Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back to the Garden

True love in the garden...

We are stardust.
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden…

Way back in 1969 – over forty years ago now – Joni Mitchell wrote Woodstock in a hotel room in New York City as she watched reports of the events at the Woodstock Festival on television. (She had been advised by a manager that appearing on the Dick Cavett Show instead would be a better choice than performing at Woodstock).

In the intervening years, the world has seen growing corporatization, expanded government control and curtailment of personal freedoms, and with this the accelerating scourge of globalization and marginalization of small-scale, community-based initiatives. The need has become ever greater to get ourselves back to the garden. And, in truth, many of us are doing it, back there, as we see a resurgence in organic farms and foods, local production, farmers markets; we just need more of the same to stem the tide sweeping so many treasured things away in the depleted soils and wastewater of the mainstream.

As a society, we are now another stage further removed from Nature’s way. Over half the world’s population is now urban. Having gone through the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and a 20th century riddled with wars of massive carnage and devastation from chemicals, atomic and nuclear agents, we now live at the beginning of the 21st century in an age of great upheaval and shifting empires. Synthetic materials and new technologies now rule the roost.

In medicine, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, radiation are prescribed, gradually sidelining all time-honoured natural, traditional treatments. In farming, factory feedlots, antibiotics, pesticides, chemical fertilizer and genetically-modified crops are promoted, as control of natural seeds and lands gets wrested away. In food, sterilization, pasteurization, irradiation, genetic modification are the order of the day for those that control the production and distribution system. In the environment, indiscriminate deforestation, mining, resource exploitation, desecration of land and ocean, and an inexorable build-up of greenhouse gases hold sway. In all these areas, ever more carcinogens, toxins, poisons cause escalated disease in humans, animals, plants, “natural” environments. The bottom line for the western capitalist system is man-made, geared for profit, making some much richer, and many much the poorer. Obscene levels of power are enjoyed by ruthless elites in the form of centralized government, mega-corporations, secret cabals, the ultra-rich, all at the expense of the power-starved masses.

Those who control this state of affairs exercise greed, repression, and perpetuate misery and disease. A renewed connection to Nature and all things natural would help us all to reclaim and recover health, sanity, dignity, meaning, happiness. We need to keep on engaging, person by person, step by step, community by community, movement by movement – without selling out. Change has to come from the grassroots up, as it is very unlikely to come from the top down. Back to the garden, one more time.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Revolution Has Begun - "The Shift Hits the Fan"

I have just finished reading When Healing Becomes A Crime, Kenny Ausubel’s riveting fullsome account of the politicization of mainstream medicine, and the victimization of alternative medicine.
Kenny is an extraordinary voice for a changing paradigm for the world at the start of the 21st century, and via the platform of Bioneers, he and his wife Nina Simons have started the wheels in motion.

The Revolution Has Begun - "The Shift Hits the Fan"
By Kenny Ausubel
Co-CEO and Founder, Bioneers,
Excerpts from the address opening the Bioneers Conference, October 15th, 2010, San Rafael, California.

The Bottleneck. The Great Disruption. Peak Everything. The Great Turning.
Whatever you call it, it's the big enchilada.

In the words of filmmaker Tom Shadyac, "The shift is hitting the fan." We're experiencing the dawn of a revolutionary transformation. This awkward 'tween state marks the end of pre-history - the sunset of an ecologically illiterate civilization. Like a baby being born, a new world is crowning….

From breakdown to breakthrough, it's a revolution from the heart of nature and the human heart. It leads with a basic shift in our relationship with nature from resource and object to mentor, model and partner. Game-changing breakthroughs in science, technology and design such as biomimicry are revolutionizing our very ways of knowing. The Rights of Nature movement is recognizing the inalienable rights of the non-human world of ecosystems and critters, widening our circle of compassion and kinship. Greater decentralization and localization are building resilience from the ground up - shaped by ancient indigenous wisdom of becoming native to our place.

The digital communications revolution is primed to spread solutions without borders at texting speed. Historic demographic shifts are fertilizing the landscape - from the ascendancy of women's leadership to the worldbeat of cultural and racial pluralism. Empires and dynasties are waning and waxing with sudden shifts in the balance of global power.

When a chrysalis turns into a butterfly, the caterpillar's immune system attacks the very first of the butterfly's cells as invaders. The pushback will be equally fierce, casting shadows of widespread destruction and violence, mass migrations, virulent ideologies, and ethnic strife. Yet in the end, the big, hairy caterpillar audaciously becomes a beautiful butterfly….

In truth, the world is reaching "peak everything," in Richard Heinberg's words. A global economy built on unlimited growth and massive resource use is heading for inevitable contraction.

A major barrier in the U.S. is the annual military budget of over a trillion dollars. Although the Defense Department has embraced climate change as a top national security issue, national sustainability must move front and center. As David Orr observes, "The concept of sustainability should be the new organizing principle for both domestic and foreign policy. Sustainability is the core of a national development strategy designed to enhance our security, build prosperity from the ground up, and reduce ecological damage, risks of climate destabilization and the necessity of fighting endless wars over dwindling resources."….

But for now, the U.S. is being left behind. As a leader at Germany's Deutsche Bank stated, "They're asleep at the wheel on climate change, asleep at the wheel on job growth, asleep at the wheel on this industrial revolution taking place in the energy industry." Rather than catastrophe, business competitiveness may ultimately prove the more compelling driver.

Yet as Einstein said, we cannot solve the problem with the same mentality that created it. Brother, can you spare a paradigm? The supreme challenge of global interdependence is to foster meta-cooperation in a full world….

Shifting the mindscape starts with systems thinking. Complex systems by nature are unpredictable, nonlinear and cannot be controlled. The key to building resilience is to foster the system's capacity to adapt to dramatic change. As Dana Meadows observed, "A diverse system with multiple pathways and redundancies is more stable and less vulnerable to external shock than a uniform system with little diversity."

A paradigm is the hardest thing to change in a system, but it can happen fast. As Meadows advised, "Keep pointing at anomalies and failures in the old paradigm. Keep speaking loudly and with assurance, from the new one. Insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. Don't waste time with reactionaries; work with active change agents, and the vast middle ground of open people."

At the core is the transformation to a restoration economy.

What's afoot globally today are the re-envisioning of the economy and the redesign of the corporation into diverse structures of business ownership and governance - such as large-scale co-operatives, mission-controlled social businesses and foundation-owned social profit companies. Bill Gates calls it "creative capitalism." It works. Employee-owned firms modestly outperform their peers. Foundation-owned, values-driven companies perform at least as well or better. In Europe, co-ops comprise 12 percent of GDP and engage 60 percent of the population. Marjorie Kelly terms them "emergent new organizational species" designed like living systems to deliver human and ecological benefits as well as profits.

Another seismic meta-trend transforming the economy and society at large is the ascendancy of women's leadership. As writer Hanna Rosin points out in "The End of Men," "Those societies that take advantage of the talents of all of their adults, not just half of them, have pulled away from the rest." One study measuring the economic and political power of women in 162 countries found with few exceptions that the greater the power of women, the greater the nation's economic success. As David Gergen wrote, "Women are knocking on the door of leadership at the very moment when their talents are especially well matched with the requirements of the day."

Natural systems have their own operating instructions, as biomimicry master Janine Benyus describes. Nature runs on current sunlight. Nature banks on diversity. Nature rewards co-operation. Nature builds from the bottom up. Nature recycles everything. And Earth's mission statement: Life creates conditions conducive to life..

Given that the most important element in systems is purpose and goals, the big question is: What's the economy for? If the goal is building resilience, the priority flips from growth and expansion to sufficiency and a sustainable prosperity. Resilience also favors economic re-localization, which in turn produces greater energy and food security….

The ruling story according to Western Civilization took hold about 500 years ago with the birth of the Scientific Revolution and exaltation of human reason. When the Copernican revolution showed the Earth revolves around the sun, science redefined humanity's place in the natural order and the cosmos.
Perhaps the defining characteristic of the modern mind is the belief in a radical separation between the human self and the external world. According to the modern mind, Tarnas observes, "Apart from the human being, the cosmos is seen as entirely impersonal and unconscious... mere matter in motion, mechanistic and purposeless, ruled by chance and necessity. It is altogether indifferent to human consciousness and values. The world outside the human being lacks conscious intelligence, it lacks interiority, and it lacks intrinsic meaning and purpose... For the modern mind, the only source of meaning in the universe is human consciousness."

The modern mind stands in radical contrast with the primal worldview, exemplified by indigenous cultures. As Tarnas continues, "Primal experience takes place within a world soul, an anima mundi, a living matrix of embodied meaning. Because the world is understood as speaking a symbolic language, direct communication of meaning and purpose from world to human can occur."

The linear, mechanistic, reductionist worldview has yielded as science has radically evolved into a vastly more complex view of interdependence and other ways of knowing. From complexity and chaos theory to the Gaia Hypothesis, a new cosmology is unfolding. In this scientific revolution, the Earth does not revolve around us….

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Away from the mainstream

Distracted, nauseated by mainstream media, and its shrill panderings; by mainstream medicine, and its monopoly on disease; by mainstream food, and its unlabelled carcinogens; by mainstream farming, and its chemical toxins....

We are way happier and healthier, away in left field, where the grass grows lusher, the flowers bloom bolder, and where we, and the cows, can eat our natural diet, untainted by all that mainstream sludge.