On Ecology, Politics and Climate Change: the Links that Tear us Asunder

Warning!!! This is a rant! It’s political, economic, ecological and, most definitely, covers all of the connections between with climate change, these things and our future as a species.  I hope you choose to read it, but be forewarned!!

I woke up yesterday at 4:30am, unable to go back to sleep, so I got up and began writing this.  The state of the world, the absolute idiocy, meanness and short sightedness of politics today, the undeniable enormity of climate change and its inevitable impacts for every organism on the planet, drives me from paralyzing frustration, to near rage, to profound sadness and despair.  Most days all I can do is seek escape and I do this through gardening, reading eclectically, trying to follow some kind of routine, going for walks, a swim or a hike, sharing time with friends or delving into research on plants and the everyday miracles within them and their wondrously choreographed lives here on this planet….I spent my entire morning writing and rewriting this (and returned to it the following day, now today).  It is me ‘sharing’.  Yes, it’s a rant, it’s a bit of analysis, it’s a window into the world as I see it and it contains a hope I have…that I have to cling to most days, for this world and all that lives upon it, because what we have done, what we continue to do, is so profoundly destructive and disheartening to me.

The problem of climate change is tied up in the knotty package of our current political miasma and our economic system that denies any responsibility it has to anything other than profit.  We have unquestioningly accepted profit’s exalted status and its ‘companion’ that all else must be subservient to its attainment and, in so doing, have accepted that all things will be best served by its pursuit.  The economy has become our church and profit its most sacred ideal.  We sacrifice all else in this system of belief.  We have heard the apocryphal story of the ‘invisible hand’ and have learned of the power and undeniable superiority of the ‘free market’, of its promises and the sacrifices that must be made to attain its ultimate goal, which itself remains a ‘little hazy’.  As we move along this path we are subject to an almost nonstop barrage of claims of government malfeasance and failure…and the destructive power that its regulations pose to the market and freedom loving people.  No other value can be above profit, lest you risk upsetting the process, they say, to do so is to risk sending it into chaotic cycles, it is a mystical world we accept on faith, all but impenetrable to any but a select few economic wizards…none others are ‘qualified’ to speak on it.  Only when allowed to function unencumbered by outside non-economic controls, we are told, can the system magically and perfectly perform, recognizing value, utilizing resources and labor in the most effective, even fair way, and distributing its goods and services efficiently, where and when needed, rewarding those fairly for their contribution of labor and those owner/risk takers for their imaginative and courageous entrepreneurship.  From each it takes what they have to offer and, return, rewards us with what we deserve…in proportion to our contribution…and it does this in the simple and single minded pursuit of profit, ignoring all ‘parties’ outside of the transaction….It attains this level of ‘perfection’ by excluding non-participants.  This is what we have built our economic system on and staked our, and all other’s, futures on.  All others….

Without regulation the disparity in pay and wealth continues to widen to a shameful extent in this country, natural resources are given to processors and manufacturers at artificially low cost with little to no compensation to the owning public as they are sold off for private profit, around the world, with little regard for our own future needs or the damage that their exceptional harvest may cause to the land and its capacity to keep producing into the future.  Conservation is for the market to decide!  Profit, by law, is to be calculated and maximized by quarter, without assurances to future generations.  We have been reduced to trusting in profit and its singular goal.  Coal, oil, gas, wood, water, the minerals and soil itself, the fish of the sea, are all taken for short term profits, depleting them and the land’s capacity to sustain itself, while any and all other organisms, without any recognized economic value today, become secondary and are excluded from consideration.  And it is never enough, as unfettered and unaffiliated corporations seek to feed their continuously increasing demand for more.  This might be acceptable if we were all ‘profiting’, but we aren’t.  Remember those excluded from consideration and don’t forget the externalities.  Externalities are those ‘costs’, like pollution, loss of species and threats to human health that law has put outside the process, the deal, the transaction, those things business has been given explicit permission to ignore, to which we and those who suffer can get no compensation or remedy….The corporations reap the profits and the laboring public receives an ever smaller portion of the proceeds.  The public, the rest of the world, outside of the ‘protected’ transaction, is also left with the burden of the ever increasing burden of accumulating ‘externalites’, a euphemism for ‘shit’, while business’ demands for cost cutting never end…not for our benefit or as a sacrifice by the company as it scales back its rapaciousness, no, it is to fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to the owners and stockholders, a requirement written into federal law….There is no similar such law to protect the needs or earnings of laborers or the requirements of the landscape, the several hundred thousand other species and their environment to sustain itself, no, these parties have no ‘standing’, no legal basis to demand such a fairness. 

You need also to understand that these champions of the ‘free market’, these true believers sworn to the ‘invisible hand’, don’t really believe in a market free of government regulation.  There are countless laws on the books to limit workers rights and stop any challenges on behalf of the biological world upon which everyone ultimately depends.  If you read the laws closely, you can even see that the laws that do exist as ‘protections’ mostly define the extent to which a corporation can do harm, how much it can pollute, what it can deny its work force and the communities within which they operate, because to require stricter enforcement, legal restrictions to how they may operate, places an undue burden on a business, because after all, the right to profit supersedes the right to health…and if harm is done, then these laws limit to what extent an injured party may pursue compensation, and these rights are strictly limited.  Such laws give businesses privileges, allowing them to ‘earn’ profits that fairness, health and inclusion principles would obviate.  Some portion of profit comes only from a business’ legal ‘right’ to do harm to us and others.  Without legal standing we have no right to either demand compensation or to halt outright those practices we might deem harmful and require such businesses to use less harmful technologies or methods.  It speaks volumes that we have no such rights.

So, clear cutting continues on public lands, mountains are still processed, carved down to nothing their waste products leaching into the water table, in order to reap their profits, while little reclamation is demanded beyond a little grading and a nod to planting some kind of cover…maybe.  Land is developed, forests cut down and dedicated to growing beef or put to some other agricultural use, perhaps to provide feedstock to convert to combustible fuels and thus removed forever from the natural biological processes that sustain the Earth.  Whenever wrong is protested, the necessary force is mustered to limit and control it.  Such types who participate in protests are described as radicals or even as terrorists in public on the media.  Opposition is strictly limited and suppressed.  The injured are in general denied an effective political hearing.  They are without ‘standing’.  As the world’s human population continues to grow with our appetite for more land, water, resources and manufactured goods and services, what will be left?  Business simply views this as an ever increasing opportunity to grow profits.  Where will this end?  Where is the public discussion?  There is none, because the political system and the economic power in the world are one.  Political discussions are more about who gets how big a bone and when, who may be ignored and will it profit us to ‘listen’ to.   Where are analyses of what is wrong? the discussion of options and strategies to pursue them?  We are offered only destractions, bandaids and bland assurances that our leaders are working to make us a better world…if we only have a little patience and faith….Settlements are occasionally made wherein the parties are strictly limited in their ability to discuss the outcome of the decision. 

There is little to no discussion of how we might implement the needed changes staring us all in the face.  That would require that we admit that there is a problem and understand that all problems arise for a reason in response to changing conditions, conditions in which we may be playing a direct and key role.  Instead we get an occasional call for another study.  More recently, under today’s administration, we get only denials, denials of reality, denials of science, denials of responsibility….Politics is the means by which a society governs itself, it structures and regulates its decision making process.  Today’s politicians suffer from a profound avoidance of the political and simply hurl money and accusations around in a desperate attempt to avoid responsibility and blame those who suffer as a consequence of past political decisions.  But, in the end, everything we do, or choose not to do, has political and economic ramifications.  However much leaders and politicians may speak about democracy they are always very careful to word it around representative democracy, one in which we vote in our decision makers and leave them to it, and there is nothing wrong with this, if they actually represent our best interest, but they no longer do. 

In so many politicians the idea of public service has died.  Narcissism lies at their simple cores.  Their visions are selfish and fear driven. Their loyalty lies with Mammon, those of money and power behind the system.  Voters are both obstacle and opportunity.  But the truth is, without the voters, without our support, they have no power.  They are intended to be instruments through which we speak, only now they are too often responding to the money that assures their positions and we are duped into believing that this is how representative government works.  Millions of citizens do not bother to vote, they see politics and politicians as, if not corrupt, at least effectively beyond their influence, that their participation will make no difference, that decisions will be made with or without their ‘best’ interests in mind.  Now politicians may deny this all they want and many do, claiming that these monies don’t buy their loyalty, but you would have to be a very committed true believer in the process, a true patriot in today’s parlance, to not see past the buying and selling of their offices and vote. 

Politics relies heavily on fund raising.  As voters many look to how much money a politician has raised to gauge their viability as a candidate, as they they may have the need to back a ‘winner’, money which we should understand comes with obligations to donors.  Campaigns generally include rallies, to ‘whip’ up one’s supporters, to assuage any fears we might have that our candidate owes allegiance to others, because the evidence that they do support us is very ‘thin’.  Charismatic leaders are particularly adept at this as they play to many voters need for such a call to loyalty, our desire to subsume ourselves, to be part of something bigger and greater, of belonging to something special….Again there is nothing wrong with this, but in politics today, we see this regularly used by manipulative and unscrupulous leaders who ‘play’ us.  Our representatives ‘need’ the voters support to give them legitimacy, though once in office theirs becomes a balancing act as they tilt between their allegiance to their donors, their own need for power and status and their voters…it happens here in the US.  We are not immune to this kind of corruption.

So, what do we do?  What can we do that does not end with us just feeling more frustrated and powerless?

  1. The most important thing is to do something!  Doing nothing is the most frustrating and debilitating action one can take when you are aware of the need for change.  It is a denial of one’s self, a surrender of one’s inherent power as a human being.  Doing nothing adds to the undermining of one’s capacity to effect needed change making one feel weaker and less effective than you truly are…exactly what many of the powerful want us to do, give up.  Doing does not include whining or complaining to others that they should be doing something, that it is their problem and their responsibility to fix it.  Citizenship is not an empty title and it requires one to wield their power responsibly in a manner that is sensitive to one’s fellow citizens.  Being apolitical is not a choice.  Claiming it makes no difference is a cowardly cop-out.  There is no wiggle room on this issue.  If you harbor any doubts on this look at your children and grandchildren and ask yourself, if/when the world goes to total shit, what will I say to them, how will I justify that I didn’t do anything, that I didn’t at least try to do the right thing…  It is incumbent upon us to take personal responsibility for our actions whether they are active or passive.
  2. It is important to understand those things that drive us and those that may drive those around us if we are to act rightly.  If we don’t do this if we don’t understand what is shared commonly between us, we will fail.  Survival is the primary human need.  If our access to healthy food, clean water and air, clothing, comfortable and effective shelter, is absent or threatened; if we are unable to sleep safely and securely, if we feel unsafe where we live or insecure in our ability to meet our needs, that our ability to do so is at risk…then we, anyone, will act accordingly to secure those.  We will survey the options available to us and choose.  If those options are limited and cannot fulfill our need, then our frustration will increase along with our potential for violence…people will make desperate and often violent choices.  This country has a long history of leaving much of its population struggling at the lower rungs with few to no legitimate alternatives and then reacting with indifference or violent retaliation.  We have the unsupported belief that effort alone is required to improve one’s economic position which is a serviceable lie the well to do tell themselves with smug superiority.  Horatio Alger and his bootstraps is a story we use to shame the poor, one we always have a handful of ready exceptions to support as if it were an obvious truth.  If genuine options, however, are available and can effectively satisfy our needs, violence can be averted and an overall improvement in general well being can be enjoyed by the larger community.  As humans we also have needs for respect, self-esteem, love and acceptance as well as the less defined need for self-actualization, the need for personal growth, discovery and mastery, to develop that capacity or skill which is uniquely ours.  That we support so little of this in our general population speaks volumes to our general dissatisfaction and our demand for senseless consumption, distraction and self-medication.  All of these needs are real and drive us.  All of these are valid.  We do not need to justify them.  Problems arise when we are frustrated or blocked in our ability to secure them.  Sometimes we ‘learn’ that we do not deserve these for ourselves, that we are unworthy of them, but this is a falsehood perpetrated on us.  We are all deserving.  It is the obscenely wealthy who are undeserving, no one deserves such disproportionate compensation, it is simply a gross example of the exercise of power and unwarranted privilege.  It is taking and who they take from is the rest of us.  As a general rule, when we block others from attaining these goals, we frustrate them and increase the likelihood that they will act out in opposition, in ways that may cause harm to themselves, their families and communities and such violence will not lessen their pain, it will not rally others in support, it is simply destructive and serves to keep the attention off of what truly needs to change in this country….It destabilizes everything putting the focus on the ‘acting out’, the violence, rather than on its source.  Today this has become commonplace, almost expected, and many of us live in fear of such violence and arm ourselves for protection or deterrence, or even retaliation.  We have lost ‘faith’ in our fellows and see danger everywhere.  This is a negative path, one that feeds on itself and as the disparities continue to grow between us we become more divided and polarized driving hope into ever smaller corners and many of our ‘leaders’ are very much aware of this as it is by design and intention…we are very close to a period of mutually assured societal destruction as the power brokers continue to attempt to manipulate us to meet their own ends, pitting us, the lessers, against one another while their world and position stands above, separate, secure and defended.
  3. As members of a modern consumer society we live within an economy that requires our participation to meet our needs indirectly.  We take ‘jobs’ and work toward the goals of our supervisors, bosses and owners in exchange for money which we then use to buy what we want/need, goods and services which are themselves produced by this same economy.  We are taught that in order to satisfy our needs we must participate in this process, but it is important to understand that business and this economy have today developed goals that take primacy over our own.  Each business varies in how it does this, certainly not all are predatory and many business owners are genuinely committed to their staff and employees, but these seem more exceptional.  Some companies, particularly more successful ones, have been more supportive of their employees well being, some have taken very public ethical stances on their commitment to their local communities and the lands they operate on.  In general, though, their goals are to grow the business, not just assure its continuation, and increase its sales and profits.  To do this businesses’ may choose to manipulate this process through advertising and branding to get consumers/workers to identify their needs with the goals of the business.  This can get ‘confused’ when the products and services closely align with our basic needs, but they can become even more ‘confused’ regarding luxury products and services as we come to identify them with meeting our own needs for status and self-esteem.  We must understand that we are being sold to, that our purchase of these goods and services may not satisfy our personal needs for growth, self esteem and contentment, because marketers have ‘borrowed’ the language we use to describe ourselves to sell to us…our happiness, our sense of accomplishment is not tied to some product or service.  Those things lie within us or are a product of our own growth and accomplishments.  Participating in this economy is essential for us today living in a modern urbanized world, but we need to learn quickly how to see through the surface of advertising and product design to determine whether what we buy is actually satisfying our needs or simply perpetuating our need for more in an endless loop.
  4. We need to better understand our place and role in this living world as a fellow organism, with all of the responsibility for its/our continuing health and align our personal and individual economic actions with the cycles and forces that can rebuild health back into those systems we’ve compromised.  The needs of the economy and business have been placed above those of the living planet and the systems upon which all of life ultimately depends.  Life on this planet has been evolving for over 3.6 billion years from its beginning and it has done so in relationship. Arguably, humans have only been here some million years or so.  We are a ‘late’ development having been here roughly .027% of that time.  For most of that relatively short time humans have had relatively minimal impact living lives as hunter/gathers, then in some form of agriculture, working at various crafts and trades, mercantilism and eventually, in 1760, moved on to what we now recognize as the beginning of the industrial age harnessing power sources beyond human and animal to manufacture goods.  It wasn’t until the 1870’s, and our quickly developing capacity to produce steel, that the second industrial revolution took off, along with our appetite for fossil fuels.  It is these last 150 years, roughly .00000416% of life’s tenure on the planet, that industrial growth and human population expansion have put the Earth under severe stress releasing countless millions of tons of carbon, formerly sequestered in the ground and within the bodies of its forests, land and oceans, into the atmosphere causing it to warm, sending it into increasingly chaotic swings, while reducing the Earth’s capacity to buffer itself against further increases, forever changing the conditions under which life must now exist.
  5. We must take action to move along a ‘middle’ path…now!  It is not a time to wait.  We’ve been looking for government and business to act, to take responsibility…the very institutions which have been stalling effective action!  It has always been incumbent upon us to act.  The idea that we are powerless is one perpetrated on us by the powers that be which strive to retain control over us.  This is a collective problem and requires a collective commitment.  A return to the ‘stone age’ is not necessary, but we continue to put ourselves at risk by stalling effective action as we reduce our choice of alternatives.  Techologies are not necessarily inherently bad, butt must be ‘wiser’ in their use and limit our use of them.  We cannot simply move back to a time before the industrial revolution, and reset the ‘clock’, that possibility is gone, gone with the consumed fossil fuels, lost populations, species and landscapes which have fallen to ‘development’.  If we move quickly and effectively enough, however, we can retain the use of the various beneficial technologies that we have developed, but scientist estimate that we are already in a period of over-shoot, with too large of a human population, consuming an unsustainable level of resources and, because of this, there will and must be a reduction to lower levels.  Arguments about human nature and possibility are wasteful and pointless.  We simply must act!  Delays grow increasingly costly, we have knowingly been stalling change for decades now, time lost that could have buffered more draconian changes.  Biologists, ecologists, weather scientists and systems scientist all say that it is imperative that we act now, effectively, before systems collapses.  Such collapses will directly threaten the lives of millions and we all know what happens when people’s lives are under threat.  The massive political failure of leadership on this has prevented sensible shifts in the economy, technology and expectation that have hobbled us in both our understanding and ability to respond to this crisis.  No amount of finger-pointing or denials of what lay ahead of us can help.  What we need is effective, decisive, orchestrated and compassionate action, short of that, we must still act as individuals.  We as a society are ill prepared for this.  Our public and social media seems to have largely followed our leadership into a dark narrow corner.  Today, when one watches the news, we see little helpful positive reportage.  Discussions happen only amongst friends, if then.  Salons and open, constructive public discussions, which can help prepare the way, are rare and desperately needed. It is up to us.   Our news media are mired in the broken politics of the day and its stories of disheartening and debilitating failure taking place at most every level.  As I said before the idea of public service, of dedicating oneself to the betterment of one’s people seems all but dead, along with our crippled structures of community, that were once an invaluable piece of civil society, and indeed, of any kind of social coherence, of belonging.  Such values have been devalued and jettisoned as archaic and unnecessary…well, these are precisely the skills and values that we need today.  The old maxim that ‘no man is his own island’, has never been more true.  We have always risen or fallen together.  Any study of nature shows that while nature may seem to have a harsh edge, that animals must and will always consume others, they must do so in association, in balance with one another, not greedy rapaciousness…that is a way to collapse and widespread death.  It is our responsibility to choose.  Every day we watch the stories dominated by misogyny, racism and xenophobia peppered with violence, all the polarizing hatreds and misunderstandings that work to divide us and dominate others.  We see right wing nationalistic movements growing across the globe, a powerful and divisive force, at just the time when we most need to pull together if we are to ever seriously address the problems we face.  Many among us claim that ours is a Christian country, but that is a false claim when its adherents deny the love such beliefs require that we share for others.  Love is in fact the opposite to what these people are expressing.  Building one’s beliefs on the idea of a vengeful god, or in pursuit of some false security promised by ever more wealth and power, assures nothing beyond pain and loss.  Such a survival mindset assures only the decline to a sad ending of mutual annihilation.  Nature has never followed our rule of the survival of the fittest…that is a dangerous misinterpretation of nature.  If we do, however, revaluate our choices as both a society and individuals, we can retain that which truly benefits us as individuals and society while at the same time insuring the life of the countless species we and the life of this planet depend upon.  We are inextricably linked to one another.  The idea that we can ‘remove’ ourselves from nature, that nature is not essential to our own lives, is an impossible claim of arrogance made by the wealthy and powerful who seek only to increase their own position.  It is shored up by the desperate and insecure who hope that their own unquestioning commitment will deliver them from pain and loss, and they so have become willing to sacrifice others in this false pursuit.  It is the impoverished fantasy of a wronged child, one working to assure that no one ever hurts him again.  Such a world is not only contrary to life itself, it is impossible to sustain as it relies upon the ever growing disparity between the wealthy and the masses which will ultimately destroy that society.  It asks that the poor, the insecure, sacrifice that which makes them most human to simply survive.  We live in a state of desperation today, we have ‘bought’ the promise of a better life as a package deal, without really looking at the fine print, or at what is inside the box to which we are now beholden, while the alternative, the world of nature, and our place in it, continues to be degraded and destroyed.  The future is not one where all will live in gated communities, housed in ever larger palatial homes, where none need lift a finger, a life of luxury and convenience, such a life is a childish dream. 
  6. Our future, if there is to be one, lies in cooperation, sharing, security, respect, where ‘enough’ is acceptable, where luxury and more at the expense of others is not, a world in which the basic human needs are central to society and our economy, a world that respects wisdom and understanding, that does not reject science, because it runs counter to someones business plan, or fundamentalist beliefs, a world where one’s rights are balanced against ones responsibilities to others, all inclusive, a world in which we are humbled by nature’s wonders, wonders that we see all around ourselves, where each individual and species is respected and we understand our obligations to the whole, where living, in its fullest sense is understood and valued, where power over is questioned, where position is earned, where the weak are protected, though not coddled, where art and beauty are to be shared and enjoyed in the every day, where efficiency and cost are components of a decision, not the sole determining factors, in which our economy must justify itself, where damage must be weighed against public good, where individuals and species are not put at risk for selfish gain, where public good, not private property drives economic decision making, where ‘capital’ recognizes its responsibility to health and the public good, where sacrifice is not forced upon the weak, where reciprocity reigns, in which each gives what they can and is assured what they require, where greed is recognized as shameful.  If any society is at its heart counter to the requirements of a broad understanding of health, eventually that society will decline.  A society that honors selfishness and greed, that permits poverty and withholds that which is basic to healthy life must be called into question or its people will suffer and perish.
  7. What do we do?  We must dig deep within ourselves and find the courage to reach out to one another, because if we don’t or can’t, we are doomed.  We do not need more attacks, we need bridges, healing, because we need to act collectively, and to do this we must explore and utilize our own capacities for strength and courage.  That will absolutely be required of us, that, along with, a healthy dose of compassion and creativity.  If it were easy, the short term plans and machinations of the political machine and our economy, would have already gotten us there, but it isn’t easy.  As I’ve explained above it is exactly the opposite position that these two institutions have been committed to today.  While they may spew the rhetoric of acceptance and inclusion, of being passionate ‘defenders’ of the environment, protectors of our health and welfare, their actions have long run against that.  The meager assurances and limited security we may have once had, are in the process of being traded away, if they haven’t already, or have been commodified and sold back to those of us who can afford them in the rigged economic ‘game’ we all find ourselves playing.  Our leaders and political institutions are compromised.  We need not toss these institutions out, but we must breathe new life and air into them, literally, and find new voices to actually represent us.  Today law has been twisted into a weapon to be wielded by the powerful. If we ‘wait’ to be saved by this lot, we wait in vain.  If we can’t see what has happened to us, if we can’t determine where ‘blame’ actually lays, then the end the doomsayers promise, ‘The End is Nigh!’ will be our fate.  We must take action, each one of us responsible for our own future and do what we can and reject the fatalism and powerlessness we have been taught is our condition.  Our leaders have only the power that we give them.  We handed it to them cheaply.  We need to daily remind them of their obligation to us and we must exercise with the same commitment the power that we have in our daily lives as we make our life choices, as we shop, when, where and how we choose to travel, what work we will do, how we conduct ourselves in our communities, because our communities, our society, is the result of each of our actions.  We determine much of our everyday lives through our collective actions as individuals.  We do not exercise our power only in the election booth, we do so every day, as I said, through our choices, how we live our lives, how we present ourselves to others.  We are in this together and when we fail to realize this, when we start separating out others for different treatment, we add to our failing communities and society as a whole.  It is a huge error to think that we are in this on our own, that it is us against them.  Society is dependent upon our social actions.  The seeds of its failures lie within us.  To continue down this path is to follow a path of mutually assured destruction.  This is the path we have been put on and the path we have effectively chosen.  We could choose otherwise, but to do that we must choose and take on our responsibility for ourselves and others.  The alternative is the continuing decline of society and our devolution into chaotic climate change and all of the unpredictable losses of life that this will entail.  It is not a forgone conclusion.  There is always a choice.  What we want, what I want, is not currently on the table for political decision makers, so I do this, I share my thoughts and daily make the decisions that I can to support the world I would like to see.  It is a continuing frustration, but what else can I do.  I refuse to get pulled into the political nonsense that is being passed off to us as leadership today.   We need a revolution, a rebirthing of our political system, not a coup or a limited effort to ‘Throw the Bums Out!’, but a reimagining of government and our role in it.  There is nothing wrong with our form of government itself…the wrong is in our relationship with it.
  8. Take actions that will reduce your carbon footprint.  We hear this a lot, but what does it mean? Think of a living organism living it its natural conditions in an undisturbed, by humans, landscape, if it is an animal it is a ‘heterotroph’ it must consume other organisms in order to gain what it requires, as are all animals; if it is a plant, it is an autotroph, and as such does not consume other organisms, but is capable of synthesizing what it requires from the air, water, mineral soil and decaying organisms that make up its environment.  As humans we are necessarily heterotrophs, consumers of organisms.  This is neither good nor bad.  Heterotrophs eat to grow and provide for the energy requirements across their lifespan.  They take from others.  This is as it should be, as it must be.  In a close relationship with nature, they excrete their waste and in so doing are part of the nutrient cycling that is normal and necessary in all healthy landscapes.  In some cases, over this process and in our movements, heterotrophs also serve to spread the seeds and spores of plants and fungi as part of a complex balancing act to keep a landscape system both intact and healthy.  We reproduce and thus assure that the cycle continues as is intended and necessary.  Our final act is our death to help insure that the balance is maintained and with it our bodies are returned to decompose and finish the cycle in our landscape.  This is the shared role of all heterotrophs.  All of this occurs within a biological community.  All of a community’s species and individuals living in relationship, one with the others.  Living in relationship this way organisms have a net zero carbon footprint, while they draw directly from their environments they return it in equal measure, by the time their cycle ends.  The combined action of their living holds within it the nutrient richness of a vital community and its promise of a future.  In fact, healthy communities may over time deliver a positive, though small, return.
  9. As we humans go about our biological duty we are required to meet our basic and biological survival needs as described above.  As ‘social’ organisms we have other needs above these which relate us to our positions and place in our social milieu.  They are every bit as necessary as the others.  And then there is the issue of us as being capable of more complex language and our alleged intelligence, our opposable thumbs and our utilization of tools….Our abilities and capacities have allowed us to move ‘outside’ of nature’s immediate influence and here is where it gets ‘sticky’.  Once we are outside of our historic relationship, once we have perfected certain technologies, harnessed other energy sources, our capacity to accomplish work, our ability to adapt our environment to meet our requirements has begun.  The further outside of the biological realm of nature we move, the more energy it requires of us to maintain our new and desired status quo.  In a very real sense over time with such developments, we require the use of more resources and energy to reach the same, now ‘elaborated’ survival goals of our species.  Where we once lived in caves, huts or tents, we now live in several thousand square foot, resource intensive homes.  Where once we worked to directly supply our families with a secure supply of food, we now work ‘jobs’ to buy what the market offers us whether it comes from a neighborhood ‘farm’ down the street from us or the pampas of Argentina.  Each step up, each improvement often adds a higher consumption level of energy.  This is akin to the societal problem that we have as each succeeding generation has increasingly higher expectations regarding their standard of living and the conveniences they enjoy, their desires increasing proportionately and this all occurs in an idealized world where everything is possible and all dreams are attainable, well outside of the limits of a limited Earth, with finite and declining capacities.  Decreasing one’s carbon footprint means reducing the amount of energy you require throughout your day to meet your needs, be they for food, shelter, water, air, love, safety and security, acceptance, ‘work’, travel, entertainment, personal expression…all of it.  It means that we must ask ourselves whether the promises assured us through the purchase and consumption of some business’ products and services are ‘worth it’ to ourselves and society, does the promised convenience, selection, status, improvements to our appearance justify the expenditure/extravagance, because it is beyond the world’s capacity to deliver it without further damage to itself.  Ultimately, it begs the question whether our pursuit of these goods and services can ever be truly satisfying and wouldn’t we be better served to look for that elsewhere, perhaps in our transforming relationships with our families, peers, communities and fellows.  Might we not find more satisfaction in the mastery of certain skills and arts than we do from buying an endless stream of ready made or even artisanal, ‘bespoke’ items and clothing, crafted one-offs!  Such buying begins a self-perpetuating cycle….In many traditional societies craftsmanship was highly prized.  I am not saying that the future is necessarily a bleak one in terms of quality, but we must reduce the quantity as we continue mining, harvesting and pumping the resources out of the Earth.  Our consumption often ends up in vast masses of unclaimed, non-recyclable waste, buried in the ground, lost at sea or burned, simply stripped and removed from the Earth’s declining stores forever…to meet quarterly projections and profits counter to the.  This is where we must each take a clear and questioning look at ourselves and consumption if we are to survive this.  I do not see this as a bleak and desperate future, I see ample opportunity for abundance and joy.  It is the terrible waste for selfish, limited and questionable gains today that saddens me, the loss of beauty and options for the future.

Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what youve got. Till it’s gone. They                               paved paradise. And put up a parking lot…” Joni Mitchell


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