Resilience From the Ground Up: A New Strategic Narrative


As we enter what Paul Gilding calls the Great Disruption – it’s only a matter of when, not whether, the world will change course on the scale of a wartime mobilization – this time to restore nature and human communities. Author and founder Bill McKibben, Transition U.S. leader Carolyne Stayton, community organizer Mary Gonzales and retired Marine Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby show how people are building a national movement to create resilience from the ground up in local communities and regions.

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Music Credits
Series Theme Music: "Soiridh Leis" from the CD Journey Between by Baka Beyond. Used with permission from Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label;
 “Field Trip” and “Duet” by Jordan Tice Trio from the album THE SECRET HISTORY; Patuxent Music CD-230; 2011; Contact:,



Bioneers Series XIII - Program 09-13


Resilience from the Ground Up:

A New Strategic Narrative



00:00               Welcome (00:05)


Welcome to The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.


00:05               Mykleby teaser (00:24)


National security 21st century style, it's in the very capable hands of our citizenry because national security 21st century style has everything to do with our built environment, our modes of transportation, our food, our water, our energy, and most importantly their education system, for the love of God. You have to take it on as a citizen accepting responsibility of your own behavior and how you're contributing to the public weal. so we have depth and resiliency in our system.


00:29               Macy (00:09)


It’s all alive, it’s all connected, it’s all intelligent, it’s all relatives…


00:38               Bioneers teaser  (00:28)


We stand at the threshold of a historic opportunity in the human experiment: to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.


It's a revolution from the heart of nature - and the human heart.


In this series - The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature - we celebrate social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet - creating a future environment of hope.


01:06               Theme music fade out (00:04)


01:10           Opening underwriting narration         (00:10)


Support for The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is provided in part by Organic Valley Family of Farms and Mary’s Gone Crackers.


01:20     NARRATION 1 (1:17)


We’ve entered what Paul Gilding calls the Great Disruption. It’s a synchronized, related global crash of the environment and economy.


The key is to build resilience from the ground up -- to enhance our ability to avoid system-wide collapses and to adapt to dramatic change.


It means a radical decentralization of our infrastructure and a greater devolution of political power to local and regional levels. It means democratizing democracy.


It’s only a matter of when — not whether — the world will change course on the scale of a wartime mobilization. But this time, the purpose is to restore nature and human communities.


The sooner we act, the more options we’ll have, and the less suffering.


In the next half-hour, diverse visionary organizers from the grassroots to the Department of Defense show how we can move from breakdown to breakthrough to restore our communities, country and world.


This is “Resilience From the Ground Up: A New Strategic Narrative” with Bill McKibben, Carolyne Stayton, Marine Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby, and Mary Gonzales.


I’m Neil Harvey. I'll be your host. Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.


02:37     Music fade (00:11)


02:48     NARRATION 2 (01:12)


How can we build resilience? The first principle is systems thinking: Take a solve-the-whole-problem approach because everything is connected. 

Just as in nature's design, resilience also means decentralizing our basic systems such as food, energy and water. It’s backup against the inevitable failure of centralized too-big-not-to-fail systems.


The heart of resilience is diversity. Damaged ecosystems rebound to health when they have sufficient diversity. Similarly, diverse cultures, ideas and strategies enrich society’s capacity to survive and thrive.


The environmental leader Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books including the 1989 landmark, The End of Nature, which first alerted readers to the looming dangers of climate disruption. He co-founded the global grassroots climate action group


In McKibben’s view, creating strong community is the first line of defense against the escalating impacts of human-induced climate disruption.


04:00               McKibben wkshp 1 (00:59)


Often in my line of work, one of the questions that people ask me, email me to ask me or stop me after - say, Well, climate change is gonna be very bad; where should I move? [Laughter] And if I’m in a hurry or kind of bad mood or something, I just say, New Zealand and leave it at that.


But, in fact, the answer to that question is the places that are gonna be okay in the time ahead are the places that have strong communities. Far more important than anything to do with, you know, your physical location or how much rain's gonna fall, or how high the temperature's gonna be is how strong one's communities are.


Another way of saying that is in the last hundred years in this country, neighbors have been optional. But in the next hundred years, neighbors are not going to be optional. They're gonna be incredibly important.


04:59     NARRATION 3 (00:15)


Bill McKibben has long warned against the unsustainable, destructive nature of the growth economy. He advocates for the many benefits of transitioning to smaller, more locally scaled green economies.


05:13               McKibben wkshp 2  (01:02)


When people talk about, say, farmers' markets and how nice they are, it's true that they're very nice and that the food's better and it's ecologically sounder, but the thing that's important about them is, in the end, that they're a different context than the supermarket.


A few years ago a pair of sociologists followed shoppers first around the supermarket and then around the farmers' market. And they'd all been to the supermarkets, you know how that works. You walk in, you fall into a light fluorescent trance; you visit the stations of the cross around the edge of the market; [Laughter] maybe you discuss, you know, debit or credit on the way out. When they followed people around the farmers' market, on average they had 10 times more conversations per visit, okay? That turns out to be instrumentally really important, important in a utilitarian sense. That's what communities are about.



06:10     NARRATION 4 (00:36)


The profusion of farmers markets signals the innate hunger we have for community. Bill McKibben says the hyper-individualism of America’s consumer culture is the real nemesis of resilience. Resilient communities are the ones where people have a strong social fabric. So how do we get from here to there?


Carolyne Stayton’s goal in her work with “Transition U.S.” is to support and connect neighborhoods, towns, and cities to transition off fossil fuels and become more sustainable and self-reliant – together.


06:46               Stayton wkshp 1a  (00:40)  


Now, in Sarasota, Florida, the Transition initiative there started a gleaning project, and together they gleaned 75,000 pounds of food that went to the food bank last year. In Colorado they also got engaged in food early on. Their focus was to shift local food consumption and production just to 10%. And they attracted $1.2 million in venture capital. And they're now seeding a number of food enterprises, and one is for teenage farmers.


07:26     NARRATION 5 (00:24)


Stayton characterizes our corporate consumer culture as a fire-breathing dragon. It’s scorching crops and melting the Arctic ice. It supports the ravenous quest of the growth economy that defies nature’s limits and impoverishes much of humanity. Stayton says that, by working locally to rebuild our communities, we douse the flames.


07:50               Stayton wkshp 1b (00:32) 


There's a number of Transition projects. I mean the sky’s the limit. Bicycle repair, gardening or chicken tours. Transition Los Angeles was instrumental in changing the chicken ordinance. Now they do Chicken Cluck tours. Seed libraries like the one started in Richmond, California, where you go into your public library and checkout seeds in the spring then you grow and you harvest some seeds and return them back to the library at the end of the season.


8:22      NARRATION 6 (00:18)


As Co-Director of Transition U.S., Stayton and her team encourage people to regain the practical skills of everyday life that most people used to know, not so long ago. Transition hosts “re-skilling” festivals where participants learn to DIY – Do It Yourself.   




08:40                Stayton wkshp 2 (00:44)


…beekeeping, backyard chickens, gofer control, herbal first aid, simple gray water, hard cider making, cheese making, felting, olive making, etc. There's no money exchanged. It's really peer-to-peer. It's the most lovely kind of learning environment because you're with people that don't necessarily know how to teach, but their passion is so relayed. And what happens at the reskilling festivals is you leave with an address book full of phone numbers and contacts, and you find out neighbors that you didn't know, and you find out other people interested in your passions. So, it's really a building of fabric.


09:24     NARRATION 7 (00:20)


The Transition network now extends to 34 countries. In the U.S. there are Quakers in Transition. Hampshire College is working to establish "Transition Hampshire", the first Transition University in the United States. The networks are supported through on-site trainings, teleconferences, books, newsletters, and lots more tools.  


09:44               Stayton wkshp 3 (00:38)


And so, what makes the Transition model work? Well, community building. It creates a vision of an abundant future. It raises awareness and really gives an invitation to everyone to participate, to bring their passions, to really show up, really build the community that they're dying to live in. And it shows that practical and simple changes in our lives can make a difference. But most of all it's the collective response. It's not waiting for government. It's not doing it alone. It's doing it together.


10:22     NARRATION 8 (00:13)


Simply put, social ties save lives - literally. Bill McKibben agrees with Transition’s Carolyne Stayton: Building community builds resilience.


10:35               McKibben wkshp 3a (01:25)


The average American has half as many close friends as the average American of 50 years ago. That's a very big change for a socially evolved primate to undergo.


When we set about the project, and it has been our project for the last 50 years as a society, of building bigger houses farther apart from each other, it came not just with an environmental cost, although that was obviously very steep, it also came with a profound human cost, and one that if we're going to build resilient communities, we're going to have to figure out again, we're gonna have to reintroduce ourselves to each other and make communities that depend on each other.


Once lost, those skills are a little hard to regain. Though it's our great human birthright to be good at getting along with each other, that's in a way what separated us out from other species and allowed us to do much what we did, that kind of level of cooperation, once we've lost those skills—I mean, it's easy to look around our political culture and just see how bad we've gotten at just the kind of normal skills of dealing with each other. And it'll take some work, but it's completely possible, that's what this sort of rise of farmers' markets, the fastest growing part of our food economy for the last 20 years, shows us. And it's really a desirable thing to aim for.


12:00     NARRATION 9 (00:44)


As the Great Disruption kicks in, the top-down is reaching out to the bottom-up. The Department of Homeland Security funded a successful 3-year pilot project with FEMA to create a Whole Community Resilience System for disaster prevention. They tested it in 8 cities, and plan to expand it.


Homeland security is top of mind for the Department of Defense, too. After all, one hacker can take down the nation’s electrical grid – or Wall Street. If 4 bridges go down on the Mississippi river, New York City will be hungry 48 hours later. As sea levels rise with climate disruption, where do you move the 150 million Americans living on the coasts?


12:44               Mykleby int 1a  (00:09)


National security 21st century style is not all about national defense. It's not from our shores outward, about all the bad things we're gonna keep away.


12:53     NARRATION 10 (00:38)


Retired Marine Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby served for 2 years until April 2011 as a Special Strategic Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Mike Mullen asked Colonel Mykleby and Navy Captain Wayne Porter to consider what a 21st Century American grand strategy might look like. Together, they authored “A National Strategic Narrative”; that states sustainability must become the national strategic imperative if the United States is to have both lasting prosperity and security as a nation in an interconnected, interdependent, globalized world.


13:32              Mykleby int 1b (00:40)


National security 21st century style, is the responsibility, it's in the hands, the very capable hands of our citizenry. Because national security 21st century style has everything to do with our built environment, our modes of transportation, our food, our water, our energy, all these systems that come together, and most importantly our education system, for the love of God, all these things coming together to a more efficacious whole so we have depth and resiliency in our system. And national security is not something you can outsource. You can't put it into the police department. You can't put it into the fire department. You can't put it in the military. You can't put it in government. You have to take it on as a citizen accepting responsibility of your own behavior and how you're contributing to the public weal.


14:12     NARRATION 11 (00:18)


Like Carolyne Stayton, Colonel Mykleby believes we the citizenry can’t wait for the government to act.


To put our present Grand Challenge of what he calls “Global Unsustainability” in perspective, he quotes the enduring vision of one of America’s foundational governing documents.


14:30                Mykleby int 2 (00:54)


"We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." That's the preamble of the Constitution. And each one of those words—"to form", you know, "to form a more perfect union"; "to establish", right? All the way to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity". Those are compelling action words that you are supposed to act upon those as a citizen, we the people of the United States. It's not somebody else, it’s not the military, it's not the government, it's we the people of the United States are supposed to do these things. That's our purpose. It's our driver. And, oh, by the way, that last word—posterity—that it's not our time and place that we're supposed to be acting, leveraging those action words. We're supposed to be with a view that transcends our current time and place. I think we've forgotten that.


15:24     NARRATION 12 Lead to Mid-Break (00:46)


With a Marine’s colorful verbal panache, Colonel Mykleby says we need to “liberate the greywear in our stinking melons.”


He says what America needs is a new story, a shining new national vision and purpose. He invokes a vision “leadership through partnership” rather than “leadership through paternalism.” Rather than military might alone, America can inspire the world by example.


When we return, Colonel Puck Mykleby calls for citizens to lead politicians, and community organizer Mary Gonzales shows how and why diversity is going to get us there.


This is “Resilience from the Ground Up: A New Strategic Narrative”. I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature.


16:13               MID BREAK (00:12)


16:35     NARRATION 13 (00:46)


To explore all available Bioneers radio shows and video programming, please visit


Retired Marine Colonel Puck Mykleby is not an isolated voice in the Department of Defense.


Pragmatic military leaders have recognized a simple truth: Remove the need for oil, and the reason for most of our wars goes away. And you mitigate climate disruption at the same time.


As the world’s biggest consumer of fossil fuels, the Department of Defense has committed to generate 25% of its energy from renewables by 2025 and is also funding cutting-edge clean technology research and development.


17:21               Mykleby int 3  (01:29)


When we approach sustainability, we're talking about an organism's ability to remain diverse and productive over time. That's the ecological definition of sustainability.


Sustainability, though, isn't an end state, it's a condition you're constantly working toward. That's why I really particularly think it maps to the preamble of the Constitution. Those action words in there require constant work; you're never, ever done because the world changes. And so that's why I said that I think sustainability is really a great grand strategic idea for this country, particularly given our current condition and the challenges that we face.


So what does that mean in terms of resilient communities? I think we just have to start having the capacity not to look at things as siloed entities, bundled, binned out sectors. Food over here, water over here, energy's over here, built environment's here, transportation's over here. We've gotta start looking at them as an integrated system. I mean, biomimicry at scale.


But how do those things come together so they make sense, because right now it doesn't make sense in terms of resilience. It takes what, an average of a thousand, whatever, 2,000 miles to get a plate of food in front of you? That it takes 10 calories of petroleum energy to get one calorie of food in your belly? That doesn't make sense. That it takes two liters of water to make one liter of Coke? I mean, why are you drinking the Coke in the first place, you know?


18:40     NARRATION 14 (00:09)


In Mykleby’s new civilian role at the New America Foundation, he calls for a citizen-led, grassroots approach to sustainability.





18:49               Mykleby int 4 (00:16)


We don't have time to fence ourselves off in an ideological framework. We just need to get down with the hard work. Find the common language, start extending the olive branches across the aisle, and that's what citizens are going to have to do. When citizens start doing it, politicians will follow.


19:05     NARRATION 15 (00:34)


Colonel “Puck” Mykleby’s solutions for a sustainable national strategy include smart growth, restorative agriculture and a rapid transition to a high-tech, productivity revolution that radically saves resources and generates profits. He says this is the next economy, and it will yield sustainable returns.


Mary Gonzales is also reaching out across differences.


As a community organizer, she draws inspiration from the timeless wise words of American forebears like Frederick Douglass:


19:47              Gonzales wkshp 1  (00:37)


Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are people who want crops without plowing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightening; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one or it may be a physical one, or it may be both, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will.


20:14     NARRATION 16 (00:16)   


Mary Gonzales began organizing communities in the 70’s and went on to co-found the Gamaliel Foundation. It’s a faith-based network of 60 organizations across the U.S., South Africa and Great Britain. Mary Gonzales spoke at a Bioneers conference.


20:30                Gonzales wkshp 2  (02:59)


We live in a society that promotes individualism: be an individual, don't connect to anything. Congregations are dying, unions are dying, bowling leagues are gone, social clubs are gone, everything is gone because we live in a society that says marry your computer, marry your smart phone, marry your email and everything will be great because you'll be able to connect to everyone. Alright. So, we have to build a vehicle.


That vehicle needs resources so that people can begin to behave like they're intended to behave. And so we promote three things: Number one, don't be an individual, live in a community. This is hard because you got to live among poor people, among wealthy people, among immigrants, among black people, among brown people, among people who don't speak your language, among people who don't pray like you do, among people who don't eat what you do. But that's the challenge, so we have to live in community. That's number one in an organization.


Number two, we have to believe in abundance and not scarcity, alright? That the world has plenty for all but we're being taught that we better protect our own because our neighbor's gonna steal it from us. And so that's why we can't be in relationship. We put alarms on everything, and we make sure that we are closed in a little box. So how do we break out of that?


And last of all, stop being powerless. God did not intend us to be powerless, he intended us to be powerful. So start seeking power in the public arena, and the way you do it is you give up living a private life and living an innocent life and living a Disneyland life, and live in reality, understand how decisions are really made, and get engaged in that process. [Applause]


So here's how we do it. We engage people to do listening campaigns. I don't mean talking campaigns. I mean listening campaigns where we listen to thousands of people for half an hour a piece and begin to understand what talents they've got, what anger they've got, what values have been violated in their lives, what they're willing to invest in, what they wanna do, who they know. And we begin to pull together groups through institutions, congregations, labor unions, organizations, universities, to come together to begin to say what do we all have in common in the region, what do we all have in common? And then begin a campaign around how do we attack that problem.


Now, one might say, Well, this is really great; organizers solve issues. No. My job is to convince you that you are not the potted plant that you believe you are. [Laughter] That, in fact, you have capacities that you're sitting on regularly—we're all sitting on them today, right—you've all got capacities you're sitting on and you're unwilling to use them because you're afraid of the responsibility it's gonna take if you step out.


23:29     NARRATION 17 (00:19)


Mary Gonzales knows that the way we’ll hold it together – is to hold it – together. Because in our diversity also lies our resilience.


That means reaching out across differences to find the common ground we all share here on planet Earth and in our home communities.


23:48                Gonzales wkshp 3  (00:56)


So, the first thing you gotta do, or at least I think about with my folks, let's get out of Disneyland and let's start understanding who those groups are that are keeping the Republicans and Democrats, and start nailing them and naming the CEOs and naming the people who are making these decisions instead of just talking in general terms.


Secondly, let's agitate an awful lot of people, and let's pull in the black folks and the brown folks and the young folks. Let's bring the Asians, let's bring the Spanish speaking, let's bring the immigrants into this room because they're growing at an extremely rapid way, and if we don't address it now, it's gonna be too late. Thank you very much. [Applause]


24:35               Mykleby int 5 (00:23)


I always remember what I learned as a young guy— I guess I was 18, 19 years old or whatever, I went to paratrooper school down in Fort Benning, Georgia, and before you jump, the airborne instructor, he said, Hey, if you jump out of there, you count to four, look up and see if your chute's above ya, and if you don't have a good chute, don't worry, you got the rest of your life to figure it out. So I mean, that's [Laughs] kind of where we are right now. We got the rest of our lives to figure this thing out, but we don't know how much time we got left.


24:58               McKibben wkshp 4 (00:25)


There's gonna be a lot of bad things that are gonna happen in this century. It's going to be a tough century, so it behooves us to look for the things that will be sweet amid that toughness, and chief among them, I think, will be the rediscovery that not only are neighbors mandatory for survival, but that neighbors are a good thing, that at some level, neighbors are kind of what it's about.


25:23               Stayton wkshp 4 (00:19)


Will it work? It is an experiment. It's a social experiment on a massive scale. As I said earlier, if we wait for governments, it'll be too little, too late. If we act as individuals, it will be too little. But if we act as community, it might be enough, and it might be just in time.


25:42     NARRATION 18 (00:25)


A social experiment on a massive scale – to build resilience from the ground up.


Bill McKibben, Carolyne Stayton, Colonel Puck Mykleby, and Mary Gonzales caution that windows of opportunity are finite and fleeting. The time to act is now. And bring your neighbors along... "Resilience From the Ground Up: A New Strategic Narrative".


26:09     Music fade (00:06)


26:15               Bioneers BXIII - Program Close/Credits (01:37)

You can explore more Bioneers radio shows and video programming online at For information on attending the National Bioneers Conference and Bioneers events in your area, please visit or call 1-877-BIONEER.


The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature is a production of Bioneers and Collective Heritage Institute.
Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Catherine Stifter and Kenny Ausubel
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Management and Station Relations: Kate Hunter

Distribution is by WFMT Radio Network
Interview recording engineer:  Jeff Wessman
Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label. Additional music was made available by The Sounds True, at For more music information, please visit
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Bioneers and Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening. I invite you to join the Bioneers in inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
This is program number 09-13

27:52               Closing underwriting narration (00:38)


This program was made possible in part by:

Organic Valley Family of Farms. Organic and family-owned since 1988. Visit

Mary’s Gone Crackers, healing the planet through conscious eating.  Gluten Free and vegan products sine 1999.  Learn more at

John Master’s Organics. Feel good about looking good. Visit

Funding also provided by a grant from The Park Foundation - dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues.

And by the generous support of listeners like you.


28:30               END


Resilience From the Ground Up: A New Strategic Narrative | BILL McKIBBEN, CAROLYNE STAYTON, MARY GONZALES, and COLONEL MARK

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Resilience From the Ground Up: A New Strategic Narrative


Posted by Bioneers on Oct 4 2013 in category 2013 Bioneers Radio Series
Tags: Bill McKibben, Carolyne Stayton, Mary Gonzales, Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby, Bioneers Radio Series XIII

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