Thursday, December 6, 2007

Doing What Comes Naturally: Responses to Systemic Crises

Global warming is becoming the rallying cry of many environmental and social justice organizations. As can be expected, they each insist that solving their particular issue is the best solution, or the best place to start, as we begin work to shift demand to renewable energy sources. None, however, mention reducing demand. Of course, we must also remember that these groups all find themselves firmly enmeshed in triage situations of a system that has become normalized; that we legitimize.

For example, a recent Oxfam e-mail action alert starts out by listing aspects of the dire situation global warming is creating; a particular species going extinct, disappearing ice caps, more destructive storms. Then they say what's missing from the global warming debate is the effect on the world's poor. And to a certain extent, that's very true.

However, it seems that what's really missing from the debate about global warming is questioning what the true underlying cause of this crisis is. Nor are the intimately interconnected aspects of the equally devastating crises of energy depletion, mass extinctions, overpopulation, and biospheric toxicity often mentioned. Of course, we can also throw all the deteriorating quality of life indicators into the mix as well as we contemplate what 'dire' really means.

Might there be some overlooked connections between global warming and poverty that run deeper than coastal flooding?

From nearly every vantage point, when you closely examine any of these crises, you quickly uncover one or more aspects of the excess of economic growth and exploitation, which provide the commonality for these issues through their requirement for a never ending quest for more producers, consumers and natural resources. The crises and their secondary manifestations all lay very close to the diseased root of materialism which encourages usury, celebrity status of financial wealth, and materialism's addictive substitution for psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

It's not just poor people, but the 90-95% of the world's population outside of the power and control structure who will, at least initially, suffer the brunt of any negative changes to the environment and to their livelihoods. Meanwhile, those at the top of the control hierarchy--the ruling elites in our Plutocracy (or more accurately, Kleptocracy)--hold fast to their fantasy of having security in troubled times because their credit rating assures them of acquiring the latest technologies. Technology is thought to meet the economic dictum of perfect substitutability.

We don't need poison free food, air, or water. We don't need fossil fuels for the Industrial Growth Society. Atmospheric carbon can increase to 550 PPM and the planet can warm six degrees... or even more. We've got technology!

I call this the techno-rapture. These are the people who will be the most devastated, by being the least aware of and prepared for, the consequences of business as usual.

Being honest about what the problem really is the necessary first step in formulating responses to these systemic crises that will be both effective and lasting.

Capitalism is a system that has failed--dangerously. Fortunately, there is an alternative that just happens to be both life affirming and capable of improving quality of life. The alternative is relocalized steady-state economies and embracing sustainability, especially its carrying capacity aspect. But this alternative is discounted by the system that is threatened by it. Centralized control and power over have no role in this alternative system. We are told any alternative to the status quo is unrealistic or worse, utopian. If this doesn't work to scare people away, we're warned that it's communist. Therefore, no meaningful discussion can take place, as it would be an idealistic or unpatriotic waste of time.

As the various social change groups lobby for change, they all point out the U.S. is the world's largest polluter. It's this abstract other that is the villain. But... the U.S. is us. You and me with our hybrid cars and our solar powered 10,000 sq. ft McMansions filled with our energy-star rated products that use more energy, like 42" plasma screen TVs, than their predecessors did. But, we assure ourselves that everything's really ok because we switched to compact fluorescents and we reuse our shopping bags. We've allowed the system to convince us that discrete individual actions to redecorate our staterooms as the ship of Western culture continues steaming toward the rocks is the best we can do.

What we must realize is that we can simultaneously work to alleviate the symptoms of dominator hierarchies and the economic cannibalism of unfettered free-markets--symptoms such as poverty, oppression, inequity, privatization (piratization) of the commons, and separation from the natural world, each other and our own inner nature--as we create a sustainable future based on ecological wisdom and social justice.

Embracing a common goal of sustainability would lay the foundation for a democratic culture of peace. This would be in keeping with the life affirming principles of natural systems. It would, therefore, actually be easier than all the effort we're currently putting into maintaining and enhancing a system at odds with these principles. It wouldn't, however, increase GDP.

So, the first decision we must make as we grapple with what to do about global warming is: Which is more important, profit... or people and planet?

If we decide for the latter, let's see of we can agree on a foundation for a sustainable future.

A first point would be recognizing that a healthy ecosystem is the master of sustainability. It is the best place to examine the principles that create the mutually supportive relationships that keep an ecosystem healthy, vibrant, and resilient. Each organism has an abundance of opportunities to find fulfillment within carrying capacity constraints, which include being part of the food chain.

A second point is recognizing that humans come from the Earth. Whatever created natural systems principles used them to create us as well. We do, after all, have over half of our DNA in common with a banana. (And if this isn't cause for humility, I don't know what is.) We naturally embody the ability to be sustainable, and can look to healthy ecosystems for the models and metaphors we need to create sustainable lifestyles, organizations, and communities.

The best way I've found to express this is to start with the four core principles of natural systems: mutual support and reciprocity, no waste, no greed, and increasing diversity. These combine to keep an ecosystem sustainable. The prime activity of living systems in expressing these principles is to self-organize mutually supportive relationships that create more life. It must also be noted that living systems at all scales grow to maturity, and then continue to develop and contribute to keeping the system healthy and in harmony.

From this we can also develop a legally defensible definition of sustainability that has environmental, moral, and scientific aspects. The defense of this definition and what it means to human societies can be founded on a strong constitutional argument that is based in Supreme Court jurisprudence dating back to the beginning of the U.S. It protects property rights by providing a foundation to base property rights on. The definition I propose is:

Sustainability: integrating our social and economic lives into the environment in ways that tend to enhance or maintain ecosystems rather than degrade or destroy them; a moral imperative to pass on our natural inheritance, not necessarily unchanged, but undiminished in its ability to meet the needs of future generations; finding, and staying within, the balance point amongst population, consumption, and waste assimilation where watersheds and bioregions maintain their ability to recharge and regenerate.

If we can agree that the above points are reasonable, we can use them to start analyzing an issue like poverty from a fresh perspective.

We can start by removing the requirement for economic growth in any response developed. We should also take a close look at what human enterprise has made available to us. It's instructive to note that in the overall global economy, 1/3 of the population creates everything that is consumed on the entire planet. What this means is that we should all be working 2/3 less and have full global employment. Then we can start increasing this ratio even more by looking at increasing efficiency, environmental constraints, quality and craftsmanship, and doing away with throw-away consumerism by helping people discover and remember that being more fulfills in a way that having more never can.

We can quit running people off their land and provide the knowledge to plant and harvest a wide diversity of ecosystem adapted crops instead of a single luxury export crop that requires unsustainable inputs. We can make sure basic nutrition and medicine is available and reduce infant mortality and the need for large families. We can provide honest family planning education that is culture sensitive and return elders to their respected mentoring roles as valuable community members. We could very quickly stabilize global population and start allowing it to drop to a sustainable level, estimated by many to be about 2 billion.

None of this is particularly radical, it's all perfectly feasible, and there are functional examples of each aspect we can draw on. We have both the necessary wisdom and the technology available today. This has been the promise of science, technology, and religion all along. People will not turn into layabouts, but will gain the time to find the fulfillment they've been seeking instead of using shopping or sitting captive to mindless entertainment as a substitute.

The above factors would combine to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, decrease demand, increase personal security and satisfaction, and the need for war greatly diminishes or disappears. If people's natural expectations for fulfillment are being met, poverty would no longer be a symptom of a system seriously out of balance.

And of course all of the above is relevant in other contexts. Democracy advocates, some of whom express their goal as being the desire to experience democracy in their own lifetimes, will focus on an issue like campaign finance reform as being the cure. But this is just another symptom whose root is the same paradigm of domination as the other global crises. If activists of various stripes would concentrate on cooperating to change the root, using their prime issue of concern as a guide for their actions, the branches on the co-evolving tree of life would be different instead of coming out diseased in a different location on the trunk.

What this all comes down to is agreeing on a common goal--sustainability; guided by a set of values such as those in the Earth Charter--respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, and democracy, nonviolence and peace; and developing a willingness, and accepting the responsibility, to become fully human.

It's in our nature to do so. It is a rational choice that also just happens to feel good.

There are numerous tools we can use on the journey to a sustainable future. A few of the effective ones include a process from applied ecopsychology, Dr. Michael Cohen's Natural Systems Thinking Process, that can both empower us and reconnect us to all aspects of nature--personal, social, and environmental. There's a project known as relocalization that provides a new blueprint for our social and economic development. The Green Party provides a political platform that deeply embodies these concepts. And there are a number of social studies that show widespread support is available and growing (Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson's Cultural Creatives), that rapid change is possible (Paulo Freire's work with illiteracy in indigenous tribes and Marian Diamond's work with enriched environments), and that a partnership society is both functional and provides a precedent for balanced cooperation between the natural world and human society (Riane Eisler's Partnership Way).

Let's get busy.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Goodbye Suburbia

In a short piece on Gristmill, Joseph Romm thinks suburbia has a future, and that $280 a barrel oil won't impact the American way of life because we'll all just switch to plug-in hybrid vehicles so the effect on our pocketbooks will remain constant. In stating why Peak Oil won't destroy suburbia, Romm, and some of the online responses to his piece, displays a peculiar Western trait most often evidenced by K-12 textbook authors--the inability to think systemically; to connect the dots; the tendency to reduce complex sets of relationships to a single issue that is presented as independent and autonomous. Scientific reductionism to the rescue.

Peak Oil spells the end of suburbia because suburbia is entirely dependent on oil. Not just for the cars, but for the sprawl, strip malls, cheap and unnecessary goods, and cheap housing built on farmlands, wetlands, and desert ecologies for the worker bees as they flit back and forth to their low-wage no benefit service sector jobs and other shallow distractions from our near total disconnection from anything meaningful.

Thinking that hybrid vehicles present a solution to global warming ignores the fact that about 50% of the greenhouse gas contribution a vehicle makes during its lifetime occurs during the extraction of the resources and manufacturing for that vehicle. Peak Oil won't make only gasoline more expensive, but everything cheap oil makes possible such as the 1500 mile Caesar Salad grown on lands depleted of nutrients, and then packaged in plastics and smothered in creamy processed foodstuffs based on oil.

When the "green revolution" of agribusiness comes to an end, suburbs and the expressways that lead to them are going to have to return to farmland. A growth economy that is dependent on cheap energy will not continue functioning when oil is at $200-$300/barrel, unless money becomes completely valueless (although a good argument, based on international currency trading and derivatives markets, can be made that it already is).

Global warming (actually, catastrophic climate destabilization) isn't just from gasoline powered internal combustion engines. Another major contributor is loss and degradation of natural carbon sinks from sprawl, excessive consumption, and population overshoot. Driving electric cars to the suburbs will only put off the inevitable. Trying to power all the vehicles we assume we need to maintain the charade of affluence and independence with cellulosic agro-fuels will most likely speed up the overall process of the demise of the American lifestyle.

The rise in the price of oil is a reflection of one thing--it is a finite natural resource that is on the downward slope of its depletion curve. This is the point at which it is very important to become aware of and to understand the difference between environmental economics--the greening of orthodox growth economics where technology can substitute for energy--and ecological economics, which looks at the whole system; its interrelationships and carrying capacity; and ways to continue improving once the steady-state of maturity is reached.

I mean, what we're talking about here is the possible end of life as we know it, or in the more optimistic scenarios, merely the collapse of what is known as Western civilization. Who honestly thinks suburbia is going to survive 1) the imminent collapse of a growth economy that is based on cheap and abundant fossil fuels, 2) a two-thirds human population reduction to the sustainable global limit of about 2 billion, and 3) the mass migration of the majority of that population into habitable areas as changes unfold from catastrophic climate destabilization that are on track to occur even if tomorrow we stop all greenhouse gas emissions, razing the rain forests, and polluting our air and water? When you combine the rational, emotional, and spiritual evidence for the shape we and our planet are in, the worship of material consumption, mammonism, and domination isn't a system that's worth protecting and preserving.

It also must be pointed out that neither "greenness" nor quality of life in the built environment is solely a function of density (you may freely substitute market or production efficiences here). While it may be that big cities such as New York have access to a greater number of natural history museums, zoos and aquariums, teaching about nature is not functionally equivalent to being in nature. We've long known this to be qualitatively true, and it can now be shown to be quantitatively so on a number of indicators as well. The economic principle of perfect substitutability doesn't hold any better here than on thinking that technology can substitute for energy. And of course, there are all the studies of the negative physical, mental, and environmental health effects of overcrowding.

The conversation we all need to be having is the best and quickest way to put an alternative in place that improves quality of life and provides expanded opportunities and support to develop one's potential. A system in which we create the quality goods that we need (not manufactured need or throw-away goods), within carrying capacity limitations (not the myth of infinite abundance), and have the time to enjoy and benefit from them (not working two jobs to pay off credit card debt).

The pieces of this alternative already exist, we don't have to wait for a techno-miracle. They include powering down, relocalizing, and overcoming our disconnection from the natural world, each other, and our own inner nature. It involves shifting our mindset from having more to being more. It involves giving up the unfounded assumption that economic growth is necessary for prosperity and that we can consume the entire planet with no ill effects if we call it "green." It involves working with the creative energies of life in building mutually supportive, responsible relationships.

This is the direction we would head if we were to allow our rationality to be fully informed by our emotions and spirit. We could press our intelligence into service and admit that reverse is the proper gear to select when you're going the wrong way down a narrowing path.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Common roots and a systemic solution

A recent posting on Gristmill

"Brit's Eye View: Are we too obsessed with climate change?"
by Peter Madden concerned the worry that by concentrating on global warming (what I call catastrophic climate destabilization) we risk the danger of ignoring other urgent environmental concerns. By only looking at long-range targets for the year 2030 or 2050, we can overlook what needs to be taken care of today or next week. While global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism, government and big business think that if they just concentrate on going low-carbon, everything will be fine.

An online comment by Fergus Brown to this story made some excellent points as well. There is a tendency in the media to conflate global warming with environmental problems, to think that every environmental problem is due to global warming, and that solving global warming will cure all environmental ills. There is a growing backlash among people tired of hearing every problem being blamed on global warming. This creates a particular problem of global warming denialists being able to simultaneously marginalize or brush-off other environmental problems.

That global warming gets conflated with other environmental problems does make sense, but not for the reasons given. These problems are all the direct outcome of a cultural paradigm that is disconnected; that sees nature as an "other" to be exploited for personal benefit just as the affluent North does with what it considers to be third-world countries. Global warming and all other environmental problems are really a problem with human attitudes; with a lack of restraint in both human population and consumption; with the reliance on addictive substitutes for the natural fulfillments available in abundance for any species that stays within the carrying capacity of its ecosystem; with focusing all of our energy on competition and destruction instead of cooperation and creation. This is a choice for humans, it is not a hard-wired immutable natural principle.

The solutions to global warming and other environmental tragedies are one and the same. Quit overconsuming the Earth's limited resources and quit using the biosphere as a waste receptacle. Remember that the prime activity of all other living organisms is to self-organize in the creation of mutually supportive relationships that support the web of life in creating and sustaining more life. Remember that the same principles that create a sustainable ecosystem are an intimate aspect of who we are, and that if we are to ever have any hope of reaching our potential as individuals and as a species, we had best start acting like it. We must think and act the way nature works.

There is not just a problem with focusing on global warming to the exclusion of other environmental problems. There is a meta-problem with focusing on applying band-aids to symptoms of a culture out of balance--that has disconnected its relationships with the natural world, with each other, and with our own inner nature. As Paul Cienfuego of Democracy Unlimited points out, we must quit clipping branches and start digging up the roots.

This, of course, makes the proponents of growth economies very squeamish. By taking every proposed solution to global warming, other environmental problems, the energy crisis, etc., off the table if the solutions don't, first and foremost, protect economic growth, they ensure that the problems will remain intractable. Proponents of the status quo (the sycophants of free-market capitalism and its practice of economic cannibalism) reverse all the relationships they haven't severed. Profit is put above people and planet. However, nature neither produces waste nor grows beyond maturity. As Edward Abbey said, infinite growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. We have been aware of the implications of what we're doing for a long time, e.g. Aldo Leopold's "A Sand County Almanac" in 1949, and John Storer's "The Web of Life" in 1953.

Of course, once one reaches these inescapable conclusions, what is the actual process to implement these solutions? What is the alternative to the status quo that we're constantly told either doesn't exist or is utopian and thus unrealistic? The only systemic solution--the one that addresses the common roots of systemic collapse and can improve quality of life as well--that I'm aware of is to relocalize our communities with steady-state economies and reconnect all of our senses to their roots in the natural world.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Economic growth vs. a living planet

A couple of interesting items lit up my screen over the weekend. The first is yet another piece of evidence that the global economy that we all tend to assume will continue providing net benefits to society is a chimera. There is no fundamental reality propping it up. What props it up is fairy dust that manifests itself from central bank controlled printing presses and accounting ledgers.

What this means is that if your life, indeed your entire sense of identity, is dependent on the stage props built by global financial markets, your life could descend into total chaos--become entirely meaningless and without sense of purpose--any day now. A true sense of humanity, however, requires quite a bit more than a growing bank balance, and this is what we must start working on recovering.

Central Banks Add Cash to Avert Crisis of Confidence

10 Aug 2007

"Central banks in the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada added about $136 billion to the banking system in an attempt to avert a crisis of confidence in global credit markets.

"The Federal Reserve, in a second day of action in concert with the European Central Bank, provided $38 billion of reserves and pledged more ``as necessary,'' in a statement unprecedented since after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

Full Article

Another interesting item from the above article is that American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. this week became the country's second-biggest home lender to file for bankruptcy. The increase in greed fuelled by the sub-prime market is coming home to roost.

The second item provides part of the answer to "How did this all come to be?"

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #919, Aug. 9, 2007


By Joseph H. Guth

Guth, who is a biochemist (PhD) and Legal Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, points out a very important, but often overlooked or understated assumption in the underlying economic paradigm--that growth is good. The assumption is that economic growth provides net social benefits.

There's only one way this assumption can work, though. Human and environmental damage is discounted, and the unequal distribution of benefits is ignored. If the economic benefits that accrue to a small handful of people can be shown on a spreadsheet to be larger than the costs to a much larger but devalued group, then destruction and degradation of our common life support system is said to fall within the acceptable parameters of a cost benefit analysis. Not only is everything "good," but there is a net benefit to society. If ten million people die, but ten people make a billion dollars each, this is a net benefit to society.

Within the current system, the burden of proof lies on those wanting to show that the costs (which are undervalued) outweigh the benefits (which are overvalued). This makes proof difficult because the equation is unfairly lopsided from the start.

Guth's article doesn't address the inherent inequity of the variables used in the equation, but uses the precautionary principle to present one way in which we can at least begin to rewrite the equation. He also presents a good analysis of what is known as "sound science" and how industry uses it to its advantage in order to game the system.

Taken together, the two articles I've referred to above point to the pressing need to relocalize our economies, and to do so in a manner in which people and planet are valued more highly than profits. This leads directly to the pressing need to return corporations to the role of serving as a tool for creating social good, instead of acting as the arbiters of control and value at the top of a hierarchy of self-described elites.

Once again, it's just a story that we all provide the legitimacy for, and it's up to us to re-write the story.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dealing with the Plastic Plague

To respond to a recent post to an ecopsychology list I subscribe to, I wrote the following. I also highly recommend the article the original post is referring to.

> This is a most disturbing link. Sometimes, I just feel hopeless. I
> don't see how we will ever cleanup our disgusting messes on earth.
Our oceans are turning into plastic... are we?
> any encouraging thoughts out there on this horrible matter?

First, if you'd like more info on this, although the important parts are in this article, search the website for "plastic plague" (the main article to read is Plastics: Your Formidable Enemy) where you'll also find a link to an excellent documentary on this subject the Algalita Foundation put out called "Our Synthetic Sea," as well as some things you can do about it.

As Jan Lundberg of CultureChange says, "The time is over for more research as a substitute for decisive action, and it is everyday citizens who need to carry it out immediately."

Cities like San Francisco are starting to institute plastic bag bans and taxes, and one of the best things to do is to start removing plastic from your life.

But one of the main things to do, in my opinion, is that once you come to the following realization yourself, is to become almost militant (but in a compassionate manner) about spreading the word that the American way of life is an unmitigated catastrophe. Not only is it toxic, but it is shallow and meaningless. Not only is it disconnected from all the things that really matter in order to have a fulfilling life, but it is destroying life and possibilities for the continuation of life.

People don't like to allow themselves to feel this, and can numb the fact that they are living a catastrophe as long as the oil, fast food, entertainment, and Prozac holds out. They don't want to feel this so they keep themselves very busy trying to look good and be materially successful so neither they nor anyone else notices how empty the American way of life actually feels.

So, help awaken people from the consensus trance. Find the unique ingredients for the red pill your family, friends, and neighbors need. We don't need to wait for a catastrophe to occur for a shift in consciousness to gain the mass momentum to create a sustainable future based on ecological wisdom and social justice; all we have to do is pay attention to see that we are already surrounded by catastrophe.

And once you come to this realization, also realize that since humans have created the current situation, humans are also empowered to do something about it. Do not let yourself fall into despair. Let yourself deeply feel the catastrophe and let this feeling fuel your sense of righteous indignation and motivate your actions. Everything we do and believe in is based on a choice, whether we consciously articulate it or not.

A concrete action people could do is to come together to create a groundswell of support to force government to reclaim its duty to protect the commons and to revoke the corporate charters of companies who aren't serving the public good. And every company who makes products or who depends on materials that destroy our health and the planet we depend on for our sustenance falls into this category.

Spread the memes that the cure for breast cancer is shutting down Dow Chemical. The health of the economy cannot be allowed to take precedence over the health of people and planet. Convenience is not a substitute for life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Setting Priorities: Preserving Lifestyle Choices or Life?

A recent e-mail action alert from Environmental Defense focused on cars and global warming, calling for support for a campaign to reduce the contribution to greenhouse gases made by automobiles. This campaign spanned the spectrum from urging car companies to make less polluting vehicles, to personal actions to keep one's car running at peak efficiency, and thus be less polluting.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has jumped on this bandwagon as well. They recently argued in their Earth Action Bulletin that some of the most important considerations for raising fuel economy standards are that they're the least expensive way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and they'll
"giv[e] consumers lasting relief at the pump." This logic is used to support the claim that less financial impact and less pollution will help "break our addiction to oil," when just the opposite is more likely.

There are transition strategies toward a sustainable future that people can, and should, undertake. But we need to be honest about the future we're heading into, and what it's likely to look like. Let's take the case of the automobile. As in so many other cases today, the big concern seems to be how can we make something that is inherently unsustainable appear as if it is, especially without dealing with directly connecting issues, such as overpopulation and our addiction to a doomsday economy.

While we're on this honesty kick, let's also admit that biofuels are nothing more than the methadone for fossil fuel addicts.

Suburban sprawl contributes as much to catastrophic climate destabilization as the automobile does. Loss of farm and forest land are the most obvious effects, but personal loss of time and well-being are also major factors. Even plug in hybrids--let alone fully electric cars--aren't going to be much of a solution if all of the productive farmland that's left is paved over with more and wider roads running between McMansions in the foothills and big box stores and their parking lots.

Cars do make a major contribution to catastrophic climate destabilization, and for the immediate future we're stuck with them for the most part while relocalization efforts start taking place. And we should do things such as keep them properly tuned and the tires properly inflated, cut down on idling time, and start making a very conscious effort to eliminate unnecessary trips. But replacing your car with a new hybrid isn't going to actually do a whole lot, when you realize that about 50% of the contribution to catastrophic climate destabilization a vehicle makes is during the extraction of the raw materials and its manufacture.

We must start creating living patterns that aren't auto dependent. We need to shift from cars to mass transit for the majority of our transportation needs that can't be met by bicycles or on foot, which in a properly designed and built city are going to be pretty minimal. So, instead of putting our efforts into lobbying for a 3% increase in CAFE standards, which does absolutely nothing to challenge or change the status quo, we need to be lobbying for rebuilt urban cores and better mass transit systems.

And, there's no escaping the fact that we must also simultaneously begin the educational efforts required to address the overpopulation issue and the cultural myth that having more is a better path to fulfillment than being more.

If the actual desire is to do something about catastrophic climate destabilization, let's get serious about it, and demand our policymakers do likewise. There's too little time left to continue applying band-aids to symptoms.

The NRDC wants people to believe that techno-fixes and regulatory wizardry will allow us to continue on our merry way "without sacrificing ... lifestyle choices."

I guess sacrificing life is of no concern, as it might not be the least expensive option.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Carbon Caps or Lifestyle Caps?

A recent editorial in the New York Times talked about the need for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases, pollution taxes, carbon credits, and the search for promising technologies that could mitigate global warming with only minimal harm to the economy at worst. Articles concerning personal changes one can make that meet these goals are showing up with increasing frequency as well.

You know, buy different types of new lightbulbs, a different kind of new car, and buy carbon offsets as a new type of gift.

This ruse of putting the brunt of the blame, and the burden of responsibility, on American consumers for America's 25% contribution to the anthropogenic causes of global warming is also becoming increasingly common.

Yes, Americans are addicted to oil.

But let's not forget that addicts need a pusher. Who are the pushers that feed this addiction to oil that energizes the culture of materialism? Who constantly entice more addicts, starting their dependency campaigns while youth are still in the crib? Who are these pushers who are actually even more addicted themselves to the power (in every sense imaginable) that can be derived from fossil fuels?

The answer to these questions should be obvious. It's industrialists and their immediate masters in the global banking cartels. It's the adherents to the holy grail of a growth economy. How convenient that the mainstream media never mentions the role of these elite sects in either the crisis or their responsibility to deal with it.

Change does need to begin from where we are. Currently people have been hoodwinked into valuing money more than life. So putting a price on pollution, toxicity, radiation, deforestation, greenhouse gas production, etc. and so on is a good place to start for a transition strategy toward a sustainable future. This should cause people to start honestly examining what it is in their lives that is truly valuable and gives their lives meaning and purpose.

If we also start to articulate the viable alternative of relocalization, and its very real possibility of increasing quality of life, we can also inspire and motivate people into helping build this necessary alternative that values those things that really matter. People will discover the increased well-being--and even the status and respect that can be gained--from being a responsibly contributing member of the web of life.

Then we can get to the question the mainstream continues to studiously avoid asking.

Is it really new technologies and market-based schemes that we need, or a new way of relating to and being in the world?