Our stunning incapacity to change when that is clearly required

Posted September 14th, 2011 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Our stunning incapacity to change when that is clearly required

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

In the face of deepening economic and ecological crises, it is stunning to me that we seem so incapable of grappling with real social change when that is clearly required. It is stunning to me that as a society, especially in our politics and economics, we continue trying to fix the very drivers that are deepening the crises.

It is stunning to me that we don’t realize how much the world has changed and that the old way of doing business and generating wealth and creating jobs will not work because the old world upon which these old ways were developed is over.

Not the world I want for her. Photo credit: 'the Mom'

It is stunning to me that as the suffering mounts, as we experience the crises in our actual lived experience, we are still unable to get this, that politicians,  journalists, economists, market watchers, and pundits are insistent that measures that once worked to get the economy growing again, to rebuild the middle class, to restore lost quality of life and severe social stresses can work one more time to get us out of this mess. They will no longer work – ever again!

There is no path that this economy has been down since the rapid growth of industrialization following World War II that can take us out of crisis. As our ecological and economic downward spiral picks up speed, wholly new, creative, prophetic, inspirational, radical, and revolutionary measures are required that are commensurate with the crises themselves. You cannot fix this mess around the edges and get the old economy functioning again. We are reaching a critical mass when it comes to the combination of ‘resource’ limits, toxic contamination, economic globalization (translation: globalization of a voracious market economy), and population growth.

Growth itself is in question, all kinds of growth – population growth, economic growth, wealth generation (in actuality it is concentrating, not growing), development projects, industrial agriculture, technology, etc. Growth has been our driving background noise for a couple of centuries now and we have grown right smack into a wall of the Earth’s limits.

The suffering is real and mounting. The new poverty statistics in this country are not just concerning and frightening, they are a moral abomination. We’ve got Koch brother gazillionaires raising literally untold amounts of money to destroy the Obama administration so that there are even fewer impediments to their wealth generation (and because they believe themselves superior beings in relation to the rest of us, including our African-American president), while the percentage of people living in poverty has reached a generational peak.

Wages and median incomes are falling, real unemployment and underemployment are high and actually still rising, and families living in nice houses (often facing foreclosure or need to sell in a depressed market) are on food stamps or going to food pantries to help provide for their kids.

And what is the national response to this? Good friends, what is our response?!?! We are dismayed! We are shocked! And we will do nothing to address the real causes of this trend. In fact, we will allow our national politics to track even farther to the right and Obama and Congress are likely to finally agree to cut the programs those falling into poverty most need – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and a host of social programs that the wealthy loathe giving up to those whose poverty they are causing.

And they accuse the left and the populists of class warfare…

Meanwhile, my rightist Guv Scott Walker and other pro-business govs of Great Lakes states are pressuring New York over its new stringent rules for ballast water that has become a major source of invasive species destroying our Great Lakes ecosystems. Quagga mussels that arrived in foreign ships’ ballast waters have killed life in Lake Michigan, which floor is now carpeted with them, billions upon billions of them sucking up the oxygen required by other living critters.

What quagga mussels do - US Bureau of Reclamation

Mining interests in my state and across the country are in for big-time benefits as the job crisis will be used to open up wound after wound in the Earth for their benefit (for example).

And once again we have just watched major flooding events, in Pennsylvania this time, after still more torrents of rain. Seems like the only kind of rain that falls anymore. Meanwhile, wildfires continue to sweep across many locations of the southwest – and now northeastern Minnesota, which is suffering from prolonged drought. Yea, you don’t have to tell me about those fires, started by lightning on August 18th, because a seasonal cold front that shifted our summer southwest winds to those from the northwest have brought the smoke from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area fires straight across Wisconsin, blanketing much of our state in smoky haze. Until the air shifts again, we are literally breathing the Minnesota forests into our lungs. [Check out this amazing photo.]

You know why? Because we are actually all part of one system, one enormous ecosystem that is our planet Earth. We live on a sphere, a closed system that is our atmosphere and biosphere. There is no escaping the fate of the planet, ultimately. We make it possible for Homo sapiens sapiens and other billions of species to live within that closed system – or we don’t.

And now with population growth, ecological destruction, and economic globalization, we are bound together in this fate as never before. And still we think that Ben Bernanke at the Fed or Obama with his jobs plan or Keynsian economics or Tea Party individualists or religious fundamentalists or arrogant Ayn Rand inspired politicians have anything to offer us to get through this tumultuous transition.

They don’t. So it is time to step up to the real challenge – which is deep, fundamental, radical. We have to find a new way to be human on this planet. We have to design new human economies based on essential well-being – the quality of life and health, of relationships and communities, of real meaning and spiritual growth – and we have to do that starting about a generation ago.

Wounded Earth - Artist: Mary Southard, CSJ

We are not lost for ideas, wisdom, insight. Those come from many sources all over the world. What we are lacking is courage. What we are lacking is the ability to fully grasp the situation. It’s like getting that life-altering diagnosis – you can continue the pattern that will lead inevitably to your death (smoking, for example, or obesity), or you can remove from your life what put you in the crisis. You can change your life so that what is killing you is no longer allowed to enter your body or your psyche.

But to do that, given how the threats invade our lives and our bodies every day with or without our consent, requires not only an individual decision to consume differently or live differently, but a commitment to profound social, economic, and political changes.

And we are, sadly, still a long, long ways from that kind of social and cultural awakening.


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