Coalitions of Mutual Endeavor
Building critical mass
for critical change
Coming to Grips with Global Warming

I received an e-mail from Joe Brewer of Culture2, who's currently working on a project called ClimateMeme with a couple of other folks. He asked for responses to the core question he posed in the e-mail to be posted on his blog -- and here's basically how I responded to Joe's post and a few of the reader comments.

Why is global warming a buzz-kill? I don't think there's a single dominant reason, but there are a number of variables that consistently come into play for members of industrial civilization, with each being context dependent in its weighting factor.

First, we should get the order correct. Climate change is a symptom of global warming (a meme of amazing power which we would be foolish to discard--why hand a win to Frank Luntz and the rightwingnuts), which is a symptom of Industrialism, which can only emerge from a foundation of dominator hierarchies, disconnection from the natural world, and a pathological sense of the other. The first question we must ask ourselves is whether we're interested in putting out brushfires forever or in disabling the arsonist and building sustainable frameworks.

People are coming to realize that doing anything effective about global warming means coming to terms with:
* The end of lifestyles of entitlement;
* The end of rugged individualism;
* The end of the economic growth we've been lead to believe is necessary for progress and prosperity;
* The end of the dominator hierarchies that we've been lead to believe are natural, immutable, and which are ultimately responsible for the paradigm at the root of global warming;
* If our economic system goes away, and the assumption that it is the basis for our lives, livelihoods and potential remains unquestioned and unexamined, people will tend to develop the feeling that there's nothing worthwhile left to strive for.

Another vector that interacts with all of the above--but the latter in particular--is the deep cultural myth that there is no alternative to the status quo. Related is the myth that Western Industrial Civilization represents the pinnacle of human evolution, and that our highest aspirations revolve around becoming more efficient economic actors. These combine to implicitly imply that any alternative to the status quo would make things worse; be barbaric; or even worse, communist.

Additionally, people are coming to realize that there is little that individual actions--necessary as they are--can do, but that a mass movement must come together to coherently and comprehensively systemically replace the jurisprudence that grounds our economic and political subsystems. What they don't yet have experience with is that this can occur through multi-issue coalitions that share a set of values based on the internationally vetted Earth Charter, and the common goal of a sustainable future. This would support the goals of activists involved in the movements for ecological integrity, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy for building the necessary critical mass.

I agree with other comments on this blog that we're well into the overshoot range of planetary carrying capacity. But we already know that we can voluntarily reduce birth-rates to below replenishment levels. On a healthy planet (which we don't currently have) we could have technologically advanced societies with a maximum of about 2 billion people if true sustainability were a guiding principle. And many cultures throughout time have discovered how to enjoy sex without producing babies. One current, rather large stumbling block is the religious based repression of self and joy endemic to Western Civ.

And I agree that there's no "solution"; however, there is a realistic response, although the outcome remains uncertain, and becomes more dire with every passing day we stick with business as usual. The response is based on adhering to natural systems principles and what they tell us about the tendency of life to increase diversity and self-organize into networks of mutual support and reciprocity. The energetic direction of life is to support more life. This provides my bottom line for discerning whether something belongs in the good or evil category. Does it support the web of life?

It seems to me that a concerted effort must be made to raise awareness that there is an alternative, and it's one that everyone can participate in and benefit from. The alternative I advocate is grounded in reconnecting with nature and relocalizing our economies. These can both be done in a manner that is thoroughly grounded in a systems science framework that weaves together the latest findings from the physical, biological and social sciences about how life actually works--as opposed to how Industrialism wished it would work to support dominator hierarchies, greed, and aggression. This alternative embraces steady-state economics, applied ecopsychology, and an Earth jurisprudence to ground its governance.

This alternative has the additional benefit of being congruent with Earth-centered indigenous wisdom in what can be called an eco-spirituality that can reintegrate the body-mind-spirit relationships that were torn asunder by Cartesian dualism and disconnected, reductionistic, Enlightenment thinking. However, it doesn't throw out or discount our accumulated knowledge when it is congruent with natural systems principles.


If we do nothing, we'll end up where we're headed. But we could decide to make new choices. We could put feedback loops to work for us--habitat and ecosystem restoration, powering down, outlawing planned obsolescence, and remembering the benefits of sharing--for just a few quick examples in addition to the others mentioned above.

Political Feasibility in the Clash of Paradigms

On Wednesday morning, May 29, 2013, the grassroots group that emerged from the Obama campaigns, Organizing for Action (OFA), held a press conference at the entrance to Reid Park Zoo here in Tucson, AZ. Congressman Raul Grijalva's team, a speaker from the Zoo's science education program, UA's Institute for the Environment, and alternative energy and social justice activists shared the podium for a small rally and public awareness raising event on global warming--although OFA insists on using the Republican talking point "climate change" to refer to it. I'd like to extend a personal thanks to Channel 9 (KGUN) for being the only mainstream media outlet caring enough to send a video crew. Bonus points for them being knowledgeable enough to ask intelligent questions.

As an Independent/Green, I'm not a member of OFA, but I am voluntarily on their mailing list--because we have more commonalities than differences. I'm a systems scientist whose specialities are ecology and psychology, although my academic background includes engineering, physics, and in computer science, very large scale distributed systems. Systems in general, and ecology in particular, deal with relationships. So, my professional life deals with connecting the dots. And there are some major dots the status quo fervently hopes we don't connect concerning some fundamental issues not mentioned at the OFA press conference.

The "debate" on global warming, such as it was, really is over. The history of climate science goes back to Baron Fourier’s first paper on the topic in 1824, and the greenhouse effect was named in 1896 by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius. Global warming is real, and we know that its current rate of increase is causing destabilizing climate changes that are best understood as catastrophic--if not for the continuation of life itself, at the very least for the continuation of industrial civilization.

It can truly be said to be a consensus when 150 national scientific academies around the world, over 80 professional associations, and over 97% of scientists whose training and research is in atmospheric science all agree that human actions are warming the globe. The disagreement is on how fast and how hard the consequences of changing the thin margin of safety our biosphere provides for life--within a timeframe unprecedented in the history of this planet--are going to affect us. That's where the uncertainty comes in. So, blinders, be gone. If the status quo is threatening our existence, can we at least be adult enough to discuss what we're going to do about changing our course? For politicians who don't want to participate, can they at least admit they have no interest in anything resembling leadership of the people who elected them, and kindly step out of the way? Or be tossed from office--whichever can occur the quickest? The time for serious, concerted efforts to mitigate global warming is running out.

However, OFA's current main tactic is to call out global warming deniers in Congress (whom they mistakenly assume are all Republicans, just because the vast majority of the more outlandish ones are) and asking supporters to sign a petition encouraging congressional deniers to embrace climate science.

Now, if this tactic had even a snowball's chance in a Tucson summer of working, I'd be all in favor. But wasting our limited time and energy on global warming deniers is a distraction from the real issues--and I don't like being so cynical as to think this was their whole point. Deniers (quite distinct from the rational skeptics necessary for science to function) are ideologues who have no interest in rational discussion; no interest in truth, facts, or evidence; no interest in--in fact are diametrically opposed to--honestly examining the underlying system responsible for our rapidly converging global crises, of which global warming is but one factor. Deniers' only interest is in maintaining that system because they very firmly believe that 1) market economies are the pinnacle of human evolution, 2) humans are separate from and can control the natural world without suffering the dire consequences of our actions, and 3) there is no alternative anyway--so we'd best just suck it up and deal with inequity, exploitation, degradation, and destruction as the necessary price of progress.

Can anyone explain to me exactly how the destruction of our life support system meets any known definition of progress? At least as far as anything other than pandering to elite special interests who personally benefit from harm to people and planet?

Of course, if we're going to pretend to be guided by science, we have to accept all of the science, not just those pieces that are convenient to support our own ideologies. Obama supporters seem dead set on keeping any discussion about banning fracking or stopping the Keystone toxic sands pipeline off the table. This seems to be because Obama himself refuses to deal with, or take a science based stance, on those issues. Political feasibility becomes the fallback position when it comes down to a clash of paradigms.

There is a science based connection between energy and global warming. Not only the current connection between burning fossil fuels and the global warming that comes about through increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but the fact that there is enough carbon in the known, already tapped fossil fuel reservoirs to fry the planet. There is no need whatsoever to ever again drill another hole anywhere on Earth or blow the top off another mountain. We have ready access and sufficient processing and distribution capabilities to end the experiment of humans on Earth. We need to leave the oil in the soil, not argue over the "best" way to extract even more of it, or build more pipelines so we can ship someone else's oil overseas and stick American taxpayers with any externalities--the economic term for saying the poisoner didn't intend the death of its victims.

A few of Wednesday's speakers might leave one believing that the only thing we have to worry about is replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy alternatives and get serious about energy efficiency. And both of these are going to be important factors in a sustainable energy future. But if we're going to take the honesty tack and embrace the science, we must admit that global warming isn't just from burning fossil fuels: Other contributing factors are deforestation, ocean acidification, stripping topsoil and fisheries, ecosystem destruction from sprawl, roads and farming--and all these are also contributing to biodiversity loss (no food chain, no food), pollution, and the depletion of other natural resources, thanks to planned obsolescence and the manufacture of desire--both of which are integral to maintaining the economic growth that makes the rich even richer while the poor get poorer and our life support system continues degrading.

Industrial consumer society is cannibalistic, and it has created an economic system that exemplifies and magnifies this behavior. Believing in infinite growth on a finite planet is irrational at best, but actually provides a good working definition of insanity. And it is important to understand that on this point, there is no functional difference between whether the economic system follows the rules of capitalism or socialism. While the latter does have the capability (though examples are rare) of being kinder, they both believe in using production to reach nirvana--either for the sake of production itself or for the sake of workers. What people and planet actually want and need is never a topic under consideration.

Let's connect a couple of those dots I started off talking about that we're not supposed to think about. There are two major relevant factors. The first is the production side. One-third of the global population produces all the stuff consumed by the global population. This means we could all be working two-thirds less with full global employment. But, the vast majority of the stuff (Annie Leonard in "The Story of Stuff" says 99%) is landfill bound within six months. As one simple alternative, we could choose to make what we actually need to be built to last and be easily repairable. We could even go a step further and require that a 15 hour workweek with 8 weeks per year vacation pay a living wage. When people have time for what really matters, I strongly suspect that consumerism will be voluntarily removed from its pedestal. As John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out in the late 1950s, people don't desire more when their basic needs are being met.

When you combine how much less energy and natural resources are required to provide what we really need (and we haven't even touched on conservation, energy efficient buildings, decentralizing the grid, public transit, or...), with how much damage we're doing with the economic mysticism that believes Earth can be both an endless supply of resources and a bottomless pit for waste (the growth paradigm of Industrialism), a system that actually leads people to live lives of quiet desperation (to paraphrase Thoreau), the only logical conclusion is to ban fracking, tar sands extraction, and any new fossil fuel pipelines. We don't actually need the energy (except to maintain empire), and we don't need to create more jobs. We can alleviate unemployment and poverty today if we truly believe that to be a good idea. Considering how far into the overshoot range of planetary carrying capacity we already are, we couldn't do it for very long if one of our goals is to create a sustainable future, but there is a rational and humane alternative to this quandary as well.

And that's the main thing that's missing from the single-issue related press conferences hosted by the vast majority of environmental, peace, justice, and democracy organizations--they tend to leave out any viable and pragmatic alternative. We're not going to make anything better by slapping band-aids on symptoms or by pointing out how out of touch and/or intransigent the other side is.

As Buckminster Fuller said, don't fight the old. Create the new and make the old obsolete. I would amend this to, don't merely fight the old or allow ourselves to be reduced to applying dressings on the wounds of empire. The dominant paradigm must be stopped before it does more irreparable damage to both the planet and to our very souls.

But creating the new is especially doable when we have systemic, life-affirming alternatives readily available such as the relocalization process and reconnecting with nature through the discipline of applied ecopsychology. These both address root causes, can be shown to improve quality of life, and begin the transition to a sustainable future built on a foundation of ecological integrity, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy. Since these can all be shown to be emergent attributes of life's underlying network principle, they are inherent aspects of who we are, are within our innate power to implement, and there are processes we can use to successfully bring them to fruition.

It's time to just say no to empire, the economic system that supports it, and its voracious and deadly energy appetite.

Building Critical Mass for a Progressive Future

A number of 2012 end-of-year articles take a look back, and wonder what the future might bring from an environmental, economic, and progressive political perspective. Perhaps not too surprisingly, it's fairly easy to connect the dots among them.

James Howard Kunstler, in "Forecast 2013: Contraction, Contagion, and Contradiction," makes a point, that while very true, is incomplete. It's not just cheap petroleum. Western man began thinking he was entitled to "limitless goodies forever" thanks to Enlightenment science, the enclosure of the commons, and the forerunner to capitalism--mercantilism--in the 1500s with the fledgling global empires of European nation-states. 200 years of cheap fossil fuels has merely put Industrialism on steroids and proven beyond a reasonable doubt that capitalism is a more efficient means of economic cannibalism than State Socialism.

But, do we really need to keep enriching the parasite class? The world needs "capital, commodity, and equity markets" honest or otherwise like it needs a(nother) hole in the head--courtesy of a well-drilling bit. Capital, or more accurately financial instruments such as equity markets, are not necessary for innovation, progress, or prosperity and doing without "markets" as we know and love them today is not a path straight to the dark ages. This doesn't mean some varying number of people won't die of cold and starvation from market collapse (mainly bankers and stockbrokers), though, depending on how rational the choices we make as a society are in the very near future. Like tomorrow. Because people are already dying from those reasons today. It can be easily argued that the mere existence of today's economic system--designed to privatize the commons and transfer wealth from the bottom to the top--is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people daily from starvation and disease that could be easily alleviated were it not for the profit motive.What we must closely examine are the actual services markets and their financial instruments deliver in the real world that fulfill a social good.

 

More on this in a bit, but I do agree with Kunstler that Americans will probably finally freak when Cheerios hit $9/box.


Rob Kall in OpEd News, "The Left is Moving Right. What to do?," among other good ideas calls for a progressive/left institute that would research and advocate policy. I would suggest doing so along the same lines as ALEC. The framework is in place within my non-profit, Coalitions of Mutual Endeavor, to do exactly this. I know voices on the left keep calling for them to be shut down, but I still don't see ALEC as doing anything wrong (absent an ethical framework, of course) other than pushing a viewpoint. In a representative republic, isn't this how it's supposed to work? One major advantage the left would have is the ability to actually use an ethical framework, and it's never made sense to me that they refuse to use it. Well, except for the disdain capitalism has for ethics... and science for that matter. The love affair with the Industrial Growth Society is probably the main area in which the Left has some serious soul-searching to do.

 

 Kall points out that the requirements for turning things around--crafting effective policies and strategies to reach the Left's goals--include admitting that Democrats are the slightly less right wing of the Corporate War Party and that we must "define a vision of a progressive future." I'll come back to that point here in a minute, too.


In Ronnie Cummins' article, "New Year’s Revolution: Connecting the Dots, Coming Together and Fighting Like Hell," he says we need to do some serious dot connecting, the first being between our emotional attraction to single-issues and why the progressive left isn't working together. 

I'm all in favor of connecting the dots, as that's the title of my forthcoming book that details a framework and methodology to build the critical mass necessary for systemic change integrated with a living world. So, a couple of questions spring immediately to my mind. Do we continue to work in isolation because we are wedded to the American myth of rugged individualism? Are we afraid that if we address the bigger picture that we'll violate our own comfort zones, or diminish our own possibilities? I mean, if we come out against the growth underneath the single issues, that means we won't get the McMansion in the hills, Porsche (or Hummer or Prius), and big-screen TV either.

Cummins asks how have the millions of people who are actively engaged in issues ranging from environmental to justice and equity to democracy and community been stymied in their efforts to create critical mass? And why are we not just united but up in arms over the elite minority who are in thrall to a paradigm that is trashing the planet and destroying our future? Cummins refers to this paradigm as the Corporatocracy, but I believe it is more accurately called the Kleptocracy--in which corporatism is but one aspect.

Activists who care about something, anything really, other than profit find themselves in the distinct minority as the Industrial Growth Society comes roaring up to some environmental and climate tipping points. Throw economic meltdown into the picture, and we have some serious strategizing to do in addition to the soul-searching I mentioned above.

A number of things are necessary in a serious agenda for progressive change when the paradigm we're up against will vigorously oppose every agenda item we come up with. Cummins points out two of these requirements, which I cover at length in my book. The first is a "Global Declaration of Interdependence." For the second, Cummins says we must "overthrow the Corporatocracy and dismantle the suicide economy." But again to be accurate and ensure we're not just slapping band-aids on symptoms, we must stop and replace not just the Kleptocracy but the Industrial Growth Society which depends on economic cannibalism.

For the first, we already have an international people's declaration of interdependence. It's known as the Earth Charter. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, yet again, let's openly embrace and adopt it. An alternative to the second is a bit more complex, but well within our abilities.

The elite Powers That Be will do everything in their power to retain that power. So, part of our activism must revolve around reminding the military, police and our elected leaders that their core mission is to protect democracy, not elite special interests, and to defend democracy from threats both foreign and domestic. This framing may need to become foremost in everything else we do. This goes hand in hand with the fact that the core mandate of a democratic government is to protect the commons that its citizens and economy depend on to be healthy and vibrant. These are bipartisan issues that if argued against will immediately expose the true agenda of the speaker. As Jim Hightower says, it's not right versus left, it's top versus bottom.

Progressives tend to be rather good at stating what they're against. But getting the Corporatists out of power is not enough. The paradigm the Kleptocracy depends on must be de-legitimized and replaced by a paradigm that is just as systemic but that works for life. This means it stands an actual chance of improving quality of life for all life, not just a self-selected few.

The major requirement for progressive change, which Cummins and many others call for, is to build multi-issue coalitions that can move us beyond single issue organizing. The Earth Charter can serve another role here, as it gives us a set of internationally vetted values these coalitions can hold in common and build from. At their core, the values articulated by the Earth Charter are all based on sustainability.

Another requirement for successful multi-issue coalitions is a common goal. I propose that a sustainable future is the common progressive goal. An ecologically sound and legally defensible definition of sustainability provides a foundation for all of our individual work in ecological integrity, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy. Justice is not possible without sustainability, and peace will not be possible without justice. I believe this is as bottom line as a bottom line can get. There will be neither justice nor an economy on a dead planet.

It must also be recognized that one of the defining features of the Kleptocracy are hierarchies of domination. Thus, in order to build critical mass toward a true alternative, coalitions must become skilled at non-hierarchical organizing, communicating, sharing leadership, and making decisions. The tools to do all of this are available, as is a life-affirming framework they all fit within. This basis is also necessary for progressive think tanks to contribute to policy formulation.

Once we settle on our common goal and the set of shared values that can help us realize it, we must articulate and start building the alternative. The details of this are more than can be covered in a single article. In fact, my editor is helping me whittle down the 400 plus pages I have laid it out in currently to a more manageable and accessible size. But for now it's sufficient to realize that the basics of this alternative consists of reconnecting with nature and relocalizing our communities--both of which can be supported by implementing steady-state economic principles and basing our governance on an Earth jurisprudence.

This provides a vision for a progressive future. It provides a foundation for an economy that works for life. The unanswered question seems to be whether or not progressive leaders and organizations are willing to come together themselves to support a framework that focuses on putting the arsonist out of commission so that we're not constantly battling more single-issue fires and our organizing can focus on more than just trying to get more volunteer firemen.

 

Do We Really Want to do Something About Violence? We Can.

 

CNN asks, in regard to the latest school shooting, "How do we stop the violence?" So, the honesty that can emerge from self-reflection won't be coming from those quarters--the 24x7 fawning Technicolor coverage of Shock and Awe couldn't possibly have any bearing on that question.


Viewer comments trot out the standard tired answers--troubled youth, a culture of narcissism, and exposure to violent video games and movies. Only the middle one starts approaching the root of the problem.

A common response from the spiritual left is we are what we think so focus on the thoughts we'd like to share, and teach virtue. And that is true and good advice--as far as it goes, anyway. Teaching virtue would be a welcome addition to the cultural milieu.  

But let's be realistic. CNN asks why so much violence in the US, while they breathlessly cover drones dropping bombs on wedding parties because some foreign country has resources or other economic value to transnational corporations and they won't willingly give these resources up for a meager sliver of the profit, or are ethically opposed to their exploitation.

The right to stupidity crowd keeps pulling out lame arguments like more people are killed by cars than guns, and for anyone who believes fallacious arguments like that, it's no use trying to talk sense with them. They simply can't or won't understand anything counter to their belief system. I mean, this is the crowd that believes outlawing abortion will stop abortion and uses the same reasoning to continue the war on drugs. Do you really think they'll be swayed by pointing out the internal logical inconsistencies in their arguments and beliefs?

Of course, the liberal hand-wringing and their claim the NRA has blood on its hands falls squarely in the middle of this same category. Just like it doesn't work for abortions and drugs, it's not going to work for guns. The gun rights nuts are correct in one way: Banning gun sales won't solve anything.

Some say it's simply that we don't teach morals as part of the standard public education curriculum. While it's true that secular society doesn't teach morals--for a number of reasons, all equally lame--the problem is that Western Industrial culture isn't based on moral values and wouldn't follow them even were they to be taught. "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work real well as a guideline for a moral life. Violent video games are not the root cause of violence, they are just one of many methods of desensitization and putting the blame there is a cop-out--it's easier than dealing with deeper social failings. Once you get beyond money, materialism, and all the other distractions for natural fulfillment you find the root cause to be our disconnection from the natural world. From this disconnection emerges hierarchies of domination and a pathological sense of the other. War, violence, aggression, and greed are not possible without this foundation.

Comparing deaths from cars to those from guns is a perfect example of a non sequitur. That both are largely unnecessary is their only commonality. Car deaths are sold as just the price of progress. Without cars, sprawl wouldn't be profitable. Gun deaths, on the other hand, are the result of a culture that is ungrounded and has lost its way. Hmm, I guess sprawl fits that description as well. Anyway...

Our culture worships violence as a way to solve problems, and believes violence to be an integral aspect of the natural order. The dominant religion in American culture has a god that according to their own scripture slaughtered hundreds more people than the three or so his antithesis, Satan, killed. We inculcate hatred of the other as an integral aspect of Empire. We ignore the needs of the less fortunate through selfishness and greed. America condones torture as part of national policy. The list of examples for why aggression, destruction, and violence in general is endemic is rather long here in the End Days of Empire.

Maybe it's time to revisit the question of social obligations if we're serious about reclaiming our moral compass. Let's connect some dots.

It has been widely reported that most of the shooters in the spate of mass killings over the past few decades were mentally unbalanced in some manner or alienated misfits. Whether stronger gun licensing and training would keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't be trusted with a butter knife is an open question, but I have doubts as to its overall long-term effectiveness.

What would have a lower overall social cost and greater benefit is reopening the mental health facilities Reagan closed down, and funding outpatient mental health care. But how do we pay for this? Is this the nanny state seeking to increase its power? Let's add something else to this equation before answering those questions.

Let's openly admit that people who live in despair do desperate things. A number of factors contribute to this, but two in particular have rather wide impacts. But we must be honest about the contexts for each of these two.

Here are two relevant factors to consider for understanding those contexts: 1) It only takes one third of the global population to produce all the consumer goods the entire world consumes. This means we should all be working two-thirds less with full global employment. 2) It has also been found that about 99% of those consumer goods are in the waste stream within six months, and roughly 50% of their cost (and waste) is attributable to packaging, advertising, sales support, and distribution. While it's hard to ignore the obsolescence aspect of the consumer society, let's leave it aside for now.

The two despair factors I was getting at above are unemployment and poverty. We could go a long way toward solving those problems--and as a side benefit address the fact that poverty and environmental justice are deeply intertwined--by admitting we can provide a living wage for a 20 hour work week with at least one three-day weekend per month and a one week vacation every quarter. This has nothing whatsoever to do with being against free enterprise, but an admission of the responsibilities enterprise has to a social system and natural world that provides its core infrastructure and resources. It's time for technology to deliver on its long withheld promise of more leisure time instead of settling for the addictive substitute of more leisure wear.

With everyone employed at a living wage, overall tax revenues greatly increase. Were we to further make the common sense moves of equitably taxing all income, including capital gains, at a progressive rate, dropping subsidies for profitable industries, and closing tax loopholes that allow gambling losses (financial speculation) to be written off we'd have most of the money we need to fund infrastructure, health-care, and education for all.

The rest of the money we would need for this can come from dropping funding for the Department of War and properly funding a true Department of Defense. Let's face it. A war economy doesn't celebrate peace. It cannot abide by non-violence. A war economy dependent on infinite economic growth is even more destructive and less sustainable than just a plain old growth economy, bad as that is for a living world.

A war economy is part and parcel of a paradigm, cosmology, worldview... whatever you want to call it. They all basically mean "story". It's a story that we the people provide the legitimacy for. And there is a rational, viable alternative story that we can write and start building a foundation for. Known as relocalization, I won't go into its details here, just be aware that it exists and can be shown to improve quality of life.

Were we to have a society whose priority was progress and prosperity congruent with the health and well-being of its citizens, whose basic needs were being met and who had adequate time-off and support to actually be human, violence would be vastly reduced in a culture that no longer depended on it as a measure of its well-being.

If there is a real desire to deal with the issue of increasing violence, we have no choice but to address its underlying cause. Slapping band-aids on symptoms--on the wounds of empire--isn't enough. Instead of constantly putting out single-issue fires, it's time to deal with the common arsonist.

Natural systems principles for multi-issue coalitions--creating critical mass for a sustainable future

I was honored to be one of the half-dozen attendees selected to present our own work to the sold-out seminar "A Systems View of Life" presented by Fritjof Capra and hosted by the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, CA over three days in June, 2012. Fritjof came up to me afterward to complement my presentation, and said, "It's nice to hear a presentation in a language I can understand."

Here are my prepared remarks.

Natural systems principles for multi-issue coalitions--creating critical mass for a sustainable future

By Dave Ewoldt
June, 2012

My basic premise is that systems science can ground coalition development to create the critical mass necessary to begin implementing systemic life-affirming change--the rational, scientifically validated creation of a sustainable future that also fully embraces emotional and spiritual intelligence (or whatever word you want to apply to it).

Due to time constraints today, I'm not going to go into a detailed defense of some of the individual points, but merely introduce the major pieces of the overall framework, some of their relationships, and some of the ways they can be implemented.

There are a number of givens that provide a foundation for this perspective to organizing for social change that is holistically integrated with a living planet. Not necessarily in order of importance, the first is that environmental and social crises are inextricably intertwined. Next is that systems science in general and ecology in particular fundamentally deal with relationships. Then, applied ecopsychology deals with rebuilding and strengthening all the natural relationships that define who we are and our place in the world for maximum health and well-being at the personal, social and environmental levels. I deploy these concepts and disciplines in creating a natural systems perspective on sustainability to provide the foundation for coalitions capable of building critical mass for systemic critical change.

As Gregory Bateson says, our major problems arise from the difference between how nature works and the way people think. This work very directly helps people remember how to think and act the way that nature works. As has been said elsewhere, people won't fight to save what they don't love.

This "connecting the dots" perspective has direct applications in education, healthcare, transportation, city planning, food, water and energy security, economics, governance, and spirituality. After all, a systems view of life builds on the premise that life is a system. This is really where my basic optimism springs from. Humans can think systemically, as we are specifically wired to do so. This ability may be atrophied in the masses, but can be nurtured back to health. Systems science and ecopsychology also provide scientific validation for much ancient indigenous wisdom.

My guiding axiom is that true justice is not possible without sustainability, and without justice there will be no peace. Therefore, a sustainable future can only emerge from lifestyles and social institutions that embody ecological integrity, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy.

I have developed a systemic--coherent, comprehensive and cohesive--framework, built on the natural systems principles from which sustainable--healthy, vibrant, and resilient--ecosystems emerge, that can support this critical paradigm shift. These core principles are mutual support and reciprocity, no waste, no greed, and increasing diversity.

This alternative to the status quo does, however, entail letting go of some major aspects of the status quo--especially dominator hierarchies, disconnection, and industrialism with its dependence on economic cannibalism. We can, after all, only ignore the laws of thermodynamics for so long. The pragmatic elements of this alternative are mutually supportive relationships, reconnecting with the natural world (which includes each other and our communities), and relocalized steady-state economies based on an Earth jurisprudence that reduce consumption, waste and want.

On the ecoliteracy front, combined with exercises in reconnecting with nature, I have developed an easily teachable toolkit congruent with this framework that includes methods for non-hierarchical organization, communication, shared leadership, and democratic group decision making. And since these all work with the cooperative, creative life force, the overall process contributes to improving quality of life while requiring an order of magnitude less energy than we use today. It also directly addresses what we must begin to do to mitigate catastrophic anthropogenic climate destabilization, loss of biodiversity and habitat, dwindling resources (peak everything), an imploding growth paradigm, biospheric toxicity, injustice, inequity, forced migration and displacement, and our ever increasing body burden.

The framework itself begins with how we got into our current state of crises. Not only must we be clear about where we're going, we must be equally clear about how we arrived in our present state. It's time to be brutally honest about what doesn't work. Some mistakes simply aren't worth repeating. So, here's the sad and sordid history of Western Civilization in 1000 words or less.

Some 8,000 or so years ago, the paradigm of force-based ranking hierarchies of domination overran, subjugated and displaced societies that were predominantly peaceful. These societies didn't exhibit evidence of practicing war or slavery. Their social relationships were based on mutual support and balance with the natural world, where differences didn't infer either superiority or inferiority--this is what Riane Eisler calls the partnership paradigm.

The shift from partnership to domination created the original social trauma--the fundamental disconnection from all that is natural and naturally fulfilling--that manifests today as cultural PTSD.

This combined with predominantly monotheistic views of spiritual transcendence--that the spirit is "out there" somewhere but not an intimate and integral aspect of who we and our environment are.

Fast forward to the Enlightenment. Locke, Hobbes, Bacon, Descarte--dualism and disconnection validated and enhanced by science--which also tended heavily toward reductionism. This strengthened the view of nature as evil and dangerous; something which must be tamed and bent to the human will and desires in order for progress and prosperity to occur. Our pathological sense of the other is deep and long-standing.

This period also gave us the enclosure of the commons which started in 15th Century Tudor England. The enclosure movement effectively destroyed 600 years of democratic consensus based community decision making for private profit and the model of genocide, forced displacement and exploitation which will become the signature of Western colonialism for the next 500 years. Cap and Trade legislation is the culmination of this mindset, in the attempt to enclose the last global commons--the atmosphere--for private profit.

This was also the beginning of debt for imperialism and economic cannibalism. Central banks financed war and conquest, governments granted corporate monopolies to exploit conquered people and resources for debt repayment and private profit. This was also the beginning of Industrialism, based on hierarchies and nature as an endless supply of resources and a bottomless pit for waste.

Then we add to this toxic mix modern Western psychotherapy which further enforces the subjugation of our base instincts and inner nature with its rather single-minded focus on trying to make us feel sane about living in an insane world.

Which leads to what we have today: The Triumvirate of Collapse--Peak Oil (the end of affluenza lifestyles), Global Warming (the end of life as we've become comfortable with it), and Corporatism (which ends any hope for people's sovereignty and what passes for our democracy).

However, the status quo finds itself facing a couple, at the very least, of inconvenient truths. From the perspective of the economy and those who narrowly define wealth in financial terms, the energy availability and natural resources for tomorrow's growth, which is necessary to pay today's interest on yesterday's debt, is no longer assured and in fact is scientifically highly unlikely.

Then, the biospheric toxicity from chemicals and industrial pollution, radioactive nuclear waste and depleted uranium munitions, plastic clogged landfills and oceans, increasing greenhouse gases, decreasing forests, topsoil and fresh water from sprawl (which is described in Arizona as home builders building homes for home builders), materialism and industrial agriculture... and... but I've only got twenty minutes and this list will take all day. These all not only have negative economic impacts--diminishing marginal returns with increasing marginal costs--but are all hazardous to life in general and human health and well-being in particular.

So, there's the short version. And the bottom line is if the root of our problems, indeed our spirit deadening and life threatening crises can be succinctly reduced to hierarchy and disconnection, then it's time to chart a new path and develop a new story based on an alternative that is every bit as systemic but that works with and for life. It's time to reconnect and concentrate on building cooperative networks and relationships that are holistically integrated with a living planet. After all, the prime activity of living organisms is the tendency to self-organize into mutually supportive relationships that benefit the web of life.

This leads us into the need to develop solutions, or responses actually, and to implement them post haste. I prefer to talk about responses, as solutions tend to make people think that once we've solved the problem, we can go back to normal, without ever admitting that "normal" is what got us into this mess in the first place.

This has lead me to conclude, after decades of environmental, social, and political activism and research, that multi-issue, cross-discipline, big-tent--or whatever buzzphrase you prefer--coalitions and non-hierarchical methods and processes are necessary, and to develop a framework that can support their continued development. Applied ecopsychology, natural systems principles and an ecologically sound and legally defensible definition of sustainability supply the foundation for this work.

Coalitions have a few common requirements and necessary conditions. The first is a common goal, which I believe is a sustainable future. Next is a set of shared values, which I believe are supplied by the Earth Charter--an internationally vetted people's declaration of interdependence. Coalitions also require a process and methods to reach this goal and put these values into action.

Systems science provides a rational grounding for this alternative based on mutually supportive relationships. This turns commonly accepted power and control hierarchies--which are assumed to be natural and for which we supply the basic legitimacy--on their head. Or rather, opens them up and lays them out on their side.

Here are the basics of this coalition building project, and its minimal requirements. These processes and tools are all explicitly non-hierarchical, and congruent with the underlying natural systems principles. These are all introduced in an interactive two-day workshop format.

* Organizing -- the Acorn/8-Shields process, based on the cycles of nature, for organizations, teams, and events
* Communicating -- Gestures of Conversational Presence (bringing equity and body into conversation), open question circles (dealing with specifics, discovering shared values, needs and desires), conversation cafe (deepening conversation, gathering input, refining goals) which all have active listening as an integral component
* Shared leadership -- Acorn model
* Group decision making -- Natural Consensus refinement - clarifying intent and dealing with blocks

* A perspective for dealing with methods of change in self-organizing systems, and how quickly this change can develop and be accepted

* Concrete action steps that can be deployed -- reconnecting our 53 senses with their roots in the natural world and relocalizing our lifestyles and communities

* Sustainability in policy and regulations, steady-state local living economies, Earth jurisprudence

* Ancillary workshops and training in reconnecting with nature (applied ecopsychology through the Natural Systems Thinking Process developed by Dr. Michael J. Cohen), policy development in sustainability (Community Assessment and Sustainability Inventory project), and using the 8-Shields process framework (although I highly recommend Jon Young's 8 Shields Institute for this).

* Methods and tools for effective non-hierarchical meetings, designing distributed systems in areas such as energy and food, permaculture, ecocity development, bioregional governance

Part of the awareness raising effort can take the form of Community Learning and Information Centers or Chautauquas in conjunction with the core workshops. This function can easily be picked up by organizations that have available space, even on a part-time basis. In addition to regular classes, Conversation Cafes and Open Question Circles can help determine and design local actions. This extends the concept of ecoliteracy from the classroom to daily life.

The first challenge is building the initial critical mass for the coalition organization itself from national groups and individuals, and getting organizational representatives trained in the tools and methodologies to assist in local coalition building, inter-organizational relationship development, and organizational capacity and team building. A track record of success among those who innately understand the power and possibilities of the framework and tools can then bring the more reluctant (who tend to say, "we've tried coalition building before and it didn't work.") on board.

Most organizations are aware of the need to build coalitions, but there are few tools and even fewer frameworks available to guide this work except in single-issue coalitions. For instance, the peace movement has been trying to get support from environmental and community groups for decades--and vice versa, of course. As well, there is a long history of failure with multi-issue coalition efforts particularly in the areas of agreement on a common goal, shared values, and agreeing on whose issue deserves the highest priority. Single issue organizations also don't invest in the skill sets and tools necessary for coalition development or to address underlying root causes. It may be part of their vision, but not their mission.

When it comes to systemic change, we have to be aware that slapping band-aids on symptoms won't have lasting effect. While we must continue to put out the single issue fires, we must also permanently disable the arsonist responsible for all these raging wildfires. We can't allow coalition development to simply be an excuse to gather more volunteer firemen.

Previous attempts tended to build on leader based hierarchies, even when they attempt to be inclusive. They also tend to be hesitant to state exactly what they stand for in fear of alienating potential allies. They're afraid to say, "No" for fear of being seen as negative. We must also get beyond institutional ego in getting credit and public accolades (an incorrect perception of diluting the brand) which is also a relic of hierarchies. A properly developed coalition will strengthen all the constituent groups and mitigate their issues of concern.

 

My request to all of you is to see who might be interested in forming a think tank to show how systems science can ground and inform this work since systems are at the core of it all. I believe we have a moral and ethical responsibility to do so -- to build a truly comprehensive and cohesive foundation that can work from primary education, to policy and regulation, and all the way up to writing new cultural stories and popular entertainment.

 

Obama's Keystone XL announcement

Here's a post from Joseph Romm's Think Progress, with an editorial leader that pretty well sums it up: "The Oil Goes to China, the Permanent Jobs Go to Canada, We Get the Spills, and the World Gets Warmer"

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/01/13/403443/keystone-xl-tar-sands-pipeline-jobs-plan-oil-export/

The article, surprisingly enough, originally came from an NRDC staff blog. So it's got the obligatory rah-rah green energy for economic growth paragraphs at the end.

My own take on it all is that the decision to delay the tar-sands pipeline--not put the final nail in its coffin--which Obama can play both ways (the Republicans forced my hand, and back off environmentalists), is little more than political cover for continuing fracking and off-shore drilling. Keystone XL was never an American jobs creation project (20-200 permanent US jobs), one that would affect American oil imports, or contribute to US GDP (it's destination was a duty-free Houston port). A few American refiners would have gotten a very small cut, but the production was Canadian and the final sales were destined for elsewhere in the world.

And because of this, Keystone XL was never on the books as affecting American oil dependency or energy security in the first place. But fracking in the continental US, and drilling in US waters is. Obama can now push those projects for his BigOil buddies under the typical national security and energy dependency rubric and tell environmentalists to lighten up because he did the "right" thing on the pipeline. And Democrats--and mainstream environmental organizations who depend on Democrat's money--are all over themselves with sending gushing letters of adoration to Obama.

And the world keeps increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Too bad you can't create little eco-islands of sustainability surrounded by the toxins of industrial culture.

 

Responsibility and Action

Anyone else notice how insidious the latest spin around global warming and the economy has become? Especially as the UN climate talks in Durban have failed (yet again) and the Occupy movement gains more traction. It takes advantage of people's innate desire to help out, to contribute, and the fact that no one likes to feel helpless, or like there is nothing they can do that is meaningful. We all want to believe, or have hope, that a better future awaits us, or at least our children.

American culture in particular, though, just tends to leave out the bit where we're responsible for active engagement in ensuring this occurs. We're told, Just do your job and report any suspicious activity of your neighbors.

I've been seeing comments in various forums from environmental, justice, and equity activists that point out two ways this spin and misdirection is occurring. And most disheartening is how change agents are buying into it.

The first is one that's been around a while, and is the idea that individual actions can avert climate catastrophe. Now, these actions can most definitely help and must be embraced. We desperately need to power-down as a culture and as individuals. But the estimate is that if every American fully deployed every suggestion Al Gore makes in An Inconvenient Truth, and not just for one day or two weeks out of every month, we'd only be about 23% of the way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to where they need to be for a livable planet. Not to mention deforestation, etc.

The second is the idea that the 99% create jobs through their purchasing decisions; that it's not the wealthy and connected, the bankers who extend easy credit (mainly to governments to maintain empire), or the debt based usury of economic cannibalism that makes up the foundation of the Industrial Growth Society. We're told on one hand that the elite idle class are "job creators" and on the other hand we're told that the captains of industry only manifest what we consumers clamor for; just don't consider the incessant stream of propaganda for manufactured desires. The implicit directive, of course, whether stated or not, is that true American patriots, in order to make America strong again and contribute to economic recovery, can best contribute by going shopping. And don't even think about the fact that the quest for infinite economic growth is what lead to our rapidly converging global crises in the first place.

And since these two ideas are normally presented separately, as disconnected concepts that don't impinge on one another, you're not supposed to notice they are pretty much diametrically opposed.

We do have to do something; to become involved. That's part of being human. People want an action plan. As the Occupy movement shows, everyone from poets to veterans are willing to endure state suppression, police brutality, media ridicule, and sleep on freezing concrete as an initial expression that things simply aren't working for us; it's time for change.

The concrete actions necessary to deal with global warming, resource depletion, environmental toxicity, biodiversity loss, the widening wealth gap, angst, despair, depression, and outright paralyzing fear is shutting down the paradigm of dominator hierarchies and their reliance on infinite industrial growth for power and control, and their willingness to misuse, abuse, overuse, and otherwise trash our one and only life support system to maintain it. We must also honestly admit that the fear if growth stops so does any hope for progress and prosperity is highly irrational. It has no supporting evidence.

Then (or concurrently, actually) we must replace this system and its attributes with the mutually supportive relationships of living systems. This means steady-state local living economies, bioregional governance based on an Earth jurisprudence, and reconnecting our intimate bonds to the natural world--which includes to each other and our communities--as a starting foundation.

Oh, and abolishing corporate personhood, shutting down the International Monetary Fund, disbanding the World Trade Organization, outlawing genetically mutated organisms, removing all subsidies from BigEnergy, BigAg and BigPharma, and instituting the Precautionary Principle would be some nice, concrete beginning action items as well.

The core shift of relocalizing and reconnecting is very doable today. Nothing new needs to be invented. We don't need to wait for an evolutionary jump in levels of consciousness--or rescue from beings from Pleiades. We can voluntarily reduce global population to sustainable levels over the next couple of generations and improve overall quality of life with currently available clean renewable energy technologies--even if zero-point free energy is being brutally suppressed by a shadowy elite conspiracy. We can hold technology to its long withheld promise of increased leisure time by designing high quality products that are built to last and be easily repairable instead of chucking them into the landfill every time the color changes. This by itself could give us full global employment with about 60% fewer hours and not a single "new" job being created.

We just need to wake up. Take the red pill. Allow god's children to start acting like god's adults. Reclaim our humanity and our sovereignty. However you want to phrase it. We have the ability. It is inherent within us. Just do it.

The 1% -- Greedy sociopaths or incompetent morons?

What is the occupy movement protesting? It seems to boil down to social and economic inequity, the degradation of the natural world, and thus the theft of our future. These all occur to maintain the short-term profit and perceived power of a relative handful of the human species, and in service to a very particular paradigm, or story. Of course there are literally dozens of ways these all manifest that people can, and should, be up in arms about. The sociopathic tendency that manifests as Wall Street greed is but one, albeit a rather arrogantly glaring one.

But as I keep trying to point out to people, no matter how serious any of the single issue fires may be, if we don't catch and disable the arsonist, the only long-term effect we'll have is providing job security for non-profits for the limited time the planet remains able to support life.

Some of the individual issues are interesting to examine, though. The secret $7.7 trillion loans by the US Federal Reserve into the global economy--which generated $13 billion in profit for the receiving financial institutions--being one. The reaction by some people to this revelation is that they didn't know this much money even existed.

The answer to that, of course, is that that much money doesn't exist. It's nothing more than fairy dust that is believed to exist because someone typed a whole bunch of zeros into an accounting ledger somewhere and then dutiful third-parties report it as an irrefutable fact.

So here's a real simple dot-connecting exercise. Consider that $13 billion profit the global financial elite generated. That's a profit of only one-tenth of one percent. First, that should be a pretty good indication as to the actual health of the global economy. Second, anybody else who took $7.7 trillion in free, no strings attached money and was only able to generate a profit of one-tenth of one percent would be fired for gross incompetence.

 

Combine this with the insanity of deliberately destroying our one and only life support system to gain little more than temporary social status. Is there really anyone out there that doesn't believe this system deserves to be replaced lock, stock, and barrel? And real soon?

 

Coalition Support for the Occupy Movement

I've been peripherally involved and supportive of Occupy Tucson, as well as the Occupy movement in general. While in Washington, DC at the beginning of the month for a national conference on energy and the economy, I was asked to lead a teach-in on building coalitions by one of the organizers of the October2011.org occupation of Freedom Plaza.

Talking with people before the General Assembly in DC, and spending time in the Occupy Tucson encampment, leads me to two basic conclusions: Occupiers are passionate about the dire and urgent need for change; and they are adrift, ungrounded, and searching for a foundation that could anchor that change. They don't understand how things got to this point--the root cause--nor do they have a sense of what it would take to turn things around--or at the very least head in a different direction. And please be aware that I'm speaking in generalities here. There are individuals within the occupy movement who are very aware of major aspects of this.

While disaster capitalism, the pollution economy, or economic cannibalism (my preferred term) directly leads to the most visible symptom of the 99%'s displeasure--an arrogant and narcissistic elite leisure class--there's a noticeable absence of awareness of what these spring from. A lack of awareness of a cultural acceptance of dominator hierarchies. Of separation from the natural world. Of a pathological sense of the other. Of the inherent unsustainability of the Industrial Growth Society.

There is also a perception, echoed by much of the left/liberal media (the right/mainstream media is so far off-base in all of this they don't even factor into the discussion), that the core issue is Wall Street greed and corporate power in the financial and political arenas. That if we can just "green" and distribute the economy more equitably, and get money out of politics, everything will be fine. Well, I'm still waiting for someone to explain exactly how we're going to circumvent the laws of thermodynamics and not only increase the number of slices of our finite planetary pie, but allow them all to grow infinitely larger.

But that's another conversation, although it must take place sooner rather than later. As environmental lawyer and former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Gus Speth says, "Our challenges require moving beyond incremental reform to systemic change that addresses the root causes of our current distress."

When the problem is systemic, the best place to start is everywhere at once. Since that is impossible (or at the very least presents logistical difficulties), Wall Street is as good an initial target as any. But, as I keep pointing out, there will be no economy on a dead planet. What too many seem concerned with regarding our financial system is loss of personal affluence and convenience; with the need to change their lifestyles, which they believe are suiting them just fine, thank you very much, if the greedy 1% would just share a bit more. This may be the main reason the 99% have yet to actually join the Occupiers. Global warming--which makes today's Robber Barons look like pikers--brings sustaining life itself into question, and we place it on the back-burner to our ultimate peril. And Peak Oil and other dwindling natural resources are intimately intertwined with both financial collapse and climate catastrophe.

My caution here is that we may be focusing our energy on the wrong initial target, and this is a conversation we should delve into honestly and resolve quickly. However, as long as we're connecting the dots towards a clear common goal, it may not make much difference where we start. All of it must be dealt with. However, clarifying that common goal is going to become even more important as the occupation wears on.

The occupiers deeply, and rightly, sense that things are not going well, and it's not just because orthodox economic growth indicators are in the toilet and getting ready to disappear down the sewer. It's because they are being personally affected by unemployment, increasing debt, decreased purchasing power of what little money they do have, loss of so many of the natural places they enjoyed in their youth (or even last week), increasing toxicity of body and ecosystems, and a decreased connection to community relationships that have been paved over by advancing urban sprawl and an industrial mindset that requires longer hours of servitude for fewer material rewards--and no emotional or spiritual ones.

So, it's really no great mystery that occupiers should be feeling adrift and ungrounded. They are part of a culture that has lost its mooring and its way; that has forgotten what makes life meaningful and enjoyable. A culture that can only offer addictive substitutes for these losses. Where passive TV viewing substitutes for a natural sense of creativity, where shopping substitutes for psychological and spiritual health and well-being, where innovation is purchased rather than contributed to, where abusive relationships are clung to because no others are available. This is a culture that has forgotten that money can't buy happiness, it can only contribute to the GDP by buying anti-depressants. In record quantities. For an ever growing segment of the population.

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone is wondering what the future of Occupy Wall Street could be or move toward. I believe there is a path--and a rather practical one at that--and I believe it meets the requirements expressed by Naomi Klein, writing in The Nation (and so many others making this same point such as Chris Hedges), to present a coherent narrative and a systemic, practical alternative.

Here's what we've been working on for the last year to address these needs and concerns: Coalitions of Mutual Endeavor <http://www.COMEweb.org>. The goals of COME are to help people connect the dots among all these issues and become aware of the common underlying diseased root; to facilitate the development of coalitions capable of creating the critical mass necessary for systemic, sustainable change; to decapacitate the arsonist responsible for all of the pressing single-issue fires; and to provide a framework, process and non-hierarchical tools to build an alternative that is congruent with a nurturing, living world.

It's necessary to criticize systems that concentrate wealth and power; systems that are ultimately destroying our one and only life support system--generally referred to as planet Earth. We must understand how these systems are setup and held in place. However, it is even more necessary to develop and implement an alternative system that is not based on exploitation and inequality. And if the goal is to create a sustainable future that has justice, equity, and democracy as integral aspects of its foundation, then it must work with, rather than against, the creative nurturing force of life itself.

The fundamental self-organizing principles of the Occupy movement (even though they may not yet recognize them as such) work to facilitate collective action. This adheres rather closely to the manner in which life itself tends to work. The next step would seem to be to begin getting good at and refining non-hierarchical methods of organizing, communicating, and decision making, and then start applying them to improving the quality of life of the 99%--which necessarily includes providing opportunities for all to be responsibly contributing members of their community. 

It's not enough to fight for an equitable share of an exploitive and unjust system. The only "demand" the occupiers should be making is to have the freedom and support to begin creating a new system based on ecological wisdom, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy.

The tools to do this are available. If we apply them together, we can succeed.

An Open Letter and Proposal to the 99%

Since mainstream journalists and pundits from both ends of the political spectrum can't seem to figure it out, allow me to quickly spell it out. The impetus behind the swiftly growing Occupy Wall Street movement is that corporate and other elite special interests have corrupted the government, media, and economy while looting the people, destroying the environment, and insisting the US remain on the path of exploitation and imperialism through perpetual war to keep a failing system of industrial and economic growth propped up. Anyone who deals with reality realizes this system can do nothing but fail, as it contravenes natural law--it is unsustainable--and is extremely energy intensive on a planet experiencing resource decline.

The lens I apply to this analysis is as a systems scientist, ecologist, and counselor using natural systems principles to facilitate health and well-being. I've also run for public office a couple of times, so I'm familiar with how that part of the system works as well.

I'm philosophically aligned with the October 2011 occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC "Stop the Machine, Create a New World." This occupation was well planned in advance, thus it has a coherent and comprehensive message. I strongly suggest the Occupy organizers in cities around the world adopt this core message, which can be summarized as investing in human needs and environmental protection instead of putting profit and power above people and planet. They have 15 core issues which address that, and you can read all about them at their website. What I'd like to discuss is why I think that core message is foundational to why the 99% is finally making their collective voice heard, and after participating in a few General Assemblies at Occupy Tucson, what they'd like to see happen.

Because corporate greed depends on land theft, destruction of the natural world, and exploitation of people, this is where we must start the conversation. There will be neither an economy nor jobs on a dead planet--one that has been stripped of its resources--let alone peace, justice, equity, and democracy. An inconvenient truth that Derrick Jensen points out is that we can't both consume a planet and live on it, and I don't care how "greenly" we think we're doing it. Each of us getting a bigger piece of the pie is insufficient for justice and equity as well as physically impossible.

Under the business as usual of infinite economic growth on a finite planet subject to the laws of thermodynamics, 200 species go extinct every day--global fisheries and primary forests are disappearing. While it's commonly referred to as "loss of biodiversity," what we're doing is destroying the food chain. No food chain, no food. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Unless you've figured out how to eat your stock options or stockpiles of gold, of course.

Plus, the industrial system run by elite hierarchies that we're slaves to murders tens of thousands of humans every day as well through war, poverty, starvation, and withholding health care. Further, our legal system will not hold them accountable, and is in fact setup to protect this system. Since destroying the land base is suicidal, we need a new system of governance.

Because a living planet is necessary for our future, governance must become based on an Earth jurisprudence. This is the foundation for sustainability. This would be a true revolution, not mere reform to make the system a little less deadly. But it will not be a revolution in the common sense of the word.

I mean, overthrow the US government? As Jensen again correctly points out, our government has already been overthrown by Exxon Mobil, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and Wal-mart et.al. The corporate state is what we must overthrow. And allow me to be presumptuous enough to speak for this movement and ask the police, as members of the disappearing working class whose mortgages are also underwater, to join us. As a protest sign in New York pointed out, they're only one layoff away from joining us anyway.

We must remember the job of the police is to protect the people from sociopaths. So, the question we must ask is Why don't they protect us from the rich sociopaths? From the corporations who have gamed the system such that sociopathic conduct is put on a pedestal and codified in law? Why don't the police protect the Appalachian Mountains from Massey Energy? Why don't the police protect the Ogallala Aquifer from the XL Pipeline? These are crimes against humanity that are occurring with impunity today.

Ok, so here's the bottom line from my perspective, and, I think, the perspective of all living organisms. We must come to understand and accept that true justice is not possible without sustainability, and without justice there will be no peace. Through decades of research and activism, my wife Allison and I have woven together a systemic process that can lead us in the direction of a sustainable future through the organization--Coalitions of Mutual Endeavor--whose website you're currently visiting.

If you're interested in building the critical mass necessary for effective action, in creating a sustainable future--meaning one based on ecological wisdom, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy--then join us! Let's talk.

And then, let's get busy. Instead of being a mere critique of all that's wrong, we can provide the 99% with something they can really sink their teeth into that focuses on what we want and how we intend to get it.

Coalitions and an Independent Movement

An increasingly common topic of conversation among activists of all stripes is how to build big-tent coalitions to achieve the critical mass necessary for positive change. Most of the national groups fighting today's fires tend to have a lot of crossover in their membership lists. There tends to be a better than even chance that if you're interested in social justice issues, you're also interested in economic equity, abolishing corporate personhood, migrant rights, etc.

Most people further understand that a healthy environment is important, both for today and our future, for a number of reasons, and further yet, that we're currently headed in the opposite direction. An interconnected view of the world is also starting to creep into mainstream consciousness. One major frustration for many people who have this level of awareness is that there simply aren't enough hours in the day to deal with the cascade of crises, and few have enough money--especially now--to donate to all the causes they know are in desperate need of support.

When it comes to building coalitions, though, it turns out there are some common stumbling blocks. And, in order for an effective coalition for systemic change--that is, one that both disables the arsonist instead of merely putting out fires and provides a realistic alternative--to develop there are a few foundational requirements.

The requirements for a coalition effort of this type to become successful include, at minimum, a common goal, a set of shared values, and a truly comprehensive and cohesive--i.e. systemic--framework that includes processes, tools and concrete action items these efforts can deploy. The framework itself is also a tool, as it provides an understanding of how we got to our present state and what is keeping it in place. This understanding has a secondary benefit, as it helps ensure we're applying our limited resources to the proper issue and not to a distraction or a symptom, and that we're fully addressing all aspects of the root cause.

Progressive political circles are also starting to talk more openly that an independent movement for actual change instead of mere reform must develop, and it must provide an alternative to, not work within, the dominant paradigm. We must first realize that an independent movement doesn't mean we're all heading in different directions. The status quo must be not only resisted, but stopped, and a positive alternative must be implemented--one that can be shown to improve quality of life and not simply consolidate power in a different set of limited hands.

For this independent movement to be successful, it must build from a foundation that is just as systemic as the dominant paradigm. A piecemeal approach that uses the tools and methods of the dominant paradigm is doomed to failure. We have the past 150 years of "progressive" change as direct evidence to support this assertion. Being systemic means the movement must address personal, environmental, and social issues which means economic and governance issues as well. In an interdependent world these issues are inextricably intertwined.

Success also requires being honest about the fact that the dominant system, the status quo, Business As Usual, is fundamentally anti-life--it is unsustainable. This means the alternative must build on a foundation of true sustainability. It must be realized that justice is not possible without sustainability, and without justice there will be no peace.

For any movement to be successful, it must create critical mass. Creating critical mass entails agreeing on a common goal, which is a sustainable future, and a set of shared values, which are provided by the international people's declaration of interdependence--the Earth Charter. A sustainable future will only be realized if it is based on ecological wisdom, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy. Ecological wisdom comes first because there will be neither justice nor an economy on a dead planet, but all are required because of the strength they provide each other.

One defining aspect of the status quo are patterns of domination. These emerge from and are supported by force-based ranking hierarchies of control and separation that depend on fear. Fortunately, there are non-hierarchical ways to organize, communicate, and make decisions. There is also a direct method for overcoming separation; of building relationships of mutual support with the natural world, each other, and our communities that comes from the field of applied ecopsychology and is known as the Natural Systems Thinking Process.

All of these methods can be learned and pressed into service, and they start by inviting participation. People have a need to participate. If they're involved, they'll create a future that has them in it, and they'll work to make it happen.

So, and no big surprise really, the needs and goals of progressive politics today and efforts for social and environmental change that is life-affirming are one and the same--coalitions that can successfully build critical mass for systemic change toward a sustainable future.

My wife/partner and I have wrapped all of the above up into an organization called Coalitions of Mutual Endeavor. Its focus is on building coalitions, incapacitating the arsonist responsible for all the single issue fires we're all overly busy trying to put out, and laying the foundation for a sustainable future we can all be involved in creating through the process of relocalization. Based on a couple of decades of research in systems science and applied ecopsychology through Project NatureConnect, and our environmental, community and political activism based on natural systems principles, we're building a membership base and working on getting national organizations actively involved.

We've developed a workshop that introduces the framework, the tools, action items, and supportive evidence from a number of fields on how change can occur and how quickly. If you're interested in helping organize a workshop for your community or know of national organizations who would be thrilled to be involved and/or could benefit from the organizational tools, please explore this website further and get in touch. There are endorsements of the project and a published review of the workshop on the website. 

It's going to take us all, and we the people are more powerful than we dare to believe.


My response to Al Gore's Rolling Stone article, Climate of Denial

Gore's article is definitely worth a read.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/climate-of-denial-20110622
As you might imagine, though, I have a few issues with it.

Al does his usual excellent job of laying out the case for the reality of catastrophic anthropogenic climate destabilization and why the denialist lobby has been so effective in their FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) campaign.

Unfortunately, he falls squarely into the latter camp when he dons his apologist cap for the Obama administration and the Democratic Party in general. (He used "skilled leadership" and "Nancy Pelosi" in the same sentence. This woman set a land speed record on becoming Speaker of the House in rolling over for bush II in the runup for the Iraq invasion.) Yes, Obama appointed many good men and women to his administration. And then immediately threw them under the bus as soon as some right-wing whackjob started spouting nonsense about them.

This tendency to think Democrats are part of the solution seems to spring from Gore's belief that clean, renewable energy can save the economic paradigm that finances the destruction and toxicity responsible for elevated greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, topsoil loss, ocean acidification, species extinction, and the highest rates of injustice and inequity ever seen on this planet.

Gore pouts that cap-n-trade is highly vilified. Well, of course it is. People who can connect the dots understand it is an attempt to privatize for personal profit the last global commons--the atmosphere. It is nothing more than yet another way to turn pollution into a profit center. We think we can export destruction and pollution to developing countries-- out of sight, out of mind--yet in an interconnected world it results in no net greenhouse gas reductions. In fact, global emissions, resource depletion and poverty continue increasing.

Gore is 100% correct in pointing out the presidential bully pulpit could be used effectively to advance the national conversation on what we're facing, and the dereliction of duty evidenced by the state of the press. It is indeed time to face reality.

But, a major portion of this reality is that the overall mindset of economic cannibalism is ultimately much more dangerous than anything the denialist lobby can come up with. The Climate of Denial is truly bi-partisan. With friends like this, our poor beleaguered planet doesn't need any more enemies.


Coalitions Of Mutual Endeavor

COME has been created to develop effective coalitions for collaborative action that build the creative, critical mass necessary to enable life-affirming change. This is a response to rapidly changing times brought on by a collapsing status quo; a response that can develop community resiliency, improve quality of life, reclaim our democracy, and lay the foundation for a sustainable future; a systemic practical response that is sorely missing.

An effective coalition requires a set of shared values. These are supplied by the internationally vetted Earth Charter, and provide a framework for sustainable development.

The coalition’s common goal is a sustainable future--a future that can only emerge by embracing ecological wisdom, social justice, economic equity, and participatory democracy. True justice cannot exist without sustainability, and without justice there will be no peace.

It must be realized that sustainability has an ecologically sound and legally defensible definition. Progress toward the goal can be measured through community determined and adopted sustainability indicators.

The COME project provides a citizen toolkit to develop and practice non-hierarchical organization, communication and decision making skills, and a process for determining a community or region's carrying capacity, assessing its resources and uncovering roadblocks to change.

Our laws both reflect our values and determine who we can become. We must both separate our household waste and stop industrial practices that damage the biosphere and exploit people. Join with others to become an effective advocate for lifestyle and policy change that reflects who we are and who we want to become as members of a healthy, interconnected web of life!