Preparing for Crisis with Robert Theobald and Building Community Information Networks

Cop Macdonald shares his passion for giving people access to communication networks, especially ham radio, for the sharing of information of all types.

| May/June 1974

  • 027-022-01-Howard-Harawitz
    Howard Harawitz (WA6YAG), a man of many talents, in his Berkeley home. That's his ham rig and rug weaving loom with Howard.
  • 027-022-01-Glenn Spain
    Technology can serve gentle people! Glen Spain waits for readout on the Vocations for Social Change computer terminal.
  • 027-022-01-Community-Memory
    Anybody who wants to know anything just might find the answer at the Community Memory computer terminal in Berkeley, which holds a record of community members' posts that can be found by keywords.
  • 027-022-01-Cummings-housem
    Snug in his $200 house, homesteader George Cummings (WØQPO/7) chats with Norris Hyde (VE7AIC), who lives 160 miles away.

  • 027-022-01-Howard-Harawitz
  • 027-022-01-Glenn Spain
  • 027-022-01-Community-Memory
  • 027-022-01-Cummings-housem

I've just returned from a fascinating trip west with Jim Stamper (WA4HUB), and "experience overload" might come close to describing my present condition. Since a number of our encounters related to New Directions Radio and other communication networks among alternatives-minded people, I'd like to share these happenings with you.

Preparing for the Future

An increasing number of people feel that we have entered a period of extremely high risk to the earth's inhabitants. Different individuals put the stress on different portions of the overall problem. Some analysts such as Ivan Illich (Tools for Conviviality) and Roberto Vacca (The Coming Dark Age) envision a disintegration of industrial society within the next 10 or 20 years. As they see it, the "system" is growing too complex, and requires that too many things go "just right" for everything to continue to hang together indefinitely. (In any complex, marginally stable system, a few "minor" problems occurring simultaneously could trigger a domino-effect cascading downfall.) Others — such as the Club of Rome (The Limits to Growth), and Paul Ehrlich (How to be a Survivor) — warn of breakdowns a bit further down the road due to resource depletion, population growth and pollution.

As I indicated in the January/February 1974 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, avoiding a catastrophic breakdown is what I see as the top priority task. Among those with some bold and creative ideas on how this might be accomplished is economist/ecologist/futurist Robert Theobald. The first stop on our trip was Wickenburg, Arizona, where Jim, his friend Bill Hoffman and I spent a couple of days with Theobald discussing his plans and sharing ideas.

As Bob puts it, "The task is to rebuild Grand Central Station while keeping the trains running." He makes the historical observation that those in power have always been too nearsighted to make the changes necessary to prevent their empires from crumbling. The "leaders", ironically, lack the necessary perspective to lead around the crises. He feels that the required changes will come about only if a desire for change is expressed at the grassroots level, by large numbers of individuals.

"Fat chance!" you say? Maybe the picture isn't that bleak. Theobald notes that human beings always operate in their own self-interest . . . as they themselves perceive that self-interest. Unfortunately, most people don't have the foggiest idea of what their long-term self-interest really is. They have "world views" and "mind sets" based upon their own life experiences and internalized information. Such concepts are often limited, distorted and terribly out of date. Because they're held in the guts rather than in the head, however, intellectual challenges to these concepts fail. Arguments, even well reasoned ones, do not convince. They simply induce the other person to defend his position . . . thereby reinforcing it. The approach that can work, Bob says, is to present people with new, credible information. Thus equipped, the individual himself is capable of developing a new world view while the old one atrophies away.

In his book Habit and Habitat Bob asks the key question: "How are we to help people discover for themselves the new conditioned responses that will permit them to act effectively within the new realities?" The detailed approaches are just now starting to evolve, but he feels that they must include three basic steps. "They are, first, the provision of new, credible information. Second, the availability of effective opportunities to discuss the information which has been received, to discover the extent to which it is valid. Third, the opportunity to act on the insights discovered and thereby create feedback patterns which will provide [additional] new credible information."

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