Archive for March, 2013

The Future

The entire world and its systems—social, economic, political, technological, ecological—are in the midst of unprecedented change that our “ice-age minds” struggle to grasp, says Al Gore. Medical, technological and social changes have the potential for positive outcomes; but inequality, hunger, war and climate change threaten any changes for the good. What is essential, Gore says in his new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change, is to connect the dots. Recognize the drivers of change in diverse systems, and steer them to benefit the Earth and all of her children.

Gore maintains that the United States would be the logical leader to help the world respond creatively, but he worries that our political system is not up to the challenge. “American democracy has been hacked,” he says. And he’s not talking about Chinese cyber attacks: Rather, the “hacking” comes from within. If we had a functioning democracy, the leaders would be able to focus on doing the right thing, or the people could insist on it. But “the U.S. Congress is not capable of passing laws without permission from corporate lobbies and other special interests.”

The exponential rise in corporate power and influence began in the early 1970s when Lewis Powell, then an attorney for the tobacco industries, came up with the odd idea that money was speech, and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Concerned that government had the ability to restrict corporations, he set out a program to consolidate corporate power. He organized several conservative think tanks, stressed the importance of having a sympathetic and activist judiciary, and then was himself appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. His plan, well carried out by business and political groups and financed by vested interests, culminated in 2010’s Citizen United, granting corporations the right to make unlimited political contributions.

It amazes me that people can be so passionate about their right to personal armories, granted to citizens by the Second Amendment so we might resist the tyranny of government, yet seem unconcerned about tyrannical corporations. If money-dominated media can brainwash citizens, if legislators and votes are for sale, where is democracy?  Where is government of, by, and for the people?

The American Revolution freed the colonists not only from England’s rule, but also from the control of her corporations. Our founders held a healthy distrust of any concentrated center of power. Thomas Jefferson was wary of the “aristocracy of moneyed corporations,” of banks, and all those moved by “the selfish spirit of commerce (that) knows no country and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.” But one hundred years or so into our nation’s history, corporations had begun to break loose from the founders’ tight controls.

Now in the driver’s seat, powerful corporations and special interests are steering the world’s changes and resources toward their own gain, the biosphere be damned. If America is to lead a global response that will harness the potential of technological and scientific innovations and at the same time address social inequities and the assault on earth’s systems, the people must reclaim their power. Either we must quickly change our laws, or, with organization and passion, use social media to accomplish en masse what our legislature seems incapable of accomplishing.

While Gore notes a worldwide radical disruption of the relationship between humans and ecosystems, he sees a common connection in all of the areas of extreme  change. To me, this would indicate that they could be fixable with insightful, well-informed, unselfish, global cooperation. All of the great movements—women’s voting rights, civil rights, gay rights in-the-making—have come about by groundswells from the people. We must wait no longer to put together the next great movement: Global Rights. Saving ecosystems, air, water, soil, species–including our own. Giving the earth, and us, a decent future.


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Tending Fire

I push and prod the black sticks, turn them over, glowing side up, tip one, letting more air in, bank red coals close under and against black edges. This is not a rational exercise: No guru taught the fine art of fire maintenance. Rather, I feel guided by some ancient inner knowing. When I question the logic of a move—some rearrangement of the smoldering wood—a flame pale as grain leaps as if to mock my doubt. Then another from behind the log; another midway along its length.

What is this urge, this fascination, this pleasure? As lovely—and important—as it is to be warm, this speaks to something beyond physical comforts–something deeper. My mind sails back in time. What must it have been like those million or more years ago when fire was first recognized as gift, then eventually brought home? I can picture a band of early hominids coming upon a recently burned-out forest. Here were roasted roots, small baked rodents and nestlings. Hesitant hands reach out. Mmmmm. It smells good. A cautious bite, then ravenous creatures feast, and remember. They scratch around for what else they can find. A bright red ember under a burned log radiates warmth, but it burns investigating fingers.

With the other beings, two-legged, four-legged and winged, this band flees when the next fire rages, but later they return to the still-smoking edges. Searching, scratching, examining, feasting, fingers and feet and body hair singed, smarting and smelling. One day a woman cups glowing coals in layers of green leaves and runs furtively back to her cave. She lays them in a nest of rocks, and feeds the precious things dried leaves and twigs. She and her family can now see well into the night. They keep warm and dry and safe from roaming predators. They add to their menus new foods they had never before considered. Their extended family and neighbors join them around the fire in the evenings. And so do I.

Then back to my shiny blue cast-iron stove. I give one last look, one poke and prod to the hot and living, maybe magical, force within. I damp the fire down, and, sending waves of gratitude to that ancient grandmother, leave it for the night.

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