Friday, April 4, 2008

Relocalizing for a Green Economy: Part One of a Three Part Series

These next three posts are the full, unedited versions of a series of articles on relocalization I was asked to write for the Tucson Green Magazine. They were edited either because they were too long for the space available, or because they presented concepts the "mainstream" wasn't considered yet ready for. Since I do tend to preach to the choir quite a bit, there's undoubtedly more than a little merit to this critique.

However, if you're reading these here, I'm going to assume you've already taken the red pill, or are at least considering other ways of breaking free of the consensus trance and looking for ways to start doing things differently; to actively participate in creating a sustainable future based on ecological wisdom and social justice.

Part One:

No matter how clever we are, our cleverness is wholly dependent on the bounty and health of the Earth and the richness of our relationships.

A growth economy of material goods has an unfortunate outcome for living organisms, and we're told to ignore the connection between constant financial growth and the exploitation of people and degradation of the planet. We're told this is the price of progress. However, we cannot escape the fact that the planet's resources are either finite or have a carrying capacity limit to their rate of regeneration, while money is an abstract concept that knows no bounds, nor has a basis in hard physical reality.

We use money to assign value to a person's status and contribution to community well-being. But this value is not necessarily tied to community equity or fairly earned, as can be seen from lotteries, sweepstakes, and mortgage backed securities. We also let ourselves believe that money can be used to meet all human needs and desires. That this is ludicrous as soon as one stops to think about it is why we're told not to. While money can't buy happiness, it can buy the antidepressants necessary to stand in its stead.

My core belief is that today's financial markets are a major contributing factor to the crises life faces. They are little more than a form of legalized gambling in a highly rigged game. They nurture the fantasy of something for nothing. This has worked well for a select few over the centuries, but we've reached a few global tipping points such as overpopulation causing depletion of fisheries and 50% loss of productive topsoil, and with fossil fueled global warming we're quickly approaching others.

That said, socially responsible investing on a local level could be a leverage point in creating the first steps to a sustainable future. There are models available, such as Solari Circles and steady-state economies, that can help communities regain control of their future and develop sustainably. Today, communities have the impetus and the opportunity to pull together, invest in a future that looks at the bigger picture, and provide true and lasting value for all the species that make up that community.

The main points I think people must begin examining in earnest regard economic growth and accumulation as the only allowable meaningful measures of prosperity and well-being. The pervasive mindset is bigger, shinier, faster, more.

But what is this actually doing to our health and the overall quality of life? What longing are we trying to satisfy that we accept baubles for payoff and a story that allows us to rationalize that this is the best we can hope for? The actual results of this mindset are decreases in every quality of life indicator that actually provide meaning to the human condition -- plus of course all the ones pertinent to other species and the natural world itself. Strictly from a mathematical perspective, a growth economy doesn't work; it is unsustainable. All the evidence points to the conclusion that it's time to seriously consider what we might do differently.

One of the reasons it's so scary to think about the collapse of the current system is that no alternatives to the status quo are allowed to be mentioned without being denigrated and marginalized as unnatural, naively idealistic, or communistic. We remain unaware or won't believe that not only is an alternative available that's not dependent on future technologies, but that both rational reality and spiritual yearnings show to be more in keeping with human nature. The alternative will improve overall conditions because it works with the most powerful force in the universe -- the creation and maintenance of mutually supportive attraction relationships.

This alternative is based on reconnecting our disconnection from nature and each other, and using the process of relocalization to create an explicitly defined sustainable future built on ecological wisdom and social justice. It is an optimistic message that is tempered with an outright admission that if we continue in the direction we're heading, the good news will be the end of Western civilization. The bad news will be passing one too many irreversible environmental tipping points.

Bigger depends on denying and ignoring the drivers of economic cannibalism offered by the Industrial Growth Society. Just one aspect of this is the slow poisoning by the petrochemical industry -- and the pharmaceutical industry attempts to alleviate the symptoms while creating different ones -- and refusal to admit that humans are not immune to being effected by the largest walking chemical experiment in history. This is being allowed, encouraged even, because it contributes to a rising GDP. As recent medical research shows, however, the actual cure for breast cancer is shutting down Dow Chemical,

Better is about having the time and resources available to concentrate on what really matters. It includes having the opportunities available to develop one's potential, without constant distractions that not only support and enrich a small controlling elite by fantasizing that you can be one too, but to go along with an implicit mandate to subvert those natural desires that contribute to fulfillment, community, and life.

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