By Brett Gustafson Though it sometimes seems like our evil frankenfood corporate overlords, such as Monsanto and Dow, have completely hi-jacked our food system, many people around the nation are actually creating more sustainable and viable alternatives. A few good folks in Asheville, NC are bringing…
A talk by Laure Waridel, cofounder of Equiterre, eco-sociologist and author
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Concordia University, room H-763 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West
Hardly a day goes by without some new study being published that demonstrates the enormity of the environmental, social and economic challenges – not to say crises – facing humans both individually and collectively. What role can universities play in enhancing the transition towards real sustainability? Laure Waridel argues that building an ecological and social economy is an urgent necessity that will require thinking and action from every discipline.
Adam Werbach has been at the vanguard of the sustainability movement since high school when he founded a national organization of over 30,000 student volunteers who mobilized around environmental projects. A few years later, at the age of 23, he was elected the national President of the Sierra Club – the youngest in its 100+ year history.
In 2004, Adam turned the environmentalism movement on its head by publicly decrying its outdated thinking and lack of progress, given the scope of its mission. He challenged its followers to link their goals to other broad social and economic ones in order to have more impact.
It just does not make sense to constantly make new things from the things we have that are good. It doesn’t make us happy. It is expensive. The formal economy, in durable goods from toasters to bicycles to camping equipment to kids clothing to clothing, is about a trillion dollars a year in the United States – a trillion dollars a year. The informal market for that is much bigger. That means every time you borrow something from your dad, or you give maternity clothes to your sister, or you give a hand-me-down to someone else, or a neighbor borrows a shovel, that happens many, many more times than if you go to a store. It is decreasing, actually, because of the separation that we feel in the communities we live in. What ends up happening is, it is easier to order something on Amazon.com than to ask a neighbor and see if they have it.
What we haven’t seen is the same type of software technology and care and marketing, frankly, to the informal economy as we have in the formal economy. So when we start having the same things, you would expect to see when you go to Amazon.com to know when it is available, to see a picture of it, to be able to get it delivered. The things that you have in your friends’ closets, I think the world is going to start choosing that just because it is easier, it makes sense, it saves money. Actually, in the end, it is more fun to see your friends than to click around online. I actually think it is inevitable. The challenge is, we don’t yet have enough people throwing themselves into it. I think that is why the dialog we are having today is so important and what you are trying to bring about.
Things are the way they are because we made rules to make them like this. We have to change that. We change that with recycling. That has to be a step. Recycling didn’t exist 30 years ago in America. Now most people understand that you don’t throw away valuable resources. Reuse will similarly be a norm. In the same way, we spend lots of care buying things and bringing them into our home. We will understand that maintaining those things and putting them into other people’s hands will be similarly an important and well-respected pathway.
Virtually every past civilization has eventually undergone collapse, a loss of socio-political-economic complexity usually accompanied by a dramatic decline in population size . Some, such as those of Egypt and China, have recovered from collapses at various stages; others, such as that of Easter Island or the Classic Maya, were apparently permanent [1,2]. All those previous collapses were local or regional; elsewhere, other societies and civilizations persisted unaffected. Sometimes, as in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, new civilizations rose in succession. In many, if not most, cases, overexploitation of the environment was one proximate or an ultimate cause .
But today, for the first time, humanity’s global civilization—the worldwide, increasingly interconnected, highly technological society in which we all are to one degree or another, embedded—is threatened with collapse by an array of environmental problems. Humankind finds itself engaged in what Prince Charles described as ‘an act of suicide on a grand scale’ , facing what the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor John Beddington called a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental problems . The most serious of these problems show signs of rapidly escalating severity, especially climate disruption. But other elements could potentially also contribute to a collapse: an accelerating extinction of animal and plant populations and species, which could lead to a loss of ecosystem services essential for human survival; land degradation and land-use change; a pole-to-pole spread of toxic compounds; ocean acidification and eutrophication (dead zones); worsening of some aspects of the epidemiological environment (factors that make human populations susceptible to infectious diseases); depletion of increasingly scarce resources [6,7], including especially groundwater, which is being overexploited in many key agricultural areas ; and resource wars . These are not separate problems; rather they interact in two gigantic complex adaptive systems: the biosphere system and the human socio-economic system. The negative manifestations of these interactions are often referred to as ‘the human predicament’ , and determining how to prevent it from generating a global collapse is perhaps the foremost challenge confronting humanity.
The human predicament is driven by overpopulation, overconsumption of natural resources and the use of unnecessarily environmentally damaging technologies and socio-economic-political arrangements to service Homo sapiens’ aggregate consumption [11–17]. How far the human population size now is above the planet’s long-term carrying capacity is suggested (conservatively) by ecological footprint analysis.
This book is one of the most powerful books that I have ever read. Already I’ve read it twice and I will read it for a third time this year.
Published in 2008, this book is now available for FREE download. To get your free copy of the book, go to: GreatWavesOfChange.org
What is coming to our World is beyond what we have seen in recent history (100 years) and we need new tools and new techniques to mitigate the myriad problems we face. Extreme weather events in the U.S. have already increased 5-fold since 1980. This book gives us a clear picture of the future and the perspectives we will need to navigate our unprecedented difficulties. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
In The Great Waves of Change, Marshall Vian Summers explains the steps you can take to navigate our increasingly turbulent and uncertain times. In the face of such uncertainty, Summers presents a revolutionary new way of knowing—a unique process that can be applied by people everywhere. By understanding the Great Waves and by connecting to a deeper authority within, you can find the strength, courage and inner certainty to adapt and to become a contributor, not a victim, to a rapidly changing world.
This is a path to true prosperity without any gimmicks or solar panels or fancy technology. It is the path that our ancestors relied upon and it is the path that most indigenous societies use today. We cut out the middlemen (banks, financiers and government) and deal directly with each other to fulfill our needs.
The only trouble is that generosity requires a leap of faith. With the other person reciprocate? Will I be seen as a sucker? Will people laugh at me? And the inner dialog of objections continue…until you realize that you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
Silas Hagerty is a gift economy filmmaker in Kezar Falls, Maine. His most recent work is Dakota 38, the moving story of the largest mass execution in US history – - that of 38 Lakota Indians in 1862. He spent years doing the film and had no hesitation in essentially giving it to the Native American community when it was done. It was a natural part of his evolution in doing gift economy projects over many years.
After graduating from film school, Silas was looking for the rungs on the ladder of a conventional film career but began to see his passion for filmmaking could be a gift to be put in the service of others. The shift was powerful. Here’s how Silas explains the change in the way he thought and acted: “If I come into the room and am basically asking ‘how can you help?’ it creates a certain kind of energy. What I challenged myself to do was to walk into every encounter and instead ask, ‘what can I do for you? It’s a completely different energy. That basic structure started to change in me.”
This shift from a “me” to “you” – how can I serve you rather than how can you help me – is radical in today’s context, but really nothing terribly new. Anthropologists remind us that a communal sense has deeper roots than does our modern self-centric, individualistic social structures…
ServiceSpace.org has been working in the “pay it forward” arena for more than ten years. Its Karma Kitchen, for instance, has operated in Berkeley, California for several years on a model where patrons are charged nothing, but are told their meal was paid for by the generosity of the person who came before them. They are asked to contribute in order to keep this experiment going. And it not only has kept going for several years, but has inspired similar restaurants in Chicago and Washington DC. The gift economy model here is something like a large circle spooling forward. Though patrons don’t know each other, their mutual generosity is essential to keeping the restaurant alive. They, in a sense, are paying each other and learning that generosity does indeed beget generosity. This builds trust that ripples outward, a trust in generosity that does not remain within the confines of the restaurant. The collateral good here is incalculable.