Monthly Archives: October 2013
Dear One Percent,
I can understand why you might be a tad nervous these days. Your lofty penthouses must offer spectacular views of the collapse of western civilization. We have reached a fork in the road and there is a real struggle about which way to go. Since you’ve usurped most of the power in the world and your vote counts for more than mine, I’m asking you to please use it wisely.
If we continue down the broad path of globalization, unfettered corporate pillage and the continued massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the super-rich, we are all going to have a bad time. History repeatedly demonstrates the resilience of what a former employer of mine actually called “the great unwashed masses.” The stronger the downward momentum when the people hit bottom, the higher they will bounce. There were no gates high enough, or walls thick enough to resist this force when it erupted in France, Russia, China, or countless other “civilized” nations that didn’t share resources fairly. What’s worse, if ecocide is allowed to continue, there won’t be a world worth living in when the dust settles.
Nobody wants that to happen in America except Fox News. Bloody violence would be a wet dream for both Rupert Murdoch and the pundit class who are employed by the military-industrial-prison-complex. The vast majority of sentient beings on this planet, perhaps especially the cops and soldiers, want peace. However, we all have the right to defend ourselves and our families from abuse. More of us are recognizing that the planet we live on should also be inside our circle of concern, because if she dies, we do too and so more of us than ever are willing to put ourselves in harm’s way to defend the earth.
We are hearing the term ‘revolution’ being tossed around in a less figurative context these days. We are approaching a tipping point and none of us knows for certain what lies on the other side. Let’s take a moment to think about what we want to find there. I expect to see small communities building their own sustainable economies, growing more organic food in more shared spaces. We already see the growth of free-cycling, tool libraries, seed libraries, maker spaces and other alternatives to consumerism. We will see increasing engagement in governance, beginning particularly at the local level and, if necessary, increased civil disobedience in the prevention of ecocide. We will see a new economy growing to fill the void as our current unsustainable house of cards slowly but surely collapses down to a manageable size. The whole fossil fuel industry will gradually subside, while clean, renewable energy companies rise to replace them. Institutional pressure to divest from fossil fuels will accelerate this process. At the same time, we can also expect to see a number of democratic movements coalesce in order to find a way to bring power back to the people from whom it was stolen. Checks and balances on the power of transnational corporations must be restored if we are to save this planet. Please keep in mind that we don’t have another one to go to.
The massive chasm of income disparity represents a threat to everyone, no matter how much or how little money they have. Change is inevitable and its up to you, dear one percent, to make sure the transition goes smoothly. We all need you to become part of the solution by defecting from the forces of unmitigated greed and join our common cause as Terrestrials. We all breathe the same air, and so will all of our children, even yours.
Some of the rest of us.
Some handy links;
Russell Brand’s interview with Jeremy Paxman has over seven million views on YouTube in just a couple of days. Clearly, he really touched a nerve, but Paxman was right to take him to task for advocating not voting, as that is one of the many ways to attempt to fix the broken system. The difficulty is that we really need to start from the bottom and begin organizing at the local level first in order to get a foothold. Municipal politics may not sound exciting, but that is where the magic can begin to happen.
The system of party politics in western democracy ensures that some asshole is going to get the top job no matter how few people vote for him. If only three people out of a hundred vote, then two votes out of a hundred wins the election. That is the law. The system is designed to maintain the status quo, not to ensure that the voice of the people is heard. The influx of money from corporations and lobbyists – and I don’t know why we don’t just call this bribery straight up – has so tainted the whole process that it really isn’t democratic anymore, and some of the brightest minds will tell you it never really has been. We just call it that out of habit, but recent decades have seen the rise of corporate oligarchy and the influence of transnational corporations spreading throughout the world. Watch this TED talk if you want to understand the extent of the problem.
This trend really bad news because a corporation exists for one purpose only. Profit is now the one and only goal but it wasn’t always like that. Corporations used to have a charter that set out the obligations it was supposed to fulfill. There used to be a mandate, a public good that the organization was intended to serve. Today shareholder value has a legal claim above all others in corporate governance. In the top-down hierarchical structure, the overpaid CEOs and directors have the power. They are using that power and influence to subvert democracy and remove the checks and balances that once prevented their abuse of people and the environment. However corporations do have an Achilles heel, and the time has come to strike it. We, the people, can boycott their products and employees can work to rule and create collective bargaining units. Massive civil disobedience drove the British out of India and we can use it in North America to demand justice for people and the planet.
It is high time more people recognized that the whole economic model based on growth is wrong. We live on planet with finite resources. There are limits to growth, and we are coming up on them faster than most people realize. Fossil fuel consumption needs to be cut back hard and this has to happen now, or there may not be many future generations. The system that has allowed things to get this bad deserves to be tossed on the scrap heap, but first we have to organize and build a new system based on the principle of sustainability, which is just another way of saying first do no harm. The question is, can we do this fast enough?
Since our current system of government is hopelessly damaged and no longer reflects the will of the people, it behooves us all to demand a change and the system is so far gone that this change has to be revolutionary. Anyone who tries to equate the term revolution with violence is part of the problem and cannot see the forest of democracy for the trees of divisive party politics. The place to start is at the bottom. We need to extract ourselves from the matrix of lies that is spoon-fed through the mind-control devices in our living rooms and take back democracy one level at a time. We can connect with our neighbours, start gardens and free-cycling in our communities, and get involved in making our municipalities more sustainable. The revolution will begin in your heart and bring you out to meet your neighbours and even if the whole house of cards that is the current system collapses, we’ll still have each other.
Revision; Here’s an excellent article on this topic; http://rabble.ca/news/2013/10/some-thoughts-about-power-russell-brand
Having introduced the concept in a previous post, it occurred to me that I had not defined Terrestrialism. I guess there are two core principles. The first is the premise that we are all connected by interdependence. We have symbiotic relationships with billions of microorganisms that populate our bodies and similarly, billions of mammals have symbiotic relationships with the Planet Earth. There seems to be a fractal relationship between these two levels of interdependence, which seems to echo the concept “As above, so below” that one finds in theosophy. This is not to say that I “believe” in theosophy or accept its other tenets – I don’t – but I am willing to entertain the possibilty that there maybe some truth here.
This is where quantum theory comes in. According to quantum mechanics, the observation of any system causes it to change and ideas like quantum entanglement suggest that particles really can be in two places at once. I can hold the idea in my head the possiblility that perhaps the earth is an inert object and perhaps the Gaia hypothesis is correct at the same time. The symbiotic relationships that living organisms have with one another becomes clearer everyday as we observe habitat destruction leading to mass extinctions, like a row of dominoes falling over. There are some who suggest that the fundamental fabric of the universe is perhaps not entirely explained by the Higgs boson, but consciousness itself. Like quantum superposition, in which a particle can exist in all its possible states, only to be actualized in any of them when measured, I can entertain the idea that maybe it is consciousness that connects us all, and maybe its something else.
Fortunately, we don’t need to know which underlying theory is correct in order to make decisions in our daily lives. This is because of the other key principle of Terrestrialism, which follows naturally from our interdependence and reflects the core values of all the major religions. The Golden Rule is not difficult to comprehend but it becomes problematic when you realize how many people treat themselves badly. I would prefer to express the idea as “Do No Harm” to oneself or others. This non-aggression principle does not mean turn the other cheek to any kind of abuse, as there is a basic right to self defense. However, aggression for the prevention of greater harm is where the thin edge of the wedge gets shoved in and wars are defended as righteous. That hasn’t worked out so well, so maybe we should attempt to curtail that impulse.
What I am wondering, and feel free to help me out here, is whether Terrestrialism might be a missing link between science and religion or a kind of bridge between the two. The Terrestrial umbrella, since is covers every living organism on the planet, even the germs, is a club that all the scientists and all the religious belong to. I think it is helpful to express this kind of solidarity with our co-habitants because it will take all our efforts to solve all the problems that human activity has created on this planet .
This random insight hit me as I tumbled into bed two hours too late last night, having written 6 blog posts in 2 days. No recreational drugs were involved in this effort, not even caffeine. It was as if I turned on the spigot at a well into which thousands of bits of information had been pumped, building up the pressure. All the little bits of evidence that the world is going to hell in a handcart were shoved together inside a brain not quite big enough to hold it all, and now the flow has reversed.
I’ve been dismayed by the wide variety of problems we face today, and the inability of people to just connect the dots and realize that our children’s children are in grave danger and we need to do something about that before its too late. Divisions between any two groups on this planet are a problem because they distract us from the deception that that’s more important than the air we breathe and the water we need to live on this planet. If you think about basic human needs that we all have in common it really is not that complicated. We are all human, and beyond that, we are all Terrestrial.
We are all on and of this Earth. This planet is our home, just as we are home to billions of tiny micro-organisms that populate our skin and our intestinal tracts. The health of the parent organism depends on the health of its population, and too many of these populations are ailing. It doesn’t have to be that way. I’m sick of a culture where rape is considered acceptable to joke about while we allow massive corporations to rape the planet for the profit of the few. If the Earth is our mother, think about that. We allow corporations to rape our mother. Yes, that is a truly disturbing picture. How many of us are saying that’s OK, as long as I get paid for it? Under the law of this land the person who co-operates with a crime is guilty as an accessory to it. It’s time to wake up to that fact.
I often tell my child that every problem has a solution and most have several. Saving the Earth has millions of solutions and we don’t have to pick just one. Some of us are pushing to divest from fossil fuels, others are fighting to get genetically engineered foods properly labeled and others want fluoride out of the drinking water. There are thousand of courageous people working at worthy and noble causes. These are all important, but the task of fixing all that is broken in our world will be much, much easier once we have wrestled control of our democracies out of the bloody hands of corporations who are murdering mother earth.
Repairing our broken democracies really is the foundation of any plan to save the world. That is the first prize we must keep our eyes on. That is the intermediate step that will bring all our plans closer to fruition. Terrestrialism is a little seed of an idea that I would like to plant in other brains. As an identity, it spans every living being on this planet – it is a club we already belong to. If you can shift your perception to encompass that idea, the world you perceive will change into a far less threatening place.
If you’re wondering how this will work, understand that it really is all about what you focus on. If you are focused on repairing the damage we have done to the biosphere so that our grandchildren don’t drown during a hurricane, how important is it to establish exactly who knocked down the world trade centre? Once you realize that the past cannot be undone, but the future can be saved, it becomes easier to entertain two conflicting viewpoints in your brain as well as in your circle of friends, without making a big deal out of it. Bringing the guilty to justice is certainly a worthy cause, and that is a goal we should work towards, but our basic needs for air, clean water and healthy food must be prioritized.
Keeping the goal in mind is helpful when fracking your brain by filling it up with the thousands of points-of-view that you are exposed to every day. Some of these ideas will stay with you, not unlike the chemicals that are pumped into the ground under our aquifers, but many will be ejected as unhelpful. Whenever you find a deep fissure between ideas, look for the elements of distraction and deception that go along with the politics of division, and realize how many of these dichotomies are false and illusory. We are all of this earth and we all have a duty of stewardship towards her.
Arab spring was an amazing demonstration of the game-changing power of social media. Then Wall Street was occupied, we Marched against Monsanto, actions have been organized against Keystone XL and First Nations are taking on frackers. On November 16 the U.S. will see a March Against Mainstream Media while in Canada thousands will march to Defend our Climate on the same day. Is it just me or is there a groundswell of people who have had it with the status quo?
Fewer people are blindly swallowing the drivel they feed us on the evening news, and more are doing their own research on topics like GMO’s, fluoride, factory farms, and even Building Seven. It becomes easier every day to see how distraction, division and deception are deployed against us for the tremendous profit of massive corporations. The crime that has been perpetrated under our mesmerized noses is perhaps the greatest transfer of wealth in human history from the many to the few. The numbers are beyond comprehension, so we ignored them for years, but a shift is taking place today. Gloria Steinhem once said “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” That statement is still true for feminists, and now it is true for everyone else too.
We are bombarded with a constant stream of images and sounds that make it impossible to hear our inner voices. The still small voice of conscience is drowned out by the bombastic politics of us versus them. I think people are begining to realize that this whole “us versus them” mindset is just another system of control. Divide and conquer still works, but when you become aware of the dynamic you begin to recognize those wedges for the falsehoods they are and see them everywhere. There are millions of people marching for different causes all over the world, but at the end of the day they ALL want to save the world for our children.
The military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about is still trying to cling to power and brutal policing at public demonstrations lays bare the fear of the one percent. The response to Toronto’s G20 protests was so disproportionate a lot of people seemed to keep their heads down for a while. Once you notice your own fear though, it loses its power to control you. I caught myself pausing before sharing a facebook post from an Occupy page and suddenly thought: that’s how they win. Self censorship is the worst kind. I am no longer afraid of what anyone thinks of my “multi-issue activism” not because I know I’m just one of millions who feel this way, but because my conscience compels me to speak truth to power. I’ll march on November 16 with thousands of others, but I don’t expect to see an immediate result.
What is important is the growth and spread of knowledge and understanding that we all share common fundamental needs, that all our many causes and problems are interconnected and that there are millions of solutions we can implement. I think we are approaching a tipping point where a critical mass of people will discover their own power to change the world through the moral dimensions of every purchasing decision they make. Democracy may be a total sham, but money still talks, and even if they refuse to label GMO’s we can still identify them and refuse to buy them. The powers that control the United Nations have not seen fit to recognize ecocide as a crime against peace, but we can call out offending corporations, shame them and shun their products. The economics of exponential growth on a finite planet does not work. The goalposts need to move and we can help shift them on November 16.
I think this Autumn might come to be recognized as part of a great awakening. Russel Brand’s recent call for revolution has been viewed well over nine million times for a reason. So many people have been hurt financially by the abuse of corporate power that continuing to support the status quo is no longer a sensible option. Let this be the winter of our discontent as we look around and recognize all the things that need to change because we need to see what is wrong before we can fix it. A huge swath of the middle class has been pushed into poverty and the poor are being pushed down as far as they can go. I thing its time for us all to spring back.
Genocide is one of the four crimes against peace identified in international law. When a movement started to add Ecocide to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, the backlash was tremendous. If you follow the money it is easy to see why. Corporations have a legal obligation to put profits before people and an ecocide law would seem to supersede that. So the vicious cycle continues; resource depletion, scarcity, conflict, war, and more environmental destruction. Huge corporations are raking in billions this way, and whine that any change would damage the economy. News flash – the economy has already been trashed – and it was Wall Street that did it, not the tree-huggers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy. That is a false dichotomy which doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Pressure to divest from fossil fuel companies will encourage many to shift their production to clean energy. Political pressure can shift subsidies from dirty oil to sustainable sources.
Enshrining ecocide into law will only be successful where democracy has been reclaimed from the corporations who control the medium and the message. The legal concept of superior responsibility means that the buck stops at the top. CEO’s and company directors don’t want to end up in jail, but that doesn’t need to be the end game in an ecocide prosecution. Corporations could be carved up into smaller units and still maintain employment and earn profits for their shareholders. I don’t buy corporate fear-mongering because, as Polly Higgins points out in her TEDx talk, of the 300 companies who profited from slavery, not one went out of business when it was abolished.
Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, we can add ecocide to our vocabulary and start tossing it around more generously. We can paint it on banners and march it through the streets. We can throw it at political candidates and demand that they respond to it. And when corporations stick their fingers in their ears, pretending they don’t hear it, we can vote with our dollars.
Watch the talk you won’t find on TED.com:
Visit the website:
Scientists have determined beyond any doubt that the current wave of mass extinctions has been caused by human activity and that in order to delay catastrophic climate crises of truly biblical proportions, we need to leave most of the fossil fuels in the ground. This is the most pressing moral issue of our era. There are a number of ways that churches, synagogues, mosques and temples everywhere can be part of the solution. One is to divest financially from companies that extract or exploit unsustainable fossil fuels and encourage their faithful to follow suit. In my area, the electric utility buys power from customers with solar panels. Thousands of religious institutions could put solar panels on their rooftops and reduce the use of electricity from oil- or coal-powered plants. The approval of religious leaders for such efforts would be a great step in the right direction as it would encourage the development of clean energy resources.
More people are becoming aware that it is our own daily habits – particularly in the west – that are driving whole species into oblivion. We need to make the connection between our own thoughtless habits and the suffering and death of others. One example is the plight factory and garment workers in developing nations who are not protected by the workplace legislation that we enjoy. Another is the quarter of a million farmers in India so desperate they killed themselves. Tar sands development is deadly, and despite what the petroleum industry says, hydro-fracking destroys aquifers and poisons the very water of life. Ecocide is worse than a crime against humanity – it is a crime against the Earth we inhabit and a crime against our very Creator.
Religious institutions that want to make the world a better place could communicate these ideas to their congregations and help people wake up to the consequences of their actions. However, it is not necessary to burden people with shame and guilt for what they did in the past. If the human race has committed a terrible sin, has missed the mark, the loving response is to spread the word that we can do better.
The trend toward industrial food production is damaging to human health and the biosphere on many levels. The faithful could be a great catalyst for positive change by encouraging sustainable urban agriculture and permaculture. Have you ever tried to imagine what a more compassionate world might look like? In this vision, a church with a lawn might turn it over to grow fruits and vegetables for the community. Perhaps a group of volunteers would gather donated supplies, lay out and mulch some rows, plant seeds, and care for plants together. Perhaps teachers and students from local schools could be invited to participate. The harvest could be celebrated with a communal meal and the surplus would be shared with low-income families, local food banks, school lunch programs and/or provide organic produce for patients in local hospitals or nursing homes. Volunteers can learn and teach sustainable urban agricultural and permaculture practices that they can use at home, while making healthy food available to the needy. The church could reach out and invite neighbours to join in the garden project, which could and perhaps should operate on a non-denominational basis in order to be truly loving, compassionate and inclusive in sharing this model of stewardship.
A congregation with only pavement or an accessible flat roof could set up raised beds. Indoor container gardens could be set up in sunny windows. Even a parish with no space for growing food could use a filing cabinet to maintain a small seed library for the community. The poor could save and share seed without having to lay out money for what our Creator provides for us. We could even advocate for a “food forest” in every city, like the one that Seattle is growing. Such efforts would increase food security for the whole community.
I am pleased that more people are becoming aware of the dangers of things like terminator seed technology. However, it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. There are grassroots organizations springing up all over North America and elsewhere to promote healthy alternatives, start seed libraries, ‘grow food, not lawns,’ and develop new local economies based on sustainability and sharing. Projects to grow community at the local level could apply spiritual ‘first aid’ without ever mentioning their faith. Yet the potential reach of such efforts will go far beyond the boundaries of local gardens. There is a tremendous opportunity to build a movement that bridges gaps between traditions by acknowledging our collective humanity. If I am going to wear a label, let it be as inclusive as possible. I like to identify myself as a believer in Terrestrialism, which means I have a common bond with every living creature on this planet, regardless of any religious beliefs they may or may not hold.
There are few activities more healing, more satisfying to the soul than tending a garden, working with the earth and caring for growing things, while the birds and insects sing like a choir. Cultivated flowers touch our spirits with their beauty, yet even the tiniest wildflowers nurture the earth by keeping the bees and butterflies healthy. Some say that the best way to teach children about miracles is to plant a seed. There is truth here, and as the old saying goes; “Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime, but show a person how to garden and the whole neighbourhood gets tomatoes.”
If any of these little idea seeds seem viable to you, I humbly suggest that they be scattered widely on fertile ground.
Earth. We all have to share this small blue marble with billions of other living organisms. Yet the human species too often, as a nursery school teacher might say, “doesn’t play well with others.”
We each develop layers of identities as we grow: child, student, consumer, worker, voter, parent, activist. It can be empowering to find a tribe of like-minded beings who share your goals, but this tendency has its dark side. Whenever you gather in a group, a line is drawn which separates insiders from outsiders. Social psychologists know that this ‘us vs. them’ mindset can lead to horrific atrocities. Every time this happens we say “never again” and then fail to address the core problem. If the biosphere is destroyed, all of our children and their children will suffer, not just ‘ours’ or ‘theirs.’
In order to erase the lines that divide us, it helps to recognize how phony they are to begin with. Every time you turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper, you can see who is drawing the lines and why. Corporations rake in huge profits by convincing us that they are the gatekeepers to where we want to be. The politicians for all the major parties make promises to the people who vote for them, and then do what their corporate donors want instead. The whole system is broken. The medium is the message and the message is “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” We have been distracted (SQUIRREL!!) from what should be our first priority.
Our most basic need is air to breathe. If you doubt this, as Dr. Guy McPherson says: “try holding your breath while you count your money.” After air, our most pressing need is clean water. We cannot live without it and to deny water to other living beings is to commit the crime of ecocide. No corporation has a right to extract water for profit at the expense of living creatures. No corporation has the right to contaminate aquifers while extracting resources for profit. This is not rocket science, folks. Don’t let the mainstream media fool you – remember who they really work for.
Fortunately, every problem has a solution, and most have several. We don’t have to pick just one. There are many ways to work at fixing a broken system, including leaving it to start another, but what does it say about our species that a quarter of a million of us signed up to be on the first flight to Mars? Is it acceptable to rape this planet to death and then go find another? Have you seen photos from Mars? Do you want Earth to look like that one day? No, we need to join our energies together and be the change we want to create and those who still don’t believe its possible need to step out of the way. I have no doubt that many pessimists, when they see where this is all going, will join with the rest of us altruistic optimists in saving the world.
We need to save the biosphere. The time is now. The path is clear. Are you a Terrestrial?
On the Idle No More facebook page, a woman holds a handwritten sign that says “I am a setter and an ally.” I am that. Its good to see more and more kindred spirits who recognize that the First Nations are the last hope to save our planet from destruction. The reason is that the First Nations in North America have legally binding treaties based on their sovereign rights that no invasive colonial power can overturn. For this I am profoundly grateful, because the democratic rights of Canadians and Americans have been eroded beyond recognition by people too busy, too distracted to notice what they have lost.
However, it saddens me to see so many people so fractured, so divided into millions of powerless little groups that they cannot recognize that we will all die – and by ‘all’ I mean our childrens’ children – if we don’t join and work together to save the earth. I’m tired of all the negative “isms” that divide us based on race, gender and even species. We all breathe the same air and we all need clean water. We need to collectively recognize that we are all equal in our basic needs as living beings. Humanitarianism is a better label than most, but in order to describe a club big enough to include all living beings and exclude none, I prefer the term Terrestrialism.
This task is the most important one we face as a species. There are many steps along the path to a better world, but no matter how small our first steps are, we must begin now, and we must walk this path together.