Monday, October 25, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Hmmm...heavy sigh. Back into the store. “Your sign says there is no extra charge for credit cards,” I say, not so cheerfully. “Yes, but yours was debit.” Wait for it...wait for it...WHAT?
Friday, October 15, 2010
The whole situation is something new for capitalism, a shock. For two centuries it's been like a closely guarded secret that the entire economic system we live in, and assumed was forever, is actually part of another larger system, but with only so many resources and dump sites. But the secret is out. We are eating up the materials that sustain us, and the feast is almost over.
During the great heydays of capitalism – the last two centuries of spectacular development and growth – we lived in what the great ecological economist Herman Daly called a "full world" of resources. We thought they were unlimited, some kind of permanent gift to the human race from God, so we could display our stewardship, or something. But it's not a "full world" any more. Somebody should tell our leaders.
Watch for the big announcement: THE PARTY IS OVER. Without ever-expanding resources, ever-expanding production and consumption, our economic growth model becomes a relic, instantly obsolete. But so far, no one in leadership roles is admitting to that. If they know it, they're too scared to say so.
So, we are left with a profound dilemma: do we serve the short-term interests of profits and growth? Or do we face reality and serve long-term planetary survival? How to solve one problem without exacerbating the other? So far, the decisions have favoured the corporate side, as usual. But circumstances may change that.
President Evo Morales of Bolivia, the only head of state from an indigenous heritage, made his position clear, first in Copenhagen, and then in Cochabamba: "We have a stark choice between capitalism and survival," he said. "The countries of the world have failed in their obligations … Either capitalism lives or Mother Earth lives."
The conclusion is clear. From here on, no one gets off easy. Everyone's in the same boat, caught in the same systemic conflict. The conundrums apply as much to Morales as to Obama. Growth is over, and they need a real, clear vision of a way forward. That's true for all of us. Surely it's time to agree that the first step is to start drawing curtains on an obsolete, out-of-date system that could kill us all, and to shape a new one. Which brings us to the good news.
The universal quest is to define systems that that can deliver economic sufficiency and equity, permanently, while remaining within the carrying capacities of the planet. Most accept that systemic economic growth will soon be over, though growth is encouraged in specific timely activities – for example, certain renewable energy forms, local agriculture practice, sustainable building and the arts. Other ingredients of a new economy that some groups advocate include:
• Adoption of an international "oil depletion protocol" for an orderly, equitable decline of fossil-fuel use and a transition to less total energy use; a commonly used term for this is "powering down" – that is, aiming at minimum energy for sufficiency and equity.
• Universal emphasis on conservation and efficiency in all activities.
• Less long-distance shipping, not more.
That is the tiniest sample of what thousands of people are now discussing in various forums, including Cochabamba, World Social Forums and many others. For more information, I suggest internet searches of some of the following: Post Carbon Institute, Transition Towns movement, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, New Economics Institute, Global Footprint Network, Ecosocialist International Network, New Economy Working Group, ETC Group, The Story of Stuff, 350.org, left or green biocentrism, Dark Mountain Project, Indigenous Environmental Network, Tebtebba foundation, Food and Water Watch, Navdanya, Third World Network, International Center for Technology Assessment, Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, Rainforest Action Network, Institute for Policy Studies, International Forum on Globalization. These will doubtless lead to dozens of others.