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Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!

Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

A very large chasm exists between those in power, including most of the 2020 presidential candidates, and environmentalists and scientists intent on acting now to resolve growing environmental crises. To reiterate what is known, the United Nations, through its IPCC and the IPBES committees, has provided comprehensive evidence that little time remains to avert catastrophic global warming. And the world is already in the midst of the sixth mass extinction.

Given that oligarchs, corporate executives and politicians are at least in theory physical beings as dependent on a livable world as the rest of us, it is incompatible views of the world that are illustrated by this indifference. Some people care more about wealth and power than they do about the environment, the planet and the rest of us. Lest this be confused with the human condition, the power to destroy the world has only existed for about seven decades.

The conclusion of the UN committees, considered conservative by many environmentalists, is that the opportunity to make incremental changes to industrial practices has passed. There is no way to achieve necessary goals without quickly and radically reorganizing Western political economy. And the alternative isn’t to continue on the current path. Doing nothing will alter the world in ways that will put hundreds of millions of people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.

Graph: the IPCC estimated that the world has twelve years from one year ago to cut carbon emissions in half or adverse consequences will rise at an increasing (exponential) rate. Many environmental scientists view this window as too conservative. They argue that adverse consequences are already assured by carbon releases to date. The American political class remains unbowed. Climate science believers in congress have joined deniers to assure that no environmental legislation of consequence will be passed. Source: c2es.org.

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Wake From the Nightmare or Sleep for Eternity

Wake From the Nightmare or Sleep for Eternity

“The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living.”
– Karl Marx

Marx offered a thought for all seasons but one that might especially ring true during what is supposed to be a season of peace, joy and humanity. Contradicted by the ever more insanely harsh reality of marketing mass murder under the guise of creating freedom, much of our race, though still too few to radically transform the totality of our reality, has begun to rise in defense of all against a system that profits only a few. France’s recent experience was part of a hopeful trend in that segments of a public which has been bought, sold and rented into near poverty showed they are tired and demanded social justice over becoming what capital sees as a loss of its private profits. Their awakening from humanity’s nightmare, however brief it may seem, is inspiring as well as overdue. The actions of a predominately working class group of citizens demonstrating with enough fervor to force the French government to at least renege on some issues is in stark contrast to Americans trooping off to the polls to “resist” a personality while their system – the same one the French are up in arms about – disintegrates all around them. If we have anything to be happy about during the annual shopping frenzy of an alleged spiritual time for humanity, in a small way it’s a few changes in our congress, but in a greater way it’s the sign of awakening we see in France which will hopefully spread to more places in the New Year.

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Mad World

MAD WORLD

And I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world, mad world

Image result for the primal scream

The haunting Gary Jules version of the Tears for Fears’ Mad World speaks to me in these tumultuous mad times. It must speak to many others, as the music video has been viewed over 132 million times. The melancholy video is shot from the top of an urban school building in a decaying decrepit bleak neighborhood with school children creating various figures on the concrete pavement below. The camera pans slowly to Gary Jules singing on the rooftop and captures the concrete jungle of non-descript architecture, identical office towers, gray cookie cutter apartment complexes, and a world devoid of joy and vibrancy.

The song was influenced by Arthur Janov’s theories in his book The Primal Scream. The chorus above about his “dreams of dying were the best he ever had” is representative of letting go of this mad world and being free of the monotony and release from the insanity of this world. Our ego fools us into thinking the madness of this world is actually normal. Day after day we live lives of quiet desperation. Despite all evidence our world is spinning out of control and the madness of the crowds is visible in financial markets, housing markets, politics, social justice, and social media, the level of normalcy bias among the populace has reached astounding levels, as we desperately try to convince ourselves everything will be alright. But it won’t.

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Robert Macfarlane: “the metaphors we use deliver us hope, or they foreclose possibility”

They say you should never meet your heroes.  They’re wrong. I recently had the huge honour of spending almost an hour in conversation with Robert MacFarlane, author of 9 books including ‘Mountains of the Mind’, ‘The Old Ways’, ‘Landmarks’ and, most recently, ‘The Lost Words’.  I have admired Robert’s work for many years, in particular his reflections on imagination and his determination to keep alive, in our minds and our culture, a whole library of words which help us better articulate our place in, and relationship with, the natural world.  As well as being a writer, Robert teaches at Cambridge about language and landscape.  As he told me, “the convergences of those two things, along with social justice and environmental justice, are the things I’ve written most about”.

Robert is one of the most fascinating people to follow on Twitter, and he had recently tweeted a quote by Rebecca Solnit where she said, “the destruction of the Earth is due in part to a failure of the imagination, or to its eclipse by systems of accounting that can’t count what matters.”  So, I started by asking him how he would assess the state of health of our collective imagination in 2018? [Robert made a few changes to the transcript of our discussion, so you will find the transcript below more accurate, but we know how you love podcasts, so we’ll share the original audio too].

“Impoverished, vulnerable, but with surprising flourishings.  In that quotation Rebecca challenges something she calls “the tyranny of the quantifiable”.  Actually I suppose I would oddly say a word for the tyranny of the quantifiable.  We need to quantify.  It’s vital for change, not least how we measure our baselines –  how we keep track of shifting baseline syndrome.

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How I Became a Libertarian and an Austrian Economist

I suppose I can date my interest in both libertarianism and Austrian Economics from the day I was born. The doctor grabbed me by my little feet, turned me upside down and spanked my tiny bottom.

I began to cry out. That is when I realized the fundamental axiom that, “man acts.” In addition, I appreciated that what the doctor had done was in violation of the “non-aggression” principle.

The rest is history. Well . . . maybe not quite.

For some reason, I had found history and current events interesting when I was in my early ‘teens in the 1960s. I had a part-time job at the Hollywood Public Library in Los Angeles when I was in high school. Part of responsibilities was to maintain the magazine collections on a balcony in the building. I would finish my work, and hide up in the balcony reading new and old political and news publications.

The Confusions of “Left” and “Right”

But I soon was confused. When I read “left-of-center” publications like The Nation or the New Republic, they always seemed to have the moral high ground, making the case for “social justice,” “fairness” and morality.  On the other hand, when I read “right-of-center” publications like Human Events or National Review the argument was made that all that “bleeding heart” stuff just did not work. There was a “bottom line”: it cost too much, screwed things up, and socialism and communism seemed to kill a lot of people.

When I was about seventeen, and living in Hollywood, I met two men who introduced me to the works of Ayn Rand. I ran into them at a restaurant called “Hody’s” that was at the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

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Bull Run

The Twitter-incited mob that shut down last week’s Donald Trump rally at the University of Illinois’ Chicago pavilion was the first skirmish in what is shaping up to be a civil war between a political Left that has lost its mind and a political Right that has lost its mind and its soul. The tensions between these two camps are so contorted and dishonest that even trying to unpack the issues puts the un-packer in jeopardy of being branded as one kind of thought-criminal or another.

The Left has lost its mind in a climax of zealotry over the new religion of social justice, with its sacred “victims” (blacks, LBGTQs, etc), its sacred tenets (“diversity,” “inclusion”), and its endless charges of blasphemy (renamed “micro-aggressions”) against heretics (“racists,” “homophobes”) who object to absolutist thought policing. This was nicely described by Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University in a recent podcast with author Sam Harris. (Skip to 1 hour 30 minutes in the long discussion.)

The religion got started on the campuses, where social science careerists ginned up an elaborate doctrine to justify the self-importance of their new departments in so-called race, gender, and privilege studies — the main point of which was to create new categories of sacred victims suffering spiritual torments (“traumas”) that could never be healed. These crypto-religious “studies” led to a multiplication of demons that had to be exorcized by an equal multiplication of diversity deans and committees aimed at punishing blasphemies — such as arguing against affirmative action (“racist”), or wearing a Mexican sombrero at a tequila party (“cultural appropriation” + “racist”), which happened recently at posh Bowdoin College.

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Peasantization as modernization – an alternative ecomodernism

Peasantization as modernization – an alternative ecomodernism

I first read Berman’s book thirty-odd years ago – required reading as it was then for every trendy young cultural theorist – and was reminded of it recently while reading Austerity Ecology by Leigh Phillips, who invoked it in support of his enthusiasm for heroic, large-scale technological modernization. I couldn’t remember much about the book, except a nagging feeling that Berman’s thinking on modernization was a lot more nuanced and ambivalent than Phillips’. Indeed, even the passage from Berman that Phillips cites is quite ambivalent1. And so it proved on a rereading. In fact, it made me wonder if Phillips had really read the book – entertainingly, in view of the sub-theme that’s emerged in my engagements with him over exactly who’s read what, as elaborated by Ruben, my Canadian mole.

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The Club of Rome, almost half a century later

The Club of Rome, almost half a century later

The Club of Rome held its general assembly in Winterthur, Switzerland, on Oct 16-17 2015. In the image, you can see Ugo Bardi (center) together with the co-presidents of the Club, Anders Wijkman (right in the photo) and Ernst Von Weizsacker (left in the photo).

Almost half a century ago, in 1968, Aurelio Peccei convened for the first time the group that was later to be known as the “Club of Rome”. The aim of the group was not what the Club was to become known for, “The Limits to Growth”. At that time, the concept of limits was vague and scarcely understood and the interest of the members was, rather, in an equitable distribution of the resources of the Earth. What moved Aurelio Peccei was the attempt to fight hunger, poverty, and injustice.

That approach led the Club to commission a report on the world’s resources and their limits to a group of researchers of the MIT. The result was the study for which the Club of Rome became known ever since: “The Limits to Growth,” published in 1972.  From then on, the debate mostly moved on whether the scenarios of “The Limits to Growth” were correct and whether the study would really describe the possible trajectory of the world’s economy and its collapse as the result of the combination of persistent pollution and resource depletion. It soon degenerated into insults directed against “Cassandras” and “catastrophists.” Still today, it is widely believed that the study was “wrong”, even though it was not.

But world models were not so much what Peccei and the other founders had in mind. Their aim had remained the initial one: justice, social equality, freedom from want. The discovery of the world’s limits had made these objectives more difficult than they had seemed to be at the beginning, but not an impossible target. The “Limits” report, indeed, had sketched out how the world’s economy could be steered in such a way to avoid collapse and to maintain for a long time a reasonable level of production of goods and services per person.

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Securing a Sustainable Future

Securing a Sustainable Future

When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote that “All that is solid melts into air,” they intended it as a metaphor for the disruptive transformations that the Industrial Revolution implied for established social norms. Today, their words can be taken literally: Carbon-dioxide emissions and other industrial pollutants released into the atmosphere are changing the planet – with huge implications for the environment, health, population movements, and social justice. The world is at a crossroads, and much of the progress we have made in these areas could vanish into thin air.

In 2007, Nelson Mandela founded The Elders to address just such risks, mandating this independent group of former leaders to “speak truth unto power.” That is what we will do at the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

The SDGs will succeed the Millennium Development Goals, which guided international development efforts from 2000-2015. The MDGs helped millions of people escape illiteracy, disease, and hunger, and placed development at the heart of the global political agenda. However, their overall impact was often inadequate, particularly in fragile, conflict-ridden states – and they failed to include sustainability in their targets.

The SDGs represent a quantum leap forward, because they recognize the vital links among challenges – including poverty in all its forms, gender inequality, climate change, and poor governance – that must be addressed in tandem. Seventeen separate goals may seem unwieldy, but their cumulative effect should mean that no topic or constituency falls through the cracks. Sustainability is finally being integrated into global development, in line with what campaigners have been demanding for decades.


Read more at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-elders-climate-change-development-goals-by-gro-harlem-brundtland-and-graca-machel-2015-09#BclpXhWB8kPKcmlP.99

 

If you care about changing society, focus on strengths

If you care about changing society, focus on strengths

Permaculture in Auroville, India, created by the Transition movement. Credit: http://www.healthesoilcsa.org.

Permaculture in Auroville, India, created by the Transition movement. Credit: http://www.healthesoilcsa.org.

Social movements, including those opposing globalisation, environmental destruction and racism, typically start with a problem; a sense that things aren’t right and that change is needed. Often, they are fed by anger at the injustice, the violence or the environmental destruction surrounding us. They are often premised on struggle and resistance.

In 2009, after both my daughters had started school, I was ready to become involved in social change groups again. A few years earlier I had become immersed in strengths-based approaches to working with communities and wanted to explore this approach in the context of social change.

The Transition movement offered this possibility. It addresses some of the big environmental challenges we face – including climate change, our addiction to oil, the skewed economy and the myth of endless expansion – by creating alternative visions for communities and starting practical projects that help get there.

It sees the crisis we face as an “opportunity for doing something different, something extraordinary”.

The aim of Transition is to help you be the catalyst in your community for an historic push to make where you live more resilient, healthier and bursting with strong local livelihoods, while also reducing its ecological footprint. (From What is Transition)

The Transition movement is an example of a strengths-based approach to social change. Rather than focusing on all the barriers we face in creating more sustainable communities, it focuses on opportunities and potential. Transition groups attempt to create the change they want to see.

They might create local currencies like in Brixton, UK; kitchen gardens like inAuroville, India; community owned power companies like in Fujino, Japan; or start local conversations exploring what neighbours can do together that they can’t do alone, as in Newcastle Australia.

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The inspiring tale of the re imagining of Preston’s economy.

The inspiring tale of the re imagining of Preston’s economy.

We are often asked “what would a Transition local government look like?”  It’s a complex question, but one Council taking a pioneering approach to its local economy is Preston in Lancashire.  Preston City Council, working with Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) recently published ‘Creating a Good Local Economy: the role of anchor institutions‘, a remarkable document.  To find out more, I spoke to Matthew Jackson, deputy chief executive at CLES and Cllr Matthew Brown, Executive Member for Social Justice, Inclusion and Policy at Preston CC.  “The game’s up for the old system”, he told me, “if you want to do something really transformative and really radical, it means doing something really new and really creative”.  So they did.  It’s a deeply fascinating, and inspirational story.

 

Cllr. Matthew Brown (MB): Traditionally it seems to me we just tried to act as a magnet for outside institutional investments to come in, but with this economic crisis we’re seeing that that’s not working any more. A lot of the investment we had in the last 10-15 years is just not happening. So it’s more of a systemic issue in the economy that needs to be tackled. One way of doing that is to make sure that the wealth of the locality is maintained by the people that live here.

Matthew Jackson (MJ)Local government doesn’t necessarily understand its local market and the types of organisations that are available to deliver the goods and services it requires. So there’s a need for a more intelligent relationship between the public, the commercial and the social sector put in place to enable organisations to be delivering more services.

 

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If Food Is a Right, Who Should Provide It?

If Food Is a Right, Who Should Provide It?

Nearly 850,000 Canadians visited food banks in one month last year.

At a recent public forum in Victoria, B.C. about the right to food, the first audience question was about federal politics and the October election, which put the panelists in an awkward position.

“We all work for charities that are very non-partisan and would never suggest that you vote in any particular way,” said Laura Track, counsel for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, alluding to federal laws that restrict what organizations with charitable status can say.

The June 2 panel included Peggy Wilmot from the advocacy group Faith in Action, Roberta Bell from the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, Rudi Wallace from the Mustard Seed food bank, and Stephen Portman from the Together Against Poverty Society. A similar event with different panelists is planned for Vancouver on June 24.

Track did allow, “I agree that it’s a political issue for sure, and should be an issue in the next election.”

As the author of a soon-to-be-released report, Hungry for Justice: Advancing a Right to Food for Children in BC, she clearly sees ending hunger as a top priority. The report details rising food insecurity in Canada, critiques the treatment of hunger as a matter for charities to deal with, and considers what it would mean to recognize the right to food as a human right.

“The right to food is clearly protected in international human rights agreements that Canada has signed and agreed to uphold,” wrote Track. “But what does it mean to have a ‘right’ to something when that right so often goes unfulfilled?”

 

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Anarchist Social Justice

Anarchist Social Justice

Community of Meaning, Popular Justice
Fourth in a Four Part Series

In our last publication, we addressed some of the problems of the TPP. It endangers the planet, threatens labor, violates human rights, and it globalizes free trade into another form of neo-imperialism. This is further proof that the 1 percent, both in the United States and around the world, undermine democratic self-determination in the economic and political realms. We argue that free markets, as they manifest themselves today, destabilize the world economy, while fair markets stabilize. Most importantly, the global economy needs to move away from comparative advantage theory towards fair competitive advantage. Although it works for the plutocracy and its corporations, comparative advantage is outdated, and it spells bad news for the rest of us. We argue for an economy, a global economy, based on “common pool resource theory,” in which the economy is understood as a natural resource to be protected just like the environment. We borrow this idea from Elenor Ostrom. Indeed, it is time to start thinking about the economy in the same way that we (ought to) think about preserving the environment and protecting it accordingly.

What follows is the final part of our analysis of oligarchy.

Community of Meaning, Popular Justice

As a justifiable reaction to the problem of oligarchy in organizations and liberal democratic institutions, some theorists and activists have identified alternative political arrangements to liberal democratic organizations and institutions. Such anarchist examples include Chomsky’s recommendations of the Kibbutzim villages of Israel and the worker-owned cooperatives of Spain’s Mondragon experiments. Other anarchist examples are based on the New Social Movements (NSM) school, which for the most part have become an activist alternative means of self-governance through autonomous grass roots organizations (see Alan Scott’s Ideology and New Social Movements).

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New social movements arise in Bosnia Herzegovina | ROAR Magazine

New social movements arise in Bosnia Herzegovina | ROAR Magazine.

New grassroots movements, assemblies and unions are arising in Bosnia Herzegovina. Other post-Yugoslav countries experience similar returns of the left.

What’s going on in Bosnia Herzegovina ten months after the uprising? Following the violent riots in February 2014, the citizens of Bosnia have jointly channeled their rage into horizontal and self-organized assemblies called plenums, which mushroomed throughout the country and surfaced in as many as 24 cities and towns. Unfortunately, the flood that hit the country a few months later appears to have wiped out the new experiments of collective self-organization. But the protests, plenums and even the flood contributed to activate a solidarity chain that has now translated into an informal network calling for social justice.

Where have all the protesters gone?

The February protests kicked off in the city of Tuzla, 130 kilometers north of the capital Sarajevo, where the laid-off workers of five bankrupted factories staged a protest to get their unpaid pensions and health insurance back. Shortly afterwards, the protest exploded across the country, in the biggest protest wave the country has witnessed since the end of the war. Although the participation in the rallies faded away several months after the revolt, the laid off workers in the Tuzla area have not stopped voicing their rage. They still keep staging protests in front of the institutional buildings, claiming the salaries and pensions the factory owners still owe them. To this end, they founded an independent trade union called Solidarnost (Solidarity), aimed at uniting workers with various professional backgrounds and across ethnic boundaries.

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Weathering the Storms, Planting the Seeds | World Shift Vision

Weathering the Storms, Planting the Seeds | World Shift Vision.

The recent mass marches for climate justice in New York City and around the world were truly historic. It’s no small feat to inspire 400,0000+ Americans to take to the streets for anything these days, much less global climate change. Spearheaded by 350.org and an incredibly diverse range of environmental activists, labor organizers, indigenous peoples, and social justice advocates, these actions represented a watershed moment for the climate protection movement.

For social change artist and CultureStrike co-founder Favianna Rodriguez, the People’s Climate March was unprecedented in the ways that immigrants, youth of color, and women took on leadership roles in shaping the message and connecting social justice issues to the growing call for climate sanity. “Climate change is inextricable from social issues like feminism and immigration policy,” she recently toldTime Magazine. It’s deeply heartening to witness this evolution of climate change activism. Indeed, it offers real hope for a more promising future.

And yet, a haunting question remains: “Isn’t it too little, too late?” Despite the momentum that organizers have built in recent years, it’s not yet strong enough to win the grand prize:binding commitments by the largest polluting nations to make the deep emissions cuts needed to stop global warming — at least 80% by 2050 — let alone slow its predicted impacts. Despite the massive demonstrations worldwide, the current round of climate talks scheduled to yield a new global pact in Paris next year have thus far shown little prospect of curbing emissions enough to stabilize the climate. Indeed, the much-talked-about position of the European Union to reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 is still, in the end, woefully inadequate. “The EU 2030 target is 10 years too little and too late,” said Claudia Salerno, chief climate negotiator for Venezuela.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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