Category Archives: Future Scenarios

The Gig Economy: My Presentation and Notes from the CDC @ BCCDA 2017 Conference

My father had one job in his lifetime, I will have six jobs in my lifetime, and my children will have six jobs at the same time.” ~ Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar

For many, the quote above makes no sense at all; some think it doesn’t apply to them as they have traditional, stable jobs and careers…for others, that is already an everyday reality. For me, coming from places where collapse and change were so common that people made jokes and songs with them (and where you had to be creative about how you got your basic needs met), and with a deep understanding gained through permaculture life-design and observing (sometimes also coaching) unusual people live diverse lives, this concept is not only not new: it is seen as an opportunity, a waking call to re-think what we are, how we live and why we work.

Here, for those of you attending my presentation at the CDC Conference organized by BCCDA yesterday (March 27) and today (March 28), and for my usual readers, I post as promised my PPT and notes. You are free to connect with me for further exploration of these topics, having a tea together and talking about how to change the world, creating a social business together or just brainstorming ideas of what’s needed and what’s possible.

In the upcoming weeks and months, I will be sharing more details about my integrated vision of how to make this work for us and the clients we serve. A version of my posts will appear as articles at both the Canadian Immigrant Magazine (one of my “gigs”) and the Canadian-Filipino Magazine (again) in case you want a printed or more “polished” version.

I want to credit Diane Mulcahy, the author of “The Gig Economy” with whom I’m in contact via email, for her amazing and innovating book which served as a main source of inspiration for this presentation; I have taken the liberty of adding my own ideas (mostly coming from my permaculture systems thinking) to her “10 rules” of how to survive (and thrive) in this emerging economy. I also want to acknowledge Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, university professors and authors of “Designing your Life” as I took some of their ideas and spiced them up with my own knowledge and experience as a certified career councellor and life coach. You can find information about how to get their books and materials at the end of this post.

Finally, as a permaculturist and social justice activist myself, I will add some ideas that go beyond career counselling: I see the Gig Economy as both a result of our times (and a sign of deepening inequality, loss of values and the emergence of potential abuse and exploitation of those less privileged ) and as an extraordinary opportunity. If we leave it be, we will see more and more of the former (abuse and exploitation and the celebration of unhealthy, unethical and selfish as a “model” to follow)…but if we “design” the change and intervene in the right places, we may end up with a re-distribution of work, a re-evaluation of why we are here and what our priority are and a focus on holistic and global health and equality, ethics and co-operation instead…

Without more preambles, here is my presentation, enjoy!

“Look to this picture above for a minute…what do you see? What’s the first word or thought that comes to you?

Some will see this as a sunset: the day is over and darkness is approaching…others will see it as a sunrise: the sun is raising after a long dark night.

What about the tree and its branches? What season is that? Again, some will see this as the start of the fall: the tree branches look bare, as if all the leaves have fallen…others, will see that it may actually be spring, and the bare branches are now beginning to cover themselves with small buds…

I chose this picture to represent my views on the emerging gig economy because it can be seen as both: the start of a dark period for workers or the rebirth of independence and the opportunity to re-think career, work and even life design!

In the next hour and a half, we will explore the options and you will decide whether this is an end, a beginning or both and what is our role as career practitioners, program developers and managers, funders and social advocates.”

You can download the entire PPT with my notes here: Navigating the Gig Economy PPT with Notes by Silvia Di Blasio

The Books:

The Gig Economy: http://www.dianemulcahy.com/

Designing Your Life: (for book and materials you can download): http://designingyour.life/

Note: this presentation was recorded. If the video is good, I will be publishing it here too for those interested.

More than ever, we at the end of the last century were finding ourselves with big houses and broken homes, high incomes and low morale…we were excelling at making a living but too often failing at making a life. We celebrated our prosperity but yearned for purpose. We cherished our freedoms but longed for connection. In an age of plenty, we were feeling spiritual hunger.” ~ David Myers

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Welcome to the Age of Endarkenment

The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost.” ~ Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring (LOTR) by Tolkien

“[The] soul is calling us now into its favorite territory – darkness. The Enlightenment and its legacy are fading into the archives of human history. We have entered the Age of Endarkenment, a term introduced some years ago by the poet Robert Bly. Confronting collapse consciously is an intentional response, an agreement to make the descent into the darkness, not because of a masochistic preference for suffering, but in order to mine the gold that cannot be discovered elsewhere.” ~ Navigating the coming chaos: a handbook for inner transition by Carolyn Baker

One thing that comes out of myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation” ~ Joseph Campbell

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The world has changed, but it didn’t happen overnight. What happened overnight was the sudden awakening of mainstream, the feeling that things are not right and may get even weirder, if not really outrageous and dangerous. And even this awakening has not yet become fully acknowledged by most.

Until recently, most had faith that things would be more or less as usual, with some bumps on the road but nothing to worry too much about. Still many feel that way, even with the mountain of evidence to the contrary. “It doesn’t affect me yet, therefore it should be OK” is the underlying thought…most of those able to read this post don’t have issues with water, food or shelter and don’t have to worry about their freedom of speech, being unemployed and homeless or their cities being bombed.

For me, the awakening happened a few years ago, and since then I’ve been “preparing”: learning skills, stockpiling, auditing what I have, planning various scenarios, building resilience against all odds such as family passive aggressive behavior, health issues and age, lack of time or resources.

The real preparation, however, is that of inner transition: being strong and healthy at the soul level, and then at the body-level, then the community level and so on…

Anyone working in emergency preparedness knows it well: you can be lost in the middle of the wild; naked in the aftermath of a terrible earthquake or fire, injured after a fatal crash or being the victim of a terrible crime; any real survivor will tell you: what’s going to save you and help you from now on are not the emergency kits, the bunker, the tools or even the first aid kit. Running away is not an answer either, as whatever you are running from may travel with you and sooner or later may catch up. What will save you is being strong inside, and knowing what to do next…

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So in the aftermath of a terrible blow like the one we are living now and the many that will follow (environmentally, socially, financially and politically), here is the advice I would like to share:

  • Let it out: express, acknowledge and accept your emotions. Stay with them for a while if you need to, don’t push them away; don’t hide them. Meet with someone you trust and allow all your and their feelings to come to the surface no matter what they are. Give yourself enough time and ask the other to listen, then switch roles. Do not allow judgment or “fixing” to come on the way. Scream, swear, punch (not your friend!), cry. Make sure both are in a safe place and safe to each other. Hugs are acceptable, fixing words are not, just silence and acceptance…
  • Let it out through journaling: if you can’t find a friend or you need more than one session, journaling may also help: write it all down, draw, paint, anything that may help you to express what you feel: anger, fear, frustration, anxiety, loss and even excitement, anticipation, curiosity, inspiration, no emotion is “right” or “wrong” and much less in these times…
  • Embrace your soul in all its shades: the soul is not spirit, the soul is messy and intuitive and sensuous as Mother Earth
  • Take care of your body: eat healthy and ethically, exercise, breathe, meditate, relax: whatever works for you, but the closer you are to Nature and the more you walk and expose yourself to the elements and other beings the better you’ll be
  • Avoid eating, drinking, wearing or working with things that carry energy that represents violence, abuse, caging, oppression or suffering of any time
  • Drinks lots of liquids, mostly water and herbal teas, preferably from your own garden or that of a friend
  • Avoid exposure to too many electronics and plastics
  • Rest enough through the day and night
  • Make time to be, create and surround yourself with beauty and wonder from music, art, poetry, etc.
  • Make time to be around those you love
  • Use compassion and non-violent communication to respond to others, understand in your heart that even when they themselves may not acknowledge or know it, they have also been impacted
  • Reach to those who may be unprotected or suffering without the means or skills to navigate these times
  • Share your skills: whatever you know, skills are more valuable (and will be increasingly more valuable soon) than any other form of wealth
  • If you need to invest, invest in skills acquiring and sharing
  • If you have some level of privilege (we all have some, even if it’s only because you are able to read this now), use it to support and protect those who may not have it
  • If you think you need professional support, feel free to reach out to people in your community who may have the skills and background to understand what we are all going through. You can also contact me for a private session through “Ethical Pathways”.

Through these difficult times we will need each other more than ever. But more than each other, we will need to be strong and safe inside and allow our souls (more than our minds) to wander free. This is only achieved when we re-discover, acknowledge and accept what we are, what’s sacred to us and where our place in this world is.

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We may discover that these dark times are a blessing, like the dark night of the soul is when you allow yourself to see what’s hidden behind the shadows: dark gold.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond
.”

~ Jellaludin Rumi

The Myth of Purity, Social & Environmental Justice

One must be a sea, to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

When humanity’s stories don’t adulterate it, the life of our Planet organizes itself to be an attractive optimum of self-correcting diversity, cooperation and peace. It does not produce garbage. Everything is in balance and belongs because all things are attracted to transform and recycle into more attractive relationships for the good of the whole of the planet’s life.
Earth’s organic paradise is ethical and moral. It seldom exhibits our stories and the excessiveness, disorders, issues, assaults, illness, unfairness, toxic waste, corruption, crime and wars that our stories create. As part of the life of Earth, death as we know it is simply another form of Earth’s life, a form without stories.” Michael Cohen, applied eco-psychology
~ Michael Cohen, from applied Eco-psychology

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A small wood cabin in Sechelt: a quiet spot by the sea

I have read and heard many stories of people becoming “pure”: living without money or very simple lives, getting rid of plastic and anything “toxic” (sometimes this includes “toxic” people, relationships and institutions) and not allowing anything “artificial” coming to their lives. Those who can, get out of cities and live “the good life” and when possible, off the grid.

I have to confess I want to live that way too: that is the reason I am a master organic gardener and as such, I try my best to abide by organic rules of gardening; for the same reason I chose not to drive and not to own a car, haven’t get on a plane for 12 years (since I immigrated to Canada); became vegan this year; use cloth napkins and clothe pads; compost all my kitchen scraps and paper/cardboard; make most of my personal and household care products; make all food from scratch and as much as possible from my gardens and/or gleaning from community fruit trees and perennials; sun-dry most of my clothes and many other behavioural changes implemented in the past few years at home.

However, my heart is strong about social & environmental justice, engaged Buddhism (which predicates compassion for what it is and allowance for what it may become/impermanence) and true Permaculture Ethics.

I believe in design, but all good (and ethical) design not only focus on functions but also on critical thinking: it asks for understanding of how systems work and working with them instead of against them; it asks for working with what we have and where we are instead of dreaming about an unreachable purity that may drive people and other beings away and make us look like elitists and privileged ones trying to preach “the truth” and convince others about how they “should” live…

This is why I don’t really believe in purity.

Let me explain: whether we allowed, supported or were accidentally and unwillingly born into it, we live in a destructive and polluting society: water, land, air, soil, all ecosystems at all levels are already polluted, corrupted and destabilized by our actions and inactions. No matter how far you run, there is no “away” as there is no “away” for all that plastic you “got rid of” at your home. There is no “away” from pollutants and the horrendous damage already caused and still happening. There is no away from those who have not yet awaken and are trapped in a cycle of harm, oppression, disempowerment or denial.

There is only one ethical response and that is of love and compassion.

Anything less than that is the exercise of privilege, therefore it leads to discrimination through elitism and judgment, it is also a selfish and self-centered way to see and act in the world that leads to separation and detachment from what we are.

I cannot deny this is an ongoing struggle for me and many activists out there: how much do we invest ourselves into the mess, the pain, the suffering of the world; how much of transition can we allow in our lives without becoming overwhelmed and burnt out? When is it healthier and even a matter of spiritual or psychical survival to detach ourselves from those who seem to be dragging us down and pollute our minds, hearts and bodies in such a way that our effectiveness stops to count?

Through these past weeks, I have been inundated with signs and helps coming to me from all walks of life: it is like the Universe opened its doors and keeps offering me infinite sacred gifts in the form of inspiring and supporting people coming into my life or renewing their vows of friendship to me; the gifts have also come as opportunities of doing what I love and believe necessary for the healing of the world and the transition down to a real relationship with it all; opportunities to learn and share and do in incredibly creative and previously unseen ways.

But it has been also clear to me that none of these opportunities just “showed up” out of the blue. The magic happened because I decided to knock on those doors and approach people and places.

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Entrance to a friend’s vegetable garden…

Two Rumi quotes seem appropriate for what I want to express:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” ~ Rumi

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along
.”
~ Rumi

Purity will only be achieved when we stop building barriers of separation between “us” and “them” and start loving others and accepting their imperfections: meeting people and ecosystems, systems of any type where and when and how they are. It is when we embrace this and the fact that we are not “better” nor have “the truth” that we will finally achieve social and environmental justice.

Yes, we have to seek our “tribe” and places and practices to heal and recharge: I do that when I travel to my beloved places such as Roberts Creek (for the Advanced Permaculture Diploma and gatherings), or Shawnigan Lake (to share with the people at OUR Ecovillage)…those are the places where we meet our “lovers”: the people who have been with us all along and share our values and deep wishes for the world. But we also need to stay behind with those who have not yet awaken, those who may still be on denial and disconnection, because in most cases this is not a state of their choice but a state imposed on them by the many limiting factors and restrictions such as poverty, hunger, lack of opportunities, and even deep cultural indoctrination.

That is why my permaculture may never be an “elitist” permaculture for those who can afford “going pure”: it is a grassroots, struggling and transitional permaculture, as leaving people behind and making them feel inappropriate or unable is not “People Care” nor “Future Care” and does not lead to ethical designs nor “permanent cultures”.

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I could live, teach, share and work here all my life!

If you want to work with communities and people, there are a few “rules” I can share with you that have worked for me:

  • Listen to Gaia and its inhabitants and listen to the Universe: all of us (awake or not, connected or not “pure” or not) are 14 billions old. If you think I’m being naïve or New Age-y, think again: every atom in your body and thought or feeling in your soul has belonged to star dust, millions of rocks and lava and trees and worms and insects and “waste” and all the beauty and “ugliness” of this world. If you stop and listen you’ll feel the connections and ancient wisdom and you’ll know what to do.
  • Before any “doing”, observe and interact: you’ll be surprised how much the people, communities and ecosystems you want to help, coach, teach or advice already have answers and solutions for their own particular challenges and struggles. You are here to support and witness their awakening, not to give lessons.
  • Stop the wetiko voice in your head and start behaving more like a child: remember the times when you were still curious and open, when an earth-worm would keep your attention for hours and you were not afraid or disgusted by touching it; remember the time when you thought everything was possible and that the good ones always win.
  • Find a place you can call home. Go to that place as many times as you need to, even if not physically possible. Stay there and ask for help. I ask strength from the trees and they sent me a walking Tree who renewed my commitment to what is sacred (There are no enough times in this world for me to thank you, Tree K.)
  • When you feel hurt, lost, isolated and overwhelmed, remember the billions of aliens out there: “The tears stopped soon enough. I realized we are not so outnumbered. We are not outnumbered at all. I looked closely, and saw one blade of wild grass, and another. I saw the sun reflecting bright off the needles of pine trees, and I heard the hum of flies. I saw ants walking single file file through the dust, and a spider crawling toward the corner of the ceiling. I knew in that moment, as I’ve known ever since, that it is no longer possible to be lonely, that every creature on earth is pulling in the direction of life – every grasshopper, every struggling salmon, every unhatched chick, every cell of every blue whale – and it is only our own fear that sets us apart” ~ Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words, The Safety of the Metaphor (p.75)

Namaste, I salute the sacred in you…

The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien, there was no stain.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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