Thursday, 17 November 2011

In the Face of This Truth

It’s time to talk honestly about collapse - no matter how others may respond.

We live in the midst of multiple crises­ - economic and political, cultural and ecological - posing a significant threat to human existence at the level we have become accustomed to. There’s no way to be awake to the depth of these crises without emotional reactions, no way to be aware of the pain caused by these systemic failures without some dread and distress.

Those emotions come from recognizing that we humans with our big brains have disrupted the balance of the living world in disastrous ways that may be causing irreversible ecological destruction, and that drastically different ways of living are not only necessary but inevitable, with no guarantee of a smooth transition.

This talk, in polite company, leads to being labeled hysterical, Chicken Little, apocalyptic. No matter that you are calm, aren’t predicting the sky falling, and have made no reference to rapture. Pointing out that we live in unsustainable systems, that unsustainable systems can’t be sustained, and that no person or institution with power in the dominant culture is talking about this - well, that’s obviously crazy.

Regardless of others' reaction to talking honestly about collapse, it's essential we continue; no political project based on denying reality can be viable for the long term.

But to many of us, these insights simply seem honest. To be fully alive today is to live with anguish, not for one’s own condition in the world but for the condition of the world, for a world that is in collapse. What to do when such honesty is unwelcome?

In June 2010, I published a short essay online asking people who felt this anguish to report on their emotions and others’ reactions. In less than a month I received more than 300 messages, and while no single comment could sum up the responses, this comes close:

“I feel hopeless. I feel sad. I feel amused at the absurdity of it all. I feel depressed. I feel enraged. I feel guilty and I feel trapped. Basically the only reason why I’m still alive is because there are enough amazing people and things in my life to keep me going, to keep me fighting for what matters. I’m not even sure how to fight yet, but I know that I want to.”

I didn’t ask for biographical information, so there’s little data on the age, race, or occupation of the respondents. Nor did I ask specifically about political or community activism, but the letters reinforced a gut feeling that dealing openly with these emotions need not lead to paralysis and inaction. People can confront honestly a frightening question - “What if the unsustainable systems in which we live are beyond the point of no return?” - and stay politically and socially engaged.

One respondent, a longtime community organizer, put it succinctly:

Recently several of our visionary thinkers have moved from the illusion that ‘we have 10 years to turn this around.’ They now say clearly that ‘we cannot stop this momentum.’ It takes courage and faith to speak so plainly. What can we do in the face of this truth? We can sit face to face and find the ways, often beyond words, to explore the reality that we are all refugees, swimming into a future that looks so different from the present. We can find pockets of community where we can whisper our deepest fears about the world. We can remain committed to describing the present with exceptional truth.

What happens when we tell “exceptional truth”?

First, we often feel drained by it. Another respondent observed:

“My personal ambition seems to decrease in proportion to the increase in world suffering. I think that’s part of my emotional reaction to crisis. I don’t think I am fully alive. I’m not depressed, just weirdly diminished.”

Second, we encounter those who don’t want to face tough truths. Many wrote about isolation from family and friends who deny there are reasons to be concerned:

“I’m a drug addict with over 20 years clean, and I know all about using up my future and farting out lame excuses. I promised myself an honest life to stay clean, and the double-edged sword is that I started seeing just how much our culture swims in denial.”

Sometimes people accuse those who press questions about systemic failure and collapse of being the problem:

“People get angry at me for it and call me ‘dark’ and ‘negative’ and ‘sinful,’ telling me to instead move to the ‘light,’ ‘positive,’ and ‘love.’ Whatever.”

Regardless of others’ reactions to talking honestly about collapse, it’s essential we continue; no political project based on denying reality can be viable for the long term. We need not have a crystal ball to recognize, as singer/songwriter John Gorka put it, that “the old future’s gone.” The future of endless bounty for all isn’t the future we face.

How can we open an honest conversation about that future? It isn’t easy, but it starts with telling the truth, from our own experience, like this 70-year-old woman who lives in a rural intentional community:

I’ve lived long enough now to be very aware of how different the world has become, how the cycles of nature are off kilter, how the seasons and the climate have shifted. My garden tells me that food doesn’t grow in quite the same patterns, and we either get weeks of rain or weeks of heat and drought. This is the second year in a row that our apple trees do not have apples on them. But most people get their food in grocery stores where the apples still appear, and food still arrives, in season and out, from all over the world. This will soon end, and people won’t understand why. They don’t see the trouble in the land as I and my friends do. I grieve daily as I look on this altered world. My grandchildren are young adults who think their lives will continue as they have been. Who will tell them? They can’t hear me. They, and many others, will have to see the changes for themselves, as I have. I can’t imagine that anything else will convince them. My grief for the world, and for them, is compounded by this feeling of helplessness because there is no way we can have the collective action you speak of when the ‘collective’ is still in denial.

The work of breaking out of denial is less about specific actions and more about the habits and virtues we must cultivate. Far from that rural community, a 35-year-old woman working in an office in Chicago summed up the task:

“We really need to take it back to the basics and keep it simple. This reminds me of one of my own quotes I thought of a few months ago - ‘be humble or be humiliated.’ I think I’m a simple person. I try to avoid making things more complex than they have to be. I try to focus more on what I need versus what I want. ‘Be humble or be humiliated’ is my own personal reminder.”

Her personal reminder is relevant for us all, individually and collectively. Humanity’s last hope may be in embracing a deep humility, recognizing that our cleverness is outstripped by our ignorance. If we become truly humble, we can abandon attempts to dominate the living world and instead find our place in it.

Robert Jensen wrote this article for A Resilient Community, the Fall 2010 issue of YES! Magazine.  Robert, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is author of several books. His latest is  All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice. He is co-producer of the new documentary Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing.

by Robert Jensen, September 17, 2010

Friday, 11 November 2011

We are screwed!

We are royally screwed. The sad part of all of this is that we are doing it to ourselves and so many of us are either blinded or in denial mode.

This is not about gloom and doom. This is about facing the reality.

Here is what we can expect in the year 2012.

  1. Greece and Italy both bankrupt and default. More countries follow.
  2. The European Union collapses and enters into economic chaos.
  3. Many states in USA bankrupt.
  4. Global financial crisis.
  5. Global Warming in runaway mode. Severe climate across the globe.
  6. Israel takes preemptive strike against Iran. US drawn into war.

We, the inhabitants of the planet as consumers must ask ourselves:
Why do we do this to ourselves? We are all in this together.
Change begins with you.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Is High Technology immune to Climate Change?

 From Apple Macs to Toyota Camrys - Severe weather cause disruptions

Honda Motors Co. cars are submerged in flood waters at a Honda car factory in Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok. Japanese car makers, including Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., are losing 6,000 units of production daily after halting production since early this month in their Southeast Asian manufacturing hub, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

Worst floods in 50 years in Thailand hit supply chains

Apple, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Ford, GM, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Toshiba, Western Digital - all expect supply disruptions.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Don't start the revolution without me!

How do we defeat the 1%, the elite ruling class?
Not by idle protests. Begin with these basic 10 demands:
  1. Tax the rich
  2. Tax all market trades at 1%
  3. Abolish short selling
  4. Abolish derivatives, index funds, hedge funds
  5. Stop bail out of the banks and corporations
  6. Set a cap on salaries and benefits
  7. Enforce 100% reserve requirement
  8. Abolish the Federal Reserve
  9. Abolish political lobbying 
  10. Enact a basic living wage
We have to secure the real economy and attack the phantom economy where the 1% derives their wealth. We have to tank the phantom economy. Stop paying interests. Move your Money. Stop paying mega corporations. Stop big oil.

We the 99% can do it.
Share. Exchange. Give away. Barter. Use local currency.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Live a simple life.
Care for each other.

Support the Occupy Together movement where ever you are.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Time for Reflection

It has been 10 years since September 11th, 2001. What have we learned since then? The racism, hatred and wars continue, all for oil and profit. The banksters and corporate moguls continue to rape and pillage the planet and it is ordinary people who suffer. It has been a wasted ten years.

No, it is worse than that. It is almost 40 years since The Limits to Growth was published by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William Behrens. And it is still business as usual, pursuing along the perpetual path of economic growth. When we come to see that it is all in pursuit of money, greed and power, we will realize that we have wasted 40 years going in the wrong direction.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Buy Nothing Week

You have heard of "Buy Nothing Day". This year 2011, it is Friday, November 25 in North America and Saturday, November 26, internationally. On this day you attempt not to spend any money. That's too easy.

How about "Buy Nothing for 4 Days" or "Buy Nothing for a Week" where you buy nothing except essential food items.

  • No coffee, donuts, bagels, cigarettes, alcohol.
  • No pop, bottled water, candy, chocolate bars, ice cream, snacks
  • No magazines, newspapers
  • No shopping
  • No gas, taxis. Park the car and walk or take public transit instead.
  • Get up in the morning and have a healthy breakfast, cereal and fruit.
  • If you are heading off to work, pack a lunch and some fruit.
  • No eating out for dinner. Make a wholesome meal for you and your family.
  • No going out to the movies. Take a walk or bike ride around your neighborhood.
  • Take the dog for a walk.
  • Visit the public library, borrow a book or video.
  • Invite a friend over or visit a friend or relative.
  • Spend some quiet time with yourself or with someone special.

Try it for four days. You will be healthier and happier for doing it. Now make this a habit and your lifestyle. Humanity will thank you for doing it.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Resource Liquidation

While spending some days in beautiful Algonquin back country, one cannot help but reflect upon what it means to exploit the earth's natural resources. Whether it is forestry, minerals, fresh water or oil, resource extraction means resource liquidation. In every case, it becomes a battle between creating jobs and generating revenue versus leaving the planet untouched. Companies are only eager to move in to make a profit with total disregard for everything else.

What this all comes down to is this is conversion of the natural world to capital, that is, resource liquidation. We convert the natural resource, and in most cases, non-renewable resource, into cash which is a human creation. Cash gives the bearer an entitlement to future human labor. Resource liquidation means putting future generations into indentured labor. Resource liquidation means entrenching our society deeper into a global state of feudalism, oligarchy and slavery.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Global Catastrophe

 A global crisis is in the making. We are being led down the garden path to imminent calamity by the most powerful institutions, corporations and individuals that ever existed in the world. Of course, they would not tell you this because they are only serving their self interests and greed.

Over the last fifty years the world has become a much smaller place. The world is now one global market place. Major and minor corporations alike know that they must have global dominance in order to compete and survive. Globalization is the operative word. It is winner takes all.

What we have come to understand is that the global monetary system is based on perpetual expansion. Banks must continue to grow the money supply. But the unfortunate and ultimate end result is that every unit of currency ever created (dollar, pound, ruble, peso, yen, whatever) will be amassed into the hands of the elite.

Institutions, banks and corporations are in total control. Sovereign governments and the military-industrial complex are all under the control of the elite and their financiers. Global economics is dominated by institutional and corporate megaliths the likes of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, BIS, international banks, Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, Shell, Monsanto, Cargill, Walmart and the list goes on and on.

We know “too big to fail” means “too big to be allowed to fail”. Institutions and corporations have become so all encompassing that financial failure of one would cause a huge domino effect that will bring down the entire monetary system. Is the U.S.A. too big to be allowed to fail? Is there an alternative?

Let us not be fooled. When CEOs and politicians claim to know what is good for the economy, we know that their plan is to continue business as usual. We know that continuing monetary expansion means enslaving our descendants, our children and grandchildren for the benefits of the children and grandchildren of the elite.

This is a class struggle. This calls for a class uprising. We will take this no more. This is a call for justice. We will end the exploitation of the working class by the elite. Monetary expansion is not the solution. This is a call for a boycott of mega corporations, banks, oil companies and mega stores.

What are some of the things we must advocate for?
  • End to monetary expansion
  • Abolish interests
  • Curb exorbitant profits and salaries
  • End the bailout of banks and financial institutions
  • End of globalization
  • Abolish short selling
  • Abolish index trading, hedge funds, commodity speculation

Here are things you can do immediately:
  • Think before you buy, think before you throw away
  • Exchange or give away unwanted items instead of discarding in the garbage
  • Extend the lifespan of what you purchase
  • Buy quality not junk

  • Reduce your energy consumption
  • Reduce your material consumption
  • Take vacations closer to home
  • Go hiking and camping at your local park or conservation area
  • Stop cross border shopping – buy locally
  • Stop shopping at big box stores - support your mom & pop store
  • Avoid excessive packaging and use of plastics
  • Stop buying and drinking bottled water and soft drinks
  • Make more use of your community facilities, libraries, community pool, parks, theater, galleries
  • Move your money to a credit union, check out MoveYourMoney
  • Join co-operatives and a Transition Initiative in your area.
  • Support your local farmers and growers
  • Buy locally grown food from the farmers markets
  • Network more with friends and neighbors
  • Exchange and share ideas, recipes, tools, equipment, labor
  • Have potlucks, picnics, sing-alongs, jam sessions, street parties, movie nights, scavenger hunts
  • Do not take unnecessary automobile trips
  • Park the car and walk, cycle, carpool, or take public transit
  • Telecommute, work from at home if possible
And finally, 
  • Keep fit
  • Stay healthy
  • Enjoy life!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Why we need the New Economy

 We need a new economy because the current economy is fundamentally flawed. How many people would come to this realization when so few care to make an effort to understand the system?

Do you understand the intricacies and subtleties of Quantum Mechanics, the Theory of Relativity or Particle Physics? The answer is most likely not and do you really care? The general public will conclude that all of these esoteric subjects have little impact on our mundane lives and we would just as well leave the details to the experts in the field.

The difference with economics is that it not only directly affects us all daily but it also directs, steers, dominates and controls all of human society. So why should we leave it up to the experts and why should we assume that the experts have it all figured out correctly?

As the joke goes, if you took all the economists in the world and laid them all in a straight line they would still not reach a conclusion.

The current economic system is fundamentally flawed because money as we know it is a human fabrication created out of nothing. Money is created by our banking system as instruments of debt when consumer, corporate, institutional and government loans are needed. The interests on loans are siphoned off from the very same loans that are created. The only way this can be sustained is by creating more loans. Hence the amount of loans created and hence the debt outstanding has to keep on growing. Our economic system is based on perpetual growth and this is not sustainable on a finite planet.

Money is a debt on future workers and generations. The small group of people who have amassed the world's monetary wealth holds the remainder of the population and its future generation as hostages and slaves to their needs, demands and self interests. It is to their benefit that the current economic system should continue on its perpetual growth path with business as usual. This elite group has infiltrated and controlled our institutions, corporations, media, advertising, means of productivity, military-industrial complex, political system and government.

You must come to the realization that every day you head off to work, you are doing so to make someone else richer. We work to earn money to pay for the things we consume and to pay interest to the banks. Would it not be better if we all worked for the betterment and well-being of ourselves and fellow neighbours?

What are the alternatives?

We are witnessing the simultaneous collapse of three global systems that are closely intertwined, (1) the economic system, (2) the natural environment on which all life depends and (3) our global social structure.

No alternatives will be sought until all three systems inevitably collapse. Then the need for change becomes evident. Change will come about from our reaction to collapse rather that proactive mitigation.

The amount of debt outstanding and the interest incurred are of such astronomical figures in virtually every nation that the entire economic system will collapse because of its sheer weight.

The demand for growth in consumerism in order to fuel the economic growth will destroy the planet's ecosystem. We will witness extreme climatic changes, significant loss of biodiversity and human lives, water shortages, crop losses, starvation, mass migrations and war over resources.

The masses will revolt. Social unrest now occurring in the Middle East will be repeated in every nation when the unemployed and disenfranchised have lost all social dignity and all hope for a better future.

Will the new economy ever see the light of day? That remains to be seen.

What would the new economy look like if the world is willing to accept this fundamental change in our social economic model?

The new economy would embrace the gift economy where we exchange gifts-in-kind.

The new economy would be based on Co-operatives, Social Enterprises, Social Responsible Corporations, Employee Stock Ownership Plans, where the common good takes precedence over profit and where the salary of the CEO is no more than three times the average wage.

The new economy will banish usury and interest where sustainability replaces growth.

The new economy will provide a living wage where every citizen is granted dignity.

The new economy will adopt shorter working hours where employment is available for all and more time is available to spend with family, friends and building the community.

Are we ready for the New Economy?