Transformative adventures is a program for personal transformation, but hidden in the adventure is also a robust comprehensive plan to build a better world and address climate change, public health, biodiversity loss, soil loss, food system unsustainability, and social inequality.
The strategic plan:
- Provide a system of standards, measurable objectives and accountability, both for our personal goals, and our societal ones. For example, the Transformative Landscapes Initiative.
- Create a force of Community Transformation Leaders that acts as a DIY self-funded Green New Deal, focusing on sun and people powered solutions instead of top-down corporate products. These professionals will lead their communities in sustainable living and act as local activists and advocates.
- Engage in serious community organizing that builds real wealth, social and political capital and durable power within the Transformative Adventures community. We accomplish this by building individual financial resilience, careers, regenerative enterprise, and strong communities for individuals.
- Strategically target some of the most environmentally and socially destructive industries for effective direct action and replacement.
- Directly address ecological collapse, climate change, biodiversity loss, etc. through our programs.
- Divest from the destructive old centralized economy which runs on fossil fuels, disempowers workers, and wastes unsustainable resources, and reinvest in building local economy of empowered individuals, fueled by Syntropy, the excess of ecosystem services.
- Create viral change by modeling a better world, transforming the behaviors, culture, values, and desires that are driving climate change, ecosystem collapse and many of our society’s other major problems.
The Transformative Adventures Mission: Transforming our lives, Transforming our World.
The most immediate purpose of these Transformative Adventures is simple: to help YOU live a better life, have a better environment and a better community to live it in. If you’re a homesteader, gardener, farmer, artist, activist or anyone looking for a way out of the “rat race,” then this program is intended to help you develop clearer goals to improve your life and livelihood, and to work effectively towards achieving them. We’ll discuss the foundations of our personal transformation strategy here.
But by following these adventures to transform your life, you will also be engaging with a thoroughly researched, focussed, effective strategy for transforming society. You’re welcome to think of this as altruism, enlightened self interest, or even being purely selfish, because creating a better world means you have a better world to live in. Creating a better community means you’ll get to live in a better community.
Many sources on the topic believe that working to create a better world may be a key to a happy, rewarding life, too. That’s a perspective that’s shared in many of our world’s wisdom traditions, as well as modern researchers on psychology.
And of course, this is completely selfish of me, too. If you’re transforming the world, then I get a better world to live in. If you’re building more resilience for yourself, perhaps you will have some resources to spare should I find myself in need. If you’re wealthier, better off, and have more access to political and social capital, then I’ll be better off, too.
This represents the first comprehensive strategy I know of for us to realistically take action in our own lives. If you’d like to better understand our strategy, you can take a moment to look at each of these in a little more detail. It can be helpful to understand why we selected each adventure, and to explain to other people in your community as an advocate.
This is especially important since many today work to downplay or dismiss the power that we have to directly change society and contribute something positive. Politicians want you to believe you can’t do it without their candidate, activists want you to believe you can’t do it without their party or their cause, corporations want you to think you can’t do it without their product or service. “It’s only by giving your money, time or labor to us that you can accomplish anything!” So the idea that we’re powerless and that our actions are meaningless has become one of the great lies of our era.
1. Standards, Accountability, Outcomes
One of the major goals of the Transformative Adventures project is to create a set of standards for personal growth, and measurable, concrete outcomes for environmental/social organizing and activism. To date, there’s been very little organized effort to assess or measure the efforts or impacts of the broad movement of lifestyle and consumption activists. I’m not aware of any at all. So, that’s something the critics are right about: we have no good proof that what we’re doing has any positive impact.
When people dismiss “consumption activism” as futile, or a distraction, because “changing lightbulbs and taking colder showers” has very little leverage, they’re absolutely right. A lot of “consumption activism” is simply a sales pitch for “green” products that often have little effect, or in many cases, actually “pollute for profit” even more than the status quo. It absolutely is a distraction from the major systemic changes we need.
Yet, what they’re missing is that smart, targeted consumption change can be our single most powerful tool for direct action towards systemic change. It can be leveraged against the most destructive corporations and industries ruining the planet.
And, because reserachers have found it’s easier to change people’s MINDS by changing their BEHAVIOR than it is to change their behavior by changing their minds, targeted consumption activism can even be a very powerful tool in motivating political change.
Take this to heart: The very magazines running stories saying “consumer choices are a distraction” are the same ones running 1,000 stories about how the consumption choices of do-gooder millennials are detroying whole industries!
But all of this is only true if we get serious about this type of activism, with real standards, objectives and measurable outcomes.
And, in a world of pro Instagram consultants with no practical experience, this program provides a serious set of qualifications for community transformation leaders. Anyone who has completed even a small number of these will have developed proven-effective, marketable skills for serving their community members, and they will have the results to prove it.
Anyone who has completed a majority of these adventures will have transformed themselves into truly formidable agents of change.
2. Create a force of professional Community Transformation Leaders that acts as a DIY self-funded Green New Deal, focusing on sun and people powered solutions instead of top-down corporate products. These professionals will lead their communities in sustainable living and act as local activists and advocates.
If we want to be serious about change, we will need dedicated activists who can make a livelihood doing this work. To date, the movements of environmentalism, sustainability, permaculture, etc. have not provided many realistic, replicable models for achieving a living and funding real activism work.
The Transformative Adventures Coop provides replicable, proven viable, stackable business plans and materials, and an approach to mapping out a right livelihood that is realistic and achievable.
With this well funded army of activists, we can also arm them with advocacy materials that will make them leaders in their communities.
With this approach we can achieve a true DIY Green New Deal.
3. Engage in serious community organizing that builds real wealth, social and political capital and durable power within the Transformative Adventures community. We accomplish this by building individual financial resilience, careers, regenerative enterprise, and strong communities for individuals.
Along with building serious career paths, Transformative Adventures aims to grow community wealth. This is accomplished by using smart life design aimed at helping us get FREE, FINANCIALLY RESILIENT/ Economically (Ethically) Empowered. Community Transformation Leaders lead their community members through adventures that are designed to be real investments in regenerative assets and growing wealth.
4. Target some of the world’s most destructive industries and corporations for effective direct action.
To hold ourselves accountable for that goal, and to be able to measure the impact of these Transformative Adventures, we’ve included a couple focussed standards: checklists for each of the adventures, certification for those who want to show the world their progress, a set of Transformative Landscape standards to keep us honest on our sustainability efforts, and a pledge to reduce consumption by 10%.
Since our program targets consumption and creating value, by completing just a handful of the adventures, anyone will likely have reduced their consumption by our target 10%. Then, you can start again, and try reinvesting another 10% of your corporate spending into things that are more life-enhancing. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
5. Directly Address Ecological Collapse, climate change, biodiversity loss, food system, Soil, water, the depletion of resources, etc.
While you’re engaging in a plan to have a proven beneficial impact on your life, you’ll also be engaging in activities that are proven to have a beneficial impact on some of the world’s most profound problems. Someone who completes just a few of these adventures will necessarily have: sequestered a significant amount of carbon, created habitat for wildlife, supported endangered biodiversity and native species, helped improve community resiliency, reduced their support for destructive industries, regenerated soil, etc.
Without even intending to do anything particularly useful, you will have transformed into a beneficial “keystone human,” improving your habitat and the world around you for all.
6. Reinvest in rebuilding the local, “syntropic” economy, which runs off the excess of ecosystem services and empowers workers.
In our economy, almost all that energy comes from fossil fuels and other destructive forms.
But natural systems don’t work that way. A lawn left to its own will go through a process of “natural succession.” More species will move in, increasing diversity, as it turns into an old-field with shrubs, then a young forest, and finally a mature, diverse forest, filled with trees, plants, animals, and connections that embody a great amount of useful energy. Rather than loosing energy in the process of entropy, the appear to grow in energy through the process of syntropy, by catching and accumulating sun energy into complex systems.
Wouldn’t we humans be wise to build such systems? Wouldn’t we be wise to build our lives and livelihoods around such systems that naturally grow healthier, wealthier and more abundant over time?
Throughout most of human history, most of the energy that fueled our societies and our economies came from syntropy, from the excess energy sustainably generated by ecosystems.
Another natural benefit of syntropic systems is that they’re necessarily more equitable, local, smaller scale, and create more fulfilling jobs for more people. The supposed benefit of the entropy economy, powered by a centralized stream of fossil energy, is that it can centralize the economy, allowing fewer people to do more work, and reap more of the rewards for themselves. The story of the rise of the entropy economy is that we’ve centralized wealth in the hands of the few, making the masses labor in low-interest, low-skilled labor. Why shouldn’t the story of our next technological breakthrough be to distribute the benefits of our society more broadly once again, so that everyone can benefit?
Though each of these adventures, we will be divesting from the old destructive, futile entropy economy, and investing in rebuilding our natural wealth, and with it, an infinitely sustainable, just syntropic economy.
7. Create viral change by transforming the basic wants, desires, values and culture that underlie our destructive behaviors.
The focus on behavior is key to this entire program. While most other approaches to environmental and social problems focus on the top-down approaches of politics, speaking truth to power, professional products, services and design only available to the few, this program focusses on the simple actions available to the many.
Why? Well first, because many hands make light work, and small changes by the masses add up to large changes faster than large, specialized changes by the few.
But more than that, it’s because this history of activism is that we have tried to change people’s behaviors by changing their minds. But researchers have found it’s easier to change people’s MINDS by changing their BEHAVIOR than it is to change their behavior by changing their minds. Behavior is the leverage point.
This is why targeted lifestyle activism can even be a very powerful tool in motivating top-down change.
Whether we’re trying to change the behavior of politicians voting patterns, those of farmers using destructive pesticides, thoughtless neighbors being noisy, consumers buying destructive products, or investors financing them – our approach is always the same: get them more information! Better experts! More studies! “If only they had the right information, they’d change their minds.”
Or, perhaps another tactic that’s been even more popular lately is to shame people into changing their behaviors.
As it turns out, research has shown that neither of these approaches is very effective.
Take the now-famous story of Daryl Davis, an African American man who famously changed the minds of over a hundred white supremacists by befriending them. He did not attempt to change their minds about people of color. He didn’t try to make them feel guilty about their bigotry. Instead, he simply attempted to understand them, and to have a friendly discussion. By behaving in a friendly way with a black man, they began to see themselves as people who actually liked black men. He changed their minds by changing their behavior.
And science backs up Mr. Davis’ approach. For example, researchers have found that making people recycle makes them care more about environmental issues. In the set of experiments, researchers “tricked” participants into recycling a piece of waste before leaving a room. Afterwords, they were questioned and those who recycled the waste consistently responded that they cared more about environmental issues. Those who had to go further out of their way to recycle, responded even more favorably to environmental issues!
In another famous study, researchers Aronson and Carlsmith changed how children feel about toys by manipulating their behavior around the toys.
Others have demonstrated that people feel more positive about a political or policy position when they’re asked to defend that position, or even when they’re simply asked to nod their head “yes” while hearing about it! In yet another, people told to say that cartoons were “funny” actually found them funnier.
Meanwhile, research shows it would be very difficult to change people’s minds about similar things, like political positions, by directly arguing with them or giving them information.
The implication is clear: Getting people to tend the earth, ecosysetms and their community – even for their own selfish benefit – makes them care more about the earth, ecosystems and communities.
But ultimately, it is the direct actions of the masses that make up culture, and it culture that most determines the course of civilization. The automotive and energy culture which is causing climate change was not the result of an electoral mandate, but of lifestyle and consumption choices. What changed was what people desired. Use of cars and fossil energy was simply more desirable.
What we desperately need is models of more constructive life choices that are even more desirable than the destructive ones.
That’s why the best consumption and lifestyle activism has the potential for the same viral change that created automotive culture, literally transforming the systems, values, beliefs and cultural features that are causing climate change and many of our society’s other major problems. It offers the opportunity to grow a more nature-literate, compassionate, wise, content, and happy society.
And you and I don’t have to wait on any politicians to start building it today.
As it turns out, a research-based way to effect behaviors is to modify the environment, hence the inside/out outside/in strategy of this book. Trees reduce crime. Clean spaces effect honesty. A nice environment has a huge impact on happiness. So, our strategy has a built-in positive feedback loop, using behavior to effect environment, which feeds back into effecting behavior.
There’s a huge role for art, fashion, design, and culture creation that’s never been emphasized in activist movements. What if we could find ways to live truly wealthy, even decadent lives, surrounded by beauty, immersed in luxury, while reducing our waste of resources, destruction of ecosystems and exploitation of labor? Better yet, what if we could get there as a result of eliminating resource waste, recreating lush ecosystems, and creating meaningful rewarding work for all? What if our homes were so beautiful, our communities so beloved and our livelihoods so rewarding that there was no place else on the planet we’d rather be? Instead of traveling the world to see the wonders of the world, what if we brought them to ourselves, right in our own lives and own communities?
If we get that right, we won’t have to twist people’s arms to get them to change. In fact, there won’t be anything anyone can do to stop it. People will knock down the doors to a better world like it’s Black Friday.