Friday, Nov. 16 - Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012
Prince Conference Center, Grand Rapids, Michigan



















News and Updates


Since most of the participants in the conference are familiar with conference experiences, and are also interested in continuing their "life work" while at the conference, a good deal of the conference time will be conducted in retreat style, with various discussions, opportunities for journaling and reflection, and lots of time to get to know and have interesting conversations with one another.

The general plan of the conference will proceed as follows:

1. First, we will envision the future; a realistic future, taking into account peak oil, climate change, economic and political factors, and everything we know; and envision the most desirable possible future we can imagine, that is as the same time rational and realistic; and not too far in the future to be difficult to visualize.

A way to think of this is: Imagine you were interested in going on a vacation, and taking a trip for that vacation. Where would you most want to go? Where could you go, given the various constraints of time, money, etc? And then, considering all the options, what is the destination you would choose? Would it be Disney World? or the Poconos? or a rain forest in Belize? or some other spot?

What we're hoping to accomplish here is to share with each other this positive vision, and over the days of the conference, to have these visions converge, to a certain extent, on one, complete, well fleshed out vision of the future. Of course, the vision would include different features for different locations. The vision for Bellaire is not going to be the same as the vision for Phoenix. So, we are visualizing the world of the future, in all of its details and complexity.

We will be doing much of this work on the Thursday of the conference, and we very much looking forward to this work

2. Second, determine where we are, regarding politics, economics, environment, energy, etc. In our trip analogy, that is basically figuring out where we are, and what our "resources" are. This is necessary in order to create a realistic vision for the destination. We are extremely fortunate that both Dr. Steve Keen and Nicole Foss will be at the conference on Friday, as we will do some various exercised and futures techniques, so that we can get a really, really good grasp of what is going on with the economy and politics, and where everything is headed, and why it is headed there.

As a prequel, we highly recommend this interview with Steve:

Nicole also has some brand new talks online:

Another great feature, either Thursday or Friday, will be Tim Bennett's "keynote", which will basically frame the history of humans in a way similar to Daniel Quinn's work, so that we can have the "biggest big picture" view of what is going on, including the story's and myths of this global culture. If you have not read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, that would be very worthwhile preparation for the conference, and it is a fairly quick read.

Here's a good, recent talk by Daniel, which summarizes his work:

Tim will be expanding on that and working to help to bring Daniel "into the room" throughout the conference. (Daniel himself is unable to travel at the moment, though perhaps he will be up to travel in the new year.)

Albert Bates might be interested either on Friday or Thursday of doing some "framing" as well, as he has seen much in his world travels, helping to design ecovillages and teaching permaculture design classes.

(I'm going to hold off on inserting the names of various speakers below, since there are quite a few, and we haven't considered where each would have the greatest impact.)

3. On Saturday, we'll re-visit and re-fine out vision of the positive future, and then we'll start working on figuring out how to achieve this vision. Now, this will be interesting, because we'll first try to lay out all the options, and then to look at each one, to see what would be most likely to achieve the vision. We suspect people will have very different thoughts on this, what would work well, and what would not, so we'll need to put all our heads together to think about the various routes. Yes, the freeway might be the best route, but if one of us knows that the freeway is out due to a flood, then we don't want to be headed in that direction, or perhaps we need to know how to overcome that obstacle.

At the end of this day, or perhaps the next morning, would be a good time to work on coming to consensus on which route we think is the one we collectively are interested in taking and traveling upon; or at least, the one most likely to get us to the destination. Another way to look at it is, if things push us aside from our route, which route will be the least likely to push us towards the least desirable destination.

4. On Sunday, the work continues as we think about, and journal about, what we each are interested in doing ourselves, and collectively, to move towards the destination. This is very individual. What Sally does, or what John does, could be very different. We can still have the same vision in mind; and be working on the same route, but we might "play very different roles".

For example, perhaps we are, this civilization and culture, all people on a huge ship headed to a destination that few, if any of us, want to arrive at. What will we do together, and separately, to maximize our odds of getting to our desired port.

In my mind, one part that is especially crucial is pointing out to everyone on board; or perhaps to those at the wheel, or able to take the wheel, that the destination in our vision is really the much more desirable and realistic destination, and to create a "burning desire" inside those people to achieve that destination. This is a key role of the positive vision of the future.

We think it can also be useful to point out a couple other things, such as a.) that the port that most everyone thinks we are headed towards does not exist and b.) that the one we realistically seem to be headed towards is very undesirable, especially given the positive vision we have to share.

5. Finally, on later Sunday and Monday, we'll be working to share skills, knowledge, stories, experiences, etc. so that we are each better able to do our work in playing a role to achieve this vision. This would also be a good time to decide what, if anything, we would like to do together.

That is the general overview.

During this time, we'll have various of the TED style talks, and we hope to be able to create a schedule, and encourage those who are speaking, to complement the conference's overall work. Most likely, we will have some breakout times as well, with two, three or even four concurrent sessions.

All that said, we invite you to think about this sketch and to share your thoughts and your vision on how to best accomplish this. We are, after all, a gathering of equals, and you probably know things that would help, in ways big and small, in making this conference very, very meaningful to you and the other participants.


We have about 60 to 65 participants committed at this point. We think it would be effective to have up into the 140 or 150 range, so if you know ways to invite people, who might be interested in this work of cultural sustainability, transition, culture change, etc.; then please do invite them, in person if possible. We've found that in person invites work very well, and having a phone conversation or email exchange can be a great way to help people see why they might be a "good fit" for this particular event.

Regarding expenses, for those unable to afford the registration amount, there are lots of opportunities for making up a volunteer / contribution plan. For food, there are choices in Bellaire that might be more affordable, and there is a free shuttle to and from Bellaire; it looks like about a 5-minute ride.  As for lodging, the double queens can sleep four.  While Local Future can not set up matches due to liability concerns, a person certainly could use the Facebook event page to leave a note that you might be interested in sharing:

This might also work well for travel. One person who is interested in sharing a ride from the Detroit airport up to Shanty Creek (and perhaps back as well). This might work well for the Facebook page.

Also, regarding participants, there will really be two sorts of participants: a.) those that are primarily interested in understanding what is going on, so that they can use that information themselves, for their family, or work, or whatever; and b.) those whose interest is primarily on trying to serve their community and/or help to guide "the ship" towards the favored port. Having both sets of participants at the conference is very useful, because they can learn from each other, and really it is a continuum, with people all along, from the "a" side to the "b" side.

Regarding some of the submitted proposals, the committee is still in the process of looking these over, and hope to respond to each detailed proposal within the week.


From conference director Aaron Wissner:

I visited Shanty Creek on Friday and met with the staff there.  I toured the facility, and it is very nice.  The conference rooms are a nice standard format, similar to other conference spaces we've used in past years; with a nice hallway just outside the conference rooms, suitable for display tables, etc, and Sierra Club will have a table there, along with perhaps some presenters that might want to do a poster session, or perhaps a book table, if we can find a volunteer to work with a local bookstore to set that up.

The hall has large windows on the West side, which looks down on a lake (Lake Bellaire) about 2 miles distant.

The conference center is on top of a ski hill, and one chair lift, and a few snow guns are visible on the hill.

The hotel rooms are for the most part on just above the conference level, so they would also have a nice view, if on the west side of the building. The east side looks out over a semi-treed area, and the parking area, which is not bad, but not quite as nice as the slope-side view.

The guest rooms are of two sorts; the double-queen, which is the $70 rate.  There are also king suites, which have a kitchen area, and a Jacuzzi tub.  I think those are about $15 extra, I can check on that, so email me if that interests you, or just call the front desk at the hotel and ask, just make sure to mention the Local Future conference.  The king rooms also have a fireplace for a fake log, but I don't know if those fireplaces will be ready by conference time for actual use.

The double-queen rooms are nice as well, fairly standard, but with a nice balcony, which the kings also have.

For amenities, free Wi-Fi throughout the facility (although I didn't test the signal strength), nice resort setting with easy walks along the various small streets, a well equipped work out area, featuring one room with stair steppers and treadmills; another with various weight machines (I don't recall if free weights were available), a good sized hot-tub, a sauna, and perhaps some other amenities.  On the other side of the hotel is an indoor heated pool, windows all around, nice view out on the West side again of Lake Bellaire.

For restaurant, that is located in the center of the hotel, and is again looking out over Lake Bellaire.

Here are some of the pictures I took from my visit:

More are available on the Shanty Creek web

For questions, email:  organizer [at]

The 2012 International Conference on
Sustainability, Transition & Culture Change:
Vision, Action, Leadership


Rewritten on 2012 October 20