Theory

Media Literacy

Pattern ID: 
463
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
35
Mark Lipton
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Bias free media may be impossible. For that reason people need to be able to identify and assess media bias. Some have argued that media has become so vivid, so ‘real’ that people can ‘live’ in them. Media literacy is the process of decoding and making sense of all media. It allows us to critically view media and to evaluate the role that media play in our lives. When someone is media literate, he or she has the skills to identify the ideological implications and manipulative means of media systems and practices. Unfortunately, exposure to media does not necessarily suggest that people have the critical skills to understand how media systems work or how they are relating to media messages. Further, there is very little training in media education. In most places in the world, public education resists the changing media environments. Also, teachers are not given specific instruction in the workings of media, nor are they trained in the methods of media practices. Of course, it must be mentioned that in some places in the world, media has a foothold in the curriculum of public education but rarely does this curriculum come with the pedagogical training educators need to reach their audiences. The study of media has developed into complex systems of understanding, analysis, and synthesis. Yet, media study is not thought of within the context of traditional academic ‘disciplines.’ As a result, we live in a world where ubiquitous media messages, without critical appraisal impact our world.

Context: 

Masterman, in particular, stresses the student's development of "critical autonomy" as a primary objective of media education. In Teaching the Media, he argues that the key task of media teachers is to "develop in pupils enough self-confidence and critical maturity to be able to apply critical judgments to media texts which they will encounter in the future" (24). Thus, the primary objective of media education is not simply to foster critical awareness and understanding, but to develop a student's awareness of his or her role as an active agent when engaged by all media, no matter the context. The "critical autonomy" approach to media education differs from its predecessors in three ways. First, the pedagogical practices of this approach stress investigative strategies; that is, teaching and learning are emphatically student centered and inquiry oriented. Second, the process of making meaning through critical investigation is emphasized; that is, strategies of decoding are stressed within pedagogy. And third, visual literacy and media literacy, rather than an exclusively "print-oriented" literacy, function as the criteria for evaluation of student work.

Discussion: 

Until very recently if somebody complained about the media, the typical response was to "turn off the TV." Suddenly it has become commonplace to think of media not as an autonomous system but as an important element in a cultural environment that, like the physical environment, needs to be monitored for degradation and corruption. We need to be able to recognize biases and other problems that we encounter with existing media systems. All messages are made with some sense of the people receiving them. People filter these messages based on their beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and past experiences. Every media message is communicated for a reason — to entertain, to inform, and usually to persuade. Behind every message is a purpose and point of view. The advertiser’s purpose is more direct than a program producer’s, though both may seek to entertain. Understanding their purposes and knowing whose point of view is being expressed and why is crucial to being media literate. Yet the basic motive behind most media programs is profit through practices like the sale of advertising space and sponsorships. These reasons are also important to consider because all media messages are owned. They are designed to yield results, provide profits, and pay for themselves. All news and entertainment programming, including film and television, try to increase their audiences to attract advertising dollars. Understanding the profit motive is key to analyzing media messages. Messages are communicated through the use of elements like sound, video, text, and photography. But most messages are enhanced by the use of visual and technical elements– through camera angles, special effects, editing, or music. Analyzing how these features are used in any given message is critical to understanding how that message attempts to persuade, entertain, or inform. Because messages are limited in both time and purpose, rarely are all the details provided. Identifying the issues, topics, and perspectives that are not included can often reveal a great deal about the purposes of media messages. Because media messages tell only part of the story and different media have unique production features, it helps to evaluate multiple messages on the same issue. This allows you to identify multiple points of view, some of which may be missing in any single message or medium.

These are but some of the issues to be discussed when considering the problems and challenges associated with the term media literacy. Other approaches include concerns about monitoring ownership and the political economy of these systems in the global economy, about interpretation, evaluation and critique of media messages, about knowledge of how media impact and influence, and about how to address the changing needs of a world where media constantly evolves.

A critical autonomy approach to media education addresses these concerns within an educational context. As part of the school reform movement of the past decade, media education scholarship assumes a student centered pedagogical practice in which the student is viewed as an active, aware participant in learning, a lifelong learner, and a self-motivated and self-directed problem solver. This image of the learner is an essential consideration not only in the design of media education, but also within the larger pedagogical frame in which the curriculum is negotiated. According to Boomer (1992), negotiating the curriculum means deliberately planning to invite students to contribute to, and to modify, the educational program, so that they will have a real investment both in the learning journey and in the outcomes. Negotiation also means making explicit, and then confronting, the constraints of the learning context and the non-negotiable requirements that apply. (14) Masterman argues further that "if students are to understand media texts . . . then it will obviously be helpful if they have first-hand experience of the construction process from the inside" (26). To this end, media education includes media production, what Masterman dubs "practical work," as a pedagogical practice which enables students to create media products. Thus, students are actively engaged both with the production of media and the workings of the classroom.

As a result of their interest in student centered learning, scholars of media education aim to develop curricula which consider the forms and practices of education and of pedagogy. Curricula which are inquiry oriented tend to offer activities which stress critical strategies, and pedagogy centers around the creation of a dialogue -- i.e., not just discussion, but the kind of talk that leads to dialectical thinking. In this context, divergent readings of texts are positively valued for their potential to stimulate further analysis and thus growth in understanding. The aim of media education is to encouraged a heightened self-consciousness about the processes of interpretation and meaning making and provide people with an opportunity to recognize that everyone uses a selective and interpretive process to examine media texts. This process and the meanings obtained depend on psychological, social, cultural, and environmental factors. In this view, then, media education strives to enable people to understand how media texts come to have a range of meanings or readings ascribed to them, and to develop even richer, more critical readings.

Contemporary media educators are also beginning to challenge traditional notions of literacy. Literacy, by definition, refers to the ability to read and write. But scholars insist that there are "languages" other than print, such as those related to the mass media, which also need to be considered within the definition of "literacy." Visual literacy, for example, has been described by Messaris (1994) as "greater experience in the workings of visual media coupled with a heightened conscious awareness of those workings" (2). And Masterman has argued that since both print and visual literacy involve "the deconstruction of texts by breaking through their surface to reveal the rhetorical techniques through which meanings are produced" (127), any education for "literacy" should focus on that process, rather than on the symbolic form of a particular set of "texts."

Solution: 

Education and educational practices need to shift to address the changing media environments. We need to perform more public media criticism. We need to engage with media more closely to keep them in check and to be informed as to how we are responding and why. We need to be more serious about our media environments and foster greater awareness of the impact and influence media systems have on daily life. We must arm all people with the knowledge, skills, and values a media education program provides – granting people access to new technology and information about its workings and ideological implication. Finally, we need more alternative communication systems to counter these problems.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Media Literacy allows us to critically view media and to evaluate the role that media play in our lives. Media Literacy helps develop awareness of our roles as active agents when engaging media. We must arm all people with the knowledge, skills, and values that Media Literacy provides. We need to grant people access to new technology and information about its workings and ideological implications and to develop alternative communication systems.

Pattern status: 
Released

Democratic Political Settings

Pattern ID: 
491
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
31
Jonathan Barker
University of Toronto
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Democratic political action is difficult where social inequality is great. People low on the social scale are often barred, formally or informally, from political meetings. And in meetings women, poor people, and members of low status groups often fail to voice their views because they feel vulnerable to reprisals inside and outside the meeting. How can democratic political action be initiated under conditions of marked social inequality?

Context: 

Many governments that give some respect to the rules of electoral democracy silence the voices of people of low economic and social standing. Many meetings where people raise and debate matters of public importance are structured to block their effective participation and reinforce existing hierarchies of class and social standing.

Discussion: 

Even where most political settings are biased against certain people (the poor, women, youth, stigmatized groups, recent immigrants, disabled people) there are some some institutions and cultural values that support wider participation. It takes great energy, persistance, and strategic action to expand democatic practice. For example in fishing villages in southern India, the long-established Catholic church, newer fish-worker unions, and women’s associations contained values and practices that innovators could use to increase participation by disfavored groups, often by starting new political settings such as neighborhood assemblies. Trying to change formal and informal rules of participation in existing political settings usually runs up against entrenched elite power. New and reformed settings can establish a base of democratic experience for pressing change in older, powerful settings.

Solution: 

Strengthening already democratic settings and starting new democratic settings and organization are ways to sidestep the customs and practices that reinforce the existing social hierarchy. A new setting open to all offers people with little experience of expressing and advocating their ideas and interests an opportunity to gain experience and confidence.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People low on the social scale are often barred from political meetings. And for many reasons women, poor people, and others may not voice their views in meetings. New and reformed settings can establish a base of democratic experience for change in older, powerful settings. New settings that are open and democratic can give people who have never been invited to express their ideas an opportunity to gain experience and confidence.

Pattern status: 
Released

Whole Cost

Pattern ID: 
456
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
28
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Through the clothes we buy, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the way we dispose of our trash or sewage, where and how we live, and how we make a living or recreate, people everyday and everywhere make impacts — large and small, good and bad — on the world. Many of the problems in the world are compounded by people who are unaware of the damage they are inadvertently perpetuating through their daily lives. Costs are determined in overly simplistic ways such as monetary costs or immediate convenience — throwing trash out the window or into a river, for example.

Not only are these problems debilitating to people in less developed countries (thus presenting moral and ethical challenges to their more fortunate brethren), they also have a peculiar way of ultimately affecting developed countries as well (over 20% of the air pollution in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. has blown in from China). If people had a better idea what the entire "cost" of their actions were — not just their own personal costs at that moment — there is a higher likelihood that they'd change their behavior to encourage positive changes and discourage negative ones.

Context: 

People in developed countries are always buying — things — often from developing countries — and are generally unaware of the legacy of the product. People may be morally opposed, for example, to the child labor that went into, say, a pair of athletic shoes, yet they implicitly condone the practice with their purchase. The one economic point of view holds is that the whole cost should be reflected in the price tag, but this is rarely possible. Many of the costs are impossible to put a number on, and they may even differ from the point of view of different people. (What is the "true" cost of taking away a wetland used by geese on their migration?) So the pattern includes in some sense the common economic understanding but goes beyond it. All people need to live consciously in this world.

Discussion: 

In an increasingly globalized world people are connected to each other in ways that are often unknown to each other. One of the main ways that people in developed countries and less developed countries are linked is through products. When a person in a developed country buys clothing, consumer electronics, or other items all the buyer sees is a purchase price. Missing, of course, is the entire chain of lineage that was effectuated in order to place that product within purchasing range and its enduring effects on the environment has been dispatched of. Often the price on the product obscures a sordid legacy that could include child labor, environmental abuse such as pesticides in ground water, air pollution or soil depletion, or aspects that are harder to quantify like migration of youth to the urban areas or loss of cultural heritage.

One of the basic uses of this pattern is understanding the "whole cost" of an object or a service that one is purchasing. Ultimately the intent of this pattern is identifying the whole cost of something and using the information (that a single price obscures) to promote broader public consciousness and ultimately improved social good. There are a great number of ways that the information can be used — and a great number of ways left to be discovered. Ideally the information behind the price tag will take on greater significance while the price tag itself can also be made to reflect the previously hidden information more accurately including, for example, labeling that tag to include additional information about contents or relevant environmental effects or labor practices.

Understanding the "whole cost is primarily a process of education that can be done individually (by people of virtually any age) or in more public ways through any number of ways. This "understanding" can be via a narrative or story or it can be more quantified, including, for example, information about who got paid how much for what at every step in the chain. One approach is using the origin of the product as an indicator; not buying a product, for example, if it were made by non-union, child, or slave labor or because it was produced by a repressive regime.

A more nuanced process with a distinctively quantitative feel is illustrated by the work done by the International Center for Technology Assessment in their "The Real Price of Oil" report (1998). In that report based on gasoline prices from a U.S. perspective, the authors reveal how ultimately deceptive the idea of the "price at the pump" actually is to the actual monetary cost expressed in a specific currency, dollars, for example. And while their approach, like other economically based approaches, ignores (or, at least, re-interprets) the human story, it goes a long way towards developing (and ultimately using) a unitary "price" as a meaningful attachment to a commodity or service that’s available for purchase. In the case of gasoline, the authors show how multiple government subsidies (huge tax breaks, direct support for research development and other business costs, and "protection subsidies" often of a military nature) and a multitude of "externalities" (problems as diverse as air pollution, automobile crashes, suburban sprawl and climate change that are "costs" which the oil industry is not going to address and are not reflected in any way by the price one pays "at the pump") result in a public price-tag for gasoline that distorts the real price by 5 to 15 times. The "free" television programming that occupy so much of the time of the U.S. citizenry shows another perversion of the ideas of price and costs. The shows of course are not "free" at all — at least not to the viewers (and non-viewers) who pay for the ads every time they purchase something that’s advertised on television.

A simple use of the information (at least in the gasoline case above) would be eliminate or otherwise lower the government subsidies — especially the ones that actually hurt the environment and lead to wars and other problems and let the price creep (leap?) up to the actual price (or at least closer to it). This at the least would test the citizenry’s commitment to the automobile in a fair comparison with competing approaches to transportation. A related approach is of course un-externalizing the externalities by bringing the costs back home to the companies that are making them possible. This can be done by imposing a "green tax" on the companies, which would be used to help try to reverse the damage caused by the company’s business practices. Unfortunately, as Peter Dorman explains “There is a general distrust of the effectiveness of government, a fear that green taxes will be more regressive than some of our current ones. The alternative is the creation of environmental trusts, which would collect the money on behalf of the beneficiaries, which could include current people, future people and natural entities. The trust would pay back some of the money directly (per capita rebates) and also finance ecological conversion. Vermont and Massachusetts are in the process of setting up a trust of this sort for carbon and New York and California are possibly going this route too.

The city of San Francisco recently showed another innovative use of the Whole Cost concept. In the spring of 2005, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to enact legislation requiring the city to consider the environmental and health implications when making purchases for the city. Since the city spends about $600 million every year on a multitude of purchases (including, for example, 87,000 fluorescent light tubes) this type of legislation could conceivably have some effect, especially since city officials are hoping that the "Environmentally Preferable Purchasing for Commodities Ordinance" will serve as model for other cities. The city is working with community groups, technical experts and other city staff to establish criteria. Debbie Raphael, the city's toxics reduction program manager, stated that "Traditionally, we have a list of specifications we use to decide which computer to buy," she said. "Those specifications do not include things like how much lead is in them? Can you recycle them? What is their energy use? What it does not mean is that cost and performance is ignored. We're expanding the universe of criteria" (Gordon, 2005).

A final use of the Whole Cost pattern is to consider the Whole Cost in more of a global "whole" way. Looking just in this the area of health reveals the importance of this approach. In a short article called "The Price of Life" by Glennerster, Kremer, and Williams (2005) point out that Africa "generates less than one half of one percent of sales by global pharmaceutical firms but accounts for nearly 25 percent of the world's disease burden." The lion's share of pharmaceutical research and development is for the health problems of rich countries. Sadly the economic equations of the world's corporations exclude the vast majority of world's population. Lacking money, the "whole costs" that are borne by them don't show up on anybody's balance sheet or business plan.

Solution: 

The first thing to realize is that the price one sees on a price tag is rarely the "Whole Cost." The second thing to realize is that the Whole Cost of a good or service is educational as well as inspirational. People have been very innovative in this area but there is room for much more. It's important to publicize the "whole cost" of a product as well as the monetary price. This could include what percentage of the monetary price goes to worker and other costs to the environment, quality of life, and other important factors.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We leave our mark on the world through the clothes we buy, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the way we dispose of our waste, or how we work or play. The price tag on a product can hide environmental abuse, or aspects that are harder to quantify such as the loss of cultural heritage. The amount on a price tag doesn't represent all the present or future costs. Knowing the Whole Cost of a good or service can be educational and it can inspire action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Big-Picture Health Information

Pattern ID: 
742
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
27
Jenny Epstein
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Health information cannot focus solely on individual change. Many detriments to health cannot be eradicated without changes to the physical and social world that people inhabit. If environmental and social changes are necessary to get well, individual patients cannot do so solely by seeking health care and avoiding health risks. Expert medical information and advice is inadequate to create a healthy environment that in turn creates healthy people.

Context: 

Poor people bear a disproportionate burden of global ill-health, such as diabetes, malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB. Health discrepancies between rich and poor will not be solved through better access to information alone. Good food, less stress, clean air and water, and a life with a purpose will increase health and healthy behaviors. Real change to improve health comes from a shift away from acknowledging only expert clinical opinion and toward a real-world awareness of the effect of environment on health: a shift from passive diagnosis and treatment to active engagement with the causes of and solutions to health problems.

Discussion: 

We are not, for the most part, born unhealthy. We become unhealthy. And even for those born unhealthy, a great deal of ill health may have been preventable. The campaign to find the cure for breast cancer is a good example of health information that neglects any causal connection between ill-health and the environment (in this instance, an environment which includes the use of estrogen in prescription medication), and ignores political or social change that might address environmental causes of the disease. This pattern of information, in which action comes only after the individual becomes ill but nothing has been done to prevent illness in first place, focuses on individual responsibility with no questioning of the established social order. The unspoken message is that breast cancer just happens. It is up to the individual to get involved with a screening program for early detection and treatment. Information on research that investigates environmental effects to the development of breast cancer is not part of mainstream health information.

Public health information about diabetes further illustrates the lack of emphasis on the connection between environment and health. Among Native Americans, diabetes (like most other non-infectious chronic diseases) was virtually unknown before World War II. Now, in some tribes, over 60% of adults have diabetes and the age of onset is decreasing with each generation. Much of the research on diabetes among Native Americans focuses on genetic causes or on molecular level differentiations of diabetic types. It gives short shrift to how the disruption in traditional diet and life style and the devaluation of traditional medicine correspond with the dramatic increase in the disease. The connection of indigenous people to the environment that they come from, the types of foods they eat, and activities they perform to prepare those foods are not considered an active component in their health. Diabetic health information focuses on what the individual can do to access mainstream diets and medicine. It does not validate traditional knowledge that prevented diabetes in the past, and ignores how the community as a whole can work together to recreate that knowledge. This does not mean trying to reestablish life as it was 60 years ago, but it does mean putting the current problem in a holistic context that includes history, indigenous knowledge, the interaction between diet and environment, and reasons for lack of access even to non-traditional healthy food.

In 1854, John Snow removed the handle from a London neighborhood water pump that was located a few feet from a sewer ("John Snow Pub," 2006). He believed that this sewage was causing the epidemic of cholera deaths in the neighborhood. Epidemiology textbooks emphasize Snow's connection of cause and effect as the first public health intervention of the modern era. They ignore an analysis of cause: industrialization and dislocation, poverty, over-crowding etc. What options for water did people in the neighborhood have without the pump? Seldom mentioned is that, due to the demand of a thirsty public, the handle was replaced six weeks after its removal.

Public health programs must include methods to share power with communities they hope to help. What are the contributors to ill health in their communities? What are the barriers to good health that the communities identify? Information needs to realistically address what is within the control of the individual and what will take groups of people working together to solve. Methods to improve health in disadvantaged communities must reflect the larger social change and shift in power needed.

Health information such as Fast Food Nation (Schlosser, 2002) needs to be the norm, not the exception. This book chronicles the entire environment that produces fast food, including social norms and values. Similarly, the documentary film “Life and Debt” (www.lifeanddebt.org) shows the destruction of healthy, local food production in Jamaica by the combination of multinational food businesses and international government policy.

Health information needs to do more than simply inform. What does not question the present state of affairs will not, for example, bring affordable nutritious food to poor neighborhoods. Nor will it create safe neighborhoods in areas where children cannot exercise. Better access to information may improve health care decisions to some extent; unless it also generates momentum and optimism for social change then it simply perpetuates a focus on individual behavior and treatment of symptoms that have already occurred. Health information needs to look honestly at the conditions that cause ill health, and engage not only those who suffer illness but the entire social and regulatory apparatus that can play a role in improving the conditions that people live in.

Solution: 

Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the interconnection between these causes and their solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect. If the struggle with disease becomes a struggle with established power, you may be on the right track.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Real change in improving health means shifting away from expert clinical opinion only and towards awareness of the effect of environment. Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the links between causes and solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect.

Pattern status: 
Released

Earth's Vital Signs

Pattern ID: 
620
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
26
Jenny Frankel-Reed
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Society’'s great scientific capacity to measure and interpret the world and the role of humans in nature has failed to translate into improved environmental stewardship. Modern environmental challenges are often difficult to see, distant in time and space from their sources, and threaten global consequences. The increasing complexity and chronic rather than acute nature of today's environmental problems requires a revolution of decision making — the systematic integration of earth’s vital signs.

Context: 

Signals detected by scientists about earth's natural patterns and processes and the impacts of humans on these processes are earth's signs - indicators of what can be seen as either ecological health or the capacity of the earth to accommodate human demands. The conditions of earth's systems tend to be worsening on a global scale, but vary dramatically from place to place. Human decisions about how to live on earth drive these trends and can potentially reverse their negative directions.

Policymakers, public interest organizations, universities, and governments can utilize earth's signs to better manage human and environmental well-being. Policymakers' decisions about sustainable practices in land- and resource-dependent sectors can be backed by scientific understanding about the effects of policies on resources. Citizens can demand better environmental stewardship from their leaders at local to global scales with improved access to and translation of relevant earth information at the proper scale. Governments and enforcement bodies can strengthen their monitoring capabilities and base development decisions on the latest information about trends in human impacts on earth.

Discussion: 

Three distinct approaches to integrating earth's vital signs come from the scientific community, public interest organizations, and enforcement bodies.

Scientific institutions can collaborate to reach audiences in need of earth-related information to solve problems. The work of earth observation agencies to collect and disseminate data and images to important users like humanitarian aid agencies provides one example. Disaster prevention, response, and rebuilding are information-intensive. This fact is illustrated time and time again in the wake of natural disasters. For example, in Asia in 2005, an immediate need emerged in tsunami-affected areas for earth observation and environmental data to help in assessing damage, reaching victims and rebuilding resilient communities. In response to this need, an alliance of European and International organizations is working with the humanitarian community to improve access to maps, satellite imagery and geographic information (The CGIAR-CSI Data Sharing Platform). This kind of effort by the scientific community to ensure that information actually comes back 'down to earth' opens a host of possibilities for more sustainable decisionmaking if scientists in other fields can repeat it. Scientists from communities researching water, pollution and future risks from global warming could create similar initiatives to ensure the information that they gather becomes integrated in decisionmaking in water-scarce areas, in clean water and air policies, and for promoting climate change adaptation in development strategies, to name a few.

Another way earth’s signs are integrated into decisionmaking is by concerned public interest groups and universities gathering, translating and communicating trends that reflect environmental sustainability to motivate improved environmental governance. The outcomes of resource and land management policies such as energy, fisheries, forests, water, urban planning and rural development can be extrapolated from existing environmental data. A key challenge however, is translating scientific information to connect to the public and policymakers. In examples from around the world, organizations locate data reflecting the condition of impacted resources, create indicators of stewardship or sustainability from these data, and translate their findings into insightful measurements, models and maps that are publicly available and understandable to broader audiences. Clarifying the connections between political and business decisions and environmental outcomes can promote environmentally sustainable decisions and reverse negative trends if decisionmakers are held accountable to these indicators. Scorecards of environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index), policy-wise ecological assessments (Hudson River Foundation), and regional indicators and indices of sustainability (Cascadia Scorecard) have the potential to become a systematic part of policymaking if leaders are held accountable for their performance on these measures of earth's vital signs. Currently, information is not available at the right scales and frequently enough for such assessments to be carried in every context, but an increase in reporting has been proven to stimulate better information gathering.

Earth monitoring information has also been used by enforcement agencies, environmental organizations, and governments to improve accountability for the environmental impacts of business practices. Satellite imagery and other sources of management practices can be used to monitor natural resources on public lands, in protected areas, human settlements, etc. One example comes from an initiative in Central Africa’s Congo Basin, an important wood products exporting region to Europe (Global Forest Watch). European procurement standards are the highest in the world, and buyers often demand legally and sustainably harvested wood from their suppliers. A system to monitor the legality and sustainability of forestry operations has emerged that utilizes satellite imagery, tracking whether harvested areas conform to legally-agreed boundaries and harvest rates. By making the findings publicly accessible, consumers use the information in procurement decisions and market pressure can promote better management by companies. Similar innovative applications of earth information can capitalize on market forces and encourage sustainable resource management if public concern is tangible.

Solution: 

Integrating earth's signs throughout decisionmaking requires that environmental information is widely available, connections between management practices and environmental outcomes are understood, environmental implications of policies are translated to the public and policymakers, and that the environmental performance of governments and companies is publicly disseminated. Replication of existing initiatives and further innovations can help to ensure that decisionmaking balances human impacts with the health of the planet.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We need a revolution of decision making and awareness in order to tackle the complexity and urgent nature of our environmental problems. Earth's Vital Signs are indicators of ecological health or the earth's capacity to accommodate human demands. Human decisions about how to live on earth currently drive unsustainable trends. They can also help us change course.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) exhibited at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, USA; Photo: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) ; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Cyberpower

Pattern ID: 
829
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
25
Kate Williams
Dominican University
Abdul Alkalimat
University of Toledo
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In the age of the Internet, if someone can’t send an email or browse the web, they are much like the person in the age of print who had to sign their name with an X. Many people and communities are still catching up to the information age and what digital tools offer. One word for what they offer is Cyberpower—power in cyberspace.

The usefulness of this word can be understood in comparison to another useful word: e-commerce. E-commerce is a word that summed up what businesses, coders and consumers were doing. On the basis of that summation, many more people were guided in that direction, and e-commerce became more advanced as a result. Millions are now buying and selling online, with the goods delivered in the real world. Our experience with the word cyberpower is the much same: the word came into use based on practice; then it mobilized more people to exercise their cyberpower. As with e-commerce, when you wield cyberpower, the “goods”—power—are delivered in the real world, in a cycle from actual to virtual to actual.

Context: 

Digital inequality often impacts the same people as older inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, exclusion. But the new tools are so powerful that not using them sets individuals, groups and communities even further back. The hardware and software are still changing, and only the users are able to shape them and shape the future. And a global conversation is taking place every day online. They

Discussion: 

Even as technology changes, diffuses, and becomes cheaper, digital inequalities persist. For certain populations, access is impossible or is controlled, skills are lower, support isn’t there, or the tools and resources themselves are relatively irelevant. If the core conversations and the rich information sources are all online, yet not everyone is participating or even able to observe, how do we maintain democracy? Recent calls for a dialogue of civilizations, starting with the United Nations (1998), rather than a clash of civilizations (Huntington 1998) could be taking part online, but only if everyone can see, hear, and speak in cyberspace.

It is not yet well understood, but communities in crisis—be it from poverty, disaster, war or some other adversity—are known to turn to technology for response and recovery. Cellphones, impromptu cybercafés, the Internet, all helped in the Gulf hurricane recovery. Farmers on quarantined farms quickly mastered home Internet use during England’s foot-and-mouth-disease outbreak. The US armed forces now strategize in terms of land, sea, air, and cyberspace. Immigrants all over the world have created digital diasporas. (Miller and Slater 2000) Whatever language people use to describe it, cyberpower is the driver in all these cases.

Hiphop can be seen as a technology-based response to crisis and a cyberpower project. In a community-based seminar, we proposed to create a CD of original raps about IT. Students and community members were skeptical—one said, “We don’t know anything about computers”—but all the music making was digital, the tools were put together in bedrooms and basements, and the result was a compilation of 15 tracks. Sample these lyrics by S. Supreme:

Information technology
Skipping the Black community with no apology
Flipping the power off
On an already alarming deficit,
So please, please, PLEASE, PASS THE MESSAGE KID!
Ohh Umm Diddy Dum Dum
If he don’t turn his Ice off
And turn his head past the gas of Microsoft
He’ll really be lost like the tribe, ‘cause the time is now and that’s a bet
How you throwing up a set and you ain’t on the Net,
Yet you say you’re a G?
I said I’m not Chuck D, but welcome to the terror
If you ain’t ready to build in this information era
Survival of the fittest, our rights get diminished, cats be on their Crickets
But don’t know about Linux

In this track cyberpower is talking about cyberpower.

Another example of cyberpower is our experience with an auction of Malcolm X’s papers. The sale, planned for March 2002, was discovered online, then thousands protested online and the sale was stopped. The process began when monitoring eBay for items related to Malcolm X, we discovered that eBay’s auction house, Butterfields, was about to sell thousands of pages of Malcolm’s diaries and notes, recovered from a storage locker, for an expected price of $500,000. Using the listserv H-Afro-Am, this news was spread across multiple communities of scholars, librarians, activists, and others. The American Library Association then created a story on their online news site which is fed to more sites and individuals. The next day The New York Times did a story. On the third day The Guardian newspaper ran a story about the impending sale and the online groundswell against it. The listservs and the news articles alerted the family and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, who wre able to negotiate the postponing of the sale, then its cancellation. An agreement was negotiated with the seller whereby the materials are now in the possession of the family, housed at the Schomburg’s archives. In sum, the important historical papers (actual) were being auctioned (virtual); thousands of people were mobilized (virtual); traditional media carried the story (virtual and actual); and ultimately the materials were withdrawn from sale and placed intact in a public library archive for scholars and the public (actual).

Another example of cyberpower is told by Mele (1999). Faced with a teardown of their housing project, tenants in Wilmington, Nouth Carolina wrangled the key to a long-locked community room, internet access for the lone computer (actual), and via email and listservs (virtual) recruited architects and planners to help them obtain, digest and answer developer and city plans. They won an actual seat at the negotiating table and, more important, key changes to the teardown plan that included interim and long-term housing for residents.

All sorts of new tools for exercising cyberpower are in wide usage at this writing, for example, MySpace, blogs, wikis, and the online video festival known as YouTube. Use of any of these tools locates you in a lively community. The idea from Putnam (2000) that we’re “bowling alone,” not connecting with other people in an atomized world, is, as Lin (2001) asserted, trumped by the fact that we are not computing alone.

Solution: 

Cyberpower means two related activities related to empowerment: 1) individuals, groups and organizations using digital tools for their own goals, or 2) using digital tools as part of community organizing. The general idea is that people can use cyberpower in virtual space to get power in the actual space. Cyberorganizers help get people cyberpower just as community organizers help get communities empowered.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Digital inequality often affects the same people as traditional inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, and exclusion. With Cyberpower individuals, groups and organizations use digital tools for their own goals. Cyberpower also means using digital tools as part of community organizing and development, when Cyberorganizers help people gain Cyberpower.

Pattern status: 
Released

Teaching to Transgress

Pattern ID: 
763
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
20
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Obviously, good teachers try their best to teach what they believe to be correct. Yet, the world changes so that what was true is no longer true and what was once irrelevant becomes important, even vital. Further, even with respect to things that do not objectively change, new knowledge is continually created. It is natural for students to identify with good teachers and to value their knowledge highly. A possible side-effect of this basically good process, however, is that the student may become reluctant to “go against” the teaching of their mentor/hero/professor. This reluctance occurs, not just with respect to individual teachers, but also with respect to the society as a whole.

Context: 

The world is changing rapidly and critically. For example, the human population has exploded in the last few hundred years. The consumption of fossil fuels continues basically unabated despite the signs of global warming and the finite nature of these fuels. The incredibly destructive nature of modern weaponry means that fights for limited economic resources or over restrictive and doctrinaire religions can produce unprecedented levels of human misery. Yet, many individuals, groups, and societies seem just as conservative and rigid as ever.

Discussion: 

Living organisms have existed on earth for at least 10**9 years while modern human institutions like government have only been around for about 10**4 years. Living organisms all have the capacity to change with each new generation both through mutation and re-combination. We would do well to emulate what has worked.

The United States Consititution, although a best efforts work at the time it was created, also carries within it, provision for change through Amendment and many of these have been critical to the broadening of American democracy to a wider range of citizens.

The Walking People (Underwood, 1997) describes the journey of one branch of the Iroquois Tribe over several millenia. In the process, they were forced to learn to accomodate to different physical and cultural situations. They developed numerous mechanisms both for retaining learned wisdom and for challenging and changing when new situations arose.

The need for challenge and change has probably never been greater. Nonetheless, there are many mechanisms that tend to prevent change. At the individual level, change can be uncomfortable. Typically, a targeted change in one area or domain also has unintended consequences not only in that same area or domain but in others as well. If an individual changes, this may require compensatory changes in those close to the individual. Thus, there is often resistance to change at the level of family and friends as well. Furthermore, there is often institutional resistance to change. Institutions, including corporations, work to keep any and all advantages that they already enjoy. Governments and religions also often work to keep the status quo.

Given the numerous levels at which resistance to change occurs, it is necessary to have active mechanisms that work toward change. The impacts of change need to be carefully evaluated however because not all changes, even well-intentioned ones work well.

Solution: 

In order to help prevent stagnation of knowledge, one useful strategy is for the teacher, as an integral part of their teaching, to teach “transgression”; that is, to go against the “received wisdom” — to test and rebel against it. The scope of such transgression should be wide and include all of a society's rules, prejudices, and attitudes.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Students identify with good teachers and value their knowledge highly. This might mean, however, that students might be reluctant to “go against” the teaching of their mentor/hero/professor. Teaching to Transgress actively questions and tests society's “received wisdom.” Teaching to Transgress helps instill the idea that societies must change and that we all have responsibility for promoting that change.

Pattern status: 
Released

Dematerialization

Pattern ID: 
839
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
18
Burl Humana
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Our current economic system that provides for our material needs works only by producing and selling things. The more we produce and the more we purchase the more we have so called progress and prosperity. However, the production, processing, and consumption, of commodities requires the extraction and use of natural resources (wood, ore, fossil fuels, water); it requires the creation of factories and factory complexes whose operation creates toxic byproducts, while the use of commodities themselves (e.g. automobiles) creates pollutants and waste. (Allyn and Bacon, 1999) The number of consumers and their individual and collective behaviors drive materialization. (Daedalus – 1996)

Context: 

Human societies now face unintended and ironic consequences of their own mechanical, chemical, medical, social, and financial ingenuity. (Iona Zira - 2003) The production and consumption of products is destructive, in the long run, to the environment and is a contributing factor to poverty and hunger around the world. A long list of social and ecological problems can not be solved without a less consumptive society and the dematerialization of our natural resources.

Discussion: 

Dematerialization is a technological term that defines the reduction of material used per unit quality of life. You may have noticed the plastic sack at the grocery store getting thinner, but it is still strong enough to carry your groceries. Over the years, it may seem that you can squeeze the pop can you drink from more easily with your hand though you may not have gotten any stronger. These types of changes in products are the result of dematerialization, using fewer natural resources in products, using more recycled resources, and extending the life of products.

Industrial ecology is the study of the totality of the relationships between different industrial activities, their products, and the environment. It is intended to identify ways to optimize the network of all industrial processes as they interact and live off each other, in the sense of a direct use of each other's material and energy wastes and products as well as economic synergism. The macroscopic picture of materialization can help raise key research questions and set priorities among the numerous studies of materials flows and networks that might be undertaken. It puts these in a dynamic context of both technical and market change. (Daedalus – 1996)

Dematerialization of unit products affects, and is influenced by, a number of factors besides product quality. These include ease of manufacturing, production cost, size and complexity of the product, whether the product is to be repaired or replaced, and the amount of waste to be generated and processed. These factors influence one another. For example, the ease of manufacture of a particular product in smaller and lighter units may result in lower production cost and cheaper products of lower quality, which will be replaced rather than repaired on breaking down. Although a smaller amount of waste will be generated on a per-unit basis, more units will be produced and disposed of, and there may be an overall increase in waste generation at both the production and the consumption ends. (Dr. Braden Allenby- 1992) Through industrial ecololgy we can determine best outcomes using a wider, more global outlook of the affects of our activities on the environment.

In a functional economy consumers can purchase function, rather than a physical product, from a service provider. "For example, we don't want the washing machine, we want clean, dry washing; we don't want the drill, we want to have a picture hanged." (Rolf Jucker - 2000) Through dematerialization a physical product is replaced by a non-physical product or service reducing a company's production, demand and use of physical products; and the end-user's dependence on physical products. This strategy realizes cost-savings in materials, energy, transportation, consumables, and the need to manage the eventual disposal and/or recycling of a physical product. Dematerialization may involve making a product smaller and lighter, replacing a material product with an immaterial substitute. One common example of this that we currently practice is the replacement of postal mail with E-mail. Reducing the use of material or infrastructure-intensive systems allows us to make changes like telecommuting versus the use of the automobile for work purposes.

The ease and speed of travel is a large contributing factor to the materialization of our world. As a society we have spread out and continue to create a built environment all over the map because it is so quick and easy to get from here to there. As we create wider, better roads, more cars fill the roadways. The use of plastics in society is the by product of using too much oil to fuel our automobiles. As a result the disposal of plastic waste is an increasing problem. Not to mention the effect on the environment due to the incredible amount of industrialized metals, plastics, electronic materials, rubber, and glass it takes to manufacture each car. A recent television ad with a woman talking about the need to protect the environment ended with this endearment, “but, I love my car!” Attempts to dematerialize the automobile by using high strength steel and plastics to decrease mass but increase structural integrity are negatively offset by this kind of sentiment by consumers.

A starting point for a sensible theory or practice of consumption has to be the insight that every time you buy and/or consume something--be it a tiny battery to keep your watch going or be it a TV, a car or a hamburger, you are making an impact on the social, economic, and ecological environment. In the words of Anwar Fazal, former president of the International Organization of Consumer Unions (IOCU): "The act of buying is a vote for an economic and social model, for a particular way of producing goods. We are concerned with the quality of goods and the satisfactions we derive from them. But we cannot ignore the environmental impact, and working conditions under which products are made." Our relationship with these products or goods does not end with our enjoyment of possessing or consuming them. We are linked to them and perpetuate them and therefore share some direct responsibility for them." (Rolf Jucker - 2000)

Life-styles also shape demand. Today, only a small fraction of consumption in wealthy nations (or communities) is actually for basic survival; most is for pleasure and to express one's standing in society. (Daedalus - 1996) In a standup monologue, comedian George Carlin used humor to increase our awareness of society's obsessive behavior for material objects, “That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a ….place for your stuff, ya know? A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it…I can see it on your table, everybody's got a ...place for their stuff. ….This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there...And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff…That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore…" Sometimes the beginning to an answer for a serious problem like too much materialism and consumerism is to create personal awareness.

Of the three factors environmentalists often point to as responsible for environmental problems — population, technology, and consumption — consumption seems to get the least attention. One reason ... is that it may be the most difficult to change; our consumption patterns are so much a part of our lives that to change them would require a massive cultural overhaul, not to mention severe economic dislocation. A drop in demand for products, as economists note, brings on economic recession or even depression, along with massive unemployment. This is so ingrained into the cultures of the wealthy nations, that the thought of massive adjustment of lifestyles and economic systems to a more sustainable consumption seems too much to consider. (Annup Shaw - 2005) Taking a moderate approach with gradual or incremental changes in lifestyle could increase the probability of an actual decrease in consumption.

Substantial progress has been made over the past century in decoupling economic growth and well-being from increasing primary energy use through increased efficiency. With this success some economists may come to think that dematerialization is a term for scientific processes and economic strategies alone and has nothing to do with materialism as a philosophy. On the other hand there is increased realization that “decoupling materials and affluence will be difficult—much harder than decoupling carbon and prosperity." (Daedalus - 1996) The term dematerialization applies to the individual act of buying less, consuming less and finding more meaning in our lives than the acquisition of material goods. Downsizing our homes, our automobiles, our technological toys and entertainment systems, our cloths closets, and the consumptive habits we teach our children can help people simplify their lives and find other interests that create more meaning, value, and happiness. Understanding the historical roots of materialism that have resulted in our modern affluence could also be key to decreasing our personal use and obsession with material goods in the built world.

Solution: 

Consumption has become a function of our culture that needs to be intentionally curbed. The growing role of knowledge, information, and culture should also make it possible to displace materials and energy with human intelligence and ingenuity. This would allow us to satisfy more basic human needs with far fewer resources. It would ostensibly also allow us to fit human economic activities within natural processes without disrupting them. Dematerialization is the future of an ecologically and economically balanced world. (Allyn and Bacon, 1999)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The production and consumption of products is destructive to the environment and contributes to poverty and hunger. Dematerialization means using fewer natural resources, using more recycled resources, and extending the life of products. The growing role of knowledge, information, and culture should make it possible to displace materials and energy more intelligently and ingeniously, thus allowing us to satisfy basic human needs with fewer resources.

Pattern status: 
Released

Linguistic Diversity

Pattern ID: 
407
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
16
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Over the last century, many of the world's languages have disappeared. When a language is lost, part of the world's knowledge and culture is also irrevocably lost. Beyond the losses incurred thus far, there is evidence that the trend is increasing as languages such as English, Spanish, and Swahili are displacing languages that are less prominent in the world media and language sphere. Losing humankind's linguistic diversity diminishes our collective ability to perceive and think about the world in a holistic, multi-faceted and rich way.

Context: 

Everybody who communicates with other people employs language. To a large extent, the language that we use places constraints on what — and how — we think. Everybody has a stake in promoting linguistic diversity although some people are better positioned to help.

Discussion: 

In 1992, Michael Krauss, a language professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, predicted that half of the world's languages would become extinct within the next century. Although languages periodically have become extinct throughout history, the frequency of language death today is unprecedented. Krauss reported that of the 20 tongues still known to the state's indigenous people, only two of were being taught to children. A 1990 survey in Australia, cited in a article by W. Wayt Gibbs, "found that 70 of the 90 surviving Aboriginal languages were no longer used regularly by all age groups. The same was true for all but 20 of the 175 Native American languages spoken or remembered in the U.S." The "ethnologue", an Internet resource that lists over 7,000 languages currently in use worldwide, contains over 400 languages which are thought to be in imminent danger of extinction.

It may be that our everyday familiarity with language prevents us from respecting the fact that "...any language is a supreme achievement of a uniquely human collective genius, as divine and endless a mystery as a living organism," as Krauss reminds us. Linguistic diversity can be thought as analogous to biological diversity. In that vein, Krauss asks his readers, "Should we mourn the loss of Eyak or Ubykh any less than the loss of the panda or California condor?"

Many of the imperiled languages are those of indigenous people. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the world-views of indigenous people, especially in relationship to the environment, is one of the vantage points we can't afford to lose. David Crystal, writing in Language Death, states that, "Most westerners are infants in their knowledge of the environment, and how to behave towards it, compared with the indigenous peoples, for whom the environment is part of the business of survival." It's a sobering thought to ponder how much mass media may be determining what's in our "environment" and, hence, in our "knowledge of the environment." Is it true that American teenagers have 63 words for shopping?

Linguists are now employing a variety of techniques to document the world's endangered languages before they are lost forever. This usually involves field work in which a dictionary and grammar guide are produced. Often recordings are made of native speakers. But looking beyond the last-ditch "capture" of a language before it dies forever. a variety of techniques are being used to try to build back a viable language community. A program devised by Leanne Hinton acquired funding to pay both fluent indigenous speakers and younger learners.

What else can be done? David Crystal lists six factors that he believes can help resusitate an endangered language. An endangered language will progress if its speakers:

  1. increase their prestige within the dominant community
  2. increase their wealth relative to the dominant community
  3. increase their legitimate power in the eyes of the dominant community
  4. have a strong presence in the educational system
  5. can write their language down
  6. can make use of electronic technology

Hans-Jurgen Sasse believes that "collective doubts about the usefullness of language loyalty" among the speakers of a language can presage its demise. The speakers themselves can of course strive to maintain their language. The world outside of that language community can play a role by respecting linguistic diversity, often by dropping prejudices and a bias for monolingualism. David Crystal believes that this bias is, at least to some degree, a product of colonialism, that is now being promoted by economics. When bilingualism flourishes, speakers can participate in the world beyond their language community intellectually and commercially while maintaining their own community, identity and heritage.

As with other thorny problems, no single answer exists. Solutions that work in some places have no effects in others. Education of one sort or another will play a large role in language maintenance; the language must be passed on from older to younger generations. Artistic and other forms of cultural expression can serve as an outlet for creative impulses that can also be enjoyed by the world beyond their community.

Introductory graphic, "Endangered Languages of North America," is from the web site, http://www.si.edu/i+d/lang.big.html

Solution: 

Due to their particular knowledge and expertise, linguists are often at the forefront of the struggle for linguistic diversity. It was linguists who first alerted us to these issues and have helped develop methods to archive linguistic resources. Non-linguists have important roles to play as well. We need to become aware of humankind's diminishing linguistic diversity and work to preserve and enhance it.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Over the last century, many of the world's languages have disappeared. When a language is lost, part of the world's knowledge and culture is lost. Losing our Linguistic Diversity diminishes our ability to perceive and think about the world in a multi-faceted and rich way. Due to their knowledge and expertise, linguists are at the forefront of the struggle for Linguistic Diversity. All of us, however, have important roles in preserving and enhancing Linguistic Diversity.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Early_Localization_Native_Americans_USA.jpg

Back to the Roots

Pattern ID: 
877
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
13
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Humankind has developed incredibly complex intellectual, cultural, physical, and technological artifacts over the years. This has put a wide chasm between our present status and our "roots" where we all were closer to nature, closer to the source and sustenance of our lives.

Context: 

These are some of the "roots" that all humankind shares: Fire and the hearth. Running water, bubbling or still water. Ice and steam. The sea and the ancient life within it. The sun, moon, stars, comets and planets. Soil, mud, sand, rocks. Mountains, caves, dunes, swamps. Plant — huge trees, alpine flowers, cactus and lichen — and animal life — frogs, monkeys, lemurs, spiders, rats, ants, bats, mosquitoes, cassowaries, camels, penguins and pigs. Hunger, food, nourishment, thirst, cells, the body, the rhythms and phases of life. the family; culture, music, art, and stories. Love, knowledge, wonder, mystery, language. perception. We can't foreswear them because they are part of us.

Discussion: 

In A Pattern Language, Alexander and his colleagues described three patterns devoted specifically to water — ACCESS TO WATER (25), POOLS AND STREAMS (64), and STILL WATER (71) — as well as SACRED SITES (24) and TREE PLACES (171). Yet, according in a review of Alexander's work in a Harvard Design Magazine review Saunders faults Alexander’'s "New Age flower-child wistfulness" when Alexander speaks of the health benefits that are associated with a deeper connection with nature.

In cities and in developed areas around the world generally many of humankind’s “roots” are barely visible. In the U.S., for example, only 2% of people who live in rural areas are engaged in farming. Even more astounding is the fact that "rural" is no longer rural: a large percentage of rural dwellers live within 25 miles of a city. But far from being a nostalgic look back, discovering, cultivating and building on our “radical center” can be a wellspring for creative preparations for the future.

We are learning the hard way that "estrangement from the animate earth has negative consequences for human functioning" (Barlett, 2005) and people are making strides towards a closer touch. City dwellers are now demanding “Pea patches” and other urban gardening opportunities. People are learning the value of having plants close by when, for example, convalescing from disease, operation or abuse (Tesh, ____). In South Central Los Angeles, in an economically disadvantaged part of the city close to the scene of the Rodney King riots of 1992, 14 acres of land that were destined to become home for a giant trash-to-energy incinerator was purchased by the city through eminent domain for $4.8 million. Through a series of events, the city granted temporary use of the land for community gardens that turned into 12 years and the 350 families have cultivated the urban farm since that day. In 2006, in spite of large public demonstations, the farm, lungs for the city in a car-centric metropolis, was reclaimed by the city to be sold back to the original owner. The land will be used for light manufacturing or warehouses.

In the introduction to her excellent book (2005) Peggy Barlett recounts many of the ways through which we have lost or nearly lost our connections to our roots — and the possible perils that such losses may engender. She also shows how the benefits from reconnecting spread in unexpected ways: "As volunteers clean up a trash-filled urban stream, for example, they absorb a new concept of watershed. They learn that parking lots, driveways, and lawn chemicals affect water quality and stream insect life. People who might have never thought about mayflies or runoff water temperature develop a new relationship to the stream ecosystem and indicators of its health (Barlett, 2002). Concerns about urban air quality also draw attention to the ecological matrix of life. Trees provide "services" by removing air pollutants, retaining storm water, cooling temperatures, and providing habit and food for other species. Restoration work of prairies and forests builds attachment to the natural world in a more grounded local way than a more diffuse embrace of nature in the abstract (Light and Higgs, 1997). According to Barlett, "Modern cities make distance from nature possible for a larger group than in the past." She also raises the idea that "Urban place is a locale as well for the enactment of human hierarchy. Distance from the natural world may be connected to power over the lower classes and their labor." Certainly the arts, the priesthood, the seats of governmet, and the banks are found in cities.

One intriguing concept is how our very thought patterns — our abstractions, human-centrism, and economic calculations — may exclude nature and our roots. Barlett, for examples, shows how anthropology, sociology and the other social sciences exclude humankind's connections with other life forms, natural phenomenon and own past. Of course from a capitalist perspective, nature has "value" only when it has a "price" and potential for profit. Unfortunately many people find themselves "priced-out" of their own land and their own culture legacy. Access to unexploited and unspoiled nature, our common roots is increasingly the domain of the wealthy. The most dangerous of these tendencies, however, may be that we forget our own history as a part and product of nature and hence our ability to reformulate a more harmonious connection with nature.

How are we supposed to employ this pattern? For most of humankind's progress through the centuries nature was abundant and humankind scarce. Nature was something that could be "conquered." Some of the world's religions informed us that God intended us to have "dominion" over nature. We can't really "go back" to the primeval time of our "roots" — nor would we want to. We will not and can not abandon our cities and "return" to a state of nature. But at the same time we must boldly explore the idea of living in some sort of closer harmony with nature and the forces of life that we implicitly think we can ignore.

Yet for the timelessness and presumed innocence of our roots, immense damage has been wrought over time "in the name of" roots: blood, tradition, purity, the soil. We know that people from the city are not "better" than people from the country. We also know that the reverse is not true; for actually many people in the country have also lost their feel for nature. We don't invoke the idea of "roots" to pit one group against another but to relate the two in common bonds.

Barlett believes that "there are unanticipated benefits to collective and individual well-being with the reconnection to the natural world, an often-neglected dimension of the emerging paradigm shift toward a more sustainable society" and "part of a shifting paradigm that locates humankind within the biosphere." Thinking holistically we can imagine and create new opportunities for reconnecting with our roots that have unxpected benefits: "a community garden in New York City may replace an abandoned lot and come to be a social focus for many who live nearby." Barlett again, "Community gardens not only provide nutritious food and conviviality with neighbors, but can build a different sense of self through a new awareness of growing cycles, weather and human agency."

For example, South Central Farmers and their current struggle to maintain the urban farm land.

Solution: 

Barlett presents "several layers of connections to nature" including knowledge; emerging emotional attachment; purposeful action; new personal choices and ethical action and commitments to political action. The plants that we eat of course have literal roots that climb backwards, down through the soil, searching for nutrients. Humankind’s roots also reach back through time and space and are likewise eternal.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Humankind has altered the world socially and materially incredibly over the years. This has created a chasm between our present status and our "roots" which are closer to nature and closer to the source and sustenance of our lives. Going Back to the Roots is not intended to be a nostalgic trip: discovering, cultivating and building on our “radical center” can be a wellspring for creative preparations for the future.

Pattern status: 
Released
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