Part one of two. Part two was published in the May/June 2012 issue.
LIKE YOU AND OTHER AMERICANS, I love my country, its wonderful people, its boundless energy, its creativity in so many fields, its natural beauty, its many gifts to the world, and the freedom it has given us to express ourselves. So we should all be angry, profoundly angry, when we consider what has happened to our country and what that neglect could mean for our children and grandchildren.
How can we gauge what has happened to America in the past few decades and where we stand today? One way is to look at how America now compares with other countries in key areas. The group of twenty advanced democracies—the major countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, the Nordic countries, Canada, and others—can be thought of as our peer nations. Here’s what we see when we look at these countries. To our great shame, America now has
• the highest poverty rate, both generally and for children;
• the greatest inequality of incomes;
• the lowest social mobility;
• the lowest score on the UN’s index of “material well-being of children”;
• the worst score on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index;
• the highest expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP, yet all this money accompanied by the highest infant mortality rate, the highest prevalence of mental health problems, the highest obesity rate, the highest percentage of people going without health care due to cost, the highest consumption of antidepressants per capita, and the shortest life expectancy at birth;
• the next-to-lowest score for student performance in math and middling performance in science and reading;
• the highest homicide rate;
• the largest prison population in absolute terms and per capita;
• the highest carbon dioxide emissions and the highest water consumption per capita;
• the lowest score on Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (except for Belgium) and the largest ecological footprint per capita (except for Denmark);
• the lowest spending on international development and humanitarian assistance as a percentage of national income (except for Japan and Italy);
• the highest military spending both in total and as a percentage of GDP; and
• the largest international arms sales.
Our politicians are constantly invoking America’s superiority and exceptionalism. True, the data is piling up to confirm that we’re Number One, but in exactly the way we don’t want to be—at the bottom.
These deplorable consequences are not just the result of economic and technological forces over which we have no control. They are the results of conscious political decisions made over several decades by both Democrats and Republicans who have had priorities other than strengthening the well-being of American society and our environment. Many countries, obviously, took a different path—one that was open to us as well.
I wish that were all the bad news. Unfortunately, international comparisons only give us a glimpse of what we now face. They miss many of the most important challenges, including in the critical areas of social conditions, national security, and politics. I will spare you the litany of environmental bad news; most of you have already heard it.
When it comes to social conditions, it’s important to recognize that nearly 50 million Americans now live in poverty—one in six. If you’re in poverty in America, you’re living on less than $400 per week for a family of four. Poverty is the bleeding edge of a more pervasive American shortcoming—massive economic insecurity. About half of American families now live paycheck to paycheck, are financially fragile, and earn less than needed to cover basic living expenses, let alone save for the future.
Back in 1928, right before the Great Depression, the richest 1 percent of Americans received 24 percent of the country’s total income. Starting with the New Deal, public policy favored greater equality and a strong middle class, so that by 1976, the share of the richest 1 percent of households had dropped to 9 percent. But then the great re-redistribution began in the 1980s, so that by 2007, right before the Great Recession, the richest 1 percent had regained its 1928 position—with 24 percent of income.
As for national security, the U.S. now spends almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. If one totals military and other U.S. security spending, the total easily climbs to over $1 trillion annually, about two-thirds of all discretionary federal spending. In what has been called a key feature of the American Empire, America now garrisons the world. Although the Pentagon officially reports that we maintain a mere 660 military bases in 38 countries, if one adds the unreported bases in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, there are likely as many as 1,000 U.S. military sites around the world. By 2010, we had covert operations deployed in an estimated 40 percent of the world’s 192 nations. On the home front, in 2010, the Washington Post reported that the top-secret world the government created in response to 9/11 now contains some 1,300 government entities and 1,900 private companies all working on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the United States.
When you’ve got an armful of hammers, every problem looks like a nail, and the U.S. has tended to seek military solutions to problems that might be addressed otherwise. The costs have been phenomenally high. When all told, our wars since 9/11 will cost us over $4 trillion and more than 8,000 American lives, with another 99,000 U.S. troops already wounded in action or evacuated for serious illness.
Another sorrow is the huge, draining psychological burden that U.S. actions have on its citizens. We see our own military, the CIA, and U.S. contractors engaged in torture and prisoner abuse, large killings of innocent civilians, murders and the taking of body parts as souvenirs, renditions, drone assassinations, military detention without trial, collaboration with unsavory regimes, and more.
Meanwhile, outside our borders, a world of wounds has festered without much help, and often with harm, from the United States. We are neglecting so many problems—from world poverty, underdevelopment, and climate change to emerging shortages of food and water and energy, biological impoverishment, and transnational organized crime.
The following are among the many treaties ratified by all nations, except for a few rogue states—and the United States: the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Land Mine Convention, the International Criminal Court convention, the Biodiversity Convention, the Law of the Sea, the Kyoto Protocol of the Climate Convention, and the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The U.S. is the main reason we do not now have a World Environment Organization.
In these respects and in many others, the U.S. posture in the world reflects a radical imbalance: a hugely disproportionate focus on the military and on economic issues and a tragic neglect of some of the most serious challenges we and the world now confront.
These many challenges require farsighted, strong, and effective government leadership and action. Inevitably, then, the path to responding to these challenges leads to the political arena, where a vital, muscular democracy steered by an informed and engaged citizenry is needed. That’s the democracy we need, but, unfortunately, it is not the democracy we have. Right now, Washington isn’t even trying to seriously address most of these challenges. Neglect, stalemate, and denial rule the day. It is estimated that American politics is more polarized today than at any time since Reconstruction. Polarization, of course, is father to gridlock. Gridlock and stalemate are the last thing our country needs now.
The American political system is in deep trouble for another reason—it is moving from democracy to plutocracy and corporatocracy, supported by the ascendancy of market fundamentalism and a strident antiregulation, antigovernment, antitax ideology. The hard truth is that our political system today is simply incapable of meeting the great challenges described here. What we have is third-rate governance at a time when the challenges we face require first-rate governance.
America thus confronts a daunting array of challenges in the maintenance of our people’s well-being, in the conduct of our international affairs, in the management of our planet’s natural assets, and in the workings of our politics. Taken together, these challenges place in grave peril much that we hold dear.
The America we must seek for our children and grandchildren is not the America we have today. If we are going to change things for the better, we must first understand the forces that led us to this sea of troubles. When big problems emerge across the entire spectrum of national life, it cannot be due to small reasons. We have encompassing problems because of fundamental flaws in our economic and political system. By understanding these flaws, we can end them and move forward in a very different direction.
I THINK AMERICA GOT OFF COURSE for two primary reasons. In recent decades we failed to build consistently on the foundations laid by the New Deal, by Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms and his Second Bill of Rights, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, we unleashed a virulent, fast-growing strain of corporate-consumerist capitalism. “Ours is the Ruthless Economy,” say Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus in their influential textbook, Macroeconomics. And indeed it is. In its ruthlessness at home and abroad, it creates a world of wounds. As it strengthens and grows, those wounds deepen and multiply.
Such an economy begs for restraint and guidance in the public interest—control that can only be provided by government. Yet, at this point, the captains of our economic life and those who have benefited disproportionately from it have largely taken over our political life. Corporations, long identified as our principal economic actors, are now also our principal political actors. The result is a combined economic and political system—the operating system upon which our society runs—of great power and voraciousness, pursuing its own economic interests without serious concern for the values of fairness, justice, or sustainability that democratic government might have provided.
Our political economy has evolved and gathered force in parallel with the course of the Cold War and the growth of the American Security State. The Cold War and the rise of the American Empire have powerfully affected the nature of the political-economic system—strengthening the already existing prioritization of economic growth, giving rise to the military-industrial complex, and draining time, attention, and money away from domestic needs and emerging international challenges. This diversion of attention and resources continues with our response to international terrorism.
So what are this operating system’s key features, which have been given such free rein by these developments? First, ours is an economy that prioritizes economic growth above all else. We think of growth as an unalloyed good, but this growth fetish is a big source of our problems. We’ve had plenty of growth in recent decades—growth while wages stagnated, jobs fled our borders, life satisfaction flat-lined, social capital eroded, poverty and inequality mounted, and the environment declined. Today, U.S. GDP has regained its prerecession level, but 15 percent of American workers still can’t find full-time jobs.
Another key feature of today’s dysfunctional operating system is how powerfully the profit motive affects corporate behavior. Today’s corporations have been called “externalizing machines,” so committed are they to keeping the real costs of their activities off their books. Profit can be increased by keeping wages low and real social, environmental, and economic costs externalized—borne by society at large and not by the firm. One can get some measure of these external costs from a recent analysis of three thousand of the world’s biggest companies. It concluded that paying for their external environmental costs would erase at least a third of their profits. Profits can also be increased through subsidies, tax breaks, regulatory loopholes, and other gifts from government. Together, these external costs and subsidies lead to dishonest prices, which in turn lead consumers to spur on businesses that do serious damage to people and planet.
Given such emphasis on inexorable growth and profit, the constant spread of the market into new areas can be very costly environmentally and socially. As Karl Polanyi described in his 1944 book, The Great Transformation, “To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment . . . would result in the demolition of society. . . . Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed.” With its emphasis on privatization, commercialization, and commodification, American capitalism has carried this demolition forward with a vengeance.
But the system that drives the capitalism we have today includes other elements. The corporation—the most important institution and agent of modern capitalism—has become both enormous and hugely powerful. Of the hundred largest economies in the world, fifty-three are corporations. Of the three hundred largest corporations in the world, a third are U.S. companies. American business wields great political and economic power and has routinely used that power to restrain ameliorative governmental action. Our corporations have driven the rise of transnational capital as the basis for economic globalization, along with all the challenges that equation introduces.
Then, there is what our society has become. Dominant American values today are strongly materialistic, anthropocentric, and contempocentric. Today’s consumerism and materialism place high priority on meeting human needs through the ever-increasing purchasing of goods and services. We say the best things in life are free, but not many of us act that way. Instead we’ve embraced an endless cycle of work and spend. The anthropocentric view that nature belongs to us, rather than we to nature, facilitates the exploitation of the natural world. And the habit of focusing on the present and discounting the future leads us away from a thoughtful appraisal of the long-term consequences of the world we are making.
Next, there is what our government and politics have become. Growth serves the interests of government by boosting politicians’ approval ratings, keeping difficult social justice and other issues on the back burner, and generating larger revenues without raising tax rates. Government in America doesn’t own much of the economy, so it must feed its growth habit by providing what corporations need to keep growing. Meanwhile, Washington today is hobbled by partisanship, corrupted by money, and typically at the service of economic interests. It is focused on the short horizons of election cycles and guided by a pathetic level of public discourse on important issues. Finally, our government seeks to enhance and project national power, both hard and soft, in part through economic strength and growth and in part through sustaining a vast military deployment.
And there is what our system of money and finance has become. We think of money as the cash in our pockets or the bank, but, in truth, virtually all the money in circulation today is created by the banking system when loans are made. If everyone paid off all their debts, there would be hardly any money. Money is a system of power, and Wall Street wields that power. Today, among other things, the big banks are financing the destruction of the planet’s climate. In 2010, Citi raised more than $34 billion for the coal and oil industries. Within Citi’s portfolio is $1 billion raised for the proposed pipeline intended to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. Since January 2010, ten big banks have supported mountaintop removal coal mining to the tune of more than $2.5 billion.
These features aptly characterize key dimensions of today’s operating system—the political economy of today’s American capitalism. It’s important to see these features as a system, linked and mutually reinforcing. Taken together, they have given rise to an economic reality that is both colossal and largely out of control. An unquestioning society-wide commitment to economic growth at any cost; powerful corporate and banking interests whose overriding objective is to grow by generating profit, including profit from avoiding social and environmental costs; a government beholden to corporate interests and thus not strongly inclined to curb corporate abuses; and a rampant consumerism spurred endlessly on by sophisticated advertising—all these combine to deliver an ever-growing economy insensitive to the needs of people, place, and planet.
The prioritization of economic growth is among the roots of our problems. Today’s reigning policy orientation holds that the path to greater well-being is to grow and expand the economy. Productivity, profits, the stock market, and consumption must all go up. This growth imperative trumps all else. Growth is measured by tallying GDP at the national level, and sales and profits at the company level. The pursuit of GDP and profit can be said to be the overwhelming priorities of national economic and political life.
Economic growth may be the world’s secular religion, but for much of the world it is a god that is failing—underperforming for most of the world’s people and, for those in affluent societies, now creating more problems than it is solving. The never-ending drive to grow the overall U.S. economy undermines families and communities; it is leading us to environmental calamity; it fuels a ruthless international search for energy and other resources; it fails at generating the needed jobs; and it rests on a manufactured consumerism that is not meeting our deepest human needs.
Americans are substituting growth and consumption for dealing with the real issues—for doing the things that would make us, and the country, better off. Psychologists have pointed out, for example, that while economic output per person in the United States has risen sharply in recent decades, there has been no increase in life satisfaction, and levels of distrust and depression have increased substantially. We have entered the realm of what ecological economist Herman Daly calls “uneconomic growth.” Environmentally, we see a world in which growth has brought us to a situation where more of the same will quite literally ruin the planet. Politically, the growth imperative is a big part of how we the people are controlled: the necessity for growth gives the real power to those who have the finance and technology to deliver it.
IT IS UP TO US AS CITIZENS to inject values of justice, fairness, and sustainability into this system, and government is the primary vehicle we have for accomplishing this. Typically, we attempt to do so by working within the system to promote needed reforms. We work the media and other channels to raise public awareness of our issue, and try to shift public understanding and discourse in our favor. We lobby Congress, the current administration, and government agencies with well-crafted and sensible proposals. When necessary, we go to court. With modest resources, we devote what we can to the electoral process and to candidates for public office. And we hope somehow that lightning will strike and events will move in our favor.
But it is now abundantly clear that these reformist approaches are not succeeding. The titanic forces unleashed by the American brand of capitalism are too powerful. The ceaseless drive for profits, growth, and power and other system imperatives keep the problem spigot fully open. Reform rarely deals with the root causes—the underlying drivers. The forces that gave rise to these problems in the first place continue to war against progress. And our enfeebled political life, more and more in the hands of powerful corporations and individuals of great wealth, is no match for these forces.
Pursuing reform within the system can help, but what is now desperately needed is transformative change in the system itself. To deal successfully with all the challenges America now faces, we must therefore complement reform with at least equal efforts aimed at transformative change to create a new operating system that routinely delivers good results for people and planet.
At the core of this new operating system must be a sustaining economy based on new economic thinking and driven forward by a new politics. The purpose and goal of a sustaining economy is to provide broadly shared prosperity that meets human needs while preserving the earth’s ecological integrity and resilience—in short, a flourishing people and a flourishing nature. That is the paradigm shift we must now seek.
I believe this paradigm shift in the nature and operation of America’s political economy can be best approached through a series of interacting, mutually reinforcing transformations—transformations that attack and undermine the key motivational structures of the current system, transformations that replace these old structures with new arrangements needed for a sustaining economy and a successful democracy.
The following transformations hold the key to moving to a new political economy. Consider each as a transition from today to tomorrow.
• Economic growth: from growth fetish to post-growth society, from mere GDP growth to growth in human welfare and democratically determined priorities.
• The market: from near laissez-faire to powerful market governance in the public interest.
• The corporation: from shareholder primacy to stakeholder primacy, from one ownership and motivation model to new business models and the democratization of capital.
• Money and finance: from Wall Street to Main Street, from money created through bank debt to money created by government.
• Social conditions: from economic insecurity to security, from vast inequities to fundamental fairness.
• Indicators: from GDP (“grossly distorted picture”) to accurate measures of social and environmental health and quality of life.
• Consumerism: from consumerism and affluenza to sufficiency and mindful consumption, from more to enough.
• Communities: from runaway enterprise and throwaway communities to vital local economies, from social rootlessness to rootedness and solidarity.
• Dominant cultural values: from having to being, from getting to giving, from richer to better, from separate to connected, from apart from nature to part of nature, from transcendent to interdependent, from today to tomorrow.
• Politics: from weak democracy to strong, from creeping corporatocracy and plutocracy to true popular sovereignty.
• Foreign policy and the military: from American exceptionalism to America as a normal nation, from hard power to soft, from military prowess to real security.
We know that systemic, transformative change along these dimensions will require a great struggle, and it will not come quickly. The new values, priorities, policies, and institutions that would constitute a new political economy capable of regularly delivering good results are not at hand and won’t be for many years. The truth is we are still in the design stage of building a new operating system. That system won’t be yesterday’s socialism, by the way, but it won’t be today’s American capitalism either.
It follows that effectively addressing the many serious challenges America faces will take a lot more time than we would like. Meanwhile, America’s decline will persist—“decline” here not referring to losing world power relative to China and other countries, but to decline in human and natural conditions. That is a very depressing conclusion, but we must face it. More importantly, we must use it as a framework for understanding what we must now do. Indeed, there can be a very bright light at the end of this gloomy tunnel. There is the great gift of plausible hope that we can find our way forward.
In this period of decline, the imperatives we face as citizens are threefold: to slow and then halt the descent, minimizing human suffering and planetary damage along the way and preventing a collapse, the emergence of a fortress world, or any of the other dark scenarios plotted for us in science fiction and increasingly in serious analysis; to minimize the time at the bottom and start the climb upward toward a new operating system; and to complete, inhabit, and flourish in the diversity of alternative social arrangements, each far superior to ones we will have left behind.
But if we are failing at modest, incremental reform, how can we hope to achieve deeper, transformative change? The decline now occurring will progressively delegitimize the current order. Who wants an operating system that is capable of generating and perpetuating such suffering and destruction? One good thing about the decline of today’s political economy is that it opens the door to something much better. People will eventually rise up, raise a loud shout, and demand major changes. This is already happening with some people in some places. It will grow to become a national and global movement for transformation, demanding a better world.
As the old system enters its death throes, we are already seeing the proliferation of innovative models of “local living” economies, sustainable communities, and transition towns, as well as innovative business models, including social enterprises and for-benefit and worker-owned businesses that prioritize community and environment over profit and growth. Initiatives that may seem small or local can be starter wedges that lead to larger changes. These initiatives provide inspirational models for how things might work in a new political economy devoted to sustaining human and natural communities. Such initiatives are growing rapidly in America.
While the struggle to build a new system goes forward, we must do everything we can to make the old system perform. For example, if we do not act now on climate change, both nationally and internationally, the consequences will become so severe that the dark visions of those predicting calamity will become all too real. The situation we face in regard to climate disruption is already very grave. Should we fail to act now on the climate front, the world will likely become so nasty and brutish that the possibility of rebirth, of achieving something new and beautiful, will simply vanish, and we will be left with nothing but the burden of climate chaos and societies’ endless responses to it. Coping with the wreckage of a planetary civilization run amok would be a full-time job. On this issue and others, then, reform and transform are not alternatives but complementary and mutually reinforcing strategies.
Important here is a “theory of change.” The theory adopts the view that people act out of both fear and love—to avoid disaster and to realize a dream or positive vision. The theory affirms the centrality of hope and hope’s victory over despair. It locates the plausibility of hope in knowledge—knowing that many people will eventually rise up and fight for the things that they love; knowing that history’s constant is change, including deep, systemic change; and knowing that we understand enough to begin the journey, to strike out in the right directions, even if the journey’s end is a place we have never been. The theory embraces the seminal role of crises in waking us from the slumber of routine and in shining the spotlight on the failings of the current order of things. It puts great stock in transformative leadership that can point beyond the crisis to something better. The theory adopts the view that systemic change must be both bottom-up and top-down—driven by communities, businesses, and citizens deciding on their own to build the future locally as well as to develop the political muscle to adopt system-changing policies at the national and international levels. And it sees a powerful citizens’ movement as a necessary spur to action at all levels.
So imagine: As conditions in our country continue to decline across a wide front, or at best fester as they are, ever-larger numbers of Americans lose faith in the current system and its ability to deliver on the values it proclaims. The system steadily loses support, leading to a crisis of legitimacy. Meanwhile, traditional crises, both in the economy and in the environment, grow more numerous and fearsome. In response, progressives of all stripes coalesce, find their voice and their strength, and pioneer the development of a powerful set of new ideas and policy proposals confirming that the path to a better world does indeed exist. Demonstrations and protests multiply, and a powerful movement for prodemocracy reform and transformative change is born. At the local level, people and groups plant the seeds of change through a host of innovative initiatives that provide inspirational models of how things might work in a new political economy devoted to sustaining human and natural communities. Sensing the direction in which things are moving, our wiser and more responsible leaders, political and otherwise, rise to the occasion, support the growing movement for change, and frame a compelling story or narrative that makes sense of it all and provides a positive vision of a better America. It is a moment of democratic possibility.
In the end it all comes down to the American people and the strong possibility that we still have it in us to use our freedom and our democracy in powerful ways to create something fine, a reborn America, for our children and grandchildren. We can realize a new American Dream if enough of us join together in the fight for it. This new dream envisions an America where the pursuit of happiness is sought not in more getting and spending, but in the growth of human solidarity, real democracy, and devotion to the public good; where the average American is empowered to achieve his or her human potential; where the benefits of economic activity are widely and equitably shared; where the environment is sustained for current and future generations; and where the virtues of simple living, community self-reliance, good fellowship, and respect for nature predominate. These American traditions may not prevail today, but they are not dead. They await us, and indeed they are today being awakened across this great land. New ways of living and working, sharing and caring are emerging across America. They beckon us with a new American Dream, one rebuilt from the best of the old, drawing on the best of who we were and are and can be.
Part two of this article can be found here.
Part one about the mess we are in is pretty good, although how bad it really is does not really register on the author. This is reflected even more in his casual treatment of how we are to get out of this lethal karmic disaster, which he foreshadows in the sidebar. The kind of wishful expectations expressed there will not come close to stopping the juggernaut bearing down us. Underestimating the unswerving power of the forces we are up against, naturally leads to fantasies about how easily they can be dealt with. This is a recipe for ineffectual hopeism.
Mike, I agree, but, personally if it were not for this type of ineffectual hopeism…I’d be in the ground full of chemicals in a box, waiting to decompose…
Gus’s article IS a bit short on the effectual hopeism: for good sketches of just how good things could rapidly become, I recommend Hazel Henderson’s work, from the pollyanna-sounding, yet thoroughly documented _Politics of the Solar Age_ to her Ethical Markets TV:
One thing that needs to change is our values. We need to redefine success. Wealth in terms of accruing money, capitol and stuff needs to be seen as shameful — a spiritual and societal obesity, which in the extreme leads to collapse, paralysis and death. We need to redefine wealth in terms of increasing capacity to fight entropy. Life is such a force and the biosphere offers effective models for alternatives approaches for human organization.
we need to opt our and pull the plug on capitalism. Personally that has meant paying off all my debts, reducing the need for money and using what I have to invest in doing what is needed.
I like to imagine what would happen if we said “No”. Our country was founded by people who did that. They called it a revolution.
Christina — I wouldnâ€™t want to take your hopeism away if you feel it is between you and the cold damp ground, but what if there was something that offered real hope rather than the ism? False hope is a diversion from real hope, and obscures oneâ€™s search for the real answers to our difficulties. Real hope resides in activities that work to change ourselves, in the company of others, into the kind of people who no longer generate these pernicious problems, but serve rather to help others extricate themselves from our mutual morass. Ways to do this have been developed from times and places everywhere people have seen the need for them. In recent times these methods have fallen into disuse and forgetfulnessâ€¦.but they still exist in modern forms, waiting to be to be rediscovered and put to use in our emergency.
We can do better than Ineffectual Hopeism – there’s real hope. It’s not obvious, but for more on it, I recommend Hazel Henderson’s work.
Johannah — Excellent insight. â€˜capitalismâ€™ is an albatross around all our necks. This pernicious idea has enslaved and destroyed billions of people. Part of birthing a new consciousness is to understand this deeply and cast off the spell it has woven over so many of us. There are several master myths that people are unconsciously living out that are destroying our world. Awakening is the essential step leading to freedom and a new way of being. To come out from belief in these lies is not an easy thing for those of us long encased in them. Hence the need for small groups of those beginning to awake to help each other through this passage, sort of like the consciousness raising groups focusing on womenâ€™s liberation. But with a broader, deeper focus. Why not start one with some kindred spirits? I am part of three such groups myself, and we would be glad to share the processes that are working for us with anyone interested. Only dedicated action will create the people and ideas to change our selves/world.
Mike, my personal enactment of hope actually involves sleeping on the cold damp ground often and a lot:) I am at home there, but I think people like me need to actively get more connected and become aware of things like Brian posted. Thank you for the resource, I am so excited to learn more! I can provoke and facilitate the stewardship of the earth in young people all I want, but if I don’t know shit about the larger economic climate of my world and culture and how it can shift,then what hope is there of me being a voice and force behind that re-envisioning/shift?
Mike – I too am part of/ work with several groups. Wasn’t it Margaret Mead who said something along the lines of “Don’t underestimate the ability of small groups to change the world. They are the only thing that ever has” ?
I think it is interesting that we (Americans) suffer from obesity. After arriving here as settlers and transplanting patterns developed elsewhere, we went from over production during WWII to over consumption. We have yet to grow up and take any sustainable role in our planet.
I also think it is important to understand that capitalism is an idea designed to increase our capacity to consume resources including human resources.
I don’t think we are going to invent our way out of this one — I think it will take more than alternative energy technology and planning. I think it will take consuming less…
and having less babies (which is already happening). if we continue along as we have, we have to look at sustainability in terms of 10 billion people on this planet and that simply means less things per person but that does not mean less quality of life.
As was pointed out in part one of this series — more does not mean better. I think that is the strongest part of the piece. I want to read part 2 to see if I understand/agree with the ideas for solutions. I did not understand all the ideas in the list Gus sketched out.
Interface CEO Anderson, in his TED talk, has some insights on earlier ways of calculating human impact. Earlier, people figured impact = population * affluence * technology. See his great talk for more.
The Great American Square Dance Revival in Washington DC is one small piece of the puzzle. 200 strangers holding hands and dancing together to live old-time music. Reclaiming something positive that’s uniquely American. . . It’s a sight to behold!
hahaha. I think I wrote a carbon copy of this essay as a sophomore in environmental science class. I am sure this essay will hit all the right buttons with the “how’s that hopey changey thing going for ya” crowd. Last election cycle, Obama was going to fix all the inequity. Now, we just have some minimalistic paradigm shifting talk to take up the charge. All I know is- the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Reading this now and thinking back to the college version of me, I say get a job you angry hippy. Things look and feel a lot different when you have more to worry about than global geopolitics, environmental catastrophes, and international economic structures. I happen to think life is pretty good this day in age. American life is too full of personal choice to see a grand paradigm shift. In this country, if you want to be a hippy, you can. If you want to work for Monsanto and make money as an engineer, you can. You will never get both people to see that they are on the same spaceship earth. Even BP oil spills and ice bergs and nuclear meltdowns have not and will not accomplish as much. I hope the followup article is more substantive.
Justin — I find your comment intriguing. How does someone like you end up reading this article in Orion? Are you a professional troll, or just doing it for a hobby?
I read Orion. It’s cute and free, online. some articles are interesting, this one seemed to be worth commenting on. I work in the environmental field.
Cynicism- alive and well in America. Outlawed in 95 other nations. you want some revolution, head to Homs holmes.
I just don’t see how you get blue collar and/or middle class and/or people with enough resources to make a difference- to make a difference about shifting their paradigm. I used to read about paradigm shifts at college, now I have a house that needs a new roof. A roof made of asphalt shingles. asphalt don’t grow on trees baby.
Justin – Does environmental field mean working for a resource company in their environmental division? That’s what the asphalt crack seems to indicate.
I have other roofing options if you are truly interested but they do require work beyond writing a check.
This essay is more of the same: the overweening, self-infatuated big-think from our professional frauds.
Now that’s not to say that there aren’t some genuine sociological points of interest from Mr. Spaeth. Yet, like with all Orion types, there is that fatal virus of exceptionalist faith at the end: there always seems to be some great, wondrous dimension to the individual’s life and intellectual musings.
American higher education specializes in that kind of droning arrogance,which produces non-stop hortatory effluvia, as in Jensen, Occupy, the environmental non-movement, and women getting hugely expensive fertility treatments to get a Jesus child.
Small acts by little nice folks are unimportant to large-scale crises, and in our supersystem, the forces of power are far, far too great to be moved to “new paradigms” and utopias of a “new American Dream.”
Very few people seem to get the degree of fraud in “hope” and “change,” but the time is past to be condescending to these earnest sermons: social reality, where politics is dead and all work/play is shot through with corporate fossil fuel domination, should be the test for the veracity of communication.
In our social reality, sorry, folk-dancing and study groups aren’t anything but comforts to those involved. Justin may be sophomoric in his approach to offering some counter-commentary, but he is right to object to the pie-in-the-sky message.
Paul Kingsnorth offered the Orion faithful a counter-narrative to this type of manifesto – presumably he’s skeptical of this, too.
There are those who enjoy starting their day by pissing in other’s Cheerios; meanwhile there’s nothing
else to eat, and there’s only one bowl. Bon appetit to you all. 😉
Speak it Martin. This piss cereal tastes pretty damn good. I say the fact that we are privileged enough to have this dialogue on such a public forum is a pretty damn good thing. A thing that we should be both grateful for and enraged about. That’s as much as I can confidently say. Well, that and that I am thoroughly enjoying reading all of your energetic words.
Posted by Orion on behalf of Rob George:
James Gustave Spethâ€™s â€œAmerica the Possible: A Manifesto, Part Iâ€ is yet another articulate, most welcome and necessary summarization of the current inconsistencies of and insights into reshaping the present American, and indeed global, scene. Part II of Spethâ€™s work is eagerly anticipated.
We wish to congratulate, encourage and support all fellow humans contributing to the success of the necessary Transformation of Planet Earth, including but by no means limited to the work of the essential global OCCUPY and 99% movements. Our primary suggestion for this necessary transformation is the serious consideration and thoughtful adoption of some form of Socioeconomic Democracy as a peaceful, just and democratic resolution of the myriad problems confronting humanity caused by the maldistribution of wealth intra- and internationally.
Most certainly, numerous other fundamental changes are required, with some encompassing the many problems created by contemporary “money” and “banking” definitions and arrangements. The implementation of Socioeconomic Democracy will significantly help facilitate these and other necessary transformations, as all of humanityâ€™s problems have a crucial economic component.
Socioeconomic Democracy is a theoretically consistent and practically implementable socioeconomic system wherein there exist both some form and amount of locally appropriate Universally Guaranteed Personal Income and some form and amount of locally appropriate Maximum Allowable Personal Wealth, with both the lower bound on personal material poverty and the upper bound on personal material wealth set and adjusted democratically by all participants of a democratic society.
As has been demonstrated elsewhere, Socioeconomic Democracy can eliminate or significantly reduce a multitude of serious-to-deadly, but utterly unnecessary, intimately intertwined societal problems including (but by no means limited to) those familiar ones associated with: automation, computerization and robotization; budget deficits and national debts; bureaucracy; maltreatment of children; crime and punishment; development, sustainable or otherwise; ecology, environment, resources and pollution; education; the elderly; farcical “free-market” fantasies; the feminine majority; inflation; international conflict; intranational conflict; involuntary employment; involuntary unemployment; labor strife and strikes; sick medical and health care; military metamorphosis; natural disasters; pay justice; planned obsolescence; political participation; poverty; racism; sexism; so-called “offshoring” of both jobs and personal/corporate profits; unconscionable empires; unconscious politicians; untamed technologies; and the General Welfare.
A few, of many, relevant links:
“A Democratic Socioeconomic Platform, in search of a Democratic Political Party”
Socioeconomic Democracy: An Advanced Socioeconomic System (Praeger Studies on the 21st Century, 2002).
“Bibliography of Socioeconomic Democracy”
“Socioeconomic Democracy: A Nonkilling, Life-Affirming and Enhancing Psycho-Politico-Socio-Economic System”
“Socioeconomic Democracy” forthcoming in International Journal of Science, February, 2012.
We welcome and encourage feedback to this outreach, and look forward to working with all those interested in further peaceful development and implementation of these and other necessary changes aimed at the betterment of all humanity and the total planet.
Robley E. George
Director, Center for the Study of Democratic Societies
Coordinador, Nonkilling Economics and Business Research Committee
Scott, it would be helpful for Orion to provide the kind reader with a time travel machine (dialed to 1964), a warehouse full of bongsmoke, and a properly outiftted spaceship to properly appreciate the technical details of the truly capitalized “Transformation of Planet Earth” as set out in the links.
Sam Pizzigati, my man, you endorsed this?
Martin #16 — I really wonder why you take the time to read a rather lengthy article in a magazine fostering the â€˜Orion typesâ€™ that you are so clearly contemptuous of. Lumping together â€œJensen, Occupy, the environmental non-movement, and women getting hugely expensive fertility treatments to get a Jesus childâ€ makes very little sense, but is somewhat revealing as to where you are coming from. You have not offered us a single positive idea, but only a mishmash of slapdash negatives.
Answer me this fruit bats: Who generates the electricity for your iPads to write on here? Who mined the oil and metal that produced your iPad? Who grows your organic veggies and puts clothes on your back? If you can answer that you and your commune do all of the above, then I commend you. Because at the end of the day, good luck convincing 2 billion Chinese and Indians that what they really want is to live an agrarian lifestyle growing rice and using their own nightsoil for fertilizer. They have done that before, now they want to live like you. With computers and maybe even a car. They want to send their children to your Ivy League alma mater. I’m not trying to be a bigot, but you people have to understand that only because of this nation’s wealth do you have the time and freedom to write on comment boards.
If you want paradigm shift, it will involve violence not peace. When was the last time someone from the “Occupy” movement picked up a weapon? Never. right. You’re not going to dismantle this system with flowers and messages of “you guys are bad”. Remember Tiananmen Square? I hope I have not gone too far, but I am entitled to my opinion and you people have blinders on. If people want to live like you and eat TVP from co-ops, then they will. Most people aren’t so inclined.
Again, until peace and happiness are able to manufacture the iPads you use to type on here, you will not succeed. Go visit Shanghai if you don’t believe me. That’s what the future looks like.
Mike K., these matters are very important, and I benefit from reading many kinds of approaches to it. Unfortunately, the debate seems mired in positivism from the fascist right and the alleged left,so I write in with a different, indeed, nihilistic side.
Yet, to be clear, the terrible dilemmas of life amidst environmental collapse and economic oppression can be met with great pleasure. There are others out in the hinterlands who see the awful conundrums and brutal paradoxes, such as at declineoftheempire.com.
Orion sets out a huge intellectual goal, that of understanding the social reality of the natural world, so it must expect some brave critical responses, such as from Christina and Lenora Saltzman in the Paul Kingsnorth place.
Orion provides fascinating commentaries, such as Sy Montgomery’s piece, but “fascinating” can also mean “dead wrong” at times.
Have some fun shooting back- that’s what comment pages are for.
You don’t think there are any similarities in the short list I provided – but everything’s related, right?
Martin — I am not interested in dialoging with a proclaimed nihilist who thinks this forum is primarily for â€˜having funâ€™. What we are discussing here is far to serious to approach it in that spirit. Some people become trolls without any clear intention to play that role. Nevertheless one entering a serious conversation who only serves to sidetrack it and utter negative and self-contradictory conundrums, can only hinder the efforts of the adults trying to generate some real understanding of serious realities. What we are about, and Orion is about, is no joke. Therefore I do not intend to address your comments any more, in line with the web wisdom that says Donâ€™t Feed The Trolls!
Justin — I have wasted enough time on your anti-hippie nonsense. On my troll list you go! PS — I really hope you develop into a tolerant, caring, deeply informed person. Good luck. I am aware that Trolls are people too, with all the wonderful possibilities that involves. So, nothing personal, I just canâ€™t waste time in unproductive conversation.
Rob George — Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am studying the links you provided. Thoughts such as you have provided further our serious quest for a better world.
But Mike, do you not find some truth in what Justin and Martin were speaking to? Transparency and truth seems to be what is lacking in these corroded financial systems. However, it is also easy to say that my truth can be much different than your truth. Nonetheless, without negative criticism, or critical analysis of our own behaviors and lifestyles can we begin to come up positive solutions. Death must occur in order for much of new life to begin…you gotta have a conflict before you can have a solution…war birthed peace.
The language you use is offensive, Mike K.
You have no ownership of the word “serious” in what you write, and have no quitclaim to any “adult” status.
You can fling the “troll” label at anybody who doesn’t share your dour, ascetic, head-in-the-sand approach, but that does not constitute truth.
Nihilism constitutes an acceptance of social reality, not a retreat into specious hypocrisy.
If you are not open to the possibility that there is more to thought than echoing pat speechifying, then there was never a possibility of “dialogue” in the first place.
Give up this “troll” obsession – critics can teach you a lot.
@Martin: I can’t wait to hear how Martin’s nihilism will bring about a better tomorrow.
Christina — Thanks for your questions. I will try to answer this way:
I learned a lot a few years ago as a novice in web communications from Vera. Maybe you will too. Go to http://leavingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/disruptors/
In fact, Alex Rosenberg’s “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality” is an excellent place to start, or more likely, finish.
Rosenberg has all the academic qualifications you could venerate in your heroes, yet he does more to challenge the conventional worldview than any thousand eco-visionaries. Give it a shot if you dare.
Now, the question you should ask yourself: why, after all this alleged education, after these trillions spent on higher education and think tanks and Amazon books and e-books and speeches and computer chat rooms, do you still feel the need to demand that someone who questions the “better world” fetishism of privileged be the savior of all humanity? Could it be that we are not getting out of this alive, that no matter what the happy thoughts and sage manifestos and advanced degrees you seem to want to worship, the social insitutions of our human world are shot through with profit/greed/corruption?
Rather than chase some ignorant hopeism until you can longer smile and breathe, why not improve humanity’s conditions by seeing how advantaged you are and doomed others are – the dying species, the suffering poor, the petulant,awful rich.
America is a dying empire – look outside your door, count the Dollar Left stores, the obscene tanning salons, the miserable aged, the repositories of psych meds, the cages for humans – so accept that any “improvement” has to start with the awful truths that no one, including you, wants to hear.
One turth is that the environmental “movement” has presided over more environmental destruction than any empire has ever wrought, which is no credit to Spaeth, Orion, or any self-styled defender of green values.
I’ll enjoy my green benefits as best I can, but I am under no illusion that this is anything but a lost cause.
Mike, Martin, justin et all –
Gus’ article was about how we Americans consume a lot and end up unhappy, unhealthy poor sots.
Didn’t someone say doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome amounted to insanity?
As I pointed out earlier, population trends indicate we will end up with about 10 billion humans on earth. There just isn’t enough planet for all of us to consume like Americans.
Ethically that means we Americans need to find a way to consume less. There are those who find ways to live with less resource consumption without making an unhappy life and even some Industry leaders are reshaping their companies to do just that because it is good business to make things that work now and into the future.
Hell- We Americans don’t have to invent much.. we could just imitate our European neighbors to consume less resources and improve our way of life,
But the “doing” part is important. That is personal – very personal.
Yes- my laptop, and material goods are consuming oil and gas. But I am not going to the no gas/oil level — just the less.
What has that meant? A serious and personal look at my finances, some hard tough decisions… and work.
FYI – I live in Alaska where we tend to have large carbon footprints because of our cold conditions and the fact that we are at the end of supply lines.
I think that most decisions are not intellectual but more complicated and often driven by personal experience, culture and belief. I will never forget my day with a family on Ahe, an atoll in the Tuamoto archipelago, French Polynesia. Standing in their tiny one story home as they told me that the preceding winter they had stood there holding their children up for 6 hours because a storm had covered the atoll with five feet of water. That is not to mention my friends who live in villages that are eroding or sinking into the tundra here In Alaska.
There ain’t nothing wrong with personal. It is as real as it gets.
I’m not so sure its a complete lost cause Martin. Maybe yes a lost cause for the vast majority of our human population, but as for the earth…the natural world is a massively powerful entity that has spent a whole lot of time learning how to survive and regenerate itself and our short sighted human eyes have only witnessed a sliver of this survival. As far as causes that aren’t lost for me: Personally, I’d rather die in service and stewardship of earth and youth(because they are what sustains my existence), than live knowing I haven’t even tried to pay my dues to the future earth and all of its future living generations(even if I do so ignorantly and possibly hypocritically at times) because for me that is what makes this whole life business meaningful.
Johannah — I admire your personal decisions and sacrifices, as I would anyone doing so. That dynamic must be a critical part of any larger solutions to our global problems. But we need to extend those healthy personal changes to larger numbers of people as well. My interest and participation in small groups shows me that this could be the missing link between isolated individuals awakening and the larger society. When I refer to small groups, my emphasis is on the plural of that methodology: a movement composed of many small groups who meet and grow together.
People awakening to the huge dimensions of the ongoing global calamity we are involved in need to locate others of their mind, and get together regularly to explore our difficulties and the solutions we need to enact. There is a huge learning curve that involves a lot of creative thinking and honest sharing and acting to change what needs to be changed in our thinking and way of living. A big order but one we can handle if we choose to work together on it.
Much of this work can be facilitated by the discovery of a reality based spirituality that would have little in common with the failed performance of traditional religion, or the wild imaginings of many new age cults. This transition is already taking place in the minds and lives of many awakening individuals. We need to enter a process of sharing in this new birth together as a truly democratic mutually supportive endeavor.
Interesting comments, but it confirms why we have gridlock in our system. Everybody thinks that their ideas are intellectually superior and that people who have a different concept are trolls or idiots are whatever put down they want to use (kinda reminds me of high school). Liberals hate Fox News and never watch it. Conservatives hate the liberal media and never watch it–which leads us all to continue to only support our point of view, without a desire to understand others. College students are fed socialism in school and then fed capitalism once they get a job. People should listen to NPR and Rush Limbaugh. Watch Fox and msnbc. Read Orion and Reason. Perhaps folks should start learning to understand all points of view and not be so condescending to those who have the nerve to have a different point of view. Personally I feel that the government already controls our lives too much and many of the suggestions here would bring about even more control and I think everyone should have the opportunity to own a small business to see what that involves, BUT I am willing to listen to other opinions and not assume that the author of those opinions is an idiot.
Christina #27 — Be assured I have no intention of censoring anyone. I have consistently opposed any such action when some have suggested it on this blog. However, I have the right, as all of us do, to restrict my interactions with other contributors. These are my own decisions based on my perceptions; they do not pretend to have any authority whatever. Not every conversation yields any useful growth. I have tried reasoning with fundamentalists and learned that this a futile and counterproductive activity both for myself and the other party. So, enough alreadyâ€¦ and btw not all fundamentalists are of the religious variety.
Tim H — Not every deep disagreement can be characterized as unreasonable lack of openness. There are some bigoted and fascist ideas that I donâ€™t care to waste my time trying to â€œbe fair to.â€ As Olaf the conscientious objector said in e.e, cummingâ€™s poem â€œThere is some shit I will not eat!â€
I am a big believer in reasonable openness, but there are limits beyond which I will not go. The whole fairness charade on view in the mainstream media demonstrates how this equal time doctrine can be used to abuse the simple truth. Some material is just too wrong to deserve wasting a lot of time on it.
Orion is in an interesting position in that it accepts no advertising money. The easiest way for those in power to control an information source that they deem harmful to their interests is to threaten to withhold funds if offended. What are they to do with all the irritating pro-environment stuff in Orion? Are you who are reading my words really aware that big business has spent literally billions of dollars to fund huge â€˜think tanksâ€™ to influence public opinion and pump out bogus ideas such as climate change denial? Do you realize that they have funded scientists to put out phoney evidence that climate change is a fraud. Do you think it is beneath them to sponsor probiz shills to disrupt our readerâ€™s columns? Through their PR firms they spend millions to plant their self-serving lies in every possible media niche. What do you make of people who take the trouble to read this magazine for the sole purpose of disparaging it and ridiculing those who support it as a valid venue for constructive ideas to overcome the widespread corporate greed that is destroying our planet?
Do you think that someone will jump up and brand my comments as irrational paranoia? Maybe not, since I have anticipated it. But it seems we are in for a period of right wing corporate propaganda, thinly disguised as innocent citizen input. Or maybe you think my accounting of the corporate war against environmentalism is just a wacko delusion of mike k?
Dude, you all need to chill out and go to a square dance.
I sometimes wonder why more of Orionâ€™s readers donâ€™t sit down and comment on the inspiring articles that appear therein. The people that work to make this unique resource of support for our world need a few words of support from time to time. Let the authors and staff of Orion know if you value what they are doing. This whole operation is operating in an often hostile business environment. I for one am proud of the contribution they are making to the possibility of a better world.
Hi anon — I was afraid you might have gone permanently off planet.
While the problems that Gus addresses are endemic in the US, they are the same problems that are faced by the whole world – in greater or lesser extent. Obviously we need to redesign how we do most everything; fortunately however many of us have already figured out what needs to be done and how to do it.
Now all we have to do is to develop a plan and begin to make the changes at an increasingly rapid pace.
In 1992 all of the world’s governments agreed that every country and community should develop and implement a national and local strategies for sustainable development. This commitment was repeated in 1997, 2002, and 2006; but the US has still not done it – though the President’s Council on Sustainable Development went well done this road under the Clinton Administration due to the prodding by VP Al Gore.
Just imagine what might be possible if we undertook to develop such a National and Local Strategies in communities all across America. We could restate the challenges addressed by Gus Speth and many others; and then identify the best solutions for dealing with them. We could seek out and promote the best practices and success stories.
We could confront the lies that renewable energy is not affordable or that including environmental costs will hurt the economy, etc. We could demonstrate that include the externalities is far cheaper than trying to repair and restore the health of ecosystems after the damage has been done.
We could move rapidly to a zero waste, circular economy where all processes nurture and sustain rather than destroy. And we could leave our children and their children with the future and abundance that they need to live bountiful lives and deserve.
I challenge all of us to support the idea of developing a National and Local strategies for sustainability all across this once great nation of ours. For more info write to Rob Wheeler: robwheeler22 @ gmail.com
The below link gives some interesting information on disruptors that bolsters my recent comments #38 — http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/infiltration_to_disrupt_divide_and_misdirect_20120224/
Barring some technological innovation that allows huge numbers of people to leave Earth for another planet, there will have to be a massive reduction in the population of humans.
It will involve war, famine and disease and poisoned water supplies.
You bet that’s an ugly way to go!
You could do a stealth sterilization program through GMO food that would solve the problem in a few generations by making it so almost no one could have children. There will be a chosen few ofcourse.
This is also an ugly way to go.
Don’t worry. I won’t make the cut either.
James Dunet — In foreclosing all options to solve the population problem but the very unpleasant ones you mention,
you qualify as a â€œwe are all doomedâ€ prophet. Is there some strange solace for you in pronouncing that?
Took the words right out of my heart. But I am pessimistic about when people will come together to change the system. People don’t seem to be able to avoid pain before it happens; they seem to have to wait to feel the pain themselves and then they will try to escape it after it happens. In other words, things will unfortunately have to get worse before enough people want to make them better. We need an Arab Spring in this country, but most people are too complacent.
Rob — Your ideas are fine, but the sad truth is that working within the current system gives such dreams zero chance of adoption. The first step in facing the immense problems we are facing involves understanding that the system you seek to change is totally resistant to your efforts to alter it, and has the means to defeat any measures introduced into it. The depth and breadth of revolutionary changes needed to really deal with our dysfunctional culture can only happen outside of its current configurations. Time is on the side of those who are pillaging and enslaving us. To play their game within their crooked rules is a tragic waste of time.
Joseph R. — I think you are right — we canâ€™t wait until things really get bad. Too many put there hope on some magical (undefined) turn-around happening as a result of major disaster. The results of such a scenario might turn out quite uglier than their hopes would anticipate. We need to act now to head off the worst of the oncoming collapse.
Mike and all,
I could discuss and share my beliefs with you and the others here, but after reading some of the comments, I am not sure it would do much good. Still, let me try for just a bit. First, I am well aware of the magnitude of the global challenges we face, many of an environmental nature. Second, it is pretty obvious that we need a major re-design revolution and to change how we do pretty much everything. Third, there are those in every field that are pioneering the way and have been doing so for decades against all odds. Fourth, while I am aware that many within the “system”, most of those that control our primary institutions, and even the systems themselves, are most resistant to change, there are also many within every institution that are already championing change.
And in addition, I am personally aware of hundreds of efforts moving towards and focusing on paradigm shifts and re-evolutionary ways of confronting and responsibly addressing the problems.
It may be necessary for some of us to be naysayers, for whatever reasons, but I believe that we pretty much create our future and our beliefs through our thought patterns. So I would encourage as many as possible to imagine the needed solutions being instituted, even with the challenges, rather than us failing.
This is too beautiful and supportive of a planet and life is too precious to do it any other way. By the way, many of us believe that GAIA is actually rooting for us – and has plenty of ways to help us whether we are aware of it or not.
And finally by the way, there are many CEOs and CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers) who are now even going so far as to begin to embrace efforts to create a “Circular Economy” and to transform their corporate strategy with this in mind. See Ellen MacArthur Foundation for more details.
Hope this helps,
I’m a “Let’s cut to the f*cking chase!” kind of prophet.
Yes, I get cold comfort out of it.
It is my response to folks who want to ignore the vicious and greedy side of human nature and only talk about the good.
That’s fine for a polite scene like a coctail party, but if any implementable solution is to occur in real time, the cold calculus of the human being must begin and harsh decisions must be made.
Talking about the good in humans is looking at only half of the situation and produces a highly ineffective solution. (Assuming humans are 50% good 50% evil. That’s a big assumption. Good being defined as Altruistic and Evil being defined as Selfish behavior.)
But by all means, keep believeing that human enlightenment is just around the corner (or decades away if you prefer a longer time horizon.)
If you need lies to keep you going, then I won’t worry about what you will or won’t come up with to solve any problem.
I’ll be looking towards the modern capatilist, fascist, socialist or communist to see where the people of the world are likely to go and what they will do.
So far, humans are moving towards Fascist (read: corporate) control of society. Some reading of Benito Mussolini is in order if you want to take a peek at the play book for big corporations.
I see, all the problems of the known world are due to the “thought pattens we create for ourselves.”
How about you parachute into Afghanistan, or the Bronx, or Port Orchard, Wshington, and tell the first person you meet that nonsense.
As for the “Circle Economy” CEOs and CSOs, do they, or you, know what the term “greenwashing” refers to?
You are not slipping out of your repsonsibilities that easily. The corporate supersytem has created this insoluble crises, is governing them now, and gets absolutely no pass as it commandeers the next round of ecological devastation.
If Orion folks could ever define what they mean by “spiritual,” it would also help – the word is meaningless to many.
Thank you Rob for cutting to the chase — the real chase, which does require work… not just a talk and attitude.
Now, Martinâ€¦thereâ€™s a guy who with his eyes wide open, no illusion has he about olâ€™ H. Sap., no sireeâ€¦..bloody tooth and claw, and all that.
â€œNobody here is gettingâ€™ out alive!â€, he solemnly pronounces, â€œBut Iâ€™m going to take as many of them with me as I can.â€
He turns his narrowed and steely gaze downwards at the heaving and flimsy bodice of his latest conquest, sprawled languidly at the tips of his jungle boots.
â€œMartinâ€, she intones, â€œWouldnâ€™t you at least give Socioeconomic Democracy a try, just onceâ€¦?â€
He spits contemptuously past her upturned and pleading visage, as he growlsâ€¦
â€œYou poor dumb kid. Youâ€™ll see some day that I did this to save all of us!â€
The needed revolution begins withinâ€”within each one of us. â€œAs within, so without.â€ So, yes, itâ€™s correct to say that it takes an act of imagination and a continual questioning of the status quo, â€œArenâ€™t we better than that?â€ to change. When it comes right down to it, I can only change me. Iâ€™m my own lifelong project. I have three choices: try to stay the same (stay stuck), change, off myself. I prefer the second choice. I have tried the first and it is not much fun, does not serve me, nor does it serve anyone else. As for the third, well, that would be sending the ultimate, â€œF*** youâ€ to the Universe, wouldnâ€™t it? And Iâ€™m just not that into telling the Universe to screw itself.
To Martin: What is it about what Rob says that irks you so? What is it about â€œthought patternsâ€ that so bugs you? If thought patterns are neuronal nets that are woven together by our continual reinforcement of whatever perceptions we have about ourselves, others, the world, the cosmos, then how can it not make sense that â€œthought patternsâ€ can lead people to behave in either positive or destructive ways? Also, you speak about the â€œcorporate supersystemâ€ as if itâ€™s somehow outside of us all. We ARE the corporate supersystem, even if we donâ€™t desire to be, because somewhere along the way, we chose convenience, chose cheapness, chose the mass-produced over the handmade and the close-to-home. Others chose for us, too, when we were too little to have a choice (cloth diapers? Or â€œdisposablesâ€, anyone?) We can choose differently, thoughâ€¦though it will involve â€œsacrificeâ€ as that word is understood within the current context of those things we have collectively valued for so long (convenience, cheapness).
As for the word â€œspiritual,â€ a wise woman reminded me a couple of weeks ago that we need to bring together our disparate conceptsâ€”those that hold spirit separate from self, emotions separate from physicality, the intellect apart from sexuality. (Unfortunately, we donâ€™t have a wordâ€”yetâ€”that combines all of these, but give us time; weâ€™ll create one.) In my view, we are all imbued with spiritâ€”all parts of us as well as rocks, trees, birds, fish, snails, bacteria. All of life (and Iâ€™m not sure where life begins or ends) is imbued with spirit and that means everything is sacred. It is maybe part of our evolution as a species that we at one time separated all of these thingsâ€”and that many of us continue to live, without reverence, as if all things were separate. This is perhaps why I donâ€™t cling to any Abrahamic-lineage of beliefs: I donâ€™t believe in any off-world deities. The deitiesâ€”or spiritsâ€”are within, within each of us. They imbue the elements with an aliveness we can see and feel when we are receptive to them. Although Speth doesnâ€™t delve deeply into this, the only way weâ€™ll really turn things around is by weaving everything back together, instead of seeing ourselves as separate from all other things.
And as for completely dismantling what we have now, I just donâ€™t see it. I cannot think of any age in which human evolutionâ€”driving forwardâ€”did not retain something of the previous age. We have been living these last few millennia the shadow side, and to the extent we deny the shadow, we create it, give it appendages, give it voice. We may always have shadow and light; what we could use is more of an equilibrium between the twoâ€”and that is beginning to happen, even amid (and dare I say, maybe because of?) the destruction that is within and without.
As usual, Gus Speth hits the nail on the head. before we can begin to see change we need to have these kinds of critiques and get them to all progressive political leaders. As for new ways of measuring progress, I suggest a combination of the Genuine Progress Indicator with the Happiness Initiative subjective survey (www.happycounts.org). Keep up the great work, Gus. —John de Graaf, co-author AFFLUENZA and WHAT’S THE ECONOMY FOR, ANYWAY?
“Thought patterns” are certainly what govern us as individual humans, but they are socially constructed, and highly resistant to exhortations to change from extremely over-privileged rich Westerners. People are poor and suffering and doomed because of our corrupt and damaged social instituions, not because of their allegedly deleterious “thought patterns.” Blame the poor all you want, hector them to develop their minds, but you are simply perpetuating misery, now from a throne of “personal development.”
Secondly, there is no hope of social change through “personal trasnformation” and “scarifice.” The self-abnegation of a few westerners is practically irrelevant in a world that runs on the collective actions of the many.
I did not design the supersystem, but it is my social reality, as it yours -however much I may not like its particulars, it is the dominant order. How many Happy Meals I have bought is also irrelvant – only large scale actions are of consequence to its workings.
As for the definition of “spirit,” you see “everything as sacred,” which is wide-eyed innocence to me – I still have no idea what that could mean. A rock is not “sacred” -it is a rock. A removed mountaintop is not sacred – it is a destroyed mountaintop. A crying baby cannot eat “sacred” to feed itself. The words are meaningless – and thus should not be used.
To Martin: Really? Are the thought patterns only socially constructed? What if they are merely the first go-to once one has been wounded (e.g., that crying baby you mention, you know, begins in childhood)â€¦and then it is up to the individual how he wants to structure his perceptions around the wound (or event or whatever)? Is it not a thought pattern that gives one the ability to think that his actionsâ€”as CEO of investment bank, a hauler operating a truck taking coal away from mountains, a doctor administering an antibiotic for a coldâ€”however egregious, however disregarding of the sacredness of life, all life, donâ€™t matter? Or provides a â€œwho cares?â€ cover: â€œIâ€™ve got mine and the hindmost be damnedâ€? What if itâ€™s both/and? Are our collective thought patterns NOT all centered around scarcity, and hence the â€œfightâ€ for resources, because thereâ€™s not enough to go aroundâ€”so we think? Or at least to go around, according to whatever standards weâ€™re talking about?
I donâ€™t understand your words, Martin. I donâ€™t do self-work to perpetuate anyoneâ€™s misery; I do it to alleviate my own. I do it because looking around me, I see a need to â€œhold spaceâ€ for love. The love of the world for meâ€”and for anyone else willing to pay attentionâ€”is there. What, exactly, am I blaming the â€œpoorâ€ for? What does â€œpoorâ€ mean to you? Is it an income classification? Or the lack of a chicken in the pot at least once a week? Does it mean being homeless? Does it mean being wealthy, or even middle class, but lacking community? Does it mean having no ready access to clean water? What?
No hope of social change through personal transformation and sacrifice? This, in spite of the world running on the â€œcollective actions of the many.â€ Just who are these many and whereâ€”and howâ€”do their collective actions arise? All at once? Or do they take a collective vote and decide to switch on or turn off all their lights at once? To dynamite a mountain? Are you saying that personal actions donâ€™t add up to collective actions?
You DID design the supersystem, Martin. We all did. (When you deny your part in its creation, you also deny the â€œcollective actions of the manyâ€ that you speak of.) It plays to what is, for the most part, base in all humans, including the idea that everything is scarce, so, please, donâ€™t shirk your responsibilities as a designer now. â€œTat Tvam Asiâ€: I am that, be it the head of Massey or James Hansen, whateverâ€™s ugly or whateverâ€™s beautifulâ€¦we are that.
Wide-eye innocence? To you? So glad you qualified that, because it is not â€œwide-eyed innocenceâ€ to me. I wasnâ€™t born yesterday, not in any sense of the word. And it did not come overnight to me to viewâ€”to feelâ€”the world as sacred, the whole world, from a grain of sand to a tsunami-sized wave. Life is sacred, and if life is just using me to get to know itself, then so be it.
Hereâ€™s the dealio, dear Martin: If we were all well, if we were all sane, then, arguably, we would not be in this predicament. But this is part of our evolution. And we can choose what to do with our awareness. What I choose to do with mine appears different from what you appear to do with yours. And thatâ€™s fine. This is why, as I read it, Speth strikes a hopeful note at the end of his article. Because he (many of us) see how much better we could beâ€”as humans. But we have a few thousand yearsâ€”at leastâ€”of history, personal and collective, to integrate and move on from. We can choose to move in that direction; I sense we are, collectively, heading that way, toward working on our highest potentialsâ€”personally AND collectively.
If you were to read the great Ales Rosenberg’s “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality,” which you should only do if you are truly brave, you would find your pertinent questions about the self and self-deception given a truly remarkable going-over. There is a great deal of evidence from lab tests to indicate that this fiction of individual self-empowerment is a strong, persistent illusion.
I still don’t understand how anyone looking at the misery of the world, the abiding and multivarious horrors, continues to use the greenwahsing term “the sacredness of life.” We as humans are enmeshed in a supersystem that destroys, kills, murders, inflicts wholly irrational pain, over and over – how is there one demonstration that “life” is somehow exalted?
The concept of “poor”should need no detail – look around. We ahve horrific income inequality in this coutnry and across the world, and if you were to go to one toxic dump today being scavenged by fellow humans for the basis of their existence, you might not thinkthe word needing explication.
Seeing one’s action as somehow controlling the universe is absurd – we are but bit players, no matter how much American exceptionalism tries to inculcate and award profound “meaning” in our daily actions. Speth can be as “hopeful” as he wants – where’s the necessary evidence?
I do wonder about Spethâ€™s timeframe and hope heâ€™ll write more about that. Charles Eisenstein, in Sacred Economics and elsewhere, has written that he foresees a short period of â€œdark agesâ€ (I think we are already there)â€”relative to the length of time the Dark Ages preceding the Renaissance lasted. Things like Transition Initiatives, I think, could fundamentally help shorten the time weâ€™re talking about. I hope I live to see some of these changes.
This is a great article as change only comes from honesty and awareness. People forget easily about trends that develop over time. It was interesting for me during some recent research to see that the loosening of regulations on the S&L industry in the US came about 5 years before the crash that cost taxpayers about $100B. Read the headlines and you will see a stark reflection on what was to come later in the banking / sub-prime crisis. The core problem seems to me that the US has so much vested interest and money creating an effective lobbying movement that the country is in fact no longer a democracy? The people in the US need some honest leadership supported by ALL interests looking for the greater good of the country and not just their own self interest. “What is good for GM is good for America” has clearly been proven wrong. The US has done so much right and so much good that the tragedy is that today this is being destroyed. Addressing this issue is perhaps a key strategy for also turning around some elements in the world that get violent in their dislike of the US?
Martin….so dude…just curious, what keeps you amongst the living anyway? Seriously. You sound like a pretty joyless cat, but it might be that you just play one on the internet. So, do tell…?
I have the solution: Get out there and vote!
Seriously, this conversation has gotten way out of hand. Using big words about spirituality or economics isn’t going to make America great again. Mitt Romney is… haha.. Honestly, it ain’t even worth talking about this decrepit Roman Empire, except to discuss how it will decline and fall.
If you really want to make a ‘global’ difference, you’d better get your butts on a carbon-neutral airplane to Shenzhen, Guangdong province. You’ll probably have better luck convincing the Chinese to change their billion strong race up the economic ladder than trying to convince Americans to sacrifice for your personal interpretation of the greater good. At least in China there is a 3,000 year history of subsuming individual rights for a common cause. With their lower carbon footprint starting point, you may actually make some progress. The problem is, their current vision of the greater good is GDP growth above 9%. And you probably don’t know Mandarin or Cantonese. Neither do I.
Some of you really are near-sighted if you think your individual choices matter in the gloal scheme. Keep talking about your personal choice to bring a re-useable Chinese-made shopping bag to Whole Foods. The future of our planet is in the hands of Beijing, not Burlington VT. You people on this website are the least environmental concern of anyone, because you’ve already made your choices. So, ultimately you already don’t matter to marketers or corporations. Except as greenwash fodder.
So get out there and vote! And can we please limit comments to 10,000 words? Please get to your point sooner for us simpleminded folk.
PS. what is a troll anyhow? I don’t spend my days perusing messageboards like Mike K. Thus, I am unfamiliar with the term.
@ Justin, so if I get the crux of your gist, yer saying that the yellow man is going to eat the planetâ€¦and the rest of us better either hold a leg, hold a light, help skin or get out of the way? Well, maybe. OTOH, I give them a lot more credit that you do. The collective memory of the Chinese holds on to pain a lot longer than your typical American does. Their famines of the mid 20th century are not something theyâ€™ve shrugged off. They also clearly want to show the West that their culture is much more capable, and their tradition of sustainable practices is thousands of years old. Iâ€™m betting that they are not going to chunk all that out the window for an I-Pod in every pot. Emulating what they do, and building on it, is probably as good a ticket to America surviving the 21st century as about any plan you could mention.
Not that either country, or the world population in general, is going to have the energy resources to sustain even a small portion of the current standard of living. But, in the short run, we might all just get a little bit smarter before we hit that wall.
Plowboy, I get the droll references, the refusal to think things through – but nihilism is all about good times, my man, – knowing a great deal about social limitations, but having a great and hearty time with the remaining and necessary parts of this here life.
What does a plowboy know what does a plowboy do? Culd be you are miserable in your starry-eyed expectations for a Coca-Cola hilside world, could e you are a secret nihilist enjoying the beneifts of a lucky ride – don’t know, but who really cares about my experience of fun, or yours?
I dunno Martinâ€¦.you take your community wherever you can find it, you know? Here you’ll find some pretty sharp thinkers, and Iâ€™d count you in that number. Glad you have a sense of humor about it too.
Nihilism, Iâ€™d just posit, is a sport best practiced by the childless. Once you cross that personal Rubicon, the rhetoric starts to ring sort of hollow. As someone who had his first child at almost the Â½ century mark, Iâ€™ve seen it from both sides.
Sure, plowman, you can have your view, but having a child doesn’t mean that rationality gets chucked out the door along with the parties and trips and good food.
I’m glad you undestand some of what realism (if the term nihilism is too strong) can be, but you can’t make the world all sugar-sweet for your child hormonally driven as you might be to do so.
All the Little League games and Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties may work for you and your nuclear unit, but that’s not how the larger world runs.
Been through the teenage years yet?
Time to get a little practical.
1. start measuring the economy by various cuts at inflation adjusted median family and/or individual income instead of, or in addition to, GDP.
2. When comparing our GDP growth to European economies take into account population numbers (e.g. many european economies have stagnant or very slowly increasing populations and are learning to deal with the resulting deflationary pressures
3. Accept the fact that the US has always “lead” the world in social, political and economic “development”. Meaning that what is happening here will likely also happen elsewhere. What is happening here (among other things ) is that the rich and smart are able to leverage their skills and assets thanks to modern technology and communication in a way not possible in the past. As a result they and their children are becoming richer and smarter leaving more and more people behind. What we do about that is not clear and will take a lot of discussion if we continue to believe in the “one person/one vote” concept.
4. Accept the fact that the only practical, affordable technology for dealing with global warming is controlling populaion growth. If you believe in humanity help save it from itself.
Believe me, making my children comfortable is way down on my priority list. (Had a rather, ummm, â€œengagedâ€ discourse with the spousal unit just this morning as to why I feel nitrous oxide is not indicated to drill a simple cavity in a 7 y.o.) Rather, I think what is required is to give them skills and the capacity to cope with whatever life throws at them, push them and give them lots of love. And yeah, it will hurt sometimes. My oldest is only 8. Iâ€™ve seen the teenage years up close and personal in a large family of nephews and nieces, enough to know that trying to shield your child from consequences is a recipe for a world of hurt. You?
Closer to the subject at hand though, I wouldnâ€™t take away the idea that most of those who post here are naive or blind to the just how miniscule a contribution one person can make. Most, like you, do it because the alternative is morally unacceptable. So is armed insurrection and violence, to most. Regularly weâ€™ll have someone send out a blast of bombast about the LATENESS OF THE HOUR, and the need to take to the barricades NOW!!! It doesnâ€™t ever get much traction, which Iâ€™m always gratified to see. As Iâ€™ve said before, my ancestors got the tongs put to them and were hammered out on the federal anvil, and not all that long ago. Those stories are not easily squared with a blithe call to insurrection.
Yes, plow, I’ve seen the teenage years, but from a non-biological parent angle – and it’s a hard, hard economy for youth without great privileges. American society is an intensely difficult society to “raise” children – it sounds like you are incredibly level-headed about it, though.
All the vainglory about LATENESS and “to the barricades” is bizarre – staying out of prison and government fine imposition is well worth the frustration of not being the rebel of youthful dreams.
To Konrad Streuli:
Please share some examples of your point #3. Thanks!
Martin, Plowboy, and friends,
Congratulations, I am glad that you have definitively figured out “how the larger world runs.” I am still figuring it out after having spent 25 years as a teacher, 40 years as a political activist and organizer at the local to global level, and 15 years actively representing various civil society organizations at the UN while also being deeply enmeshed in efforts to incubate transformative social, environmental, and economic societal change.
Anyway, my observations are that 1 person, when they decide they want to and act on it, can have an enormous impact and make a tremendous difference. You can look at Ray Anderson, former CEO of Interface Flooring, or McDonough and Braungart. Or to be just a bit more ordinary, the list of some 29 Chief Sustainability Officers in Fortune 500 corporations, many of which started out to promote a sustainability drive in their companies at a much lower level of position and activity just a few years ago and are now coordinating it as a major strategic orientation within the business.
And I can give you hundreds of more examples, from classroom teachers that have brought Education for Sustainable Development into their schools, to those that have been instrumental in creating sustainable community campaigns where they live like I did quite successfully in the 1990s, etc.
As more and more of us get the bug, we will see that we can have even more of an impact in creating change…. and hopefully we will demonstrate to at least some of the sceptics that they were just plain wrong. At least it is worth a try. Nothing invested, nothing lost; nor gained. Reach for the stars rather than complain about what a lousy world it is and who knows what you will get.
But please do not get me wrong. I am often talking about the 1 billion plus without access to clean water, sufficient food, and/or electricity, etc. And I had an 8 year old nephew who died from leukemia a year or so ago; so I know that we are not all just living in a bed of roses. But still my nephew brought a lot of joy and caring into the world even when we was dying because of the attitude he chose to have.
Martinâ€¦.getting back to the subject of the Red Chinese, and the growth and consumption projections. I agree, we really have no moral high ground to be all snitty about what they plan to do, or not do. Pretty much, they are, and are increasingly going to be, the proverbial 900lb. gorilla. Still, I hear reports of the Chinese population being less than cooperative with the whole â€œunlimited growthâ€ program. For one thing, darn it, they refuse to accumulate debt and they have this quaint idea that saving for the future is maybe a good idea. Very annoying, that. Iâ€™d like to think that theyâ€™ve seen the shape the West has gotten into with short term revolving consumer credit, but Iâ€™m not sure. Iâ€™m thinking it is more of a cultural imperative, based on a long and often brutal history. If that holds, they will be in the position to show us a thing or two.
The Americans learn lessons, but typically only the hard way. The â€œboomerâ€ mentality is still very much with us, but more and more it is beginning to sink in that we only screw ourselves in the long run. (Maybe the over-hyped Marcellus shale gas play, its inevitable price implosion and trashing of the aquifer will kill this approach for once and for all) Case in point is a book I just finished about the 1930â€™s Dust Bowl on the Southern Plains. Now there was a good example of a cosmic kick in the ass, delivered with some authority. For the most part (yeah, I knowâ€¦.) we got the message and changed our ways.
“Congratulations, I am glad that you have definitively figured out ‘how the larger world runs.’ ”
Me? Not a chance.
Ray Anderson is a joke. Whatever he did to try to atone for his corporate CEO maruading when he was younger, did not work, and will not work, nor will the hot air of any of the greenwashing sustainability fraudsters now getting more unearned big bucks for selling the newest snake oil.
As for the “one-person” hypothesis of global social change, it is preposterous.
Thanks for your deference implied in your realization that others have “figured out” the workings of the larger world” to a greater extent – it takes much hard intellectual work, real cognitive fortitude, expert instructors that are there if you look hard enough -and it does give the holder of such understanding the fun knwoledge of of when smoke, even green smoke, is being blown
To Rob: Carry on!
Change at the micro level will eventually result in change at the macro. It works in the other direction as well, of course, the two flowing back and forth continually. We need more Transition Initiatives in the States; those are communities acting together, not just individuals, but it seems like, at least in my own community, something needs to happen first to get such a thing off the ground. What that is, exactly, Iâ€™m not sure. But attitude is everything, and itâ€™s evident that thereâ€™s a lot of defeatism. I feel â€œdefeatedâ€ too, sometimesâ€¦and sad. Who can help but feel that way at times? Is there an antidote? Maybe. Check out: http://www.heartmath.org/ and http://noosphere.princeton.edu/.
@ Justin (22) – You are absolutely correct in your assessment. For those of who think the system (Western Civ) is vulnerable, well perhaps you’re right. But don’t believe for one moment you are going to take it down without a struggle. It will not come down by an act or even the collective acts of all the disgruntled middle class Americans and Europeans who have seen the light. There are centripetal forces holding it together as much as there are centrifugal forces pulling it apart. Aside from the controlling hands of the plutocracy, there is too much raw desire out there in the hinterlands of civilization, too many have-nots who have been living on the poverty stricken fringes of this beast just waiting their turn, and scratching for a piece of the elusive pie.
The entire Soviet Bloc, for example, was systematically and forcibly excluded from all the “fun” for almost a century. But the forbidden fruits are now within their grasp. And now the Chinese have finally woken up from their slumber as well and are quickly focused on putting a car in every one of their citizens’ driveways. The Indians as well have decided they want to play in the game. In Mumbai they have made a good beginning by taking over all of the telephone customer service functions for most major American corporations. Not only that, but a majority of citizens in the West (the first world) have been living at or below the poverty line for generations. They too want a payday and a taste of the forbidden fruit.
The only way you’re going to bring down Western civilization, its Curriculum and its Spectacle, is if you pry it from the dying hands of all these previously designated have-nots and the plutocrats who own and manage it. You can see it in the younger generation of Siberians here in Barnaul. They cannot live without their cell phones, their iPods, their recently financed cars and newly minted driver’s licenses. They are tasting the promise of the spectacle, and they are mesmerized by its elusive appeal. It is not just blue jeans they want… they want it all!
Dear Leigh, Martin and friends,
First Leigh, thanks for the links. HeartMath I know about because they worked with us on the development of our sustainable community campaign; it will be good to see what they are up to again. Noosphere ideas and the idea that consciously focusing our thoughts can effect our reality and the greater reality are very interesting ideas.
Do you not see the hypocrisy in your statements? At least now I know there is little point in discussing things with you. You have already figured everything out and have come to your conclusions.
If you think that Ray Anderson was a joke and what he did in his business cannot and did not work, then there is not much more I can say to you. What was accomplished has been widely documented and info on what the business continues to do is readily available.
Sure Interface is still not perfect – show me one person that is living a fully sustainable life in this inter-related and inter-connected unsustainable world, and I would be very happy indeed. But for a multi-national corporation that is selling what has been a most unsustainable product for decades they are getting fairly close.
And if you think a one person hypothesis for global social change is preposterous, then I think the joke is probably on you. O course all of our activities depend upon and are integrally connected with those around us, but it is not hard to see that there are many historical figures that have had a profound effect on the well-being and un-well-being of humanity.
@ mike k (24) you still take yourself to seriously, my friend. Lighten up… you’ve been here for years… have you made no progress yet?
Of course those in the “emerging world” want what many of us have and are likely to increase the demands on the planet quite significantly. But why shouldn’t they?
But these people are not the problem. The problem is all of humanity’s unsustainable practices and lifestyles.
And of course it is not easy to create and make change. That is why they call it the “status quo” that we have to shift. – status like in static ie lacking in movement, action, or change. If it was easy to make change it would have happened 40 years ago when so many of us wanted humanity to recycle, invest in renewables, create peace, grow our food sustainably, etc.
But change it is indeed. I participated in a training program on organic agriculture for all state ministers of agriculture in India 4 years ago. UNEP now repeatedly states at the UN that organic agriculture is 2 -4 times as productive in the developing world as conventional. No one said that 4 years ago.
While China is still building a coal plant a week, they are also leading the world, along with India, in wind power installations and manufacturing; and are driving a push towards electric vehicles.
Many cities are being designing upon an ecological model there; and last year I spoke on ecovillage development in China and was received quite warmly. They love the idea. Same with India and all around the world.
Yes humanity is going in both directions at once; but it is patently false that people do not want to create and live in a sustainable world. We just need to and are figuring out how we can all live prosperously together and in a sustainable manner without going beyond the biocapacity of the earth to support us.
Given that tens of millions of people are now focusing on how we can do this, I think the odds are pretty good that we will make it. But it could be pretty rocky along the way – given that we have to redesign pretty much every social institution and way that we do things. And there are indeed a lot of negative institutional factors that continue to attempt to hold it back.
OOps, sorry, I should have proof read my message; and there does not seem to be an edit mode once you have posted it.
I meant to say: UNEP now repeatedly states at the UN that organic agriculture is 2 -4 times as productive in the developing world as conventional. No one said that at the UN 10 years ago; now it is common knowledge there.
The same with renewables, ten years ago the developing countries said why should we invest in renewables – that is just an added cost. Now they almost all say, help us, we want to invest in renewables. It makes far more sense, both in cost and otherwise, over the long run.
@ Rob – well call me a cynic along with Martin and Justin… but I prefer my life without “institutions” and without windmill farms in the oceans… call me old fashioned… about 10,000 years old fashioned. But the changes we have wrought since then are not just materially relevant, but have affected how we think and experience the world as well. I prefer to live less rationally, than more rationally. We have too much reason today, too many plans, and too many demands. And there nothing like hope… it is a word for those who don’t yet live.
OK, my friend, I have no problem with this. If you are living low end and not making things worse – then that is just fine. Unfortunately, billions of us are not. And while I too might prefer some elements of an earlier time, we are no longer there now.
Unfortunately, with 7 billion of us on the planet, and most people wanting a more modern lifestyle, we either have to create institutional change and plan to make the transition to a fully sustainable world or its all going down the drain – for all of us – before too awful long.
Many reports have documented the global ecological challenges we’re fast running up against. Still, and again, if you are living a more ecologically responsible life, you are ahead of most of the rest of us. Congratulations. Rob
Rob – I want to bring to your attention Alli, a friend who along with her partner has built an organic farm in the hungry country here in Alaska. For the past 7 years they have done what no other Alaskan I know of has done in many decades. They have eaten only what they have raised (during a short season), hunted, fished or gathered. They make money from selling the processed goods and raw product. They owe money to no one. It is a fulfilling life and they are building a community of like minded friends.
I know this very small and local compared to where and how you work, but I think it is inspirational and has lessons to teach us all.
Somewhere in the thread “Noosphere” was brought up. In the 90’s some other friends built BIosphere II in Oracle, Arizona. One of the goals was to explore closed systems and issues of sustainability. They consulted Russian scientists while developing the project and when those Russians visited, they pointed out that Biosphere II was the first Noosphere.
You see, “Noosphere” is not only an internal thought form or structure. It needs to be manifested to build meaning.
Elsewhere in the thread someone brought that it is interesting to speculate that you can change the world by having positive thoughts. I think it may be the opposite. That those positive thoughts could be an impediment. It is important to ACT positively.
I am so tired of being the one who says “Words, words, words! It is important to act.”
I would note that words from those who have acted have a deeper and richer resonance and more knowledge than words from those who just sit back criticizing. When one engages in the physical world, one learns things and has to make adjustments – a sort of progressive approximation (Bucky Fuller). That is how all good art is made and much else. I would argue that it is also an evolutionary process, which is written large in the Biosphere.
Finally I want to think those who have shared websites on the thread.