Archive for the ‘Sustainability’ Category

Are Your Kids Ready for the 3rd Industrial Revolution?

Posted on:

There have been a lot of predictions and discussions about a “3rd Industrial Revolution” in the past, but the one I’m referring to is promoted by a man named Jeremy Rifkin who was interviewed Oct. 3rd on NPR. He maintains that our current carbon based energy economy is unsustainable, because of both climate change and resource scarcity (we will eventually run out of the stuff). Everyone talks about the need for renewable energy, but Rifkin is promoting a shift away from centralized power and energy distribution to a more lateral system where we all create our own energy in homes and businesses, which are then all tied together by an “Energy Internet.” He’s trying to convince governments and industry to let go of the old business models in favor of a new system where we are all nodes in a giant web of information and energy transmission.

It’s an interesting idea, and I want to read his book to learn more. But it reinforces for me the urgency of our situation. Regardless of how well society transitions out of our old carbon-based energy dependence, we have to be ready for changes. Our kids will have to be ready for changes. Fortunately, they will probably be better at it than we will.

Based on my research so far, here’s some of the changes that I am predicting:

  • oil (and fuel) prices will continue to rise indefinitely, meaning prices for everything else will rise
  • local organic food production will expand due to high shipping and conventional farming costs
  • people will find ways to conserve more energy/drive less as costs go up
  • power companies will continue shifting to renewables but it won’t be enough to meet demand, so supply will have to be rationed
  • to control rising costs, any job that can be outsourced to cheaper labor pools will be outsourced
  • the only jobs left in the USA will be jobs that must be done in person here (construction, medical/personal care, hospitality, agriculture, storefront retail, etc.), and those that require creativity, research and innovation

There’s a bunch of other things that I could add to this list, but that will be enough to make my point for now. There are many people who present a very gloomy view of this future, and it’s true that a lot could go bad if we don’t adapt quickly. I don’t want to wait for things to go bad though. I want to adapt now, and help my community get ready too.

Part of that involves educating our kids, or rather, letting them educate us. Innovation isn’t top-down, it’s bottom-up. Great businesses know this. They have recognized that they need to give employees the freedom to come up with a better way to do things. While researching for my book, I found that so many of our greatest innovators did so in spite of formal education, not because of it. Now, I don’t mean to malign all formal education, just standardized formal education. We have to give kids the wiggle room to design an education that fits their personal interests and ambitions, because that’s where their genius is. And we’re going to need all the geniuses we can get in this new world.

We don’t need pliability, blind obedience, subservience, or disengagement. Here’s what we do need:

  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Flexibility
  • Personal responsibility
  • Leadership
  • Innovation
  • Experimentation

How do we get these things? Self-directed education is a great first step (read my book!), but that doesn’t mean learning in isolation. Kids really do need opportunities to find mentors, work in groups, solve real-world problems, and be involved in their community. They need access to other people and information via the Internet. Technology will be a big player in how all of this turns out, so there’s no use sheltering older kids from computers. There’s even evidence that multi-player video games give kids a chance to solve complex puzzles/problems and exercise creative thinking.

Adaptation on a massive scale is going to take all of us working and learning new ways to cooperate and live within our means. It will probably take a generous dose of humor and goodwill as well. We can start with ourselves, unlearning what we used to know, and let loose our kids to learn what we will need to know.

Minimalist Homeschooling

Posted on:

As my kids grow up, I’ve been getting the urge to unfeather my nest. We seem to be moving into a new phase of life, and a lot of the old stuff seems unnecessary. Maybe it never was necessary. But I’m taking a hard look at where I want to be and how I want to live these days.

Minimalism has been a growing trend, especially as so many books and blogs have been written about “doing more with less.” I’ve always been curious about this, in the past reading such books as Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, “The 4 Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss, and of course “Walden” by Thoreau.  Simplicity definitely seemed like something to aspire to, but I was so busy with life as usual that I didn’t follow through with it (excuses, excuses).

Recently I’ve stumbled upon a blogger named Ev Bogue who got me thinking about it again. He’s conveniently been writing about things that I’ve been trying to figure out – like how to use technology to help me simplify. I feel like the old way of doing things and buying things is rapidly becoming obsolete.  Going digital has the potential to eliminate so much clutter, although it could potentially add clutter if we’re not careful.

For instance, why do I have a giant box of old VHS tapes? Because I was saving them to someday convert to DVD (although I don’t have a machine to do that). But why would I want to have a bunch of DVDs around when it is possible to store movies on a giant hard drive? Or stream from the Internet?

The same goes for all of our music CDs. I didn’t like buying music from iTunes because they make it so hard to sync music between our families’ computers and iPods, so we bought CDs instead. But then came Pandora, Spotify, and other music streaming websites. Why buy a disk to store and dust, or a handcuffed music file, when I could just pay a monthly fee to listen to an enormous library of music anytime and anywhere?

I also want to try digital scrapbooking instead of paper scrapping. I want to ditch my hefty paper planner in favor of planning/calendar software. I want to stop buying newspapers and magazines, and read them online instead.  And books . . . good grief. I love my books dearly, but we must have a thousand pounds of books – and that’s just nonfiction reference. That doesn’t even count the fiction and other books we’ve borrowed from the library over the years. Wouldn’t it be great to get a lot of that on a Kindle? Or borrow ebooks from the library?

Technology has changed everything, including homeschooling. If I were starting homeschool all over again, I would buy much LESS stuff.  Looking at my groaning bookshelves now, I wonder, “Why did I buy this?” It seemed like a good idea at the time . . . But now I would (and will) rely on the Internet for so much more. I’ll tell you how in future posts.

Do you have any clever ways to use technology in your homeschool or life? I’d love to hear about them – just leave a comment below or email me. Thanks!