Charlene Spretnak, All Together Now



Part II: Charlene Spretnak
All Together Now

Charlene Spretnak is the author of several books that proposed a “map of the terrain” and an interpretation of various emergent social movements and intellectual orientations. She has helped to create an eco-social frame of reference and vision, focusing particularly on modernity, its discontents, and the corrective efforts that are arising.

In 1984 she was the principle coauthor of Green Politics: The Global Promiseand co-founded the Green Party movement in the United States. She is also the author of The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics (1986); States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age (1991); and The Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature, and Place in a Hypermodern World (1997). In addition, she edited an anthology, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality (1982), and contributed early works to the field of ecofeminism.

In 2011 her book Relational Reality: New Discoveries of Interrelatedness That Are Transforming the Modern World presented numerous recent discoveries indicating that physical reality, including human beings, is far more dynamically interrelated than even relational thinkers had surmised. As examples of the Relational Shift moving through modern societies, she focused on four areas: education and parenting, health and healthcare, community design and architecture, and the economy.

In 2006 Charlene Spretnak was named by the British government’s Environment Department as one of the “100 Eco-Heroes of All Time.” For further information on her work, see

Charlene can be heard on Progressive Radio Network every Thursdays at 3pm (ET)/ Noon (PT).


Hey, I am Caryn Hartglass, you are listening to It’s All About Food. Happy January 8, 2013. Once again I want to tell you also on my website Responsible Eating and Living. I’ve recently put together my best real reads for 2012; some of the books that I’ve read and the authors that I’ve interviewed. I have posted my 5 favorites and not all of them were published in 2012, they just happen to be books that I have read in 2012, so they are my best reads. I recommend going to that link because some of those books were really outstanding. In fact one of my favorites of the favorites was Peter Seidel’s Invisible Walls, While We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet and Ourselves. I really learned a lot and it was pretty inspiring. Okay, now I am going to bring on another Progressive Radio Network host, Charlene Spretnak is going to join me in this half. She is the author of several books. A propose a map of the terrain and an interpretation of various emergent social movements and intellectual orientation. She has helped to create an echo social frame of reference and vision, focusing particularly on modernity, its discontents and the corrective efforts that are arising. So much on her, she has written so many wonderful books. Her most recent one is Relational Reality, new discoveries of inter relatedness that are transforming the modern world. We are going to talk a little bit about that now.

Caryn Hartglass: Charlene, Welcome to It’s All About Food.

Charlene Spretnak: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: I was looking at the Relational Reality book and all the different topics that you covered and I don’t know how you fit it all into one book. Each one of those chapters is like books, several books.

Charlene Spretnak: That is true because so much is happening right now about this. I put it in the context that in the last quarter of the previous century there were a lot of best sellers about discoveries in certain areas of science. First is was physics and then chaos theory and  then complexity studies and each of these books said well now that these discoveries have shown that the world is not mechanistic its really dynamically interrelated this is going to ripple out and change all our institutions and our systems of thinking. We can look around and see that didn’t happen.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Charlene Spretnak: I think it’s because those discoveries were too abstract for most people to relate to or pay much attention to. I started thinking actually about 10 years ago; maybe I am never going to see this shift into the relational understanding of the way the world works in my lifetime, but then I started noticing small articles in the newspapers starting around 2004. There is a whole wave of new discoveries which we are still in the thick of. A lot of them are about physiology. They are also in other areas. They are very concrete, very accessible. They are changing, really changing all the institutions.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s good news.

Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, so that is why there is so much in this book and after this book went to press  in 2011 of course the story just kept breaking so that is my radio program all together now, actually tracking this relational shift.  I have guests on from different areas where it’s happening, there was an article in the New Yorker October 22, the whole microbiology, the whole field of microbiology is moving to the relational model and off the mechanistic model. They always said with the mechanistic lens, that if you have a virus or bad bacteria in you that makes you sick. Now they have found out that is not at all how it works.

Caryn Hartglass: I was fascinated by that when I read it.

Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, isn’t it amazing?

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Charlene Spretnak: And they say if we compare a well group of people and a sick group of people say with Cohn’s disease or diabetes or obesity or asthma; it’s not that the sick group is lacking, let me put it the other way: it’s not that the well group is lacking a bad bacteria, both groups may have a bad bacteria in their system, but the well group has the good bacteria that suppresses, it works in relationship and suppresses any damage the bad bacteria can do. So now they say, they literally say we see now it’s not like a war. Medicine should not be viewed as a war against pathogens. It should be like ecology tending a forest or tending to fields. All we need to do is design these probiotics with the right good bacteria that the person is missing instead of going in there and carpet bombing the whole system with these broad spectrum antibiotics. That’s how extensive the shift is. It’s really happening everywhere.

Caryn Hartglass:  I like the concept of connecting the dots. Everything is related and also the fact that things that we learn on a macroscopic scale are so similar to what is going on a microscopic scale. War on any level is not a good thing; war against our body, war against individuals, war against countries. We need cooperation, we need to work together.

Charlene Spretnak: And also the fact that medicine trained all the young doctors to just sneer at nutrition if anybody asks them, oh should I be eating something because of this illness that I have. They would glare at you like, stupid peasant what are you talking about. Now, just a few that I mentioned in the chapter on health and health care and relational reality, they are finally really acknowledging that food has only preventative powers, but curative effects as well. So with all of these different diseases now, they do say food is going to help you if you follow these certain diets. For instance that ketogentic diet it’s a four to one or three to one ratio of fat to protein and carbohydrates. That has been found to control seizures in patients with epilepsy that is resistant to medication. And anti-inflammation diets can control symptoms in a whole range of chronic diseases in midlife and old age. The low glycemic diet is now used to treat macular degeneration. The low fat weight loss has been found to reduce the chance the people with pre-diabetic syndrome that will go ahead and develop type 2 diabetes. Mood disorders, especially involving sugar cravings, they respond to dietary changes. So this is a big shift in mainstream medicine to look at food that way.

Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned you don’t know if you are going to see these changes in your lifetime.

Charlene Spretnak: Now I do.

Caryn Hartglass: We see changes, but I am often frustrated at how long it’s taking.

Charlene Spretnak: That’s right.

Caryn Hartglass: Because there is so much information out there and even with the internet it’s really hard to get it so people are convinced that it’s creditable. It’s going to take a long time. So we can go back in history and look at things that happened 100, 200 years ago and say oh, okay those thing happen in that didn’t take too long, but while we are living it, it seems like an eternity.

Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, well that is one of the things I wonder about in the book too because when we on to the mechanistic model, after the scientific revolution, which was in place by the end of the 17th century and throughout the 18th century was called the new mechanical philosophy based on the new science and it changed all the institutions the way schools were designed even garden design in France and the way the economy was theorized, everything like a machine. So I started thinking if it took a hundred years then shouldn’t it go faster now because of all our high speed communications? We are past the 100 year mark of Einstein’s first two papers that said the world really is not like what we think. It is not mechanistic clockwork. So it is going longer.  Because of these new discoveries it’s really getting attention and as I say it’s not only around the edges this time, its smack dab in the middle of places like microbiology.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you sound very upbeat and positive and I like to keep a very positive and upbeat feeling myself because we have a choice in life. We can be miserable or we can be happy and it’s a choice, it’s a perspective and it’s a lot better to feel good than to feel bad. Putting that aside, do you feel optimistic because with the economy the way it is and the choices that are being made and our government. It just seems that we keep making one mistake after the next. So many things for the environment let’s say could have happened around Jimmy Carter’s range that we didn’t choose to do and we wouldn’t be here today with all these problems, but we didn’t make the right choices.

Charlene Spretnak: No we didn’t and it sounds like you are much younger than I am, but people my age are just grinding our teeth because even when a good thing happen , we tried 40 years ago to get that to happen. So I totally get that frustration and it is very maddening with what’s going on in Washington because we can’t get any of the votes for the public good as long as every vote is corrupt and the direction of needing the police the big donors for campaign contributions. Without campaign finance reform every vote is corrupt and we never get the votes for the public good.

Caryn Hartglass: Right

Charlene Spretnak: Even saving the future generations from this horrible extreme weather that is picking up speed more and more every year; can’t even get those kind votes, like a carbon tax. Yeah, it’s very exasperating what’s going on in Washington.

Caryn Hartglass: Now this concept that you have, I haven’t read any of your writing and I am definitely am going to dive in very soon because this all looks phenomenal. This whole relational concept, just an example, I forget when it was, but we had a big movement to eliminate acid rain and to seal the ozone layer so we didn’t have a hole and there was quite a focused effort in government and technology to make improvements there. I want to believe we can do the same thing relatively quickly if we all focused and got in line together.

Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, well I look back at that and it was really a matter of those particles that were going up from aerosol cans and heating, cooling systems I mean. So I guess those were kind of small, although everyone had them in their houses they were big by number, but not a huge part of the manufacturing sector and so they were able to be muscled and say change the way you, the cooling fluid you are using and replace pumps to replace all the aerosols on all the household stuff. There is just so much bigger players right now meaning the whole oil and natural gas industry. I think it’s just appalling that they are actually putting us on an export model now to wreck the country. So not only are we self-sufficient, but beyond that these people could just trash everything so they could make money exporting oil and natural gas with the fracking.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s just too big. The problems are too big.

Charlene Spretnak: Until we get so the parties aren’t desperate for those big campaign contributions nothing, I think, is going to move; although, we have seen that when people really turn out at the poles that gets their attention. Money couldn’t buy the votes they thought it could last time because people, working people, people who were really going to be affected, just woke up and turned out at the poles. We always have that if we can organize well enough.

Caryn Hartglass: What do you recommend people do on an individual level because for me that’s where I know we have control. We can do things personally ourselves. We don’t need laws to change in order to do things in our own lives to make this planet a better place.

Charlene Spretnak: Well, we can and that’s important. It’s hand in hand with the structural changes. The lifestyle changes are very important. For one thing you can connect your personal changes, choices that you’re making without effects your community, and your region and the country. I just want to say, I wanted to fit this in somewhere.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, Now is the time.

Charlene Spretnak: Food. The title of your show I think is so great because more and more I come around to that It’s all about food. I was telling someone about the community based economics model that has always been the green parties economic platform and building up trade in a town, a city, a region, trading with the states around you; not that there is anything evil in long distance trade, but you’re really vulnerable if you’re basing everything upon conditions in some distant place and it’s not ecological to be shipping everything around the world, so you’re much more secure with keeping money circulating in your region. We talked about this, I would give talks to both middle class audiences and activist groups and inner city groups and everybody would say, well it sounds really interesting, but where is this working Charlene? The best I could do was talk about certain projects, places like Eureka, California had a number of community based economy projects going on successfully, but not a whole town really given it their all. So it didn’t really get much traction until the farmer’s market movement. It just really took off and got spread all across the country in all kinds of neighborhoods, city , suburban and country; then through the food markets, through the local farmer’s market, people started getting what it means to support local businesses and that if you buy from a local person they’re going to be putting the money into the community. They hire local accountants, local fine painters, local truck drivers, instead of sending it out to distant corporate headquarters.

Caryn Hartglass: It is all about food.

Charlene Spretnak: Some farmer’s markets have people who come and sell things that they have made that aren’t food. They are almost like market days, old European market days. So really the whole idea, the reason people kind of get community based economics now, came out of the food market.

Caryn Hartglass: Right

Charlene Spretnak: We didn’t get that. We couldn’t figure out that food was the catalyst.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. I appreciate you telling me that because I personally do believe it’s all about food and that’s why I talk about it all the time, but I’m looking at the chapters and the outline for your Relational Reality book and I’m thinking I could probably link every one of these items listed here with food, because I think everything is related to food. At least through my rose colored glasses. Yeah, the farmer’s market is really an amazing thing and it’s a great place to start. It’s the community.

Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, and once you get the idea if we had a greenbelt for farms around the town we wouldn’t be vulnerable to what happens on the industrial food grid far away. I think it’s really an idea that people are not associating with left or right or anything, just common sense.

Caryn Hartglass: Common sense, gosh, what a concept. It requires thinking which I think is challenging for a lot of people.

Charlene Spretnak: Yeah. A big step is, as you know, getting the local institutions to buy from the local farms. The public school cafeterias, the county court house cafeteria, any kind of tax payer funded operation that buys food should be buying at least a certain percentage that could increase a bit every year, from the local sources.

Caryn Hartglass: There is so much going on in the world and I appreciate that we are now a global economy, we are connected with the entire world and there is so many things going on everywhere and many of us in the United States are more privileged in terms of the stuff that we have and the things we have access to than most other parts of the world, but that said I really believe in getting involved in our own communities and strengthening them as much as possible.

Charlene Spretnak: Yeah, I think it’s such a, I won’t say desperate, it’s a very serious time. People need to work, as you were mentioning, individual choices, how’s this going to effect the community. They also need to put their time or effort or at least send the check in to organizations like who are really trying to organize public opinion for the global climate disruption. We really need to show up and be present on all levels right now.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. It’s a hard time because a lot of people don’t have that extra cash to give away, but if you don’t have extra cash maybe you can find a way to volunteer.

Charlene Spretnak: Well that’s what 350 says. Bill Mckibben did a tape for fundraising and he said even more than money, we need money, even more than money we need you to turn out. They are having a big demonstration I think in front of the white house in mid-February, President’s day Monday. They want that also replicated in all the cities across the country. There are lots of ways people can get involved and be counted, that’s the thing. The opposition, coal and oil needs to not be able to think oh, we’ve got them all divided and they are apathetic and it’s not a problem anymore. They can’t really fight when the numbers turn out.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, Is that really the best way to make a difference because I know that I have participated in some rallies and there were thousands or hundreds of thousands and then nothing happened and it was frustrating and it keeps you from wanting to go out again. Letter writing, I know, when you send out an actual letter on a piece of paper with a stamp on it seems to hold a lot of weight. What do you think the most effective form is?

Charlene Spretnak: They have a formula and they multiply it. Like if they say one constituent wrote a letter that really means 22 hold the same opinion in the district. They have formulas for how to interpret it. So it does definitely count more than your one letter. I definitely have felt that and I come back to what Gandhi said when someone asked him in the middle of the independence struggle which lasted decades in India when they were trying to get the British raj out of India and someone said to him, what good could it do that I, one person, could do anything in this giant campaign and Gandhi said yes, you are absolutely right, nothing you could do as an individual makes the slightest bit of difference, but it is absolutely essential that you do it.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, every drop in the bucket fills the bucket.

Charlene Spretnak: You don’t know the effects and we don’t know where critical mass is. So it’s just a matter of throwing your weight on the side of the angles and there is just important work to be done to stop the destruction.

Caryn Hartglass: Charlene, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. You can hear more about Charlene and her work every Thursday at 3 pm here on the Progressive Radio Network or go to her website and read all of her books. Thank you, Charlene.

Charlene Spretnak: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: Have a great week. I am Caryn Hartglass and you have been listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me and have a delicious week.

Transcribed by Mary Schings, 3/5/2013

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