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On A Day Like Today

As many of you know, London is a regular destination for many of the WorldChanging contributors -- and (currently) home to one, as well. Alex is set to visit there shortly, I was just there a couple of months ago, and it's no secret that I look forward to a more permanent move there at some point. It's a city many of us love, for its history, its diversity, its rhythms and life. It's not perfect by any means, but it's a pretty damn good model of what a bright green megacity can be like.

It's hard, therefore, not to spend hours reading through the personal accounts of survival, not to dig through the growing number of personal photos posted to the web by people who managed to make their way through smoke-filled tunnels. But I won't -- I have a job to do.

On a day like today, it's especially hard to write about solutions, but on a day like today, it's all the more important to do so.

It's important to remind ourselves that we have in our hands the tools for our own transformation, and we can make the world a better place through our own actions. There are some who wish to change the world through fear and violence, but there are far, far more of us who want to change the world through knowledge, cooperation, democracy and a long-view wisdom about both our responsibilities and our opportunities. The future is on our side.

The solutions we write about here, no matter how seemingly trivial or transient, are part of a greater constellation of possibility. The latest green design, networked gadget or open-source model won't, in and of itself, solve the problems the world faces. But no one item or idea will do so -- only the ongoing, combined efforts and inspiration of the growing community of people who know that another world isn't just possible, it's here, and it's in our hands.


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Heather's oldest nephew is a self-professed anglophile. He recently graduated from high school and will be starting college in the fall. He was the first person I thought of after reading Jamais Cascio's excellent "On A Day Like Today" post [Read More]

Comments (23)

Beautiful words, Jamais. Nicely put.

Yes, exactly.

Ted Wolf:

Thank you for this post, and for sending us back to that well of humanity from which all our enduring solutions must come. Yes, we all have a job to do, and now is the time.


As usual this site is a pool of sanity in a raging sea of mass pychosis... thanks!


It was just a matter of time for something like that to happen. That really sucks, as it will only escalate things. Damnit.

But I hope somehow this all eventually sinks in and people start to question how we're doing things. I've debated a bit here with people about mass transit, desnity, etc, as part of the overarching issue of sustainability.

One thing that we keep overlooking is that though there are efficiencies with putting a lot of bodies into a single vehicle to move them around, the drawback is that you're congregating a lot of people in a small space, and worse, confining them in tunnels and in other ways.

We speak about density as if it's a good thing, but unless I'm mistaken, the World Trade Center was the densest office complex in the US, in terms of the number of people it serviced relative to its footprint on the ground. And those dense office structures were taken down with one of our densest forms of mass transportation we use in the US - the airplane.

Network thinking is creating revolutionary changes. But I don't think people have fully grasped what that may imply in terms of the buildings and how we get around and access employment, goods, services, and experiences.

We're still thinking in terms of scale and concentration efficiency - an industrial era mindset. My hope is that we break through some of our assumptions about things (like mass transit) and see the flaws inherent in their design, no matter how "efficient" or "clean" they can be made. There's a much bigger picture involved.


God save the Queen.

Patrick Hall:

Thanks for that, Jamais.


I used to have a boyfirend- an engineer actually who used to talk to me about makig descisions based on 'high turbulance' moments like this. Though it's seeming fairly common now to have a terrorist attack in a mass transit scene these days -it is still relatively rare - but it gets all the attention - kind of like the shark attacks of late.

I don't think it is in anyway an valid point against what we know about energy, livability and effciency. A well bit city is a lovely thing indeed...

The point for me is many many more people died today of preventable disease, or suto accidents, of fast food consumption than in a terrorist attack -- yet we rate the DANGER level of this shocking day off the hook and demand immediate solutions -- far reaching and restrictive solutions -- afraid animals we will seemingly bow to any limitation on our rights and liberties...

but strangely we do not have the same reaction to:

gun deaths
traffic deaths
deaths due to malnutrician
etc etc etc.

Ignore the prutubation -- fight the larger trends. THat is where your efforts will be most effective at cutting out neadles death andsuffering.. it's less sexy to be sure than fantasies of fighting the dark lords of the shadows.... but it may turn out to be more helpful in the end.

My thoughts are will ALL the dead that died today.


my apologies for the lack of spell check - just ask if I've been too unclear.

ignore the PERturbations

Good points, eam. Today, in the United States, 117 people will die in or by automobiles, and 8,011 will be injured by same. And this will happen tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Cars and mass transit (including airplanes), as well the economic rationales for density, all spring from the same mindset. And even if the numbers of dead and injured is "low" by comparison to something like heart disease, cancer, and auto deaths and injuries, it still doesn't negate the vulnerabilities inherent in design which works on economy of scale principles. And the fear and helplessness engendered by attacks on mass transit drive people right back in to cars, so in a way, it ends up exacerbating that problem as well, right?

Think about a more powerful explosion at Shinjuku station at 8:30 am on a workday. Or Grand Central Station. Or in a domed stadium.

In every case, you're concentrating people in a confined space for the sake of "efficiency". Same goes for large power plants, refineries, etc. It also applies to high traffic volume bridges and other bottleneck areas.

Thakyou Jamais. Have watched the news all day - there is a fascination about this kind of event that sometimes borders on the unhealthy. Until we can build a world where NO-ONE dies in random, violent circumstances we will always have a world where ANYONE can die in such circumstances. The interconnectedness which this site is a shining example of, necessitates equality at a fundamental human level.

Well put, Jamais.
I believe that an item in Worldchanging, if followed through, will do more to eradicate terrorism than the whole weight of the 'war on terror' hoopla.
It just won't be as obvious about it.

Jamais, thank you.

We're not afraid.

I know Russell Square myself and contacted Worldchanger Mike Metelits to make sure that he was OK.

A profane and honest letter from London is available at ">">http://www.lnreview.co.uk/news/005167.php"> http://www.lnreview.co.uk/news/005167.php.

Watching "Nightline" just now, a former Irish terrorist had a lot of enlightening things to say. He talked about how he turned away from terrorism by the weight of the futility when things did not change as a result of years and years and years of bombings and other violent actions. He also said that instead of getting angry we should get strategic. Finally, the thing that leads back to these pages, he said that a response to terrorism that seriously addressed poverty around the world would be a real strike against the roots of terrorism. Not because those who make or place the bombs are poor but because they use the fact of poverty as an excuse for those bombs, because they use our acceptance of world poverty as a recruiting tool.

I see two things as Worldchanging tools (axes) against the roots of terrorism: a solar powered reading light that is as affordable and ubiquitous as a disposal lighter and a free literacy program for as many languages as possible available in as many media as possible, from word of mouth to books to radio to TV to cell phones to computers.

For all of London and the other victims of this long war, as little pain as possible.


Is the greatest cause of terrorism not injustice?

Isn't the best way to pre-empt terrorism ensuring that people who are wronged get justice?


Nix the 'disposable' aspect of that light and Im all for it ;)

The flipside of that letter - is the experience of people on the other side of US foreign policy - meaning the Londoner says "What you think you can scare us or change us by bombing us?" -- Doesn't he think the madrassa raised fundamentalist - thinks exactly the same thing as bombs rain down on Iraq?

Doesn't violence have the same effect on a -man- wherever he is - and that is to make him angry and defensive and willing to kill to protect his own?

Anyway - I'm from NYC - seeing the news come in WRECKED me - I worked accross from the WTC - and I just started shaking and crying.

We traumatize each other over and over in hopes of ending the trauma... it is insane.

The world affairs have left us in such deep agony. And yet we know no amount of security measure or bomb shield can completely protect us from harm. As we focus on protecting high profile buildings and transportation hubs, terrorists has no trouble finding other easy targets. As the Beslan school siege has told us there is really no limit to devilishness.

Maybe it is a cliché, but I really believe the best for us to do is better mutual understanding, communicate, listen and consensus building. We will all be stronger when we are better connected. And when tragedy does strike, be it an hostile assault or a natural disaster, it will be up to us to support each other.

Don't give up.



It must be a real traumatizing event to experience what happened in London this week. The London people somehow knew it would come one day, I guess, but it is a shock nevertheless.

I liked the PM's reaction and action, the British way of dealing with the tasks in such a disciplined manner - panic does not do good for anyone involved.

I thank qmoke for bringing up the subject of the cause of terrorism here as well. The parallel conference of the G8 going on in Scotland showed the willingness of the leaders to get a good result on the fight against poverty. Surely, there was a lot of demonstrating power and not bowing to any other force in it as well. But it is a first step. The big cooperations operating worldwide seek to exploit the differences in the world's wealth more today than ever before. However, with work and some steady earnings in the pocket the people will not be attracted to terrorism so easily.

Next to the economical approach the Western politicians, it will be the question of this millenium if there are to be more wars around the world's resources as oil or if mankind will actually find a way to get around it while maintaining its standard of living. The Bushes and Blairs of this world will not send their people back into huds, they would rather control what is left. The means to achieve this goal need to be silent and intelligent. They oftentimes have others do the dirty work for them. This is also disgusting in my point of view.

Take good care of yourselves, whereever you might be at.


This will have little effect on the brits. The Germans bombed them for months and all they did was sit in the tube and sing songs. This won't even phase them. They are a tough, tough people.

I often get in a discussion with WWII buffs about certain hypothetical discussions. I say the Brits really didn't even need the help of The U.S. to defeat hitler. It may have taken them longer. It may have cost more British lives but the fact is they already turned the corner on the German's before America joined the war. Britain and the Soviet Union would have done the job by themselves,

The terrorists bombing the traffic system won't cause the Brits to do anything but a yawn.


Just to be clear, Hitler lost the war when the Russians defeated him in Stalingrad.

The solar reading light I propose is not disposable but refurbishable and repairable like the "disposable" plastic lighters I saw people repairing and refurbishing in the doorways of Guangzhou, China back in 1988.

I want a solar technology on that kind of hands-on level, world-wide.

The closest I've been able to come so far (but things are changing every day) is my pair of backpack lights: a white LED with a detachable small solar panel (http://www.newlite.com/, available from http://www.kansaswindpower.net) and a red LED blinker with built-in solar panel (http://www.solar.org.nz/ledwarninglight.htm). They are right next to my home-made "Solar is Civil Defense" button.

The only problem is both devices have hard-wired internal batteries. They can't do battery switching. Battery switching would allow me to have on hand, basically permanently, low voltage DC power.

Beside my bed, I have the flashlight, radio, and extra set of batteries you're supposed to have in case of emergency. In my case, it is all in one piece - a solar/dynamo flashlight/radio that not only charges an internal hard-wired battery but also rechargeable AA batteries in the battery bay. All I had to do was have some simple modifications made, connecting the battery bay to the solar and dynamo hand crank charging systems and providing a DC outlet so I can shine the flashlight or play the radio while powering another device.

These things are technically available right now. The white LED cost about $30, the red LED cost $15, the solar/dynamo flashlight/radio cost $30 with another $35 for the initial adjustments.

I believe affordable, world-wide low voltage DC power is feasible with a few simple design changes right now. It would make a great deal of difference if we started to implement such ideas today, on an open source, people to people level, wresting policy from the politicians and getting real, useful levels of renewable power to the people who need it.

I'd rather "carpet bomb" Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest of the "developing" world with these kinds of things. I think it would make a difference.

Angie Mitchell:

I truly admire the courage and determination the people of London have shown in the wake of the London attack. Jamias, your words are so true.
I also admire the diligent work of Scotland Yard for quickly uncovering the details behind this unfortunate event. Together, you are a fine example for people of the United States. My heart goes out to those who were personally affected by this tragedy.

daci Armstrong:

What's a troll? I am 66, a resident of Oakland California and I definitely am NOT AFRAID, though I should be. The Port here is I feel, not being scanned as closely as it should be for 'bad stuff' and I understand t hat you can oly do what you can do with what you've got. In short, I've had a very good life and I have a wonderful family warts and all. I'm not afraid to advance to the next level and so I'll live my life as I've always lived it. Where I work t here are many people from the Muslim world and I try to let them know WE ARE ALL ONE. After the tsumani in December lots was flying aroundd about the 'meaning of it all'. To me it means the world is getting smaller, day by day. We are all in each other's care and I so believe that if we continue to project a mind set of love and benevolence than however we go, old age, a bomb blast, stepping into an open manhole we will be in a far better place than if we go cursing whoever or whatever sent us out of this life here.
Love and Peace Forever,


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