Since TLA's founding in 2005, the pace of change has transformed from linear to exponential in every area from climate and weather, geopolitics and economics, to technology and society. Here is our journey, told through our old 2005 and 2016 websites, culminating in our new 2018 message.
Titanic Lifeboat Academy 1st website Homepage, 2005
The Titanic Lifeboat Academy is a 501c3 tax-exempt educational non-profit, founded for these purposes:
To provide educational programs, classes, information and demonstrations on sustainable living, appropriate technology, and alternative renewable energy, in order to educate the public about how to convert to these lifestyle options and the importance of sustainable living.
To create awareness of the global dangers posed by environmental degradation.
To teach and enable self-discovery and self-empowerment for individuals, communities and society in general.
Combining diverse backgrounds encompassing engineering, the arts, education and business, Christopher and Caren left their home and careers on the Monterey Bay in 2004 to find a place to create a homestead and educational center around the principles of deep ecology and sustainable living.
They settled on three acres with a beautiful home in Northwest Oregon. Rather than create a new footprint by building a "green" house with all that implies in terms of embedded energy (even in an eco-dwelling) they set out to convert an all-electric 1970s mini "estate" into a working off-grid farm.
One year later, they had established a garden, begun a barn, installed solar thermal and PV, added insulation, replaced original windows (which they saved for cold frames, etc.) with energy efficient ones, applied as a test site for a developing residential wind turbine, purchased dairy goats and chickens, formed a local group to study the effects of Peak Oil, established a newspaper column, a radio program, and a website, held a Lifeboat conference and founded an educational non-profit.
Six years later, they have cut all outside consumption by 80-90%, added a draft horse and ducks, trained numerous interns, sponsored a variety of workshops, local events and partnerships, and created more on-site learning spaces.
"Grafting the old with the new to create what works and what will be able to keep working – that's appropriate technology," Christopher explains. "We've come a long way," says Caren, "with our site, our programs and, most importantly, with the way we live and the way we think.
Team member Larkin advises, "The longest distance we have to travel is between our ears."
Christopher and Caren encourage others who traverse that long distance from the consumer mind to the Natural mind. The Titanic Lifeboat Academy leases space at their "Earth Haven" homestead for educational programs offering intensive personal training in the physical skills, practical knowledge, meta context, psychological adjustments and spiritual opportunities of self-sufficient living outside our unsustainable consumer culture.
Why the "Titanic" metaphor?
The Titanic is probably one of the best examples in history of the tragedy of being unprepared.
Our organization's purposes have one goal: creating resilience
- in ourselves
- in our local community
- in those who study with us
so that we all are more capable of responding positively to the challenges we face.
Resilience and sustainability come through preparation. Those on the Titanic were unprepared, though looking back on the events leading up to it, the tragedy is predictable. Still, everyone then bought the idea that it was "unsinkable". It carried lifeboats for only one-third of the passenger capacity, lifeboat requirements being set by a law based on ship tonnage rather than passenger numbers.
When the Titanic's lifeboats were launched, they carried only a fraction of their already insufficient capacity due to lack of preparation for launching and filling them. Two of them floated off the ship upside-down.
While the lifeboats proved chaotically impotent, it's significant that the electric lights remained on until the ship sank, providing an appearance of normalcy that lulled many passengers into staying with the ship – and dying.
- Had the crew ever been put through drills so they would know what to do on this huge ship in the event of an emergency,
- Had the engineers dimmed the lights -- as every theater does to quiet the audience and direct their attention to information onstage,
- Had Captain Smith, Commodore of the White Star Line, the so-called "Millionaires' Captain" been willing to provide such information, or
- Had Smith put passenger safety above his personal drive to make record time and restore his standing after a series of costly debacles the previous year,
Had the ship not been owned by an international corporate conglomerate, J.P. Morgan's IMM, which placed profits first.... But all these things were true, and the result was inevitable.
There was plenty of positive thinking on the Titanic. They were positive it wouldn't sink. They were positive they would be saved.
This positive attitude from all quarters maintained the appearance that "normalcy" prevailed, that everything was "under control", was being "taken care of" by those "in the know" and the best thing one could do was to spend money (at the bar), that the "advanced new technology" of this ship made it invincible over even icebergs (Nature). Positive thinking prevailed until it morphed into incapacity.
Only those in the "cheap seats", where water was rising around their ankles, knew that something was wrong. Noteworthy is the fact that nearly all women and children in first and second class survived while three-quarters of third-class passengers drowned.
Is any of this beginning to sound familiar?
The stakes are far, far higher now. The Earth is definitely telling us something is wrong.
The world we know is like the Titanic. It is grand, chic, high-powered, and it slips effortless through a frigid sea of icebergs.
It does not have enough lifeboats, and those that it has will be poorly employed. If we do not change course, disaster, perhaps catastrophe, is almost inevitable.
There is a reason why interest in the Titanic has been revived; it’s the perfect metaphor for our planet. On some level we know: we are on the Titanic. We just don’t know we’ve been hit.
—Brandenburg et al, Dead Mars, Dying Earth, March, 2000
But This Is Different, Isn't It?
We know the Titanic hit an iceberg. We know it sank. We wouldn't stay on the Titanic. Or would we?
We're certainly trying hard to.
We make up a "recovery" out of thin air. We argue about whether climate change is human caused, as though the answer can make it less severe. We leave our stock portfolios "for the long term". We continue working at jobs which could disappear over our lunch hour. In short, there's far more deck chair re-arranging going on than lifeboat launching.
Whether it's called "transitioning" or "transcending", "simplifying", "going green", the "new economy", "social justice" – whatever the catchy title, 99 out of 100 groups are still on the ship with no plans whatever to leave. It's not possible to reform a sinking ship. Nor is it possible to transition to a lifeboat. Our feet are either on the ship or in the boat, and things look very different from either perspective.
All attempts to reform or change a system are based on the assumption that something's wrong with the system, that it has "gone astray" or that it's "not working".
The system is working perfectly.
This bears repeating: There is nothing wrong with our system. The system is working perfectly according to design. If this seems wrong to you, if you feel something is definitely broken, that things are not working the way they "should", then it is your perception that is faulty, which is simply another example of how well the system is working. Our perception comes to us through the system which created and defines it. It's impossible to fix something we cannot clearly see, and it's impossible to see clearly when we are completely immersed.
There's an ancient Zen teaching story which can illustrate this point, with apologies to George Lucas:
Once there was a young Mackerel named Lou Fishwalker who was studying at the fins of a wise and holy elder named Yoah. Yoah spoke of a substance he called "water" and which he said was everywhere in their world. He said there were other worlds, worlds not of water but of "air". "How do I see 'water'?" asked Lou. "How do I know it exists?"
"Oh, young Fishwalker, that requires a great Leap of Faith. You must swim up and up and then gather your strength and leap up out of the water, into the air. Only then can you begin to know what water is."
Einstein was right: The problems we have created at this level of thinking cannot be solved at the same level of thinking. We cannot find solutions from the deck of the ship nor even begin to understand the problems until we stop living in the middle of them. No matter how sincerely we want to. The only way to "win" is not to play.
"But 'Titanic' is so nnnegative!"
We see preparation and sustainable living as the ultimate positive can-do attitude.
The airlines have done an admirable job in drilling us on what to do in the event of an emergency. Most of us can recite it by heart: "If you should experience a sudden loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop in front of you. Put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting those around you."
We are of no use to anyone – in fact we add to the disaster – if we've passed out on the floor because we refused to do what we could to take care of ourselves.
Titanic Lifeboat Academy teaches people to build lifeboats so they won't sink. We think that's very positive. We believe that people who learn to build lifeboats can learn to build ways of living together that are inclusive, egalitarian, and sustainable.
The ship's going down. The only question is, will you stay with it?
"Some jumped dozens of feet into ocean. Others crowded into the two remaining fiberglass lifeboats, piling one on another in an attempt to make room for the injured. Half of the lifeboats on the ship were engulfed in flames and could not be reached, and those that remained were overcrowded." ~article re: Deepwater Horizon explosion April 20, 2010
We can keep repeating history, or we can be the difference we'd like to see.
Lifeboats are not profitable. The ship is not going to provide them. If we want enough of them, we're going to have to build them ourselves.
"A lifeboat is a rescue boat -- stable and strong, built to withstand pounding waves, with extra buoyancy to stay afloat even if leaking badly, self-righting, self-bailing, relatively light and fast -- designed to save lives."
~Columbia River Maritime Museum, Coast Guard lifeboat display
When a civilization is sinking, lifeboats are built with ideas, hard work, and a willingness to listen to our inner selves rather than the clatter with which we're daily bombarded, to re-examine ancient and indigenous wisdom, to risk being different and leaving the known behind, to reach out to others and build resilience together.
We all know there's far more to an iceberg than what appears on the surface. We have all heard that our way of life is not "sustainable". If you're not up-to-speed on our global crises in oil, potable water, finance, climate, food, energy, minerals, health, jobs, extinctions, topsoil, ocean life, and air quality, to name a few, please refer to our resources page [Media Center].
Building Resilience…for challenging times
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of all we are dealing with. Just making ends meet in today's world is a full-time job. But, it needn't be. Resilience is the confidence and creativity to let go and reach toward a way of living that is sustainable. "Resilience" turns "overwhelmed" into positive action.
So, where’s the Titanic?
Pictured sinking on our first website launched in 2006, the ultimate Ship of Civilization is gone now, beneath the waves. Symbolic of capitalist civilization, the Titanic carried its obsession with money-over-life to the depths.
The endgame of turning life into money is death.
The ship is gone because the hour is very late. On this site we focus on the lighthouse, illuminating the fatal waters and rocks just ahead with articles, conversations and links to many others doing similar work. Lifeboats are still useful for cultural decoupling, refocusing on Nature / Reality and gaining perspective, knowledgeable company, and some modicum of choice in how we meet our fate.
And if some phantasmagorical deus ex machina were to appear - in defiance of the laws of physics and Nature - we will have lost nothing but our insanity.
Courtesy of Peak Moment TV, Episode 216 Interview recorded on December 17, 2010 CC BYND 3.0
If you waver between laughing and screaming at it all, you keep excellent company with a growing number of people online on alternative sites: Writers whose credentials and unpurchased thinking are first rate, commentators and comment-ers whose insights prove a breath of fresh, unpolluted air.
Some still harbor the fervent hope that more Information will make a difference.
We found ourselves trapped in that dead end, too. We'd built a lifeboat and tried to help others find a way out of the matrix. We worked feverishly on our website, posting articles and commentary we thought might motivate – until we realized we’re not in the news business.
There sat the imperial Titanic on the seabed with its lights still on, and Mama Nature brewing the granddaddy of all global catastrophes. Was information the only tool we had? And, was it enough?
We closed the website for a year to find our new and last direction.
We saw that not only have the problems moved from linear to exponential, so has the information bombarding everyone daily. Information is now one of the problems. Identifying and separating out bad information seems an enormous hurdle for most people. So is dealing with the sheer amount of information that's left. Include postmodern relativism and trigger sensitivity in that, and the hope that accurate information might still lead to mass epiphany and revolution - and in time to change our trajectory - seemed like clapping for Tinker Bell.
Make a difference for those who "get it".
We discovered there are still important reasons to contribute to and support free independent online journalism for ourselves and others outside the Matrix. Collegiality. Food for sanity. A silent scream. A way to keep fighting to the end, however long that may be now.
So, we’ve anchored the old Lifeboat where "birds of a feather" can drop in, hang out and find inspiration to keep fighting. Please enjoy a cup of sanity, some good satire, something to make you smile before you take off, back to your chosen path. Life is short and quickly getting shorter. Let's make the most of it!