On May 9-10, 2019 I attended the 40th year reunion of the Farallones Institute seeing friends some of which I had not seen in well over thirty years. The Institute was an amazing place founded on a vision for how best to participate in the growing ecological movement of the 1970s. It’s an amazing story really, too long to tell here, but I’ll include some pics and links here so readers can get an idea.
What today is known as the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center (OAEC) in Occidental, California started out as the Farallones Institute some 40 years ago. I was fortunate to live and work at the Institute in the mid-eighties, both as the last caretaker/tour guide of their Integral Urban House on 5th street in Berkeley, California and also at what we then called ‘the rural center’ which is where OAEC now exists.
The Farallones Institute started with an idea of a few folks and for more than two decades went on to make its mark on society and the world, ranging from becoming the place where the organic vegetables for Alice Water’s Chez Panisse were first grown, to demonstrating urban-self reliance in the city, and from first using the internet to link environmental and appropriate technology organizations globally (ECONET), to training Peace Corps volunteers before their overseas assignments.
The work at the Integral Urban House became a best selling book and was for a time the appropriate technology sourcebook of its day. The house was world famous. I can vouch for this personally as I gave tours to people from all over the world who made their way there.
While working for the Farallones Institute I became head of the ECONET project which became a significant early pilot in the use of the internet, years before the invention of the web browser. Because of ECONET I had the good fortune of meeting many of the pioneers of the personal computer and internet revolution including Douglas Engelbart, Jacques Vallee, Lee Felsenstein, Stewart Brand and Tom Jennings. My work with ECONET led to a career in telecomputing which lasted many years.
The people who went through the Farallones Institute experience went on to do great work throughout the world. At the reunion a few of us discussed uniting our shared vision of an ecological world contemporary with our times and manifesting that in a meaningful way. We’ll see!
Social media has come under increasing scrutiny for reinforcing people’s pre-existing viewpoints which, it is argued, can create information “echo chambers.” We investigate whether social media motivates real-life action, with a focus on hate crimes in the United States. We show that the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been concentrated in counties with high Twitter usage. Consistent with a role for social media, Trump’s Tweets on Islam-related topics are highly correlated with anti-Muslim hate crime after, but not before the start of his presidential campaign, and are uncorrelated with other types of hate crimes. These patterns stand out in historical comparison: counties with many Twitter users today did not consistently experience more anti-Muslim hate crimes during previous presidencies.
I woke this morning to the news that the heroic journalist Julian Assange had been arrested. I had heard that the US government was hammering the Ecuadoran government to hand him over. Well they succeeded. The freedom of the press to report on governments gone rogue is held as sacrosanct in healthy democracies. I needn’t say more. We should all be concerned…very concerned. Learn more from this interview with Ryan Grim and this article in The Nation magazine. Long live a free and unfettered press!
The movie The Green Book rocked my world when I learned it was about the musician Don Shirley. I saw him perform in San Jose, California at the San Jose Civic Auditorium downtown in the early 70s. As a piano aficionado I had heard about his studying in Russia and while I enjoyed his Duke Ellington style playing in his trio, what I really liked was his playing of the Russian composers especially Rachmaninoff. To this day I remember the thrill of listening to him playing classical music. I never saw Horowitz perform but I feel I got close when experiencing Russian trained Don Shirley play classical music.
At the end of the day the real problem we face is overpopulation and far too many people aspiring to attain a first world lifestyle. The earth’s carrying capacity simply cannot sustain this style of human behavior.
It’s always fun for me to stumble across a reference to my work ‘back in the day’. There was quite a debate going on around the time the internet was gaining attention as it was coupled with the invention of the personal computer as an incredibly affordable means of access. The discussion was along the lines of what constitutes ‘appropriate technology’. Some people felt it would be a disaster and that it should be withheld from developing countries. Others felt the benefits outweighed the liabilities and that it should be made available. Opinions even today over thirty years later can be found across the same ideological spectrum, which reminds me of the axiom ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same‘.
“Concerned scientists in many countries want to see the fruits of their labours put to more constructive use. And there are many computer experts and enthusiasts who want to help community and action groups to exploit the new technology.” New Internationalist issue 162 – August 1986