The Great Conversion
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Are We Going to Get Serious This Year About Climate Crisis Organizing?
From: Andy Caffrey
Climate Action NOW!
climate efmedia org
January 6, 2006
Dear friend or activist,
You are getting this letter either because you're a friend of mine,
we connected up along the activist road at some point, or we're on an
e-mail list together. And because this is the most important letter
I've ever written. We've all watched in horror as nature obliterated
most of New Orleans. We've all been frightened by an unrelenting
onslaught of terrifying news, images and experts telling us that
greenhouse gases from industrial production are changing the entire
planet to the point where our very existence is threatened. And many
of us are paralyzed about this.
It's all too much! Way beyond what a three-million-year-old evolving
primate mind can grasp and manage! So I guess we should all give up
and keep our heads buried in our single-issue campaigns until climate
destabilization, parcel-by-parcel, peoples-by-peoples have everything
and everyone they ever loved destroyed before their very eyes.
Personally, over the last thirty years, I've seen too many of the
alternatives to honestly believe that it is impossible to make the
shift away from fossil fuels and nuclear power sources.
Unfortunately, there are over a million ways to convince ourselves
that it can't happen (e.g. as long as Bush and the Republicrats are
in power, as long as 9/11 isn't exposed as a Bush administration
plot, as long as humanity hasn't converted to biocentrism and Deep
Ecology en masse, as long as capitalism exists, etc.)
Tragically, we didn't get a climate movement up to speed back in
1980, when NASA's James Hansen first sounded the alarm. So now it is
too late for reforms, compatible with capitalism's endless growth on
a finite planet ideology, to save us. But that doesn't mean we and
many of Earth's precious habitats can't be saved. It just means we
have to look outside the box to the solutions and plans that
brilliant groups and individuals have been developing for 35 years
And it means we have to get serious about organizing our Climate
Crisis action movement. It means we have to get serious about taking
these solutions out to the duped masses, even in the red states, and
teaching them. Most people have never even heard of bioregionalism,
green cities and permaculture. How could they possibly get serious
about these environmental initiatives if they have never even heard
So I hope you will give serious consideration to the following
project: the effort to organize The Great Conversion. Even if it is
not a project you want to fund or help organize personally, there are
still many ways you can help us. Maybe there are people you know of
that we should contact. Maybe you have some expertise in an
appropriate field or area of thought and can write that up for us.
You can subscribe to The Great Conversion Conferences listserve (see
below) and keep an eye open for new needs that pop up. Maybe at some
point we'll need something or some person and you can help out at
Climate Crisis/Conversion Road Show needs
We do have an immediate need to raise $500 in the next two weeks.
It's for bureaucratic things we need to do to get the ball rolling on
the conferences. I'm also arranging to bring my organizing partner
Craig Stehr up to Garberville and need to feed him, so we can set up
our Climate Crisis/The Great Conversion road show of California and
head out on March 15.
We have a goal to do at least one road show event in each of
California's 58 counties to plant a seed for an organizing core in
each county. In the summer we'll head up to Oregon, Washington, Idaho
and Nevada. If you would like to produce an event in your area, or
can put us in touch with appropriate groups that would like to do
that, please drop us a line or give me a call.
As we travel, we also plan to shoot videotaped interviews of climate
scientists, and examples of Ecotopian solutions already established
in different regions for our "Virtual Ecotopia" video. Many groups
and places have already solved parts of the problem. If we put these
parts together into one video, we can see how The Great Conversion
will look, as we take a tour through a whole, virtual Ecotopia. Do
you know of some place we should capture on video? Please let us
know. Or shoot the video yourself and send it in as a contribution to
For the immediate future, donation checks have to be made out to me,
Andy Caffrey. Any amount is an appreciated contribution. If you would
like to get a tax deduction, you can make your check payable to Earth
Prepared by Andy Caffrey, Climate Action NOW!
P.O. Box 324, Redway, CA 95560
firstname.lastname@example.org (707) 923-2114
THE GREAT CONVERSION
From Fossil Fuel Economics to Sustainable Localized Economies
Proposal for a Conference to Develop Legislation and Budgets
With People from Climate Change * Peak Oil * Ecotopian Design * Labor
If humanity is to survive the threat posed by accumulating greenhouse
gases, and the end of the age of oil, it will be because of a great
conversion made rapidly to convert economies-in a time frame similar
to The Great Depression-to one that uses only 20 percent of the
fossil fuels currently consumed globally. I believe that our
descendants will look back upon this time as The Great Conversion.
So much of activist energy and resources around the world is drained
away in the battles to fight what's wrong with the plutocracy that is
ravaging the lives of billions of people, and savagely ripping apart
the very fabric of nature. Not nearly enough has been put to the task
of strategically organizing the grass roots to bring about the
changes that must happen in the next decade because of the order of
magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis and peak oil limitations.
There is a climate-crisis clock running, even if we don't know what
time it is. Nature's limits regarding the industrial gas-forced
destabilization of Earth's climate systems (our life support systems)
are set to specific times. When the alarms ring, everything starts to
go tilt, and we enter a global state of disequilibrium: Seasons
become mostly unpredictable, new glaciation cycles may come crashing
down upon us that could last centuries in places like Europe (it
happened 11,000 years ago), or continual planetary heating may wipe
out entire habitats, like destroying all of the world's corals, and
wipe out species in a time frame faster than any of us could possibly
imagine... to our horror.
We either make enough of a change in our physical and economic
infrastructures before that time, or we fail completely. As with the
Asian tsunami, it is not enough to run away from the coast when the
water gets sucked out to sea before the big wave comes crashing back.
If people don't get far enough away by the time the wave hits, they
What would we do without any resistance? How would we start?
Imagine one day we could wake up to find that the plutocracy has
vanished: we own everything. Suddenly we would have no resistance to
moving as fast as we can toward the creation of our
bioregionally-centric Ecotopias, or at least making enough changes in
our economic infrastructure, fast enough, to beat the clock on peak
oil and the climate crisis.
We would need to come together in large conferences to design our
futures, pow-wows with the various sectors of our communities: people
from labor, agriculture, health care, education, transportation,
architects and planners; each conversion conference would reflect all
of the ethnicities of its bioregion.
We would meet to develop designs and plans, and prioritize resources,
for constructing bioregionally-integrated, sustainable, localized (as
much as possible) economies and infrastructures needed to create
post-fossil-fuel, post-nuclear societies. And we would design the
social systems to take care of everybody during the transition.
As Utopian as it sounds, we can't get the job done if we do any less.
Thanks to twenty-five years of obstruction from the plutocracy, it's
too late for that. If we don't do this now, as fast as we can, it's
Katrina's for everyone.
The Great Conversion Conference in Portland, OR
We wish to convene the first conversion conference and present it in
a fashion that can be used to develop a model for similar meetings in
most regions, and to create tools to help groups around the world
begin their own conversion conferences throughout 2007 and beyond.
Tentatively the conference would be held on Labor Day weekend 2006,
which is roughly the anniversary of Katrina, or Martin Luther King,
Jr.'s Birthday 2007.
The conference will begin with presentations on the climate crisis
and peak oil, in order to define the planning constraints necessary
for The Great Conversion to be accomplished, to show how much time
civilization has to convert to the necessary extent before reaching
critical limits. To help define how much society must change and how
fast. If the programs developed out of this and all of the ensuing
conversion conferences don't achieve the target reductions in the
mandatory time frame to prevent catastrophes, then they won't cut it.
The second set of presentations will be to show that there are
solutions which can be started now and can achieve our reduction
targets on schedule. People such as Ernest Callenbach, author of
Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging; Peter Berg, pioneer of the
bioregionalism movement; Richard Register, Green City designer and
author of Ecocity Berkeley; Hazel Henderson on investment; Paul
Hawken on the reformation of industrial production; Jeremy Rifkin on
the reformation of work for pay, might be invited to speak. The main
purpose of these presentations is to show that there are actual
changes that can be made to meet the timeline constraints of the
climate crisis and peak oil.
The third section of the conference will be on agriculture, by both
the organic, permaculture and other low-impact farmers, and
conventional farmers. Permaculture, subscription produce purchasing
networks, co-ops and farmers markets are some of the solutions to be
discussed. But it is equally important to understand what obstacles
confront conventional farmers in the globalized market system. This
is where we find out how they need to be supported during The Great
Conversion of agriculture. Out of this we develop our own legislative
and budgetary proposals to fund The Great Conversion of agriculture.
The fourth section will be presented by organized labor. What are the
concerns of unions and their members? isn't it time we embrace them
in the process of designing our sustainable economies? It's important
that organized labor know that conversion activists from the
environmental movements are not anti-union, but are in solidarity
with the labor movement. They have to know that we are not fair
weather friends, interested in their plight only when it helps our
causes. This project is already co-sponsored by members of organized
The final section of the conference will be a third day of workshops
on energy solutions and legislative project meetings. The purpose of
these meetings is to start the process of developing the legislative
proposals and budgets that will allow us to make The Great
Conversion, and to develop organizing campaigns to support them.
Groups would meet to develop separate legislation, budgets and
campaigns to pursue at local, state, and federal levels. These
legislative proposals would have to meet the test that all three
groups-climate/peak oil/Ecotopian (environmentalist) activists,
labor, and agricultural workers-can back them and get involved in
joint lobbying efforts to pressure local, state, and federal
Groups would form to plan pressure campaigns to call for bioregional
carrying capacity assessments and economic output studies to be
conducted at all levels of government, especially for carbon
footprints. The legislation we develop could also be turned into
DVDs will be made of every presentation and later sold to groups
around the country to help them model-in line with the work done at
this first conference-their own conferences and legislative projects
which meet their own local needs.
The first major conference will be in Portland, OR. After the first
conference, there will be several more conferences throughout 2007
spearheaded by Climate Action NOW! and the labor and farmers
movements on the west coast of North America. The other areas at this
point are Seattle, WA, Eugene, OR, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, San
Jose, CA, Sacramento, CA, Los Angeles, CA, and San Diego, CA. These
other conferences would all take place by the end of 2007. Hopefully,
numerous, widely popular proposals developed out of these, and each
area's follow-up conferences will lead to widely popular, concrete
legislative proposals that could become a part of the 2008 elections.
Can you imagine? Big protests of labor, farmers and environmentalists
at Arnold Schwarzenegger's office, along with 100,000 phone calls,
demanding the same specific conversion legislation and budgetary
items! And the same thing happening simultaneously in Oregon and
This proposal is to encourage endorsement, to recruit campaign
workers, conference planners, Web publishers and computer animators,
videomakers, and worldwide eco-researchers; to raise funds, and to
acquire office access and other needed resources. It is also to
solicit people to write preparatory white papers (green papers?) on
the topics of the conference.
We don't have to wait for the plutocrats to vanish to start
organizing this conference, create the DVDs, and hopefully, begin
organizing more conferences like this around the country. This is
work we have to do no matter what happens politically. If we don't
know what we want to build-specifically-how can we build it?
The final purpose of this proposal is to encourage local groups in CA
and elsewhere to not wait for this first major conference, but to
organize their own local conferences, along the lines of this
project, as soon as possible.
We have begun a listserve for The Great Conversion Conferences at
yahoogroups. Please sign up. Subscription information is at the
bottom of this letter
I hope you will truly, seriously consider joining up with the The
Great Conversion movement to begin rapid economic conversion this
year. Make climate crisis organizing a priority of yours for the
year. Help us make history. Help us make The Great Conversion a
reality. Good luck to us all. Thanks for all your hard work to keep
the planet evolving.
If not now, when? If not you, who then?
founder, Climate Action NOW!
P.S. Podcasts coming soon!
The Great Conversion Conferences
This list is for planning such conferences now.
Group Email Addresses
Home Page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreatConversion/
Post message: GreatConversion@yahoogroups.com
List owner: GreatConversionemail@example.com