Thursday, December 10, 2009

we live in revolutionary times

Land Institute | Central to the problems we face is our reluctance to see them as anything more than temporary downturns in the usual up and down cycles of economics and climate. They are not. World production of oil in the past three years has remained steady—85 million barrels per day— while the price has more than doubled in that time, and in early July had reached as high as $145 per barrel. A human slave, on the other hand—of which there are now approximately 27 million in the world, more than at any other time in history—can be purchased for a mere $40. Add another 3 billion people to the planet in 40 years while simultaneously trying to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent. Find livelihoods, food, fresh water and shelter, as well as education, health care and stable governments for these numbers without causing species extinction, soil degradation, civil wars, nuclear wars and mass migrations. Try running any of the world’s major cities—their subways, waste water plants, transportation, lighting and heating—for even a few days on low density solar and wind power.

...We live in revolutionary times brought by substantial and sustained failures of current worldviews and global systems to provide everyday people with lives of health and freedom from want and fear, and with prospect of similar lives for their children. These failures are the self-evident truths of our time: that billions were promised improved lives only to see them degraded; mass extinctions of species; overheated climate; and unprecedented running down of the ecosphere on which all life depends.

The worldviews and systems responsible for these failures go by many names: individualism, capitalism, scientism, materialism, corporatism and globalism, to name a few. What they are called is not important. Important is that they share two bedrock beliefs that have become the intellectual DNA of our modern minds: first, that the natural world is without limit in energy and materials, and its sinks for wastes and pollution; and second, that the human intellect is sufficient to understand, control and operate Earth as a luxury-machine for the exclusive material happiness of human beings, again, without limit.

It is now necessary to overturn these false and dangerous beliefs, to limit the power of their many adherents, and to usher in a new way of thinking and living in the world. This is our revolutionary moment...

...To state unequivocally, “These are revolutionary times!” is recognition that the world is changing in ways that we would not necessarily choose; that it must change even if it goes against what we would otherwise choose; and that we can no longer choose to resist it.

It is so much easier to hope for a miracle. But our best and most realistic hope lies in embracing the revolution before us. With vigor and creativity we must help create the conceptual scaffolding necessary to build a new worldview—in the words of the American founder John Adams, “to start some new thinking that will surprise the world.” Every category of human thought needs reorientation to recognize the boundaries of our sun-powered ecosphere. We need ecospheric science, spirituality and economics, ecospheric politics, education and technology, ecospheric justice, history and architecture, ecospheric engineering, agriculture and philosophy, and ecospheric conceptions of rights, property and happiness.