Listening for the Sake of the Planet (LSP)
By Jim Driscoll, Ph.D., National Coordinator, National Institute for Peer Support
July 30, 2011
National Institute for Peer Support
4151 E. Boulder Springs Way
Tucson, AZ 85712 USA
In global warming, the United States and the world now face the greatest crisis in the history of our species. If we keep on doing what we are doing, the planet will become inhabitable by humans and most other species.
Dealing with this crisis successfully will require the greatest mobilization of popular involvement—ever!
We must use the best tools at our disposal, not just the same old, same old. Click-activism is not enough; nor is voting for the least worst candidate; not even recycling everything in your town.
It is not enough to have a small group of committed people conducting symbolic protests, although these have a place.
We must reach millions and millions of people—quickly.
We think we can do it by using the most basic tool of social change—listening to others!
We invite you to join this greatest mobilization ever—“Listening for the Sake of the Planet (LSP).”
What does this mean you should do?
1. Join LSP. If you can afford to, please make a contribution; if not, just sign up and get to work!
2. Learn the “NIPS” Listening Skills. “NIPS,” the National Institute for Peer Support, is the founder of the LSP Project. LSP is the biggest “peer-support” project ever. We are all peers as human dwellers on our planet in this crisis.
3. Listen to everyone you know about global warming using the attached LSP questions, not interrupting, lecturing, informing or giving out Fact Sheets!
4. Using the LSP questions, identify others with strong interests to become Members of LSP.
5. Teach other new Members the LSP process by getting certified as a NIPS Teacher.
5a. Agree to follow the LSP Assumptions, at least when doing LSP.
a. All people are good, with great unutilized capabilities. The natural relationship between any two people is love and cooperation. There is no real conflict between the interests of any two human beings.
b. The only reason anyone acts badly is because they have been hurt physically or psychologically.
c. If people are listened to in the area where they have been hurt, without interruption and with permission to express their feelings, they will gradually heal themselves and improve their ability to function.
d. In every interaction, every per \son should be given an equal opportunity to express themselves including their feelings while somebody else listens. This is the great Twin Operating Principle of LSP.
5b. Wherever possible, LSP members should use the LSP Twin Operating Principle (of equal participation and permission to express feelings) to shape any conversation or meeting. This principle underlies the basic organizational forms which we use in LSP for each of the three major purposes of all human interactions:
a. Social Support: Listening Turns and Support Groups;
b. Sharing Information and Identifying and Solving Problems: Topic Group Discussions;
c. Deciding on Actions: Action Groups and their resulting LSP Projects (for committing to individual action and identifying collective actions.)
To the extent feasible, LSP Members should seek to transform any interaction of which they are part into one of these LSP formats, a Support Group (however informal), a Topic Group Discussion or an Action Group.
6. Organize others to use the best of those “same-old, same-old” social change tactics: education, lobbying, elections, demonstrations, non-violent direct action and building alternative institutions. Listening by itself is not enough; it will take all of these tactics, used at the strategically best time. (The Midwest Academy has an excellent one-page Strategy Chart, attached, to help make these strategic choices.)
All LSP Projects, including social change tactics (education, lobbying, elections, demonstrations and alternative institutions) and governing bodies (local councils or broader coordinating councils) should embody this basic LSP Twin Operating Principle of equality of participation and permission to express feelings as well as opinions and facts.
7. As for “building alternative institutions” (as social change theorists refer to the next to the last stage in social change), we will need new forms of energy, transportation, housing, food supplies, recreation, literally every social function has to be revised, so that we can have a sustainable society..
8. Work with others to transform the society (the ultimate stage in social change, when those alternative institutions come together.). The way we are doing it now as a society won’t get it done. We will need a new basis for society other than trying to get the most for yourself and your family at any cost. The profit motive was a great step forward over society based on slaves and then serfs, but the drive for more profits will drive our species off this cliff if we don’t come up with something more rational and human way to coordinate human behavior.
Therefore, we need a permanent system of nested Neighborhood and Workplace Councils (Spokes Councils for those who use the term) using decentralized, bottoms-up, interative, computer-based planning to coordinate their activities (consumption, production among others) and ultimately become the governmental units in the new society which will necessary to resolve this crisis. The most well developed model for these Councils is called PARECON and can be found at www.zcommunications.org.
Work on our own personal development so that we can be more effective at LSP and the other projects we undertake to stop global warming.
a. Listening Turns. Doing regular LSP Listening Turns with other LSP Members is vital as we begin to notice the personal habitual ways in which we can be our own worst enemies in doing this work: shyness, lack of self-confidence, arrogance, impatience, urgency, etc. In these Listening Turns, we can figure out where we picked up these habits and look at the feelings that that keep these habits in place, i.e. how do they keep us from facing difficult feelings.
b. Eliminating Oppression. However, it is also necessary for us to inform ourselves and do Listening Turns about the less personal and more systemic ways in which the many oppressions supported by the larger society prevent us from stopping global warming: racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, adultism, etc. These issues are addressed in our Ongoing LSP Ongoing Classes. The basic format of such classes begins by looking at the ways the current society limits us, e.g. where are we victims, such as sexism for women, classism for working class and raised poor people, homophobia for people of different sexualities, adultism for young people and young adults, etc. Later, we do the more difficult work of figuring out where we act in racist ways as white people, sexist ways as men, adultist ways as older folks, etc.
c. Deciding to Improve Ourselves. In addition to these personal growth insights from the peer support communities which emphasize the role of feelings, we must also rely on the insights from other peer support communities which put more emphasis on the importance of making and sticking to tough personal decisions. Specifically, we need to pick an LSP Reference Person for ourselves (often called a “Sponsor” in other communities). This is someone who will empower to ask us how we are progressing in dealing with our difficult habits and our personal goals for advancement. To identify those difficult habits and set personal goals, we do a detailed written Personal Inventory of those habits and our strengths and we share it with our Reference Person or some other trusted person.
d. Improving our Interpersonal Relationships. Finally, we use that Personal Inventory to make an Amends List of the people in our lives whom we have harmed with our bad habits. With the advice of our Reference Person, we then set out to make amends to those we have harmed—unless to do so would do further harm. Many, many peer support communities emphasize this “making whole” of our major interpersonal relationships if we are to be successful at any project, certainly one as challenging as saving the planet. We need solid interpersonal relationships with many, many people. Maintaining these relationships will mean admitting where we are wrong in any relationship and promptly correcting it by making an amend.
e. Daily Time for Reflection. We need to set aside some time each day to reflect on the world and our role in it. Mountains of research document the health values of such daily “quiet time.” Many environmentalists find it important to reflect on their connection with the natural environment. Many find that this needs to be done on some regular basis in nature itself, daily, weekly, monthly. While some of the peer support communities emphasize the role of God or a Higher Power in this process of personal growth and self-improvement, it is not necessary to use either to benefit from these basic peer support processes. If those are meaningful concepts to you, please feel free to maximize their use!
Is this an unrealistic set of goals and expectations? We think not. The future of our species and our planet is at stake. It will take seriously committed workers who take themselves seriously—and many, many supporters whom they can attract around them–to save the planet.
10. Inform ourselves about global warming as an issue. This is placed last because we already have all the information we need on this topic and people will only take more information from us if we develop a close, personal relationship with them. Better to start by listening than by giving more information.
11. Consider what it would mean for you to live in a full-sustainable world where the earth’s resources were shared equally and the non-renewable ones were preserved forever. At present, each person’s equal share of the world’s economic output is about $10,000 apiece. Many of us live on much more than that. We need to consider how to begin moving in that direction. Those who have the most should be the ones to lead the way and the focus of any policies.
What should the LSP Project look like as we grow?
Many, many people in every community getting a chance to be listened to while they talk about global warming.
Many, many people in every community becoming Members of LSP including committing to listen to others about global warming and taking part in the activities of LSP (ongoing Support Groups and occasional Topic Group Discussions and Action Groups and resulting LSP Projects.
In every city and town, we want an LSP community with at least one certified LSP Teacher teaching Introductory and Ongoing Classes for new LSP Members.
We want lots of Support Groups and one-on-one Listening Turns for LSP Members to get support for themselves as they do this work.
We expect many LSP members to be going through Personal Inventories and Making Personal Amends with the help of their Reference Persons.
We want many Topic Group Discussions for people to identify problems and share information.
We want many Action Groups where people use LSP skills to loosely coordinate with one another and commit to individual and collective actions. We expect many nested Action
Groups as more and more people become Members of LSP and start taking action.
We want at least one Action Group for the entire community with the most influential leaders in the local LSP project is coordinating their actions.
We want lots of LSP-generated projects going on in and around the existing environmental, sustainable communities, allied organizations and political subdivisions. These will use the tactics of education, lobbying, elections, demonstrations and building alternative institutions to meet the basic needs of the society in sustainable ways.
In addition to these LSP projects, we want a system of nested Neighborhood Councils (Spokes Councils for those who use the term) using decentralized, bottoms-up, interative, computer-based planning to coordinate these projects and ultimately become the governmental units in the new society which will necessary to resolve this crisis. One model is called PARECON and can be found at www.zcommunications.org.
Some of the key Guidelines and Traditions from other peer support communities provide the following additional guidelines for our work. We will probably need to add others.
1. Volunteerism. We do NOT want paid staff (other than the smallish stipends paid LSP Teachers for teaching classes and organizing LSP Workshops. Like most other peer support communities (from our own sad experience) and based on long research studies, we are convinced that the structure of professionally-staffed, centralized hierarchical organizations actually gets in the way of social change. We need lots and lots of people, using basic participative forms like LSP, taking action themselves and requiring action of centralized authorities of all types. LSP should remain based on volunteer leaders and not professional staff. Special workers can be hired as needed for offices or special projects.
2. Financial Independence. Every LSP group should support itself financially and not accept outside contributions.
3. Personal Outreach. Public relations for LSP should be based on one-on-one relationships and not the mass media.
4. Anonymity. We should maintain anonymity in the media, using only our first names or a nickname. The broader society will attempt to associate any social change movement into the work of one or a few personalities. When that person falters, the entire movement is called into question. We are about principles, not personalities.
5. Easy of Membership. All it takes to be a member of LSP is a desire to stop global warming and a commitment to use the tools of LSP.
6. Autonomy. LSP groups should be autonomous except in matters affecting other LSP groups through Action Groups, Spokes Councils and the like.
7. Operational Independence. LSP should never endorse, finance or give the LSP name to any non LSP activity without the approval of the local LSP Coordinator or where none exists, the approval of the LSP National Coordinator.
8. Openness to Experience. We will continue to examine the guidelines and traditions of other great peer support communities for applications to LSP.
1. LSP Workshops, Classes, Groups and Projects. LSP. We will hold LSP Workshops, Support Groups, Topic Group Discussions, Action Groups and Classes beginning with our August 12-14, 2011 Tucson Workshop, wherever we can find people with interest and the minimal financial support required. Besides these face-to-face meetings, we will hold Support, Topic and Action Groups and Classes by phone and on line in the meantime for people seeking to become involved in LSP and those seeking to become certified LSP Teachers and leaders of local LSP Projects.
2. Outreach to Committed Organizations. We hope to interest the major organizations who are already committed to ending global warming so that some of their members initiate LSP Projects among their members. This would include the major environmental (350.org, Sierra Club, Audubon, etc.) and sporting groups (hook and gun), the major religious bodies (World Council of Churches, Power and Light, UU, Episcopal, Quaker, etc.), political and neighborhood groups (Progressive Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, etc.), organized labor (Blue-Green Alliances) including professional groups like teachers (AFL-CIO, Change to Win, AEA, NEA, etc.) and medical personnel.
Those currently committed include those emphasizing sustainability such as bicyclists, co-housing, food coops, Veterans Green Jobs groups, and labor-worker centers.
3. Outreach to Allies. Finally, there are potential allies such as the ethnic associations (NAACP, LULAC, and Native American Nations.)
We will reach out to all these groups for the Tucson workshop, the Listening Days in September and Moving Planet on September 24th.
Draft LSP Questions:
Guidelines for how to listen well are available elsewhere on our website, under the NIPS Model/Tools/One-on-one Listening Turns.
Here are questions to be asked of everyone you can, beginning with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and people you worship with.
1. What do you think about global warming?
2. What do you think we should do about global warming?
3. If someone expresses interest in global warming, then ask: Why do you care about this problem?
4. After these three questions, if the person seems interested in taking action on global warming and has a relatively non-distressed reason for taking action, you can tell them about LSP and ask them if they are interested in becoming a Member. If they say “yes”, then take down their contact information and invite them to the next local activity, be it a Support, Topic or Action Group meeting, but preferably including the Introductory Lecture to an LSP Class by a local Teacher or a national telephone class taught by the National Coordinator.
For Members of LSP (the Action Group agenda):
1. What have you done about Global Warming recently? (Share information, allows loose coordination.)
2. What else do you know about what others are doing about Global Warming which might be of interest to this Action Group? (More information sharing, loose coordination.)
3. What are you going to do about Global Warming in the next period? (Publicly commit to individual action, can commit to work with others in group.)
4. What might get in the way of your doing what you just said you would do? (Listening Turn to explore personal habits which might interfere and thus reduce their impact or identify logistical issues, e.g. I need a ride!)
More information about Action Groups as well as Topic and Support Groups and Listening Turns is available on our website under “NIPS Model and Tools.”