Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Decade of Fear

For what it’s worth, I expect the first decade of this century to be remembered for the use of fear by terrorists -- both inside and outside the United States -- to gain and hold political power at the expense of the vast majority of the world’s population, present and future. Although a small group of religious extremists was responsible for the pivotal event of the decade, the attacks of 9/11/2001, it was a larger group of home grown ideological extremists that let it happen and then capitalized on it to accelerate their rape, pillage, and murder of the planet for fun and profit.

In this, the last year of the decade, the world’s political leadership -- bought and paid for by the real powers in the world, transnational corporations -- blew several chances to repair the damage wreaked by our wasteful culture. Financial reform, health insurance reform, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions were approached half-assed at best, even after a political power shift in the U.S. toward the party that claimed to know better.

Replacing the “family values” diversions of the first eight years, the corporate-controlled media taught us more about rich people’s sex lives than the growing slaughter of people and other species by poisonous plastics, gases, and industrial waste that has contaminated our food, air, water, and soil to a lethal level. Instead of working on ending this genocide, our government focuses on keeping a handful of potential murderers at bay, overreacting with unintended consequences that kill far more people.

Time is running out to avert the worst of all catastrophes, the extermination of the human species, and we squandered the period when we could have had the greatest positive impact.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tweaking the Future

Recently, two critical efforts to improve the future, healthcare reform in Washington and climate catastrophe mitigation in Copenhagen, hit a wall of compromise that proved (to me, at least) that our current model of relying on “leaders” to solve big problems does not work, and should not be expected to. The status quo simply has too much inertia for any small group of people to successfully challenge, especially if their livelihoods and personal power depends on maintaining it.

Unfortunately, it is the status quo that is killing many of us, demonstrably and unequivocally, and threatens to kill the vast majority of the rest in the not-too-distant future. Our dominant economic system, capitalism, with its relentless pursuit of exponentially increasing consumption, is depleting global supplies of everything, and its attendant waste is overwhelming the natural systems that make life possible on this planet.

Having adopted economic success as the basis of our values, we cede power to people for providing what we want rather than what we (and unrepresented future generations) need, regardless of their wisdom and ability to use that power responsibly. How else could a mere golfer and philanderer like Tiger Woods be a billionaire, and insurance companies with double-digit profits routinely deny health coverage for people who need it most and yet have a privileged influence on health care legislation? How else could corporate criminals that sabotage the world’s food supply and pedal planet-killing fossil fuels be allowed into the climate talks in Copenhagen, while environmental groups and representatives of poor countries being victimized by global warming are left out?

Our leaders are the people who represent our values, and if our values run counter to our survival, then the results of their efforts will too. This is because they will pursue the default strategy of tweaking an inherently flawed system. What is needed is a radical change in our values, and the taking of personal responsibility for the outcomes of our actions, however small. The system will only change when we -- all of us -- change, in our expectations, the way we think about the world, and ultimately our actions. If we no longer depend on “role models” such as people with economic power to show us how to live; and instead value everyone around us, along with the other species that share our identity with Nature and follow a path that preserves and encourages them to thrive, then we might have a chance at making it through this century, and offer a future worth living to another generation.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Living Our Values Every Day

Coming to terms with the fact that maximizing individual consumption and power over others is incompatible with maximizing the longevity of our species and the well-being of the most number of people, I’ve become increasingly revolted by the overarching promotion of consumption and competition in the socioeconomic system I currently inhabit.

Emotional reactions typically stem from a clash with one’s values. This might suggest that my values have changed, given that it is a major change from how I’ve reacted to fairly similar conditions over most of my life. There is however another, more likely, explanation: I valued the well-being of everyone all along, but mistakenly thought my behavior was in some small way helping (or at least not hurting) the world’s population now and in the future.

This revulsion has two major consequences. First, I find it harder to seek more participation in the feeding frenzy of an economy which gains whether people are hurt or helped. Second, I am motivated to spend more time and effort trying to envision and help create the kind of world I want to live in.

I recently became aware of how strongly what we eat affects both our health and the health of the planet. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods (especially meat) can help us live longer as individuals and dramatically reduce the waste that is making us as dangerous as an Earth-impacting asteroid. Eating more responsibly is one very personal way we can “live our values every day” (a phrase my wife Debbie came up with that spells the acronym “LOVED”). Eating better, traveling less (and depending on less travel by others), and seeking more quality than quantity in what we produce all slow consumption while providing a better life for everyone.

Feeling loved is one thing we can all be attracted to, providing the needed opposite to the revulsion that crudely assigns a motive of hate (if not total indifference) to those who are increasingly poisoning us and other creatures. For me, self-loathing as one of the planet killers is being gradually replaced by self-respect as someone who is changing from that into a planet builder, whose actions match his values.