Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Response to: Ask President Obama to Stop Global Warming

I wrote the following in response to an e-mail alert from Bob Fertik of, but I'm sending it out and posting it on the Natural Systems blog as an open letter to the progressive and environmental movement.

On 15 Aug 2009 at 9:49, Bob Fertik ( wrote:

> Ask President Obama to Stop Global Warming

Hello Bob... if the goal truly is to pass comprehensive legislation that will stand up to the best scientific evidence and analysis, then it should start with being honest with ourselves. After all, life on Earth and the future of Western industrial civilization is at stake. Although the latter must be seen as much less important than the former.

First, the targets. We must reduce all greenhouse gas emissions (not just CO2) from human sources by 90% below 1990 levels by 2030. And continue down to zero from there post haste. And instead of just rolling your eyes in bemusement at naive idealism, realize that this actually is an obtainable goal if we change our tactics. Scientifically, technologically, and psychologically doable. There is a systemic alternative available that is viable and pragmatic; that works with who we are as living organisms instead of being constantly at odds with natural systems principles. Thus its tendency is to deliver on the always withheld promise of industrialism--to improve quality of life.

We must give up the idea that the world will come to an end--or at the very least our lives will lose all meaning--if our efforts toward the first goal should impact the profits of the industries who are at the root of the crises. The beneficiaries of this paradigm is such an infinitesimally small percentage of the population they can safely be ignored. Yes, they own all the big scary weapons, but they have neither the knowledge nor the skill to push the buttons--we do.

Just about the last thing we should do is focus inordinate amounts of time or energy in putting people back to work (in America or anywhere else on the globe) stamping out plastic parts for stuff that will be in a landfill in six months, shuffling papers for an insurance company, or working in a call center.

Let's start by taking a hard look at who we are, or think we are, as a technologically advanced civilization made up of people who exhibit the qualities we tend to refer to as intelligence and rationality. This begins by realizing and deeply admitting that our planet is our life support system and that due to the interconnected nature of reality, what we do to the Earth in the form of pollution, toxins, and resource depletion we do to ourselves which ultimately degrades any possibility of reaching our potential either as individuals or as a society. This vastly overrides any supposed benefits derived from the industrial system and its methodologies as it stands today. Industrialism and economic cannibalism... err, I mean growth, is making things worse, not better.

An interesting and highly relevant factoid is that it only requires one-third of the global population to produce everything the entire global population consumes. This means we should all be working two-thirds less with full global employment. We also make a whole lot of stuff we don't need, and the rest is either so poorly constructed it has to be replaced frequently or it's been built to not be repairable. Properly addressing this and decentralizing the grid would lower our energy requirements to what's available with off-the-shelf renewables. No clean coal. No nukes. No tithing... um, I mean carbon offsets and similar nonsense.

This also supports the conclusion that the last thing we should be worrying about is putting people back to work, but should instead concentrate on ensuring their needs are met and they have the time to do what really matters. You know, more quality leisure time instead of spending one billion working hours per year to buy more leisure wear.

This would all also go a long way in lowering birth rates and help bring global population down to a sustainable level over the next few generations, especially if we coupled it all with education on family planning, and provided pre-natal care and disease prevention as an intimate aspect of foreign aid. Then we could start providing people with a means of right livelihood that would include work on helping the Earth regenerate and replenish all the ecosystems we've been busy destroying and consuming in our ignorance and greed.

The alternative I mentioned above is known as relocalization. This is a process to create a sustainable future based on ecological wisdom, economic equity, social justice, and participatory democracy. One framework starting to seep into the social consciousness for implementing this process are the Transition Initiatives being undertaken in cities and regions around the globe.

The underlying paradigm which gives this movement such a high chance of success is its adherence to natural systems principles from which emerges the prime activity of living organisms--the tendency to self-organize into mutually supportive relationships. This process has been occurring quite successfully for billions of years. A question we must ask ourselves as a society is why have we created, and continue to allow to exist, an entire industry (marketing/advertising/PR, i.e. industrial propaganda) whose goal is to fight against it--when not busy denying it even exists or that basic ecological laws such as carrying capacity must be taken into account?

There are numerous studies in the social, psychological, and biological sciences that support the idea that we could raise awareness and change course rather quickly should we choose to. As Charles Darwin pointed out, survival goes not the the strongest or fastest, but to the ones most adaptable to change.

The Cultural Creatives study by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson shows we could count on the support of over one quarter of the populations of Europe and North America. The democracy and justice movement in the Global South indicates an even higher level of support there. It is congruent with quantum physics. The math is supplied by chaos and complexity theory. Ancient wisdom traditions that understood the Earth, in one way or another, is a partner in our lives and evolution provide other necessary aspects of support for our psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Applied ecopsychology/Natural Attraction Ecology provide a scientifically validated process to intellectually and sensuously reconnect, and experience first hand our nurturing bonds to the natural world, each other, and our communities. Other philosophically aligned hands on models and design tools that are currently being implemented include bioregionalism, permaculture, local currencies, integrative holistic health care, and voluntary simplicity.

There is absolutely no need, except to protect other's profits, to waste our time on compromise or incrementalism. The window of opportunity we have left to us negates either of those questionable strategies anyway.

So, why don't we all start advocating and supporting change we actually can believe in?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Awareness of Reality Seen as Doomsaying

A rational people would look at the title of this short essay and think it's a sci-fi piece describing an alternate bizarro universe.

A rational people would examine the facts--the assembled evidence and the veracity of the people presenting it--and use that as a basis for both determining appropriate action and the timeframe necessary to implement said action.

Because time is running out and things are getting worse. It should be obvious the manner in which we're going about our attempts to institute change isn't working, so we should re-evaluate proposed action plans.

Instead, we have somehow fooled ourselves into thinking that we will cause irreparable damage to tender, fragile psyches by pointing out that someone's actions will either not deliver the intended results, or will actually cause more harm. We have what resembles the attitude of too many modern parents, "Oh, isn't that cute, he's trying so hard" as the toddler destroys instead of saying "No" and taking the hammer away.

It appears that what may be happening is that the possible loss of a few modern "conveniences" as we run up against peak oil, peak soil, peak water, peak money and peak life is being equated with doom and gloom, as we glibly ignore the actual negative consequences of these conveniences. Or we spend inordinate amounts of time and energy attempting to find loopholes to continue the status quo instead of figuring out other ways to meet our needs or even seriously analyze whether those are real or manufactured needs in the first place. We want the economy to return to normal, when "normal" is what has caused the myriad global crises we face. We rationalize and excuse inaction, inappropriate action or compromise as we steadfastly ignore the improvements to quality of life from proposed alternatives that systemically challenge the fundamentals of the status quo such as reconnecting with nature and relocalizing our lifestyles, organizations, and communities. What this all mainly demonstrates to me is a lack of imagination. The main "convenience" we seem to be protecting is not having to think too hard about any of this.

It's like the oil company executives who say we won't actually hit peak oil until we run out of technology. Forget about climate and/or exploitation of people and nature and/or the known laws of physics and/or true human nature when freed from the shackles of dominator hierarchies.

The liberal, NewAge mindset that every view is equally valid is actually a sign of moral decay. It is a sign of a society that has lost its way; that has abandoned its soul because it has disconnected it from its sustaining and nurturing source. Spending a weekend at a grief workshop while pretending to be a nature spirit isn't going to overcome this. In fact, the likelihood of doing so seems to be inversely proportional to the number of books published on the subject.

Now, I fully understand that people who are working hard, for noble purposes, on "change" don't want to hear that cash-for-clunkers, ACES, and the public option for disease care are just reshuffling deck chairs; that sustainability initiatives that enable continued growth on an overdeveloped planet are anything but sustainable; that the natural world imposes real limits on both population and resource extraction that we ignore to our--and all other forms of life--peril.

But, there it is. And until you figure out a way to connect with a parallel universe, you're going to have to deal with it in a manner that is more effective than telling people to shut up when they point out the Emperor (regardless of ethnic background or which wing of the Corporate War Party he or she represents) has no clothes.

Until someone can explain to me the advantages of compromising with evil (that which doesn't support life) I will continue to hold moral actors accountable for their actions based on the way that natural systems principles contribute to healthy, vibrant and resilient--that is, sustainable--ecosystems. Which we are perfectly capable of duplicating. Right now.