with the introductory lecture.  However, like everything else I do, it’s not the final version.  It will evolve.  This is my first ever video of an introductory lecture.  During the last few months, I’ve produced several videos, and posted them online, but they had different purposes.  (More on those another day.)

But this intro lecture is my first of its kind.  And I encountered three challenges in its production.  (Here are the reasons that even though I feel that it’s quality, it’s not as good as the next version will be.)  First, in all previous cases of offering intro lectures, I’ve had a live audience, and I get lots of body language feedback from an audience.  I can feel their enthusiasm — which gives us positive feedback — or detect quizzical expressions when they don’t understand a point, offering me a chance to explain something differently.  That was missing in this process.  So I hope the first viewers — especially my students, advisors and associates — will provide that so I can improve it.

Second, I’ve produced this video during the last week, just after arriving in Portland OR, and I’m still in transition.  I haven’t found a ‘permanent’ place to live here yet — my next blog post will be a step in that effort — so I’m still couch surfing, and thus don’t have a comfortable workstation set up yet for video production.  That matters!   (You’ll hear a loud cat and some power tools being used next door.)

And third, I’ve been struggling with a cold and one of the most persistent cases of bronchitis in years.  You’ll hear my hoarse voice in a couple of places.  And you can’t even imagine how many coughs I edited out!

But even with all that, I’m overall happy with this first edition.  I took my time, and enhanced some concepts with extra explanation — knowing that viewers can take their time, watch it at their leisure during several sessions rather than one long lecture.

Future editions will benefit from your feedback.  However, before I re-record it, I’m going to next record all lessons in Complexity 101 and upload them to the course site so that enrollees can begin on the course immediately!

{Edited to add: At least one very stunningly-positive endorsement for this online course has been posted to an important blog site hosted by a Eugene OR architect.  Please click here to read it!}

Ok, one last point.  We’ve priced the course at introductory rates, about 1/3 the price of our asking price (on a sliding scale) for a live class.  But we’re probably going to modify the price over time, allowing the market to tell us how to set it.  Will it be higher or lower?  We don’t know yet.  We want to price it low enough so that as many as possible can benefit from these life-changing ideas while earning a modest living — because this is my day job!  {I’ll send Ermah Ge share holders a coupon code so you pay nothing; class fees will be deducted from your share account.]

Further, we’re offering two options for enrollment: video only (without substantive questions and discussion) or video plus unlimited questions and discussion of material on our online forum (link provided to enrollees).

Oh, and one final point.  There are at least two ways to engage the lecture (in three parts).  You can pursue it linearly, parts 1, 2 and 3 in order.  However, for bold viewers, especially those who are familiar with my program, I recommend starting with part 3.  In that segment, I introduce self-organization and emergence, which are the crux of the entire course, yielding the most profound changes in our understanding of nature, Earth, life, human culture and … everything in the universe.

Ok, with that said, please go here, and “enroll” (meaning register; the intro lecture is free).  After that, you’ll find two “courses” posted: the one on the left is labelled “Complexity 101 Introductory Overview”.  That’s the one you want.   (The other is just a place holder for the course itself.)

I sincerely hope you enjoy it.  I look forward to your feedback.  Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Thanks!  Alder

Posted in Education, Science | Comments Off on Complexity 101 online course introductory overview

A Bifurcation Cascade

Turning Over a New Leaf While Walking
into the Future in an Ocean on an Owl’s Head

Author: Alder Stone

Original draft posted on home page: Sunday, May 03, 2015
Latest draft with typo corrections & updates: Saturday, May 9
written in Owl’s Head, Maine, 200 yards from the ocean.

Abstract: Topics in this post, to developed further in later posts on two sites:

  • My bifurcation point, coming June 1: a decision about whether to stay in Maine — that I love and consider home — or move back to Oregon for an unspecified period so that I can earn a proper living and get out of poverty for the first time in five long, hard years, unequivocally by far THE most challenging years of my adult life, more challenging than my doctoral studies (including an oral exam from hell), a college teaching job also from hell (ABQ), and the extended deaths of both parents.   All of which were relative cake walks compared to my last five years.  (What a long strange trip it’s been.)  Update: that bifurcation point came earlier than expected — such is common with complex, dynamical systems. I’m leaving for Portland Oregon May 20, and plan to return to Maine around Spring Equinox, 2016.
  • Musings on the concepts of “home” and challenges of a quasi-nomadic, free-lance educator seeking a home base for my work, and a group advanced students.
  • The insanity of “the system” {tm} and the idiots that too frequently infest it.
  • Ermah Ge’s new web site, online forum and video site, which will free this one for personal posts of a blog-ish nature like this one.
  • A glimpse at my next steps in deciding whether to stay in Maine through summer and fall or leaving for Oregon in June — that involve multiple factors: attracting commitments from at least 30 AST students (see below) into the Earth 101 Experience (see Ermah Ge’s web site), buying my first motorized vehicle in 5 years, a new Mac Air (for mobile presentations) and iMac (for video production), and paying rent — which is now 18 days late … plus some other conditions to be specified.

Note: This is an uncharacteristically long post, even for me.  So save the read until you’ve got some time, and can read with a cup or glass of your favorite beverage.  Send comments to me via this contact page.   I may even post  your comments, anonymously if you wish.


On June 01, 2015, based on what happens during May, I will make a decision at a bifurcation point.  There are two main choices (attractor states):

  1. Remain in Maine until December, then travel to the Portland, Oregon area to teach winter term classes, returning to Maine around Spring Equinox, 2016.
  2. Almost immediately pack up my belongings, put some in storage in Maine (or give them away), and travel to Portland Oregon, where I will remain and teach for an unspecified period of time.

My preference is #1.   Even though I’m eager to return to Oregon to see friends, and teach some advanced courses, I’d prefer to remain to get our learning communities in Rockland and nearby cities on firm footing, and be here for summer and fall vacations — I’ve earned that after the last few winters.  (Holy mother of god.)

But I’m at the end of my rope. <insert mostly insane emoticon that explodes>  After five years in Maine (as of next July 18), offering uncountable free public lectures seeking students for courses; an equal number of emails and web pages about my work here and on places like Faceplant; failed fundraising drives; being too often labeled “Dr. Doom” or “survivalist” because of my views on climate and a failure of many to understand the true nature and focus of my work (not word as my original typo read) and educational program (it’s first and foremost about nature, Earth and life) — and some other factors, I’m still very poor.

That feels unfair to me, because I felt from the start in July, 2010– no, wait, I knew then, and even more strongly now — that what I have to offer is a very good product and service, a crucial part of humanity’s next steps if we are to re-invent civilization to live on a volatile Earth, available no where else in the US (and probably the world), worthy of support at a level that will allow me to live a modest but comfortable existence.

Evidence of that lies with about two dozen people — colleagues, students, and true friends, some of whom you’ll find in the Ermah Ge web site About pages with bios and greetings — who have supported me and my work during the last five years through very hard times, with everything from money — in some cases with donations totaling in the thousands of dollars — to transportation, places to live, and food.

The most recent example came yesterday in the form of a check for $250 from a kind, generous man living in a nearby town — Waldoboro, just west of Rockland — who I don’t know, but saw one of my public lectures about Gaia theory recently.  He knew that I had to rent a car for $100 to get to Waterville to try to start a class.  I was expecting a check for $100, and was pleasantly stunned and joyful to see it for $250.  His comment: “Keep up your good work, Alder.”  That indeed motivates me to keep swimming upstream.  I know there are pools up there where I can rest for a while.

Yet, my rent is still 18 days past due — again.  It was a matter of paying rent versus eating, buying a license for the software needed for Ermah Ge’s new Learning Community Forum, paying for our new video hosting service, renting cars twice over the last two weeks to get to Waterville, and other business related costs.  I chose the latter.  I’m taking the plunge one more time.  It’s all or nothing.

Further, for the record, I have owned no motorized vehicle since leaving Oregon in July 2010.  Imagine for a minute — no, really, I mean please just stop for a minute or two and imagine being in your early 60’s in Maine “cities” (towns) that have zero mass transit (other than taxies), and having to run all your errands — including grocery shopping, trips to the hardware, doctor visits, etc, either on your bicycle or on foot with a backpack.  (My 35 liter day pack will carry about 3 – 4 days worth of food.  My 70 liter expedition pack hauls a week’s worth, but that sucker is heavy when filled with cans and bottles.)

Further, imagine doing that in winter, with snow and ice on the ground, bitterly cold (last winter was brutal).   Everyone else but you has a car to do those tasks, and as they drive by, they splash you with melt water.  <Insert thoughts of homicidal actions that cross your mind after a few years of that.  🙁 >

To add insult to injury, I have moved 15 times in 5 years, and have lived in 10 cities, 8 in Maine plus Eugene and Portland Oregon.  Most of my “homes” — <cough> er, I mean camps — were in other people’s places with other people’s things, rules and issues.

And move #16 is coming up in mid-June, regardless of whether I stay in Maine or head for Oregon immediately, because my (truly kind, patient) landlords who let me stay here without a lease — because I wasn’t sure if I could pay rent for a year — need their apartment for family visits this summer.  I guess it could be good timing, especially if I’m going to Oregon.  But it’s still a drag to have to pack everything up and move again.  🙁

Like now, moving has usually not been my choice.  I have had to move many times simply because I could not pay rent — or because I couldn’t deal with my hosts, their issues, their neighbors — etc.  Or because  the city/town I was in simply wasn’t interested in what I had to offer — my educational program which IS my day job — and thus would not support me at a level sufficient to meet my financial needs for shelter, food, transportation, medical and dental care, etc.  Hrrrmmfff.

For a while, I had state supported medical care — “Maine care” — until Maine’s Tea Party Governor LePage, whom I’m hard pressed to believe ever completed middle school, dismantled the program.  I also had state food support (“food stamps” ***) until I forgot to change my address after my 12th move.  Sorry, I was a little insane by that time and not paying attention to “the system” {tm}.

[*** When I registered for that support in November, 2010, I intended and fully expected to withdraw from the program within months because I thought I’d be able to sell my educational program and support myself at a modest but comfortable level.  That proved very difficult.  Several times during the last few years, a few people said to me, “Why don’t you just get a real job, and teach on the side as an avocation.”  My consistent response: “You obviously don’t understand my work and its importance to our communities and future.  This IS my day job, and I’ll either earn a living doing it or die trying.”  Many — in fact, most — of those people are no longer in my life.]

So, back to “the system”.  You know, “the system”, right?   <wink wink>  That network of governments — local, state, federal, all of which contain too many idiots who can’t critically think their way out of a paper bag — and corporations that are in bed with said governments, who tell us if we want to live, we’d damn well better do as they tell us, fill out all the forms, keep all the numbers and passwords, pay our taxes, get all the appropriate permits, dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and be polite about it.  Otherwise, with a fake smile, they’ll politely tell you to fuck off, go live in a slum or in the woods, and die quietly, regardless of how hard you’re willing to work and how much you have to contribute to a better world.

So, I’ve tried to use this site to both express my anger at “that system”  — which is not really a “system”, but a large network; but that’s a technical point dealt with in Systems 101 — and to serve as a virtual base for a very mobile Ermah Ge (which since 2001, has had various names: ProtoTista, Euglena Academy, DBA Alder Stone, and now Ermah Ge).

But the mixture of professional and personal aspects on one site wasn’t a good mixture.  One cannot put forth a professional face to sell one’s services in the same virtual place where one is ranting about “the system”, and posting punk rants in general.

Thus, this site is in transition from its former attractor state — doing double duty for me and Ermah Ge, the educational collective of which I am the founder.  This site is becoming my personal blog, where I can be myself, and Ermah Ge is moving to its own web site.

Starting a few weeks ago, with the help of Ermah Ge associates and advisors, I started building Ermah Ge’s web site.   It is still a construction zone, and will be for some time.  It has come far, but still has far to go.  It is functional, but it’s evolution will require months more work.  And even after it’s “finished”, it will continue to evolve with new content … to the end of my days.

And as noted above, we are about to launch our learning community forum (not public; accessible only to Ermah Ge associates, advisors and students), and our new video web site to host all the videos that I will produce this year, including all of my introductory lectures.  The first are up there already, and available for public viewing.  More will come very soon, including a Systems 101 introductory lecture, and a video about our fundraising, student enrollment drive.

This site — alderstone3.com — will now revert to my personal web site and blog, where I can be part of Ermah Ge without being all of Ermah Ge.  Ermah Ge is a ‘collective’.  In a later post, I’ll explore the meaning of that, versus cooperative or corporation.  But for now, let’s just say its the closest “business-related” word to the idea of an educational network.

So that’s what we call it: a collective of people, interacting as a network with links — some strong, some weak — that lead to circularity, thus feedback – both positive and negative – and self-organization with emergent properties.  And it operates at the edge of chaos (Wolfram’s class 4, like his rule 110), where sensitivity to initial conditions (aka butterfly effect) rule the dynamics.  Like any network or system, it can reach critical thresholds (aka tipping points) at which phase transitions to new attractor states occur.  Those new attractor states may be stable, unstable or metastable.  The latter is most desirable to produce functionality while allowing for continued existence in the face of perturbations, like, say, the collapse of civilization in the face of large-scale, abrupt climate change.  Importantly, even though it is self-organizing, it is not autopoietic.

All the bold terms above are topics explained in Systems 101, the first course in Ermah Ge’s Earth 101 Experience, portal to Earth Studies Program (ESP).  Ermah Ge is seeking 30 – 50 new students for our Advanced Studies Track (AST) to add to the same number — mas o menos — of existing AST students, mostly in Oregon.

So, again, this site — alderstone3 — is where I  will post essays, poetry, images, and rants, music preferences (electronica, including my friend, Phutureprimitive), film preference and reviews (current obsession: Game of Thrones), and in general, to just be me.  And that’s not always the same person.   Sometimes I wear a teacher’s hat — the talking head teacher;  I’ll do that mostly on Ermah Ge’s web site.  At other times I’m a slightly (?) mad, punk poet percussionist with an attitude — that comes out especially strong when people project a punk attitude in my direction, and especially when they get up in my face.

That especially applies to a few people in Maine who, since 2010, have been responsible four times (!) for throwing me back into poverty pits again and again from a ledge called “making it professionally” — after climbing diligently, with perseverance, heart and mind while living on the edge of poverty without the means to fully realize my potential.

And while I sacrificed and suffered, those people had their needs met in terms of stable shelter (including some obnoxiously large homes), motorized vehicles — and usually really nice ones — medical and dental care, an ability to travel (even out of the US), etc, etc, etc.

And that is not just me being paranoid, or blaming others.  I have witnesses in several of my current Ermah Ge associates and advisors.  My mistake?  Trusting too much, assuming that others wanted to support my work instead of inserting agendas of their own.  Meh.

Sometimes I’ve just want to send primal screams into the universe to alleviate the utter frustration that I feel — and have felt for 5 years — about being dirt poor while offering such a valuable product and service available no where else in the US.  And I want to send those primal screams in the form of words on my own blog, notably this one.  But again, that doesn’t mix well with the talking head teacher/writer trying to earn a living teaching what I do.

To give you a sense of that, here is a blog post that I wrote in early 2013 after being flung into the pit in late 2012.  Something similar happened back in 2010, again in April 2012, and yet again in December 2014.

Head’s up: I’m done with that! I won’t go back into the poverty pit again.  Anyone who has any notion of trying to send me into it again should strongly reconsider.  I can smell those types now, and see their agendas through their thin veneer of smiles, pseudo-kindness and promises.   People should either get on board and come along for the ride, or get out of the way.  It’s that simple.

So, Ermah Ge now has its own home, where I can wear my professional teacher’s hat, be a cordial (until some asshat tries to punk me), professional experienced master teacher (so say some), and teach as many people as possible — especially other educators — about some of the coolest, most awesome, crucially-important (for our species survival) science and mathematics in the history of our species.

And this site becomes my personal virtual home, where I can be me — a personality chimera of Carl Sagan (the scientist, not the man, husband and father), George Carlin, Ani DiFranco, and Jim Bridger, my ancestor.

^  There’s a future blog post.

So, in closing, here is ErmahGe.com.

Y’all come.  ~~a’~


More posts coming … in no particular order …

  • My needs list if I am to realize my potential beginning in June,
    and still be able to continue working in Maine until next winter.
  • How I — with the help of Ermah Ge associates, advisors and students —
    will earn commitments to meet my needs by June.
  • An explanation of Alder Stone & Ermah Ge’s fee system, with video.
  • My simple rule sets (see Wolfram’s New Kind of Science)
    for personal and professional interactions, including class rules.
  • Walking in the Ocean on an Owl’s Head: A Video Essay
  • The Late, Great Jim Murphy: My Belated Homage to a True Friend
  • EDM, ITC & GoT:  My Favorite Music, Books & Films
  • Sagan, Carlin, DiFranco, Carano & Bridger: Who is Alder Stone?
  • Boots, Blades & Backpacks: An Everyday Kit for Day Hikes & Overnighters
  • On Walking, Backpacking & Bikepacking: Why I Will Buy a Surly ECR,
    and a Subaru Outback to carry it to trailheads into wild places
  • What Does the Edge of Chaos Sound Like? Exploration Using a Roland HPD-15
  • A Tiny House on Wheels: My Dream Home
  • The Death of BAU or Extinction: It’s Our Choice … But Not For Long
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Bifurcation Cascade

A Bifurcation Cascade: Evolution @ AlderStone3.com

Yesterday, I posted a new blog post on the home page of this site.  I’ll eventually migrate it here — to the blog section of the site — but for now, I wanted it on the home page.

Why?  It’s an exceptionally important post.  It marks several bifurcations in my life, where “bifurcation is a term from non-linear dynamics indicating “single line or path splits into two”.

My bifurcations are both personal and professional, and include the fact that I now have two web sites: this one, which is becoming my personal blog and will take a vastly different path from hence forth, because the other one — ErmahGe.com — will become my professional site, a collaboration with other associates, advisors and students.

My other bifurcation involves a decision that I will make June 1, 2015 about whether to remain in Maine or migrate back to Oregon for an unspecified period of time. The new post explains that in detail.

Finally, due to a corrupted database ostensibly related to the fact that I have not updated my version of WordPress used to run this site in a very long time ***, yesterday, I lost the entire user list for this forum, and it appears there is no backup.  (I’m still exploring that option with the web host.)

So, if you receive this via RSS feed, and have been a user, please resubscribe.  I’ll be adding some — friends, colleagues, students, supporters — for whom I have emails and can re-subscribe them.  For others, alas, I do not, so have probably lost some subscribers.

OK, thanks for reading.  Much more to come, and this site will now evolve in an interesting way.  Just to whet your taste, here is a list — from the bottom of the home page post — of blog post topics coming up.

  • My needs list if I am to realize my potential beginning in June,
    and still be able to continue working in Maine until next winter.
  • How I — with the help of Ermah Ge associates, advisors and students —
    will earn commitments to meet my needs by June.
  • An explanation of Alder Stone & Ermah Ge’s fee system, with video.
  • My simple rule sets (see Wolfram’s New Kind of Science)
    for personal and professional interactions, including class rules.
  • Walking in the Ocean on an Owl’s Head: A Video Essay
  • The Late, Great Jim Murphy: My Belated Homage to a True Friend
  • EDM, ITC & GoT:  My Favorite Music, Books & Films
  • Sagan, Carlin, DiFranco, Carano & Bridger: Who is Alder Stone?
  • Boots, Blades & Backpacks: An Everyday Kit for Day Hikes & Overnighters
  • On Walking, Backpacking & Bikepacking: Why I Will Buy a Surly ECR,
    and a Subaru Outback to carry it to trailheads into wild places
  • What Does the Edge of Chaos Sound Like? Exploration Using a Roland HPD-15
  • A Tiny House on Wheels: My Dream Home
  • The Death of BAU or Extinction: It’s Our Choice … But Not For Long


Posted in Personal | Comments Off on A Bifurcation Cascade: Evolution @ AlderStone3.com

Alder Stone & Ermah Ge: Evolution in Spring, 1015

This post contains some of the most exciting news for me and Ermah Ge that I’ve offered since arriving in Maine in summer, 2010.  Ermah Ge – the education collective that I founded in 2013 — is about to make a giant leap forward.

First, a little context for the last few months.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything substantive here.  I wasn’t slacking — no, “My cat ate my homework!” stories from me.  I was just busy with a class about geophysiology last fall and working on an ecological consulting position that was not directly related to my teaching.  (Unfortunately, the promised funding for that position never developed, so much time was lost.  🙁   But it was a learning experience, so every cloud has a silver lining.)

Then, in December, 2014, we moved our professional studio and my personal residence to a new location in Owls Head, ME, near Rockland.  I love it here!  Here’s a shot of the shore just a couple of hundred meters below the new studio.  This image will be part of Ermah Ge’s new banner image.

Then, from January to now came development of our exciting new program, The Earth 101 Experience.  Spring classes, first in Fairfield, ME — begin with free introductory overviews Thursday, April 23 and Thursday, April 30, followed by the first class session Thursday, May 7.   Please see below for more details.

Now for the best news.   First, Ermah Ge is evolving and expanding in a wonderful way.  Rockland, has been a great place for that to happen.  I love it here, and see it as my long-term home, and where Ermah Ge will be based (even though our work will extend to other Maine communities, and even to other parts of the world via teleconferences and videos).   We now have multiple associates in Maine and across the United States, and even more advisors around the world.  Our new web site is underdevelopment.

Second, our new web site is still under construction.  Please feel free to take a preliminary look here.  This site — alderstone3.com — will revert to my personal blog where I can be myself in a personal way, separated — mostly — from my professional existence within Ermah Ge.  (It’s been a challenge over the years using one site for both.)

Third, during the last several months, our Ermah Ge team has been busy developing our exciting new program called The Earth 101 Experience.  The page on ErmahGe.com is here; that page will develop more soon, including new videos.  It introduces basic principles of the complexity or system sciences — a revolution and renaissance in the sciences — then applies them to living systems – from cells to organisms – ecosystems, whole Earth systems, abrupt climate change and societies.  This is not merely a set of classes.  It does include classes in live and teleconferenced versions, but also readings, videos, tutorials and tutoring, conversations, an online forum, community-building & outdoor experiences.

Here is a 25 minute video introduction to the Earth 101 Experience.   Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 15, we will send details about free introductory lectures in Fairfield ME  (just up river from Waterville) on Thursdays, April 23 and April 30, 5:30 – 7:30 pm (same lecture both days for scheduling convenience), followed by the start of classes on Thursday, May 7, 5:30 pm, also in Fairfield at the same location (Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, who are sponsoring our lectures and classes).  We also intend to offer lectures and classes soon in Rockland.  [Note: for subscribers to this blog who are not on our regular mailing list,  please contact me for details.]

Finally, we are starting a fundraising campaign to help us take Ermah Ge to the next level more quickly.  Donations can be applied to your own Ermah Ge class fees, or if you choose, into a scholarship fund for financially-challenged students.   We will be sending details of that via info@ermahge.com within a few days, and will also post details both here and on ErmahGe.com.

More to come.  This year — 2015 — will be the year that Ermah Ge flowers.
The best is yet to come!  Please stay tuned!

Posted in Climate, Education, Gaia, Personal, Science, Systems | Comments Off on Alder Stone & Ermah Ge: Evolution in Spring, 1015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Even though 2014  has been the best of the last four for me, and included some notable progress in my professional and personal life, I’m still glad to see it go.  I’ve got some great plans for 2015, and will be posting them here in the next few days.

Now admittedly, I celebrate the new year on winter solstice.  But officially, according to the keepers of calendars, it happens today.  Regardless, it’s over, and it’s over.

More soon.  Happy new year.   Alder

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Nature, Earth & Life: A Lecture Series by Alder Stone Fuller at Lincoln Street Center, Rockland ME

December 18, 2014:  Update to this post written September 30

The first draft of this lecture series was a success.  Participation was good, interest even better.  Numbers ranged from 11 (first night, a cold wet night) to 24.  Most ranged from 18 – 24.   Most attended several lectures, several did the entire series.  I’m quite happy for a first pass, and eager to offer the series again in both winter and spring.  My best advertisement is word of mouth: people who come, like what they see/hear, tell others of like mind, and bring them back for the next rendition.

I’ll add two additional lectures for the winter series.  One on a new kind of computational mathematics with no numbers and equations, a second on building community adaptability to large scale climate change.   I hope you’ll join us.  I’ll post a new blog post once the next series is scheduled.

Here’s the original post about the series.

You are cordially invited to this community ‘class’ about new views of nature, Earth and life from a perspective of the system sciences, including geophysiology – the science of our self-regulating Earth.

This integrated set of six lecture/slide shows – beginning Tuesday, October 21 and continuing each Tuesday evening through November – explores the complexity or system sciences.  The first lecture offers an overview of the series.  Subsequent lectures examine topics in greater depth and detail, building on topics explained in previous lectures.  The series tells a story of Earth and life, and is, therefore, best engaged as a whole.

One of the six lectures is about abrupt climate change, which is decidedly bad news, but news that we need to understand and for which we must prepare – quickly.  The other five are designed to help you understand the system principles – accessible by any adult with any background, including no science – that are necessary to fully understand abrupt climate change, rationally and intuitively.

But – equally important – the other five lectures explain why those principles are crucial for effectively dealing with climate change in this century and beyond.  And fortunately, they are the opposite of bad news.  They are the product of an ongoing revolution and renaissance in science and mathematics: interesting, engaging, and fun, and help us see nature, Earth and life in an elegant and awe-inspiring new light.

All lectures begin at 6 pm at Lincoln Street Center, 24 Lincoln St, Room 102, Rockland ME.  The first two lectures are two hours long; the remaining four are 1.5 hours each.  Lectures are $10 each; $5 for students (with ID) and seniors (65+).  Tickets can be purchased at the door, or we’re offering the full series prepaid for $50 (or $25 for students and seniors).

To download a two-page printable version of this page (Adobe pdf), click here.

For a one-page printable flier (Adobe pdf) for public posting, click here.

For more information, or to prepay for the series, please contact us or call (207) 701-7725.

Here are the titles for each date.  The descriptions for each are below.

  • 10.21.14: How the Universe Works:
    An Introduction to Complexity Sciences
  • 10.28.14: Abrupt Climate Change, What To Do About It,
    and Why the Media is Not Telling the Whole Story
  • 11.04.14: Networks, Tipping Points, Fractals
    & the Edges of Chaos: The Mathematics of Nature
  • 11.11.14: Self-Organization & Emergence: Why the Universe
    Is Complex, Lumpy & Somewhat Orderly
  • 11.18.14: Cells, Symbiosis & Organisms:
    A Systems View of Life & Evolution
  • 11.25.14: Geophysiology & Earth System Sciences:
    Studies of Earth as a Self-Regulating System


10.21.14: How the Universe Works:
An Introduction to Complexity Sciences

Have you ever wished that there was a set of easy-to-understand principles that could lead anyone – with any background, including no science – to a rational and intuitive understanding of virtually everything in the universe ranging in scale from quantum to cosmos?  This lecture slideshow – and the lecture series that it introduces – will offer a glimpse into such a set of principles from the complexity (or system) sciences.  Those are as different from the mechanistic sciences as day from night.  They have been called both a revolution and a renaissance in science on par with quantum theory, yet far more applicable to everyday reality and – fortunately – far more comprehensible.  Indeed, for most, the principles are intuitive.   Knowledge of them is crucially important for our future, including successfully addressing planetary challenges.  Topics include dis-equilibrium, fractal geometry, the edge of chaos, self-organization, emergence and geophysiology, the study of our self-regulating planet.  Examples include whirlpools, chemical clocks, homeostasis, cells, organisms, ecosystems, and climate.  The remaining lectures in the series will examine these topics and examples more closely.


10.28.14: Abrupt Climate Change, What To Do About It,
and Why the Media is Not Telling the Whole Story

The climate change event that has begun and will accelerate is likely to be the greatest challenge that our species has ever faced.  This lecture will help you understand why using principles from the complexity sciences.  It will address the status of Earth’s climate with respect to temperatures, greenhouse gas concentrations, rates of increase, ice caps, oceans, changes in atmospheric circulation, CO2 residence time, and multiple positive feedback processes that are accelerating change.  It will compare current trends with the geologic past, focusing on the last three million years.   Complexity principles employed include nonlinearity, system (attractor) states, and rapid transitions at tipping points (critical thresholds).  It will explain why almost all contemporary climate models – including those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their analyses and predictions – significantly underestimate the scale and speed of change.  Therefore, in addition to mitigation efforts, we must immediately begin preparations for the inevitable large, abrupt changes, including dealing with our fear and denial (*), and replacement of world views and cultural maps based in obsolete, mechanistic models with the more accurate sciences of complexity and geophysiology.  Strategies that fail to incorporate the latter changes will not adequately prepare us for the future.   (* Carmine Leo will lecture on Thursday, 10.30.14 about how we can address fear, despair and denial, a first step in preparations.  See the lecture schedule for details.)


11.04.14: Networks, Tipping Points, Fractals
& the Edge of Chaos: The Mathematics of Nature

A visually-stunning introduction to several new (since the 1960s) branches of mathematics that serve as a foundation for the complexity sciences.  They should be taught in schools as part of the core curriculum because they are not only intellectually fascinating, but lead to radical new understandings about nature, Earth and life that are crucially important for humans in this century and beyond.  They are more useful than calculus and analytic geometry for modeling important aspects of nature and far easier to understand.  The basic concepts are comprehensible by any adult with any background, including those with a fear of mathematics; they can be introduced as early as grammar and middle school.  Topics will include fractal geometry, chaos theory (AKA non-linear dynamics), and a new kind of visual mathematics (no equations!) called computational systems (Stephen Wolfram’s new kind of science).  The latter include virtual oddities like cellular automata and Turing machines.


11.11.14: Self-Organization & Emergence:
Why the Universe Is Complex, Lumpy & Somewhat Orderly

Why is the universe so complex?  That is, why are high levels of organization present in the universe instead of total chaos?  And especially, how can we explain the existence of life, the most complex phenomenon that we know?  Is life a highly-improbable accident that may exist on only one or a few planets, or a highly-probable process, driven by the 2nd law of thermodynamics that exists on billions of planets with the proper elements and energy sources?   Two new sciences are offering new, exciting, even awe-inspiring answers to these ancient questions.  One is informally called self-organization science or, in academic circles, non-equilibrium thermodynamics (NET); understanding its principles is easier than pronouncing its name.  Second, the science of emergence, which expands and explores the ancient adage that “a whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.  This lecture will address the principles of NET and emergence with examples including whirlpools, tornadoes, hurricanes, convection cells (in the lab and Earth’s mantle and atmosphere), chemical clocks (like your heart’s natural pacemaker), dancing cornstarch, photosynthesis, homeostasis, life and consciousness.  Without these new concepts, biology is an incomplete science that cannot even define life, let alone adequately explain it.  Thus, these concepts will be employed in the next lecture in the series.

11.18.14: Cells, Symbiosis & Organisms:
A Systems View of Life & Evolution

This is the biology that you wish you’d had in school.  Biology from the perspective of the complexity sciences is vastly different from the mechanistic, reductionist models currently taught in high schools and colleges.  It is far more intuitive, and often leads to “AHA! moments” because it offers a profoundly-meaningful and awe-inspiring new understanding of the phenomenon of life: what it is, how it works, and even why it exists.  (The latter part – why – has formerly been the exclusive domain of philosophy and religion.)  These ideas should be integrated into all school curricula.  This lecture will address additions to biology and evolution that significantly expand Darwin’s theory of natural selection acting on genetic variation, which are necessary but not sufficient components of a theory of evolution.  A complete understanding of evolution – including the origins of life and intelligence – must also include non-linear dynamics, self-organization, emergence, and a phenomenon called symbiogenesis, the origin of new tissues, organs and species via symbiosis among existing species.   A new scientific definition of life will be offered in terms of concepts explained in this and previous lectures.


11.25.14: Geophysiology & Earth System Sciences:
Studies of Earth as a Self-Regulating System

In the 1970’s, British atmospheric scientist James Lovelock and American microbiologist and evolutionist Lynn Margulis – Alder’s most influential mentor – proposed a hypothesis that Earth is not merely a rock coated with water, air and life, but a planetary-scale entity with a metabolism (complex chemical cycles) and homeostasis (self-regulation) similar to ours, but vastly more complex.  Yet it is not conscious like us.  Instead, self-regulation is cybernetic or automatic, just as your homeostasis.  (Your temperature, chemistry, pressure, and breathing are automatically regulated, even in your sleep.)   A new science, geo-physiology or planetary physiology, has emerged to test the hypothesis, because physiology is the proper study of metabolism and homeostasis.  (Geophysiology is often called Earth System Science, which is subtly different.)  The hypothesis has withstood decades of criticism fueled by misunderstanding because the concept cannot be understood from the perspective of mechanistic sciences, only from a systems perspective.  However, numerous predictions that followed from the hypothesis have been supported, and a sophisticated computer model explaining planetary self-regulation has evolved.  Thus, the hypothesis has been elevated to a theory: Gaia theory.

This is one of the most important ideas of our time.  It carries profound implications for our understanding of and existence on Earth.  For example, from a perspective of geophysiology, global heating is seen as a planetary “fever”, and climate change is but one symptom of a much greater problem: disruption of Earth’s metabolism and homeostasis, which in organisms we would call “disease”.  To successfully navigate the planetary challenges ahead, we must deeply understand that we don’t merely live in “the environment”, but inside an entity upon which we are totally dependent.  [Note: Alder is offering an on-going reading/study group about this topic every Thursday afternoon at Ermah Ge, Lincoln Street Center, 24 Lincoln St, #112, Rockland.  Enrollment is open at any time.  Please contact us for details. ]

Posted in Climate, Education, Gaia, Science, Systems | Comments Off on Nature, Earth & Life: A Lecture Series by Alder Stone Fuller at Lincoln Street Center, Rockland ME