education

Sustainable Design

Pattern ID: 
808
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
22
Rob Knapp
Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Human welfare depends on using the Earth’'s physical resources, material cycles, and biological processes, but present human techniques, understanding, decision-making, and perceptions of need are profoundly blind to their destructive effects on these essential functions of the Earth. The reverse is also a problem: present attempts to protect the Earth are often blind to how they impact human welfare.

Context: 

This pattern addresses people whose work involves direct or indirect interactions with the environment, i.e. with Earth's regenerative systems of all kinds.

Discussion: 

It is not news that Earth's environment is under assault at all scales, from the planetary (global warming, overfishing, ozone depletion, and the like) to the local (toxic waste sites, extinction of rare species, oil spills, and so on) and everywhere in between. Nor is it news that all of these assaults are intimately entwined with the welfare of human groups or even whole populations. Whether or not evil masterminds are making the basic decisions (probably negligence is much more often to blame than malevolence), present-day industry and agriculture, together with present modes of finance and organization, do provide the framework for billions of people to engage in livelihood, child-rearing, recreation, even spirituality. This framework cannot be simply abolished without great suffering.

Fortunately, the three decades since the first Earth Day have seen the linking of a mode of thinking—design—and a set of values—sustainability—to seek new ways of building, making products, and providing utilities and services with reduced or no destructive effects on the planet. Examples of this “sustainable design” include the "living machine" concept for sewage treatment, "green roofs" of soil and plants, and passive solar techniques for managing indoor temperatures.

In a green roof, hardy plants in a layer of soil form the first surface between the weather and the building. Underneath is an impervious layer which does the rest of the waterproofing and keeps roots from growing down into the building. Like a conventional, inorganic roof, this assembly protects the building interior from the elements, but it is better in some important ways. The presence of a large planted surface softens the building’s appearance, and brings nature much closer to hand. Evaporation from plants and soil keeps the roof much cooler in summer than normal surfaces, which benefits building occupants and reduces the heat island effect for the surrounding town. The planted layer also protects the impervious surface from solar ultraviolet light and swings of temperature, so it lasts longer.

In green roofs, one has a particularly clear case of sustainable design. The direct environmental effects, on energy, urban air quality, longer life of materials and the like are positive, and intangible effects such as contact with nature go in good directions, as well. Simultaneously, human welfare, at least as understood by the occupants of buildings, is also supported. Sustainability, as a set of values, accepts human purposes and an inevitable degree of human impact on the rest of nature, even while it hopes to minimize destruction and pollution. Sustainability is a compromise between environmentalism and economic development.

Design enters the picture because sustainability has never been conceived in terms that are both concrete and applicable everywhere, and it probably cannot be. The range of environmental and human situations across the planet is too wide, and each situation has too many delicately related variables for any general formula to apply. The discussion of sustainability has identified topics of attention, such as energy, toxic emissions, local production, and resource equity, but it can only voice ideals, not definite rules. To express sustainability in a specific time and place, one needs a mode of thinking which can synthesize general values like sustainability with local constraints and opportunities. Design is just such a mode. (See the DESIGN STANCE pattern for more on this point.)

Sustainable design is much like conventional design, but sustainable values replace novelty, fashion, and mastery of nature as priorities. There are also several important new emphases. Sustainable design is much more open to community involvement than the conventional expert-centered design approach, and it assumes that older traditional practices can contribute much to present designs. Finding ways to synthesize expert knowledge and community wisdom, and bring together traditional and innovative methods are active areas of experiment and investigation.
Sustainable design needs to be integrative in brand-new ways, because such a wide range of of environmental and human values in each project needs attention. Whereas an architect could previously draw a form and instruct engineers to find a way to build it and heat it, with everyone relying on cheap energy and industrial materials to permit a solution, sustainable design usually needs to be a team effort from the start, allowing a mutual influence of energy, materials, form, and other considerations. As a simple example, solar energy in the U.S. calls for southern orientation, while good access from roads at a given location may call strongly for northern. Sustainable design does not place one of these values automatically higher than the other: the right integration for the project and its users has to be worked out each time, with relevant voices represented from the beginning.

Taking nature seriously also guides the time perspective of sustainable design. Whereas architects or engineers have often conceived their work as timeless and independent of Nature’s processes, the sustainable designer understands the work as an intervention in the natural flows of the planet. It creates impacts, but also receives them. Even heroic engineering, like the New Orleans system of levees, cannot defy Nature indefinitely. And even the most profitable (or most humanitarian) project of the present can inflict enormous costs on the planet, including its people, in the future. Sustainable design does not regard the future as superior to the present, but it regards it as the involuntary heir to what happens now, for good or ill.

Solution: 

Consider each building or product as a double intervention—in the Earth'’s cycles and processes, and simultaneously in the human culture of needs and techniques. Make use of available understanding, both innovative and traditional, both natural and social, to gauge the proper balance of human and non-human effects for each intervention. Remember that present culture builds from the work of the past, and future culture will have to build from what the present provides. The ethic of sustainable design is not only that future existence should be possible, but that it should exhibit justice and beauty for humans and for the rest of nature.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Human welfare depends on using the Earth's resources, material cycles, and biological processes, but current approaches are blind to their destructive effects on the Earth. We need to consider each building or product as an intervention in the Earth's cycles and processes, and in the human culture of needs and techniques. The ethic of Sustainable Design suggests that future existence — as well as justice and beauty for humans and for the rest of nature —should be possible.

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

Education and Values

Pattern ID: 
755
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
17
John Thomas
IBM Research Hawthorne
IBM T. J. Watson Research Center
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Education necessarily promotes and replicates values and does so in many ways. Often, teachers and administrators use the asymmetrical power relationships inherent in most educational settings to deliberately promulgate their own set of values. Even when not done deliberately, values are communicated. Yet, neither the conscious nor the implicit promulgation of values is typically designed with thought to the appropriateness of these values for the future. This does not imply that newer values are always “better” than older values; but clearly at least some values of the past must to be re-thought in the light of huge global populations, diminishing natural resources, and the danger and ultimate futility of armed conflict.

Context: 

To avoid simply having students parrot platitudes without deep understanding, an approach to values education has been proposed that uses moral dilemmas for discussion and encourages participation in communities where conflicts and resolutions will be a natural outgrowth (Nucci & Weber, 1991). While the issue of values in education has always been important, our contemporary context raises its priority.

The world is changing at a rapid pace and many of today's implicit "values" are counter-productive to a viable future (e.g., judging an individual's worth by the size and power of their automobile; believing that a child must live constantly in an environment kept at 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit; that authority is always right and must be obeyed; that the way to success is to follow the crowd). Indeed, many values promulgated by society are contradictory. For instance, American society encourages over-indulgence in high fat, high-sugar foods and simultaneously insists that only people with perfect bodies are worthwhile. While children may be taught during an hour-long health class that too much fat and sugar are bad for the body, this hardly constitutes a sufficient antidote to thousands of expertly designed advertisements that say just the opposite. The capacity of adults to wreak great havoc on others is at an all-time high. Ethical decisions have always been crucial, but the consequences of unethical behavior have taken on even greater signficance.

Discussion: 

Children normally develop morally as well as cognitively as they mature (Piaget, 1964; Kohlberg, 1989). Ideally this comes about through acting in the social world, observing consequences, and interacting with peers. Turiel (1983) pointed out that children develop judgments in two separate but inter-related domains, the conventional and the ethical. The appropriateness of clothing is a question of convention that varies from society to society and from setting to setting. The appropriateness of killing is an ethical issue in every society. However, disregarding a recognized convention (e.g., appearing nude in inappropriate circumstances), can cause sufficient disruption and discomfort to raise genuine ethical issues.

Education is often thought of as a process that helps individuals gain knowledge (vocabulary, rules of syntax, geographic locations, events of historic significance) and skills (parsing sentences, doing research, organizing results, writing, typing). While this is true, education also necessarily promotes values. Values are involved in curriculum choices, the materials chosen within that curriculum, how the material is presented, and the range of “correct” answers. For example, primarily focusing history studies on the history of one’s own country promotes the value of chauvinism. Moreover, placing emphasis within that history on presidents, generals, wars, and victories (with little to say about changes that arise from and affect people in general) promotes the values of authoritarianism and militarism. Material focuses on white Christian males promotes racism and sexism. Presenting subject material using a lecture style with little chance for debate, discussion, or dialogue, further reinforces the value of authoritarianism. Evaluating student progress based primarily on the ability to recite specific known facts, also promotes the value of authoritarianism.

A study published in the American Psychologist a few decades ago showed that the best predictor of college grades in introductory psychology classes was not high school GPA or SAT scores but the degree of agreement in values between instructor and student. An interesting case study of the degree to which values are inherent even in so-called “objective” matters comes from the Ph.D. dissertation of Evans, a student of Minsky at MIT. Evans built an AI program to solve multiple choice “figure analogy” problems. A:B::C:D1, D2, D3, D4, or D5. The program found relationships mapping between A and B and then tried to apply those same relationships mapping C to each of the possible D answers. His program worked. In fact, his program worked too well--all answers were correct. In order to make the program pick the same answers as the test developers, he had to inculcate his program with the same value priorities as the test developers. For instance, according to test makers, it was (implicitly) more “elegant” to rotate a figure within the 2-D plane than to rotate out in 3-D space.

The inculcation of values is pervasive and subtle. Much of the value indoctrination that occurs in schools is unconscious. Even when conscious attention is given to values, there seems to be little appreciation of the extent to which children are subjected to much more powerful indoctrination via paid advertisements in print, TV, radio, games, and movies.

Solution: 

Educational institutions, individual teachers, parents, concerned citizens and children themselves must work to uncover and understand the values that are being taught as well as to design the entire educational experience to foster those values that will help make for a sustainable and healthy future. For a “whole school” approach to values, see http://www.valueseducation.edu.au/values/

In addition, a constructivist approach to education, while arguably important for deep understanding in topics as various as science and mathematics to poetry interpretation, such an approach is particularly vital to values education, and especially when values of the past may have to be re-thought for their appropriateness to the future. Examples: http://www.education.monash.edu.au/profiles/ghildebr & http://www.rcdg.isr.umich.edu/faculty/eccles.htm.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Even when not pursued deliberately, education promotes and replicates values. Yet, the propagation of values is typically not designed with the appropriateness of these values for the future in mind. Educational institutions, teachers, parents, concerned citizens and students themselves must work to uncover and understand the values that are being taught and to design the entire educational experience to foster values that help build a sustainable and healthy future.

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

Translation

Pattern ID: 
452
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
15
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People who speak different languages cannot understand each other without benefit of translation. A related problem, which may be more insidious, arises when two or more people think they're speaking the same language when they're not. "Languages," furthermore, are of various types, in addition to what we usually think of — English, Japanese, or Hindi, for example. Some people seem to speak only "Technical" or "Post Modern Academician" which can be incomprehensible from outside those cultures. Finally, there is often an implied "pecking order" in which one language (and its speakers) are viewed as dominant or more important while other languages (and its speakers) are devalued and bear an unequal share of the burden of understanding.

Context: 

This pattern applies in any situation where two or more languages are employed. Here "language" is applied broadly. For example, with global climate change looming, scientists must be able to engage in two-way conversations effectively; social scientists must be able to do the same if their work is to have relevance and resonance. Translation takes place when any two worlds of discourse are bridged.

Discussion: 

This includes translation between systems of knowledges (e.g. theorist to practitioner) as well as translations between different languages. "A text is a machine for eliciting translations." — Umberto Eco, Translating and Being Translated

Although cultures are maintained through a variety of institutions, the use of a common language may be the deepest and most abiding tie that binds a culture together. Language is a reflection of, and a window into, culture. Of course people speak many languages; children may invent secret words to describe the world they see and would like to see, Slang is shared by youth culture, academic disciplines use certain phrases, neolisms etc. to participate in a shared intellectual pursuit, while religious communities have expressions of sacred and profane ideas of special significance. If, however, every person in the world spoke only one language, a language that had no words in common, then each group would be, in essence, a group by itself cut off from the rest of the social world. Trade would be virtually impossible as would diplomacy and sharing of intellectual creations, technological and artistic. War is one social activity that probably would not be hampered by this barrier to communication (although negotiating an end to the hostilities would be extremely difficult, if not possible.) Thus translation is a bridge that connects two or more cultures or two or more people. Translation allows two or more groups or people to come to a common understanding and it allows them to take advantage of the special or expert knowledge of the other. Translation is also a social process that is embedded in particular social contexts and is subjected to the dictates of that context. For example, the burden of translation is often expected to fall upon the lower status or less dominant group. Thus, many Spanish speakers in the U.S. are "expected" to learn English (majority rules — in more ways than one). People who lack fluency in the dominant language (English, BBC English, or Techno-speak, for example) are often considered ignorant. Umberto Eco captures a key difficulty in translation:

"Equivalence in meaning cannot be take as a satisfactory criterion for a correct translation, first of all because in order to define the still undefined notion of translation one would have to employ a notion as obscure as equivalence of meaning, and some people think that meaning is that which remains unchanged in the process of translation. We cannot even accept the naïve idea that equivalence in meaning is provided by synonymy, since it is commonly accepted that there are no complete synonyms in language. Father is not a synonym for daddy, daddy is not a synonym for papà, and père is not a synonym for padre."
 — Umberto Eco (2001).

As Eco makes clear in the quotations above, words in languages don’t have one-to-one equivalence. For that reason successful translation relies on a reasonable yet partial solution (actually a type of negotiation) to a number of interdependent problems. Totally accurate translation is impossible but imperfect translation is ubiquitous — and essential. Moreover, the context of the words in the sentence, the sentence in the paragraph, etc. etc. that is being translated, all within the context of the inspiration and intent and audience are all relevant when translating. Translation, therefore, is not a mechanical act, but a skilled and empathetic re-rewriting or re-performing of a text or utterance or intention in which an understanding of the two cultures being bridged is essential. More precisely, an understanding of the two respective audiences, intended and otherwise, the vocabulary they employ, their education, biases, fears, etc. are all central to a good, solid and mutually satisfactory translation. Although the following quotation is specifically examining the differences of psychology and sociology by their focus of individuals and collective bodies respectively, it captures a central question in translation.

To address the problem of different and incommensurable perspectives in the human sciences, two issues need to be considered. First, we must find a way to link perspectives without simply reducing one to another. One guiding assumption of this volume is that attempts to account for complex human phenomena by invoking a perspective grounded in a single discipline are as unlikely as were the attempts of each of the three blind men to come with the true account of an elephant. The goal, then, is to arrive at an account — a kind of "translation at the crossroads" — that would make it possible to link, but not reduce, one perspective to another.
   — James V. Wertsch (1998)

Solution: 

Think about the critical role of translation and, if possible, become a translator — or at least when the need arises where you can help bridge a gap of understanding. From the point-of-view of social amelioration translations between two particular cultures may be of more immediate than two others. On the other hand, all cultures must ultimately have connections and mutual understanding is necessary, but not sufficient, for a positive future.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People who speak different languages cannot understand each other without benefit of Translation. And sometimes people think they're speaking the same language when they're not. Translation takes place when any two worlds of discourse are bridged. Think about the critical role of Translation and, if possible, become a translator or — when the need arises — a person who can help bridge a gap of understanding.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Babel by Bruegel, Wikicommons

Demystification and Reenchantment

Pattern ID: 
874
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
14
Kenneth Gillgren
Gillgren Communication Services, Inc.
Version: 
2
Problem: 

For vast numbers of people, virtually every social, political, and economic system has become mystifying in its complexity. On the other hand, some of humankind’s most deep-seated mysteries have become disenchanted in the sense of no longer conveying profound meaning and connection with society as a whole. This reduces political discourse to a battle of special interests, allows the marketplace to dominate in the determination of value, and limits the creativity and energy available to address fundamental challenges.

Context: 

This pattern addresses the ethical application of communications systems, processes, and tools to clearly distinguish that which is conditionally unknown—gaps in under- standing or perception that can be addressed by gaining new knowledge, skill, or experience —and that which is essentially unknowable as the source of profound mystery and fascination. The intent is to transparently convey meaning in a way that invites, encourages, and supports free and unfettered engagement in the human enterprise.

Discussion: 

The floodgates of information have opened wide, and every channel and venue of communication is awash in conflicting data and analysis. In this gap between fact and meaning, some people have learned to apply an amazing sophistication in the use of com- munications tools to manipulate logic and shape opinions, distorting even the smallest ambiguity into a mystifying argument that freezes the status quo and preserves the current imbalance of power and influence. In the satiric film Thank You for Smoking, the tobacco lobbyist instructs his son, ‘‘If you argue correctly, you are never wrong.’’ The impact of mystifying communications can be seen in the debate over global warming. A 2006 survey on the attitude of the American public on global warming by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that ‘‘roughly four-in-ten (41 percent) believe human activity such as burning fossil fuels is causing global warming, but just as many say either that warming has been caused by natural patterns in the earth’s envi- ronment (21 percent), or that there is no solid evidence of global warming (20 percent)’’ and that ‘‘public opinion about global warming is deeply polarized along political lines.’’ If you happen to enjoy a position of relative comfort, it is easy to become complacent and detached—despite the mounting international scientific evidence indicating the strong influence of human activity. The double-speak of Orwell’s 1984 has come to life in political and ideological spin control. This reveals a fundamental challenge of communications in our times. Statistics and scientific evidence alone do not change human behavior or engage people, at a visceral and passionate level, in the resolution of intractable challenges and at worst can be manipulated to create a mystifying fog that stifles effective intervention. At the same time, nearly everyone has experienced at one time or another defining moments of sheer fascination and mystery that reveal a profound sense of connection—the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, an unexpected encounter with the sheer vastness of space or the intricate complexity of nature, accompanied by the inescapable feeling of be- ing a participant in this vastness and awe-inspiring complexity. While the meaning of these experiences does not depend on formal religious belief or spiritual affiliation, the expression of this meaning falls into the realm of symbol, song, and poetry. It is a reenchantment—of the world, science, life, nature, art—that reawakens a sense of wonder that in itself makes sense, an intuitive appreciation for the sheer mystery of life and for the opportunity to be part of how that mystery continues to unfold and enliven human events, relationships, and structures. As Gablik (1991) states, reenchantment ‘‘refers to that change in the general social mood toward a more pragmatic idealism and a more integrated value system that brings head and heart together in an ethic of care, as part of the healing of the world.’’ The pragmatic idealism of reenchantment provides a far different and, ironically, more practical foundation for forming public consensus around serious problems such as global warming. The recent strengthening of collaborations bringing together otherwise conflicting evangelical and progressive wings of Christianity around stewardship of the earth is one sign of how foundational awe and wonder can lead to a willingness to change behaviors and social structures responsibly.

Solution: 

Develop and incorporate methods to elicit reenchantment—including, perhaps, personal stories, poetry, music, and art—and reframe complex issues in the context of a shared experience of wonder and mystery.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Our political, economic, and technological systems have become mysterious while the real mysteries no longer carry deep meaning and connection with people and the natural world. Demystification and Reenchantment are needed to convey a perspective that invites, encourages, and supports liberated engagement in the human enterprise.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
NASA

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

Working Class Consciousness

Pattern ID: 
751
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
12
Steve Zeltzer
Labor Video Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The need for a global consciousness, solidarity and collaboration among working people in every country of the world is a critical task for confronting the economic, political and social challenges the working class faces. The deepening contradictions of imperialism with it's war in Iraq and the need to militarize Asia and the rest of the world are opportunities for bringing working people together.

Context: 

The man made failure of the most recent catastrophe in the US Gulf Coast is an example of the need of working people to take control of their lives and society.

Discussion: 

One important tool in this process of international working class globalization is not only by joint collective action by workers throughout the world but through the use of film, art and media technology to bring working people together.

The training of workers in every industry and every country for this work is the task ahead and the success of this project requires that this be an international campaign based on the grassroots of struggle in collaboration both with regional, national and international labor. The Labortech and Labor Media conferences www.labortech2004.org in many countries of the world have been important in training and building these international links. They have taken place in Vancouver, BC, Moscow, Russia, Seoul, Korea and many cities in the United States.

In the US and Europe and growing parts of Asia, these resources are readily available but at the same time workers in every country of the world must have the means and ability to concretely link up internationally. The developments of LaborNets in Japan, Korea, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Denmark and the US have been a growing vehicle for developing labor festivals and labor technology conferences.

LaborFests or Labor Media Conferences have been held in Japan, Korea, the US, Russia. This past November, a LaborFest was held in Buenos Aries and one is planned this coming October in El Alto, Bolivia and in April-May 2006 in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey.

These festivals which could be held in every city of the world provide a venue and concrete means for linking through film, music and culture the collective experiences and consciousness of workers throughout the world. The rebellions of workers in Latin America, the fight against capitalist globalization have been a theme that expose the commonality of all the attacks the working class faces.

The important need to use media both tv and radio to link workers around the world is also growing. The same economic policies such as deregulation, caualization, privatization and de-unionization are at work in every country of the world.

The failure of the workers in the United States to begin to challenge the basic assaults that they face is of course the responsibility of the corporate unionists who control the resources and apparatus of the trade unions. The failure to provide a concrete alternative program and agenda is a major impediment to any form of national and international fightback. The need for an international collaboration is also connected to develop the means for the international working class to take control of their destiny. Airline workers world wide, longshore workers, medical workers, teachers, public workers, telecommunication workers are faced with the exact same type of attacks yet they have been hobbled by a lack of international collaboration and collective joint action.

The experience of the Liverpool Dockers strike in 1995 that led to the formation of an international labor action in solidarity as well as a web based international solidarity campaign was crucial in building international support.
http://www.labournet.net/sept97/sfpress1.html

This was carried on in 1997 when the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions KCTU and their supporters established an international web page in support of their general strike. The web page in Korean and English became a critical tool in building direct support action for workers around the world as well as an information portal on the struggle and a way for unions and workers worldwide to show their solidarity on the web.

The Korean union federation KCTU has been the most active national union federation in the world to seek collective cultural action and direct labor action to defend it's interests. It has recently called for a national strike against casualization and temporary work on November 23, 2005 and international action by workers throughout the world would be an important step in building this collective action about an issue that effects and harms working people worldwide.

The KCTU also hosts and organizes a yearly festival in November 12 in commemoration of the death of labor organizer Chun Taeil to not only have a mass mobilization but a national 8 hour cultural media art celebration. This even which is held at the Korean Broadcasting Company Stadium brings together the experiences of the working class through a cultural and theatrical production that is choreographed to the minute over 8 hours. Such a festival could and should be held in every country that ties together the song, poetry, music and art of struggle. The power of this collective expression is an important element in breaking down the corporatized isolation, marginalization of workers and humanity as well as the commodification of music, art and cultural expressions for profit of the multi-nationals.

The growing privatization of the internet and the threat to censorship and control of the internet has been growing. In the Liverpool dockers strike, the shipping corporations tried to stop information from being posted. In Korea, the government sought to pressurize www.nodong.net, the Geman government this year raided the internet servers of the German labornet www.labournet.de. Most recently the Canadian Telus Corporation prevented million of users from accessing the labor web pages of the Canadian Telecom Union TWU. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/01/business/worldbusiness/01telus.html?pa...)

This censorship does not only come from corporate and anti-union media and technology corporations.
In the UK, the Executive Council of the FBU banned members from using the public website of an opposition grouping opposing labor management collaboration and "partnerships". (http://www.labournet.net/sept97/sfpress1.html)

The international collective voices of working people have the power to overcome the different languages, cultures and borders that presently exist. In fact, this is crucial for a new renaissance of collective self consciousness that is vital for the transformation of the present dynamics. The future reorganization of the world economy into one controlled by the working class requires the use of these tools now to build this collective and democratic power.

The use of the internet as not only a communication tool but broadcasting tool is relatively at an early stage. A 24 hour labor video and radio channel in all the languages of the world is realizable with the expansion of the internet and this is now happening with a 24 hour labor radio channel in Korea at www.nodong.org International collaboration in action and on a cultural level must be linked with the use of communication technology and a labor media strategy that focuses on how these technologies can empower the working class and farmers as well as how they can confront the global propaganda blitz by capitalist media against the interests of the people.

Solution: 

The international collective voices of working people have the power to overcome the different languages, cultures and borders that presently exist. In fact, this is crucial for a new renaissance of collective self consciousness that is vital for the transformation of the present dynamics. The future reorganization of the world economy into one controlled by the working class requires the use of these tools now to build this collective and democratic power. The need to defend democratic communication rights and protections is fundamental to defend media and democratic communication and education and direct action are necessary to accomplish this work.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Global consciousness, solidarity, and collaboration among working people around the world are critical for addressing the challenges that the working class faces. One important tool in addition to collective action is the use of film, art, and media technology. The training of workers for this work requires an international campaign in collaboration with labor at all levels. The need to defend communication rights and protections is fundamental, as is education and direct action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Memory and Responsibility

Pattern ID: 
405
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
11
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Although the evils of the past continue to haunt us in the present, society is often unable — or unwilling — to deal with historical injustice. Thus, although specific incidents of invasion, slavery, apartheid and genocide may appear to be receding into the irretrievable past, they are never altogether absent from humankind's collective memories. As Robert Putnam states, "Networks of civic engagement embody past success at collaboration which can serve as a cultural template for future collaboration" (2000). Unfortunately these cultural "templates" encode past collaborative evils of the past, as well, and these are recycled all too regularly. Can humankind escape this cycle?

Context: 

Societies are the sum total of their past events. The events of the past that have not been successfully reconciled haunt the present. Projects that endeavor to help address social problems may be well served by examining historical memory and reconsidering how to respond appropriately.

Discussion: 

Our memory of the past must guide the responsibility we accept in the present for the future. Without this linkage over time I could steal your belongings with no guilt or responsibility. Of course this has happened on a large scale throughout history. One group will murder, displace or enslave another and enjoy the fruits of their sins for lifetimes. Each passing day tends to legitimize — but never really erase — the misdeeds of history.

Unfortunately, misremembering history, is institutionalized. It's important to understand the motivation and the implications of intentional (let alone unintentional!) misrepresentation of history. Thus in the United States, the enslavement of Africans and the devastation of Native American communities as well as the militaristic forays of recent years including saturation bombing of civilian Japanese populations in World War II to the catastrophic Viet Nam War to the recent illegal invasion of Iraq are generally downplayed and sugar-coated. According to these re-writers of history, Americans always proceed with the best of intentions, perhaps marked by an occasional yet guileless misstep. With ubiquitous misinformation how can the next generation fully understand their country — with its successes as well as its failures — and make wise decisions in the future? Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States serves as an important (though still vastly underutilized) counter-balance to these trends and could also serve as an excellent model for other countries and regions as well as for various economic, political, and religious ideologies.

What can/should people to be done to reconcile past sins and heal historical trauma? Although this question has rarely been addressed peacefully, thoughtfully and effectively throughout humankind's vast history, the large number of projects now in progress shows one hopeful sign of our era. According to Richard Falk, the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany, and directed against Jews primarily as well as against the Roma, Gays, and other groups, marked a central historical marker in this regard. Since that time, movements for redress of war crimes of Japan against China, redress for indigenous people throughout the world, and tribunals and commissions focusing on war crimes and other transgressions have been launched.

People are engaging in innovative projects that help people confront and understand and, hopefully, reconcile the present and future. Some of these examples include the courageous work of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who publicly confront the abuse of power with photographs of "the disappeared" from Argentina's "dirty war" to seek justice and reconciliation with the past. Other examples to explore include the Seder ritual celebrated by Jews around the world, the post-war efforts in Germany to come to terms with their past, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission work in post-apartheid South Africa (and subsequently in many other regions), and the reparations efforts to help compensate African-Americans for the enslavement of their ancestors.

In 2000, the North Carolina General Assembly commissioned a report on an event that had been covered up for over 100 years — a violent revolt and coup in 1898 that was directed against blacks by white vigilantes in Wilmington, North Carolina. Unwilling to wait until the results of the (fixed) election took effect according to law, white supremacists seized city government, burned black-owned businesses and murdered 100 or more blacks in the streets and in their houses. According to John DeSantis, the draft report released in 2005 concluded that "the rioting and coup fully ended black participation in local government until the civil rights era, and was a catalyst for the development of Jim Crow laws in North Carolina" (2006). The report stated that, "Because Wilmington rioters were able to murder blacks in daylight and overthrow Republican government without penalty or federal intervention, everyone in the state, regardless of race, knew that the white supremacy campaign was victorious on all fronts" (DeSantis, 2006).

Not only did this event disenfranchise several generations of black families in the Wilmington area but it actually ushered in a wave of similar actions and intimidation all over the South and became a model for actions in other cities including Atlanta, Georgia in 2006. Interestingly, whites and blacks were both wary of bringing this ugly historical incident back to public visibility and awareness. But what to do with the knowledge that a large number of people were brutalized and murdered (which led to a decades-long denial of basic civil rights) by a large number of people whose great grandchildren are undoubtedly still living in the region. The fact that this historical information has been sequestered for so long, especially in a region of the country that is well-known for its interest in history shows the prevalence of selective historical memory — which in itself represents many challenges for an exercise such as this.

The function of collective memory should promote healing, to set up patterns of behavior that constructively parses history to avoid future problems and to teach each other through mistakes. The intent is not to blame or punish the descendants of people who perpetuated misdeeds both great and small — after all, who if anybody would be immune to that historical ensnarement — but to encourage people to reason together and strive for reconciliation. Ideally the descendants, especially those who have prospered since that time, would play a role in the design of mechanisms and policies to atone for and help reconcile and help redress the sins of the past especially for those who have suffered the most.

In another region and in another era, Veran Matic (2004) eloquently described the rationale why the B92 radio station he works for in Serbia, in the former Yugoslavia, keeps working the way they do.

"If we do not grasp our recent past, we will build our present and our future on false assumptions, beliefs and stereotypes

If we do not face the errors of our past we will again seek excuses for our present in the same place Milosevic sought them — the guilt of others, global conspiracy and so on, rather than in the weaknesses of the society. These weaknesses must be faced in order to understand reality

If we do not fully comprehend our reality, reform programs will be based on false premises

The problems of the repressed past will boomerang, like the permanent problem of lack of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, or the problem of mafia and police links, or problems with the business elite who amassed their wealth through privileges granted by Milosevic.

Without a radical break with the past there will be no change in the cultural model under Milosevic, which has overwhelmed the entire society, from culture, through education, to the media.

Unless we face the past, we will never know what is good for us and what is bad for us

By not facing the past, we neglect our duty to the future, leaving new generations to pay our debts, just as our generations have paid for the repression of the past of World War II in our country. This gave rise to new vengeance forty years later

And, finally, without engagement we will be unable to demonstrate authentic belief and strong will to institute changes that should benefit every single individual."

"Forgetting" the past is not desirable, nor in reality is it really possible. Although Matic is speaking specifically about recent injustice in the former Yugoslavia, his message is universal. Through hard work by all concerned, healing historical wounds can be accomplished. Although it may seem impossible, those who have inherited the results of yesterday's actions must relive insofar as it can be done, the past sacrificing as necessary to set a more just course for the future.

The best outcome of this pattern, a valuable gift to our descendants, would be the attenuation or, better, the cessation of current practices of brutality, exploitation, impoverishment and oppression.

Solution: 

Think about and confront memory in creative, productive and sensitive ways. Cultivate and assume responsibility. Actively work to reconcile the trauma of the past to guide a better tomorrow.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Although the evils of the past continue to haunt us in the present, society is often unable or unwilling to deal with historical injustice. The function of Memory and Responsibility is to promote healing, to study history to avoid future problems. The intent is not to blame or punish but to encourage people to reason together and strive for reconciliation.

Pattern status: 
Released

Matrifocal Orientation

Pattern ID: 
617
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
9
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Because almost all contemporary societies are androcentric (male-centered), women's needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives on the world are often ignored or trivialized. Androcentrism perpetuates a patriarchal system that oppresses women and severely constrains (and damages) men's lives as well. An orientation toward social change that gives voice to women's perspectives and strives to replace patriarchy with an egalitarian, matrifocal society would go a long way toward creating a just and peaceful world for all.

Context: 

Although societies differ in the degree and form which male dominance takes, male privilege is generally maintained through systems of beliefs, laws, discriminatory practices, and cultural norms (including direct or indirect perpetuation of male violence). Patriarchy concentrates social, political, and economic power in the hands of men at the expense of women. Because gender oppression is ancient and insidious, a conscious effort is needed to recognize the gendered dimensions of social problems. Looking at the world with a matrifocal orientation can help create contexts in which women-centered analyses of social problems are fully incorporated into problem-solving processes.

Discussion: 

A matrifocal orientation to social change draws directly on women’s experience and knowledge and puts the needs of oppressed women at the center of social transformation. Matrifocal societies, real and imagined, do not challenge patriarchy by offering its mirror image--with women in positions of dominance over men. Rather, they embrace values traditionally seen as feminine: peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for those most in need. A matrifocal society is one in which dominance over others is not supported (neither as an individual or collective goal). The needs and contributions of women are valued equally with those of men. Women’s interests are not special interests but human interests. Social distinctions between males and females may be minimized [depending on the culture], and those biological/social differences that remain do not inhibit women’s full participation in the society. A matrifocal orientation to social change recognizes that “the rising of the women means the rising of the [human] race” (1).

The need for women’s voices to be heard in order for society to become more just, has been recognized by progressive social reformers for centuries (and probably longer). This awareness led to the development of women-centered movements throughout the world. As a social/political orientation, the Matrifocus pattern is reflected in both feminist organizing in first world nations and community-centered women’s organizing in Third world nations. Historically, many Third World women’s organizations have been concerned with conditions of economic hardship, displacement, and state-sponsored violence affecting their communities as a whole, while first world feminist groups have focused more exclusively on women’s social and political rights. In recent decades the issue of violence against women has been a common theme of transnational women organizing (2). Regardless of the issue, whenever women organize with the goal of creating a more just and sustainable society, they are endeavoring to insert their voices and their perspectives into the public debate. By doing so, they are subverting the androcentric norm of male power and female silence.

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, for example, were able to subvert androcentric norms after initially making use of them. The simultaneous cultural respect for motherhood and perceived political irrelevance of women, allowed Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo to protest relatively unhindered at a time when public demonstrations were officially illegal in Argentina. By also making themselves visible beyond national borders, Las Madres fostered a successful international advocacy network to pressured government investigation into state sponsored murders during the Pinochet regime. The powerful example of Argentinean mothers refusing to be silent has inspired other women’s groups, such as Women in Black in Israel and elsewhere, to stand out publicly against state sponsored violence.

Not surprisingly, many organizations that can be described as having a matrifocal orientation have been “women’s” organizations. But this is not required by the pattern. Labor groups reflect a matrifocal orientation when they strive for gender equity policies, family leave policies, the right to organize in traditionally female occupations, and increased female union leadership. Anti-globalization groups demonstrate a matrifocal orientation when they recognize the significant impact of trade policies on women, and when they give voice to women’s knowledge as farmers, workers, parents, and preservers of culture. Environmental groups like the Chipko movement in India or EcoFeminists in the U.S. reflect a matrifocal orientation when they draw upon and amplify the voices of women, highlight reproductive issues as environmental issues, and speak with reference to the future of all children on the planet.

Regardless of whether a group consists of men or women or both, having a matrifocal orientation means that people ask, “How is the problem we perceive exacerbated by patriarchy, and how has our way of responding to it been limited by patriarchal thinking?" Resisting androcentric norms by putting women’s perspectives in the center, rather than the periphery, of social debates is a first step toward undermining patriarchy and the social ills it perpetuates.

One problem with the Matrifocal pattern is its potential to reinforce male-female dichotomies. Whenever people speak up for traditionally “feminine” goals and values—particularly when they use the role of motherhood for political leverage--they run the risk of reifying patriarchal beliefs about the essential nature of women. Many reactionary movements have argued that their goals and strategies are in the best interests of women, and female voices are often used to promote these messages. Many western feminists, for example, have been hesitant to organize under the banner of motherhood not only because many women chose not to be mothers, but also because such representations may inadvertently bolster the idea that motherhood is women’s single most important function in society. Activist who use a matrifocal orientation must be careful to distinguish between biological femaleness and matrifocal goals. There are many males that value peace, nurturance, care for those in needs, collaborative problem solving, and an end to reward-oriented hierarchies. There are also many females that are not interested in creating a just society and prefer to amass what benefits they can within the current social order; some fully support patriarchy. Matrifocal is not synonymous with female or maternal.

A second problem with a matrifocal orientation is the misperception that everyone who adopts it will, or should, agree on particular social goals and political strategies. They wont. What is shared by people who adopt a matrifocal orientation is a consciousness that overcoming problems of violence, economic oppression, and gender oppression, requires replacing patriarchy with an alternative social order, and that increasing women’s participation in the public sphere is one step in such a transformation.

Solution: 

A matrifocal orientation keeps the system of patriarchy visible so that alternatives can be imagined and created.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Because almost all societies are male centered, women’s needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives are often ignored or trivialized. Matrifocal communities are organized around values traditionally seen as “feminine” such as peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for others. A Matrifocal Orientation that gives voice to women’s perspectives would help promote a just and peaceful world for all. Women’s interests are not special interests, but human interests.

Pattern status: 
Released
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