Hajo de Reijger, The Netherlands
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Mounting environmental, economic, and political crises threaten the entire world:
• Monster storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires are wreaking havoc in poor and affluent regions alike.
• The great majority of the world's people, even in Europe and America, lead economically precarious lives.
• In addition to Russia, China and other long-standing regimes, authoritarians have recently taken power in Turkey, the Philippines, Venezuela, Hungary, Poland, the U.S., and Brazil.
Some in this world were born with significant advantages. But many more were born into extreme disadvantage due to the same ethnic, class, and colonial histories that privileged those luckier at birth.
Through no fault of their own, the disadvantaged are harmed by major crises far more than the advantaged. The latter therefore carry a responsibility to leverage their privileges for the benefit of all before the whole system comes crashing down on everyone.
The dominant strategy for dealing with our global crises is to rely on market forces, technological progress, and renewable energy to allow the advantaged to keep their current lifestyle while the disadvantaged somehow eventually follow in their footsteps. This cannot succeed for several reasons:
• The roots of our crises are not technical, but systemic. They lie in our individualistic social system and predatory global economic system.
• All new technology bears unforeseen consequences. Fossil fuel extraction, for example, gave us mobility but is upsetting the stable weather patterns necessary to feed humanity. Social media gave us interconnection but has undermined our social fabric and now even our democracy.
• The resources needed to maintain our technological dependency are fast running out. Building a complete renewable energy infrastructure, for example, will by itself burn colossal quantities of fossil fuel and require massive resource extraction for materials.
The privileged cannot continue business as usual any longer. If we do not constructively change our way of life today, it will change disastrously tomorrow. “Natural,” economic, and political disasters are already burgeoning. The way to forestall these is first to come together and simplify our lives. Then to transform our economic system and steadily reduce our material and energy consumption.
Fortunately, a simple, low-consumption way of life is more human and thus more deeply satisfying. And despite our current hyper-competitive economy, it has always been caring and cooperation that have enabled groups of people to survive against the vicissitudes of life.
Unchecked competition ultimately leads to oppression, environmental destruction, war, and death. With our current massive human population and global economic system, our “us and them” instinct will lead us only to global ruin.
We must therefore find common cause with all common people of the world. Through fellowship and solidarity we develop care for one another. These then form the foundation for cooperatively healing our societies and saving our world.
What then is our path forward?
First, acknowledge that we are all in this together. Everyone, disadvantaged and advantaged, is at risk and no person, class, or country can solve these crises by themselves. We need each other.
Second, unite in solidarity and nurture the bonds that make us strong together locally and globally. Cultivate caring, integrity, and courage in one another. These give us the strength and resilience to succeed.
Third, understand our past, our present, and our possible futures. If we do not know history we are condemned to repeat it. If we do not know where we stand we are lost. If we have no vision we will drift until we perish.
Fourth, based on what we have learned, heal our society by building a truly just and sustainable way of life. To succeed we must make this our top community priority.
Fifth, stay united and stay the course, no matter what. If we do not, today's children face a dim future. The present reality is already desperate in too many places.
The good news is that there are many groups around the world working cooperatively to build a caring, sustainable society. All of us can live simple, happy, loving lives on a small fraction of the energy and resources we now consume. It won't be perfect, but it will be satisfying and sustainable.
We have no time to lose. We will experiment, learn, and build as we go. If we stand together and stay the course we can leave a habitable planet as our gift to posterity. This is, of course, our moral responsibility.
The path to building a just and sustainable Santa Barbara will be explored in a community dialogue on Wednesday, December 12 from 7-9 p.m. at Santa Barbara Together, 123 West Padre Street, Suite E, Santa Barbara. You are invited to join us in pursuit of these goals.
To contact Brad Smith email email@example.com or call 705-5844.