BY MARJORIE STEWART
Climate change is only one facet of the colossal wicked problem facing our species. There’s plenty of ranting going on about populations, over-consumption, pollution, waste, bullying and climate change.
Before considering alternative possibilities, let’s admit that the problem is the human species. We are hard-wired for gratification right here and now, with no thought for consequences. This characteristic might have been useful when we did our own work, but is proving catastrophic due to the impact of billions of energy slaves maintaining standards of living beyond the dreams of most people before the Second World War. Scientists call the what-where-and-when-we-want impulse spatial and temporal discounting.
Bill Rees, co-inventor of the ecological footprint analytical tool, studies the phenomena of political dysfunction, global warming, ocean changes, overpopulation, pollution, species loss and social inequity and has concluded that “the basic problem(s) can be traced to human nature” or that pesky temporal and spatial discounting and that we “must overcome an instinctive, essentially selfish and myopic bias.”
We need global cultural revolution(s). Given that emotion and instinct trump rational choices by our species, we must train ourselves to look down the road and make better choices at every turn.
A recent article by Tracy L. Bernard in Yes! Magazine tells how Lakota women are choosing to reclaim sovereignty as an alternative to political and corporate victimization. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the woman who established the first water protector encampment at Standing Rock, when asked “what next?” replied “Plant seeds.” Asked about the looming global crises, she responds, “We’re not worrying – we’re preparing.” They are installing solar power systems, growing food forests, raising chickens, stacking firewood. Allard points out that city people would be lost without electricity and oil, but “We already know how to live without those things.” Indigenous people who know how to live off the land don’t have to have a cultural revolution.
Another alternative to the globalized tangle of failing systems is organizing co-operatives. Forget about so-called corporate social responsibility and reckless green technology adventures and get into co-operative groups for basic needs. Jon Steinman, creator of the popular radio program Deconstructing Dinner, has just brought out a book called Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Coops in the Age of Grocery Giants with New Society publishers. Steinman argues for food co-ops as the alternative to the grocery giants who own the supermarkets. Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet, says he “shows how co-ops spur the creation of local food-based economies and enhance low-income food access.” Imagine cutting free from agribusiness giant Cargill, the world’s biggest trader in agricultural commodities including palm oil, meat, soy and cocoa, responsible for massive environmental degradation and global human rights violations.
It is futile to rail against the usual suspects: corporate managers, politicians, academics, chambers of commerce, labour unions, entertainers, journalists, educators, bureaucrats, lawyers, judges and militaries.
We just have to face it, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”
Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at email@example.com.