Everything is interconnected

Posted January 3rd, 2012 in Blog, Featured 4 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

We all know this.  I imagine there are few people who, when questioned, would not acknowledged that everything is somehow connected to everything else. What we do has an impact. What you do has an impact on me and vice versa, always and forever, an inescapable truth about who we are.

We may know this, or intuit it – but we sure don’t live like it.

Happy New Year! If there was one thing I would wish for 2012, given the challenge it will be on so many levels, it would be to find ourselves growing into a world that begins to reflect this truth that we all know. While so many struggle for rights and well-being, and  some for privileges, the world must grapple with the growing consciousness that everything is interconnected so that how we act, the choices we make, will either enhance the human and greater ecological community, or will harm it. When the struggle is for privilege in a world in which available resources (gifts) for life are over-stretched and shrinking, the choice is getting clearer.

Once again, the NY Times had a very important article on the front page of a paper hardly anyone would read because it was published on New Year’s Eve. It gives a sad example of how our choices in this age of growing demand and growing scarcity (driven mostly by injustice, greed, and ignorance, not because scarcity is inevitable) have unforeseen impacts that harm the human+ecological community. It is an example as well of why capitalism and private market economics is a bad model for meeting the basic needs for life – like food and water.

It’s an example of how the best intentions of the privileged can lead unwittingly to some harmful results if those intentions are not done with mindfulness about the interconnections, cause-and-effect, consequences, and repercussions of those choices every step of the way.

I do almost all my grocery shopping at a co-op of which I am a member. I am very  health conscious, extremely conscious of the toxins that are in our food and water and soil, and so I try my best to avoid those toxins in what I take into my body. My co-op sells organic products. It supports  regionally-based farms by selling their products when available. I love the co-op. I try as I can to support an alternative food system here in southeastern Wisconsin.

But I have trouble with the organic blueberries from Chile and the tomatoes from Mexico. I know some members have asked these questions of the board, about the ecological consequences of supporting a global food market that puts enormous amounts of fossil fuels into those berries by way of packaging and long-distance shipping. I want my co-op to survive, and many of its members want to be able to buy blueberries and tomatoes in the dead of winter.

So, this article by Elisabeth Rosenthal: Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Ideals

Turns out those organic tomatoes from Mexico are grown with unsustainable irrigation depleting local water supplies – for things like drinking, or for small Mexican farmers growing food for their local consumption.

…even as more Americans buy foods with the organic label, the products are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment.

The explosive growth in the commercial cultivation of organic tomatoes here, for example, is putting stress on the water table. In some areas, wells have run dry this year, meaning that small subsistence farmers cannot grow crops. And the organic tomatoes end up in an energy-intensive global distribution chain that takes them as far as New York and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, producing significant emissions that contribute to global warming.

Making matters even more interesting is that some of these large organic growers hail from the US because land and production in Mexico is cheaper, especially cheaper than California.

So of course right now a booming industry in organic farming in the southern hemisphere is providing all sorts of food for our healthy meals, and now, once again, we are forced to confront questions about all those interconnections.

It is hard to live justly. It really is. But we must.

What do we take away from local communities when their land is used to provide crops for export to the US market, whether or not they are organic? Now when I look at that little plastic container full of organic plum tomatoes from Mexico, I am forced to address that question. What about the water tables? What about the well-being of local farmers? How much CO2 is contained in each container of tomatoes? What are workers being paid? Who is making the profit? Where does the money go?

A thousand years ago we didn’t need to ask these questions because the technology did not exist to ask them. Other questions mattered then; these matter now.

What we eat, how we make our living, what we purchase, what mode of transportation we use, how often we travel, how big the house we live in, for whom we vote, how we entertain ourselves – our values, what we believe and how we live those beliefs – none of this is free of impact on the larger community of living and non-living beings.

That’s a hard way to live in this market-driven consumer society where the message rammed into our brains over and over again is that we must consume more and more in the global market in order to create jobs and have well-being again. Well, if that’s the only way we can think of to organize the human economy, we are headed for real disaster – because right now we are tearing away at those interconnections and doing great harm. When groundwater sources and aquifers are depleted, those US growers can come back home and try somewhere else. What will the Mexican farmers do? What will Mexicans do whose wells and taps run dry?

“Eat Local” is a great slogan. What it translates into in winter is that I cannot always have what I want. It means also eating seasonally. It means supporting where possible the development of local alternative food systems, like sustainable aquaponic gardens (great examples here in Milwaukee are Growing Power and Sweetwater Organics). It means doing this un-American thing of buying what is appropriate and just, not what we want or what is available.

Everything is interconnected. This is a reality of life and the spirit. What this truly means is that we are deeply embedded always and in all circumstances in intimate relationships. And what that means is that we must take care of those relationships. This is part of the rock bed foundation of a spirituality for the 21st century.



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4 Responses

  1. D.Bheemeswar

    Yes,Margaret, very few people have the knowledge that every thing is interconnected, this includes all the universal elements and the life and materials on this earth. Even I myself and you are connected through that webbing’s, called as bliss. If one knows how to be in bliss by self realization it is possible to read each other even though we are all mails apart in a instant. Each universal element absorbs energy at one level and discharges at a different level or at the same level, so the near net amount transfers all same for the overall system. it is general human to err and repent later by not only spoiling their health and also atmosphere. This is all because of their own brain, which they never know how to control. As far I know you are doing nice job for making others aware of the bound environmental problems which are effecting drastically the ecological and geographical conditions on this earth. Just continue.

  2. Margaret

    Thank you. Continue we shall! More and more people are understanding the deep bonds of our interconnectedness. We are far from alone in that. And that should give us hope for a new emergent human life within the web of the whole.

  3. Caitlin

    I just would like to thank you for this thought-provoking blog. I have been invested in the interconnectedness of our inner psyhe and our ecological community for years now. As a young adult I am discovering all the ways our American society has deteriorated our ability to recognize our impact on the environment and our ecological home. I have been trying to educate family and friends about the importance of “buying local” but yet, they still continue to shop at large corporations like walmart at the expense of our economy and ecological future. Do you have any suggestions on how to approach this issue with Americans who are either ignorant of the dangers of instant gratification or in denial due to their desire to get what they want, when they want it, at the lowest cost to them despite its cost to our livelihood and ecological future. Thank you for all you do to help increase awareness and bring about positive change for all. Shall we never stop believing in the power of humanity to change.

  4. Margaret

    Caitlin, you pose a tough question, one I wrestle with every day. Somehow we need to get people to ‘see’ the world, to see the connections, to see the harm, to experience it. Most of us don’t want to because that forces the need to make choices about how we’re going to live in our daily lives, which is very uncomfortable. None of us is completely free of the resistance.

    One reason why the local work is so important is because that is where we begin to see the connections. Right now in Wisconsin we are facing a big debate on whether or not to allow an iron ore mine in our North Woods. The Bad River Band of Chippewa, who will be directly impacted by this decision, who are dependent on the watershed that may end up contaminated, who depend on their amazing wild rice fields whose water and purity will be threatened, etc., have done a superb job of articulating and visualizing these impacts for the greater public, and so opposition is growing. People in Wisconsin are proud of their woods and lakes and waterways.

    Don’t know if we’ll win, but this effort has made it easier to talk about how our consumer ways and our market model of economics impacts our quality of life. Fracking is having similar impacts around the country. People affected are finding their groundwater contaminated, woods and farmlands ruined – it’s called, learning the hard way. But it opens up a conversation.

    I think this is one way – look at one’s immediate local world and then, through that, open up this larger conversation. Sadly, finding evidence of ecological harm just about anywhere is not difficult.

    Don’t get discouraged. It’s a long road, but we’re getting there.