Big Green Lies: Interview & Transition Career Options with Santa Barbara Eco-therapist Linda Buzzell by Willi Paul. Presented by Permaculture Exchange.

 Big Green Lies: Interview & Transition Career Options with Santa Barbara Eco-therapist Linda Buzzell by Willi Paul. Presented by Permaculture Exchange.

When you’ve got a dream like mine
Nobody can take you down
When you’ve got a dream like mine
Nobody can push you around

Today I dream of how it used to be
Things were different before
The picture shifts to how it’s going to be
Balance restored

Beautiful rocks — beautiful grass
Beautiful soil where they both combine
Beautiful river — covering sky
Never thought of possession, but all this was mine

When you know even for a moment
That it’s your time
Then you can walk with the power
Of a thousand generations

Bruce CockburnA Dream Like Mine (edited), from: Nothing But A Burning Light

* * * * * * * *

Interview with Linda by Willi

“But as the old economy starts to fade all around us, the green shoots of a new sustainable economy are pushing up through the soil — and that’s where you want to position yourself.” Can you give us concrete examples of what you call ‘green shoots of a new sustainable economy’?

A well-established example is integrative/alternative medicine. Practitioners are doing very well and many patients prefer them. Another example is organic food, although the USDA is confusing that process somewhat. Still, the numbers of farmers going organic and selling at Farmers Markets is encouraging. Exercise is another area: machine-like gyms still exist, but yoga studios have taken off big time, even in quite conservative areas of the US. Some of the slowest sectors of society to change would include clothing (we still make textiles abroad and support Third World slave labor), energy (although the military is going solar now), politics…

What values are you teaching to your career counseling clients these days? What conflicts arise between the old ones and the news ones?

I am teaching the importance of resilience, flexibility and a new understanding of the human-nature relationship. I am also asking people to awaken from The Big Lie that underlies modern society: that humans are separate from and superior to the rest of nature, so it doesn’t matter if we trash nature.

The only resistance I see among young people (who are totally aware of the mess we’re in) are worries about whether they can make a living in the new sustainable society. I point out that most people aren’t doing very well in the crumbling old industrial society and that many people are already ahead of the curve and finding abundance in the transition. A rich life is not necessarily a “big bucks” life, however.

What are the key goals in the transition movement there?

To help smooth the transition from crumbling industrial society to a life-sustaining society. Probably the same goal as transition everywhere. If possible, of course. And to help everyone in our community if the transition is far from smooth (i.e. collapse).

I love your “Big Lie” metaphor (i.e. “corporate-based, high-tech health care would create wellness”). Tell us more lies about jobs and the old economy!

Well, a great lie in the economic sphere has been that the health of the money economy isn’t dependent on the health of the nature economy, even though human economic activity is totally embedded in nature. Another lie from the political sphere is “trickle-down economics” – if the rich get super-rich, the middle class and poor people will somehow do better. Occupy is helping us see through that one…

There are really lies underlying every sector, as I pointed out in my handout. For example, in the food world, the lie is that local food is stupid and that the best thing to do is to import our (less nutritious) food from highly destructive and inhumane industrialized farms and factories around the world using fossil fuels. Truly a stupid system, like peeing and pooping in our drinking water while we waste the rich humanure (the Big Water Lie). Part of the Big Food Lie is the belief that traditional Third World sustainable food systems that have worked for thousands of years should be immediately trashed in favor of export crops. NOT!!

I love a recent film called “The Age of Stupid.” It seems that in every sector we are doing things the stupid way, oblivious to the consequences.

As you prescribe, how I do an analysis of my field? Nuts and bolts please!

Look at the principles underlying your field. For instance, how does it view the health of nature and people? Is it based on the Big Lie that it doesn’t matter how much you trash people and planet? Or the Big Lie that we should keep on growing forever and there are no limits?

And then ask yourself: what would this field look like if nature and people actually mattered and were factored into the equation from the get go? I’m not sure what field you’re referring to, so can’t give specifics.

Do you see any critical differences between the transition ahead for South Chicago vs. Berkeley, CA?

Urban permaculture is happening in lots of places, for lots of communities. No need for it to only be for rich, white folks. In fact, truly rich, white folks who belong to the 1% may be some of the last people to be interested in alternatives that would benefit everyone. They’ve bought into the religion of “greed is good” and “being selfish is smart because who needs community,” no matter who it hurts.

Isn’t the transition movement just for the middle class?

See above. Urban permaculture in particular is critical for inner city areas. Some cool stuff is happening in Detroit right now. We also need to address rural and suburban poverty, where according to a popular TV show, the only way to survive is to manufacture meth and sell drugs.

* * * * * * *

Career Opportunities in the Emerging Sustainable Society (L. Buzzell)


a. Environment. Human, animal and plant habitat.
Unsustainable:Shrinking, unsafe habitat for people, animals, plants, fish. Increasing climate disruption and pollution.
Sustainable:Safe, poison-free ecosystems and living space throughout our planet with healthy soils and strong animal, plant and fish populations.
Emerging Jobs: habitat restoration expert, climate scientist, laboratory testing technician, animal rehabilitation specialist, population scientist.

b. Water
Unsustainable:wasting water, polluting water sources.
Sustainable:frugal use, water collection and non-toxic recycling of scarce water.
Emerging Jobs: creek clean-up and protection, greywater systems installer, wise-water-use educator, water filter salesperson, “green” municipal water treatment expert, lawyer rewriting local building codes to allow greywater systems, composting toilet installer, politician on local water board fighting against unsustainable practices, compost toilet installer.

c. Air
Unsustainable:continued air pollution from vehicles, factories, paint, other sources.
Sustainable:high air quality standards
Emerging Jobs: air quality measurement technician, alternative transportation engineer, climate change meteorologist, filter mask manufacturer, healthy home cleaning supplies distributor, natural fiber rug company owner, green building supplies store.

d. Climate
Unsustainable:climate instability
Sustainable:mitigation and adaptation
Emerging Jobs: Climate Adaptation specialist, climate scientist studying remediation.


a. Food
Unsustainable:Factory farming, products trucked or flown in from afar. Animals treated cruelly. Agricultural land being developed for sprawl and suburbs. Loss of healthy soils.
Sustainable:Healthy organic food from nearby local farms, backyards or community gardens.
Emerging Jobs: Ecological/sustainable farmer, Farmers Market executive director, local food distributor, permaculture designer, community gardens director, agricultural land trust executive, city employee in charge of food security, creative nutritionist, local foods chef, expert in using oxen- and horse-powered plows, environmental horticulture instructor, land rehabilitation specialist.

b. Shelter and Built Environment
Unsustainable:McMansions made of toxic materials trucked or flown into your area. Widely dispersed suburban sprawl. Unaffordable housing for local workers. Big houses on small lots.
Sustainable:Green housing and furnishings from local sources. The New Urbanism and infill. Smaller-square-footage houses with individual or communal arable or natural land around or near them. Co-housing arrangements and eco-villages.
Emerging Jobs: local politician working on affordable housing, green building contractor, lawyer working on changing city codes to mandate green building practices, builder focused on repurposing and restoration of existing structures, straw-bale expert, editor of “Natural Home” magazine, co-housing facilitator, eco-hotel owner, small house architect, fossil-free landscape designer, “green” interior designer, local mill owner, wood furniture artisan.

c. Clothing, Textiles
Unsustainable:fabric made from petrochemicals or toxically grown natural fibers sewn into clothing, bedding or upholstery in Third World countries under slave labor conditions, flown and trucked into big box stores in your town by international megacorporations.
Sustainable:local, non-toxic fabric, clothing and textiles sewn under “fair trade” conditions. Jobs for local people.
Emerging Jobs: Local clothing manufacturer, seamstress or tailor, artisan weaver, clothing designer, curtain co-op executive, reupholsterer, hemp or bamboo fiber grower.


Commerce and trade
Unsustainable:a financial system built on debt and arcane, unregulated financial shenanigans, rewarding the wealthy and ruining the middle and working classes. An economy that ignores the fact that “the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment” (Gaylord Nelson). Chain stores using increasingly expensive and scarce fossil fuels to import goods from around the globe. Corporations not accountable to local requirements. Dependence on distant sources of essential goods. A “throw-away” mentality. Big box stores driving locally-owned shops and firms out of business. Malls on the outskirts of town.
Sustainable:redesigning the economic system for fairness and long-term sustainability. More locally owned and operated businesses providing needed goods and services. And “fair trading” for a small number of goods that can’t be produced more cheaply at home. Jobs for local people. A “reduce, reuse, recycle” mentality. Revitalized downtowns. A shift in accounting towards True Cost accounting, which factors in the real, long-term costs of destructive practices into the price of the item. A “national happiness index” rather than the current GDP. New laws that require corporations to meet “triple bottom line” standards (their products or services are good for Profits (to shareholders), People (their workers and customers) and Planet) in order to be chartered to operate.
Emerging Jobs: ecological economist advocating inclusion of environmental costs in realistic pricing, business owner able to meet “triple bottom line” standards, True Value and True Cost accountant, local entrepreneur, local currency expert, executive director of an organization representing local businesses with a “buy local” campaign, “fair trade” importer, executive of permaculture credit union, local banker, recycling expert, new urbanism architect/planner, neighborhood exchange organizer.


a. Travel and transport
Unsustainable:fossil fueled cars, SUVs, trucks, planes
Sustainable:Energy-efficient alternative transport. Commuter and freight trains, bikes, electric vehicles, innovative sailing ships, blimps, biofueled buses and planes, etc. plus old fashioned walking and horse travel.
Emerging Jobs: Innovative railway executive, municipal biodiesel plant engineer, bus driver, bike lane designer, alternative vehicle inventor, horse-drawn vehicle manufacturer.

b. Science/technology
Unsustainable:Look to “high-tech” solutions first, whatever their eventual environmental, financial and social costs. Develop and use technologies before they are proven to be safe. E.g. GMOs, nuclear, chemical, even wireless and cellular in some cases.
Sustainable:Adopting the Precautionary Principle for all new technology: it must be proven “innocent” before use in your area. Searching out the least expensive, low-tech solutions before adopting high-tech technologies. Using “biomimicry” to imitate natural systems and create safe technical solutions.
Emerging Jobs: Science consultant for communities considering new technologies, biomimicry expert, mycologist (example: Paul Stamets), teleconferencing guru, computer repairperson, “old technology” expert who can keep things running in difficult situations.

c. Energy
Unsustainable:Fossil fuels, including natural gas
Sustainable:a sustainable mix of alternative energy sources: wind, solar, certain biofuels, wave action, geothermal, etc.
Emerging Jobs: owner of local biodiesel plant to grow fuel for municipal emergency vehicles on waste land, jatropha forester, wind power technician, owner of roofing company that paints solar cells onto existing roofs, solar installation expert.

d. Waste Management (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
Unsustainable:not recycling or just shipping our waste to the landfill or to other countries for dumping or recycling
Sustainable:Creating less waste in the first place. And for inevitable waste, two waste streams: organic and manufactured (see the book Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough for details).
Emerging Jobs: Repair and reuse shops. Waste management engineer. Compost toilet expert.


a. Law, Politics
Unsustainable:An adversarial legal system which focuses on punishment in cruel prison conditions (unprotected from rape) rather than rehabilitation (if possible) and truth and restoration by perpetrators to their victims. Putting addicts in jail rather than into treatment programs. A society where elections are corrupted by corporate contributions. A legal system wherein corporations are treated as “legal persons” with minimal obligations to the common good. Outdated laws against green building and greywater systems. Disproportionate advantages to the wealthy in the political process, health care etc. One law for the rich, another for the poor. A loss of democracy.
Sustainable:Restorative and Rehabilitative Law. Communities adopting the United Nations-inspired Earth Charter as a set of guiding ethical principles for global and community life. International human rights laws which apply even to heads of state. Truth and reconciliation commissions to enforce accountability.
Emerging Jobs: Local, state or national politician or leader who understands the transition towards sustainability. Publicly funded elections expert. Ethicist (who helps people and communities determine the most ethical decisions). Mediator. Town Hall facilitator. Environmental lawyer. International legal expert, war crimes prosecutor, Sharing Lawyer.

b. Security – military, police, fire, disaster preparedness
Unsustainable:global economic and military domination of other countries to obtain scarce resources from distant lands. Overflowing prisons with disproportionate minority populations. Huge gaps between rich and poor. Increasing climate disruption, resource shortages and disputes over resources leading to wars, chaos and the rise of warlords and gangs in some areas. Military build-ups at home and abroad. Putting the majority of tax money into weaponry and wars.
Sustainable:Maintaining peace and order through positive external alliances for mutual benefit. Force as a last resort, not first choice. Finding and creating local sources of basic, needed resources before they run out. Fair taxation of rich as well as poor. Good local preparedness for possible emergencies due to fire, drought, earthquakes, climate change, food and fuel shortages. Community-based policing. Defense and disaster oriented military.
Emerging Jobs: emergency medical technician, disaster preparedness instructor, Red Cross executive, food bank manager, fire fighter, community policing expert, military negotiation expert, member of defensive and protective services.


a. Family/community
Unsustainable:isolated nuclear families and singles disconnected from extended family and community at large. Poor community connections of all kinds. Life so complex and time-stressed there is little time for loved ones and community. Separation between various ethnic and religious groups. Overpopulation. Poor child care.
Sustainable:building and maintaining strong economic and social connections in every community. Tolerance and diversity. Child-rearing with the support of extended family and community, not isolated nuclear families or single parents.
Emerging Jobs: Professional Town Hall facilitator. Time stress expert. Community ecotherapist. Co-housing facilitator. Voluntary Simplicity educator. Consumerism and addiction recovery psychologist. Caregiver support services coordinator. Anti-racism group facilitator. Planned parenthood educator.

b. Health care
Unsustainable:high-tech medicine but no universal health care to cover its costs. Dependence on ever-more-expensive petroleum-based energy, equipment and medicines. Inadequate medical education that focuses exclusively on Western allopathic remedies like pharmaceuticals and surgery while ignoring wellness promotion, prevention, nutrition and the wisdom of other global medical traditions.
Sustainable:integrative and wellness medicine using the best of traditional and modern practices, provided to all in the community who need it. Emphasis on preventive care and health maintenance not just “repair.” The end of “extraordinary measures” forced on terminally ill and elderly patients who do not want them.
Emerging Jobs: integrative physician, global medicine expert, herbalist, indigenous shaman, national health care executive, nurse practitioner, assistant physician, politician advocating for health care issues, energy worker, acupuncturist, deep tissue massage therapist, alternative nutritionist, hospice worker, end of life physician, visiting nurses and health care practitioners.

c. Dependent care – children, the elderly, the disabled, companion animals
Unsustainable:segregating the community artificially.
Sustainable:integrating children, the aged, the ill and the animals back into daily community life.
Emerging Jobs: social worker who facilitates cooperative living arrangements, pet care worker, organizer of child care center run by elders, innovative care-integration specialist, community facility manager, recreation organizer, horticultural therapist, animal-assisted therapist, school garden educator, senior-care innovator.


a. Education at all levels, including about local history and practical survival skills
Unsustainable:Factory-model “industrial” schools where learners in lock-step formation must meet arbitrary national standards. One teacher for 40 children or one professor for 500 students. Focus on college prep, abstract thought and high tech over practical skills.
Sustainable:Customized learning environments where the best gifts in each individual are nurtured for the benefit of the whole community. Low teacher to pupil ratio. Revisioning and reappreciating “vocational” and skills-based education.
Emerging Jobs: home schooling coordinator, inspiring teacher, vocational/practical skills instructor, sustainability professor at local college, financial literacy educator, expert on decentralizing huge school districts, specialist in place-based education in smaller-sized local schools, alternative jobs career counselor, environmental educator who knows how to facilitate children’s connection with the land where they live, horticultural and animal-care educator, “green” shop teacher and home economics instructor.


a. Arts, entertainment, enjoyment and fun
Unsustainable:Local citizens as passive spectators for distant sources of corporate-controlled news or consumer-oriented “entertainment” usually absorbed via TV or internet-connected media. Widespread media addiction, distraction and mass-indoctrination into consumerist behavior.
Sustainable:Local participation in the arts, live entertainment and news gathering. Parades and events of local interest. Global and local news and entertainment from reliable mainstream and alternative (internet, alternative TV/radio) sources. Global networking without airplane travel, using the internet and teleconferencing. Rebuilding and expanding local libraries.
Emerging Jobs: Owner of ultra-low-frequency local radio station, publisher of local online newspaper, community events planner, video cameraperson, local entertainer, internet expert, storyteller, writer, public speaker, politician working to outlaw advertising to children, creative librarian, local comedian, low-impact party and event planner.

b. Communications and Media
Unsustainable:Corporate-controlled communications and media. Introduction of untested media technologies that may damage physical or mental health (e.g. the worry about electro-magnetic frequency damage from cell phones, wireless radiation etc.) Ignoring the potential for media or internet addiction in both children and adults.
Sustainable:A polyculture of independent local and global media sources, including internet-based media. Media literacy classes. Good consumer information about safe levels of media use.
Emerging Jobs: Web-based communications expert, teleconferencing maven, communications technologies wizard, media psychologist, EMF researcher.

c. Nonviolent Communication
Unsustainable:Continued lack of education on how to get along with each other at all levels.
Sustainable:Widely-understood methods of communication that don’t induce resistance and anger before the other person or group has been deeply listened to and understood.
Emerging Jobs: Nonviolent communications trainer, community mediator, psychotherapist.


Spirit, psyche, culture. Engaging heart, mind, soul and spirit as we meet our challenges.
Unsustainable:uncontrolled consumerism and materialism. A hyper-individualistic attitude that doesn’t take into account the impact of our actions on other people and life forms. Disconnection from a sense of the sacred in nature and the universe. Ignoring the needs of our neighbors or future generations.
Sustainable:Mutually respectful, diverse ways of connecting with our highest selves and universal spirit. The Earth Charter’s “Declaration of Interdependence.” Recovery from consumerism and materialism.
Emerging Jobs: “Compassionate listening” facilitator, spiritual leader helping us to shift our values towards inclusive, life-affirming community, celebrant, ritualist/shaman, mythologist, community mediator, elder, trans-personal psychologist, ecotherapist, psychic, “creation care” leader in a local faith tradition.

Linda Buzzell Bio –

Psychotherapist Linda Buzzell, M.A., M.F.T. is the editor with Craig Chalquist of Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind (Sierra Club Books, 2009), an anthology of writings on healing the human-nature relationship. The book includes essays by Joanna Macy, Andy Fisher, Richard Louv, Ralph Metzner, Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg and a Foreword by David Orr. Linda is the founder of the International Association for Ecotherapy and Executive Editor of its publication Ecotherapy News ( She is also an official blogger about ecotherapy and green career issues at The Huffington Post (

Linda teaches a course on “Career Opportunities in the Emerging Sustainable Society” at Santa Barbara City College and for the Santa Barbara Career Symposium. She is also Adjunct Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, where she supervises student community and ecological fieldwork in the Depth Psychology Ph.D. program that specializes in Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology and Ecopsychology. She is on the board of Opus Archives and Research Center, which holds the papers of Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Marion Woodman and other depth psychology scholars.

She and her husband Larry Saltzman completed the Permaculture Design Course in 2006. They are active in the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers and a “Heart & Soul of Transition” group. They tend a backyard food forest at their home and at two local nonprofit organizations that grow food for the needy. In her private practice in Santa Barbara, Linda specializes in helping clients with career direction and the transition to a more sustainable, nature-connected life.

* * * * * * *

Connect –

Linda Buzzell
Santa Barbara, CA
Lbuzzell at
(805) 563-2089


About [ open myth source ]

The [open myth source] project gathers conversations, symbols, songs, visual art and stories. Building a house for Myth in the Sustainability Age.
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