Climate 101 weekend seminar in Belfast ME

You are cordially invited to attend my weekend Climate 101 seminar in Belfast in December.   Seating is limited to 15 (by space and to ensure adequate attention to questions).  Pre-registration is necessary;  please contact me for registration.

Dates and locations

  • Belfast: Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15, 17A Main St
  • Free overviews on Wednesday, December 11 and Friday, December 13, 6 – 7:30 pm.  Please RSVP by 24 hours in advance to ensure seating (so that I can set up in a room large enough for all participants).

See my online brochure for details of content, free introductory overview slide shows, locations, times, and pre-registration deadlines (required). Additional introductory overview lectures and discussions of variable lengths from 15 minutes to 2 hours are available upon request.

I have offered free public lectures about this topic to thousands in Maine and Oregon; hundreds have subsequently participated in the seminar.  The reviews of the seminar are consistently positive.   Example testimonials and letters of support are here.  I can provide additional testimonials, and have students who will share their experiences of the course on request.  I will respond to all queries promptly.

Climate 101 is unique in Maine – and probably the US. Why? No teacher, program or organization (of whom I am aware) offers such a thorough explanation of abrupt climate change explicitly grounded in system sciences in a short seminar; all necessary systems principles are explained during the seminar in easy to understand terms.

The principles themselves are elegant and awe-inspiring in terms of the new understanding they yield about Earth and life, and are understandable by any adult with any background (including no science). System sciences make a HUGE (!) difference in how we understand and deal with climate change relative to what’s being portrayed in the media and even from other organizations addressing climate change.  I am so confident of these statements that I offer a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports have consistently and significantly underestimated the size and frequency of effects because: 1) it is strongly politically influenced, and 2) the models that they use to draw conclusions are lacking sufficient representation of positive (accelerating) feedback processes.

Large-scale, abrupt climate change has already begun and is accelerating; it will NOT be linear and slow over a century or more, but abrupt and rapid in an unpredictable way with the potential for more radical change in a single decade than our species has experienced in its million year history, leading Earth to a very different, nearly unrecognizable state by around mid-century.

That statement is grounded in a recent paper published in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrating that the onset of the last major global heating event 55 million years ago – called the PETM – occurred in a single decade.  Our current situation has the ear marks of another PETM-like event in terms of its speed, acceleration and magnitude of the changes underway.  It will change the course of civilization; some believe that it will either collapse civilization or force a MAJOR make-over.  It will even threaten the existence our species.

Furthermore, Climate 101 is unique (at least in Maine) in another very important way.  That is, it does not treat global heating and climate change as merely an “environmental” issue, but as a symptom of a severe disruption in the self-regulating planetary system (homeostasis) as explained by a subset of system sciences called geophysiology (or planetary physiology, like Earth System Sciences but with a more explicit treatment using concepts from physiology and principles of cybernetics).

This is crucial for our understanding and properly addressing this issue, because classical approaches to environmental problems will not be sufficient to address the crisis.  Addressing it properly requires a new framing of the problem in terms of system sciences and geophysiology; indeed, we need a whole new set of mental models to understand the problem, let alone address it.  Fortunately, those models are available, easy to understand and included in this seminar (and other seminars in my Earth 1 series, of which Climate 101 is but one component).

I have scheduled these seminars close to the holidays.  Why not wait until the new year? Because our climate crisis is a slow motion planetary emergency that must be addressed at local scales.  Its onset will not slow for holidays (any more than super-storms like Sandy and Haiyan), and we must quickly educate ourselves about the clear and present challenges so that we can accelerate preparations to address those challenges via mitigation to the extent possible, while simultaneously increasing our community resilience (adaptability, not adaptation) via shockproofing systems to meet basic needs like shelter, water, food, energy, transportation, health care and security.

The faster our communities can grasp it in head and heart, the faster we can mitigate (to the extent possible, even though stopping it now is impossible) and – equally important – prepare to deal with it.  There are many positive things that we can do about this using available knowledge and technology, but we must act quickly. Not next decade, not next year – NOW.  We owe this effort to the next generation.  Their future will only be secure if we act quickly.

My seminars are lecture/slide show driven using software called Prezi which allows dynamic, engaging, nonlinear presentations (unlike Powerpoint’s strictly linear mode).  Participants receive a full set of notes and online access to the slide show.  Classes are relaxed but interactive and paced for engagement.  Questions are encouraged during lectures, and extended discussion is invited at designated times.  We take morning, lunch and afternoon breaks, and often adjourn to nearby spot (e.g., Front Street Pub across the street) for continued conversation.

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11.12.13: The 101′s, open house & Bear Grotto

Summary:  Three topics are introduced in this post, with more details to come in later posts (beginning tomorrow).  1)  an invitation to an open house at “my” (shared with Maine Adaptability Project, or MAP) new office on Saturday, November 16, 1 – 4 pm at 17A Main St, Belfast, a collaborative office space for MAP, GreenWays EcoCenter, Belfast Area Transition Initiative, and Belfast Ecovillage.  2) I am seeking participants for two ‘new’ seminars during November and December:  Climate 101 and Systems 101.  3) My new outdoor project called Bear Grotto Study Area (BGSA), an intertidal zone ecological area with spectacular geology that I’m weaving into my program that will be part of a project called Habitat Belfast.

[PS: February, 2014.  For various reasons, Belfast has not worked out for me; I found less interest here in my work than I'd hoped.  So, I'm leaving within a month.  The good news is that I'm finding a LOT of interest in communities a bit to the south, notably Rockland and Camden.  I'll probably be heading there next.  Stay tuned.]

Preface: Once again, I’ve been derelict in my responsibilities to this blog.  Life continues to be described as a nonlinear vortex surfing the edges of chaos, but mostly in a good way, even if stressful at times.  So, I drafted this yesterday, but developed writer’s block yesterday before finishing it.

November 12, 2013. What a great date for an update.  But it looks more interesting as 11.12.13.   We won’t see that combination again for another century.

Here’s an update, first of many over the next few weeks.  My goal is several per week, even if just a thought for the day.  Here goes.

Topic 1: Open house. I have a new office and classroom in Belfast –  17A Main St, Belfast, ME in a collaborative office space – now called “The Office” but soon to be called “The Hub” – with GreenWays EcoCenter (at which I am am an associate), Belfast Area Transition Initiative (BATI), Belfast ‘EcoVillage’, and others.  I’ll post pics of the office soon.

We are having an open house this Saturday, November 16, 1 – 4 pm. Please come by to check out the new space, and get an update about what I’m up to during November, December and into 2014, as well as the other great groups and projects going on there.  I’ll offer short, 5 – 10 minute slide shows of my current set of projects, described herein.

Topic 2: New seminars, Climate 101 and Systems 101.

First, about my three, upcoming weekend Climate 101 seminars in Belfast and Waterville (ME) in November and December.  In order:

  • Belfast:  Saturday, November 23 and Sunday, November 24
  • Waterville: Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8
  • Belfast: Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15

Please see the online brochure for details of content, free introductory overview slide shows, locations, times, and pre-registration deadlines (required).

I’m excited to offer Climate 101, one of my hallmark seminars, in Belfast.  It is unique in our region and probably the US because it explains climate change from a systems and geophysiological perspective, both of which make a HUGE difference in how we understand and deal with climate change.

I understand that because I’ve scheduled these so close to the holidays, that the turnout may not be huge.  But abrupt climate change will not wait for holidays, and I feel compelled to begin the important task of educating our communities about the clear and present challenges that we face – which I see as a planetary emergency – as quickly as possible so that we can begin preparations to address those challenges via mitigation to the extent possible, but also increasing our community resilience via shockproofing systems to meet basic needs like shelter, food and water.

Now, an update about Systems 101. I’m beginning two sections of it now, one on Tuesdays 3 – 5 pm, one on Thursdays 5:30 – 7:30 pm.  It’s not too late to join either one! It’s also the most logical portal – into Earth 1, my integrated series of seminars (both lecture and reading) about our living planet.

Here is an online brochure about Systems 101 (500 kb Adobe pdf).

I’m super excited (like a kid in a happy way) to be offering the first full Systems 101 seminar in Maine.  (There are elements of Systems 101 in my Climate 101 seminar which I’ve taught numerous times in Maine, but not all of it.)  It’s one of my favorite classes because it casts Earth, life and reality in a profound, awe-inspiring and intuitive new scientific light that is radically different from that offered by the mechanistic sciences.  It is more representative of my work than Climate 101, which I do more as public service than my other seminars.

Topic 3:  Bear Grotto Study Area, or BGSA, is one of my favorite projects that will soon become a component of ALL Earth 1 seminars.  It’s on the public beach near my apartment, and on my commute (at least at low tide) to the office downtown (which is only a 15 minute walk away).

It incorporates a massive rock outcrop that runs for nearly 1/3 mile from the edge of downtown to southeast of my apartment. I’m told by a geologist colleague that the rock is from the Proterozoic eon; that’s pre-Cambrian, making it over 600 million years old.  It’s metamorphic – sedimentary rock that has been subducted, cooked and twisted in Gaia’s (or Vulcan’s!) furnace before being pushed back to the surface.  It’s probably migrated up here from near Australia, he says, via continental drift over the last billion years or so.  It forms the boundary between the terrestrial urban terrestrial ecology on land (mostly residential yards with a tiny wild boundary where it hits the rock) and the marine ecosystem that is Belfast Bay.

My goal for BGSA is to use it as a study area for geology, ecology – the terrestrial/marine interface and intertidal – habitat restoration (as part of the Habitat Belfast project in which I am participating) – and workshops in bushcraft/outdoor living skills.

Here are a few pics.  This first one is an overview of the main area.  My driftwood sculpture called ‘Bear’ is a work in progress that I’m carving with axes and carving knives.  At high high tides (12′ plus), the water comes up to the base of the sculpture.  That’s my walking stick and pack (one of several) near it.  There’s a massive Norway maple shading it, though it’s technically an invasive species.

Here’s another part of the rock ‘headland’ at low tide. One can see the interface between the ocean and land where the seaweed – a marine algae called bladderwrack, Fucus vesiculosis, belonging to the kingdom Protoctista – clings to the rock in the intertidal.  Of course, someday soon, as oceans continue rising, the algae will take over the entire rock and humans won’t see it again for thousands of years.  So, this is a special time for us to know it before it goes under.

Here’s a close up of bladderwrack.

This is a shot of the terrestrial/marine interface or ‘edge’ as I call it.  I’ve removed a LOT of multiflora rose, Rosa multiflora – a highly invasive species – from the land above the rock.  Aleta McKeage, founder of Habitat Belfast and GreenWays EcoCenter where I am an associate taught me about it.

This is a shot just north of Bear Grotto by a few feet showing the spectacular colors of the rock.  In the morning sun, the reds and browns are exceptionally beautiful.  One of my goals is to learn more about the chemistry of the rocks that produce those colors.  I suspect the presence of iron.  I also want to use the rock to help tell Gaia’s life story.


Ok, that’s all for now.  More tomorrow.

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Emergence on the Edges of Chaos

That’s the current title of my intro lecture/slide show for Earth 1.  At least for the live lecture/slide show; I have not yet updated the title of the online version.  More on the title below, which is the point of this post.

But first, here is the ‘home frame’ of the slide show.  Click on it for a full sized view.

It is the first ‘slide’ (Prezi calls them ‘frames’ since they’re not like Powerpoint slides) that’s sort of a table of contents for the entire lecture.  All ‘slides’ are visible on the home frame, even if some are very small.  (Transitions between frames involves zooming in and out.  It allows so much more flexibility and nonlinear potential than powerpoint.)

Now, back to the title and subtitle.  I have been experimenting with the title of the slide show, trying to find the optimal one for fliers.  It needs to grab one’s attention, to tell person reading a flier (or an entry on a community events calendar) something about what the lecture is about, motivating them to attend.

I’ve been experimenting with titles.  This is the fourth title for it.  Here’s the list, from first to now:

  1. Earth 1: Our Living Planet
  2. Earth, Life & Abrupt Climate Change: A Systems View of a Different Future
  3. Earth, Life & the Edge of Chaos: Increasing Community Adaptability to Abrupt Climate Change
  4. Emergence on the Edges of Chaos: A Systems View of Life, Abrupt Climate Change, Community Reslience & Healing Our Planet

So, why the evolution?

Number 1 was too short, even though it accurately explains what the lecture is about, most will not know what “Earth 1″ is.  And it’s about more than just Earth.

Number 2 is closer – because it includes reference to “life”, which is THE main topic of Earth 1 (more important even than climate change).  But still not quite right.

In number 3, I added the phrase “the edge of chaos” because it plays such a HUGE role in Earth 1, and because it’s kind of catchy in an edgy sort of way.  Still, it focused too much on abrupt climate change.  I explicitly and emphatically do NOT wish to represent my work as all about climate change.  As I said just above – and I’m being purposefully redundant here for clarity – Earth 1, and really all of my work, is most fundamentally about life at all scales – including planetary.

So number 4, the current title (but ask me again next week) seems to me to strike a balance between all the concepts, and adds a new one – emergence – which along with self-organization and the edge of chaos, plays the central role in Earth 1.  Emergence and emergent properties are everywhere in reality.  Life and Gaia are both emergent properties, and an argument can be made that consciousness is also, or at least has a component of emergence.

And in the seminars, I teach that all complex dynamical systems seem to emerge on the edges of chaos.  They are neither perfectly orderly nor totally chaotic, but a mixture.  (And lots of time is devoted to what that means, and to helping students understand it graphically and with real world examples (like heart rhythms).

So I’m writing this to seek feedback and suggestions.  Thoughts?  Ideas?

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Lectures in Belfast ME, and other news

Here’s an update about my upcoming lectures and seminars for the last week of September and into October, made all the more poignant by the climate tragedy in Colorado, and a stunning new paper about paleoclimate (a temperature reconstruction for the last 11,000 years compared to what’s happening now).


First, I cordially invite you to my introductory lecture for Earth 1 that I’ll offer in Belfast every night this week, Monday – Friday (September 23 – 27) - same lecture each evening – 6:30 – 8:30 pm with Q&A/discussion.  All lectures will be at GreenWay EcoCenter, 17A Main St, Belfast (near the harbor across the street from the Chamber of Commerce information office).  I’ll open the doors at 6 pm if you’d like to come early for a seat (seating is limited) and to chat before the lecture.
I’ve renamed the lecture to reflect more accurately and completely what it’s about: Emergence on the Edges of Chaos: A Systems View of Life, Abrupt Climate Change, Community Resilience and Healing Our Planet.   (Naming lectures is a constant experiment for me.)

Click this link for a flier (pdf) about the lectures if you’d care to post some around your area (which would be great!).

I’m in the process of scheduling more lectures for October, and will post them to my web site soon.  I am also planning to offer live online lectures using ‘webinar’ software, starting in October.

SecondI am in the process of organizing three seminars in Belfast to begin in October – overviews of which are included in my intro lectures.

  • Systems 1: a set of lectures with a full set of notes (and online access to the slide shows) offering an introduction to the basic principles of systems sciences.  These are simple principles explained in easy to understand language, accessible to any adult with any background – including no science! – that are intuitive to most and offer elegant and awe-inspiring new insights into how natural and human systems work – including life, Earth as a whole system, and climate.   But they also offer extremely useful ideas for living everyday life from cooking to health to organizing and operating organizations and businesses.  (Fortune 500 companies already use many of these principles.)  Systems 1 is the best place to begin my curriculum of study.   Upon request, I’ll send you a detailed list of topics covered.
  • Adaptability 1: a reading seminar based on Dianne Dumanoski’s stellar book The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Civilization to Live on a Volatile Earth, which I argue is THE best book out to date to help readers understand our climate crisis AND serious suggestions about how to address it that go far beyond most approaches based on solutions like carbon taxes and hybrid cars.
  • Climate 1: an in-depth look at why we can probably no longer stop large scale, abrupt climate change, but why we should do everything possible to mitigate it, slow it, and reduce its severity.  This seminar may be offered as a weekend intensive which I’ve done numerous times.

All will have both a live, in-person component (for those in or near Belfast) and an online component (for those who cannot get to Belfast, but even accessible to those who attend the live seminar in Belfast).

Further, I’m going to organize Systems 1 so that participants can either enroll in the entire seminar (5 – 6 weeks; best option) or attend selected lectures of greatest interest (and to meet time constraints imposed by busy schedules).

All of my seminars are offered on a sliding scale fee system based on ability to pay that I negotiate individually with each student.  Prices start as low as $50, though when possible, I offer some partial or full scholarships.

If you are interested in those seminars, please let me know by mail or phone (207-930-8009) so that I can inform you about their organization and schedule.

Oh, and here’s an updated set of testimonials and letters of recommendation from my students and colleagues about the value and importance of my curriculum.

Third, even if you are unable to enroll in a seminar right now, you can still help me take Earth 1 to the next level – and therefore help more Maine communities – by donating to my crowdfunding campaign.  I’m delighted to announce that in the last few months, I’ve received over $4500, 37% of my goal ($12,000), which has made possible my transition to Belfast!  (Thanks again to all who have contributed!!!)

The next $2000 raised will allow me to purchase a new laptop (to replace my aging and ailing Macbook) with more computing power and hard drive storage plus necessary software to record many of my lectures on systems, Earth systems and climate for distribution on the Internet, and to start on my ebook (eventually to be published in printed form), a primer for Earth 1.  Donations can be applied to fees for those lectures or any of my seminars, live or online.  No amount is too small, from $5 to $500! Thanks in advance for any donations!

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Phase transitions at critical thresholds

Preface to 1st draft:  I first posted the following two paragraphs to my Facebook wall this morning (08.05.13).  I’ve copied them here for further development (have begun editing on 08.06.13) and expansion with linkages to Systems 1, the first segment of Earth 1.  Classes are self-organizing this week (online) and will continue into 2014.  Details to come …)


What would happen if one were to wake up one morning and think, “I’m going to be a different person”? I think I’ll find out.

Well, not *totally* different, of course. The past is still there, time only goes one way (forward), and one will probably look pretty much the same. But I mean a different rule set for the neural network that results in a different attractor state for the dynamics, er, behavior of said individual. Am I making any sense here? All right out of Systems 1.

I propose that an explanation will involve neural networks, attractor states (especially class 4, edge of chaos), and phase transitions at critical thresholds. OK, 1, 2, 3 …


Continuing to ponder this project, now, and for the next few days … or will it be months?

Some elements of the person I’ve been for the last few years will continue forth, others will not.  In part, this is an exercise in how to look at what’s working for me, and what’s not, and deciding how to sort that out, carrying forward the desirable (to the extent possible) and leaving behind the rest (to the extent possible).  And I see this all in the context of the ideas I teach in Earth 1, and indeed being part of Earth 1 in the sense of learning how to apply E1 in one’s everyday life.

Oh, and it involves photos, percussion, music and dance, including my own, including a beachcomber bushscraft project I’m working on.  I’ll post some pics later, and mp3′s later still, but for now, here’s a couple of tracks that played on Pandora while I drafted this.

Joey Fehrenback – Delicate

Kuba – Don’t Panic



Here’s what a couple of FB friends wrote yesterday.

“I think that many things such as habit-forming or modes of communication have roots in systems principles. Those that fail to adopt a new practice as a matter of routine habit are those that fail to reach the tipping point of the behavior. Much like when I try to push a round hay bale over only to have it fall back down on me.” Benjamin

Carmine Leo, who councils in emotional literacy:

In my experience and observation, and there’s a fair amount of science behind this, our choices for action inevitably rise out of some ground of feeling, we either want to achieve feeling like ABC or we want to avoid feeling like DEF. So typically the beginning of change starts with distinctions. A friend of mine says, ‘You cannot manage that which is undistinguished, therefore it runs you.’

Having an accurate and meaningful vocabulary for emotion, being about to distinguish thinking from feeling, and several other attributes become the foundation. Then, if you want to change your behavior you need to change your thinking, those internal dialogues – all that self-talk. When you have done that, then you notice your behavior begins to shift, though typically we need rehearsal time, ways to practice the behavior until it becomes reflexive and second nature.


08.08.13 – I’ve had to put this interesting little project on hold while I deal with more pressing professional matters, like making sure that I can cover September rent, continuing my fundraising drive so I can buy the laptop I need to take Earth 1 to the next level (DVD), and starting a business.  Yes, yes, I’ve talked about starting that business for some time – months – but finally taking next steps now.

One step at a time …

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Earth 1 Overview Prezi

During the last month or so, I’ve been working diligently on a Prezi overview slide show for Earth 1: Our Living Planet.   A week ago, I sent it out for initial reviews, which were very positive, and yielded a lot of excellent feedback and suggestions.  I’ve now incorporated all.

Home frame of Prezi overview

So, without further ado, here it is.

Please share it far and wide, and let me know what you think.

My fundraising efforts continue here.  I’m up to $3000 – one fourth the way to my goal! I’m very pleased and encouraged by the level of support so far, but want to keep that ball rolling.  So, after viewing the Earth 1 Prezi, please consider a donation to help me continue development of Earth 1.  :)

I’m scheduled for installation of a landline (telephone) on Wednesday so that I can begin online lectures using Mikogo with better quality audio (voice) than is possible with my cell.  (Reception in coastal Maine is not the best, and cell signal quality drives me crazy anyway.)

More soon …

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Earth 1 Prezi & other news: a late June update

I’m overdue for an update, so here’s a quick one with the next one by next week.

My absence here does not mean I’ve been slacking.  Quite the contrary, I’m making excellent strides toward launching the next phase of my work around Earth 1.

Here are the top headlines.

  • My crowdfunding effort for Earth 1 on GoFundMe is going quite well.  I’m very happy with the results so far – and I have only been in phase 1 of several in that effort (of several that will extend over the next few months).  For reasons I’ll explain in the next point, I still have not notified most potential funders of the site.  Donations are at $2655 from 25 kind donors (thanks!) on the way to $12,000.  I’m optimistic.  Please remember: if you have not offered a donation, large donations are great, but none are too small.  Even $5 tells me that you’re interested in my work.  Please help me spread the link.
  • Before launching phase 2 of fundraising efforts, and before offering more intro lectures, I’ve been working to complete a new kind of overview for Earth 1.  For over a decade, I’ve used Powerpoint (or its clone, Open Office Impress) as my

    Earth 1 Prezi 'home' slide - all other slides are nested within this one several layers deep, allowing concepts to linked into logical groups.

    main software tool for creating slide shows.  However, recently, I began study and use of Prezi.  Powerpoint is to Prezi what vanilla ice cream is to chocolate with nuts and berries.  It has a steep learning curve, so it’s taken a few weeks to get proficient with it, but I’m almost finished with the first draft (of several).  It’s about 30 – 45 minutes long (depending on how much time readers spend with slides) and will offer a succinct overview of all of Earth 1.  I think it’ll offer viewers a much better understanding of Earth 1.  I’ll post a link in this blog by early next week, and share the link with potential donors.

  • Simultaneously, I’ve been working on development of a new discussion forum as a component of this web site using the forum software Simple Machines Forum (SMF).  It’ll offer an opportunity for Earth students, colleagues, donors, and registered members of the public to discuss Earth 1 and it’s concepts in depth with threaded discussions grouped into logical categories – like systems, life, geophysiology, climate and adaptability – with a table of contents.  Such forums are much easier to navigate and follow than Facebook, and infinitely superior to email for discussion.   I’ll integrate it with online seminars.  I’ve used SMF for forums in the past and am quite familiar with how it works, but have been slowed by a technical issue with getting it installed on a new host/server.  (I’m a biologist and systems thinker, not an IT guy!)
  • I’m also continuing to study how to most effectively use the online webinar software called Mikogo.  I have purchased a licence, progressed with training, and will begin live online lectures soon, with seminars shortly after that, beginning with the Systems 1 component of Earth 1.
  • Finally, this morning I created a new page (‘wall’) on Facebook devoted to Earth 1.   You can find it here; if you are a Facebook user, please share it with your friends.  I’ve been on Facebook for a few years as Alder Stone, but that account has confounded my personal and professional sides.  The new Earth 1 page will allow me to separate the two to some extent (even though it’s tough because my personal and professional sides are tightly integrated along fractal boundaries.  I plan to integrate this blog/site more completely using that Earth 1 Facebook page, and will soon step up the frequency of posts on this blog, focusing on Earth 1 topics.

And since all work and no play makes Alder a dull boy, I am spending some time exploring my current community, Belfast ME.  So far, by far, my fav spot here is about 60′ from where I’m typing this, on the beach of Belfast Bay.   There’s a little spot there I call “Little Grotto Rock”.  Not a real grotto, but on a small scale the concept works.

Little Grotto Rock

This is it at low tide at 7 am on a very foggy morning.  At high tide, it’s a little bit of wild heaven on the edge of a small city, where land meets sea, a place for solitude and reflection since the high water prevents people from getting to it without scrambling across rocks or walking in water – both of which I do to get there at high tide. Those are maples rooted on top of the rock.

That spot also is affording me – a field biologist by training (and love) – an opportunity to study (once again) intertidal zones that I love so much, especially those on rocky shores.  (I’m not a fan of sandy beaches, and my middle name is stone.)  Admittedly, I have more experience in deserts than intertidals, but that led to an interesting aha moment this week.  I realized that intertidal zones are not only ecotones – where one type of ecosystem meets another – but is rare in that it has two floods and two droughts (relatively speaking, especially if you’re fish) per day.  It’s kind of like a desert for aquatic critters at low tide.  So I’m starting a study of adaptations that allow weathering one flood/drought cycle after another, and curious about what – if any – lessons that humans can learn for the future as sea levels change and the tides get higher.

Or something like that.  I’ll try to explain that better in a later post.  In any case, I think there’s something interesting and useful in there for both the biology and adaptability parts of Earth 1.

Ok, that’s it for now.   I’ll post the Earth 1 Prezi for review no later than early next week.  I look forward to your feedback.

As always, thanks for your interest and support.


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Fundraising, Stability & Earth 1

Updated September 26.

Summary: I’ve moved to Belfast ME, and have launched a fundraising drive to help launch my new course Earth 1, both live here in mid-Maine and in ‘live’ online seminars using a webinar format called Mikogo.  I’m seeking your financial support – no amount is too small! – and your help spreading word of my efforts and work.

Since last November, every time I post here, I claim that I’m going to post regularly, and every time, something happens to postpone that.  This is my first one since March.

I’ll spare you the details, but offer this overview.  I’m not whining – with a view like I’ve got right now, I’m not complaining –  just offering context for my request.  It’s been what it’s been, and I’ve learned from the experience.  All’s well that ends well. :)

In summary, my delay involved four moves in six weeks (visualize my head spinning :D ) for a total of 12 moves in three years (!) as I’ve explored communities that are interested in supporting my work.  That has retarded my progress, preventing me from being stable enough to offer courses because packing and moving without a motorized vehicle is time consuming and a drain on one’s psyche.

(Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine for a moment packing up everything you own, storing 90% of it, and going on tour for three years, always living in spare rooms or storage areas in other peoples’s homes.  It’s an adventure for three weeks, acceptable for three months, but challenging for three years.)

But I’m optimistic that’s about to change and I’m going to get to settle in for a while! I’ve transitioned from a beautiful rural area near Skowhegan to the more populated coast in Belfast ME, at the western end of ‘downeast’, the ‘southern’ coast line of Maine that runs east toward Nova Scotia.  Encouragingly, I’m finding interest here in my work.

I’m lucky to have found an affordable summer apartment in a house on the shore of Belfast Bay.  Summer rentals on Maine’s coast are expensive, but the house is for sale so the owner cut me a deal.    The view is great, but the apartment is furnished right now only with a $15 used desk, a chair, and a small table.  My bed is a camping air mattress on a rug.  Most of my belongings are in storage elsewhere, including Oregon.

I was able to pay June rent, but I’m asking for your help to:

  • pay rent for July and August while I get my courses going here and online because it takes time to attract clients and students in a new area;
  • buy a new laptop because my PC died last year and I’m using a loaner;
  • buy an inexpensive camcorder to record my lectures;
  • buy my first motorized vehicle in three years; it’s been challenging because mass transit here is limited, retarding my ability to offer courses.

I’m not asking for a hand out, but a hand up.  I’ll offer something in return: my course – Earth 1: Our Living Planet, integrating system sciences, life sciences, geophysiology (Earth system sciences) and abrupt climate change, plus an optional component called adaptability – either live or live on line in webinar format.  Contributions of $50 or more can be applied to course fees, tutoring or consulting for you, or as a gift to others.

My fundraising page is here.  The proposal is summarized in the first section, but I added four more sections for those seeking more info, including about Earth 1 with links back to this site for yet more details.

Please help me reach my goal!  You can help in two ways.  First, please consider a donation. Again, no donation is too small!  I will be thankful for all!  Second, please share this link with others via Facebook, Twitter and email.

I am happy to answer all questions!

I plan to begin offering online overviews of Earth 1 next week (via Mikogo), and am taking steps to offer live overviews in Belfast within weeks, with a course beginning this summer.

Below, I’m listing donors, updated daily, with a huge and sincere thank you to all of them.   The list is in order from first to last.  I’ll continue to update the list as it grows, and will eventually create a page on my site devoted to these kind donors.

(Note: There are numerous others who deserve my thanks for their help over the last few years (!), but here I’m listing only donors for my current effort.)

Update: As of Thursday, September 26, here are the 37 donors in temporal order.  $4545 and still going!   Thanks to you all!  Phase 3 of the drive will begin soon.

  1. Bruce Agte
  2. Bonnie Sammons
  3. Ryan Stones
  4. Terri Brown
  5. Alan
  6. Kris Amundson
  7. Joseph
  8. Leah and Marcia McCullough
  9. Peggy Gannon
  10. Randy Nishimura
  11. Kevin Mergel
  12. LN
  13. Bonnie Shulman
  14. Beth Henderson
  15. Janet Williams
  16. Ron Unger
  17. Jim Murphy
  18. Ed Hummel
  19. Gina Valentino
  20. Steve Degoosh
  21. George Girod
  22. Roget Lockard
  23. Glen Munroe
  24. Cynthia Beal
  25. Anonymous
  26. Susan Anderson
  27. Jim Murphy (second donation)
  28. Rain Phutureprimitive
  29. David Berg
  30. Harvey Ginsberg
  31. Dan Robinson
  32. Anonymous
  33. Anonymous
  34. Anonymous
  35. Connor Sexton
  36. Anonymous
  37. Kristina von Bulow
Posted in Education, Gaia, Personal, Science, Systems | Comments Off

Earth 1 & Teacher for Hire

Part 1: Introduction

Well, look at the time.  Once again, I’ve neglected my promises to post here more regularly.  I’m trying, but life just keeps throwing curves.

That’s not unexpected, of course, since we live in a non-linear universe … or at least said Ilya Prigogine, Robert May, Edward Lorenz,  Benoit Mandelbrot, and numerous other founders of non-linear dynamics (aka ‘chaos theory’), and so says Stephen Wolfram in NKS.  More on those assertions – and why they’re relevant to us now – at a later time.

So not unexpected, but it does have a way of throwing one off course — which sometimes, if we’re stuck, is a good thing.  So, the good news is, I feel ‘unstuck’.  I like unstuck.  It’s better than stuck.  (Think 4×4 truck in deep mud going nowhere.)

But for now, here is the first entry in a multiple entry post – as I am prone to do – that will unfold during the next … um, few weeks before a new one begins.

The topics are named in the title of this post.

First is Earth 1: my new ‘meta-course’, an integration of my intro courses in my five curriculum categories: system sciences, biosciences, geosciences (especially geophysiology), climatology and adaptability.  My curriculum now includes – as part of my adaptability series – courses in wilderness survival and bushcraft.  (Think Mors Kochanski and Ray Mears … more to come soon about all that.)  I’m excited about that; it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but now have a good reason for doing so.

Earth 1 is equivalent to a ‘one-year’ freshman-college-level intro course in the sciences and mathematics (new stuff in both cases that is not offered elsewhere … yet … but I’m planning to help change that.  :-) )  It is the entry way into my advanced courses, providing a great foundation for advanced study, that I call AST: advanced student track.

Second topic in this post is the fact that I’m now a teacher for hire, and am seeking students – introductory and those seeking AST – and communities in which to teach them.  To be clear, as a reminder, I am NOT seeking a position at any school or college or any other established institution.  Been there, done that.  I’m not seeking a faculty position, I’m instead seeking to act as an educational consultant to teach the teachers at those established institutions, most of which are overdue for not just an update, but a phase transition in their curricular programs to meet the challenges of this century and beyond.

So, when I say that I’m ‘now for hire’, I’ll remind readers that I’ve been for hire as an independent educator for the 2.5 years I’ve lived in this wonderful state,  Maine – make no mistake, I love it here – but getting my feet on the ground professionally here (after leaving Oregon, where I was for the previous decade) has been an uphill climb, and there were a couple of pits along the way — <ahem!> but those are water under the bridge now — so I’m finally starting to get some traction with the help of a bunch of people – fortunately increasing in number now – that understand not only what I’m teaching, but its of relevance and value.

And Earth 1 is the lecture series and course sequence to initiate that.  I’m excited.  So are those who’ve seen the first part (of 2) of a pair of 2-hour free intro lectures.  Coming soon (over the next six months) to numerous Maine communities (mostly mid- and downeast).

I’m seeking funding to help finance this transition.  One proposal is in the works.  I’m simultaneously pursuing other sources.  More on that soon, as well.

As I make the leap into a new phase of my program, I’ll be seeking help in numerous communities coordinating logistics: location, scheduling, advertising, fee collections, etc, etc … soon that will be handled by staff in a company that I’m organizing, and a new organization – a network of sorts – called The MAP, both of which I describe in the Earth 1 introductory overview lecture.

But those are a couple of months off yet.  So for now, I’m seeking ‘volunteers’ to help with logistics, but the work has perks -exchange for course work — kind of a work/trade thing: payment in kind, it’s called.  I’ll be describing that more soon, and will be in touch with several individuals (who will read this) soon; I’ll be starting with known persons with whom I have experience.  However, if you are interested in helping, please contact me.  (See link on menu above.)

This Earth 1 tour will also be part of my effort to see which community (or two) I’ll settle in for at least next winter, and perhaps beyond.  I’m looking for one or two medium-sized communities with a bunch of cool, intelligent people who are hungry to study with me.  (My Earth 1 intro lectures will help them decide that.)  My goal for 2013 is thirty students on AST, and thirty more identified for 2014.   Progress on a book and videos is also on track.  The first video: the entire Earth 1 intro overview lecture series, plus some extras … TBA.

OK, that’ll do for starters.  Please tell your friends about this thread.  Let me hear from you, please.  Registered users can post comments.  (Sorry; moderated to eliminated spam.)  Anyone can send me a message via the contact button on the menu.

Next update to this post?  Let’s say within a week.  I’ll offer a more formal description of Earth 1 (like a college catalog description), along with my curriculum map (a graphic that integrates my entire curriculum), and some screen shots from the overview lectures.

Yes, you read correctly: I’m finally going to post my curriculum map.  I think I’ve said that maybe three times in six months.  For real, this time.  It’s ready for prime time.  It will continue to evolve during the year and beyond, but it’s reached a stable attractor for now.  I’m talking about it a LOT in my Earth 1 overview, because Earth 1 integrates ideas from the entire curriculum (focusing on those intro courses).

Ok, that’s all for now.  More to come.

Thanks for your interest!

This should be fun.  I mean, if it’s not fun, what good is it?  :D


Part 2 : please stay tuned …

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AU’s & AUP’s : An Irreverent, Relevant Tangent

Summary: This essay is about people that I irreverently label with the acronyms AU’s & AUP’s about which I’ve learned – often the hard way – during three decades as an educator, why they are disruptive to learning, and why I will not engage them as students or colleagues.


This post may seem like a tangential interruption to my series “Springing Toward Spring” about the company that I am attempting to create, about which I’m more excited than any project I’ve attempted in the last … well, ever.

But I am posting this now to be as clear as possible about the type of people that I do NOT want as students or colleagues in the company or a related organization, and to increase the probability that I will attract the right kinds of people to my program.  This issue has too often been … hmmm, what’s the metaphor?  - an annoyance, a PITA, and a thorn my my side.

Those kinds of people have repeatedly impeded my teaching, and thus, learning by my students.  And last year, several of them helped crash an organization that I had been working to create – as founder – setting my work back by almost a year.  I learned a hard lesson from that experience, and it motivates this post.

So, here goes.  AU is an acronym for ‘arrogant upstart‘, what I now call people – fortunately relatively rare – who after completing at most one or two courses with me, but in some cases after only hearing an introductory overview lecture (!) – proclaim that they understand as much as I do about the topics of said courses even though they have little or no previous training in or knowledge of those topics. In some cases – and this is where things get dicey – they even try to take over a class or a project by intellectual coup d’etat.

I’ve experienced such people for decades as a college-level teacher.  My first experiences were as a teaching assistant (TA) during my graduate programs.  But the first major challenges occurred after completing grad school while I was teaching at a community college in Albuquerque, NM: formerly Technical Vocational Institute (TVI), now Central NM Community College (CNMCC) which more accurately reflects that it is a hybrid of vo-tech training and liberal arts.

I taught intro level courses in biology and mathematics there, and loved it.  For the first time in my life – when I started there, I had only just finished my PhD at 40 – I was able to earn a decent living, complete with perks, by doing what I am most passionate about – teaching about living systems.

In some ways, I was an idiot to quit that job to become an independent educator with no institutional support.  But there were several compelling reasons that motivated my leaving.  And in the bigger sense, I don’t regret my decision.  If I had it to do over, I’d do it again, even if in a different way.   But that’s a different story for another time.

I loved my students at that school, especially eager ones that couldn’t get enough knowledge, that ate my challenging written exams – described in my previous post – like a nourishing meal for their minds.  That’s what teaching and learning is about!

But occasionally, I’d end up with one or two AU’s in a class.  They are usually – but not always – intelligent, sometimes highly so, and may have a science background, but rarely in the specific topics of that class.  At some point, they arrogantly proclaim that they fully understand the principles of the class, allegedly as well as I do, even though I may offer several advanced courses necessary for understanding at a deep and intuitive level.  Then, they begin to challenge either the ideas themselves or my manner of teaching them, but usually both.

Now this next part is important.  I do not object to challenges about an idea or concept or even my teaching methods and strategies. To the contrary, I encourage challenges, as long as they are offered respectfully and constructively, just as I offer challenges to them in a constructive way, often written exams.  Students that don’t challenge ideas – especially when they don’t understand them – are simply sponges that attempt to memorize concepts without truly logically and intuitively understanding, and knowledge cannot evolve among sponges.  Knowledge must be constantly challenged so that we learn anew; that’s the way that science works, constantly challenging established views as we try to get closer to some ‘truth’.

But there’s a difference between valid, respectful challenges by truly knowledgeable students and an arrogant assertion offered in a disrespectful, smug, even spiteful way.  One can sense from speech and body language when a student is trying to ‘put down’ the teacher as a matter of personal pride, yet do not fully, let alone deeply, grasp the concept that they are criticizing.

Thus, such individuals are ‘upstarts‘:  people who behave as if they are more important than they really are and who show a lack of respect towards those who are more experienced.   Their mannerisms are laced with arrogance and self-righteousness, and – in the worst cases – smugness, snideness, spite and irreverence.

I once referred to the most smug and snide AU’s as ‘young guns’, the intellectual equivalents of young gunfighters like Billy the Kid in the 19th-century American west that would challenge experienced guns like Wyatt Earp and Batt Masterson as a matter of pride.  But nowadays, I call them AUP’s – arrogant upstart punks – especially when smugness, smirking or or spite is evident.  Since that acronym – AUP – has a nicer phonetic ring to it, I’m going to use it for the remainder of this essay – and in general – even though not all AU’s are AUP’s.

After some experience, I learned to recognize AUP’s and their modus operandi.  It usually starts like this.  Generally, I’m a fairly cordial, even friendly guy, especially in class.  I think that’s important in education because overly-formal, arrogant, prima dona instructors, bad vibes and intimidation are enemies of learning in my experience.  Even as a mainstream college teacher, I invited my students to use my first name, and promoted a cordial atmosphere while paying attention to intellectual rigor.  I still do.

As a result, AUP’s often see me as easy prey, a pushover, a ‘nice guy’ who will roll over when attacked.  But they don’t know that I grew up street-smart in the small-town south.  I was forced to because I was a brainy red-headed geek, slightly pigeon-toed, and skinny with a weird given name  - Ollar, which is old English for Alder – when other boys had more common names like Bob, David, Mike and Peter.  That all set me up for ridicule, and I suffered a lot of abuse starting in first grade.

By high school, I had become a kindly punk, usually cordial, but could switch on the punk when necessary to defend myself, reflecting back what I was getting from an attacker in spades.  I once backed down a trained boxer with words and aggressive physical postures.  (For self-defense study, one of my main mentors is trainer Kelly McCann, who advises that if you are attacked, you no longer practice ‘self-defense’, but go on the offense, aggressively turning your attacker – the predator who began the fight – into the prey, ending the attack as quickly and decisively as possible.  I was doing that even in high school.)

For better or worse, I’ve always carried that attitude into my classroom … in an intellectual way, of course; I’ve fortunately never had occasion in class to physically defend myself, and hopefully never will.  So when an AUP got out of line, I’d pull out a can of anti-AUP faster than you can say ‘punk’ and – POW! – decisively end the confrontation with as much irreverence and disrespect as he (yes, usually he) was throwing at me, or at least transform it from arrogant and disrespectful to a discussion back to a more appropriate for a classroom with an appropriate level of respect.  That is, I try to be fair and democratic in my classroom to a point, but I’m still the teacher when in the classroom (outside is a different matter), and teachers deserve respect.  (We deserve at least that since we’re not getting rich doing this.)

Being a closet punk with street-smarts, I can out-punk the punks.  Yet even though my sharpest, non-AUP students appreciate that about me, and enjoy the spectacle of AUP’s learning a lesson in respect at some cost to their inflated egos, such events have an overall negative impact on the ambience of the class, the spirit of learning: they smell of competition, gamesmanship, or oneupmanship that can retard learning.  So it’s something I will do when necessary, but prefer not to.  (Hence, again, this post that I can share with prospective students to dissuade potential AUP’s from engaging my courses.)

Furthermore, I’ve learned that age doesn’t matter with regard to AUP’s.  At CNMCC my students were mostly young – 20 somethings, often fresh out of high school.   But as an independent educator, many of my students are older adults, sometimes older than me, in their 60′s and 70′s.  They can be AU’s and even AUP’s, too; ‘punk’ is ageless.  And the older ones are more challenging to identify early on; they are cagey and experienced, sometimes even deceptively so.

Thus, unfortunately, last year, a few AU’s – about 7, to be exact – found their way via my Climate 1 course into the now-defunct organization that I was trying to start.  Most were just AU’s, but at least two were AUP’s.  They were older and clever, and slipped past my AUP radar – I was working hard to create that organization during a difficult and challenging time for me (read immense, crushing financial stress) – and so I was overly trusting of their assurances that they ‘got it’ about things like abrupt climate change, non-linearity, self-organization, fractal geometry, autopoiesis and Gaia theory, and the importance of all those things for the future of our species.  Despite evidence to the contrary – the writing was on the wall, but hind sight is (often) 20/20 – I naively trusted them.

But eventually, their AUP-ness manifest, especially during their interaction, which lead to a kind of AUP positive feedback.  They may be kind, well-meaning people in other regards, but when it came to the project that I had invited them to participate in, they were AUP’s.  They thought – and claimed – that they understood that project and the scientific principles at its foundation – better than I did, and pretended to understand their importance based on their limited exposure via one or two courses.  And in the end, they were arrogant about it, at time just straight-up punks.  Some of the things they said about me and the organization were simply astonishing, and deeply offensive.

So, there’s no way around it.  A spade is a spade, and an AUP is an AUP.  C’est la vie.

I’m moving on – but not sweeping things under the carpet – and so have they.  I wish them a good life.

So, why am I telling this story here now? Because as I move forward, my AUP detection meter is dialed up to ‘high’.  I will be screening for AUP’s in applications for my program, for positions in the company, and for colleagues in a new organization that will be linked to the company.  People with whom I associate – students and colleagues – will be repeatedly … um, ‘evaluated’ to see where they fall on the AUP scale, and if at any point they score too high, they will either be told to check their AUP-ness at the door, or take a hike.

Bottom line: AU’s and AUP’s need not apply to work with me.

All others are welcome.  :-)


Next: Springing Toward Spring 2 : An Emerging Company

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