Sunday, March 15, 2009
What Next? A Positive Vision of the Future.
After I commented on Tom Friedman's NY Times Column form 3/8/2009, I decided to ask another Green what he thought about it. This is his response. Click Read more!.
What Next? A Positive Vision of the Future.
By Howard Switzer
Seeing Tom Friedman admit that the growth economy was a mistake we cannot continue is something we should encourage many more to do. I think doing what he did may be deeper than simply realizing the level of crisis we've created. It was an admission that he was wrong, that his world view was mistaken and he’s turned his focus to problem solving instead of reacting to perceived fears. I thought it was another sign of the apocalypse, the “lifting of the veil”, the great awakening if you will and many more will follow in an accelerating wave around the world. Well maybe it’s not too great yet but if you look at all the websites and community initiatives pursuing a more sustainable life it begins to look encouraging. Examples include community wise dialogue and listening projects, localized food production, localized fuel production, localized currencies, ecosystem protection and restoration projects, natural building, etc. etc.. All these things and much more speak to an understanding that human well being is threatened and we need to come together around a decentralized system to survive. While some internet activities may seem more a waste of time, the fact that we can find positive efforts to connect people doing good things, besides being a great store of information, is important to informing the human organism. Tom Friedman may be demonstrating the necessary change in attitude toward planet/species, a reversal of the attitude of civilization over the last 6000 years. Paradigm shifts are more a social/political phenomenon than a technological question and have to do with a new worldview and creating whole new structures which are supported by the larger culture. However there are technological artifacts we can probably incorporate into that new worldview.
The system, “Obama World,” is focused on the economic issue at the exclusion of the climate issue and will continue to fail miserably even if they can generate some momentary spurts of economic activity. This is because they not only don’t know what to do but that they work for the banks so any idea of what to do must squeeze through the narrow gate of those interests and all sustainable solutions are much too broad to even come close to getting through. Their list of priorities is anemic and intentionally deceptive. I do think that blogging and twittering endlessly about their machinations has diminishing returns. It seems to me we need to be articulating a positive vision of the future that people can embrace while also hooking people up to something they can dig their toes into. While climate may not make it into the “national dialogue” consider where that dialogue happens, the system’s media. The same media that spoke approvingly of Bush and his agenda and now speaks glowingly of Obama’s agenda. However, on the internet it is not only a national but a planet ‘round dialogue. I also find it is often in the local dialogue because the elders of communities recognize that there are changes, especially in rural areas.
If, as Tom Friedman recently wrote, “we’ve hit the wall,” then what is next? I think the answer is that we clearly articulate a positive vision of the future that millions of people can embrace. So what would be a positive vision of the future? To Greens it would a one that is sustainable. There is much we cannot determine about the future but we can be pretty sure we will be facing less and less fossil fuels, a collapsed global economic system and a climate change. These don’t seem very positive unless you consider them an important catalyst to change in the human organism’s relationship with the planet. The only model of sustainability I know of is that of a healthy mature ecosystem, like a rainforest. That is; one in which every species is fully employed, all work cooperatively while recycling all of their resources, and all products and services are distributed in such a way that every species remains healthy.
Okay, this should be easy; eco-villages full of happy people of all ages employed at growing their own organic foods, medicines and clothing materials, producing energy from the sun, wind & water flows and plants, biologically cleaning water and recycling all materials used; large scale mining would be stopped and metals recycled into their most efficient use in systems for food, healthcare, energy, and transportation, all broadly distributed. Creativity would be encouraged. As many of needed goods as possible would be grown or otherwise produced at the village or regional level. Local credit unions and currencies would be used. Currencies would only be used for a measure of value and a means of exchange. Various forms of non-violent conflict resolution techniques would be utilized as needed. Pre-industrial modes of building using earth, straw, wood, sand and stone, would be utilized in modern passive solar designs. There would be a variety of energy systems, some configurations would produce more than electricity but would also produce fertilizers and bio-char for agriculture, animal and human foods, liquid and gaseous fuels and certain pharmaceuticals utilizing human, animal and plant wastes.
Well, I’ve only begun to fill in this vision, there are doubtless many holes yet to fill, I am only one cell in the human organism. I invite everyone to join in. Whatever the final vision, it will be a collaboration. But there are many roadblocks to any of this happening because we live in a society that is extremely, if not pathologically, polarized. The major divisions include the religious/secular divide related to the science/religion debate and the political divisions we know too well and the divisions within those that we are also familiar with. So a critical part of the vision will be to resolve these polarizations. If we can do that, I believe there is no other party so well positioned to clearly articulate a positive vision of the future that millions can embrace as the Green Party.