The conversation I would like to have

Camp Fire

Gather around the camp fire and let's have a real chat. Photo: Dawn Huczek via Flickr.

I first read the original Limits to Growth as a high school senior in 1974, and it changed my life. Or rather, it confirmed my youthful suspicions regarding the fundamental contradictions of industrial culture.

That was back during the tail end of the Vietnam era; there was an active back to the land movement and articles on self-sufficient living and alternative energy were common place in the mainstream press. The first and second oil crisis of the 70s were a defining experience making for an exciting time to grow up in. I pursued an engineering career, while trying to keep my investment in consumer culture at a comfortable arms-length.

I had no TV, lived in a mountainside log cabin, and fetched cooking water from a spring while commuting an hour each way to my desk job in the big city. It was the eighties, times were rich and I was making easy money riding the computer boom. We all make our Faustian bargains and that was mine.

The times they are a changin’

By the early nineties that bargain was growing irksome as I watched the farmland that surrounded my home swallowed up by the yeast-like culture of suburban growth. And I came to question my own complicity in that larger process.

Afflicted as I am by terminal idealism, in 1995 I quit my comfortable job to move my family to the deep Alleghany foothills and founded Four Quarters InterFaith Sanctuary as a non-profit center supporting all forms of Earth-based spirituality. We organized our first events and began the never-ending process of reclaiming a long abandoned farmstead.

“Look before you leap” is very good advice.

In 1999 unrestricted internet access arrived and I remember well one fateful search string, “global oil production.” After three weeks of nonstop reading, the conclusion was clear; my dog-eared copy of the original Limits to Growth Report was still right on track.

In the years that followed we focused on food and shelter, local business enterprises and evolved into a small income-sharing community. With our gardens and orchards, woodpiles and workshops, limits awareness has informed our long-term planning and has become an official focus of our non-profit.

And the conversations began. Around the dinner table, in letters and emails, websites and blogs. Authors and conferences, workshops at our own events and impromptu fireside chats. And that’s what I want to speak to you about.

I want to have a conversation with you around a common fire. Here in my home, as my guest on the land.

And I do have a vested self-interest. I want to see a person, not a computer screen, when I speak the words that trouble me deeply. Ecological Overshoot. Population Maximum. Decline, Collapse, Dieoff.

And I want to hear you speak the words that you need to have heard, and hear them with compassion. I want to know what’s worked for you and share a few of my own successes and failures. And we can bounce a few ideas off our friend in the next chair over. So consider this an invitation to join me at my home for my idea of a really worthwhile way to spend the Memorial Day weekend. A circle of new friends.  Solid Science, great minds, face-to-face conversation and never-ending coffee.

The Age of Limits
Conversations on The Collapse of the Global Industrial Model
May 25 thru 28, 2012
Visit for full particulars.

— Orren Whiddon, Transition Voice

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