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Ancient Suns, New Stories
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Thom Hartmann

      . . . writer. Hartmann combines a powerful review of today's glooming environmental challenges with an optimistic call to consciousness combining spirituality and ecology. An award winning author, lecturer, former journalist and psychotherapist, Hartmann is regularly featured in national media. His books include The Prophet's Way and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Vermont is his home.

Excerpts3:59 secs

      Can stories change the world? We'd better believe it, Thom Hartmann says. Our very existence may well depend on changing our stories so that we CAN change the world -- before it's too late. The good news is, there are lots of stories from which to draw, thousands of cultural alternatives to testosterone-laden western mythologies.

      Mr. Hartmann is an optimist. Yes, he sees humankind teetering on the brink of self and global destruction. And yes, he is confident we can back away from pending disaster.

      Take two steps, Thom Hartmann urges. One: Wake up to the reality of our current situation (an exploding mass of human flesh on the planet rushing in the next 30 to 50 years to consume what remains of fossil fuels). Two: Wake up to the toxicity of the stories we tell ourselves: we are separate from nature; God is in the box we visit once a week; we're separate from other humans; hierarchy and the amassment of wealth in the face of great poverty is appropriate and acceptable.

      Awake to these realities, opportunities for action follow in great abundance, according to Mr. Hartmann. Examples? The development of alternative energy possibilities could (literally) give power to the people while fueling a growth industry that could dwarf the Internet, he believes. Sharing the assumption that not feeding hungry people is barbaric would have a dramatic impact on half the world's population. What if we acted on the belief that it is unacceptable to relinquish government of, by and for the people to the profits of translational corporations functioning beyond the reach civil authority? Stories.

      When treating an illness, one must begin by diagnosing it, Mr. Hartmann reminds us. First we must see the looming disaster of soaring human populations gobbling up finite fossil fuels. Then what? Do Something. Mr. Hartmann points us to the simple things -- they have enormous echoes. Buy from stores of which there is only one, whenever possible -- it keeps profits in the local community instead of sending them off to corporate coffers elsewhere. Turn off the television and get to know your neighbors. Volunteer in a soup kitchen or visit a shut-in. Reclaim politics from politicians. Find your own passion and act on it.

      We can't live other peoples' stories but we can reshape our own. It's what human culture does best. And those humanity-saving changes may well depend on starting with "Once upon a time...."

Conversation 1

Thom Hartmann outlines the profound impact of the earth's currently exploding human population and disappearing fossil fuels for Paula Gordon and Bill Russell.

Conversation 2

Reaching back to before the dinosaurs, Mr. Hartmann describes the process by which coal and oil are thought to have been created. He recounts the spectacular rate at we have consumed fossil fuels since oil was discovered in 1867. He summarizes geologists' estimates that we will exhaust the remaining supply of oil in 30 to 50 years. Treating these grim statistics as a "wake-up call," Mr. Hartmann recounts how he began to search among the earth's thousands of human cultures for alternatives to "technological salvationists." He explains why we cannot adopt other cultures' stories, but do have an urgent need to adopt their values. He expands, with exemplary tales.

Conversation 3

Our language reflects our stories, Mr. Hartmann assures us, recalling how Australian aboriginal people have no specific concepts of "sacred" or "nature," because everything is sacred and natural. He contrasts our faith in technology to the actual experience of Captain Cook in the South Seas. He reminds us that half of the world's population (more people than were alive when John Kennedy was inaugurated President of the US) exist on less than $2 a day, "a time bomb waiting to go off in our children's face." Mr. Hartmann explains how today's testosterone culture is ideal for producing the most amount of human flesh possible on earth but explains why he believes it is not by definition "human nature." In the face of his grim evidence, Thom Hartmann tells us why he is optimistic!

Conversation 4

Bill Russell references JARED DIAMOND's and LEONARD SHLAIN's ideas about how Europeans and their values became dominant. Mr. Hartmann relates technology to the stories we tell. He cites the Iroquois nation's ideal of planning for the Seventh Generation as an example of the vital importance of defining the context in which we work. He recalls how America's Founding Fathers drew directly from the experience of the Iroquois in writing the US Constitution, with disastrous variations. He recalls Abraham Lincoln regretting the wartime need to suspend laws requiring states to annually review corporate Charters of Incorporation and describes the consequences of Lincoln's action. America, Mr. Hartmann say, is no longer government of, for and by the people -- no politician who can stand up to today's transnational corporations.

Conversation 5

Tremendous opportunities exist as we work to meet today's challenges, Mr. Hartmann insists, using the example of decentralizing power generation -- a potential growth industry that could dwarf the Internet. He suggests concrete actions -- from the large systemic things corporation need to do to become less toxic to small daily things individuals can do (shop whenever possible in locally-owned stores/not chains; join environmental groups; reengage in the political process; volunteer for groups like Meals on Wheels). He tells stories of how the smallest action can have enormous echoes.  He call us to find and engage our passion. He gives examples of two important steps: One, wake up to the reality of today's environmental situation; Two, wake up to how toxic our stories are. He offers his father's advice: "It's not what you do that's important, it's why you do it."

Conversation 6

Telling a story of South Africa's San people, Mr. Hartmann recaps why we must reshape the stories we tell ourselves. Imagine living in a world, he suggests, where it is taken for granted that if people are hungry, we feed them, to do less is barbaric and savage.Humans long for the connections that come with tribes, he assures us, and suggests steps for reconnecting with families, friends and communities -- healthy re-tribalizing.

Related Links:
Widely known for The Prophet's Way, Thom Hartmann's latest book is The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking Up to Personal & Global Transformation .

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