An Eco-Humynist Manifesto for the 21st Century

Having watched with dismay as the Durban climate talks sputtered to a disappointing conclusion, with all parties knowing that every day that goes by without concerted international effort to address climate change means the inexorable shifting of life as we know it on Earth, I was moved yesterday to put fingers to keyboard and come up with a Manifesto for change.

Even as I was writing it, I was thinking that such radical changes would not be possible to put into place without resistance from the status quo powers that be; therefore bloodshed, which is specifically antithetical to the principles I lay out, would be inevitable.

But if a World War III must commence, I would rather it be for a good cause like this one, than for the petty greed, bigotry and hatred that have propelled humanity into previous wars.

If we want not only ourselves, but our entire eco-system to survive, do we have any other choice but to take decisive action now?

An Eco-Humynist Manifesto for the 21st Century

Whereas human beings have acted in a dominating fashion towards each other and towards other living species on this planet, using the excuse of difference to justify aggressive and destructive behavior;

Whereas competition has been used as a rationale for economic systems based on hierarchical systems of power;

Whereas social exclusion and systematic discrimination has been seen as the normative right of dominant groups;

Whereas privileged groups have felt entitled to take more than their fair share from the environmental commons, and to deprive less powerful groups, whether human or of other species, of the resources necessary for well-being;

Whereas it is quickly becoming apparent, in the age of climate change, that the dominant paradigm of capitalist patriarchal social relations is resulting in the dangerous destabilization of the entire natural ecosystem;

The time has come to take action to change this paradigm in the following ways:

1. Move from a top-down hierarchical system to a horizontal, egalitarian model of social relations based on inclusivity across all of the traditional boundaries used to keep different groups apart, including race, class, gender, sex, nationality, ethnicity, religion, and also opening up the possibility for cross-species collaboration based on respect and stewardship;

2. Shift the worldwide economic system to a model of global cooperation and collaboration, with the focus of human industry and government on providing a baseline of well-being for all life forms on this planet, regardless of geographic origin or antiquated ideas of relative importance (ie, who is to say that a human being is more important than a songbird, or a sardine?);

3. Tailor the education system to teaching the history of the destructive cultural practices of homo sapiens up to the 21st century, and opening up constructive conversations across disciplines, where alternatives to these traditions can be envisioned and developed;

4. Model egalitarian, collaborative, respectful social relations in the private sphere of the family as well as the public spheres of education, the profession, government and law;

5. Shift from a violent conflict and punishment model of resolving disagreements to a peaceful persuasive model, with the goal always being the well-being of the community as a whole first, and secondly each member of it.

6. Destroy all weapons of mass destruction, as well as all bio and chemical weapons, and their blueprints.

7. Disallow any one person’s or minority group’s interests (with rich people and businesses or industries rightly being considered minorities)  to take precedence over the interests of the majority, including the non-human majority on this planet.

8. Develop an appropriate representative global governing council to administer these principles.

In the name of Mother Earth and ALL of her children, I call on the peoples of the world to act without delay to become the stewards of the planet and the collaborative, respectful individuals we were always meant to be.

Thanks to the students of Gender, Culture & Society, Fall 2011, for the inspiration to write this Manifesto.

Outsourced pollution rides the trade winds home

How timely, that just as the U.N.-sponsored climate talks are going on in Durban, a new report comes out  from the Global Carbon Project informing us that global greenhouse gas emissions grew by a whopping 5.9 percent last year, the largest leap in any year since the Industrial Revolution began.

The U.S. remains the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, trailing only China.  But as we all know, China has become a factory state of the U.S. and Europe–isn’t virtually every manufactured thing you own “made in China”?

As I hear all the time from travelers to China, air quality is noticeably bad there.  Most cities seem to be in a permanent miasma of smog, sometimes approaching the sooty fog Charles Dickens used to describe as veiling London in the coal-burning 19th century.

Here in the U.S., air quality has improved since I was a kid in New York, when smog was a daily occurrence and you just learned to live with noxious blue bus fumes blown in your face on every street corner.

But apparently what we’ve done is simply outsource our pollution to China.  Let them deal with the smog over there; we’re paying for the goods they produce aren’t we?  If they can’t figure out how to manufacture cleanly, that’s not our problem.

So goes the smug line of American entitlement.

But welcome to the new century.

First of all, the great American credit bubble has burst, and the middle class is having trouble affording those imported manufactured goods, no matter how “cheap” they are.

Second, it’s obvious that the trade winds are blowing Chinese smog our way, in the form of global climate change that will affect us here as much as it affects them over there.

Politicians the world over continue to take a short-sighted view of both of these issues, imagining that a little re-tooling is going to get us past the bumps in the road.

The media isn’t helping matters–you will have to peer deeply into the New York Times this morning to find the small buried news story about the biggest leap in global carbon emissions on record.

People who are already living on the edge understand the stakes.  Thousands of African women farmers have been marching in Durban, along with indigenous forest defenders from around the globe.  They’ve been kept away from the politicians inside the gates by riot police.

Guess what?  All the riot police in the world cannot keep climate change havoc from our doorstep.  Here in the U.S., in China, in Africa, and all over the world.

It’s time to deal with it.

Carbon Colonialism: Just Say No!

Do ordinary people need to commit suicide to gain the attention of the global elites?

You may remember, back in 2003, a Korean farmer named Lee Kyung Hae committed suicide outside the grounds of the World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun, Mexico, as a protest against the impact of first world subsidies of grain production, which effectively pushed small farmers in developing countries out of business.

He set himself on fire right in front of the police barricades keeping him and others like him outside of the WTO talks.

Afterwards, there was a movement by the representatives of developing countries to form a bloc of resistance to the demands of the global elites.  It worked, for a while.

But now, 8 years later, the global elites are at it again, worse than ever.

At this year’s climate talks in Durban, South Africa, representatives of indigenous communities worldwide are protesting at the barricades again, locked out of the talks on complex trade negotiations over carbon offsets, sequestration and deforestation.

It’s not easy to understand the documents produced by the U.N. and government agencies, laying out what’s called the REDD accords: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.

It all sounds very nice when you read the summary on the U.N. website.

“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

“It is predicted that financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to US$30 billion a year. This significant North-South flow of funds could reward a meaningful reduction of carbon emissions and could also support new, pro-poor development, help conserve biodiversity and secure vital ecosystem services.”

Yes, well, it does sound nice.  But in fact, when that much money is at stake, corruption is not far behind.

As detailed in an important new report called the No REDD Papers, what’s been happening in the name of REDD is a gigantic forest grab, with major multinational energy corporations ruthlessly buying up and bullying their way into land rights to forests in the global south, so that they can not only make money by going on their merry way of fostering carbon emissions in the North, but also make money by collecting the rewards for forest conservation in the south.

And there’s more.  Under REDD+, reforestation is also potentially a growth industry.  But there are insufficient regulations on what constitutes reforestation.  A complex rainforest environment could be harvested, destroyed, and “reforested” with a monocultural non-native cash crop, like bamboo or eucalyptus or palm, which will be “sustainably harvested,” yes, but will actually store a fraction of the carbon of the original rainforest, and will support a tiny fraction of the original biodiversity.

It also results in Native people being pushed off their ancestral lands, by swindle or by force.

The indigenous people, from Niger to Alberta to the Amazon, are not stupid.  They’re wise to what they’re calling “carbon colonialism.”

“REDD/ REDD+ is bad for people, bad for politics and bad for the climate,” says Tom B.K. Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “It will inevitably give more control over Indigenous Peoples’ forests to state forest departments, loggers, miners, plantation companies, traders, lawyers, speculators, brokers, Washington conservation organisations and Wall Street, resulting in violations of rights, loss of livelihoods—and, ultimately, more forest loss.”

I don’t want to be part of this scheme.  To me, as to the indigenous forest defenders, it’s all quite simple.  We must reduce carbon emissions.  We must not only reduce deforestation, but encourage forest regeneration–and not of plantations, but of natural biodiverse forest habitats.

It’s not about making money any more.  It’s about sustaining life–our lives, our children’s lives, the entire web of life upon which we depend.

This time the neocolonial cowboys are not going to be able to get away with murder.  The glare of the internet is upon them.  We will not stand by passively and let a new era of displacement and exploitation take place under the euphemism of “conservation.”

Not this time.  Never again.

And we shouldn’t have to be committing suicide to get attention, either.  There has been enough death and destruction in our world these first years of the 21st century.  Let’s go forward under the banner of Eros, not Thanatos.

Let’s work together for Life.

Occupy the Climate Talks in Durban–Virtually

If you lived on a small island nation that was losing precious feet of shoreline every year due to rising seas and storm erosion, you might be forgiven for having high expectations for the current international climate change negotiations going on in Durban, SA.

In the the heart of the developed world, meanwhile, you’d have a hard time finding any news about the climate talks.  You have to search the Web pretty carefully to even find a mention.

That goes to show how it’s all about location, location, location.

I learned yesterday, by careful Web search, that Canada is planning to pull out of the Kyoto treaty, just like the U.S.

Canadians want developing countries like China and India to also agree to reduced emissions.

But meanwhile, Canada’s government is pushing the extraction of oil from the Alberta boreal forests.

As Tom Zeller of the Huffington Post reports,””What’s astonishing is watching Canada emerge as a rogue among developed countries,” said Bill McKibben, the author and activist who has spearheaded a grassroots movement aimed at combatting a pipeline proposal designed to deliver some 700,000 barrels of oil each day from the tar sands to refineries and ports on the Texas Gulf Coast. “Of course, they have no choice but to ditch serious climate policy if they want to develop the tar sands in a big way — and that pool of gunky oil is clearly the tail wagging the dog up there.”

We’re all the dog that’s being wagged by powerful oil extraction companies.  If we don’t watch out, we’re going to be wagged right into extinction.

Notice how the climate talks are always held in inaccessible places where it’s hard for activists to congregate.  Who can afford a ticket to Durban, SA?

But now, with the World Wide Web, we can all hold ring seats to the climate talks, and we need to make our voices heard.

Read the Climate Connections blog, produced in Durban by the Global Justice Ecology Project, for up-to-the-minute information about what’s going on in Durban.

Check out the results of the General Assembly held there today under the Occupy Durban banner: #OccupyCop17

The climate talks may be far away, but they are one of the most crucial sites for “occupation” as we move into the 21st century.  We can’t let the big oil companies, with their deep pockets created from our dependence on an oil-based economy, dominate the agenda.

If you care about leaving a healthy planet to the next generation, the time to speak up is NOW.

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