Pioneer in ‘Ecovillage’ Movement to Lecture at Sweet Briar

| March 12, 2008

Albert Bates couldn’t come to the phone to talk about the lecture he will give at Sweet Briar College on Thursday, March 27.

Although he has spotty access to the Internet, “There are no phones this side of Punta Gorda,” he said by e-mail.

Albert Bates

To have a conversation with him, “You would need to fly to Belize City, take a bus for 6 hours to Punta Gorda, hitch or hike 12 miles up the Maya Mountains to the village of San Pedro Columbia, find Jorge, get him to take you 5 km up river in his dugout canoe, and look for me in the cacao farm, where I am teaching a permaculture course to various Mayan vanilla and cacao agronomists and gringos.”

Sounds like a grand adventure, but … e-mail works.

Bates, a former lawyer and human rights and environmental activist will present “Tipping Points: How to Get the Kind We Want,” on peak oil, climate-change crises and solutions at 7 p.m. in Conference Rooms A and B at the Florence Elston Inn & Conference Center.

The event is free and open to the public. A book signing will follow and the latest of his 11 published books, “The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times,” will be available for purchase.

Bates is a longtime and influential advocate of sustainable living. He’s a founding member ofThe Farm in Summertown, Tenn., where he established the Ecovillage Training Center.

He also directs The Farm’s Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology, and holds several design patents including one for concentrating photovoltaic arrays. In addition to permaculture, he has taught ecological design, natural building, organic agriculture and appropriate technology to students in 50 countries.

During his 26 years as an attorney, he argued cases on the environment and human and religious rights of indigenous peoples before state and federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

From his Mayan outpost, Bates wrote that his Sweet Briar talk will call attention to both the dangers and opportunities related to climate change. The dangers he will focus on are the immediate ones – “ ‘what we do in the next two to three years,’ ” he said, quoting the chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“The primary opportunity to which I will call attention involves ‘tipping points’ and to the possibility that ‘We’ are a potential tipping point for coping with the dangers of climate change,” he said.

Systems, such as Earth, tolerate changes with little or no effect until a critical mass is reached – the “tipping point,” when any further small change can have big effects. Bates’ message is essentially positive, suggesting some tipping points, rather than spelling irreversible disaster, can become “leverage points.”

“The challenge of the climate change crisis is to identify the leverage points where, by exerting relatively small amounts of effort, we can bring about the kinds of change needed to mitigate the threats of climate change and, in time, stabilize our Earth’s environment at habitable levels,” he said.

Bates has a tipping point strategy, and at its heart is this premise: “Our human behavior is at the crux of our climate problem.”

For more information, please contact dkasper@sbc.edu or call 381-6204.

Jennifer McManamay

Category: Environmental Science, Environmental Studies