Sunday, November 25, 2012

Capitalism and Our Endangered Earth

In nature there is an amazing process called succession. It is the evolution of a community. I know you have seen it yourself. A field is plowed and left fallow, pioneer species adapted to disturbed soils and full sun move in. They change the conditions in the field, and soon small shrubs appear. As they grow they produce shade, which gives other plants who like shade a place to grow. And so it goes until eventually we end up with a forest of large trees.

In nature there are cycles that replenish things critical for life on earth - water, air, gasses, compost, to name a few. Interrupting these processes causes a tremble in the web of life, one that can be fatal to our planet over time.

In nature, there are a finite number of minerals, trees, land, freshwater, oceans, coal, oil, shale, iron ore, metals - everything we use to create the "things" that feed our addiction to consumption. The operating word here is finite.

In nature there is a concept called "carrying capacity". It is the maximum level at which a habitat can indefinitely sustain a species. A sustainable state, if you will.  If a species exceeds its carrying capacity, there are food shortages, increased aggression for the limited resources, high rates of disease and epidemics, poor health, social upheaval, and death. Does this sound familiar? Turn on the news.

The past few years I have come to believe that capitalism is failing. I have observed the divide growing between the rich and and everyone else. The driver of capitalism and the globalization of the economy is simple. Greed. Make more money so you can make more money. No matter what the cost to society or the Earth. Buy the cheapest parts to get the biggest profit margin, regardless of whether someone in a country across the sea was paid three dollars a week and an entire community's water supply was polluted by the waste coming from the factory. As long as the profits keep growing.

It is no wonder that the Democrats and the Republicans can't find a solution to our economic woes. There isn't one for our current system. It is doomed to fail, it is already failing. We need a new one.

We humans continue to separate ourselves from the living Earth we are a part of. We think there is an infinite supply of natural resources. There isn't. We have separated ourselves from our fellow creatures and most people don't possess an even basic understanding of how things interact or work together in the natural world. This is an extreme departure from the way we lived for thousands of years.

Our love affair with technology isn't helping either. It is taking us even further from our place in the world as one of millions of species of animals. Few take the time anymore to learn about the Earth. It is much more intoxicating to spend hours on Facebook or hooked up to an iPod. Do you know who lives in your backyard, sharing their home with you? Do you know the names of the birds that sing to you every morning? Or where they go in the winter? Or whether their lives are being threatened by development down the street?

Black Friday is a good name for the craziness that the marketing experts have created in our society. It is a capitalistic feeding frenzy. And now, let's open the stores on Thanksgiving so we can lure shoppers away from their families to get a deal and increase our profits for the year.  Who cares if our employees want to be home with their families on one of the most traditional American holidays? It is all about profits.

When will we wake up and say enough is enough?

One of my favorite people in the world is Jerry Mander (yes that is his real name). He has contributed several important books that give wake up calls to society. His latest is called "The Capitalism Papers". It is brilliant. I would encourage all of you to get a copy and read it with an open mind. This is not about pushing socialism or communism, this book is about why capitalism has outlived its usefulness through economic succession. It is also about the Earth and her carrying capacity for the seven billion humans occupying the planet. And we are fast approaching eight billion. When I was a child, there were only three. What are we doing?

When cost is the most important consideration in the decision making process, society has failed and its decay imminent. It is already happening. The human population is in a constant state of war. Our climate has changed. We are experiencing an increase in natural disasters. We are permitting the destruction of wild land set designated as wilderness and national parks, lands protected for future generations, all at the pleasure of the oil and gas companies. Drill baby drill. This is the rape of Mother Earth.

We live in a state of threat, real or imagined. Increased security. ID tags that you must wear around your neck at all times when on the job. More passwords than holidays. Drones flying in the skies. More people carrying concealed weapons. More laws letting you shoot and kill someone simply because you felt threatened. Maybe you were, and maybe you weren't. We'll never know.

I don't like writing blogs like this. But we have to look at what is happening. Not one piece at a time, but at the whole picture. A social ecological perspective, if you will.

There is hope, there is always hope. It begins with honesty.

"Hello, my name is Barb and I am a recovering capitalist".

I believe if we all rediscover our part in the web of life, there is a chance we can turn this thing around.  We have to learn to care about others again, instead of living in fear and paranoia that someone is out to screw us. We have to ask ourselves about what is truly important to us. And we have to educate ourselves about our environment and the affects we are having on our Mother, the Earth.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Love, the Elusive One.

I have been thinking about writing a blog about love for some time, and the more I think about it the more confused I become. I can't define love.

I once thought I could. When I was a little kid I thought love came from my parents. They fed and clothed me, encouraged me, taught me to do things. Gave me hugs and kisses. I thought it was found in the families on the Wonderful World of Disney. Everyone happy, everything turning out ok. Challenges were faced together, you talked things out, and in the end everyone turned in with smiles on their faces and shooting stars streaking across the sky.

Then I started to get older. Nothing in the real world matched what I had seen on TV. I should have watched soap operas. Now that was reality.

I learned that the love I feel in my heart is considered a sin by some people and that, in their eyes, I deserve to be beaten or killed for it. I learned that lesson before I finished high school. Love a sin. Really?

I have always thought that love is a verb rather than a noun. And by loving you create a state of being that is comforting, warm, joyful, secure, stable. One that promotes an inner sense of well-being which supports us achieving our goals and dreams. That is not to say there aren't conflicts that arise, but through loving actions things can be worked out.

When I try to define love I can say what it isn't much easier than what it is. It is not betrayal, abuse, neglect, hurt, pain, indifference. It is not infidelity or caretaking or denigration. It is not control or the snuffing of another's dreams.

I have always believed love is a creation, every growing and evolving, deepening and strengthening. It is like a garden that you carefully tend, and if neglected will surely wither and die on the vine. But if well-cared for, provide an abundance of life sustaining crops to carry your through.

I have learned that at times what I thought was love was something else disguised as love - need, dependency, lust. I have learned that we live in a troubled world where few know how be in healthy relationships and that it takes the courage to stand in front of the mirror and take care of business first before we can even stand a chance at achieving that beautiful thing called love.

I have learned that you can deeply love someone without it being reciprocated. I didn't think it was possible to feel that sense of connection without it being a mutual thing. I thought that the life of the connection could only come into existence if it was felt by both people. I was wrong.

I always figured that as I got older and did enough self work I would finally understand love. I would recognize it when I found it. No more mistakes. I would at last be able to put down those elusive roots. I have worked hard for that. But I have learned that I still have no idea what love is. My search image is off, my filter is defective. I still can't recognize it.

That breaks my heart.

So I am hoping that someone who knows how to do this thing called love finds me someday and teaches me the things I am missing. I am a willing student.

Roots take along time to grow and I am running out of time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Voter Has No Face - Vote

I am rerunning my blog of March 11, 2012.....I felt it needed to be said again. Go vote!

There is something very moving to me about voting. I have a ritual now. I walk four tree lined blocks to our local elementary school, an old brick building on Massachusetts Avenue, and stand in line with my neighbors. Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, poor people, wealthy people, young people, old people, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, the employed and unemployed...  We are all there to have our voices heard, to put a mark on the tally sheet expressing our hopes and dreams for a future we have yet to realize.  Our hopes and dreams may resemble each other, or they may be so different that we could step outside and have fisticuffs. Yet in that moment, we stand side by side as Americans, choosing our future. I may not agree with your political views, but I will defend your right to vote.

My Beloved just became a United States Citizen last fall. This morning we were talking over our morning coffee and I asked how she felt after voting for the very first time.   

She simply said that in a voting booth, our votes all count the same. It doesn't matter what you look like, how much money you make, who you are. We are all on equal footing once we step into the booth. In that one moment, we are all the same.

Well said.