Rockland Maine: Ermah Ge’s New Home

Since arriving in Maine in July 2010, I’ve been on a quasi-nomadic quest for the ‘optimal’ city  – a mythical concept – as a home for my work and my educational collective, Ermah Ge.   I’ve learned that the best way to know a city is to live in it, meet its people, businesses, and organizations, and offer lectures to see what kind of response I get.

I’ve lived in six Maine communities: Lewiston, Skowhegan, Waterville, Dexter-Dover, Belfast and – since mid-March – Camden.  It’s been a long, at times very challenging four years.  What a long strange trip it’s been.  I’ve met a ton of fine people (and to be honest, a few jerks, too, but they’re everywhere, right?), made some great friends, attracted some students and colleagues, and found pleasurable and interesting things.

Yet even though each city had its strengths, none were quite right as a home for my work, each for different reasons.  (I’ve learned that – not surprisingly – each city has a personality, an emergent property influenced, but not fully determined, by its citizens.)

But in the Camden-Rockland area, I believe I’ve finally found home.  What brought me here first was my February 6, 2014 public lecture about abrupt climate change at Rockland Public Library, sponsored by Camden Conference.  The turnout was the largest I’ve attracted to a public lecture in Maine: almost 60 people, and standing room only.  (I spoke to four times as many during a keynote address at a private conference in 2012.)

But more important than the number was their engagement with my presentation and excitement about my work.  I received numerous complements and a $20 tip, and several asked about when we could start classes.  My response: “As soon as I can move here.”

Therefore, in mid-March, I moved to Camden while I got to know the area.  With views like this from Mt. Batti in Camden Hills State Park, the area is indeed “the jewel of coastal Maine”.

However, evidence suggests that Rockland is a more happening home for Ermah Ge.  I think it may be what I’ve been searching for.  The time I’ve spent there, the people I’ve met, the ferries to the islands, projects and organizations — all have led to the greatest excitement since I arrived in Maine.  It feels like an emerging, cutting edge city.

During the last week, my associates and I decided to rent studio and classroom space at Lincoln Street Center (LSC) in the old Rockland high school, 24 Lincoln St, two blocks west of the public library.  It is being designed as a center for arts and education devoted to “cultural enrichment”.   Mario Abaldo – owner and founder of the Center – and his associates are nearing completion of a major renovation of the building; they will open for business June 1.   Our experience has shown that Mr. Abaldo and his staff are kind, welcoming and accommodating people.  They seem as interested in us as we are in them, and we are honored and excited to be a part of the center.  Here’s a story about Lincoln Street Center and Mario Abaldo.

By next week, after beginning to get settled in, we’ll announce a set of lectures, open houses, decoration parties, and meet-and-greet events throughout the month of June at our new space at LSC.  I hope that readers living in Maine will visit during those events.

In subsequent posts, I’ll describe three other interesting projects and organizations in the Rockland area that are a draw for Ermah Ge – Steel HouseIsland Institute and Hurricane Island Foundation – and describe the development of our new studio, conference room and classroom with images.  It’s going to be an interesting and unique project.  We’re all very excited about it.  🙂

But now, I must pack and move my gear to Rockland …

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Alder Stone, Ermah Ge & CSE: A follow up to a story in The Republican Journal newspaper

Summary: This post is a followup to a story published about me, my program and my new company – Ermah Ge – in the Thursday, December 5 edition of The Republican Journal (Belfast newspaper), and on their website today (December 6).

Part 1

Since today [December 6] is a busy day, and I don’t have time to develop this post as thoroughly as I’d like, I’ll publish it in two parts.

For now, I’ll offer a sincere thanks to Dan West, editor of The Republican Journal, for a nice story!

There were two minor errors.  The first was my fault because I didn’t clarify this for him: he wrote that my full name was Alder Stone, where as in reality it’s Alder Stone Fuller.  Alder Stone is a pen name that I use for this web site, email and several social media sites.  It confuses others, too, and is not an issue for me at all.

Second, in the printed version of the story, the dates of my upcoming Belfast Climate 101 seminar are noted incorrectly.  The correct dates are as listed in the online version of the story (which they kindly corrected):

  • Free intro presentations on Wednesday, 12/11 and Friday, 12/13, 6:00 – 7:30 pm
  • Seminar is Saturday, 12/14 (9 am – 5 pm) and Sunday, 12/15 (10 am to 4 pm).

Other than those minor glitches, the story is a good one, and I sincerely thank Dan West and TRJ for publishing it.  But I’d like to expand the topics covered a bit, clarify a few points about my new company – Ermah Ge – and add another couple of elements that Dan did not have space for in the article, in particular, a first draft explanation of my new program called Community Supported Education, or CSE, about which I am very excited.  I’ll also be adding a full post (and soon a page) about CSE.

OK, that’s all for part 1.  Oh, one other point.  Their online version of the story is accessible to subscribers only.  But since it’s about me, I’m taking the bold step of making the text (which I paid for!) accessible to my blog readers.  It is copied below.

Part 2: Learning to see the world anew,
or why I’m not just teaching for the fun of it

After some reflection, I’ve come to understand the part of the story/article that may be the only real inaccuracy about me and my program: the implication in the title that I am merely “teaching for the fun of it”.  The full title is “Independent Educator ‘teaching for the fun of it’ in Belfast”.  I honestly don’t think that’s a direct quote, and if so, it does not convey an accurate reflection of why I’m teaching.  I’ll explain.

First, let me be clear: I do enjoy teaching, especially the material in my curriculum — except for some of the climate components, the ‘bad news’ part that’s not fun for any of us to wrap our minds around.  But the other ideas are fun to teach.

Yet, trust me, it’s not the ‘fun’ that kept me walking, or climbing – at times crawling – up this long, hard professional road for 13 years, often against the mainstream flow.  I mean, try being a freelance anything, let alone a free lance college-level educator in a world educationally dominated by colleges and universities, and if you’re not part of ‘the club’, then you’re not considered quite good enough.  “Why don’t you just get a job at a college and teach your stuff there?”, I heard umpteen gazillion times during the last 13 years.  Each time I roll my eyes.  My decision to divorce mainstream education was intentional  and backed by sound reasons, and I do NOT regret doing so – but those are topics for a later post.  There are more important fish to fry in this one.

But back to my main point.  Even though I have fun teaching, that’s NOT the main reason that I’m doing so. Thus, the title of the RJ article reflects a misunderstanding – perhaps caused by my own insufficient description – a conflation of two points I made during the interview: why I’m teaching v one reason (among many) that some of my students choose to study with me.  The latter is for the fun of it.  But again, for most of them, that’s only one reason, and not even the main reason.

So, I’ll cut to the chase.  The main reasons that I teach these ideas and the main reason that most of my students study with me is that system sciences and geophygiology:

  1. cast Earth, life and literally all of reality – including what many call “nature” – in a radical new scientific light that corresponds with the ancient wisdom of tribal cultures that are/were much more integrated into ‘nature’ and recognized it as ‘in control’ and intelligent.
  2. are necessary to understand the probable 1-in-50 million year climate change event that has begun, is accelerating, will continue to accelerate to a tipping point, then ABRUPTLY change everything, threatening not only civilization but the existence of our species.
  3. most importantly, are necessary – no, crucial – to effectively address the question of what to do about said abrupt climate change event (see point 2); and to be clear, this relates directly back to point 1.

I want to be explicit, because I’ve been saying this for 13 years, but if people are embedded in the old paradigm, stuck in the matrix of the 20th century, then they simply can’t understand it.  They may hear it, as many have, but they won’t deeply rationally and intuitively understand it, and it effectively bounces off them and they go back to business as usual, embedded in the old paradigm that got us into this mess in the first place.

As Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”

As alluded in reason 1, system sciences and geophysiology do precisely that: they help us learn to see the world anew.  In a VASTLY different way.  If the old view is night, the new view is day.  It is that big a contrast.  No joke.  No hyperbole.  My word of honor: it’s that big a difference.

Along with many others, including Ilya Prigogine, Lynn Margulis, James Lovelock, Stephen Harding, Dorion Sagan, Dianne Dumanoski, Simon G. Powell, William Irwin Thompson, Mary Midgley, and numerous other scientists and writers whose ideas inform my curriculum, whose books are my texts, I believe that our species will go extinct much more quickly if we do not quickly understand these ideas – rationally and intuitively – and incorporate them into the cultural maps that guide us in living on this Earth.  If we continue business as usual, based on ‘obsolete and dangerous’ (Dumanoski’s term) scientific models of reality (aka mechanism), we will not be effective in addressing our accelerating climate crisis.  You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.

The shift does not come quickly.  After completing Systems 101, let alone Climate 101 – which only employs selected elements of Systems 101 crucial to understanding our climate crisis – one will not walk away with a full understanding of the new view; at least one foot will likely still be planted in the old view.  The transition takes some time, and at least a few courses (I say based on 13 years experience with advanced students), and time to build the big picture, the context.  And as one of my favorite authors – Simon G Powell, author of Darwin’s Unfinished Business: The Self-Organizing Intelligence of Nature – says, context is everything.  (His book explains why that statement is much deeper than one can perceive from the surface.  I recommend that you buy it, then come study with me so that I can help you fully understand it, because my curriculum offers much detail to support his thesis.  The importance of his thesis is beyond academic or intellectual, and relates to the stability of our civilization and the continued existence of our species.)

Goblet or faces?

But when the shift in perception and a new understanding does emerge, as it has for me and dozens of my advanced students – when using the principles of system sciences and geophysiology to see Earth, life and nature – a phase transition occurs in our thinking, when suddenly we see faces looking at each other where as a moment before we saw a goblet.  When that happens, the effect is profound and life changing.  Again, no hyperbole: life changing.  It is as if someone flipped on a light switch, and we see the world anew.

Finally, I’ll call your attention to a new page on this site that is relevant to this post, and to my next professional steps.  The new page is about Ermah Ge, and will serve as a portal from this site to the new web site at — when that page exists.  As of this date – 12.08.13 – it does not exist, but will soon.

Why I am creating Ermah Ge?  For the same reason I’m teaching: I want to help people learn to see the world anew.

Thankfully, the learning process can also be fun.


Independent educator ‘teaching for the fun of it’ in Belfast

By Dan West | Dec 06, 2013 | The Republican Journal | Village Soup

Alder Stone, an independent educator who holds a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology and ecology, has come to Belfast to continue his work teaching more than 30 courses in system sciences, which he developed over the past 13 years.

Stone began his career teaching at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, N.M., before striking out on his own. Finding the political environment in traditional university settings to be be problematic Stone said he decided to open his own school located in Eugene, Ore.

“There were no degrees. I was teaching for the fun of it,” Stone told The Republican Journal during a Nov. 27 interview. “The reason to branch out on my own was I wanted to teach these ideas independently.”

The ideas Stone has become so passionate about as a teacher are those of system sciences, which he says are “night and day” when compared to traditional science education. His curriculum delves into the interacting parts with different physical and living systems.

“My students will often say, ‘I knew this is how nature works, but I didn’t have the language to describe it,'” Stone said.

After running his school for 10 years, Stone left Oregon and moved to Maine. For the next two years he moved between Lewiston, Skowhegan and Waterville giving lectures on Climate Change before settling in Belfast this year. It is here that he has started his next venture a small for-profit education business called ErmahGe.

Located at 17A Main St. in Belfast, part of The Office, ErmahGe will offer small courses ranging in size from a half dozen adult learners up to 20. The courses that Stone will offer range in length from 12-hour introductory classes to some advanced courses that take as many as 16 weeks.

Stone says his reputation in Maine thus far has come from a series of lectures he’s put on that apply system sciences to climate change. However, he notes that while some of ErmahGe’s courses will focus on climate change many will be about system sciences more broadly.

“The bottom line is we’re dealing with a sick planet,” Stone said. “We need to understand the problem, but first we must relearn what nature is and how it works.”

Right now ErmahGe only consists of Stone, but he said he hopes to hire more employees if he is successful, especially someone to handle the financial side of the business, which he said was challenging for him at the last school he ran.

In order to generate interest for his courses, Stone will be giving several 90-minute free introductory lectures. The first two lectures will be Wednesday, Dec. 11, and Friday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m. in his Belfast office, followed by his first full course offering in Belfast of Climate 101 over the weekend of Dec. 14 and 15. Stone asks anyone planning to attend to register by emailing

Stone said that he hopes students will be drawn in by the fun, pressure-free environment of learning without tests or papers and by the courses he has spent many years refining.

“I don’t do a lot of things well,” Stone said, “but I can boil down complex science concepts so they’re easy to understand.”

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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 😀 ) 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
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