Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?
An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much — and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.
Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.
Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption — residential, by private car, and so on — is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”
Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per-capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.
and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology
In that book he points out that if everybody in the world did ALL of the things that were supposedly better, then it still wouldn't make any tangible difference.
I choose to follow a different permaculture path, but I find his ideas refreshing, bold and delicious after a diet of spiral gardens, poorly built cob ovens and greenhouses in the winter shade.
We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.
Tyler Ludens wrote:
In addition, in my opinion there needs to be a system which can operate in place of the system which has been taken down. Often the "take down the system" folks don't have much of an idea of what that might be.
paul wheaton wrote:
First, I wish to say that Mr. Jensen is one of our great permaculture leaders. I choose to follow a different permaculture path, but I find his ideas refreshing, bold and delicious after a diet of spiral gardens, poorly built cob ovens and greenhouses in the winter shade. And Mr. Jensen's words always make me grow to be a better person.
And so I want to, at the very least, come up with the recipe so that if everybody in the world did all of the things, then it WOULD make a HUGE and POSITIVE difference. It would truly solve most of the world's problems that we are currently discussing in this thread. And it all starts in our homes and in our brains. And I think this path of building good things is more productive than being angry at bad guys.
Let's get to work.
paul wheaton wrote: it is possible to solve the CO2 problem for the whole world.
Julia Winter wrote:
Whenever I read articles about climate change, I get frustrated because nobody seems to acknowledge the potential of carbon sequestration, not just in trees, but in soil.
William James wrote:"
The only sticky point is the guy says he's specifically not doing permaculture, which is, imho, ludicrous.
Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
For example, hanging clothes out to dry on a line is something that "poor people" do.
Tyler Ludens wrote:So, if we're trying to get people interested in permaculture, we need to make it as lovely and inviting as possible, I think.
William James wrote:
Blows your mind that "having a liveable planet" is something that needs a nifty marketing scheme, doesn't it?
Alder Burns wrote:What is more, we are a radically de-skilled culture where so many no longer know how to live frugally.
Dan Boone wrote:Good tools -- like the kind my grandpa had in his toolbox -- are brutally expensive
Tyler Ludens wrote:
This is why it helps to have good neighbors, because you can share tools. Building relationships with neighbors is something almost everyone can do, unless you live in a place where everyone is unusually grumpy.
Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
It seems to me, like I get the most resistance to my efforts -- to reduce my dependence on fossil fuels and the corporations that supply them -- from family and friends that don't want the neighbors to think that we are poor. For example, hanging clothes out to dry on a line is something that "poor people" do. Riding a bike because of a choice to not to own a vehicle is something that poor people do. Keeping the house a bit cooler during the winter is what poor people do. Using a stick to make a handle for a tool is what poor people do.
The culture in which I grew up has a strong tendancy to equate poverty with sin: derived from the idea that God sends riches to the righteous. Therefore, in my area I think that reducing carbon emmissions is sub-consciously viewed as being wicked. What talking points might I use with my neighbors to get around this issue?
Destroy anything that stands in your way. Except this tiny ad:
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