Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In a Nutshell

Since what we're doing today obviously isn't working when it comes to improving our lot in life and protecting our life support system, and we have an urgent need to develop realistic responses to the rapidly converging Triumvirate of Collapse--Peak Oil, global warming, and corporatism--who or what might be standing in our way? More importantly, what could form a realistic foundation for doing things differently?

The main group standing in the way of getting back in balance with the natural systems principles that create and nurture life seem to be those 1) who believe that economic growth and financial incentives are necessary for progress and prosperity, not that we're naturally innovative, inquisitive and intelligent creatures, 2) who believe we are separate from and in control of the natural world, and not subject to the consequences of our actions, 3) who believe that money and material accumulation are acceptable substitutes for spiritual and emotional health and well-being, 4) who believe we can "greenly" resume business as usual and have an economic recovery that returns us to "normal" and don't want to admit that normal is what brought us to this point, 5) who believe that because compound interest can be mathematically shown to expand to infinity that this "proves" natural resources can do likewise, and thus banksters are to be venerated in their wisdom of usury and worship of mammonism (the deification of greed), 6) who believe this is a cruel and heartless dog-eat-dog world and not that the Universe is friendly to life and its evolution, and 7) basically, those who believe that force-based ranking hierarchies of domination and a pathological sense of an inferior other (anything outside the ego) are normal.

While this may make life-supportive change sound next to impossible, I think it is important to help people realize that it's all based on nothing more than a story that emerges from #7. We (Western industrial civilization) can remove the legitimacy we grant to that story, and we can develop a new story that better meets our needs, which necessarily includes a healthy living world that increases diversity by remaining within the carrying capacity limitations of bioregions, watersheds and ecosystems.

I believe we can help people remember and rekindle their fundamental connection to a sensuous living world in which the prime activity of living organisms is the tendency to self-organize into mutually supportive relationships. This is the basis for community. For those missing this important link in the way we think, this part of the process can be easily learned through Project NatureConnect.

Depending on one's perspective, there really aren't major, if any, sacrifices to make--except within a few economic sectors like banking and insurance--when it comes to powering down and evolving beyond growth. Well, we'll sacrifice our body burden, as well as the major contributor to stress, depression, angst, anxiety, despair...

And there's a sizeable chunk of people who would welcome the opportunity to find an alternative to the rat race; to shifting their focus from having more to being more. This is what social studies for the last half century have been saying is exactly what people really do want.

However, no one in their right mind would accept less and contribute more to a system that practices economic cannibalism and ecocide. That's why modern psychotherapy and pharmaceutical companies exist. As J. Krishnamurti said, it is not a sign of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society.

There's a rational economic and ecological alternative that addresses the "doing with less" and austerity concerns of dropping the myth of infinite growth and that embodies the intrinsic rights of the natural world. This alternative is known as relocalization--a practical and affordable process to create a sustainable future--that is the polar opposite of, thus the antidote to, corporate globalization. It combines reconnecting with nature, steady-state economies, permaculture, bioregionalism, natural healing, non-hierarchical communication and organization methods, eco-cities that are people friendly instead of car friendly, alternative energy, and related areas. The leaders and teachers we need today are those already involved in all of those areas, as well as those working in the hundreds of cities around the world focusing on powering-down and becoming sustainable through Transition Initiatives.

For practical examples, we could make less stuff if it were built to last and be easily repairable. We could share infrequently used stuff with friends and neighbors (or have a community rental coop). We could quit believing Madison Avenue when it insists that we are unworthy if we have last years stuff. We could make stuff less toxic, using less toxic processes, and more energy efficient by simply admitting that people and planet are more important than profit. We can build carbon neutral dwellings. We could decentralize the energy grid, quit losing the 25-50% that gets lost on long distance transmission lines, and have local energy independence.

We already know how to do all of these things but don't because of fear of losing "competitive market advantage" and the need to pay usurious interest rates on bank loans that have been extended on easy credit to keep the overall economy growing. What much of this comes down to is that we must admit it is highly irrational to continue believing that we can all continue to benefit forever from our mutual indebtedness--financial and ecological.

If we were to also get global population down to a sustainable level (and we've already proven it's possible to reduce birth rates below replenishment levels through education and giving women the right to control reproductive choice), we could probably get by just fine with even less alternative energy than we're already producing. It must be more widely distributed, but we don't need more of it. We could end our addiction to fossil fuels today. And I haven't even mentioned all the common sense conservation methods we can build into the social milieu, instead of propagating the fear that by conserving ourselves we're simply making it possible for others to use more.

Becoming sustainable doesn't require donning hair-shirts, moving back to the cave, and carrying water. Unless, of course, that's one's preferred lifestyle. (Most of us would probably skip the hair-shirt part.) I think most people would gladly contribute more if they knew they were contributing to mutually supportive community that was consciously and spiritually aligned, or holistically integrated, with a sensuous living planet. This is also the best manner of getting more back ourselves. Being a responsibly contributing member of one's community is how we satisfy those natural expectations for fulfillment that our senses of community, belonging, and acceptance require to be whole and healthy ourselves.

Changing the concepts of wealth and status from the size of one's bank account, yacht, or lawn to the quality of one's personal, social, and environmental relationships is integral to all of this. But I don't see anything irrational or unnatural about becoming better instead of bigger. This is actually where much of my overall optimism springs from, along with all the research that demonstrates that people can make fundamental change in a short time-frame with the proper motivation. The tricky part is finding that motivational trigger point for people thoroughly embedded in the consensus trance of the Industrial Growth Society.

We can mature beyond mechanistic, reductionistic, dualistic Enlightenment thinking and realize that in an interconnected and interdependent world, wisdom emerges from the combination of science and spirituality. While we must first heal the disconnection among body, mind and spirit so they can fully inform and support each other, we can simultaneously build on a framework that combines ancient indigenous wisdom with evolutionary biology, quantum physics, and ecology that requires less energy to increase opportunities for all to work toward their potential.

I believe this is the path to sustainability, and that a sustainable future is only possible if founded on ecological wisdom, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy. This means it must be founded on the core natural systems principles of mutual support and reciprocity, no waste, no greed, and increasing diversity. The models and metaphors amply supplied by a climax ecosystem as it develops health, vitality and resiliency--a system which has been successfully functioning for billions of years in order for life to support more life--can be used to create lifestyles and social systems that are every bit as sustainable.

Before it's too late, if it's not already. Gaia, our living planet, original mother to us all, will eventually heal. But without humans, she will have lost her voice for many centuries, probably millennia, more.

The system is not invincible. Elites are neither supernatural nor immortal; they exhibit the same weaknesses and foibles as you and I; their greed and arrogance is just slightly more pronounced. Systems of power--hierarchies of domination--have been created by humans, and we can remove the legitimacy we bestow on those systems. True systemic change starts by believing in it, not by talking ourselves out if it. And certainly not by trying to talk others out of it.

This means we could do it today; it is a natural aspect of who we truly are; we don't need to wait for a new technology to be invented, or for a new prophet to emerge; we can think and act the way that nature works. Collectively, we the people are more powerful than we dare to believe, and it's time for us to mature from Nature's children into Nature's adults regardless of the manner in which we internalize--the name we apply to--the creative life force.