Thursday, November 06, 2008

Not the change you were expecting

NY Times columnist David Brooks used his election day column to express some of what I am feeling about the status of America right now.
In the next few years, the nation’s wealth will either stagnate or shrink. The fiscal squeeze will grow severe. There will be fiercer struggles over scarce resources, starker divisions along factional lines. The challenge for the next president will be to cushion the pain of the current recession while at the same time trying to build a solid fiscal foundation so the country can thrive at some point in the future.

I wondered if there were an answer, but I read one today that tells me Greens are the only hope.

The following is excerpted from comments by Lorna Salzman. The bold emphasis is mine.
Change doesn't come straight, on the rocks. It comes indirectly, because of the interplay of societal and individual values.If this weren't true, we would never have advanced beyond slavery. Human behavior doesn't exist in a vacuum. And politics doesn't either. They reflect and enhance each other.

What the USGP, the left and the liberals still haven't grasped, aside from their almost complete ignorance of and disdain for ecology, is that a change in one thing and in one direction often brings change elsewhere. This is why environmentally based policies and laws have the potential to bring about social change. This is why stopping global warming and developing a sane energy policy that halts fossil and nuclear energy will have enormous ramifications for society: in food supply, transportation, construction, community development, industry, employment, indeed in every aspect of our lives and society.

This is a lesson that environmentalists in the 1970s, myself included, learned early on but which was studiously ignored by the marxist ideologues, and still is. I still get emails from all parts of the world thumping the desk and crying out "socialism" as the answer. These guys never ask the right question though. That's why they will never get the right answer.

The notion that elected officials lead rather than follow is one of the most naive convictions of liberals and the left. So let us remind ourselves that in the area of environment, we do not have a constituency, much less a movement, that could force Obama or congress to carry out our wishes. We collectively allowed the achievements and exultation of the 1970s to carry us on through for a few years until the flame died out, the big enviros sold out, and issues over which we have no control (war, racism, israel) took precedence over issues over which we could have exerted influence.

Nowhere is this more true than in the US Green Party and the Nader campaigns, both of which steered clear of proposing an ecologically based paradigm shift for western industrial society and global capitalism, a shift that requires ending the fixation on economic growth and substituting sufficiency and regionalization of the economy.
I could not have written it better, nor do I have Lorna's experience with ecology. But this is the only way that makes sense.

We have become a society driven by consumerism and that is the most easily controlled behavior there is. It is so easy to say buy this, buy that, you aren't cool without your I-Pod. Just watch what our government is trying to do to perk us up. They want to give us money so that we go buy more things we don't need. This can not continue. One by one, stores are closing, people are losing jobs. Even the mighty Toyota announced a 69% drop in earnings this quarter. When people lose their jobs, they stop buying.

In Andrew Revkin's DotEarth blog today, he made this point about the world that expects Obama to lead.
President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20 will become the most important leader of a species that has exploded in just six generations from a total population of 1 billion (around 1830) to a point today when teenagers alone number 1 billion, a species that is on a path toward more or less 9 billion people by mid-century. In numbers, think roughly of adding two Chinas on top of the one that exists today.
Unless we start working to make ecology, sustainability the major focus of all that we do, the future that Brooks sees will last a long, long time.

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