Is our society falling apart?

Posted February 24th, 2009 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Is our society falling apart?

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

[I will not be able to post again until the weekend.  Stayed tuned!]

How would you answer that question?  Really.  I actually want to know how folks would answer that question.  As I read Bob Herbert’s column in the NY Times today, it all resonated with my experience of reality.  We live in a crumbling nation, our infrastructure falling apart, our spirits left sagging amidst the fallout of a period of hyper-consumption, when buying into the American Dream meant living beyond our means, living for ‘things’ (disposal goods, mostly), putting it all on a credit card, and our neighbors and communities be damned — not to mention Nature, which has suffered enormously in the process.

Sewage pours into Chesapeake Bay watershed - photo Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Sewage pours into Chesapeake Bay watershed - photo Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Our parks are polluted, our soils are contaminated by industrial agriculture, our rivers contaminated from the runoff of our industrial life, our air toxic to breathe, our atmosphere and biosphere altered forever, with what ultimate result for humans we have few certainties, though we know it won’t be pretty.  This has been reckless beyond belief.  What happened to us?

So in the midst of this are the attempts being made, a step at a time, one project at a time, to reverse our course, to repair the damage or at least slow it down, to think creatively about a wholly new and sustainable infrastructure underneath a post-consumer society, a scaled-down way of life.  We hope the stimulus package, which has so many billions of dollars available for creativity, will help bring this turning about.

One example from my part of the world: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is looking to spend a share of our stimulus to build a pipeline to carry methane and other gases from local landfills to Jones Island, one of our dense industrial areas right on Lake Michigan.  The intent would be to replace natural gas with this recycled stuff, taking a bit of pressure off the planet and saving taxpayers a bunch of money.  Any extra energy produced from the process would be sold to the local utility company.

You see, this is how we need to start thinking.  But more than that, we need to reach deep within ourselves to shift priorities from the superficial American Dream of unending wealth generation and consumption of stuff to living meaningful lives within meaningful relationships with one another and the rest of the Earth.  We need to rediscover that taking a walk in the park with our loved ones, playing on the playground with our kids, sipping a glass of wine on the porch on a quiet summer evening, is much more enriching than buying the latest high-tech toy.

We need to realize that the American Dream must be rebuilt on values of community, unselfishness, a commitment to the common good and the good of the commons, on the project of creating a new way of life in keeping with the balance of life that is the special gift of this planet — until one species really messed it up.

Actually, our society is falling apart, irreversibly so.  The real question is what kind of life will emerge from the crumbing of the old — something ugly, sinister, and bitter, or something enriching, profound, and spiritually renewing?

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