Environment https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/18670/all cached version 14/12/2018 13:16:20 en A ‘great and merciless thinning:’ the vanishing world of insects https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-malay/great-and-merciless-thinning-vanishing-world-of-insects <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Imagining the disappearance of species (however small they are) should spur us to fight for their survival.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelMalay.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit. <a href="https://picryl.com/media/etc-insects-bug-nature-landscapes-1bfbc5">Picryl.com</a>.<a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0</a>.</p> <p>What would English literature look or sound like if there were no insects? What if someone were to ransack the literary past, taking away all the references that poets have made to crickets, grasshoppers, beetles and bees?</p> <p>A great silence would follow. Poems that were full of life would suddenly be untenanted, their landscapes no longer pulsing with clicking beetles, stridulating crickets, whirring mosquitoes or the various wing-tones of dragonflies, mayflies and damselflies. </p> <p>If you were to hold a bug-less collection of Emily Dickinson’s poetry in your hands – a copy in which all descriptions of insects had been removed with a penknife – what would be left? <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ae/article/49/2/70/2389638">One scholar,</a> tabulating the number of insects and arthropods that appear in her work, concludes that&nbsp;10 per cent of&nbsp;Dickinson’s&nbsp;poetry concerns the world of bugs. The book you hold would be shot through with holes.</p> <p>Dickinson wrote her poems when the American countryside was teeming with insect life, a time of incredible abundance for those “little things” that, in biologist’s E. O. Wilson’s phrase, “<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/2386020">run the world</a>.” Today, the prospects for insect life are very different. According to one recent <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185809">study</a>, insect numbers in Germany have plummeted by 75 percent in the past three decades. Worse still, this study is based on data taken from nature reserves – meaning that the decline of populations on intensively managed farms is likely to be even greater. Other countries are faring no better. We are living, as naturalist Michael McCarthy puts it, through a “<a href="https://books.google.de/books?id=v7ucBAAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT96&amp;lpg=PT96&amp;dq=michael+mccarthy+%22great+and+merciless+thinning%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=EEoheBlG89&amp;sig=7vWWsdpVbbPsXSbiHi31xPfMcPg&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwji48aIt67eAhUntIsKHWWiC2gQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=michael%20mccarthy%20%22great%20and%20merciless%20thinning%22&amp;f=false">great and merciless thinning</a>.”</p> <p>But while rates of insect extinction are increasing there seems to be no corresponding shift in our attention to these species. Insects remain the victims of human ignorance and industrial pesticides – a doubly lethal combination. For conservationists, the challenges could not be greater. </p> <p>One problem is how to encourage citizens to care about animals about which they know little. How does one begin to appreciate the loss of the endangered Darkling Beetle, the V Moth, or the Wart Biter cricket, especially when these animals are not part of our daily experience? Another problem is the difficulty of visualising these threats. Images of polar bears on melting ice have a visceral effect, but it is much harder to observe – and therefore to feel – the damage that is being wrought to insect life. So much destruction is happening at a scale which is beyond our capacity to see it.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the key tasks, therefore, is to find ways of portraying the ‘great thinning’ in ways that can’t be ignored, and it is here that artists, poets and environmental scholars have a role to play. By asking different questions from conservationists, and bringing new perspectives to bear on the issue, they may be able to illuminate the consequences of extinction in other ways. “The hardest thing of all to see is what is really there,” the writer J. A. Baker wrote in his classic book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.nyrb.com/products/the-peregrine">The Peregrine</a>.&nbsp;</em>That statement is no less true today, but perhaps it is much more urgent.</p> <p>In&nbsp;his book <em><a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674008182">Song of the Earth</a></em>, the scholar Jonathan Bate argues that we can think of nature poems as ecosystems – as texts that imaginatively recreate the landscapes they describe. But what if we extended that thought a little further? What if we also thought of poems as <em>vulnerable</em>&nbsp;ecosystems, as living landscapes that continue to be affected by changes that are happening today? What if, every time an animal became endangered or extinct, the poetry of the past was retrospectively altered, terrible redactions made, and certain lines struck out from the record? </p> <p>If that were to happen the landscape of an Emily Dickinson <a href="https://www.bartleby.com/113/2044.html">poem</a> would look like this:</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelMalay3.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>And Yeats’s <a href="https://www.bartleby.com/103/44.html">‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’</a> would read as follows:</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelMalay2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>These two images are taken from a scrapbook that I have been compiling as part of my research into endangered life, the aim being to visualise what the&nbsp;disappearance of insects from our environment and culture would ‘look like.’ The insects that have been removed – Dickinson’s ‘minor Nation’ of cicadas and Yeats’s cricket and bees – are still part of our landscapes today, but their populations have suffered huge collapses in recent years. If they were to vanish completely, part of the meaning of these poems would disappear too. Extinction always involves two stages: the loss of a species, and the unravelling of the relationships that these species make possible; a biological loss followed by one that is deeply cultural.</p><p>The process of compiling the scrapbook produced many feelings of unease: to remove lines from a poem felt like an act of desecration. At the same time, it offered a way of giving concrete expression to ecological degradation. Without his ‘bee-loud glade’, Yeats’s Innisfree is impoverished, and what is Dickinson’s field without her cicadas, observing their ‘unobtrusive mass’? Stripped of insects, these poems not only lose a set of nouns – ‘cricket,’ ‘bee,’ ‘cicada’ – but also the diverse worlds these beings help to create. If conservationists struggle to get people to care about extinction, then perhaps one way of underscoring their message is to work backwards – not by imagining losses in the future but by subtracting actual presences from the past (literary and otherwise). </p><p>The point of making such a subtraction is not to promote nostalgia or despair, but to deepen our appreciation of insect life; to see – through a process of negation – the rich marvelousness of their lives. It was only when the passenger pigeon was gone for good – once enormous flocks no longer blotted out the sky for hours on end – that their presence in landscapes was truly appreciated.</p><p>It is too late for the passenger pigeon, but it is not too late for millions of insect species. Imagining their disappearance should spur us to fight for their survival.</p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Michael Malay Environment Thu, 01 Nov 2018 19:10:30 +0000 Michael Malay 120388 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need an ecological civilization before it’s too late https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jeremy-lent/we-need-ecological-civilization-before-it-s-too-late <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Promises of green growth are magical thinking. We have to restructure the fundamentals of our cultural and economic systems.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JeremyLentnew2.jpg" alt="" /></p><p class="image-caption">View from lookout hill of Japanese Gardens, Cowra, NSW, Australia. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:04._Japanese_Garden,_Cowra,_NSW,_22.09.2006.jpg">John O’Neill/Wikimedia Commons</a>.&nbsp; CC BY-SA 3.0.</p><p>We’ve now been warned by the world’s leading climate scientists that we have just twelve years to limit climate catastrophe. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report">has put the world on notice</a> that going from a 1.5° to 2.0° C rise in temperature above preindustrial levels would have disastrous consequences, with unprecedented flooding, drought, ocean devastation, and famine.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the world’s current policies <a href="https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/4/30/17300946/global-warming-degrees-replace-fossil-fuels">have us on track</a> for a more than 3° increase by the end of this century, and climate scientists publish dire warnings that amplifying feedbacks could <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/06/global-temperature-rises-could-be-double-those-predicted-by-climate-modelling">make things far worse</a> than even these projections, and thus <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/115/33/8252">place at risk</a> the very continuation of our civilization. We need, <a href="http://www.ipcc.ch/news_and_events/pr_181008_P48_spm.shtml">according to the IPCC</a>, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” But what exactly does that mean?</p> <p>Last month, at the <a href="https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/">Global Climate Action Summit</a> (GCAS) in San Francisco, luminaries such as Governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, and Al Gore gave their version of what’s needed with <a href="https://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/">an ambitious report</a> entitled “Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century by the New Climate Economy.” It trumpets a <a href="https://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/the-new-growth-agenda/">New Growth Agenda</a>: through enlightened strategic initiatives, they claim, it’s possible to transition to a low-carbon economy that could generate millions more jobs, raise trillions of dollars for green investment, and lead to higher global GDP growth.</p> <p>But these buoyant projections by mainstream leaders, while overwhelmingly preferable to the Republican Party’s malfeasance, are utterly insufficient to respond to the crisis we face. In promising that the current system can fix itself with a few adjustments, they are turning a blind eye to <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/12/19/what-will-it-really-take-to-avoid-collapse/">the fundamental drivers</a> that are propelling civilization toward collapse. By offering false hope, they deflect attention from the profound structural changes that our global economic system must make if we hope to bequeath a flourishing society to future generations.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Ecological overshoot.</strong></p> <p>That’s because even the climate emergency is merely a harbinger of other existential threats looming over humanity as a result of ecological overshoot—the fact that we’re depleting the earth’s natural resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished. As long as government policies emphasize growing GDP as a national priority, and as long as transnational corporations <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/11/30/ai-has-already-taken-over-its-called-the-corporation/">relentlessly pursue greater shareholder returns</a> by ransacking the earth, we will continue to accelerate towards&nbsp; catastrophe.</p> <p>Currently, our civilization is running at <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9276/4/1/25">40% above its sustainable capacity</a>. We’re rapidly depleting the earth’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm#.Wz6H5thKjUI">forests</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2016">animals</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/20/insectageddon-farming-catastrophe-climate-breakdown-insect-populations">insects</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2015-09-16/half-marine-life-lost-in-40-years/6779912">fish</a>, <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/">freshwater</a> and even the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/">topsoil</a> we require to grow our crops.&nbsp;We’ve already transgressed three of the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/461472a">nine planetary boundaries</a> that define humanity’s safe operating space, and yet global GDP is expected to <a href="https://data.oecd.org/gdp/real-gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart">more than double</a> by mid-century, with potentially irreversible and devastating consequences. By 2050, it is estimated that <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/20/by-2050-there-will-be-more-plastic-than-fish-in-the-worlds-oceans-study-says/?utm_term=.4299cfb53950">there will be more plastic</a> in the world’s oceans than fish. Last year, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229">issued an ominous warning</a> to humanity that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late,” they wrote, “to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”</p> <p>Techno-optimists, including many of the GCAS dignitaries, like to dismiss these warnings with talk of “green growth”—essentially decoupling GDP growth from increased use of resources. While that would be a laudable goal, a number of studies have shown that it’s <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0164733">simply not feasible</a>. Even the most wildly aggressive assumptions for greater efficiency would still result in consuming global resources <a href="https://www.resilience.org/stories/2018-09-19/why-growth-cant-be-green/">at double the sustainable capacity</a> by mid-century -a desperate situation indeed, but one that need not lead to despair. </p> <p>There is a scenario in which we can redirect humanity to a thriving future on a regenerated earth. But it would require us to rethink some of the sacrosanct beliefs of our modern world, beginning with the unquestioning reliance on <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/12/19/what-will-it-really-take-to-avoid-collapse/">perpetual economic growth</a> within a global capitalist system directed by transnational corporations <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/11/30/ai-has-already-taken-over-its-called-the-corporation/">driven exclusively by the need</a> to increase shareholder value for their investors.</p> <p>In short, we need to change the basis of our global civilization. We must move from a civilization based on wealth production to one based on the health of living systems: an ecological civilization.</p><p><strong>An ecological civilization.</strong></p> <p>The crucial idea behind an ecological civilization is that our society needs to change at a level far deeper than most people realize. It’s not just a matter of investing in renewables, eating less meat, and driving an electric car. The intrinsic framework of our global social and economic organization needs to be transformed. And this will only happen when enough people recognize the destructive nature of our current mainstream culture and replace it with one that is life-affirming—embracing values that emphasize growth in the quality of life rather than in the consumption of goods and services.</p> <p>A change of such magnitude would be an epochal event. There have been only two occasions in history when radical dislocations led to a transformation of virtually every aspect of the human experience: the Agricultural Revolution that began about twelve thousand years ago, and the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. If our civilization is to survive and prosper through the looming crises of this century, we will need a transformation of our values, goals, and collective behavior on a similar scale. </p> <p>An ecological civilization would be based on the core principles that sustain living systems that coexist in natural ecologies. Insights into how ecologies self-organize offer a model for how we could organize human society in ways that could permit sustainable abundance. Organisms prosper when they develop multiple symbiotic relationships, wherein each party to a relationship both takes and gives reciprocally. In an ecology, energy flows are balanced and one species’ waste matter becomes nourishment for another. </p> <p>Entities within an ecology scale fractally, with microsystems existing as integral parts of larger systems to form a coherent whole. In a well-functioning ecosystem, each organism thrives by optimizing for its own existence within a network of relationships that enhances the common good. The inherent resilience caused by these dynamics means that—without human disruption—ecosystems can maintain their integrity for many thousands, and sometimes millions, of years.</p> <p>In practice, transitioning to an ecological civilization would mean restructuring some of the fundamental institutions driving our current civilization to destruction. In place of an economy based on perpetual growth in GDP, it would institute one that emphasized quality of life, using alternative measures such as a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genuine_progress_indicator">Genuine Progress Indicator</a> to gauge success. Economic systems would be based on respect for individual dignity and fairly rewarding each person’s contribution to the greater good, while ensuring that nutrition, housing, healthcare, and educational needs were fully met for everyone. </p> <p>Transnational corporations <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2018/07/12/five-ways-to-curb-the-power-of-corporations-and-billionaires/">would be fundamentally reorganized</a> and made accountable to the communities they purportedly serve, to optimize human and environmental wellbeing rather than shareholder profits. Locally owned cooperatives would become the default organizational structure. Food systems would be designed to emphasize local production using <a href="https://agroeco.org/">state-of-the-art agroecology</a> practices in place of fossil fuel-based fertilizer and pesticides, while manufacturing would prioritize <a href="https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept">circular flows</a> where efficient re-use of waste products is built into the process from the outset.</p> <p>In an ecological civilization, the local community would be the basic building block of society. Face-to-face interaction would regain ascendance as a crucial part of human flourishing, and each community’s relationship with others would be based on principles of mutual respect, learning, and reciprocity. Technological innovation would still be encouraged, but would be prized for its effectiveness in enhancing the vitality of living systems rather than minting billionaires. The driving principle of enterprise would be that we are all interconnected in the web of life—and long-term human prosperity is therefore founded on a healthy Earth.</p><p><strong>Cultivating a flourishing future.</strong></p> <p>While this vision may seem a distant dream to those who are transfixed by the daily frenzy of current events, innumerable pioneering organizations around the world are already planting the seeds for this cultural metamorphosis. </p> <p>In China, President Xi Jinping <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2018/02/08/what-does-chinas-ecological-civilization-mean-for-humanitys-future/">has declared</a> an ecological civilization to be a central part of his long-term vision for the country. In Bolivia and Ecuador, the related values of <a href="https://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-03-24/degrowth-in-movements-buen-vivir/"><em>buen vivir</em></a> and <a href="https://www.pachamama.org/sumak-kawsay"><em>sumak kawsay</em></a> (“good living’) are written into the constitution, and in Africa the concept of <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/reverend-william-e-flippin-jr/ubuntu-applying-african-p_b_1243904.html"><em>ubuntu</em></a> (“I am because we are”) is a widely-discussed principle of human relations. In Europe, hundreds of scientists, politicians, and policy-makers recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/16/the-eu-needs-a-stability-and-wellbeing-pact-not-more-growth">co-authored a call</a> for the EU to plan for a sustainable future in which human and ecological wellbeing is prioritized over GDP. </p> <p>Examples of large-scale thriving cooperatives such as <a href="http://www.praxispeace.org/assets/pdf/THE-MONDRAGON-REPORT.pdf">Mondragon</a> in Spain demonstrate that it’s possible for companies to provide effectively for human needs without utilizing a shareholder-based profit model. Think tanks such as <a href="https://thenextsystem.org/">The Next System Project</a>, <a href="https://www.theglobalcitizensinitiative.org/">The Global Citizens Initiative</a>, and the <a href="https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/">P2P Foundation</a> are laying down parameters for the political, economic, and social organization of an ecological civilization. Visionary authors such as <a href="https://www.kateraworth.com/">Kate Raworth</a> and <a href="https://davidkorten.org/home/ecological-civilization/">David Korten</a> have written extensively on how to reframe the way we think about our economic and political path forward.</p> <p>As the mainstream juggernaut drives our current civilization inexorably toward breaking point, it’s easy to dismiss these steps toward a new form of civilization as too insignificant to make a difference. However, as the current system begins to break down in the coming years, increasing numbers of people around the world will come to realize that a fundamentally different alternative is needed. Whether they turn to movements based on prejudice and fear or join in a vision for a better future for humanity depends, to a large extent, on the ideas available to them. </p> <p>One way or another, humanity is headed for the third great transformation in its history: either in the form of global collapse or a metamorphosis to a new foundation for sustainable flourishing. An ecological civilization offers a path forward that may be the only true hope for our descendants to thrive on Earth into the distant future. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/steven-pinker-s-ideas-are-fatally-flawed-these-eight-graphs-show-why">Steven Pinker’s ideas are fatally flawed. These eight graphs show why.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/five-ways-to-curb-power-of-corporations">Five ways to curb the power of corporations</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation ecology climate change Jeremy Lent Environment Sun, 21 Oct 2018 19:36:26 +0000 Jeremy Lent 120111 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How are we doing on a ‘Green New Deal?’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/edward-robinson/how-are-we-doing-on-green-new-deal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the IPCC publishes its new report on global warming of 1.5 degrees, we need a political and economic stock-take.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EdwardRobinson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A two-megawatt solar panel array at Fort Carson, Colorado, produces enough power for 540 homes. Credit: U.S. Army photo. Public Domain.</p> <p>Nearly three years on from the Paris Agreement to hold global average temperatures to well under two degrees above pre-industrial levels it’s time for a political and economic stock-take. Is the massive mobilisation of human and financial resources needed to cap global warming finally underway, and can coordinated capitalism save us? <a href="https://bios.fi/bios-governance_of_economic_transition.pdf">A recent paper</a> by a group of Finnish scientists written for the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Report calls this claim into question.&nbsp; </p> <p>The publication of&nbsp;today’s&nbsp;Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change&nbsp;(IPCC)&nbsp;Special Report into Global Warming of 1.5ºC&nbsp;is unlikely to yield many surprises, but that doesn’t make its message any less urgent.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.iea.org/geco/emissions/" target="_blank">After plateauing for three years, global CO2&nbsp;emissions from fossil fuels hit a new record in 2017, climbing by 1.4 per cent</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42736397" target="_blank">2017 also went down as the hottest year on record without an El Niño</a>&nbsp;weather event.</p> <p>Based on previous IPCC data, <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget">CarbonBrief</a> estimates that there are <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget">under seven years</a> of current emissions budgets left to have even <em>a 50 per cent chance</em> of remaining below the 1.5-degree limit. That means that the world would blow its total GHG emissions allowance in less than seven additional years if net-emissions continue at today’s level. The global ‘Green New Deal’ was supposed to meet these challenges, so what happened?&nbsp; </p> <p>Last year, worldwide clean energy investment rose by three per cent according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, <a href="https://about.bnef.com/blog/runaway-53gw-solar-boom-in-china-pushed-global-clean-energy-investment-ahead-in-2017/">taking cumulative investment since 2010 to $2.5 trillion.</a> But this masks a 26 per cent year-on-year <em>fall</em> in investment in Europe and a 20 per cent decline in India – leaving the heavy lifting to China, whose nearly 60 per cent growth in installation is impressive but may now be hampered by recent decisions in Beijing <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/985341f4-6a57-11e8-8cf3-0c230fa67aec">to reduce feed-in tariffs and limit subsidies for new solar generation</a>. Renewable energy supplies face an uphill battle as energy efficiency efforts stall and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-energy-carbon-iea/global-carbon-emissions-hit-record-high-in-2017-idUSKBN1GY0RB">global energy demand rises</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>Figures on total green investment are hard to compile, but some of the most comprehensive come from the <a href="https://climatepolicyinitiative.org/publication/global-landscape-of-climate-finance-2017/">Climate Policy Initiative (CPI)</a>. The CPI found total investment peaking in 2015 at $437 billion, then falling to $388 billion in 2016, overwhelmingly driven by private sector investment in wind and solar energy (which partly explains the fall since generation costs from solar PV, for example, are falling at an average rate of 17% per year). But total green investment is still overshadowed by overall investment in fossil fuel projects ($800 billion in 2016) and the CPI acknowledge that – despite the positives – <a href="https://climatepolicyinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2017-Global-Landscape-of-Climate-Finance.pdf">“climate finance remains far below estimates of what is needed.”</a> </p> <p>In terms of the flow of multilateral climate funds from developed to developing countries - the target for which was set in 2009 at $100 billion per year by 2020 - the principle vehicle (the Green Climate Fund) is <a href="https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/le-fonds-vert-pour-le-climat-cristallise-la-tension-des-negociations-climatiques/">under severe pressure</a> at the moment. It has only committed <a href="https://www.greenclimate.fund/what-we-do/portfolio-dashboard">around $3.5 billion to 74 projects in the</a> last three years.&nbsp; </p> <p>How much investment would be needed for a genuine Green New Deal? Estimates vary. In 2013, the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GreenInvestment_Report_2013.pdf">World Economic Forum</a> suggested an <em>annual</em> investment need of around $5.7 trillion from 2010 to 2030 to keep global infrastructure in-line with a 2-degree climate target, with the ‘green’ portion needing to be around $700 billion per year. </p> <p>Meanwhile, <a href="https://newclimateeconomy.report/2014/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/08/BetterGrowth-BetterClimate_NCE_Synthesis-Report_web.pdf">The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate</a> calculated a higher annual investment requirement of around $6 trillion for the same period but with a much lower “green increment” of $270 billion for a 2-degree target. A 1.5-degree target would require three times as much, as a 2017 paper from the <a href="https://globalclimateforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/GCF_WorkingPaper2-20171.pdf">Global Climate Forum</a> points out.</p> <p>Whatever the exact figures, the fundamentals are concerning. Emissions are still rising, energy demand is still rising, green investment is stalling and fossil fuel investment and subsidies continue. Time is running out. So how are policymakers responding? </p> <p>The effort to finalise the Paris Agreement “rulebook” before 2020 is being hampered by arguments about money. The European Union has announced an “<a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-1404_en.htm">Action Plan” for Sustainable Finance</a> with a timetable to come up with a “taxonomy” for green bonds in the next couple of years. When the “High-Level Group on Sustainable Finance” issued its report in <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/180131-sustainable-finance-report_en">January</a> 2018, the European Commission appointed a “technical expert group” to work on a policy roadmap. It has suggested ringfencing around 25 per cent of its next long-term budget for climate action, but has not ruled-out using some of that budget for high-emissions infrastructure like gas pipelines (unhelpful when countering, for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/sep/23/opec-predicts-massive-rise-in-oil-production-over-next-five-years">OPEC narratives</a> of an oil boom in the future). </p> <p>Meanwhile, Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg’s <a href="https://www.tcfdhub.org/Downloads/pdfs/E03%20-%20Implementation%20path.pdf"><em>Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures</em> (TCFD)</a> is working off a five-year timetable towards achieving “broad understanding of the concentration of carbon-related assets in the financial system and the financial system’s exposure to climate-related risk. In a <a href="https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/TCFD-2018-Report-Slides-092418.pdf">status report</a> published in September 2018, the TCFD noted that “Climate-related disclosures are still in early stages and further work is still needed for disclosures to contain more decision-useful climate-related information.”</p> <p>One fears that global institutions will, rather like Balzac’s Frenhofer, produce a masterpiece just at the moment that emissions breach the 1.5-degree budget, setting off the feedback loops to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/23/hitting-toughest-climate-target-will-save-world-30tn-in-damages-analysis-shows">destroy trillions of dollars’ worth of assets</a>. Or perhaps the resistance will be too strong. A leaked memo attributed to BusinessEurope on how to respond to the EU’s plans for more ambitious emissions targets captures the moment completely: <a href="https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/business-lobby-prepares-pushback-against-eu-climate-goals-update/">“[the response] should be rather positive, as long as it remains a political statement with no implications.”</a> </p> <p>So, can regulated markets save us? The evidence is mixed. States must do more to help boost and sustain investment (especially in less mature technologies than wind and solar PV), but technical groups and taxonomies won’t do this alone. Higher carbon prices will certainly help. </p> <p>However, if we are going to deliver a global Green New Deal we need to consider even more radical policies like ‘<a href="http://www.financeforthefuture.com/GreenQuEasing.pdf">Green Quantitative Easing</a>’ (QE), combined with legally-binding timetables for fossil fuel phase-outs (the <a href="https://beyond-coal.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Overview-of-national-coal-phase-out-announcements-Europe-Beyond-Coal-September-2018.pdf"><em>Europe Beyond Coal</em></a> campaign tracks phase-outs for coal power), and significant behaviour change. &nbsp;</p> <p>We know that meat-rich diets (and the factory farming that supplies them), single-use plastics and single-occupancy vehicles are very carbon-intensive. So we should be moving to tax (or price) their carbon content more appropriately and fund better public transport and recycling and re-use infrastructure to enable people to avoid the worst-offending products. The question of meat-eating is obviously cultural and will require civil society pressure. A <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/07/tax-meat-and-dairy-to-cut-emissions-and-save-lives-study-urges">meat tax</a> may be too far, but we should not rule it out. </p> <p>On Green QE, the main idea is that a central bank would create an amount of money for the purchase of ‘green bonds’ issued by organisations to finance investment that helps us achieve our climate targets. These could include sovereign green bonds issued by governments and bought in the secondary market. The aim of classic QE is to reduce long-term interest rates, and a programme of Green QE could also do this while creating real economic value by stimulating the issuance of green bonds and reducing risks for conventional investors (especially in large-scale projects). </p> <p>The Bank of England has already created £435 billion for bond buying since 2009, while the European Central Bank has created nearly €2.5 trillion since 2014. Unfortunately, <a href="http://positivemoney.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/PositiveMoney_AGreenBankofEngland_Web.pdf">there is evidence that a lot of this bond buying has served high-carbon interests</a>. Furthermore, as is well known, while classic QE may have had the desired effect of reducing long-term interest rates, the flip side has been inflated asset prices and, therefore, growing wealth inequality. A programme of Green QE would aim to channel money into non-financial growth sectors (rather than just property markets or stock markets), and so could create a more widely shared ‘wealth effect’ at the same time as tackling climate change. </p> <p>A still more radical option would be ‘Green Overt Monetary Finance’ (OMF), whereby a central bank would buy zero-interest, perpetual government bonds in the primary market in order to fund direct government spending on low carbon projects. This is currently prohibited by the Treaty of Lisbon, although a number of financial experts <a href="https://www.ippr.org/juncture-item/juncture-interview-adair-turner">like Adair Turner</a> have championed it (albeit not for climate-related reasons). </p> <p>The biggest risk of OMF is that it would spiral out of control, thus fuelling hyperinflation. But in a world of sluggish growth, output gaps and ultra-low interest rates, this concern seems very distant, and at this stage we need to be weighing the risks more accurately. As the IPCC is about to illustrate, spiralling global temperatures are a much more present danger than hyperinflation. It is time for more radicalism and a real Green New Deal. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/stephen-jackson/catastrophism-is-as-much-obstacle-to-addressing-climate-change-as-den">Catastrophism is as much an obstacle to addressing climate change as denial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/charles-eisenstein/fear-of-living-planet">Fear of a living planet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/richard-heinberg/100-renewable-energy-what-we-can-do-in-10-years">100% renewable energy: what we can do in 10 years</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation climate change Edward Robinson Environment Sun, 07 Oct 2018 19:42:10 +0000 Edward Robinson 119945 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could shock tactics do more harm than good to the vegan cause? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chris-fittock/could-shock-tactics-do-more-harm-than-good-to-vegan-cause <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As veganism advances in popular culture it makes sense to shift the movement’s strategies from ‘horror’ to ‘hipster.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisFittock.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Inside Veganz, a vegan supermarket in Berlin. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Veganz,_Schivelbeiner_Stra%C3%9Fe_34,_Berlin,_June_2012.jpg">Flickr/Josefine Stenudd via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC 1.0 Universal</a>.</p> <p>The slaughterhouse: as a locus of elemental horror it’s surely sited near the foot of hell. A grind-core kitchen of mechanical death; a bone-yard of plenty; an acre of flesh; a dead weight of muscle, blood and spine.</p> <p>This image is at once real and rhetorical, its cruel rationale demanding the type of language usually reserved for myth or nightmare yet actual and abiding, and even <a href="https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-07-02/countryfile-host-tom-heap-schools-should-visit-slaughterhouses-as-part-of-the-national-curriculum/">championed</a> by BBC <em>Countryfile</em> presenter Tom Heap as a necessary schoolyard excursion. The same image was also the visual focus of a recent workshop on veganism I attended at the <a href="https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/festival-of-ideas/food-thought/">Food for Thought Festival</a> held at Edge Hill University in the north west of England.</p> <p>Nine of us sat in a small lecture room—eight vegans and one vegetarian. Taken quickly and credibly through the health and environmental benefits of a vegan diet, it readily became apparent that the session’s centre of attention was animal advocacy. And so it came to pass.</p> <p>“You may wish to look away,” it was suggested before the videos rolled, “But nobody who views this sort of footage could fail to stop eating meat.”</p> <p>Ignoring the fact that everybody in the room <em>had</em> <em>already </em>stopped eating meat, the workshop became a site of collective penance in which to martyr ourselves for the sins of others. Look at this torture. Look at this heartache. The burden of the omnivores must be ours.</p> <p>Downstairs however, the atmosphere was different. The festival’s main space had been transformed into a busy vegan market, with vendors displaying everything from candles and confectionery to juices and junk food. The whole enterprise was fun, friendly and informative, full of aspiration and—perhaps most significantly—sheer ordinariness.</p> <p>Everything was vegan, but the aesthetic wasn’t something removed from everyday life. Don’t attend this market to be worthy but to be healthy seemed to be the message. Don’t purchase this candle to be ethical but because it smells great. In building support for veganism this seems sensible to me, and perhaps more effective as a strategy than the temporary shock value of images from the slaughterhouse.</p> <p>Can negative imagery play a decisive role in the movement’s maturation from fringe to mainstream, or does the advance of veganism in popular culture render such tactics irrelevant?</p> <p>The UK is reputedly home to over <a href="https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/veganism-skyrockets-to-7-of-uk-population-says-new-survey">three-and-a-half million vegans</a>—an increase of more than 500 per cent in just two years—while the Vegan Society reports that over half of all adults now follow <a href="https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/news/vegan-lifestyle-winning-hearts-and-minds-across-britain-survey-shows">vegan buying behaviour</a>. Britain’s biggest supermarkets are clamouring to catch up, with <a href="https://uk.kantar.com/consumer/shoppers/2018/is-2018-the-year-brits-go-vegan/">200 million more meat-free meals</a> eaten in 2017 than in the previous year, and an additional £30 million spent on meat-free products. Meanwhile <em><a href="https://veganuary.com/blog/a-record-breaking-veganuary-2018/">Veganuary</a></em> has seen the number of registered participants rise from 59,500 in 2017 to 168,500 in 2018. Google Trends showed a 525 per cent increase in searches for the term ‘vegan’ between January 2014 and January 2018.</p> <p>Clearly, the growth of vegan culture has been exponential, but the traditional provocation of graphic imagery may not be the primary cause. In 2018 for example, for the first time health and environmental concerns surpassed animal welfare as the top reasons for registering with <em>Veganuary</em>, while NeoReach’s top ten Vegan Influencers on Instagram now concern themselves exclusively with healthy living and environmentalism. Of the ten most subscribed-to vegan channels on YouTube, nine are food and lifestyle-based and the tenth (“The Dodo”) focuses on feel-good narratives.</p> <p>With around 40 per cent of vegans in the UK aged between 15 and 34, online and social media spaces are pivotal for information and advocacy, and it’s in these spaces that the movement must compete with lifestyle blogs, recipe websites, celebrity news, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/catsofinstagram/?hl=en">#catsofinstagram</a>. When the noted vegan actor and singer <a href="https://www.instagram.com/jaredleto/?hl=en">Jared Leto</a>’s Instagram count exceeds <a href="https://www.instagram.com/peta/?hl=en">PETA</a>’s by over nine million people, and the plant-based food channel <a href="https://www.facebook.com/bosh.tv/">BOSH!’s</a> Facebook followers outnumber <a href="https://www.facebook.com/farm.animals">Compassion in World Farming</a>’s by a factor of fifteen-to-one, it makes sense to shift veganism’s primary mode of evangelisation from shock to swank and from horror to hipster.</p> <p>Admittedly this view derogates the cultural message of explicit advocacy documentaries such as <a href="http://www.nationearth.com/"><em>Earthlings</em></a>. If a key component of veganism’s rise has been the co-option of mainstream media combined with digital availability, then Amazon and Netflix have bestowed a kind of cultural commonplace on the deployment of graphic imagery, with <a href="http://www.cowspiracy.com/"><em>Cowspiracy</em></a>, which interrogates the environmental impact of the animal agriculture industry, now as accessible as <em>Captain America</em>. Anecdotal evidence for these films as catalysts for change cannot be discounted.</p> <p>However, appraising the efficacy of either approach rigorously is fraught with difficulty. Barbara McDonald’s 2000 <a href="http://www.animalsandsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/mcdonald.pdf">study</a> into vegan adoption strategies found that emotional shocks could be effective catalytic experiences; but Marie Mika’s 2006 <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/4494944">research</a> into non-activists’ responses to shocking imagery cast doubt on its ability to persuade. Neither is there any systematic evidence to gauge the extent to which viewers of <em>Earthlings</em> are self-selecting or casual, already on the road to veganism or unwitting carnivores. Nor do we know how many of the 1.5 million followers of the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/bestofvegan/?hl=en">Best of Vegan</a> Instagram account are actually vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, omnivore, or something else entirely.</p> <p>It’s precisely this broadening out that vexes many vegans, who argue that veganism without a moral basis is not veganism at all—it’s just a diet instead of a doctrine; a lifestyle rather than a different way of living. Such faddish co-option gives the impression of a problem being solved while actually obscuring the perpetuation of cruelty against animals.</p> <p>Despite the rise of veganism in mainstream culture and the increasing availability of vegan products in our supermarkets, there is yet to be any significant drop in the consumption of animal products. In the UK for example, the <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/716200/slaughter-statsnotice-17may18.pdf">volume of meat production</a> for April 2018 rose year-on-year by 13 per cent for beef and 18 per cent for pig meat, while consumer spending across all meat purchases increased by one percentage point. Meanwhile, production of <a href="https://dairy.ahdb.org.uk/market-information/dairy-sales-consumption/cheese-market/#.W0g7r34na7O">milk and cheese </a>&nbsp;rose by around one per cent in 2017.</p> <p>This goes some way to explaining why many of the vegan faithful—as opposed to the greenhorn fashionistas of social media—continue to utilise shock advocacy tactics. There is both moral purity and ethical clarity in confronting scenes of suffering directly, a strategy that refuses to accept that compassion can be divorced from justice and sees Meatless Mondays and <em>Veganuary</em> as little more than welfarist enterprises that fail to foster any fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviour.&nbsp; By making veganism ‘too easy’ we may misappropriate its necessary righteousness.</p> <p>The problem with this critique is that pragmatism really matters: attitudes and behaviour transform to different beats. Behaviour change relies on more than information. It’s contingent on adjusting circumstances, removing barriers and offering incentives. It isn’t theoretical but practical and experiential. It is Meatless Mondays and healthy living and five hundred likes on Instagram. These things are perhaps the surest way to shift beliefs among less partisan members of the public.</p> <p>Despite the occasional <em>Earthlings</em> conversion story, the truth is that such Damascene moments are exceptional. Behaviour change is more commonly messy and incremental, with attitudinal change evolving in its wake. It is unrealistic to expect that one set of tactics will lead to a swift and total vegan adoption across the general population.</p> <p>A strategy of shock and awe can be seen as contrary to a strategy of incrementalism, but does this mean we should ignore the indecencies of tearing calves from their mothers, or slaughtering sentient, intelligent creatures by the truckload? Plainly not: there are multiple means to the same end, and these means rely heavily on social context and circumstances.</p> <p>In my case I didn’t feel I could leave that blood-soaked workshop at Edge Hill University and sell the vegan message successfully to the unconverted. But I could say ‘try this brownie’ and ‘smell this soap’ and most of all, enjoy the experience without having nightmares.</p> <p>The truth is I felt relieved that there were no carnivores in the room that day. For implicit in the counsel that ‘you may wish to look away’ is the invitation to disconnect. It sounded like a self-defeating premise, and what use is that? I left the event dispirited rather than energised. Horror had overshadowed hope.</p> <p>Rather than shock and awe we need normalisation and encouragement. Incrementalism is better than no change at all, even if it means softening our ideological stance. The careless imposition of imagery that is repulsive risks repelling many of those we want to attract to the vegan cause.</p> <p>There’s no need to turn away from action on the suffering of animals, but images of gothic horror can do more harm than good.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/you-don-t-have-to-be-embarrassed-to-be-vegan">You don’t have to be embarrassed to be vegan</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare">It’s time to reconsider the meaning of ‘animal welfare’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Chris Fittock Activism Culture Environment Sun, 29 Jul 2018 17:12:12 +0000 Chris Fittock 118942 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Eight lessons from climate organizing for today’s youth-led movements https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nick-engelfried/eight-lessons-from-climate-organizing-for-today-s-youth-led-movements <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As a young person, there’s nothing less empowering than listening to an older person tell you how real activism was done in the 1960s.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/lessons-youth-activism-climate-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NickEngelfried.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Climate justice activists protest the Dakota Access pipeline outside the White House in February 2017. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenmelkisethian/page1">Flickr/Stephen Melkisethian</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>.</p> <p>On March 24 2018 I stood in the rain in front of City Hall in Bellingham, Washington with some 3,000 people for the local March for Our Lives demonstration. It was one of 800 similar events happening nationwide that day, with about two million people participating coast to coast.</p> <p>The March for Our Lives against gun violence is one example of the wave of massive demonstrations that have swept the country since the Trump administration took office. From the Women’s March, to responses to Trump’s attacks on Muslims and immigrants, to protests against police violence, rallies for healthcare, and uprisings against pipelines, the last two years have been characterized by mass movements unparalleled in the United States in decades. Many, like the March for Our Lives, involve young people in leading roles. As someone who spent most of the past decade as a “youth activist”—in my case, a climate activist—I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.</p> <p>I became an activist while attending Portland Community College at age 17 in 2005. Inspired by a political science professor who discussed social movements in class, I researched projects like the Campus Climate Challenge, a campaign to pressure school administrations to curb campus carbon emissions. I got involved in pushing for recycling at my college.</p> <p>Fast forward a couple years to when Energy Action Coalition organized Power Shift 2007, a gathering of about 5,000 students in Washington, D.C. that included a multi-day organizing conference and a rally at the Capitol. At the time, it was the largest-ever demonstration for climate action in the United States. For many of us, this stands out as the moment the “youth climate movement” became a distinct force in progressive politics.</p> <p>I didn’t make it to Power Shift 2007. But I was in D.C. in 2009 for the next Power Shift, an even larger gathering of some 12,000 youth. Then a senior at Oregon’s Pacific University, I convinced three classmates to fly across the country with me.</p> <p>A lot has changed since those early years of youth climate activism. For one thing, many of us who got involved then are no longer “youth”—I recently turned 30. More importantly, the movement has grown in remarkable, unexpected ways, overlapping with other progressive organizing efforts. Indeed, my sense is that there’s no longer a distinct “youth climate movement” the way there was in 2009. It’s become several movements—for fossil fuel divestment, opposition to pipelines and solidarity with indigenous nations. Another way of looking at it is youth climate activists are just one part of a much larger coalition of progressive movements that simply didn’t exist on this scale 10 years ago.</p> <p>For almost exactly a decade, I identified as a youth climate activist. After graduating from Pacific University in 2009 I volunteered for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, focusing on involving college students in the effort to close Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant. In 2011 I moved to Missoula, Montana and spent four years rallying students and others to oppose coal export and mining projects. These last few years I’ve made a transition to supporting the growth and leadership of a new generation of young activists working on climate change or other issues.</p> <p>Like all large movements, youth climate activism has had its successes and setbacks, its enormously inspiring moments and others when it failed to live up to its ideals. What follows are some reflections on lessons from the movement, necessarily limited by my own experience and position as a white male organizer from a middle-class background. Despite this bias, I hope these reflections may be of use to people involved in today’s fast-growing youth-led movements.</p> <p><strong>1. Trust in students’ abilities.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the best things the youth climate movement did early was stop telling young people they were apathetic—as media figures&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/opinion/10friedman.html">like Thomas Friedman</a>&nbsp;were doing—and start saying they were powerful and inspiring. Events like Power Shift promoted positive messages about the abilities of youth. This inspired many young people, including me, to think we could make a difference and try to do so.</p> <p>Still, some national groups have not fully realized this lesson, limiting their work with youth to voter turnout drives, trainings and large rallies. With some exceptions, large national groups have been more reluctant to trust students’ ability and willingness to engage in tactics like civil disobedience.</p> <p>I first got arrested at a protest when I was 23, at a&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/montana-coal-protesters-argue-necessity-defense/">sit-in I helped coordinate</a>&nbsp;in the Montana State Capitol. I had studied the philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience and concluded that this was a step I was ready to take. I was less sure my slightly younger peers, who possibly lacked this background, would be willing to do the same. Yet, over the next few years, I was pleasantly surprised to see students who’d only recently gotten involved in activism step forward and risk arrest&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/stop-coal-train-tracks/">blocking the paths of coal trains</a>&nbsp;and sitting in at lawmakers’ offices.</p> <p>We tend to underestimate the ability of young people to intuitively grasp the significance of nonviolent direct action as a strategy. Of course, the opportunity to engage in this kind of activism must be presented in a way that feels accessible and meaningful—but when this is done, youth will step up. Have faith in their abilities.</p> <p><strong>2. Follow-up is hugely important.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Building a sustained movement means following up with those who participate to ensure they stay involved. A campaign that failed to do this well was Power Vote in 2008, a national multi-organization effort focused on getting students to pledge to vote ahead of the election. I was the campus lead for Power Vote at Pacific University and only later realized the flaws in how the national campaign was structured. We gathered hundreds of pledge cards with students’ contact information—but this valuable data wasn’t collated in a timely manner that would have allowed it to be used for following-up.</p> <p>Follow-up is important in all campaigns, not just those with students. But it can be especially important for young people who are mostly new to political engagement. Following up and reminding students to fill out their ballots, show up to the next rally, and contact their elected officials helps build habits that will likely keep for years—but it requires mechanisms to ensure their data is preserved and used.</p> <p><strong>3. Teach transferrable skills.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best activism serves two purposes: It accomplishes a campaign objective while helping participants master skills they can put to use in other contexts. This is especially important with young people, who often have little formal activist training but can take what they learn and apply it again and again.</p> <p>Many activist skills—setting up meetings with public officials, testifying at hearings, holding nonviolence trainings—aren’t actually that complicated but can seem vastly mysterious to someone who has never done them before. Once armed with the right knowledge, young people become empowered to transfer skills to new campaigns and situations. Accomplishing this means structuring movements in such a way that youth have leadership roles and get hands-on experience building campaigns from the ground up.</p> <p><strong>4. Be specific about movement goals.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I got involved in climate activism, we talked a lot about “comprehensive climate legislation” and “creating green jobs.” This sounded great, but it was sometimes unclear exactly what these words meant. This came back to bite the movement in 2009-2010, during the fight over national climate legislation that eventually went down in flames.</p> <p>The problem with vague terms like “comprehensive legislation” is they mean many things to many people. As it turned out, to lawmakers—like then-Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Lindsay Graham—they meant a cap-and-trade plan riddled with loopholes and giveaways to polluters. This truly terrible piece of legislation split the climate movement—including youth activists—between those who saw it as a small step forward, and those who believed it was worse than nothing.</p> <p>On the other hand, the campaigns that have done most to strengthen the climate movement have very specific goals tied to clearly defined strategies. These include efforts to stop oil pipelines, close coal plants and divest universities from fossil fuels. These campaigns have accomplished concrete wins while building coalitions that leave the movement stronger—whereas the push for national legislation left climate groups fragmented and demoralized. Fossil fuel divestment is a particularly good example of a student-focused campaign with an easily understood goal and clear framework for building power.</p> <p><strong>5. Partner with frontline communities.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not only is this the right thing to do, but it’s strategic, fun and empowering. Some of the most inspiring moments I can think of from youth climate campaigns involved students interacting with people on the frontlines of extraction and polluting industries. I’ve seen student activists collaborate with farmers impacted by natural gas pipelines, residents of working-class rail line neighborhoods affected by coal trains and indigenous groups fighting oil infrastructure. In each case, the partnerships that developed were (I believe) mutually rewarding for both groups.</p> <p>That said, building effective, lasting partnerships with frontline communities takes work. It’s not just about saying the words “people of color” and “climate justice” in every press release. This kind of work requires commitment to lasting relationships built on good faith and the belief in a shared stake in a better future. It requires learning form the people most affected by pollution so as to challenge fossil fuel industries effectively.</p> <p><strong>6. Partner with older activists.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another of the most empowering experiences youth activists can have is the opportunity to work with no-longer-quite-so-young individuals who have a whole different set of life experiences. For students, it can be heartening to see that their generation isn’t the only one concerned about the status quo. Similarly, non-youth activists tend to find it encouraging to see young people rising to build a movement.</p> <p>This doesn’t mean student and older activist groups should merge. There’s real value in youth-specific organizations that let young people bond and learn from their peers in a familiar setting. Different activist generations also tend to have different organizational cultures, which don’t always mesh well in the meeting room. However, none of this prevents youth and non-youth from collaborating on campaigns, attending each other’s events and building strong alliances. I’ve seen college freshmen and retirees sit down for campaign conversations that were eye-opening for both parties.</p> <p><strong>7. Have hard conversations about equity and inclusion.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the movement’s early days, national youth climate organizations have used a lot of language about racial and economic justice. This positive language hasn’t always been supported by the kind of on-the-ground organizing needed to truly combat environmental injustice and oppressive hierarchies embedded in the movement itself.</p> <p>The mainstream climate movement and environmentalism generally continue to be overwhelmingly white middle-class affairs. But today’s students seem more ready than ever to have tough conversations about dismantling racism and deconstructing environmentalism’s Euro-centric dominant narratives. As a white teenager, I wasn’t asking the kinds of questions that I should have been about these subjects—and I’m continually impressed by how much more aware today’s students, including white students, tend to be.</p> <p>This isn’t to say white students don’t have a lot of hard work to do to address the implications of their privilege—and some will do it clumsily, especially at first. However, while the hard work remains to be done, I see a willingness to begin it that seems more widespread than it was 10 years ago. To do this work effectively, students need support from mentors and organizations that are committed to equity and inclusion as much more than catchphrases or boxes to be checked.</p> <p><strong>8. Youth need mentors, not sages.</strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a young person, there’s nothing less empowering than listening to an older person tell you how real activism was done in the good old ‘60s (or the ‘90s, ‘00s, etc.). Young people don’t need sages telling them what to do. What they can use are mentors—people who’ve left their 20s behind and have experience and knowledge they’re willing to share, but do so humbly and with the realization that youth also have their own knowledge and skills to share.</p> <p>As a student, I was never particularly motivated by the argument that because the generation before mine screwed up, it was my generation’s job to fix things. I wanted to know, since that older generation was still around, why they couldn’t pitch in and help. I’ve also known many, many older activists who have tried to help in just this way, and taught me things I never could have learned by myself.</p> <p>The “youth climate movement” of today looks very different from the one of 2007. To become more effective it has both narrowed and broadened its focus. The narrowing is a result of it zeroing in on winnable campaigns like divestment and stopping pipelines, while the broadening is due to a growing focus on building bridges with other movements. Done effectively, both of these approaches may succeed in generating the kinds of incremental wins that could cascade into a national wave of climate and progressive victories.</p> <p>I’m deeply humbled by campaigns like the March for Our Lives, which succeeded in building a truly massive youth-led movement in a way climate activists of my generation never quite managed to do. Yet, when 5,000 students came together for the first Power Shift in 2007, few movements were prioritizing youth leadership the way climate organizers were. The story of youth activism these last 10-plus years has been one of gradually building power, learning hard lessons and setting examples of what dedicated organizing looks like. The climate movement made a significant contribution to this process. Without the work of climate and other youth activists over the last decade, some of the larger mass movements of today might not have come into being.</p> <p>What will youth climate activism, and young people’s organizing more generally, look like over the next 10 years? I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/sustainable-activism-managing-hope-and-despair-in-socia">Sustainable activism: managing hope and despair in social movements</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/robert-holtom/environmental-movement-blockbuster-in-making">The environmental movement: a blockbuster in the making?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nick Engelfried Transformative nonviolence Activism Environment Thu, 14 Jun 2018 18:57:35 +0000 Nick Engelfried 117751 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Steven Pinker’s ideas are fatally flawed. These eight graphs show why. https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jeremy-lent/steven-pinker-s-ideas-are-fatally-flawed-these-eight-graphs-show-why <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s time to reclaim the mantle of “Progress” for progressives<em>.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Steven_Pinker.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Steven Pinker giving a lecture to Humanists UK, February 22 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Steven_Pinker.jpg">Bhaawest via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p><p>In <em><a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/317051/enlightenment-now-by-steven-pinker/9780525427575/">Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress</a></em>, published earlier this year, Steven Pinker argues that the human race has never had it so good as a result of values he attributes to the European Enlightenment of the 18th century. He berates those who focus on what is wrong with the world’s current condition as pessimists who only help to incite regressive reactionaries. Instead, he glorifies the dominant neoliberal, technocratic approach to solving the world’s problems as the only one that has worked in the past and will continue to lead humanity on its current triumphant path.</p> <p>His book has incited strong reactions, both positive and negative. On one hand, Bill Gates has, for example, effervesced that “It’s my new favorite book of all time.” On the other hand, Pinker has been fiercely excoriated by a wide range of leading thinkers for writing a simplistic, incoherent paean to the dominant world order. John Gray, in <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2018/02/unenlightened-thinking-steven-pinker-s-embarrassing-new-book-feeble-sermon">the <em>New Statesman</em></a>, calls it “embarrassing” and “feeble”; David Bell, writing <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/waiting-for-steven-pinkers-enlightenment/">in <em>The Nation</em></a>, sees it as “a dogmatic book that offers an oversimplified, excessively optimistic vision of human history”; and George Monbiot, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/07/environmental-calamity-facts-steven-pinker">in <em>The Guardian</em></a>, laments the “poor scholarship” and “motivated reasoning” that “insults the Enlightenment principles he claims to defend.” (Full disclosure: Monbiot recommends my book, <a href="https://www.jeremylent.com/the-patterning-instinct.html"><em>The Patterning Instinct</em></a>, instead.)</p> <p>In light of all this, you might ask, what is left to add? Having read his book carefully, I believe it’s crucially important to take Pinker to task for some dangerously erroneous arguments he makes. Pinker is, after all, an intellectual darling of the most powerful echelons of global society. He <a href="http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/steven-pinker-excessive-political-correctness-feeds-dangerous-ideas">spoke to the world’s elite</a> this year at the World’s Economic Forum in Davos on the perils of what he calls “political correctness,” and has been named one of <em>Time</em> magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” Since his work offers an intellectual rationale for many in the elite to continue practices that imperil humanity, it needs to be met with a detailed and rigorous response.</p> <p>Besides, I agree with much of what Pinker has to say. His book is stocked with seventy-five charts and graphs that provide incontrovertible evidence for centuries of progress on many fronts that should matter to all of us: an inexorable decline in violence of all sorts along with equally impressive increases in health, longevity, education, and human rights. It’s precisely because of the validity of much of Pinker’s narrative that the flaws in his argument are so dangerous. They’re concealed under such a smooth layer of data and eloquence that they need to be carefully unraveled. That’s why my response to Pinker is to meet him on his own turf: in each section, like him, I rest my case on hard data exemplified in a graph.&nbsp; </p> <p>This discussion is particularly needed because progress is, in my view, one of the most important concepts of our time. I see myself, in common parlance, as a progressive. Progress is what I, and others I’m close to, care about passionately. Rather than ceding this idea to the coterie of neoliberal technocrats who constitute Pinker’s primary audience, I believe we should hold it in our steady gaze, celebrate it where it exists, understand its true causes, and most importantly, ensure that it continues in a form that future generations on this earth can enjoy. I hope this piece helps to do just that.</p> <h2>Graph 1: Overshoot</h2> <p>In November 2017, around the time when Pinker was likely putting the final touches on his manuscript, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/12/19/what-will-it-really-take-to-avoid-collapse/">issued a dire warning</a> to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.” </p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JeremyLent1.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Figure 1: Three graphs from World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.</p> <p>They included nine sobering charts and a carefully worded, extensively researched analysis showing that, on a multitude of fronts, the human impact on the earth’s biological systems is increasing at an unsustainable rate. Three of those alarming graphs are shown here: the rise in CO2 emissions; the decline in available freshwater; and the increase in the number of ocean dead zones from artificial fertilizer runoff.</p> <p>This was not the first such notice. Twenty-five years earlier, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world, calling for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.” The current graphs starkly demonstrate how little the world has paid attention to this warning since 1992.</p> <p>Taken together, these graphs illustrate ecological overshoot: the fact that, in the pursuit of material progress, our civilization is consuming the earth’s resources faster than they can be replenished. Overshoot is particularly dangerous because of its relatively slow feedback loops: if your checking account balance approaches zero, you know that if you keep writing checks they will bounce. In overshoot, however, it’s as though our civilization keeps taking out bigger and bigger overdrafts to replenish the account, and then we pretend these funds are income and celebrate our continuing “progress.” In the end, of course, the money runs dry and it’s game over.</p> <p>Pinker claims to respect science, yet he blithely ignores fifteen thousand scientists’ desperate warning to humanity. Instead, he uses the blatant rhetorical technique of ridicule to paint those concerned about overshoot as part of a “quasi-religious ideology… laced with misanthropy, including an indifference to starvation, an indulgence in ghoulish fantasies of a depopulated planet, and Nazi-like comparisons of human beings to vermin, pathogens, and cancer.” He then uses a couple of the most extreme examples he can find to create a straw-man to buttress his caricature. There are issues worthy of debate on the topic of civilization and sustainability, but to approach a subject of such seriousness with emotion-laden rhetoric is morally inexcusable and striking evidence of Monbiot’s claim that Pinker “insults the Enlightenment principles he claims to defend.”</p> <p>When Pinker does get serious on the topic, he promotes Ecomodernism as the solution: a neoliberal, technocratic belief that a combination of market-based solutions and technological fixes will magically resolve all ecological problems. This approach fails, however, to take into account the structural drivers of overshoot: a growth-based global economy reliant on ever-increasing monetization of natural resources and human activity. Without changing this structure, overshoot is inevitable. Transnational corporations, which currently constitute sixty-nine of the world’s hundred largest economies, <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/11/30/ai-has-already-taken-over-its-called-the-corporation/">are driven only by increasing</a> short-term financial value for their shareholders, regardless of the long-term impact on humanity. As freshwater resources decline, for example, their incentive is to buy up what remains and sell it in plastic throwaway bottles or <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/health/colombia-soda-tax-obesity.html?_r=0">process it into sugary drinks</a>, propelling billions in developing countries toward obesity through sophisticated marketing. In fact, until an imminent collapse of civilization itself, increasing ecological catastrophes are <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/10/31/the-cruel-topsy-turvy-economics-of-collapse/">likely to enhance</a> the GDP of developed countries even while those in less developed regions suffer dire consequences.</p> <p><span><strong>Graphs 2 and 3: progress for whom?</strong></span></p> <p>Which brings us to another fundamental issue in Pinker’s narrative of progress: who actually gets to enjoy it? Much of his book is devoted to graphs showing worldwide progress in quality in life for humanity as a whole. However, some of his omissions and misstatements on this topic are very telling.</p> <p>At one point, Pinker explains that, “Despite the word’s root, humanism doesn’t exclude the flourishing of animals, but this book focuses on the welfare of humankind.” That’s convenient, because any non-human animal might not agree that the past sixty years has been a period of flourishing. In fact, while the world’s GDP has increased 22-fold since 1970, there has been <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2016">a vast die-off</a> of the creatures with whom we share the earth. As shown in Figure 2, human progress in material consumption has come at the cost of a 58% decline in vertebrates, including a shocking 81% reduction of animal populations in freshwater systems. For every five birds or fish that inhabited a river or lake in 1970, there is now just one.</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jeremylent2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Figure 2: Reduction in abundance in global species since 1970. Source: WWF Living Plant Report, 2016.</p> <p>But we don’t need to look outside the human race for Pinker’s selective view of progress. He is pleased to tell us that “racist violence against African Americans… plummeted in the 20th century, and has fallen further since.” What he declines to report is the drastic increase in incarceration rates for African Americans during that same period (Figure 3). An African American man is now six times more likely to be arrested than a white man, resulting in <a href="https://sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Trends-in-US-Corrections.pdf">the dismal statistic</a> that one in every three African American men can currently expect to be imprisoned in their lifetime. The grim takeaway from this is that racist violence against African Americans has not declined at all, as Pinker suggests. Instead, it has become institutionalized into U.S. national policy in <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/how-the-school-to-prison-pipeline-is-created/433230/">what is known as</a> the school-to-prison pipeline.</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jeremylent3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Figure 3: Historical incarceration rates of African-Americans. Source: <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/04/30/the-meteoric-costly-and-unprecedented-rise-of-incarceration-in-america/?utm_term=.f54d5554031d">The Washington Post</a>.</p> <p><span><strong>Graph 4: A rising tide lifts all boats?</strong></span></p> <p>This brings us to one of the crucial errors in Pinker’s overall analysis. By failing to analyze his top-level numbers with discernment, he unquestioningly propagates one of the great neoliberal myths of the past several decades: that “a rising tide lifts all the boats”—a phrase he unashamedly appropriates for himself as he extols the benefits of inequality. This was <a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/2006/07/rising-tide-more-ways-one-thomas-e-nugent/">the argument used</a> by the original instigators of neoliberal laissez-faire economics, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, to cut taxes, privatize industries, and slash public services with the goal of increasing economic growth.</p> <p>Pinker makes two key points here. First, he argues that “income inequality is not a fundamental component of well-being,” pointing to recent research that people are comfortable with differential rewards for others depending on their effort and skill. However, as Pinker himself acknowledges, humans do have a powerful predisposition toward fairness. They want to feel that, if they work diligently, they can be as successful as someone else based on what they do, not on what family they’re born into or what their skin color happens to be. More equal societies are <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/want-the-good-life-your-neighbors-need-it-too">also healthier</a>, which is a condition conspicuously missing from the current economic model, where the divide between rich and poor has become so gaping that the six wealthiest men in the world (including <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/27/business/mind-meld-bill-gates-steven-pinker.html">Pinker’s good friend</a>, Bill Gates) now own <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/richest-men-in-the-world-2274065153.html">as much wealth</a> as the entire bottom half of the world’s population.</p> <p>Pinker’s fallback might, then, be his second point: the rising tide argument, which he extends to the global economy. Here, he cheerfully recounts the story of how Branko Milanović, a leading ex-World Bank economist, analyzed income gains by percentile across the world over the twenty-year period 1988–2008, and discovered something that became widely known as the “Elephant Graph,” because its shape resembled the profile of an elephant with a raised trunk. Contrary to popular belief about rising global inequality, it seemed to show that, while the top 1% did in fact gain more than their fair share of income, lower percentiles of the global population had done just as well. It seemed to be only the middle classes in wealthy countries that had missed out. </p> <p>This graph, however, is virtually meaningless because it calculates growth rates as a percent of widely divergent income levels. Compare a Silicon Valley executive <a href="https://www.indeed.com/salaries/Director-Salaries,-Silicon-Valley-CA">earning $200,000/year</a> with one of the <a href="https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-global-poverty">three billion people</a> currently living on $2.50 per day or less. If the executive gets a 10% pay hike, she can use the $20,000 to buy a new compact car for her teenage daughter. Meanwhile, that same 10% increase would add, at most, a measly 25 cents per day to each of those three billion. In Graph 4, Oxfam economist Mujeed Jamaldeen shows the original “Elephant Graph” (blue line) contrasted with changes in absolute income levels (green line). The difference is stark.</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/jeremylent4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Figure 4: “Elephant Graph” versus absolute income growth levels. Source: “From Poverty to Power,” Muheed Jamaldeen.</p> <p>The “Elephant Graph” elegantly conceals the fact that the wealthiest 1% experienced nearly 65 times the absolute income growth as the poorest half of the world’s population. Inequality isn’t, in fact, decreasing at all, but going extremely rapidly the other way. Jamaldeen <a href="http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/whats-happening-on-global-inequality-putting-the-elephant-graph-to-sleep-with-a-hockey-stick/">has calculated</a> that, at the current rate, it would take over 250 years for the income of the poorest 10% to merely reach the global average income of $11/day. By that time, at the current rate of consumption by wealthy nations, it’s safe to say there would be nothing left for them to spend their lucrative earnings on. In fact, the “rising tide” for some barely equates to a drop in the bucket for billions of others.</p> <h2>Graph 5: Measuring genuine progress.</h2> <p>One of the cornerstones of Pinker’s book is the explosive rise in income and wealth that the world has experienced in the past couple of centuries. Referring to the work of economist Angus Deaton, he calls it the “Great Escape” from the historic burdens of human suffering, and shows a chart (Figure 5, left) depicting the rise in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, which seems to say it all. How could anyone in their right mind refute that evidence of progress? </p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/jeremylent5.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Figure 5: GDP per capita compared with GPI. Source: Kubiszewski et al. "Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress.” Ecological Economics, 2013.</p> <p>There is no doubt that the world has experienced a transformation in material wellbeing in the past two hundred years, and Pinker documents this in detail, from the increased availability of clothing, food, and transportation, to the seemingly mundane yet enormously important decrease in the cost of artificial light. However, there is a point where the rise in economic activity begins to decouple from wellbeing. In fact, GDP merely measures the rate at which a society is transforming nature and human activities into the monetary economy, regardless of the ensuing quality of life. Anything that causes economic activity of any kind, whether good or bad, adds to GDP. An oil spill, for example, increases GDP because of the cost of cleaning it up: the bigger the spill, the better it is for GDP.</p> <p>This divergence is played out, tragically, across the world every day, and is cruelly hidden in global statistics of rising GDP when powerful corporate and political interests destroy the lives of the vulnerable in the name of economic “progress.” In just one of countless examples, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/feb/06/urban-poor-tragedy-altamira-belo-monte-brazil">a recent report</a> in <em>The Guardian</em> describes how indigenous people living on the Xingu River in the Amazon rainforest were forced off their land to make way for the Belo Monte hydroelectric complex in Altamira, Brazil. One of them, Raimundo Brago Gomes, tells how “I didn’t need money to live happy. My whole house was nature… I had my patch of land where I planted a bit of everything, all sorts of fruit trees. I’d catch my fish, make manioc flour… I raised my three daughters, proud of what I was. I was rich.” Now, he and his family live among drug dealers behind barred windows in Brazil’s most violent city, receiving a state pension which, after covering rent and electricity, leaves him about 50 cents a day to feed himself, his wife, daughter, and grandson. Meanwhile, as a result of his family’s forced entry into the monetary economy, Brazil’s GDP has risen.</p> <p>Pinker is aware of the crudeness of GDP as a measure, but uses it repeatedly throughout his book because, he claims, “it correlates with every indicator of human flourishing.” This is not, however, what has been discovered when economists have adjusted GDP to incorporate other major factors that affect human flourishing. One prominent alternative measure, the <a href="https://liologydotnet.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/kubiszewsky-beyond-gdp.pdf">Genuine Progress Indicator</a> (GPI), reduces GDP for negative environmental factors such as the cost of pollution, loss of primary forest and soil quality, and social factors such as the cost of crime and commuting. It increases the measure for positive factors missing from GDP such as housework, volunteer work, and higher education. Sixty years of historical GPI for many countries around the world have been measured, and the results resoundingly refute Pinker’s claim of GDP’s correlation with wellbeing. In fact, as shown by the purple line in Figure 5 (right), it turns out that the world’s Genuine Progress peaked in 1978 and has been steadily falling ever since.</p> <h2>Graph 6: What has improved global health?</h2> <p>One of Pinker’s most important themes is the undisputed improvement in overall health and longevity that the world has enjoyed in the past century. It’s a powerful and heart-warming story. Life expectancy around the world has more than doubled in the past century. Infant mortality everywhere is a tiny fraction of what it once was. Improvements in medical knowledge and hygiene have saved literally billions of lives. Pinker appropriately quotes economist Steven Radelet that these improvements “rank among the greatest achievements in human history.”</p> <p>So, what has been the underlying cause of this great achievement? Pinker melds together what he sees as the twin engines of progress: GDP growth and increase in knowledge. Economic growth, for him, is a direct result of global capitalism. “Though intellectuals are apt to do a spit take when they read a defense of capitalism,” he declares with his usual exaggerated rhetoric, “its economic benefits are so obvious that they don’t need to be shown with numbers.” He refers to a figure called the Preston curve, from a paper by Samuel Preston published in 1975 showing a correlation between GDP and life expectancy that become foundational to the field of developmental economics. “Most obviously,” Pinker declares, “GDP per capita correlates with longevity, health, and nutrition.” While he pays lip service to the scientific principle that “correlation is not causation,” he then clearly asserts causation, claiming that “economic development does seem to be a major mover of human welfare.” He closes his chapter with a joke about a university dean offered by a genie the choice between money, fame, or wisdom. The dean chooses wisdom but then regrets it, muttering “I should have taken the money.”</p> <p>Pinker would have done better to have pondered more deeply on the relation between correlation and causation in this profoundly important topic. In fact, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/padr.12141">a recent paper</a> by Wolfgang Lutz and Endale Kebede entitled “Education and Health: Redrawing the Preston Curve” does just that. The original Preston curve came with an anomaly: the relationship between GDP and life expectancy doesn’t stay constant. Instead, each period it’s measured, it shifts higher, showing greater life expectancy for any given GDP (Figure 6, left). Preston—and his followers, including Pinker—explained this away by suggesting that advances in medicine and healthcare must have improved things across the board. </p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/jeremylent6.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Figure 6: GDP vs. Life expectancy compared with Education vs. Life expectancy. Source: W. Lutz and E. Kebede. "Education and Health: Redrawing the Preston Curve." Population and Development Review, 2018.</p> <p>Lutz and Kebede, however, used sophisticated multi-level regression models to analyze how closely education correlated with life expectancy compared with GDP. They found that a country’s average level of educational attainment explained rising life expectancy much better than GDP, and eliminated the anomaly in Preston’s Curve (Figure 6, right). The correlation with GDP was spurious. In fact, their model suggests that both GDP and health are ultimately driven by the amount of schooling children receive. This finding has enormous implications for development priorities in national and global policy. For decades, the neoliberal mantra, based on Preston’s Curve, has dominated mainstream thinking—raise a country’s GDP and health benefits will follow. Lutz and Kebede show that a more effective policy would be to invest in schooling for children, with all the ensuing benefits in quality of life that will bring.</p> <p>Pinker’s joke has come full circle. In reality, for the past few decades, the dean chose the money. Now, he can look at the data and mutter: “I should have taken the wisdom.”</p> <h2>Graph 7: False equivalencies, false dichotomies.</h2> <p>As we can increasingly see, many of Pinker’s missteps arise from the fact that he conflates two different dynamics of the past few centuries: improvements in many aspects of the human experience, and the rise of neoliberal, laissez-faire capitalism. Whether this is because of faulty reasoning on his part, or a conscious strategy to obfuscate, the result is the same. Most readers will walk away from his book with the indelible impression that free market capitalism is an underlying driver of human progress.</p> <p>Pinker himself states the importance of avoiding this kind of conflation. “Progress,” he declares, “consists not in accepting every change as part of an indivisible package… Progress consists of unbundling the features of a social process as much as we can to maximize the human benefits while minimizing the harms.” If only he took his own admonition more seriously!</p> <p>Instead, he laces his book with an unending stream of false equivalencies and false dichotomies that lead a reader inexorably to the conclusion that progress and capitalism are part of the same package. One of his favorite tropes is to create a false equivalency between right-wing extremism and the progressive movement on the left. He tells us that the regressive factions that undergirded Donald Trump’s presidency were “abetted by a narrative shared by many of their fiercest opponents, in which the institutions of modernity have failed and every aspect of life is in deepening crisis—the two sides in macabre agreement that wrecking those institutions will make the world a better place.” He even goes so far as to implicate Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election debacle: “The left and right ends of the political spectrum,” he opines, “incensed by economic inequality for their different reasons, curled around to meet each other, and their shared cynicism about the modern economy helped elect the most radical American president in recent times.”</p> <p>Implicit in Pinker’s political model is the belief that progress can only arise from the brand of centrist politics espoused by many in the mainstream Democratic Party. He perpetuates a false dichotomy of “right versus left” based on a twentieth-century version of politics that has been irrelevant for more than a generation. “The left,” he writes, “has missed the boat in its contempt for the market and its romance with Marxism.” He contrasts “industrial capitalism,” on the one hand, which has rescued humanity from universal poverty, with communism, which has “brought the world terror-famines, purges, gulags, genocides, Chernobyl, megadeath revolutionary wars, and North Korea–style poverty before collapsing everywhere else of its own internal contradictions.”</p> <p>By painting this black and white, Manichean landscape of capitalist good versus communist evil, Pinker obliterates from view the complex, sophisticated models of a hopeful future that have been diligently constructed over decades by a wide range of progressive thinkers. These fresh perspectives eschew the Pinker-style false dichotomy of traditional left versus right. Instead, they explore the possibilities of replacing a destructive global economic system with one that offers potential for greater fairness, sustainability, and human flourishing. In short, a model for continued progress for the twenty-first century.</p> <p>While the thought leaders of the progressive movement are too numerous to mention here, an illustration of this kind of thinking is seen in Graph 7. It shows an integrated model of the economy, aptly called “Doughnut Economics,” <a href="https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/">that has been developed</a> by pioneering economist Kate Raworth. The inner ring, called Social Foundation, represents the minimum level of life’s essentials, such as food, water, and housing, required for the possibility of a healthy and wholesome life. The outer ring, called Ecological Ceiling, represents the boundaries of Earth’s life-giving systems, such as a stable climate and healthy oceans, within which we must remain to achieve sustained wellbeing for this and future generations. The red areas within the ring show the current shortfall in the availability of bare necessities to the world’s population; the red zones outside the ring illustrate the extent to which we have already overshot the safe boundaries in several essential earth systems. Humanity’s goal, within this model, is to develop policies that bring us within the safe and just space of the “doughnut” between the two rings.</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/jeremylent7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Figure 7: Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economic Model. Source: Kate Raworth; Christian Guthier/The Lancet Planetary Health.</p> <p>Raworth, along with many others who care passionately about humanity’s future progress, focus their efforts, not on the kind of zero-sum, false dichotomies propagated by Pinker, but on developing fresh approaches to building a future that works for all on a sustainable and flourishing earth.</p> <h2>Graph 8: Progress Is Caused By… Progressives!</h2> <p>This brings us to the final graph, which is actually one of Pinker’s own. It shows the decline in recent years of web searches for sexist, racist, and homophobic jokes. Along with other statistics, he uses this as evidence in his argument that, contrary to what we read in the daily headlines, retrograde prejudices based on gender, race, and sexual orientation are actually on the decline. He attributes this in large part to “the benign taboos on racism, sexism, and homophobia that have become second nature to the mainstream.”</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/jeremylent8.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class="image-caption">Figure 8. Source: Steven Pinker, <em><a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/317051/enlightenment-now-by-steven-pinker/9780525427575/">Enlightenment Now</a>.</em></span></span></p><p>How, we might ask, did this happen? As Pinker himself expresses, we can’t assume that this kind of moral progress just happened on its own. “If you see that a pile of laundry has gone down,” he avers, “it does not mean the clothes washed themselves; it means someone washed the clothes. If a type of violence has gone down, then some change in the social, cultural, or material milieu has caused it to go down… That makes it important to find out what the causes are, so we can try to intensify them and apply them more widely.”</p> <p>Looking back into history, Pinker recognizes that changes in moral norms came about because progressive minds broke out of their society’s normative frames and applied new ethics based on a higher level of morality, dragging the mainstream reluctantly in their wake, until the next generation grew up adopting a new moral baseline. “Global shaming campaigns,” he explains, “even when they start out as purely aspirational, have in the past led to dramatic reductions in slavery, dueling, whaling, foot-binding, piracy, privateering, chemical warfare, apartheid, and atmospheric nuclear testing.”</p> <p>It is hard to comprehend how the same person who wrote these words can then turn around and hurl invectives against what he decries as “political correctness police, and social justice warriors” caught up in “identity politics,” not to mention his loathing for an environmental movement that “subordinates human interests to a transcendent entity, the ecosystem.” Pinker seems to view all ethical development from prehistory to the present day as “progress,” but any pressure to shift society further along its moral arc as anathema. </p> <p>This is the great irony of Pinker’s book. In writing a paean to historical progress, he then takes a staunchly conservative stance to those who want to continue it. It’s as though he sees himself at the mountain’s peak, holding up a placard saying “All progress stops here, unless it’s on my terms.”</p> <p>In reality, many of the great steps made in securing the moral progress Pinker applauds came from brave individuals who had to resist the opprobrium of the Steven Pinkers of their time while they devoted their lives to reducing the suffering of others. When Thomas Paine affirmed the “Rights of Man” back in 1792, <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2015/12/09/creating-new-norms-the-rights-of-nature-tribunal/">he was tried and convicted&nbsp;</a><em>in absentia</em>&nbsp;by the British for seditious libel. It would be another 150 years before his visionary idea was universally recognized in the United Nations. Emily Pankhurst was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmeline_Pankhurst">arrested seven times</a> in her struggle to obtain women’s suffrage and was constantly berated by “moderates” of the time for her radical approach in striving for something that has now become the unquestioned norm. When Rachel Carson published <em>Silent Spring</em> in 1962, with the first public exposé of the indiscriminate use of pesticides, her solitary stance was denounced as hysterical and unscientific. Just eight years later, twenty million Americans marched to protect the environment in the first Earth Day.</p> <p>These great strides in moral progress continue to this day. It’s hard to see them in the swirl of daily events, but they’re all around us: in the legalization of same sex marriage, in the spread of the Black Lives Matter movement, and most recently in the way the #MeToo movement is beginning to shift norms in the workplace. Not surprisingly, the current steps in social progress are vehemently opposed by Steven Pinker, who has approvingly retweeted articles attacking both <a href="https://twitter.com/sapinker/status/698171580707442689?lang=en">Black Lives Matter</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/sapinker/status/942821860689006593?lang=en">#MeToo</a>, and who <a href="http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/steven-pinker-excessive-political-correctness-feeds-dangerous-ideas">rails at the World Economic Forum</a> against what he terms “political correctness.”</p> <p>It’s time to reclaim the mantle of “Progress” for progressives. By slyly tethering the concept of progress to free market economics and centrist values, Steven Pinker has tried to appropriate a great idea for which he has no rightful claim. Progress in the quality of life, for humans and nonhumans alike, is something that anyone with a heart should celebrate. It did not come about through capitalism, and in many cases, it has been achieved despite the “free market” that Pinker espouses. Personally, I’m proud to be a progressive, and along with many others, to devote my energy to achieve progress for this and future generations. And if and when we do so, it won’t be thanks to Steven Pinker and his specious arguments.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kate-raworth/seven-ways-to-think-like-21st-century-economist">Seven ways to think like a 21st century economist</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-hendrick/new-vision-for-left">A new vision for the left</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jeremy Lent Environment Economics Culture Mon, 21 May 2018 21:11:11 +0000 Jeremy Lent 117963 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The pitfalls of generational thinking https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-white/pitfalls-of-generational-thinking <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Taking collective action on climate change requires that we avoid privatising and depoliticising the problems we want to solve.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JonathanWhite.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">People's Climate March 2014 in New York City. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/126015850@N02/15128518019/">Flickr/South Bend Voice</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The concept of generations has been central to the way scholars, decision-makers and activists portray the implications of climate change.&nbsp;International agreements enshrine <a href="http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/ccc_final_2014.pdf">‘future generations’</a> as stakeholders in the decision-making of the present.&nbsp;Moral philosophers and economists describe <a href="http://www.worldcat.org/title/in-fairness-to-future-generations-international-law-common-patrimony-and-intergenerational-equity/oclc/644716120">‘intergenerational’ obligations</a> that are designed to preserve a stable environment.&nbsp;And climate-change science has been brought to a mass public by evoking the threats posed to our <a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/an-inconvenient-truth-9780747589068/">children</a> and <a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/storms-of-my-grandchildren-9781608195022/">grandchildren</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>This generational framework has emerged as the pre-eminent way in which human-caused climate change is rendered intelligible in contemporary societies.&nbsp;But the same qualities that lend the framework its appeal are also the source of some serious tensions: its use in public debate tends to privatise and depoliticise how the future is conceived.&nbsp;</p> <p>One reason why future generations are so widely evoked has surely to do with what follows for our concept of the present.&nbsp;To speak of future generations is to imply the existence of a&nbsp;<em>current&nbsp;</em>generation, and to suggest that it lives at a critical juncture.&nbsp;When President Obama announced policies to tackle climate change in August 2015 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-climate-change-power-plants_us_55bfc5b4e4b0b23e3ce397e7?utm_hp_ref=politics">he declared</a>:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>“We’re the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it…This is our moment to get this right and leave something better for our kids.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>In this sense, the generational frame evokes a collective subject and hints at its capacity for agency.&nbsp;Broadly in line with the relevant science, it implies that the most far-reaching effects of climate change still lie some decades away, but also that present-day choices will be critical for how they play out.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a period when many have questioned societies’ capacity to take the long-term view, this offers a way to make the future more intelligible.&nbsp;‘Generationalism,’ as it can be called, is a way to make the future susceptible to empirical investigation by producing units of analysis that can be aggregated and counted.</p> <p>In turn, this makes it easier to contribute to political and policy planning, as when discount rates, for example, are applied in <a href="http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publication/the-economics-of-climate-change-the-stern-review/">budgeting</a>. By allowing the enumeration and allocation of value, generational thinking promises to render the future calculable and governable. It also&nbsp;facilitates movement between the micro and macro timescales by evoking both concrete individuals in the present and an open-ended chain stretching into the future, connecting lived experience with&nbsp;the ‘deep time’ over which climatological forces play out.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The concept’s utility also seems to hinge on how it brings together a variety of meanings.&nbsp;When one talks of the generations of a family, one is using the term in a&nbsp;<em>genealogical&nbsp;</em>sense to describe relations between concrete individuals.&nbsp;When one talks of the ‘present generation’ one is using the term in a more&nbsp;<em>sociological&nbsp;</em>sense to describe the shared fate and shared responsibilities of those born within a certain period.&nbsp;And when one talks more generally of ‘future generations’ one is using the term in an abstract,&nbsp;<em>philosophical&nbsp;</em>sense, to describe featureless markers in time—a succession of the unborn about whom we know little yet should care greatly.</p> <p>The difficulty of separating these meanings is both the virtue and vice of generationalism.&nbsp;One problem is how future-oriented concerns become conflated with concerns about the wellbeing of ‘our’ direct descendants. Casting future people as kin groups—as ‘our children and grandchildren’—implies that, if individuals muster concern for their direct descendants, then their moral responsibilities are discharged.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But what if an adequate response to the human costs of climate change demands mobilising those in the world’s higher economic strata to show concern for those to whom they are&nbsp;<em>not&nbsp;</em>directly related, such as the poorest and least mobile sections of populations in lower-income countries?&nbsp;What if concern needs to be mustered for&nbsp;<em>other people’s&nbsp;</em>children?&nbsp;</p> <p>The generational frame validates the thought that one might legitimately ‘look after one’s own.’&nbsp;Thinking about the human future as the future of the family suggests a kind of privatisation, a shrinking of the sphere of ethical concern.&nbsp;To the extent that policy-making genuinely reflects kinship preference it’s unlikely to address problems in a fair and effective fashion.&nbsp;To the extent that policy is more enlightened but still understood in kinship terms it rests precariously on a misconception.</p> <p>Consider also the idea of <em>a </em>‘present generation’ as an unbounded and undifferentiated category.&nbsp;This image of unity is motivationally attractive, but what if serving the good of the future requires <a href="http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/This-Changes-Everything/Naomi-Klein/9781451697391">contesting<em>&nbsp;</em></a>certain ideas and interests?&nbsp;What if conflict in the present is part of responding effectively to climate-change issues, not just another problem to be overcome?&nbsp;Such possibilities are obscured if the living are all cast as members of one collective.&nbsp;</p> <p>Such depoliticizing tendencies come through clearly in one of the most celebrated efforts to bring climate-change science to a mass audience: as Al Gore put it in his book <em><a href="https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/an-inconvenient-truth-9780747589068/">An Inconvenient Truth</a></em>: </p> <blockquote><p>“The climate crisis…offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside…pettiness and conflict…[T]his crisis is not really about politics at all. It is a moral and spiritual challenge.”</p></blockquote> <p>Generationalism risks obscuring the diversity of experiences, ideas and interests that characterise human society at any given moment.&nbsp;By locating the lines of conflict and solidarity on a cross-temporal plane, some important divisions—between rich and poor countries, different class groups, and rival views of the market, state and the economics of growth—are &nbsp;rendered less visible in the present.&nbsp;</p> <p>Likewise, there is a risk of equalising the obligations of those who are unequally responsible for climate change if one lines people up as members alike of ‘the present generation.’&nbsp;Justice, but also an effective concrete response to climate change, requires attending to&nbsp;<em>intra-</em>generational differences.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>For how long will the challenges posed by climate change be expressed in generational terms?&nbsp;Will future generations, as we have learned to call them, still appeal to the interests of ‘future generations’ that come after them—to their children and grandchildren’s prospects?&nbsp;Generational thinking reflects a moment in time when climate-change problems, though recognised, are expected to manifest themselves in the future, at a distance of some decades from now.&nbsp;But as climate change increasingly intrudes on the present the cross-temporal perspective may recede.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The recasting of climate change as a problem of the present rather than the future would be a positive step.This is arguably the simplest way to contend with the pitfalls of generational thinking.The lure of channeling ethics through the family, and of overlooking some meaningful political and economic divisions, is thereby removed at source. As in other fields, taking collective action requires that we avoid privatising and depoliticising the problems we seek to solve.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mark-kernan/Myth-and-dystopia-in-the-Anthropocene">Myth and dystopia in the Anthropocene</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/seble-samuel/what-we-choose-to-resist">What we choose to resist</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation climate change Jonathan White Environment Tue, 15 May 2018 19:10:56 +0000 Jonathan White 117790 at https://www.opendemocracy.net You don’t have to be embarrassed to be vegan https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/janey-stephenson/you-don-t-have-to-be-embarrassed-to-be-vegan <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">The more welcoming and accessible veganism becomes, the closer we’ll get to our goal: a world free of cruelty.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JaneyStephenson4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">BLTA Sandwich at Moncai Vegan, San Diego. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/diversey/17379649206">Flickr/Tony Webster</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0.</a></p> <p class="normal">It’s February 5th 2018, and <a href="https://veganuary.com/why/">Veganuary</a> has come and gone with record success. The number of vegans in the UK has increased by 360 per cent in the last ten years, and even Tesco, the low-budget supermarket chain, has launched a <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/tesco-vegan-range-launch-food-no-dairy-meat-fish-a8149376.html">range of vegan ready-meals</a> from the Wicked Kitchen company.</p> <p class="normal">Despite the fact that veganism has existed for centuries and was originally rooted in the global South, it’s finally made it to the Western mainstream. But this isn’t a surprise—it’s due to a recent change in the tactics of vegan campaigning that have replaced sanctimony and shaming with recipes and room to try new things.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">For too long, vegan campaigns have given us the ‘why’ of veganism but rarely the ‘how’. They have banged on and on about how veganism is a moral imperative and how we’re all complicit in animal cruelty. They’ve created disturbing films about animal abuse and pushed a very clear message that if you eat animal products, you’re a bad person—and left it at that.</p> <p class="normal">I say ‘they’ but I’m vegan myself (and have been for the past six years), but I’ve deliberately disconnected myself from the vegan lobby because frankly, it’s embarrassing.</p> <p class="normal">I became vegan as a result of my beliefs in labour rights and feminism more than anything else. After all, it’s the female animals that are violently exploited for their reproductive functions. Cows are repeatedly and forcibly impregnated in order to produce milk, and their calves are immediately torn away to be sold as veal whilst we steal the milk to sell.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Veganism is faultlessly logical. Avoiding animal products makes sense on ethical, environmental and health grounds, and in terms of nonviolence and social justice too. It’s easy to see how it connects to human struggles. Aph Ko, co-founder of <a href="https://aphro-ism.com/">Aphro-ism</a> recently told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/dining/black-vegan-cooking.html">New York Times</a>, “The black vegan movement is one of the most diverse, decolonial, complex and creative movements.”</p> <p class="normal">The ‘why’ is absolute and compelling, so why has veganism historically struggled to attract more people? Because much less has been said about how to make the leap to plant-based life—or how delicious it is once you make it. There is simply not enough information on how to put a vegan diet into practice given the realities of the food industry and the structure of the economy, which squeeze most people’s incomes and options.</p> <p class="normal">But the one can’t be done without the other: both ‘how’ and ‘why’ must go hand in hand.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Why vegan campaigners need to understand human psychology.</strong></p> <p class="normal">Let’s start at one of the biggest challenges to behaviour change: humans are not logical. We’re highly emotional, and food is one of the most emotional and central parts of living. We comfort eat, we get food guilt, and we treat ourselves to expensive meals out. Food is more than just sustenance; it’s part of our identity. It punctuates our daily life, <a href="https://mediadiversified.org/2018/01/24/giving-up-the-food-of-my-family-life-as-a-vegan-in-diaspora/">defines our cultures</a> and underpins our family traditions and gatherings.</p> <p class="normal">Demanding that someone radically changes what they eat on a daily basis for the rest of their lives is one of the most disruptive demands you could make. And it doesn’t help that vegan campaign tactics tend to go against human psychology: the truth is, we’re hypocritical, we’re loss averse and we react badly to shame.</p> <p class="normal">Human beings can be awful hypocrites, and will perform any amount of mental gymnastics to justify their contradictions. <a href="https://www.simplypsychology.org/cognitive-dissonance.html">Cognitive dissonance</a> describes the discomfort we often feel when our beliefs and behaviours come into conflict.&nbsp;This is what enables us to pet our cat or dog, identify as an ‘animal lover,’ and then tuck into a steak. Ironically it’s also what enables some vegans to <a href="http://metro.co.uk/2017/11/07/theres-literally-no-point-in-being-a-vegan-or-vegetarian-if-youre-still-chuffing-coke-7060803/">do cocaine on the weekend</a>.</p> <p class="normal">The truth about animal cruelty is terrible and overwhelming, so it’s not a surprise that most people want to block it out. I have friends who became vegan after watching the powerful vegan documentary ‘<a href="http://www.nationearth.com/">Earthlings</a>’, but many more refuse to watch it because “it means we won’t be able to eat meat again” and their fear of loss takes over.</p> <p class="normal">Giving things up is tough—ask any smoker. When it comes to veganism, lots of people will first weigh up the losses: “how can I live without cheese?” “Won’t I just be hungry all the time?” As the Guardian’s restaurant critic Grace Dent stated on BBC Newsnight recently, meat, eggs, cheese and cream are <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z87-UuA4wmw">“the very cornerstones of the British diet”</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Demanding that someone gives all of this up without advising them on how to replace it isn’t going to be met with much of a welcome. And that’s why, without more education, easily-accessible alternatives and compassion towards those who currently eat meat, all attempts to make people join the dots between animal welfare and their individual responsibilities will fail.</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Veganism is a social justice issue.</strong></p> <p class="normal">The lack of tools and education about veganism goes well beyond individual dietary choices—it’s also a structural problem of terrible food literacy and a lack of affordable options, with the food industry lobbyists operating the key controls.</p> <p class="normal">The battle for veganism is a battle for nutritional education and access to different options, and those things usually fall along class lines. Many people already have too much on their plates (literally and metaphorically) to dedicate sufficient headspace to overhauling their diet.</p> <p class="normal">I grew up on oven food: chicken nuggets, Billy Bear ham, turkey dinosaurs and hot dogs. That’s not my fault and it doesn’t make me or my mum bad people: it’s what was available to us at the time, and we would have struggled to know what else we should eat, let alone how to cook it. My mum didn’t have time to soak lentils.</p> <p class="normal">My personal transition away from cheap meats and ready meals was a slow, twofold process: first, realising that I no longer wanted to be part of the cycle of violence that underpins an animal-based diet; and second, being exposed to different foods and plant-based recipes. This is what <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/shopping-deals/tesco-launch-new-vegan-ready-11829128">Wicked Kitchen have done</a>, with their founder chef Derek Sarno aiming to “celebrate everything that’s ‘wicked’ and tasty about plants.”</p> <p class="normal"><strong>Shame doesn’t help people change—compassion does.</strong></p> <p class="normal">If <a href="https://www.peta.org/">PETA</a> (the largest animal rights organisation in the world) is the parent who shouts at you, Veganuary is the one who kneels next to you and gently explains what’s wrong and how to fix it. The founders of Veganuary are wise to what psychologists have already proven: that <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/longing-nostalgia/201705/why-shaming-doesnt-work">shame doesn’t help people change</a>. It’s more likely to make them hide their behaviour and resort to virtue-signalling in order to keep up appearances.</p> <p class="normal">Matthew Glover, its co-founder, has said that “Veganuary is in the business of making vegans...Everyone who registers to take part for the month will find a welcoming, supportive, non-judgmental community waiting for them.” The campaign is making its mark because it ‘shows’ rather than ‘tells’; it’s concerned with providing encouragement and information about concrete alternatives as opposed to simply telling people what to do.</p> <p class="normal">There’s plenty of research to prove this works. The British Nutrition Foundation has found that when getting someone to change their diet, learning to deal positively with failure is essential to support <a href="https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/obesityandweightmanagement/behaviourchange.html?limit=1&amp;start=3">healthy behaviour change.</a></p> <p class="normal"><strong>Making veganism accessible.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="normal">The staggering violence of the food industry is structural, but individual behaviour change is an essential part in dismantling it. If we are to succeed in achieving the goal of a cruelty-free world, we’ll need as many people on side as possible.</p> <p class="normal">Shock tactics are good for grabbing attention and making people aware of animal cruelty, so they are imperative. However, we also need to extend the compassion and support we have for animals to our fellow humans—the people of whom we’re making ethical demands and who might be reticent to commit to veganism.</p> <p class="normal">Making sure that education about veganism and opportunities to buy, cook and eat vegan food are as accessible as possible can only work in our favour. This will help people to see that taking charge of their own nutrition, discovering amazing tastes and becoming a better cook is not just about ethics and morality, but is also aspirational and exciting. We need to get away from the dull, self-flagellating mire of diet shaming that has characterised much of the movement to date.</p> <p class="normal">The more welcoming and accessible veganism becomes, the closer we’ll get to our goal: a world free of cruelty. </p> <p class="normal">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare">It’s time to reconsider the meaning of ‘animal welfare’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation veganism Janey Stephenson Liberation Activism Environment Sun, 04 Feb 2018 21:55:03 +0000 Janey Stephenson 115919 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why we must respect the rights of all sentient animals https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gary-l-francione-anna-e-charlton/why-we-must-respect-rights-of-all-sentient-animals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The only way to recognize the moral personhood of animals is to accord them a right not to be property—and that means the abolition of animal exploitation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/animalrights5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/tit-parus-major-hand-keep-leave-58635/">Pixabay/Hans</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Both of us are advocates for the rights of nonhuman animals. That doesn’t mean we believe that animals should have all of the same rights as humans—it would make no sense to say that animals should have the right to drive cars or vote (even though we might have better political leadership if they could).</p> <p>In fact when we talk about animal rights we’re referring to <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/media/pdf/one_right_for_all-newscientist.pdf"><em>one</em> right</a> in particular: the right not to be property. Why is that so important?</p> <p>All of us have <em>interests</em>—states of affairs that we prefer, desire, or want. There are two ways to protect these interests. The first is to protect them only to the extent that this produces desirable consequences. The second is to protect them despite these considerations—as <em>rights</em>. </p> <p>A person’s interest in living is protected as a right; others must respect your interest in continuing to live even if killing you would benefit other people. So even if your organs could be used to save the lives of leading scientists, inventors or artists who will die without organ transplants, your interest in not being used as a forced organ donor would still be protected because you have the<em> </em>right to life<em>.</em> </p> <p>However much people may disagree about what rights human beings should have, we can all agree that they all have the right not to be chattel slaves. Why is that? Because if a person is a slave, they are not considered to be a being who matters morally—to be, in other words, a <em>person. </em>Instead they become a <em>thing</em> that only has an economic value that is determined by their owner. If a human being is going to count morally, they <em>must</em> have the right not to be property. If they don’t have this right they will be used as a resource whenever other people believe that they will benefit from doing so. </p> <p>Society extends the right not to be property to all people irrespective of their intelligence, beauty, strength or any other characteristic. It doesn’t matter whether a person is a genius or has a learning disability. No-one should be the property of someone else. Slavery still exists, but no one defends it.</p> <p>The same reasoning holds for nonhuman animals. If animals are to matter morally, and not be just things, they cannot be treated as property, since if they are property they have no intrinsic moral value. Their only value is that accorded to them by their owners. The only reason we deny this right to nonhumans is that they are not human. But that is no different from using any other morally irrelevant characteristic such as race or sex to justify slavery or otherwise fail to accord equal consideration to others. </p> <p>The only characteristic that animals must have in order to matter morally is <a href="https://aeon.co/ideas/a-humanely-killed-animal-is-still-killed-and-thats-wrong">sentience</a>. It is not necessary that they have <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/media/links/p8/similar-minds.pdf">humanlike minds</a>. If they are sentient, they have interests, including the interest in continuing to live and in not suffering pain or distress. That is all that is necessary.</p> <p>If we agree that animals matter morally, we are committed to recognizing that all sentient nonhumans have a moral right not to be used as property. This requires that we stop using animals as resources. In other words, we must be morally committed to stop eating, wearing, or otherwise using animals. </p> <p>This position may sound radical, and in the sense that the rights position requires the abolition of all institutionalized exploitation, it is. But since most people already believe that it is wrong to inflict <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare"><em>unnecessary</em> suffering </a>on animals it’s really just an extension of current and widely-shared convictions. If the principle of unnecessary suffering is going to mean more than avoiding the infliction of gratuitous harm, it must rule out any suffering or death that’s imposed for reasons of pleasure, amusement or convenience. But those are the <em>only</em> reasons we have for almost all of our current animal use—uses that are, for the most part, transparently frivolous.</p> <p>For example, our most numerically significant use of animals is for food. We kill about 60 billion land animals and one trillion sea animals annually. Putting aside any possible situation in which someone will starve if they do not eat animal foods because those are the only foods available, this killing and suffering is completely unnecessary. There is no compulsion. We could all be as healthy—if not healthier—if we ate only plants.</p> <p>Moreover, animal agriculture causes a good chunk of the ecological damage that is threatening human survival. And we could feed many more humans if we consumed plants directly rather than fed plants to animals who are then consumed.</p> <p>If we stopped exploiting animals for food, clothing, sport, and entertainment we would get to almost the same point as that which is embraced by advocates of animal rights. So the animal rights position is <em>not</em> especially radical relative to what we <em>say</em> we already believe.</p> <p>The only use of animals that is not transparently frivolous is in helping to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17518849">cure serious human illnesses</a>. There is a considerable dispute about whether such use is really necessary for the purpose, but for argument’s sake let’s assume that without animal use we will fail to discover important information that is medically beneficial.</p> <p>Why do we think animal use in this context is acceptable? The standard response is that nonhumans, unlike humans, are not rational, or otherwise lack the moral value of humans, so unlike human beings they can be ‘sacrificed’ for the sake of some wider social benefit. But we would never say that humans who are not rational or who are otherwise not considered to be cognitively ‘normal’ have a lesser degree of moral value, and can therefore be ‘sacrificed’ to benefit ‘normal’ human beings. </p> <p>Indeed, we protect people from being used as resources for others even if that use will benefit society, because we recognize that they have an inalienable right not to be so used. To reject this right where nonhumans are involved and where the only difference is species is an example of the <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/do-abolitionists-have-a-position-on-human-rights-you-bet-we-do/#.ULG6G6VJZ5g">speciesism</a> that a rights position prohibits.</p> <p>If the right not to be used as property was recognized and respected, it would require the abolition of <em>all </em>institutionalized animal use. This would necessitate<a href="https://aeon.co/essays/why-keeping-a-pet-is-fundamentally-unethical"> the end of <em>all</em> domestication</a>, but it would not mean that conflicts between humans and nonhumans would disappear. There would still be non-domesticated animals living away from humans in woods and jungles, as well as those who live amongst us such as squirrels, rabbits, rats, mice, birds, and many other creatures. We would still need a framework to govern our interactions with these creatures but, if we no longer engaged in the exploitation of nonhuman domesticates it would be easier to develop a solid framework for these other situations. </p> <p>Do we have to recognize the right of animals not to be property? Couldn’t we just do a better job of protecting animals who continue to be owned by human beings? In theory, we could, of course, treat animals better, but there are powerful economic interests that work against doing so in practice. It costs money to protect animal interests, and the more we protect those interests the more expensive it becomes. Someone—usually the consumer—has to pay that cost. The result is that the standard of animal welfare is very low; even supposedly ‘higher welfare’ products involve treatment of nonhumans that, were humans involved, would constitute torture. </p> <p>However supposedly ‘humanely’ an animal is treated they will still be exploited or killed for purposes for which we think it appropriate to use no humans, and in our view that is morally unjustifiable. The only way to recognize the moral personhood of animals is to accord them a right not to be property—and that means the abolition of animal exploitation.</p> <p><span class="image-caption">For more discussion of these issues, please visit our <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/">website</a>. This article draws on material in our most recent book, <em><a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/books/">Advocate for Animals!—An Abolitionist Vegan Handbook.</a></em></span> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare">It’s time to reconsider the meaning of ‘animal welfare’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Anna E. Charlton Gary L. Francione Liberation Activism Culture Environment Sun, 28 Jan 2018 22:38:53 +0000 Gary L. Francione and Anna E. Charlton 115802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could extraterrestrials help us save the Earth? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/vikram-zutshi/could-extraterrestrials-help-us-save-earth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If human beings are so ineffective in confronting planetary problems, shouldn’t we seek out help wherever we can find it?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/VikramZutshi2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Sunset-Ufo-Aliens-Evening-Landscape-Afterglow-1673929">http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Sunset-Ufo-Aliens-Evening-Landscape-Afterglow-1673929</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0</a>.</span></p> <p>A few years ago I visited an old friend at his home in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, Argentina. Apart from its breathtaking grandeur the region is known for a more unexpected reason: local residents have reported frequent sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (more commonly known as UFOs), among the highest in the world.</p> <p>The region has become a popular hub for UFO enthusiasts ever since hundreds of apparitions started appearing in the mid-1990s. So widespread is the phenomenon that a new government agency called the “Committee for Studies of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena” has been established to investigate UAPs in the region under the auspices of the Chilean Air Force.</p> <p>My host Guillermo had his own story to tell. While walking his sheep dogs around the range the previous year he observed a weather phenomenon he had never seen before—a &nbsp;wall of fog that extended from the skies to the plains and horizontally as far as the eye could see. A high-pitched sound emerged from the fog and suddenly, out of nowhere, a large oval disc about a hundred feet in diameter flew up and hovered directly above, maneuvering back into the fog a few moments later.</p> <p>Like many others who have witnessed such phenomena, Gullermo was uncomfortable talking about his experience, acutely aware of the danger of sounding like a kook. But the days of being embarrassed about UFOs may be drawing to a close. On December 16, 2017, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/18/insider/secret-pentagon-ufo-program.html?_r=0">the New York Times published an expose</a> about a secret US Department of Defense initiative called the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program that was active from 2007 to 2012, dedicated to the investigation of Unidentified Flying Objects.</p> <p>The bombshell report, co-authored by three seasoned journalists including two Pulitzer prize winners, includes on-the-record statements by Luis Elizondo, the man who ran the program, videos of possible UFOs filmed by the Pentagon, and confirmation of the US Government’s activities from former Senator Harry Reid, who earmarked $22 million for them while in Congress. “Much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings,” said Reid in a letter to a deputy defense secretary at the time.</p> <p>In July 2015, a group led by physicist Stephen Hawking launched “<a href="https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/about">Breakthrough Listen</a>,” an initiative that’s claimed to be the largest ever scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of civilizations beyond Earth. During the launch of the initiative at the Royal Society in London, Hawking voiced his fears about what might happen in any such encounter, and why humankind needed to be much better prepared for what they might bring:</p> <p>“We don't know much about aliens,” he told the audience, “but we know about humans. If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced.”</p> <p>Science journalist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Druyan">Ann Druyan</a>—who was part of the announcement panel—seemed more upbeat: “We may get to a period in our future where we outgrow our evolutionary baggage and evolve to become less violent and shortsighted,” she said. “My hope is that extraterrestrial civilizations are not only more technologically proficient than we are but more aware of the rarity and preciousness of life in the cosmos.”</p> <p>Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist about the possibilities of life on other planets, it’s here, beyond all the technical details about UFOs and ‘Advanced Aviation Threats’ and what exactly has been witnessed by whom, that the real interest lies. To put it bluntly, if human beings are so ineffective in confronting planetary problems, shouldn’t we seek out help wherever we can find it even if it comes from an inter-planetary source?&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>With religious and ethnic chauvinism on the rise, self-serving corporations wreaking havoc on the environment, and populist demagogues commandeering significant swathes of the populace, it’s clear that humanity needs an urgent wake-up call—something that shakes us out of our complacency and short-sightedness and forces us to recognize that we all share a symbiotic relationship with each other and with this fragile planet.</p> <p>Breakthrough Listen and other similar initiatives may be a sign that this tipping point is getting closer, or at least that humanity is becoming more serious in its search for help.&nbsp; Other governments and academics <a href="https://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/secret-government-program-track-ufos-its-not-first-180967597/">are already studying UFO-like phenomena</a> in the UK Canada, Peru, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29755919">France</a>, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Japan and <a href="https://www.csicop.org/sb/show/history_of_state_ufo_research_in_the_ussr">the ex-Soviet Union</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.seti.org/">SETI Institute</a> in California (shorthand for “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence”) is gaining increasing credibility under the leadership of Dr. Seth Shostak, an astrophysicist from CalTech, while in India, Kumaresan Ramanathan, a senior technical engineer with a Chennai based IT firm, recently became that country’s first ‘certified UFO investigator.’ Ramanathan is part of <a href="http://www.mufon.com/">MUFON</a> (the “Mutual UFO Network”), one of the oldest and largest civilian non-profits investigating UFOs with thousands of members worldwide that was launched as far back as 1969. He was assigned 60 cases of credible UFO sightings from across the country when he started work.</p> <p>After a decade studying the phenomenon, Leslie Kean, one of the authors of the New York Times report, published the results of her work as a book in 2010 entitled “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/UFOs-Generals-Pilots-Government-Officials/dp/0307717089">UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record</a>.” Aided by former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, Kean examined reams of government documents, aviation reports, radar data, and case studies corroborated by physical evidence including scientifically analyzed photographs.</p> <p>Kean’s book contains detailed personal accounts of UFO sightings by a host of high-level sources including US Air Force generals, Fife Symington III, &nbsp;(the former governor of Arizona), and Nick Pope, former head of the British Defence Ministry’s UFO Investigative Unit. Mirroring the increasing seriousness of this coverage, recent Hollywood offerings like Dennis Villeneuve’s film “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrival_(film)">Arrival</a>,” with its emphasis on new forms of sophisticated, non-verbal communication between humans and aliens, may help to support a more intelligent debate about what might be learned from extra-terrestrial teachers.</p> <p>The realization that we are not alone in the universe may be exactly what is needed at this stage of our evolution to help unite us in common purpose and actualize the full potential of our shared humanity. With the realization that perhaps we are only one of many civilizations in a vast galaxy comes the need for a broader and more encompassing vision of the future. It may be the catalyst required for our species to develop a planetary consciousness and cast off the old, redundant affiliations that no longer serve.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/will-black-people-also-be-excluded-from-mars">Will black people also be excluded from Mars?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/lost-in-space-silicon-valley-and-future-of-democracy">Lost in space? Silicon Valley and the future of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/vikram-zutshi/american-that-america-doesnt-want-to-know">The American that America doesn&#039;t want to know</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vikram Zutshi Culture Environment Tue, 09 Jan 2018 22:27:13 +0000 Vikram Zutshi 115517 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s time to reconsider the meaning of ‘animal welfare’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Current standards simply make us feel better about the continued exploitation of animals.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GaryFrancione.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/horse-pure-arab-blood-eye-look-1843081/">https://pixabay.com/en/horse-pure-arab-blood-eye-look-1843081/</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0</a></p> <p>At the end of 2017 British Prime Minister Theresa May <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-fox-hunting-manifesto-pledge-downing-street-michael-gove-a8127281.html">abandoned</a> the Tory manifesto pledge to hold a free vote on repealing the legal ban on using dogs to hunt foxes. May’s decision followed complaints from Tory MPs that support for repealing the ban, while popular in some rural communities, had cost them votes during the 2017 general election. The pro-hunting position is very unpopular.</p> <p><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fox-hunting-theresa-may-general-election-british-public-animal-cruelty-a7765746.html">Polling</a> released in May 2017 showed that almost 70 per cent of British voters were opposed to fox hunting, and half were less likely to vote for a pro-hunting candidate in the general election. Opposition is not limited to fox hunting. A <a href="https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/attitudes-hunting-2016">2016 poll</a> indicated that, in addition to the 84 per cent opposed to fox hunting, significant numbers of people in the UK were opposed to deer hunting (88 per cent), hare hunting and coursing (91 per cent), dog fighting (98 per cent), and badger baiting (94 per cent).</p> <p>Why is there such opposition to these activities?</p> <p>The answer is simple: we <em>care</em> about animals. We believe that they matter morally. We reject the position which prevailed before the 19th century that animals are merely <em>things</em> to whom we have no moral or legal obligations. Instead, most people embrace the <em>animal welfare</em> position which has two key components.</p> <p>The first component is that—although animals can be used for human purposes—we should not impose <em>unnecessary</em> suffering or death on them. The second is that when we do use animals, we have an obligation to treat them ‘humanely.’</p> <p>The activities to which most of the British public objects involve imposing suffering and death on animals where there is no necessity or compulsion to do so; it is wrong to make animals suffer or to kill them when the only purported justification is that humans derive some sort of pleasure or amusement. The use of animals for frivolous purposes is tantamount to denying their moral value. Most people reject that.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is that, although most people regard the imposition of unnecessary suffering and death on animals as immoral, their actual behavior is not consistent with their moral position. They participate in imposing suffering and death on animals in situations where there is no necessity, and in which the treatment of animals is anything but ‘humane.’</p> <p><strong>‘Unnecessary’ suffering and death.</strong></p> <p>Most people eat animals and products made from animals, and both involve a great deal of cruelty. In the UK alone, more than <a href="https://www.hsa.org.uk/faqs/general">one billion</a> animals are killed every year for food. Many animals are raised in intensive conditions that constitute torture. Even those who are raised in supposedly more ‘humane’ circumstances suffer distress throughout and at the end of their lives.</p> <p>This is not just a matter of meat. The cows used to produce milk are repeatedly impregnated and have their calves taken away from them shortly after birth. And all animals, whether used for meat, dairy, or eggs, are subjected to terror and distress at the abattoir.</p> <p>Is <em>any</em> of this suffering and death ‘necessary?’ Is there any <em>compulsion</em> involved?&nbsp; The answer is no.</p> <p>No one maintains that it is necessary to consume animal products to be optimally healthy. The UK National Health Service says that a sensible vegan diet can be <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegetarianhealthqanda.aspx">“very healthy,”</a> while mainstream health care professionals all over the world are increasingly taking the position that animal products are <a href="https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/advice-from-a-vegan-cardiologist/">detrimental</a> to human health.</p> <p>We don’t have to settle the debate about whether it is <em>more </em>healthy to live on a diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. The point is that a vegan diet is certainly no <em>less </em>healthy than a diet of decomposing flesh, cow secretions and chicken ova. And that’s the only point relevant to the issue of whether suffering and death are necessary or not.</p> <p>Moreover, animal agriculture constitutes an <a href="http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whopper-environmental-impact-of-global-meat-production/">ecological disaster</a>. It is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the burning of fossil fuel for transportation, and results in deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. The grain fed to animals in the United States alone could feed <a href="http://news.cornell.edu/stories/1997/08/us-could-feed-800-million-people-grain-livestock-eat">800 million</a> people. Against this background, what is the best justification we have for inflicting suffering and death on animals?</p> <p>The answer is simple: we think they taste good. We derive pleasure from eating them. Eating animals and animal products is a tradition, and we have been following it for a very long time.</p> <p>But how is that position any different from the justification offered for animal uses to which most of us object? How is palate pleasure any different from the pleasure that some people derive from participating in blood sports? There is no difference<em>.</em> Fox hunting, badger baiting and dog fighting are all traditions. Indeed, almost every practice to which we object—whether involving animals or humans—involves a tradition valued by someone. Patriarchy is also a tradition that has existed for a very long time, but that says nothing about its moral status.</p> <p>Many people oppose hunting foxes because they can see no morally significant distinction between the dog they love and the fox who is chased and killed. But what is the difference between the animals we love and those into whom we stick a fork and a knife? There is no difference. The dogs and cats we love are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat"><em>sentient</em></a>—just as are the chickens, cows, pigs, fish, and other animals we exploit. They all feel pain and experience distress; they all have an interest in continuing to live.</p> <p><strong>‘Humane’ treatment.</strong></p> <p>If most of our animal use cannot plausibly be characterized as ‘necessary,’ what about the second component of the animal welfare position—that we have an obligation to use animals ‘humanely?’ This is also a fantasy.</p> <p>Animals are <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1156_reg.html">property.</a> They are chattel. They are things that are bought and sold. It costs money to protect animal interests, and the property status of animals ensures that, as a general matter, standards of animal welfare (whether mandated by law or adopted by industry) will always be very low. We will protect animal interests when we get a financial benefit of some sort from doing so. Most of the time, welfare standards will be linked to the level of protection that is needed to exploit animals in an economically efficient way, so these standards will (to the extent that they are even enforced) prohibit nothing more than <em>gratuitous</em> suffering.</p> <p>Animal welfare standards in Britain are claimed to be amongst the <a href="https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/news/ground-breaking-animal-protection-index-assesses-animal-welfare-around-world">highest in the world</a>, but the treatment accorded to British animals is still appalling. To say that animals in the UK are ‘humanely’ treated would be false using <em>any</em> plausible understanding of that word.</p> <p>On some level we all know this. That is why we have seen the rise of a niche market in Britain and elsewhere that purports to provide ‘higher-welfare’ meat and animal products. But as various <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3489317/And-call-free-range-s-disturbing-images-16-000-free-range-hens-crammed-shed-fact-conditions-approved-RSPCA.html">exposes</a> of this niche market have shown, the promise of ‘humane’ treatment is never realised. We may give animals a bit more space; we may allow them to see a bit of sunlight; we may allow cows to spend a bit more time with their calves before they are taken away from them. But these changes are minor in their effects even when they are implemented.</p> <p>Animal welfare organizations campaign against the ‘abuse’ of animals. But even if all of these abuses stopped and all animals were treated in perfect accordance with applicable laws and regulations, the situation would still be terrible. Animals would still be killed without there being <em>any </em>necessity to do so, and even if we transformed animal agriculture in the direction of family farms there would still be a huge amount of morally-unjustified suffering and death.</p> <p>In fact, standards of animal welfare are not about animals at all; they are about <em>us.</em> These standards make us feel better about continuing to exploit animals. They were formulated at a time when most people thought that killing and eating animals was necessary for human health. No one can reasonably believe that any longer.</p> <p>Therefore, it is time to examine the moral justification for <a href="https://aeon.co/ideas/a-humanely-killed-animal-is-still-killed-and-thats-wrong">using</a> animals. As someone who maintains an <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/"><em>animal rights</em></a> position rather than an animal welfare position, it is my view that we cannot justify exploiting animals for <em>any</em> purpose, including biomedical research aimed at finding cures for serious human illnesses, any more than we can justify using humans whom we believe are cognitively ‘inferior’ for such a purpose.</p> <p>But even if you do not accept the rights position, the position that you probably do accept—that it is wrong to inflict <em>unnecessary </em>suffering and death on animals—makes it impossible for you to avoid the conclusion that the use of animals for any purpose that does not involve true compulsion or necessity, including the use of animals for food, clothing, and entertainment, must be ruled out. Any other position relegates animals to the category of things that have no moral value. We see this where fox hunting and other blood sports are involved; it’s time that we see it in other contexts too. &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rupert-read/how-whales-and-dolphins-can-teach-us-to-be-less-stupid">How whales and dolphins can teach us to be less stupid</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Gary Francione Care Culture Environment Sun, 07 Jan 2018 22:51:48 +0000 Gary Francione 115516 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How whales and dolphins can teach us to be less stupid https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rupert-read/how-whales-and-dolphins-can-teach-us-to-be-less-stupid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Learning from the other inhabitants of our ‘blue planet.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/rupertread.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Upside down dolphins and killer whale or orca. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rumpleteaser/5025633919">Flickr/Rumpleteaser</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="Default">For those tens of millions of us who have been watching the extraordinary ‘<a href="http://www.bbcearth.com/blueplanet2/">Blue Planet II</a>’, the final programme in the series (which looked at the human-caused threats facing the seas) may have come as both a wake-up call and a disappointment. Disappointment, at what we’ve done to this beautiful planet. And perhaps also, disappointment that the BBC didn’t look deeply enough into why these harms have happened.</p> <p class="Default">What emerges when we reflect more profoundly in this way?</p> <p class="Default">The background to what we’re doing to the oceans includes, crucially, this: that the world is possessed by the ideology of possessive individualism, which comes in different varieties: liberal, neoliberal and libertarian. This possession is utterly disastrous, at a moment when we need to think and act collectively, politically, and <em>as a civilisation</em>, not just as an aggregate of individuals.</p> <p class="Default">What would it mean to really take seriously our identity as a ‘we’, our belonging to each other and to our homes—<em>our</em> common home? To be <em>us</em>, rather than just a lot of ‘me’s?</p> <p class="Default">Central to such a transformation is the need to overcome the prejudice—the very idea—of the ‘individual.’ It is not persons who are the fundamental units of social existence, it’s embedded communities.</p> <p class="Default">We are born into community, and in this respect our political starting point should never be the fantasy of the ‘social contract.’ That fantasy, of the individual-as-person allegedly prior to society, dangerously gets in the way of the ultra-long time-scale of community. Individuals die. The community lives—unless it stupidly commits itself to death.</p> <p class="Default">We humans seem very far from understanding this at present. The situation is pretty desperate. Might we be able to learn from other animals who seem, in the ways they live, to have a better grasp of this crucial point? Could other animals possibly have anything to <em>teach</em> us? And even if they did, how could we understand it?</p> <p class="Default">Perhaps in the way indicated by cetologist <a href="https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/study/academic-staff/all-staff-members/volker-deecke.php">Volker Deecke</a>. “To appreciate other people’s cultures”, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Grandest-Lives-Eye-Whales/dp/1578051479">he once wrote</a>, “you have to shed your prejudices—strip yourself down to where you are just human and then build up your understanding. With [orcas]…you must strip all the way down to just being a mammal, then start from scratch trying to imagine how whales perceive and interpret the world. Imagine ‘clicking’ [focusing a sonar beam] on another member of your society.”</p> <p class="Default">Or consider Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell’s well-regarded book, <em><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo12789830.html">The cultural lives of whales and dolphins</a>,</em> with its audacious title about the <em>cultures</em> of these beings—really? Are they genuinely cultural? Roughly speaking, a culture exists if there are substantial specific traditions that are inherited by way of teaching, learning and emulation, rather than by way of genes.</p> <p class="Default">Whitehead and Rendell show that there’s little possibility of debate over this question when it comes to cetaceans like whales and dolphins, which are social species with their own cultures. Take a famous example: <a href="http://cetus.ucsd.edu/voicesinthesea_org/videos/videoHumpbackSong.html">Humpback Whales singing</a>. It’s now been shown that different groups of Humpbacks alter their songs in patterns that look much the same as human fashions. We are still somewhat far from understanding what these songs mean, but we already know enough to see that they’re far more clearly cultural than most bird songs.</p> <p class="Default">Or take this example, which was a clincher for me: the way that some groups of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_whale">killer whales or orcas</a> ‘go on holiday.’ They travel hundreds of miles to interesting, warm parts of the ocean, and hang out and play. They don’t eat or engage in sexual activity there. When they have had a good rest, they return, as it were, ‘to work.’</p> <p class="Default">We can probably understand all of these phenomena to some degree by rough analogy to ourselves. And it’s truly extraordinary that cetaceans have managed to maintain and develop their cultures when one considers the quite fantastic butchery that they’ve been subject to at human hands over the past few centuries. Imagine humanity, from a far lower initial base of numbers, being then taken down murderously to about a thousandth of its size, and what <em>that</em> would do to <em>our</em> cultures. This is what we have done to cetaceans. It is incredible in its barbarity, cruelty and stupidity. It is soul-rending. And yet, they manage to go on.</p> <p class="Default">Whitehead and Rendell suggest that another mark of culture, which we should look for in cetaceans to confirm that the adjective “cultural” is appropriately applied, is social stupidity—it is possible for cultural beings to be stupid or sub-optimal in ways that are not open to uncultural beings.</p> <p class="Default">This too we can understand at a suitably high level of abstraction by reference to ourselves—we are all too familiar with human stupidity at scale—but the point about such irrational or incoherent behaviour is that in its specificity it resists such understanding. Thus we’ll typically say of people who we describe as doing something stupid, “But that’s <em>stupid,</em> why are they doing it?”</p> <p class="Default">Stupid social behaviour like this is very unusual in the animal world, though more often than not, we’ll assume that animals lack the cognitive capacity to be capable either of relevant intelligence <em>or</em> stupidity. However, Whitehead and Rendell offer a powerful example of cetacean behaviour that could be considered stupid in this way: mass strandings.</p> <p class="Default">Some mass strandings can be explained by reference to pollution that makes the cetaceans in question ill; or by reference to the sonar with which our navies are filling our seas, indiscriminately and highly-destructively. But there are plenty of cases which don’t fit this kind of model, cases where one or some of the pod are beached ill or wounded while others are fit and healthy.</p> <p class="Default">It certainly appears stupid that the latter are unwilling to save themselves even when their conspecifics are doomed, <em>unless</em> we change the frame and, instead of asking repeatedly, ‘Why won’t this dolphin save itself, or even allow itself to be saved?’, we step back to think about whether the notion of ‘self’ in play here may be prejudicial. Perhaps the cetacean sense of self transcends what for us are divisions between individuals.</p> <p class="Default">To understand cetacean society, we have to let go of philosophical and ideological assumptions about the separateness of living beings from one another, assumptions which seem natural to us re human beings—though perhaps only because we are so deeply captive to an ideology of individualism: we don’t see it, for it’s the sea <em>we</em> swim in. Instead, we may have to contemplate the lived reality of what <em>we</em> would call ‘larger-than-self’ individual as indivisible identities.</p> <p class="Default">I’d argue that, if cetaceans were able to speak to us, and were part of a pod undergoing a mass stranding who we were seeking to lead back out to sea, they might say something like this: “You ask me to save <em>myself</em>. But you haven’t understood that it would be part of <em>myself</em> that I would be leaving on the beach if I did as you asked.” If we could understand <em>that</em>, then we might have a much better chance of survival on this planet ourselves. <em>That</em> would be ‘being <em>us</em>.’</p> <p class="Default">Then we might be better placed to think as a civilisation and to survive, for we would feel directly the reality of all the others who we are committing to suffering or death through our actions—and maybe then, we wouldn’t be able to go on doing these things.</p> <p class="Default">Cetaceans expand our sense of what is humanly possible<em> vis-a-vis</em> relationships and community. Or perhaps they exceed it. They indicate a spectrum along which we are far from reptiles (who have no interest in their own young, and will eat them if they come across them), but perhaps not quite as advanced as cetaceans.</p> <p class="Default">What kinds of beings do we need to become in order to survive the coming ecological devastation, and in order to avoid accelerating it beyond the range of civilisational survival? I would say: communitarian animals, <em>not</em> libertarians, liberals or neoliberals. I think cetaceans present us with an enormous clue as to what that could mean, if we are willing to hear them.</p> <p class="Default">Maybe reflecting deeply on how cetaceans <em>do</em> sometimes walk willingly into mass strandings might help <em>us</em> to figure out how not to walk into our own global suicide, because, in a way so wonderfully, they’re unable or unwilling to imagine leaving each other, as we see played out in the incredibly-moving way they actively resist being saved.</p> <p class="Default">But perhaps we’re only doing so because, unlike them, we find it too easy to imagine leaving each other, and in particular, leaving our children to their fates. Maybe we can learn to be more like cetaceans—who simply will not do this.</p> <p class="image-caption">Thanks to Silvia Panizza and Sam Earle for really helpful comments on earlier drafts of this piece.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charles-eisenstein/oceans-are-not-worth-24-trillion">The oceans are not worth $24 trillion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/margi-prideaux/when-tiger-has-no-value">When a tiger has no value</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Rupert Read Care Culture Economics Environment Tue, 19 Dec 2017 21:56:01 +0000 Rupert Read 115351 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Acknowledging the sentience of other species requires us to be vegan.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/shutterstock_273600215_3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/">www.shutterstock.com</a>/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-2479768p1.html">Ledmark</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In the second half of November 2017 there was a considerable amount of emotion and confusion surrounding the UK’s ‘<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/animal-sentience-brexit-vote-caroline-lucas-michael-gove-truth-fact-argument-a8072071.html">animal sentience’ bill</a>, which sought to include the notion that animals have feelings in post-Brexit animal welfare legislation. These reactions have been fuelled by the viral sharing of posts on social media claiming that Members of Parliament have rejected the idea that animals feel pain.</p> <p>In fact, MPs did not vote against this proposition. Rather, they rejected a motion that explicitly recognised animal sentience, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.vgJvBwvv9G#.giazm5zzEM">purportedly</a> so that the Brexit legislation can be passed with as few amendments as possible. In the ensuing public outrage, the Conservative Government issued a statement claiming that the UK will lead the way in animal protection policies.&nbsp;</p> <p>One could argue that UK legislation on animal welfare such as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/pdfs/ukpga_20060045_en.pdf">Animal Welfare Act of 2006&nbsp;</a>and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/2078/pdfs/uksi_20072078_en.pdf">Welfare of Farmed Animals Act of 2007</a> already recognises that animals are ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience">sentient</a>’—that they are subjectively aware, and have interests that are manifested as preferences, desires or wants. Anti-cruelty stipulations, of which a considerable number are enshrined in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_welfare_in_the_United_Kingdom">UK legislation</a>, are also premised on the assumption that animals are aware of their feelings and emotions. </p> <p>Critics <a href="https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/latest/details/-/articleName/2017_11_21_AnimalSentience">claim</a> that this body of legislation falls short because it doesn’t include fish, wild animals or laboratory animals; nor does it explicitly mention sentience. But the logic that underpins these laws clearly points in this direction. </p> <p>Not surprisingly perhaps, many people have been quick to assume that a government that seems to relish the gratuitous punishment of foxes and the poor would be inclined to reject the notion of animal sentience. But there is something deeper going on here, and it isn’t restricted to ‘virtue signaling’ as LSE journalism professor Charlie Becket has <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.nkjqQyqqjl#.yabqaxqqRV">suggested</a>—in other words, claiming to act ethically without&nbsp;<a href="https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/10/i-invented-virtue-signalling-now-its-taking-over-the-world/">actually doing anything virtuous.</a> </p> <p>“People want to demonstrate their values,” he is quoted as saying in <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.nkjqQyqqjl#.yabqaxqqRV">Buzzfeed</a>, and “What can you be more angry about than sentient animals?” Such anger is real, but the more important issue is that accepting the reality of animal sentience (even implicitly) directs us to a set of political positions and personal behaviours that reject eating meat: the belief that it is wrong to cause unnecessary harm to sentient beings requires us to be vegan.</p> <p>What does it mean to say that animals are sentient? A sentient being is one that can experience pain and distress. We cannot be cruel to rocks and trees and other non-sentient beings; we can only be cruel to those beings that are aware of their feelings and emotions.</p> <p>As the late Harvard biologist <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/A/bo3640817.html">Donald Griffin</a> once noted, such feelings necessitate a form of self-consciousness in their subject. Sentience also has an evolutionary function, since pain makes us aware of what is bad for us, while love allows the formation of strong social bonds that are necessary for wellbeing—or&nbsp; just plain survival. “Sentience is not an end in itself” as the animal ethicist <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1359_reg.html">Gary Francione</a> puts it, “it is a means to the end of staying alive.” </p> <p>If most of the animals we use in food production systems and other aspects of our lives are sentient, and if we care deeply about this as a moral matter, then two key questions must be answered.</p> <p>Firstly, even if animal welfare laws recognise that animals are sentient, can those laws ever protect the interests that sentient animals have? </p> <p>As Francione noted, because animals are seen and used as human property, animal welfare laws—even the arguably more progressive ones we have in the UK—don’t do much more than prohibit the kinds of gratuitous harm that are in any case economically inefficient. All such legislation comes up against this fundamental contradiction: while it may aim to protect the interests of sentient beings, it cannot do so in any meaningful way while those same beings are the property of another.</p> <p>Secondly, if we care morally about animal suffering, and we really do object to the infliction of ‘unnecessary’ harm, then we should ask ourselves what forms of harm count as ‘necessary.’ </p> <p>In terms of sheer numbers and scale, the most significant use of animals is for food. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/546546/slaughter-statsnotice-14jul16.pdf">It is estimated that&nbsp;over one billion animals are killed for food every year in the UK alone,</a> yet no one—nutritionists and medical experts included—maintains that this is ‘necessary.’ In fact, there is evidence that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/vegan-meat-life-expectancy-eggs-dairy-research-a7168036.html">vegans live longer lives than non-vegans</a>. Eating animals isn’t essential for good health or wellbeing; we do it because it is customary, and because we like the taste of their flesh. </p> <p>But are those good reasons to inflict suffering and death on a sentient being who, by definition, seeks to avoid pain and to continue to live?&nbsp;The fact of the matter is that there is only one way to respect the sentience of living beings, and that is by being vegan. </p> <p>Being vegan means refusing to treat animals as property, refusing to participate in their exploitation, and avoiding as far as is possible the degradation of the conditions required for their well-being. Veganism is sometimes painted as an extreme—even aggressive—life-style choice. The contrary is true. It’s actually a matter of respecting sentience and rejecting violence—values that so many people claim to share. </p> <p>Indeed, for those of us who profess to care about animal sentience, veganism is a moral imperative. If we are to avoid the charge of virtue-signaling, then respecting animal sentience requires us to be vegan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/man-s-weisskircher/rise-of-veganism-in-politics">The rise of veganism in politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-barnes/veganism-and-compassion">Veganism and compassion </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/samantha-earle/symbolic-summit">A symbolic summit</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Sam Earle Activism Care Economics Environment Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:14:16 +0000 Sam Earle 115076 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Myth and dystopia in the Anthropocene https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mark-kernan/Myth-and-dystopia-in-the-Anthropocene <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The sleeping ice giants of Antarctica are stirring. Will we wake up before they devour us?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MarkKernan2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Calving front of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/8741348325">Flickr/Etienne Berthier</a>, Université de Toulouse. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0.</a></p> <p>In the autumn of 1913, Carl Jung <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Memories-Dreams-Reflections-C-Jung/dp/0679723951">dreamt</a> of a monstrous flood of yellow waves cascading down from the North Sea through north-west Europe and down onto the Alps. Later in his apocalyptic dream-vision the swirling yellow seas turned blood red amidst “the floating rubble of civilisation, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Nine months later Jung had a similarly dramatic <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Memories-Dreams-Reflections-C-Jung/dp/0679723951">dream,</a> but this time with a different emphasis: “An Arctic cold wave descended and froze the land to ice...The whole of Lorraine and its canals frozen and the entire region totally deserted by human beings.” </p> <p>I thought of Jung’s pre-World War One visions when I <a href="https://robertscribbler.com/">read</a> of the stirring of the sleeping ice giants of East Antarctica earlier this year. According to <a href="http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/11/e1701681">recent research</a>, one of those glaciers—<a href="https://www.nature.com/news/antarctica-s-sleeping-ice-giant-could-wake-soon-1.21808">the Totten</a> (larger than the state of California)—is moving slowly towards the Southern Ocean as a result of global warming, with the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-remote-antarctica-is-so-important-in-a-warming-world-88197?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20December%204%202017%20-%2089377521&amp;utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20De">potential</a>&nbsp; to raise sea levels by 3.5 metres in future decades. </p> <p>This figure is a worst case scenario, but a sea level rise of even a fraction of that figure could lead to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/03/climate-change-report-us-government-contradicts-trump">extraordinarily worrying outcomes</a>. In the case of the Totten glacier, <a href="http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/12/e1601610">warm ocean water is seeping up from the bottom of the sea into the cavity beneath this vast ice giant</a>, which could destabilise the surrounding ice sheet even further. That’s important because East Antarctica has long been regarded as more stable than <a href="https://grist.org/article/antarctica-doomsday-glaciers-could-flood-coastal-cities/">West Antarctica</a> in terms of its melting ice.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Returning to Jung’s fascination with dreams, myths and metaphors, the ice and fire giants of Norse mythology are <a href="https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/giants/">described</a> as forces that oppose the orderly rule of the gods; they exist to create havoc, chaos and war, representing all the destructive aspects of nature. In Old Norse language they were called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B6tunn">Jötunn,</a> roughly translating as “devourers.”<em></em></p> <p>The symbolism of the devouring glacier is unmistakable. As these <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3VTgIPoGU">modern day ice giants melt</a>, they seek revenge for their deaths by attempting to devour those whose actions are causing their demise—our cities, our industries and us. In allegorical terms, it’s hard not to think of ice monsters (both real and metaphorical) as vengeful behemoths who have been prodded once too often by the myopic stupidity and greed of industrial capitalism, driven on by unsustainable levels of production and consumption, and it’s here that an understanding of myth and metaphor can be especially useful in helping us come to terms with the spectre of anthropogenic climate change.</p><p>The great mythic stories of pagan Europe, Buddhist and Hindu India, and Taoist China exist for a reason. These archaic traditional narratives understood that we have a tendency as humans to rely on metaphors, allusions and myths to unravel the unexplained and the mysterious, rather than relying solely on reason and logic. Human beings are instinctive and emotional creatures, <a href="http://www.auburn.edu/allynbaconanthology/documents/Icarus%20and%20Daedalus.pdf">and all great folk tales</a> have understood this fact.</p> <p>As moral parables, these mythic stories were designed to make sense of an unknown and unpredictable world; create sense out of disorder; and warn us of our collective and personal arrogance, <a href="https://twitter.com/DenisNaughten/status/865688269249540096">stupidity</a> and inattention. Across all cultures their themes are universal: revenge, <a href="http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/education/article/Oregon-State-professor-writes-updated-Warning-to-12353294.php">warnings of hubris,</a> ambivalent heroes, magical origin stories, suffering, bereavement<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/01/fossil-fuel-companies-undermining-paris-agreement-negotiations-report"> and greed</a>. They also talk of the unfairness and injustice of a sometimes callous universe, and—at least in the Greek tragedies—the ambivalence and <a href="http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa815f">indifference of the gods</a> to the suffering of ordinary mortals. </p> <p>Myths also warn us that the monsters are not just present externally, but also exist inside of us. Arjuna’s philosophical dialogue with Krishna at Kurukshetra in the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbYXaVr95M4">Bhagavad Gita</a>, for example, is not just the tale of a reluctant and despairing warrior prince unsure of his martial duties, but also a meditation on the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuRvBoLu4t0">moral and spiritual conflicts that take place within</a>. These conflicts have implications not just for our own souls, but also for those around us and the worlds that we create.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>In terms of climate change there are conflicts and monsters everywhere both internally and externally, yet we don’t seem able or willing to face them. The biggest monster of all is capitalism, particularly the neoliberal version that has been slowly hollowing out everything it touches like some giant blood sucking incubus over the last 40 years, devouring the social compact between people, natural resources and the future. Ultimately, it is rooted in <a href="https://www.icij.org/investigations/paradise-papers/development-dreams-stand-still-mining-money-moves-offshore/">rapacious greed</a> and the insatiable desire for power.</p> <p>The fire from this monster’s mouth is always the same: endless privatisation, <a href="https://www.iea.org/weo2017/">endless production</a>, <a href="http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-02-22/economic-growth-a-primer/">endless growth</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW2kBmkAk9I">endless consumption</a>. Among other <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7z61UZoppM&amp;feature=youtu.be">systemic failures</a>, the blind pursuit of profit has led us to a level of carbon dioxide emissions that’s now over 60 per cent higher than at the time of the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. The ideologically-dogmatic Pandora’s Box of <a href="http://climateandcapitalism.com/2013/06/23/pricing-carbon-a-failed-strategy-that-wont-save-the-climate/">carbon trading</a>, <a href="http://www.geoengineeringmonitor.org/2016/10/the-trouble-with-negative-emissions/">Dr Strangelove geoengineering fixes</a> and other <a href="http://www.etcgroup.org/content/trump-administration-inflates-geoengineers-balloon">myopic, time-wasting</a> “market solutions” dreamt up since then to hold back the inexorable tide of rising temperatures certainly won’t save us. &nbsp;</p> <p>Nevertheless, the much-lauded <a href="http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php">Paris climate agreement of 2015</a> promises to “[hold] the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C” in the future by utilising just these technocratic solutions: 111 out of 116 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models that chart the economically optimal paths to&nbsp; 2°C <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skilmEHMsMc">assume negative emissions</a>. </p> <p>In effect we are hedging our bets on <a href="http://e360.yale.edu/features/can_pulling_carbon_from_air_make_a_difference_on_climate">technologies that are supposed to suck out hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere in the future</a> (none of which have been tried at scale), whilst doing little to curb the profligate, fossil-fuel based consumer cultures that lie at the root of the problem.&nbsp; </p> <p>In October 2017, <a href="http://www.thejournal.ie/hurricane-ophelia-2-3648077-Oct2017/">Storm Ophelia </a>&nbsp;battered the south and west coast of Ireland where I live. The night before the storm I tracked it online. It looked like a swirling Technicolor Dervish in slow motion, crawling up past Portugal and France as it headed north. The next morning, a few hours before the storm made landfall, I went out to feel the atmosphere. I live near a large wooded area not far from the Atlantic coast, and the trees were already swaying violently, with thousands of birds flying around chaotically in the sky, perhaps instinctively sensing the coming of the storm. </p> <p>In two minds, I drove the short distance to the coast. The sky had a strange reddish-orange colour and felt dark and foreboding. Branches and house-roof slates were already falling off, and I sensed that—as much as I wanted to experience the wild elements of nature—the situation could become much more dangerous very quickly. The road made me feel I was entering a magnetic vortex pulling me towards the ocean. </p> <p>Sideways winds buffeted my car ferociously, with gusts of 156 kilometres per hour recorded a few kilometres away. As people say in the west of Ireland, the waves resembled a horde of giant white horses stampeding violently towards the land. An old fisherman I’d seen on previous visits was already there; “Never seen anything like this before,” he told me, “this feels like something different.” </p> <p>In 2017, <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23205-major-methane-release-is-almost-inevitable/">the IPCC concluded</a> that “The precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger abrupt and irreversible change remain uncertain, but the risk associated with crossing such thresholds increase with rising temperature.” The language is dry, antiseptic and clinical, but the harbingers of permanent climate change are clear. </p> <p>The IPCC tells us that we need a fundamental departure from ‘business as usual’ to confront this situation; otherwise anthropogenic global warming will get much worse, <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23205-major-methane-release-is-almost-inevitable/">possibly much sooner than we think</a>. In the Soviet Union, cynics purportedly said that it’s the future which is certain; it’s only the past that is unpredictable. Climate change increasingly feels the same. In which case, what could encourage us to take the necessary action?</p> <p>C<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Memories-Dreams-Reflections-C-Jung/dp/0679723951">arl Jung believed</a> that myths resonate deeply within our unconscious as “the deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity.” Because they are universal, we all have access to them across time and space. Perhaps the appeal of these myths to our emotions, and the inner wisdom they offer, might finally wake us from our <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/in-the-withdrawal-from-the-paris-climate-agreement-the-koch-brothers-campaign-becomes-overt">induced inertia</a> on climate change instead of relying on yet more reams of data and statistics.</p> <p>The great mythic stories teach us that it is unwise to commit crimes against the gods. The arrogant <a href="https://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/the-myth-of-sisyphus/">Sisyphus</a>, for example, who always managed to elude his fate, was finally condemned to push his rock to the top of the hill for all eternity by Hades, only for it to roll all the way down again each time.&nbsp; </p> <p>In the 21st century, Sisyphus’s arrogance represents the myopic stupidity of global laissez faire capitalism as it drives the world on towards climate chaos. We are all susceptible to hubris, of course; we’re always pushing the rock up the hill, expecting redemption to follow. But, as it says in the <a href="https://books.google.ie/books?id=IjXBDQAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT28&amp;lpg=PT28&amp;dq=blind+led+by+the+blind+upanishads&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=JZA18UpfaC&amp;sig=OJ1-d9X79Erl7noLqKExHMsLea0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiVu_jXx_DXAhVLC8AKHSc0CBMQ6AEIYzAL#v=onepage&amp;q=blind%20led%20by%20the%20blind">Upanishads</a>, we must not be “like fools dwelling in ignorance...like the blind led by the blind.”&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charlotte-du-cann/under-volcano">Under the volcano</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/mark-kernan/in-praise-of-melancholia">In praise of melancholia</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation climate change Mark Kernan Culture Environment Tue, 05 Dec 2017 18:14:07 +0000 Mark Kernan 115075 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When you get a front door, remember to leave it open https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sophie-king/when-you-get-front-door-remember-to-leave-it-open <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A Manchester-South Africa exchange reveals striking similarities in the dynamics of urban inequality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sophie King.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members of Mums Mart, Lower Broughton Life and the South African Alliance in South Africa, July 2017. Copyright: Sophie King. All rights reserved.</p> <p>“It’s all about trust” said Marie Hampshire, two days into a week-long community exchange with members of the <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/">South African Alliance</a> in July 2017, a grassroots movement of women-led savings schemes affiliated to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slum_Dwellers_International">Slum/Shack Dwellers International</a> or SDI. Marie is a member of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1648057975506363/">Mums Mart</a>, a women’s group from Benchill in the British city of Manchester that brings low-income families together around food, monthly markets and, most recently, a new kind of savings scheme. </p> <p>Each member saves small amounts with the support of their local group, and in the process of coming together the group learns about their needs and challenges and tries to respond collectively. Mums Mart was introduced to savings-based organising after meeting members of the Alliance in Manchester <a href="http://blog.gdi.manchester.ac.uk/seeing-south-international-exchange-south-african-shelter-activists/">a year earlier</a>. Now, other groups in the city are starting to explore how women’s savings federations could rebuild trust and solidarity in their neighbourhoods.</p> <p>Joanne Inglis is the Chair of a new association called <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/338834216548969/">Lower Broughton Life</a>, one of these groups that is based in another part of Greater Manchester called Salford. After accompanying members of the South African <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/about/fedup/">Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor</a> (FEDUP) on door-to-door visits and listening to plans for a new housing development in Cape Town by the <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/about/isn/">Informal Settlement Network</a> (another partner in the Alliance), she urged her hosts: “when you get a front door remember to leave it open.” </p> <p>Joanne was reflecting on how segregated life has become on estates like hers, where people look after their own affairs and many of the old spaces for communal life have closed down. She was struck that—while the signs of poverty and inequality in South Africa are only too visible in the townships and settlements she visited—poverty in the UK is often hidden from view: “our houses can look the same on the outside,” she said, “but it’s what’s on the inside that’s different.” </p> <p>However, in other ways there are striking similarities between the dynamics of inequality and deprivation in both countries’ cities.&nbsp; All are dealing with sharply rising property prices which push those on lower incomes further away from the city centre, and the concentration of deprivation in particular neighbourhoods which can manifest in gang-related crime and the absence of opportunities for young people. Unequal access to decisions on how public services are delivered perpetuates the disadvantages that low-income people have to deal with on a day to day basis. </p><iframe width="460" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WgXPjZ3Mudc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Just as importantly, the different groups were also bound together by their experiences of strength and struggle as women and mothers regardless of where they live.<em> </em>During their visit to the UK, the South Africans were shocked to discover homeless people living in tents in the centre of one of the richest cities in the world, which gave rise to questions about the wisdom of looking to the global North for pathways to collective well-being. </p> <p>For their part, members of Mums Mart and Lower Broughton Life reflected repeatedly on people’s pride and self-organisation despite living in highly challenging circumstances in South Africa. Both gained a fresh perspective on the possibilities of organising collectively in response to poverty.</p> <p>As a member of FEDUP attested (echoing Marie), “the only thing that makes a person active is when you have trust and belief.” The members of the groups also gained confidence in one another as joint travellers on a journey of discovery—watching each other learn, adapt and embrace the experience (including some fantastic ululations!). People saw that some of the South African ideas might just work in Greater Manchester, and that they might be the ones to make this happen. </p> <p>The trust they gained in South Africa by staying in people’s homes, accompanying them in their work and being part of their lives (even for a short time) meant that they were comfortable enough to share their doubts and fears—and to be open to the doubts and fears of their hosts in return. As Rose Molokoane from SDI shared:</p> <blockquote><p>“We are still doubting ourselves saying how can we keep driving this forward…it’s too big for us…especially because we are informal but the outside world wants to see us being formal. Most of our members are not educated; you have to create enough time and enough space to educate people about what you are.”</p></blockquote> <p>Rose also explained the significance for the older black South African activists of sharing their homes and their organising tools with white British women after living through apartheid, and as women continuing to struggle for justice in a highly segregated society. </p> <p>The exchanges seem to have come at a critical time for the British participants. Combined with rising living costs, public service cuts and welfare sanctions, low-paid work, under-employment and unemployment are fostering severe precarity in post-industrial inner-city neighbourhoods. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/16/child-poverty-in-uk-at-highest-level-since-2010-official-figures-show">Thirty per cent of British children (and one quarter of children in Salford) are now classified as living below the poverty line</a>, with two thirds living in families with working parents. </p> <p>Manchester looks set to become the next beacon of social cleansing after London, with luxury high rise flats and the privatisation of the city centre making it increasingly difficult for individuals and families on low-incomes to find affordable accommodation. People in low-income areas around the edges of the central business district live in constant fear of relocation as they watch rents skyrocket in the plush developments that now surround their estates.</p> <p>In many of the city’s low-income neighbourhoods, social and economic changes and cuts in public sector funding mean that people don’t come together in the ways they used to through <a href="http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/more-twenty-greater-manchester-churches-12457923">faith</a>-, <a href="http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/story/?id=1616">place-</a> or <a href="https://escarpmentpress.org/globallabour/article/view/1073/1129">work-</a>based forms of voluntary association. Libraries, pubs and community centres have closed down, making it almost impossible in some areas for groups to find somewhere to congregate together regularly. Rising living costs and cuts in benefits are pushing people towards pay-day loans and credit-based living, leaving them drowning under the burden of debts they struggle to repay. </p> <p>The surge in support for the British Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (which is particularly visible in urban centres) suggests that increasing numbers of city-dwellers believe it is indeed, ‘<a href="https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/872113372216475649">time for a change</a>.’ But how will low-income communities organize themselves and enter into movements ‘<a href="http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/Labour%20Manifesto%202017.pdf">for the many and not the few</a>’ in the years to come? That’s where networks like SDI can play an important role by inspiring new forms of mobilisation, and by linking local action into international networks for learning, advocacy and mutual support. </p> <p>The savings groups they nurture are encouraged to federate, enabling them to have more influence over city and national governments in ways that are grounded in real experience. Members survey, map and profile their neighbourhoods, turning invisible challenges into concrete evidence and <a href="http://sasdialliance.org.za/what-we-do/community-based-planning/">locally-proposed solutions</a>. The South African Alliance, for example, has successfully advocated for a more progressive housing policy that has led to over 15,000 permanent new, affordable homes being constructed. </p> <p>The SDI network used to have members in 37 countries. Thanks to a group of mums from Manchester, it may soon be 38.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/hanna-brooks-olsen/if-you-ve-never-lived-in-poverty-stop-telling-poor-people-what-the">If you’ve never lived in poverty, stop telling poor people what they should do</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation World Forum for Democracy 2017 Sophie King Activism Economics Environment Tue, 26 Sep 2017 22:18:07 +0000 Sophie King 113577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Under the volcano https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/charlotte-du-cann/under-volcano <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A reflection on the Dark Mountain Project—testimony, protest art and praise song of a different kind.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Charlotteducann1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Cover of Walking on Lava. ‘Where from? Where to?’ Mount Patterson from the Wakupit Range, Alberta, Canada by Garrett Hupe. Copyright: Garrett Hupe. All rights reserved.</p> <p>On a mountain in Wales in the teeming rain, we sit in a yurt packed with people, the five of us, on hay bales, dressed in black suits and bowler hats. One of us has a pack of cards up his sleeve, another an African folktale, another a guitar and <a href="http://www.nickdrake.com/time_has_told_me_lyrics.html">a song by Nick Drake</a> from the 1970s. I have oak leaves in my hatband to signify an instruction circa 600 BC from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumaean_Sibyl">Sibyl</a> who once guarded the door to the Underworld in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phlegraean_Fields">‘Campi &nbsp;Flegrei’</a> outside Naples.</p> <p>A link to the pre-patriarchal ‘uncivilised’ world, she guides a lineage of poets to the territory under the volcano where all deep transformations take place:<a href="https://www.faber.co.uk/shop/poetry/9780571327317-aeneid-book-vi.html"> Virgil,</a> <a href="http://grantabooks.com/The-Inferno-Of-Dante-Alighieri">Dante, </a><span><a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land-56d227a99ddeb">T.S. Eliot</a>,</span> <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Man">Mary Shelley,</a> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/04/100-best-novels-no-85-the-bell-jar-sylvia-plath">Sylvia Plath.</a> Denied immortal youth by the autocratic Apollo, her desiccated body kept in a jar, only her voice is still left for us to follow.</p> <p>One of us, Dougie, stands up and invites the audience to take part in a demonstration of two figures from the ancient world: one is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronos">Chronos</a>, the inexorable march of linear time; the other is a young man with a lock of hair over his forehead, who intervenes and interrupts him. His name is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairos">Kairos</a>, and sometimes ‘Possibility.’</p> <p>We’re giving a performance called ‘Testaments of Deep Time’ to introduce the work of <a href="http://dark-mountain.net/">The Dark Mountain Project</a>—itself an intervention into the linear narrative about ecological and social calamity.&nbsp;As the rational world attempts to control the consequences of its dominant storyline, cracks have begun to appear.</p> <p>Through those cracks, archaic, indigenous knowledge, hidden for safekeeping against Roman and other empires, slips through, and fleeting glimpses of another future reveals itself.</p> <p>This encounter, we know, is what changes everything.</p> <p>Dark Mountain was launched in 2009 to challenge the contemporary lack of response by culture makers to ecological overshoot in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Its <a href="http://dark-mountain.net/about/manifesto/">manifesto</a> was called simply <em>Uncivilisation.</em></p> <p>Many people picked up this gauntlet, recognising it, not as a challenge to a duel but as an invitation to explore a territory yet unmapped. This invitation has led to collaborations with writers, musicians and artists; 12 books and five festivals; a year-long theatre workshop in Sweden; teaching encounters in the mountains of Spain and the moors of the West Country; and performances built around the celebrations of the solar year by the River Thames and the ancestral wilderness of Scotland—and now in Wales.</p> <p>What distinguishes Dark Mountain from grassroots Earth-defending organisations and progressive movements is that it is a creative response to prevailing crises—and lacks an evangelical agenda to fix them. The project’s manifesto can act as a frame, but there is no drive to act in the space that frame creates—no pressure to shut down power stations or convince your neighbour to stop flying, or your community to reduce its carbon emissions.</p> <p>Instead, it provides a space that has room and time in it, where the 24/7 broadcast of progress can be switched off and other voices apart from the mainstream can be heard; it gives an opportunity to look at things differently, and for other slower realisations to occur—for interactions, connections and deep thought as a reader, listener or contributor.</p> <p>‘Are you against environmental activism?’ I was asked recently by a television researcher. ‘No,’ I said ‘We’re not against anything. It’s a conversation not an argument. We’re a creative network.’</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Charlotte ducann3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">‘Extinction Cabinet’ by Richard Kahn and Nicholas Selesnick from ‘Truppe Fledermaus: 100 Stories from a Drowned World.’ Copyright: Richard Kahn and Nicholas Selesnick. All rights reserved</p><blockquote><p>‘If this manifesto has travelled further than we imagined, one explanation is that it has helped people to get their bearings in a world where the thin, shiny surface of prosperity has cracked. Trying to make sense of our own experience it seems that we put words to a feeling that others shared... a feeling that there is no way through the mess we find ourselves that doesn’t involve facing the darkness, and being honest about the scale of the unravelling that is under way, and the uncertainty as to where it will end. A feeling that it is time to look down.’ &nbsp;Dougald Hine from the Introduction to the 2014 edition of <em>Uncivilisation</em>.</p></blockquote><p>This rallying point, the agreement to ‘look down’ and acknowledge that we sit on a crater’s edge rather than a firm foundation, not only creates a different literature but also nurtures a very different feeling towards that literature and those who write it. If there is one shared response to the contacts made by people towards the project it is the sense of relief and comradeship in a world where a possible eruption of the status quo is manifestly denied.</p><p>However there is no mantra or belief system to take refuge in here. &nbsp;Dark Mountain is a collective work-in-progress, initiated by ‘recovering journalists’ disillusioned by the green movement and its timid approaches toward change. It doesn’t offer a road map for a sustainable future but can offer you a place by the fire, an opportunity to dig beneath the distracting surface of industrial late capitalism; to produce work that asks the question, ‘how can we reclaim the voice and body of ourselves that has been suppressed by civilisation for millennia.&nbsp;The deadline is never far away.</p><p>The fact is we all know that “the boat is leaking and the captain lied” <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lin-a2lTelg">as Leonard Cohen once sang</a>; we know the statistics about climate change and acidified oceans and decapitated mountains. The news that the numbers of kittiwakes on St Kilda have plummeted or that the ancient trees of Sheffield have been felled pains us. We don’t numb out that pain, nor do we indulge it in the see-saw of hope and despair.</p><p>We know the Earth is not an abstract concept of environment or ‘nature’ and requires a very different relationship, one that wrests the material of life out of the hands of the ‘quants’ and economists and gives it due respect. The question we face is always: what do you do when you know, when you allow yourself to see and feel what is shut out by the broadcast of progress? You can’t keep writing conventional love stories and detective novels, hoping that Hollywood will get in touch.</p><p>What kind of literature and art does this awareness produce? &nbsp;A diverse body of work that does not fit neatly into a monocultural, corporate bookshelf or gallery wall. Inspired by the inhumanist poetry of <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/robinson-jeffers">Robinson Jeffers</a>, its voices do not come out of a narcissistic and alienated highbrow culture, discussed by the chattering classes of Boston or London, but from a library of stones, from the desert and forest hermitage, from conversations around convivial fires.</p><p>This space is existentialist, ringed as it is by urgent questions about what kind of human being can be so numb or so dumb in the face of catastrophe; its tone is elegiac rather than triumphant. In many ways it returns the artist and writer to their original function, as people who push the edge and keep the door of possibility open. People who embody and stand by their words, for whom those fiery brimstone fields are home.</p><p>It’s in this spirit that we’ve created a new work called <a href="http://shop.dark-mountain.net/index.php?route=product/product&amp;product_id=92"><em>Walking on Lava</em></a>, taken from our first ten hardback journals as a showcase introduction. Following their shape it is made of work of contrasting voices and genres—poetry, flash fiction, essays, artworks, photography and interviews—and structured around the manifesto’s ‘<a href="http://dark-mountain.net/about/manifesto/">Eight Principles of Uncivilisation</a>.’</p><p>Here are Robert Leaver crawling along Broadway in New York on his hands and knees; Christos Galanis shooting a thrift store copy of the <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliad">Iliad</a> </em>in the New Mexico desert; and Emily Laurens sweeping the brown sands of the Welsh peninsula in honour of the disappeared passenger pigeon and the millions of species now becoming extinct—testimony, encounter, protest art and praise song of a different kind.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Charlotte ducann2.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Writer and artist Robert Leaver in his performance ‘Crawling Home’ in New York. Photo by Larrey Fessenden. Copyright: Robert Leaver and Larrey Fessenden. All rights reserved</p><blockquote><p>‘I imagine the people I have seen on Broadway, and maybe the world over, feeling a weight on their backs, in their hearts and souls. Maybe this weight is the burden on modern life, the burden on being conscious in a world gone mad. Crawling seemed to be a way to maybe show compassion or solidarity, to make a metaphor of this collective burden we all share. Instead of crawling I could have curled up in a foetal position in perfectly chosen locations. But this crawl was never about surrendering. I went down and kept moving, kept pressing on as so many humans are doing every day. The idea has always been to keep on, to get through this journey, to make it home safe and sound.’ Robert Leaver<em> – Crawling Home</em>.</p></blockquote><p>What happens when you get bitten by a squirrel, or when you return to your homeland now crawling with bulldozers and fracking trucks? When the story you were told by your teachers and parents is broken, when the Earth makes contact with you, you may stumble upon art with a different kind of attention: a feral stew of roots and road killed pheasant in the highlands of Scotland, a dreaming woman carrying a horse in her womb in Cornwall, a meditation on graphite in the winter-wet Cumbrian hills.</p><p>Kairos, the <a href="http://www.theoi.com/greek-mythology/personifications.html">daemon</a> of opportunity, had a shaved head, meaning that you had to grasp the moment that faced you, for once the light-footed one had disappeared the chance to see in all-at-once-time had also gone also. There are only so many opportunities to sense the volcano that rumbles beneath us. Rarely do we find the way to the cave where the Sibyl sits, or pay heed to those who struggle to return from the darkness of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Styx">Stygian</a> lake.</p><p>We live, as <a href="https://www.marshallmcluhan.com/">Marshall McLuhan</a> once noted, in a third world war of narratives, of competing controlled ways of perceiving the world, all of them hostile to people and planet. In the quiet, in the depths, in the wild places, in the struggle of our hearts, writers and artists—those who have always kept a true link to the wider, wilder world—are forging another story. We hope that <em>Walking on Lava</em> will show how some of that new collective tale is unfolding.</p><p><strong><em><span><a href="http://shop.dark-mountain.net/index.php?route=product/product&amp;product_id=92">Walking on Lava – Selected Work for Uncivilised Times</a></span></em><em> </em>is edited by Charlotte Du Cann, Dougald Hine, Nick Hunt and Paul Kingsnorth and published by <a href="https://www.chelseagreen.com/science-nature-environment/walking-on-lava">Chelsea Green</a>.</strong>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-kingsnorth/age-of-endings">The age of endings</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/veena-vasista/wise-fools-for-love-arts-activism-and-social-transformation">Wise fools for love? Arts activism and social transformation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Charlotte Du Cann Activism Culture Environment Mon, 11 Sep 2017 04:30:00 +0000 Charlotte Du Cann 113142 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sacred activism: the story of Tamera https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘We all were indigenous once. We have been waiting for you. Welcome back.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Standard"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Leila Dregger.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants in the <em>Defend the Sacred</em> gathering on Odeceixe beach in Portugal, August 12 2017. Credit: Copyright Tamera Institute. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">There are people who think that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praia_de_Odeceixe_Mar">Odeceixe</a> is the most beautiful beach in the world. Nature has created a pearl in southern Portugal, a sandbank between the green meanders of the Seixe River and the blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Each day in summer, the sandbank is flooded with tourists, and on this particular day—August 12 2017—they expect nothing more spectactular than sunscreen, surfboards and sandcastles. They don´t yet know it, but today they will be part of a prayer. A widely visible prayer, formed with their bodies to protect the coastline from oil drilling by national and international corporations</p> <p class="WW-Standard">From early morning, a part of the beach is being separated, and people are working hard in the sun, forming a giant image in the sand. In the afternoon buses arrive, full with hundreds of indigenous elders from different cultures, activists, trade unionists, shamans from Latin America, Palestinians and Israelis arm in arm, musicians, and lots of young people.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“We know the world stood with us, so we come to stand with you,” a powerful mature woman says into a microphone. It is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaDonna_Brave_Bull_Allard">LaDonna Brave Bull Allard</a>, one of the initiators of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_Rock_Indian_Reservation">Standing Rock</a> struggles. A young man adds, “Water is life. Water is sacred. Life is sacred. We must protect the very things that our lives depend on. For our NO to succeed, we have to know what we say YES to.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">This gathering—called <em>Defend the Sacred</em><em>—</em>is being hosted at <a href="https://www.tamera.org/index.html">Tamera</a>, a community dedicated to the task of finding alternatives that are both visionary and concrete, strongly rooted in its own place but working with activists from the wider region and across the global South. Tamera had invited activists to reflect on their experience from Standing Rock, <a href="https://sumudcamp.org/">Sumud Freedom Camp</a> in Palestine, the <a href="http://www.cdpsanjose.org/">peace village San José de Apartadó</a> in Colombia, and many others from around the world who actively protect what is sacred to them, whether water, nature, human rights or freedom. The idea of the gathering was to envision a global community of sacred activism and discuss how this movement could continue and succeed.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Situated a little more than an hour from Odeceixe, <a href="http://www.tamera.org/">Tamera</a> is an international peace research community of nearly 200 people from many different countries and age groups. The community was founded in 1978 in Germany and moved to Portugal in 1995. Its founders—the sociologist and psychoanalyst <a href="http://www.dieter-duhm.com/">Dieter Duhm</a> and the theologist and peace ambassador <a href="http://www.sabine-lichtenfels.com/">Sabine Lichtenfels</a>—intended to create a holistic model for a peaceful society.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“The issues of our time are so interwoven and so closely linked to each other,” <a href="https://www.tamera.org/basic-thoughts/community-research">wrote Duhm</a>, “that they cannot be solved individually. It will only be possible to carry out the tasks for the future on the basis of a well functioning community.” In his view, humanity has separated itself from the universal powers of life. In order to survive we need to reconnect, a process Duhm calls “human revolution.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“Trust is the most original and most efficient of all healing forces,” he continues, “The very first task of a community is therefore to create trust among the participants.” That’s why Tamera invests such large amounts of time, skills and care in building trust and truth among their members.</p> <p>On a daily basis they meet to reveal what they think and feel, to envision their common aims, to provide mutual support and to create transparency. This daily “Forum” is a crucial part of the community, without which it would not have survived for so many years. In all its activities, Tamera follows a plan of what it calls “<a href="https://www.tamera.org/basic-thoughts/the-healing-biotopes-plan/">global healing biotopes</a>”—model communities with autonomy over water, food and energy but strong regional and global linkages, and connected to the divine forces of life in everything.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Arriving in Tamera in summer after driving through a landscape threatened by desertification and woodfires is like arriving at an oasis. Bodies of water fill the valleys, surrounded by terraces with gardens and fruit orchards. Water has been a core topic in Tamera from the beginning. Under the guidance of mountain farmer and ecological visionary <a href="http://www.seppholzer.at/">Sepp Holzer</a>, Tamera created a natural ‘Water Retention Landscape’—a series of interwoven ponds, lakes and orchards designed to slow down rainwater runoff and give it time to filter deep down so the soil is fertile throughout the year. Other work focuses on decentralized energy solutions, holistic healing, alternative education, permaculture, biologic building and communication and cooperation with animals and plants.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">However the most crucial element of Tamera´s work is love, the core work of peace. “There will be no peace in the world as long as there is war between the genders” <a href="http://sabine-lichtenfels.com/en/projects/global-love-school/">says co-founder</a> Lichtenfels, “Our intention is to create a field for love free from fear. This also includes sexual love.” Every choice that somebody makes in Tamera—be it a monogamous, polyamorous or celibate lifestyle—is supported by the rest of the community so long as it is based on mutual respect and inner truth.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Sexuality and love are regarded as sacred forces which we cannot own. “Also, we cannot possess our partner", <a href="https://youtu.be/v7stErL3CtE">says Vera Kleinhammes</a>, a mother of two children. “Isn´t it strange how many couples find it normal to lie to each other on what they really feel or to whom they are attracted? But without truth, love cannot grow.” In Tamera, partnership and free love don´t exclude each other, they need each other. “However, I would not dare to try this outside of community.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">This approach found resonance among the participants at the gathering. Time and again, activists have faced internal conflicts and collapse in their communities and protest actions around the topics of jealousy, the suppression of women, and other gender topics. Social transparency on love and women’s empowerment are part of the remedy for these conflicts.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">As <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toda_people">Vassamalli Kurtaz</a> shared—a representative from the indigenous <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toda_people">Todas</a> tribe in India —“Before our communities were colonized, married women could choose one or two other sexual lovers if they wished. It was accepted by tradition also by their husbands. Now with having so many men without the chance to have sex we have tensions arising in the community. Colonization and Christianity harmed our lifestyle and the nature that we live from. We need to return to our traditions.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard"><a href="http://womanstandsshining.strikingly.com/">Pat McCabe</a> from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo">Diné (Navajo) Nation</a> added this: “According to our traditions, we look for balance and healing between fire and water, light and dark, the feminine and the masculine. I am impressed that this community works so deeply on this balance too. It is a profound experience to find a place in Europe which gives such a strong resonance to positions that have been crucial in indigenous cultures. I leave this place with the feeling that the wounds of colonizations can heal.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">At the gathering, the activists developed a sense of global community, envisioning how the movement for defending the sacred that began at Standing Rock could continue, supported by the emergence of decentralized alternatives to capitalism. As <a href="https://firstvoicesindigenousradio.org/node/7">Tiokasin Ghosthorse</a>&nbsp;said, a representative of the <a href="https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheyenne_River_Reservation">Cheyenne River Nation</a>, “We all were indigenous once. We have been waiting for you. Welcome back.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Meanwhile at the beach, the renowned activist and artist <a href="http://www.creativeresistance.org/artists/john-quigley/">John Quigley</a> had prepared an image that we will form with our bodies in the sand, filmed from the air by drones so that we can send it out to the world as a strong declaration of our will. The image consists of a huge dolphin and the words: <a href="https://youtu.be/0damGwctIi4">“Nao ao furo (‘no to the oil drill’)—Defend &nbsp;the Sacred</a>.”</p> <p class="WW-Standard">We line up to enter the image, passing by a place of sacred water kept by Lichtenfels and a place of sacred fire kept by LaDonna Brave Bull. Everyone is led to a place in one of the letters of the declaration or—in my case—as part of the dolphin´s snout.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">Soon it becomes clear: the image is too big to fill with the 400 or so people that have come from Tamera and the rest of the region, even with all the other activists. We need at least double. What to do? Do we have to give up like so many times before?</p> <p class="WW-Standard">“Be attractive” shouts Quigley, “attract people to join us.” And we do. We shout and sing and call the tourists on the beach to help us fill the image. They watch, but hesitate. After all it is their holiday. But then they come. Parents being pulled in by their kids. Couples and groups of friends, surfers and sunbathers leaving behind their daily business and joining in, happy and proud to be part of something bigger, each one being cheered on by the activists.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">And then we make it! In the end we are nearly 1,000 people. The last to join is <a href="http://sleepinglions.com/ordinary-heroes/13-year-old-takota-iron-eyes-is-standing-up-to-the-dakota-access-">Takota Iron Eyes</a>, aged 13, a Sioux youth leader from Standing Rock who forms the eye of the dolphin together with other teenagers.</p> <p class="WW-Standard">When she starts singing, the crowd becomes silent. Something resonates very deeply in me. It feels like a transformation point in my internal belief system. We really made it. And if we can be successful here then surely we can do anything—stop the oil drilling, change the track of history, and create peace on the earth.</p> <p class="image-caption">For more about Tamera click <a href="http://www.tamera.org/">here</a> and <a href="http://defendthesacred.tamera.org/">here</a>. </p> <p class="WW-Standard">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/are-eco-versities-future-for-higher-education">Are eco-versities the future for higher education?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Intentional communities Leila Dregger Transformative nonviolence Activism Culture Environment Love and Spirituality Mon, 04 Sep 2017 23:20:01 +0000 Leila Dregger 113063 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Strengthening our ecological imagination https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To see differently is to live differently, and living differently is the key to avoiding environmental crisis.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LeslieDavenport.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/96043955@N05/15190222775">Flickr/Ryan Hickox</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Imagination is often misunderstood, defined as a fanciful flight away from reality—and sometimes it is. But there is another kind of imagination, one that is based on deep inner listening, with a quality of calm presence and a curious, open-minded focus. When ideas, images or symbols arise into that kind of spacious awareness, imagination is tapping into a source of wisdom, a type of intuition that puts us in touch with <em>more</em> of reality, not less.</p> <p>When we temporarily quiet the cognitive activity of the mind to allow these imaginative functions to be activated, it’s easier to recognize the living connections that exist between ourselves<em> </em>and all other forms of life. I call this felt-sense of connection our ‘<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Emotional-Resiliency-Era-Climate-Change/dp/1785927191/ref=mt_paperback?_encoding=UTF8&amp;me=">ecological imagination</a>,’ because it has the capacity to liberate distorted beliefs about our control over nature and our separation from the natural world. It’s these beliefs that unconsciously guide our lives, directly contributing to our current environmental crisis.</p> <p>Cultivating ecological imagination has a powerful role to play at this pivotal time in human history, as scientists around the world continue to report the accelerating impacts of climate change. Imagination is a gateway to wisdom, and wisdom is an essential foundation for right action, an internal shift that can steer us towards eco-harmonious living. The stakes have never been higher. <a href="https://storyoftheuniverse.org/about/">Cosmologist Brian Swimme</a> summarizes the challenge we face like this:</p> <blockquote><p>“We are living on the planet at the time when the evolutionary dynamics are changing. And the simple way of saying it is that they’re changing from genetic determination to cultural determination…That is an amazing new power that’s taking place on the planet. We, then, have to confront the fact that this planet is evolving according to our decisions…Our responsibility is to structure the human presence on the planet so the fundamental conditions of life are strong and vibrant, and carry into the future.”</p></blockquote> <p>As Swimme suggests, every discipline must undergo its own transformation in order to align with this new reality—engineering, parenting, education, healthcare, psychology and farming. This requires a reshaping of our ethics towards an interspecies awareness, and a global perspective on problems and solutions. Our enjoyment of our individual freedoms can no longer be severed from their impact on the whole web of life.</p> <p>One core aspect of this challenge is that we cannot use our most familiar tools and approaches to accomplish the transformations that are necessary. The insight once attributed to <a href="http://einstein.biz/">Albert Einstein</a>—that “problems cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created them”—is particularly relevant in a crisis of this magnitude. That’s why strengthening our ecological imagination is essential—a vital ingredient in developing new and innovative solutions to global warming.</p> <p>The imaginative process brings us into a closer relationship with the unknown. This is similar to any creative process, whether we are facing a blank canvas with a handful of paints, or jotting down notes for a speech on a napkin at a café, or part of a scientific gathering, pondering how quantum gravity helps to explain the origins of the universe. We can step outside what we already know, send our inner critic on vacation, and make room for messy, surprising, and confusing bits and pieces of insight to swirl and shift before connecting together in new and meaningful ways.</p> <p>This kind of imagination also cultivates intuition. Everyone has this capacity, although many of us are out of practice because our contemporary Western cultures prize logical analysis so highly. While we certainly wouldn’t want to be without our rationality, adding intuitive ways of knowing sheds light on aspects of life that are inaccessible to the logical mind: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift,” as Einstein is also said to have remarked.</p> <p>The rational and intuitive parts of the mind are like two legs that keep us moving forward. Why would we set out on a lifelong journey with one leg becoming excessively muscle-bound and the other atrophying? We need to strengthen and utilize everything we’re made of. If we want transformation—if we want to come back into balance with the natural world—then we must understand how we got out of balance in the first place, and develop those aspects of ourselves that have been neglected.</p> <p>In my psychotherapy practice I guide clients into their imagination to address any number of concerns. Imagination brings fresh insights and healing to many issues, and can lead to a deeper transformation. This story, from a client I’ll call Simon to disguise his real name, is an example of how exploring the common struggle of social anxiety can pave the way to a surprising and eco-harmonious outcome.</p> <p>Simon’s anxiety in social situations had an internal narrative that’s familiar to most of us to varying degrees: “What do I say? What will they think? What if I don’t fit in?”</p> <p>To begin the session I asked Simon to close his eyes while I guided him through breath-work practices and progressive relaxation. He gradually disengaged his attention from the flow of his thoughts and dropped into a deep, internal focus. I invited him to allow an image to arise of a social situation that had triggered his discomfort. With his eyes closed, he envisioned the details of a happy hour gathering to which a colleague had invited him, describing a constriction in his throat and an adrenalin rush that accompanied this habitual mental narrative. When we explored these images, his experience began to shift:</p> <blockquote><p>“It’s like there is a mirror in front of my face—all I’m seeing are my own fears. I’m not actually relating to anyone who is with me in the restaurant. It’s hard to describe, but when I stop being absorbed in my worries, the world suddenly becomes clear. When the mirror dissolves, I recognize that there is a young man across the table from me that looks upset. A woman is standing nearby, chewing on her lower lip, distracted. The guy to my right seems happy.”</p></blockquote> <p>Simon became a little teary but continued, “I know these people from work, but it’s like I’m seeing them for the first time.” As we talked more about his experience, he was astounded by how profoundly his internal patterns had affected his outward relationships. We continued with these explorations over several months, and Simon proceeded to peel away even more layers of his early conditioning. He became aware that he had been viewing others as an ‘it,’ a separate and threatening ‘object,’ rather than what he called a dynamic, living “field of large scale intimacy” that opened up to him.</p> <p>As Simon evolved into a new way of relating to himself and others, his descriptions sounded very similar to the I-Thou relationships that philosopher <a href="http://www.iep.utm.edu/buber/">Marin Buber</a> wrote about, or <a href="https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/nondualism-a-brief-history-of-a-timeless-concept/">Vedantic nondualism</a>, or the many <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=6_mtDgAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PA34&amp;dq=indigenous+one+with+nature&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwj38d-f4JLUAhUG_WMKHQ5mCqY4ChDoAQhQMAg#v=onepage&amp;q=indigenous%20one%20with%20nature&amp;f=false">Indigenous ways that exist of being one with nature</a>. His transformation reached such depths that it eventually prompted a career shift in which he sought out a new company that produced renewable energy solutions, applying his skills as an engineer in a direction that fosters connection and honors life.</p> <p>To see differently is to live differently. So when we truly see our interconnectedness, what does that mean for our political structures? What does it mean for education to teach with an understanding of ecological imagination? When we know that we must execute comprehensive, visionary change and quickly, how should we handle challenging conversations and decisions over climate change and other hot-button issues?</p> <p>Engaging our imagination is far from fanciful: it’s a critical part of finding the answers to these questions; an essential, practical act that allows us to continue discovering and embodying the full spectrum of our humanity and our place in the family of all things. Can we imagine a world in which all beings can thrive? &nbsp;If not, no amount of policy discussions will get us where we want to go.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charles-eisenstein/fear-of-living-planet">Fear of a living planet</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/stephen-jackson/catastrophism-is-as-much-obstacle-to-addressing-climate-change-as-den">Catastrophism is as much an obstacle to addressing climate change as denial</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/tim-flinders/going-out-i-found-i-was-really-going-in-john-muir-s-spiritual-and-politi">Going out, I found I was really going in: John Muir’s spiritual and political journey</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Leslie Davenport Environment Wed, 21 Jun 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Leslie Davenport 111509 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sustainable activism: managing hope and despair in social movements https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/sustainable-activism-managing-hope-and-despair-in-socia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new generation of activists is developing a much healthier and more emotionally-intelligent culture.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PaulHoggett2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/takver/4178690408">Flickr/Takver</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>In her <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo6943529.html">study of ACT UP</a>, the direct action AIDS movement in the USA in the 1980s and early 1990s, Deborah Gould noted the powerful role that emotions play in animating social activism. She observed that any movement that seeks to make things better in the world has to manage despair. </p> <p>We believe that this emotion arises because activists are haunted by the belief that they might lack the collective resources to address the damage and suffering they see around them, and which motivates their action. So in addition to its external opponents, a movement always has an internal, emotional enemy—a gnawing, repetitive, low-level fear and hopelessness that accompany the struggle for deep-rooted social change.</p> <p>Over the last few years we have been <a href="http://climatepsychologyalliance.org/explorations/blogs/173-outriders-of-the-coming-adversity-how-climate-activists-and-climate-scientists-keep-going">interviewing people</a> in the UK who have been involved in direct actions such as the occupation of power stations and airport runways. We wanted to explore how they managed the powerful feelings that are aroused by any exposure to the disturbing truth of climate change. As one young female activist put it to us:</p> <blockquote><p>“I know if I let open the floodgates it’s there…I know what that depressive, overwhelming ‘I feel lost’ feeling is. I’ve had it. It’s not something I enjoy.”</p></blockquote> <p>In our own experience of movements for change from the 1970s onwards we’ve been struck by the way in which a failure to contain despair can lead to unrealistic hopes, built on a denial of and a flight from some difficult truths. The group ‘puffs itself up’ to make itself feel big. It overestimates its own strength and underestimates the power of opposing forces. It resorts to faith (‘history is on our side’) and magic (‘come on everybody, one last push’). It prefers to engage in wishful thinking rather than face reality as it is. </p> <p>This state of mind is one we often encounter in our work as psychotherapists. It’s often referred to as <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/paranoid-schizoid-position">schizoid</a>—a state where everything is split into polarities: black or white, all or nothing. For someone in the grip of schizoid thinking the world is binary—there is no ‘in between’. Everything is either one thing or the other, and the coin is constantly flipped between one perspective and it’s opposite: either my marriage was the wonderful relationship I always imagined it to be or I was living a total illusion; either I have this special and exclusive relationship with my children or I mean nothing to them at all.</p> <p>One of the most painful and destructive things about schizoid thinking is that it reproduces the very anxiety it tries to manage. By creating an ideal state of affairs that can never be achieved in reality it opens the door to further disappointments, more desperate self-criticism, a greater sense of failure and more crippling anxiety which can only be dealt with by further splits. In politics one obvious and much parodied example is the factionalism that often bedevils political groups and social movements. </p> <p>However the problem goes much deeper than this: it can also affect the culture of otherwise healthy groups. In movements around climate change we can see it at work in a series of unhelpful binaries like this: ‘the only realistic thing to do is change the system’<em> versus</em> ‘we are powerless to change the system, so must focus on achievable changes in our communities and in our own lives.’ Another common binary is ‘all or nothing.’ We throw ourselves into an all-consuming commitment which, because it is all consuming, demands an immediate return. Then, when reality proves recalcitrant, despair sets in. As one of our interviewees put it:</p> <blockquote><p>&nbsp;“...there’s definitely a danger of tying your whole sense of worth and purpose to this challenge that is so much bigger than you and is never ending.”</p></blockquote> <p>This binary is often linked to another which is ‘now or never.’ In climate change work this manifests in the belief that <strong>‘</strong>we must all act now or it will be too late,’ a belief that can all too quickly slip into the perception that it is already ‘too late’, and that processes have already been unleashed which are irreversibly leading us to catastrophe. </p> <p>However, one hopeful sign that also emerges from our interviews with the current generation of climate activists is that they are developing a much more emotionally-intelligent culture. Direct action places activists in vulnerable situations, and rather than resorting to a macho denial this generation seems much more prepared to acknowledge their vulnerability. Many activists also seem able to take up a more proportionate response: times of intense engagement are often followed by a period of taking a step back and giving due attention to self-care and self-reflection. </p> <p>Many of our intervieweees described a kind of proportionality to their engagement, where they could let go of their painful knowledge for a time, relegating it to the background while continuing to work on a practical project. “I think I don’t think about it,” explained one. “I’ve accepted it, found my own kind of path of how I live my life with those kinds of things going through it.” Rather like someone who has learned to live with a life-limiting condition like diabetes, these activists were no longer obsessed with climate change but concerned to act as effectively and dynamically as they could to counter its worst effects. </p> <p>There were a number of elements at play when this balance worked well. The first was a sense of excitement and pleasure in the actions themselves. “It’s just really fun...if you don’t have fun day to day, you are going to burn out way quicker,” explained one interviewee. The second factor was giving conscious attention to building a cohesive group with a high level of trust, with proper debriefing taking place after actions and support offered to anyone who is distressed or traumatised by their experiences. </p> <p>Some of our respondents also emphasised cohesion: “there’s an incredible sense of solidarity that comes out of doing a direct action,” said one, while others focused on the capacity of the group to accept and understand each other’s vulnerabilities: “we have Activist Trauma Support, we have medical support, we have debriefings, we have a really good way of helping people. We know what burnout is now. We know what post-traumatic stress disorder is,” said another.</p> <p>Another important element was an awareness of the kinds of practices that can counter the intensity of being involved with such a difficult subject—things like time spent outdoors, in meditation, or with family. For one activist it was her father’s presence with a banner at all of her court appearances that mattered. Others spoke of a profound relationship with nature, the inner practice of yoga, or time spent walking with the dog after an intense day’s work.</p> <p>Finally, the sense of building a movement that might prefigure the kind of society they hope will emerge in the future was hugely sustaining to almost all of our respondents—the conviction that they could create a world in miniature that was more caring, more responsive and more inclusive; in other words, a community. As a result, many of those we spoke to have begun to talk in terms of ‘sustainable activism,’ one that can survive for the much longer term. As one of our interviewees put it: </p> <blockquote><p>“The struggle will always be there for justice and for those kinds of things ...there’s no utopic end point is what I mean. It will always be evolving and changing and I see my... there will always be another struggle somewhere…”</p></blockquote> <p>Sustainable activism has what Gramsci called a ‘<a href="https://archive.org/stream/AntonioGramsciSelectionsFromThePrisonNotebooks/Antonio-Gramsci-Selections-from-the-Prison-Notebooks_djvu.txt">pessimism of the intellect’</a> which can avoid wishful thinking and face reality as squarely as possible. However it also retains an ‘optimism of the will’, an inner conviction that things can be different. By holding optimism and pessimism in tension, sustainable activism is better able to handle despair, and it has less need to resort to binary thinking as a way of engaging with reality. It can hold contradictions so that they don’t become either/or polarities and can work both in and against the system. </p> <p>Whilst it believes there can be no personal change without political change it is equally insistent that there can be no political change without personal change. It insists optimistically that those who are not against us must be with us, and therefore carries a notion of ‘us’ which is inclusive and generous, one which offers the benefit of the doubt to the other. </p> <p>Finally, sustainable activism holds that it is never too late. In the context of climate change it is able to face the truth that some irreversible processes of change are already occurring; that the <a href="http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php">two degrees limit</a> in the increase in global temperatures agreed at the 2015 Paris climate conference may not be achieved; that bad outcomes are inevitable, and that some are already happening. Nevertheless it also insists that this makes our struggles all the more vital to reduce the scale and significance of these future outcomes, to fight for the ‘least-worst’ results we can achieve, and to ensure that the world of our grandchildren and their children is as habitable as possible.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/socially-constructed-silence-protecting-policymakers-fr">Socially constructed silence? Protecting policymakers from the unthinkable.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/frida-berrigan/making-our-movements-work-for-kids-and-families">Making our movements work for kids and families</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gioel-gioacchino/recomposing-fabric-of-affection">Recomposing the fabric of affection</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation climate change Rosemary Randall Paul Hoggett Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Environment Mon, 12 Dec 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Paul Hoggett and Rosemary Randall 107564 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sheriffs refuse to send troops to Standing Rock as public outrage mounts https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jenni-monet/sheriffs-refuse-to-send-troops-to-standing-rock-as-public-outrage-mounts <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The state governor has ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to evacuate, but will the authorities enforce that decision?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JenniMonet2.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: YES! Magazine/Rob Wilson. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be the latest agency assisting Morton County Sheriff Department deputies to guard Dakota Access pipeline construction as it prepares to drill under the Missouri River. But as tensions mount, along with costs to keep up with militarized attacks on water protectors, there are signs that North Dakota’s resources are stretching thin.</p> <p>Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier announced the aid of CBP officers Monday following the most violent confrontation yet near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Dozens of activists were hospitalized after Sunday night’s standoff when police sprayed water on hundreds of people in 26-degree temperatures and fired what has been described as concussion grenades. One activist, Sophia Wilansky, 21, may face the amputation of her arm.</p> <p>Even before Sunday’s subfreezing assault on the Backwater Bridge, the escalating violence, the masses of arrests—528 as of Monday—and even the routine response to demonstrations were taking their toll on local agencies. The policing costs have reached nearly $15&nbsp;million. The courts are taxed. The jail is burdened. The 34 local law enforcement officers are stressed.</p> <p>All this comes amid an increasingly loud public outcry against the militarized policing.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JennMonet22.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Credit: YES! Magazine/Rob Wilson. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Organized campaigns to contact the people and agencies responsible for sending officers and equipment to aid Morton County in the assaults on water protectors have in some cases been effective. YES! Magazine published that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/dial-a-cop-20161031">contact information Oct. 31,</a>&nbsp;and in less than a month, the Facebook post had reached more than half a million people with commenters trading stories about their experiences making complaints. The article has been published by media worldwide.</p> <p>It was intense public response that led Montana’s Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin to literally turn his detail around. He and his deputies were en route to Morton County when Gov. Steve Bullock raised concerns about the potential misuse of the interstate statute. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact obligates law enforcement around the country to fulfill requests for aid under any form of emergency or disaster.</p> <p>“I got messages from England, Poland, New Zealand, Australia,” Gootkin recalled. And he received phone calls and hundreds of emails from his constituents, too — people that may have elected him sheriff. They were concerned about the use of force on protesters, Oct. 27, he said, and also had been affected by the public outrage from Minneapolis’ Hennepin County.</p> <p>Gootkin said the callers and emailers believed the EMAC was meant for natural disasters and catastrophic events like 9/11, not for protecting a corporation’s pipeline construction. All that caused Sheriff Gootkin to change his mind. He turned to Facebook to post&nbsp;<a href="https://lrinspire.com/2016/11/14/gallatin-county-reverses-decision-to-send-officers-to-standing-rock-due-to-public-outcry">his decision</a>&nbsp;to stand down on Standing Rock:&nbsp;“Although my actions were well-intentioned, you made it clear that you do not want your Sheriff’s Office involved in this conflict. One of the biggest differences of an elected Sheriff from other law enforcement leaders is that I am directly accountable to the people I serve (YOU).”</p> <p>It was not an easy choice to make, Gootkin said. “I wanted to go and help my fellow law enforcement.” Then, he raised a question that has begun to rattle many communities across America lately. “I just don’t understand where we separated from the public. It really breaks my heart. We are not the enemy.”</p> <p>Sheriff Dave Mahoney from Wisconsin’s Dane County was also empathetic to those decrying deployment of his officers. “All share the opinion that our deputies should not be involved in this situation,” Mahoney told the&nbsp;<a href="http://m.bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/sheriff-in-wisconsin-pulls-deputies-back-from-north-dakota-pipeline/article_c0378e3a-8e57-59f1-9975-781c35bf1ee1.html?utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=facebook&amp;utm_campaign=user-share">Bismarck Tribune</a>. He and his unit stood by Morton County officers for one week before pulling out and refusing to return.</p> <p><strong><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JenniMonet23.gif" alt="" width="460" /></strong></p> <p class="image-caption">Credit: YES! Magazine/Rob Wilson. All rights reserved.</p> <p>This week, the ACLU released the most comprehensive list of law enforcement participating in the conflict at Standing Rock, 75 agencies total, all believed to be operating under the EMAC agreement. The ACLU’s current list of agency support to Morton County can be found&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/how-many-law-enforcement-agencies-does-it-take-subdue-peaceful-protest">here</a>.</p> <p>Of the $15 million spent so far to protect the pipeline construction ,  $4.4&nbsp;million has been spent by Morton County alone, officials said. The figure also includes more than $10&nbsp;million in state emergency funds, according to Cecily Fong, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. Fong told the Associated Press<em>&nbsp;</em>that protest-related law enforcement costs reached $10.9&nbsp;million dollars last week, including $6&nbsp;million borrowed from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota in September and an additional $4&nbsp;million on Nov. 1.</p> <p>Now it seems likely that the state will need to request even more money from its Emergency Commission. In a press conference two days prior to Sunday’s violence, Gov. Jack Dalrymple expressed frustration in the ongoing police action against protesters. “We’re incurring expenses every day,” Dalrymple said.</p> <p>The governor has pressed the Obama administration for federal aid in responding to the escalating conflict. He has suggested the U.S. Marshal Service step in to evict thousands of protectors who have occupied U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land. “They are camped without a permit,” Dalrymple&nbsp;said of those occupying the mass encampment near the Backwater Bridge blockade. “In other words, they’re there illegally.”</p> <p>But the Obama administration has refused to do that, opting to sit down with the Standing Rock Sioux and negotiate a solution. It has asked that construction of the $3.8&nbsp;billion pipeline stop until one is reached, but Energy Transfer has refused. It is now suing the federal government and meanwhile continuing to advance the pipeline.</p> <p>With the absence of federal assistance, Morton County has had to rely on the EMAC and support from police agencies nationwide. Since early August, the sheriff’s department says that nearly 1,300 officers have come from 24 counties, 16 cities, across nine different states.</p> <p>The farthest traveled was the president of the National Sheriff’s Association, Greg Champagne of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. He arrived Oct. 28, the day after Morton County led its heavily militarized removal of occupants from the “1851 Treaty Camp.” In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thv11.com/news/local-sheriff-shares-testimony-from-north-dakota-experience/346183392">a lengthy post</a>&nbsp;on Facebook, Champagne commended the multiagency action while taking special care to praise Minnesota’s Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. He said they were “protecting lives and property” that day.</p> <p>But in the aftermath of the violent Oct. 27 raid, the number of law enforcement agencies assisting Morton County has dwindled — in some instances, because of the pipeline‘s polarizing effect.</p> <p>Minneapolis’ Hennepin County has received some of the loudest public outrage as taxpayers, voters, even state lawmakers turned out to denounce Sheriff Stanek’s decision to send Minnesota personnel and equipment to Standing Rock. “I do not have any control over the Sheriff’s actions, which I think were wrong,” said Lt. Gov. Tina Smith in a prepared statement. “I believe he should bring his deputies home, if he hasn’t already. I strongly support the rights of all people to peacefully protest, including, tonight, the Standing Rock protest.”</p> <p>Following a nine-day stint in North Dakota, Sheriff Stanek said enlisting 29 of his deputies to serve on Morton County’s front lines was “the right thing to do.”</p> <p>But he also said his deputies would not be returning.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published by <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/sheriffs-refuse-to-send-troops-to-standing-rock-as-public-outrage-and-costs-mount-20161123?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20161123">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making">Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shannon-biggs/would-you-bulldoze-your-own-temple">Would you bulldoze your own temple? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jim-shultz/pipeline-strikes-back-audacity-of-transcanadas-15-billion-suit-against-us">The Pipeline Strikes Back: the audacity of TransCanada&#039;s $15b suit against the U.S.</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jenni Monet Transformative nonviolence Activism Environment Fri, 02 Dec 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Jenni Monet 107304 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What we choose to resist https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/seble-samuel/what-we-choose-to-resist <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With a climate change denier in the White House, what are the prospects for the Paris Agreement on climate change?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/seblecropped.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/">http://www.ecowatch.com</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Yesterday we woke up to a dystopian vision: US President-elect Donald Trump. Like a bad hangover we couldn’t shake off; a collective coma; or <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f">communal mourning.</a></p> <p class="normal">November 9 2016 will go down as a dark day in a season of dark days.</p> <p class="normal">But the week before I was standing in a room full of cheer. It was November 4, the day the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/04/paris-climate-change-agreement-enters-into-force">Paris </a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/04/paris-climate-change-agreement-enters-into-force">Agreement</a> on climate action had officially come into force, so we were celebrating.</p> <p class="normal">I was standing in a crowded room filled with plaid and free cider. The student-run events space of <a href="https://www.oxfordhub.org/">Oxford </a><a href="https://www.oxfordhub.org/">Hub</a> buzzed with a collective though rather timid optimism. Standing on a table with a foaming beer in his hand was <a href="http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/people/746">Achim </a><a href="http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/people/746">Steiner</a>, Director of the <a href="http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/">Oxford Martin </a><a href="http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/">School</a> and former Executive Director of the <a href="http://www.unep.org/">United Nations Environment </a><a href="http://www.unep.org/">Programme</a>. He was delivering the first of the celebratory speeches.</p> <p class="normal">"In terms of global cooperation, the Paris Agreement was perhaps the most vital moment of sanity," said Steiner. "Paris alone will not save us, but imagine if it had not happened."</p> <p class="normal">In his words, the Agreement has forged an opportunity to deal with two key climate issues: legacy and equity. It has created the space to begin tackling the challenges of per-capita and historical CO2 emissions, and disparities such as the impacts of climate change on small island states and developing regions.</p> <p class="normal">As Steiner continued with his speech, however, he didn’t mince his words. Every syllable carried weight. "I have heard it all before," he said, when referring to resistance to climate action and energy transitions. "We can't do it. We don't have the grid. It will affect our bottom line. It's not possible. But the shareholders..."</p> <p class="normal">"The truth is this," he continued, "the language being used to reject climate justice is the same language that rejected slavery's abolition movement."</p> <p class="normal">Steiner’s words were potent. They hung around the room, slowly sinking in. I let them roll around to try to make sense of them. I felt uncomfortable, uneasy with the dangers of the comparison which felt like an equation. And I feared that to equate the two struggles was to reduce at least one of them, a crude act of belittling. Slavery felt too terrible to compare with climate change, too filled with flesh and blood and stains to be equated to threats of floods and hopes of windmills.</p> <p class="normal">But then I realised, it’s not about the equation of these two struggles, it’s about the language we use to resist. It’s about how attached we feel to the status quo, and what barriers we are willing to put up or tear down to maintain or overturn this status quo.</p> <p class="normal">The dystopian morning following the US election was one of rupture—a seeming victory for hate and fear, where xenophobia and sexism will once again be officially permitted; and where the struggles for women's liberation, queer rights, environmental protection, migrant justice and freedom of movement, which have been decades in the making, will move back to the bargaining table once again.</p> <p class="normal">As world leaders proceed with the United Nations climate negotiations in <a href="http://unfccc.int/meetings/marrakech_nov_2016/meeting/9567.php">Marrakech</a>, the global climate change community is understandably concerned about the implications of Trump’s victory for the Paris Agreement. This year's round of climate negotiations is supposed to be about action. The aim is to create the foundations—the nuts and bolts—that will get the climate deal rolling.</p> <p class="normal">President-elect Donald Trump however, is a fierce climate <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/37936740/what-climate-change-deniers-like-donald-trump-believe">denier</a>, calling global warming a giant hoax and a conspiracy theory. On his campaign trail he vowed to cancel the Paris accord, fire up new coal plants, and expand oil and gas drilling. He has also chosen a well-known climate <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/trump-picks-top-climate-skeptic-to-lead-epa-transition/">skeptic</a> to lead the transition team of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.</p> <p class="normal">Domestic climate policies are also under threat, including the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/clean-power-plan-existing-power-plants">Clean Power </a><a href="https://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/clean-power-plan-existing-power-plants">Plan</a> that has been developed under President Obama's administration. With the US as the second largest greenhouse gas emitter <a href="http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/06/infographic-what-do-your-countrys-emissions-look">globally</a>, these prospects are chilling.</p> <p class="normal">While such scenarios encourage a widespread sense of gloom, the French Environment Minister <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/09/us-election-result-throws-paris-climate-deal-into-uncertainty">Ségolène </a><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/09/us-election-result-throws-paris-climate-deal-into-uncertainty">Royale</a> has stressed that the Paris Agreement is already international law, so a single country cannot exit the accord before a four year time period has expired.</p> <p class="normal">In an era when renewable energy markets are burgeoning and most countries are uniting in common cause, it seems extraordinary that the most powerful nation in the world might be slipping backwards into archaic climate denial.</p> <p class="normal">Against this background I remember Steiner's words: it’s about what we choose to resist. It’s about whether we feel married to the lazy commitments of climate destruction or are prepared to create something different.</p> <p class="normal">The global climate movement may be worried, but it is nothing short of ready.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f">Don’t mourn, organize! Three ways millennials can build a better post-Trump future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/michael-edwards-francesc-badia-i-dalmases-thomas-rowley-natalia-antonova/trump-wins">Trump wins, what now?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/socially-constructed-silence-protecting-policymakers-fr">Socially constructed silence? Protecting policymakers from the unthinkable.</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Seble Samuel Environment Thu, 10 Nov 2016 16:50:48 +0000 Seble Samuel 106673 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When a tiger has no value https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/margi-prideaux/when-tiger-has-no-value <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The quest for profit is transforming the natural world. Can it be halted?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Margi4cropped.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption"><a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tiger_from_Ranthanbore_Sawai_Madhopur_Rajasthan_India_12.10.2014.jpg">Bengal tiger, Rajasthan India</a>. Photographer: Dibyendu Ash, Wikimedia Commons, CC by-SA 3.0</p> <p>A few weeks ago the World Wide Fund for Nature released their latest <a href="http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/lpr_living_planet_report_2016.pdf">Living Planet Report</a>. Its findings have reverberated around the world, with the bleak news that the 3,706 wildlife populations that are actively monitored by scientists have declined by an average of 58 per cent since 1970 because of agriculture, fisheries, mining and other human activities. The report’s authors predict that this figure will reach 67 per cent by the end of the decade. How on earth has this happened?</p> <p>The answer that’s often put forward is that wildlife protection laws in the ‘lawless’ regions of the world are woefully inadequate (meaning large swathes of Africa and Asia), but the true root of the problem is that nature is being monetized in order to generate profits for investors and corporations in a process that’s facilitated by changes in the structure of global governance—and it’s about to get much worse. Unless we get to grips with the real issues at stake, the destruction of nature is all-but guaranteed, except in those few parts of the world that are set aside as reserves for the enjoyment of wealthy visitors.</p> <p>Since European countries first reached out and <a href="http://cdj.oxfordjournals.org/content/48/3/347.short">colonized distant lands</a>, Africa, Asia and Latin America have been a ‘resource hinterland’ for global capitalism—an economic system that has transferred wealth from poor to rich countries through the extraction of mineral and biological resources. <a href="http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6059">Large areas of forest have been cleared</a> to make way for the mono-culture of crops like <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10460-014-9507-5">palm oil</a>, soya bean, <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10460-014-9509-3">biofuels</a> and <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-013-2033-3">timber</a> on a massive scale. Mining <a href="http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/559/mining-in-latin-america-the-interplay-between-natural-resources-development-and-freedom">carves ruinous scars</a> across whole landscapes, poisoning the water for both people and wildlife downstream. And large factory ships are <a href="https://www.odi.org/publications/10459-western-africas-missing-fish-impacts-illegal-unreported-and-unregulated-fishing-and-under-reporting">plundering fisheries</a> for the tables of the world’s elite.</p> <p>This system robs the world of the biodiversity we collectively need to survive. More poignantly, it robs communities in Africa, Asia, South America and the Arctic of their rights, resources and connections with their environments and the wildlife they contain. These are the very communities who still retain the wisdom and experience to <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/margi-prideaux/wildlife-conservationists-need-to-break-out-of-their-stockholm-syndrom">protect the world’s wild places</a>.</p> <p>Many people who have stood against this tide have been evicted from their ancestral lands. Some have been murdered. <a href="https://www.globalwitness.org/en/reports/dangerous-ground/">Global Witness</a> has documented the fact that that more than three people were killed each week during 2015 defending their lands, forests and rivers against destructive industries. Yet the profits that are made from these industries are more than enough to maintain the forward momentum of the system. More money flows from these hinterland economies each year than they receive in foreign direct investment and foreign aid combined. In 2011, for example, oil, gas and mineral exports from Africa were worth US$382 billion—more than <a href="http://civicus.org/images/Escaping%20the%20global%20resource%20curse.pdf">eight times the value</a> of development aid received by African countries in that year.</p> <p>This money streams through mechanisms for cross-border accounting, tax evasion and the repatriation of profits that are designed and maintained by <a href="http://www.eurodad.org/fiftyshadesoftaxdodging">wealthy countries</a>; facilitated by the institutional secrecy that is built into the global financial system; and controlled by corporate elites. In a <a href="http://au.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471748587.html">shadow economy</a> that flows alongside the economy we see, commercial tax dodgers and criminals <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11079-011-9214-4">shift vast amounts</a> of money across international borders quickly, easily and largely undetected. Hundreds of billions of dollars pour into western coffers each year, from both streams, leaving little behind for those whose lands and wildlife have been plundered.</p> <p>The only way to reverse this process is to institute a system of global governance that actually does what it says—govern the extraction of natural resources, the destruction of wildlife, and the flows of money that are fed by these things across national borders. But international rules and regulations in this field are evolving in ways that are far too soft to have much impact. How so?</p> <p>In 2008, the world economy stood at the edge of an abyss, confronted by the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In response, a <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf#page=5">powerful new forum called the G20</a> was born, representing the 20 largest economies. The United Nations (UN) tentatively embraced the emergence of this new group and offered its New York headquarters as the site of the G20 summit meetings, but their overtures were declined and the UN was gradually marginalised from the process—something that should have set the alarm bells ringing. With hindsight it appears as though the G20’s founders wanted to explore new relationships in international economics <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2346.2010.00909.x/full">unhindered by the democracy and transparency of the UN</a>.</p> <p>Shortly afterwards the World Economic Forum (or Davos for short) started to frame its own <a href="http://www.jstor.org/stable/24234998?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">path forward</a> which fits squarely into the philosophy of the G20 and other groups like it. Called the ‘Global Redesign Initiative,’ its aim is to marginalize intergovernmental decision-making and install <a href="https://www.tni.org/files/download/state_of_davos_chapter.pdf">‘multi-stakeholder governance’</a> in its place. “In the world of Davos,” as commentator <a href="http://itsoureconomy.us/2014/01/exposing-the-davos-class">Nick Buxton</a> wrote in 2014, “the tired old slow world of democratic demands channelled through states is replaced by a slicker, fast moving, corporate-led governance” which places tremendous power in the hands of the very few. Buxton’s report for the <a href="http://itsoureconomy.us/2014/01/exposing-the-davos-class">Transnational Institute</a> reveals that the world’s wealth is even more concentrated than is often understood—not in the one per cent of the world’s population but in the 0.001 per cent. A mere 111,000 people control a fifth of the world’s gross national product (GNP), worth US$16.3 trillion.</p> <p>The Davos proposal is that key sectors of the economy, and whole regions of countries, should be governed by corporations with the support of other stakeholders who they invite to the table. The most attractive parts of the world from this point of view are those that are <a href="https://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/state_of_extraction_chapter.pdf">resource rich but governance poor</a>, where the large-scale extraction of mineral and biological resources is still possible, in part because local structures for oversight and accountability are weak. Extractive economies are much more difficult to operate in places where these structures are strong and democratic, and where the probability of a public outcry is therefore high.</p> <p>There’s another problem here: communities whose traditional lands sit on top of gold, oil or timber are obvious targets for attack. But what happens to wildlife that offers no obvious source of profit? If a tiger has no value, why would it be saved? This is where the monetization of nature is so important.</p> <p>In 2014, the writer Charles Eisenstein <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/charles-eisenstein/oceans-are-not-worth-24-trillion">published a piece on openDemocracy</a> that expanded on this phenomenon. We must recognise that “some things are beyond measure and price” as he put it, warning of the dangers of relying on numbers and financial data for decision-making. There are many things we don’t measure, either by choice (because they interfere with established power relationships); because our understanding is incomplete; or because some things are simply un-measurable—like beauty, connectedness, spiritual fulfilment or the sight of reindeer, wolves and golden eagles living with the <a href="http://www.trueactivist.com/16-photos-of-a-magical-mongolian-tribe-that-rides-reindeer-and-hunts-with-eagles/">Dukha</a>&nbsp;in Mongolia.</p> <p>When I wake up in the morning the sound I hear is of a magpie’s warble. These birds and their unique and haunting song, as well as the kangaroos that stand on the ridge at dusk close to my home, are part of the culture in which I live and the community I belong to. People elsewhere, in South Africa, Pakistan, Russia or Peru will wake up to different sounds and vistas, but our landscapes are never empty places; nor are they commodities to sell. They are filled with a different kind of richness which we value in other ways. They are filled with wildlife <a href="http://www.logosjournal.com/interspecies-cosmopolitanism.php">with which we commune</a>.</p> <p>That’s why we can’t let the monetary value of nature be used as the sole criterion for governance. A tiger has value because it is a tiger, because it is priceless in and of itself. That’s why it should be saved, but under the rule of ‘Davos man’ this is most unlikely. In fact monetizing wildlife leads to over exploitation wherever money can be made and under protection where it can’t. The only real solution is to reject the underlying philosophy of nature as a profit centre. Everything else follows from that shift.</p> <p>The World Economic Forum <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2017%5d">will meet again</a> in Davos in January 2017, under the now-familiar umbrella of “improving global governance through public-private cooperation.” However, power can only be ceded to the Global Redesign Initiative and similar efforts if we as citizens allow it. Instead, we should demand that our governments actually govern in the interests of the vast majority of their populations, and of the wild species among whom we want to live. We can demand that global conservation is democratized to protect what we see as precious, sacred, special and important, not what makes most money for corporations. Wherever we have democracy, we must assert our control.</p> <p>Tigers, elephants, forests, wetlands and rivers are not commodities whose value can be siphoned off into the pockets of investors and ignored when they don’t make a profit. They are our collective inheritance. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/margi-prideaux/wildlife-conservationists-need-to-break-out-of-their-stockholm-syndrom">Wildlife conservationists need to break out of their Stockholm syndrome</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/margi-prideaux/zoos-are-problem-not-solution-to-animal-conservation">Zoos are the problem, not the solution to animal conservation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charles-eisenstein/oceans-are-not-worth-24-trillion">The oceans are not worth $24 trillion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Margi Prideaux Activism Care Economics Environment Mon, 07 Nov 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Margi Prideaux 106513 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The rise of veganism in politics https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/man-s-weisskircher/rise-of-veganism-in-politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On World Vegan Day it’s time to recognize that veganism isn’t just a fashion statement. The decision to boycott animal products has major political implications.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Manes.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://www.pixabay.com/">www.pixabay.com</a>. CC0 Public Domain.</p> <p>In November 1944, a woodwork teacher called Donald Watson founded <a href="https://www.vegansociety.com/">The Vegan Society</a> in the English city of Leicester, thereby coining ‘<a href="https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism">veganism</a>’ as a term, later defined as a “philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” </p> <p>In the nineteenth century, a small number of individuals and communities such as the Harvard-based <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruitlands_(transcendental_center)">Fruitlands commune</a> in the 1840s had followed and advocated for similar diets. However, only recently has veganism become a household word in many parts of the world, especially among younger people. Even when they don’t focus on the spread of veganism, most animal rights organizations are also calling for lifestyles that are free from animal products, including <a href="http://www.peta.org/">PETA</a>, <a href="http://www.animalequality.net/">Animal Equality</a>, <a href="http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/AA/HOME/">Animal Aid</a> and the German <a href="https://albert-schweitzer-stiftung.de/">Albert Schweitzer Stiftung für unsere Mitwelt</a>. Correspondingly, since the end of 2011&nbsp;<a href="https://www.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&amp;q=vegan,vegetarian">Google searches for the English term ‘vegan’ have surpassed queries for ‘vegetarian.’</a></p> <p>It’s true that there are still way more carnivores than vegans and vegetarians all around the globe by an overwhelming majority. Nevertheless, in the next few decades the consumption of animal products is likely to become an issue in mainstream politics. Contrary to views that reduce veganism to a contemporary fashion statement related to personal health or identity, the decision to boycott animal products has major political implications. It tackles several important issues including justice towards animals, action on global warming, and halting environmental degradation, as well as public health—for example, the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. </p> <p>Therefore, <a href="https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/world/world-vegan-day">World Vegan Day</a> should make us think hard about the following questions: how will veganism evolve both personally and politically; and, most importantly, what will the future hold for animals?</p> <p>The production of animal products (especially but not only of meat) is already leading to severe environmental problems.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/111/33/11996.abstract">Most prominently, meat consumption contributes to global warming, with around 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions stemming from animal agriculture.</a>&nbsp;In addition, factory farming and the production of food for farmed animals lead to deforestation, soil degradation, and water pollution. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/21/eat-less-meat-vegetarianism-dangerous-global-warminghttps:/www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/21/eat-less-meat-vegetarianism-dangerous-global-warming">Vegan diets, or at least the massive reduction of the consumption of animal products, are steps we can take to counter these negative trends.</a>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the environment continues to change and the effects of global warming become more visible, will environmentalists turn their attention towards the consumption of animal products?&nbsp;Up to now, the major environmental organizations have shied away from attracting public attention to veganism. The popularization of this criticism by a recent movie, <a href="http://www.cowspiracy.com/">Cowspiracy</a>, has led to reactions from some of the organizations that were accused, including <a href="http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/food-for-life-cowspiracy/blog/54404/">Greenpeace</a> &nbsp;and the <a href="http://www.sierraclub.org/compass/2014/10/food-and-our-climate">Sierra Club</a>. </p> <p>If environmentalists do change their strategies, vegan advocacy could provide a platform to strengthen collaboration between environmental and animal rights activists. In fact some other political players are already emphasizing the environmental dangers of animal agriculture.&nbsp;For example, the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/20/chinas-meat-consumption-climate-change">Chinese government has announced a plan to reduce meat consumption by 50 per cent until 2030</a>, a decision endorsed in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHSkahIFDF4">a popular YouTube video by Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron</a>. </p> <p>Public health concerns are also growing around factory farming and the dangers of meat consumption. In factory farms, the living conditions of farmed animals constantly cause diseases which are treated with antibiotics. However, their frequent use leads to the growth of antibiotic resistance among both animals and humans.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nature.com/news/who-warns-against-post-antibiotic-era-1.15135">The World Health Organization (WHO) is already predicting a ‘post-antibiotic era</a>.’ In addition, it warns that&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/11/03/report-says-eating-processed-meat-is-carcinogenic-understanding-the-findings/">the consumption of processed and red meat is linked to the spread of cancer</a>. </p> <p>Animal agriculture also <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">endangers the health of workers in slaughterhouses</a> and on fields where animal feed is produced with the heavy application of pesticides. Many of these workers are socially disadvantaged. In Germany for example, the weekly <em>Die Zeit</em> described the hiring practices of German slaughterhouses as “<a href="http://www.zeit.de/2014/51/schlachthof-niedersachsen-fleischwirtschaft-ausbeutung-arbeiter/seite-3">human trafficking for cheap labor, covered by EU law</a>.”</p> <p>Fortunately, concerns about animal welfare and animal rights are on the rise in many parts of the world. Not only have vegan advocacy groups sprung up in Europe and North America, but they are also being launched in countries like <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Veganos-Ecuador/240145949447811">Ecuador</a>, <a href="http://www.vgan.in/home">India</a>, <a href="http://anonymous.org.il/cat78.html">Israel</a>, and <a href="http://vegansociety.org.za/">South Africa</a>. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_by_country">In some Western European countries, five to ten per cent of the population is already either vegetarian or (to a lesser extent) vegan</a>. In <a href="http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.621105">Israel</a>, one survey found that 13 per cent of the population is vegan or vegetarian, while for <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/At-99-Telangana-has-maximum-non-vegetarians-in-the-country/articleshow/52697572.cms">India</a> the figure for vegetarians is 29 per cent. Public opinion beyond vegans and vegetarians is also shifting. </p> <p>Recent <a href="https://www.google.it/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi-lu7DuqvPAhXGshQKHf2qA7sQFggmMAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fec.europa.eu%2FCOMMFrontOffice%2FPublicOpinion%2Findex.cfm%2FResultDoc%2Fdownload%2FDocumentKy%2F71348&amp;usg=AFQjCNGAs6mpxt_qycWDFlnOfkv3ep97KQ&amp;cad=rja">Eurobarometer data</a> show that 94 per cent of the EU population regards animal welfare as an important issue, while 82 per cent support improvements in the conditions for farmed animals. In many of these national examples, younger people are particularly open to animal welfare issues and to lifestyles that are free from animal products. Therefore, it seems safe to assume that generational changes will add to the growing salience of animal rights and veganism in contemporary societies.</p> <p>Faced by this prospect, some commentators suggest that technological solutions will be developed to address the problems of animal farming and meat consumption. Vegan advocates like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ingrid-newkirk/artificial-meat-lab-grown_b_3688992.html">PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk</a> point to the potential of ‘<a href="http://www.foodphreaking.com/FP02_WhatIsInVitroMeat.pdf">in-vitro meat</a>’—cultured meat that is grown from the cells of actual animals. The ideal end product for these advocates is real flesh that’s produced without harming a living animal. Although the large-scale development of cultured meat is still decades away in terms of both quality and cost, there has been some recent progress. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/aug/05/synthetic-meat-burger-stem-cells">In 2013 for example, researchers from the University of Maastricht presented the first cultured hamburger in London</a>. However, the idea of in-vitro meat remains controversial among vegans. </p> <p><a href="https://verdict.justia.com/2013/10/02/whats-wrong-with-in-vitro-meat">Some criticize this development</a> on the grounds that it makes meat consumption seem more desirable, not less. Others say that it diverts attention away from veganism as the straight-forward strategy of ending animal exploitation. In addition, the growth hormone that’s used in in-vitro meat is ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_bovine_serum">fetal calf serum</a>,’ which is still an animal product. These are important concerns, but it’s worth remembering that the large-scale exploitation of horses and donkeys as draft animals and in wars only occurred after breakthroughs in new transportation technologies, particularly affordable automobiles. So if technologies are developed to produce and marketize affordable and tasty cultured meat, the public debate around our relationships to animals might actually be pushed forward in a variety of positive ways.</p> <p>For now, however, these are vague hopes for the future. The actual reality of farmed animals remains absolutely dreadful. Even the most ‘advanced’ animal welfare legislation remains quite modest in scope,&nbsp;while increases in population, urbanization and incomes <a href="http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/11/3907S.full">have led to an increase in meat consumption</a> in ‘developing’ economies.&nbsp;In Germany, a country where meat consumption is on the decline, <a href="http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/lebensmittelindustrie-in-deutschland-wird-mehr-geschlachtet-als-je-zuvor-1.2850521">the slaughtering of animals continues to increase</a> as exporters flood foreign markets. </p> <p>In addition, veganism is not simply a diet; it’s also an ethical position that rejects the use of all animal products as harmful, dangerous and unjust. As <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/carol-j-adams/sexual-politics-of-meat">the writer and activist Carol Adams has argued</a>, meat consumption is also highly correlated with the rise of sexism in politics. To be sure, vegan advocates face enormous challenges in the years ahead. However, given the increasing acceptance of animal rights and the risks of meat consumption to the environment, global warming and public health, ‘vegan politics’ look likely to enter the mainstream of public debates, social activism and policymaking. If so, both animals and human beings will benefit enormously.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-barnes/veganism-and-compassion">Veganism and compassion </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/carol-j-adams/sexual-politics-of-meat">The sexual politics of meat</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights veganism Manès Weisskircher Activism Care Culture Economics Environment Tue, 01 Nov 2016 00:04:00 +0000 Manès Weisskircher 106348 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fear of a living planet https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/charles-eisenstein/fear-of-living-planet <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By refusing to recognize that the Earth is alive we implicitly endorse the worldview that enables our destruction of the planet (3k words).</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CharlesEisenstein2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Moraine_Lake">Wikipedia</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p>Does the concept of a living planet uplift and inspire you, or is it a disturbing example of woo-woo nonsense that distracts us from practical, science-based policies?</p> <p>The scientifically-oriented nuts-and-bolts environmental or social activist will roll her eyes upon hearing phrases like “The planet is a living being.” From there it is a short step to sentiments like, “Love will heal the world,” “What we need most is a shift in consciousness,” and “Let’s get in touch with our indigenous soul.”</p> <p>What’s wrong with such ideas? The skeptics make a potent argument. Not only are these ideas delusional, they say, but to voice them is a strategic error that opens environmentalism to accusations of flakiness. By invoking unscientific concepts, by prattling on about the ‘heart’ or spirit or the sacred, we will be dismissed as naive, fuzzy-headed, irrational, hysterical, over-emotional hippies. What we need, they say, is more data, more logic, more numbers, better arguments, and more practical solutions framed in language acceptable to policy-makers and the public.</p> <p>I think that argument is mistaken. By shying away from the idea of a living planet, we rob environmentalism of its authentic motive force, engender paralysis rather than action, and implicitly endorse the worldview that enables our destruction of the planet.</p> <p><strong>The psychology of contempt.</strong><strong></strong></p> <p>To see that, let’s start by observing that the objection to “Earth is alive” isn’t primarily a scientific objection. After all, science can easily affirm or deny Earth’s aliveness depending on what definition of life is being used. No, we are dealing with an emotional perception here, one that goes beyond ‘alive’ to affirm that Earth is sentient, conscious, even sacred. That is what upsets the critics. Furthermore, the derisiveness of the criticism, encoded in words like ‘hippie’ or ‘flake,’ also shows that more than an intellectual difference of opinion is at stake. Usually, derision comes from insecurity or fear. “Judgment,” says Marshall Rosenberg, “is the tragic expression of an unmet need.”</p> <p>What are they afraid of? (And I—the voice of the derisive critic lives in me as well.) Could it be that the contempt comes in part from a fear that one is, oneself, ‘naive, irrational and over-emotional?’ Could the target of the derision be the projection of an insecurity lurking within? Is there a part of ourselves that we disown and project, in distorted form, onto others—an innocent, trusting, childlike part? A feminine part? A vulnerable part?</p> <p>If so, then critics of the infiltration of New Age ideas into the environmental movement may not be serving the movement at all. They may be enacting their own psychological dramas instead. If you are one of those critics, I am not asking you to join hands with me and sing Kumbaya. I ask only that you soberly and honestly consider where your discomfort comes from.</p> <p>Certainly, much of the discomfort is a healthy revulsion toward the escapism, spiritual bypass, and cultural appropriation that plague so much of the New Age. Certainly, there is a danger that, intoxicated by the idea of cosmic purpose or some-such, we ignore the pain and grief that we must integrate if we are to act effectively and courageously. Certainly, dogma like “It’s all good” or “We’re all one” can blind us to the exigency of the planetary crisis and discourage us from making changes in our lives. Certainly, borrowed rituals and concepts of sacredness can be an insidious form of colonialism, a strip-mining of cultural treasure to compensate for and enable the continuation of our own cultural vacuity. </p> <p>However, such criticisms address a mere caricature of the thoughtful work of generations of philosophers, scientists and spiritual teachers, who have framed sophisticated alternatives to conventional phenomenological, ontological and causal narratives. Phew, that was a mouthful. What I’m saying is not to hide behind facile criticisms.</p> <p>The fear of being emotional, irrational, hysterical, etc. is very close to a fear of the inner feminine, and the exclusion of the fuzzy, the ill-defined, and the emotionally-perceived dimensions of our activism in favor of the linear, rational, and evidence-based, mirrors the domination over and marginalization of the feminine from our social choice-making. Part of our resistance to the notion of Earth as a living being could be the patriarchal mind feeling threatened by feminine ways of knowing and choosing. But that’s still pretty theoretical, so let me share a little of my own introspection.</p> <p>When I apprehend concepts such as “Earth is alive,” or “All things are sacred,” or “The universe and everything in it bears sentience, purpose and life,” there is always an emotion involved; in no case is my rejection or acceptance the result of pure ratiocination. Either I embrace them with a feeling of eager, tender hope, or I reject them with a feeling of wariness, along the lines of “It is too good to be true,” or “I’m nobody’s fool.” Sometimes, beyond wariness, I feel a hot flash of anger, as if I had been violated or betrayed. Why?</p> <p>That wariness is deeply connected to the contempt I’ve described. The derision of the cynic comes from a wound of crushed idealism and betrayed hopes. We received it on a cultural level when the Age of Aquarius morphed into the Age of Ronald Reagan, and on an individual level as well when our childish perception of a living, personal universe in which we are destined to grow into magnificent creators gave way to an adulthood of deferred dreams and lowered expectations. Anything that exposes this wound will trigger our protective instincts. One such protection is cynicism, which rejects and derides as foolish, naive or irrational anything that affirms the magic and idealism of youth.</p> <p>Our perceived worldview has cut us off, often quite brutally, from intimate connection with the rest of life and with the rest of matter. The child hugs a tree and thinks it feels the hug and imagines the tree is his friend, only to learn that no, I’m sorry, the tree is just a bunch of woody cells with no central nervous system and therefore cannot possibly have the qualities of beingness that humans have. </p> <p>The child imagines that just as she looks out on the world, the world looks back at her, only to learn that no, I’m sorry, the world consists of a jumble of insensate stuff, a random melee of subatomic particles, and that intelligence and purpose reside in human beings alone. Science (as we have known it) renders us alone in an alien universe. At the same time, it crowns us as its lords and masters, for if sentience and purpose inhere in us alone, there is nothing stopping us from engineering the world as we see fit. There is no desire to listen for, no larger process to participate in, no consciousness to respect.</p> <p>“The Earth isn’t really alive” is part of that ideological cutoff. Isn’t that the same cutoff that enables us to despoil the planet?</p> <p>The wounded child interjects, “But what if it is true? What if the universe really is just as science describes?” What if, as the biologist Jacques Monod put it, we are alone in “an alien world. A world that is deaf to man’s music, just as indifferent to his hopes as to his suffering or his crimes.” Such is the wail of the separate self. It is loneliness and separation disguised as an empirical question.</p> <p>While no amount of evidence can prove it false, we must acknowledge that the science that militates against an intelligent, purposeful, living universe is ideologically freighted and culturally bound. Witness the hostility of institutional science to any anomalous data or unorthodox theory that suggest purposiveness or intelligence as a property of inanimate matter. </p> <p>Water memory, adaptive mutation, crop circles, morphic fields, psi phenomena, UFOs, plant communication, precognitive dreams…and a living Earth, a living sun, a living universe, all incite scorn. Anyone who believes in these, or even takes them as a valid topic of investigation, risks the usual epithets of ‘pseudo-scientist,’ ‘flake,’ or ‘woo-woo,’ regardless of the merits of the theory or the strength of the evidence.</p> <p>Of course, simply by making this assertion I open myself to the very same calumny. You can conveniently dismiss me as irrational, scientifically semi-literate, gullible at best and delusional at worst, perhaps knowingly dishonest, bamboozling my audience with learned allusions to impart an illusion of scientific probity to my ravings. But if you really care about this Earth, you’ll want to be curious about the emotional content of this judgment. What hides behind the contempt? The reactivity?</p> <p><strong>What moves the environmentalist?</strong></p> <p>Our discomfort with New Age-sounding concepts like “The planet is alive” is not entirely rational, but comes in large part from a wound of betrayal, cloaked in the pervasive ideology of our culture. Is it true though? We might play with various definitions of life and come up with logical, evidence-based arguments pro and con, just as we could debate the veracity of anomalous data and unconventional theories, and never come to an agreement. So let us look at the matter through a strategic lens instead. What belief motivates effective action and real change? And what kind of action results from each belief?</p> <p>Most people reading this probably consider themselves to be environmentalists; certainly most people think it is important to create a society that leaves a livable planet to future generations. What is it, exactly, that makes us into environmentalists? If we answer that, we might know how to turn others into environmentalists as well, and to deepen the commitment of those who already identify as such.</p> <p>I don’t know about you, but I didn’t become an environmentalist because someone made a rational argument that convinced me that the planet was in danger. I became an environmentalist out of love and pain: love for the world and its beauty and the grief of seeing it destroyed. It was only because I was in touch with these feelings that I had the ears to listen to evidence and reason and the eyes to see what is happening to our world. I believe that this love and this grief are latent in every human being. When they awaken, that person becomes an environmentalist.</p> <p>Now, I am not saying that a rational, evidence-based analysis of the situation and possible solutions is unimportant. It’s just that it will be compelling only with the animating spirit of reverence for our planet, born of the felt connection to the beauty and pain around us.</p> <p>Our present economic and industrial systems can only function to the extent that we insulate ourselves from our love and our pain. We insulate ourselves geographically by pushing the worst degradation onto far-away places. We insulate ourselves economically by using money to avoid the immediate consequences of that degradation, pushing it onto the world’s poor. We insulate ourselves perceptually by learning not to see or recognize the stress of the land and water around us and by forgetting what healthy forests, healthy streams and healthy skies look like. And we insulate ourselves ideologically by our trust in technological fixes and justifications like, “Well, we need fracking for energy independence, and besides it’s not that bad,” or “After all, this forest isn’t in an ecologically critical area.”</p> <p>The most potent form of ideological insulation though is the belief that the world isn’t really in pain, that nothing worse is happening than the manipulation of matter by machines, and that therefore as long as we can engineer some substitute for ‘ecosystem services,’ there need be no limit to what we do to nature. Absent any inherent purpose or intelligence, the planet is here for us to use. </p> <p>Just today, the borough was removing trees on our street, and I felt grief and rage as I listened to the chainsaws, even as my mind said, “But after all, those are old trees and the branches could fall onto a person or damage a house. They are unsafe. And what does it matter? They are only trees.” So here, inhabiting my own mind, was the fundamental ideology of domination (the trees must be removed because they stand in the way of human interests) and separation (they are ‘only trees;’ they are not-self; they do not have the basic qualities of beingness that I do).</p> <p>Look around this planet. See the results of that ideology writ large.</p> <p><strong>The love of life.</strong></p> <p>The idea that our planet is alive, and further, that every mountain, river, lake and forest is a living being, even a sentient, purposive, sacred being, is therefore not a soppy emotional distraction from the environmental problems at hand; to the contrary, it disposes us to feel more, to care more, and to do more. No longer can we hide from our grief and love behind the ideology that the world is just a pile of stuff to be used instrumentally for our own ends. </p> <p>True, that ideology is perfectly consistent with cutting carbon emissions, and consistent as well with any environmental argument that invokes our survival as the primary basis for policymaking. A lot of environmental activism depends on appeals to survival anxiety. “We have to change our ways, or else!” Appealing to fear and selfish interest, in general, is a natural tactic for anyone coming from a belief that the planet has no intrinsic value, no value beyond its utility. What other reason to preserve it is there, when it has no intrinsic value?</p> <p>It should be no surprise that this tactic has failed. When environmentalists cite the potential economic losses from climate change, they implicitly endorse economic gain and loss as a basis for environmental decision-making. Doubtless they are imagining that they must ‘speak the language’ of the power elite, who supposedly don’t understand anything but money, but this strategy backfires when, as is the norm, financial self-interest and ecological sustainability are opposed. </p> <p>Similarly, calls to preserve the rainforests because of the value of the medicines that may one day be derived from its species imply that, if only we can invent synthetic alternatives to whatever the forest might bear, we needn’t preserve the rainforest after all. Even appealing to the well-being of one’s grandchildren harbors a similar trap: if that is your first concern, then what about environmental issues that only affect people in far-away lands, or that don’t tangibly harm any human being at all? The clubbing of baby seals, the extinction of the river dolphin, the deafening of whales with sonar… it is hard to construct a compelling argument that any of these threaten the measurable well-being of future generations. Are we then to sacrifice these beings of little utility?</p> <p>Besides, did anyone ever become a committed environmentalist because of all the money we’ll save? Because of all the benefits we’ll receive? I am willing to bet that even the survival of the species or the well-being of your grandchildren isn’t the real motive for your environmentalism. You are not an environmentalist because you are afraid of what will happen if you don’t act. You are an environmentalist because you love our planet. To call others into environmentalism, we should therefore appeal to the same love in them. It is not only ineffectual but also insulting to offer someone a venal reason to act ecologically when we ourselves are doing it for love.</p> <p>Nonetheless, environmental campaigning relies heavily on scare tactics. Fear might stimulate a few gestures of activism, but it does not sustain long-term commitment. It strengthens the habits of self-protection, but what we need is to strengthen the habits of service.</p> <p>Why then do so many of us name “fear that we won’t have a livable planet” as the motive for their activism? I think it is to make that activism acceptable within the ideological framework I have described that takes an instrumentalist view of the planet. When we embrace what I believe is the true motive—love for this Earth—we veer close to the territory that the cynic derides. What is it to make ‘rational’ choices, after all? Is it ever really rational to choose from love? In particular, is it rational to love something that isn’t even alive? But the truth is, we love the Earth for what it is, not merely for what it provides.</p> <p>I suspect that even the most hardheaded environmentalist, who derides the Earth-is-alive crowd most vociferously, harbors a secret longing for the very object of his contempt. Deep down, he too believes the planet and everything on it is alive and sacred. He is afraid to touch that knowledge, even as he longs for it. Often, his intellectual reasons are but rationalizations by which he gives himself permission to act on his felt understanding of what is sacred.</p> <p>This person is all of us. I am no exception: the idea of a living, sentient Earth attracts me and repels me both, mirroring the polarity of opinion I observe at conferences between the nuts-and-bolts and spiritual factions. Accusations of ‘naive!,’ ‘softheaded!’ and ‘gullible’ rattle around in my own brain, expressing a hurting thing within. Maybe if I join the ranks of the critics and turn the criticism outward, accuse others of ignoring science and indulging in fuzzy thinking, I can find some temporary relief. But there is no real healing in that. I want to be whole. I want to feel more and not less. I want to heal these alienated parts of myself, so that I don’t act from them unconsciously and sabotage the beautiful vision that asks my contribution.</p> <p>Each of us (in an industrial society) wades against the tide of an old ideology as we dare to act from the felt understanding of our intimate connection to life, our interdependency, our interbeing. Critiques of the idea of a living planet make that struggle all the harder. In the interests of honesty as well as effective strategy, we need to look at the fear and pain that that critique comes from. Then we can get people in touch with their perception of a living sacred planet, so they can feel the grief and love that perception opens, and act upon it.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article first appeared in <a href="http://www.kosmosjournal.org/article/fear-of-a-living-planet/">Kosmos Journal</a>.</p> <hr size="0" /><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charles-eisenstein/oceans-are-not-worth-24-trillion">The oceans are not worth $24 trillion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/paul-kingsnorth/age-of-endings">The age of endings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/christopher-zumski-finke/staying-human-in-time-of-climate-change">Staying human in a time of climate change</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Charles Eisenstein Love and Spirituality Environment Economics Fri, 14 Oct 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Charles Eisenstein 105950 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Climate justice meets racism: Standing Rock was decades in the making https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jenni-monet/climate-justice-meets-racism-standing-rock-was-decades-in-making <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The militarized response to activists opposing the Dakota Access pipeline—and the Standing Rock Sioux’s fierce resolve—reflect the area's deep racial divides.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JenniMonet_0.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Chairman Archambault (left) and Chief Arvol Looking Horse. Credit: YES! Magazine/Jenni Monet, all rights reserved.</p> <p>Attack dogs and waves of arrests by police in riot gear could look like isolated incidents of overreaction to the activism stemming from the Standing Rock reservation. But for the Lakota Sioux who live in these marginalized hillsides, the escalated militarization behind their battle against the Dakota Access pipeline is a situation decades in the making.</p> <p>North Dakota is not the whitest state in America, but it’s arguably the most segregated. More than 60 percent of its largest minority population, Native Americans, lives on or near reservations. Native men are incarcerated or unemployed at some of the highest rates in the country. Poverty levels for families of the Standing Rock tribe are five times that of residents living in the capital city, Bismarck. In Cannon Ball, the heart of the tribal community, there are rows of weathered government homes, but no grocery store. Tucked behind a lonely highway, this is where mostly white farmers and ranchers shuttle to and from homesteads once belonging to the Sioux.</p> <p>Add to that a contempt that many Native Americans say they feel from North Dakotans and particularly from police, and many people of Standing Rock are not surprised by the extreme response of law enforcement against activists.</p> <p>&nbsp;“We’ve run on empty for a number of generations,” said Phyllis Young, a former tribal councilwoman for the Standing Rock Sioux, the community that’s vowed to stop the pipeline in its path. “But now we’re taking a stand. We are reaching a pinnacle, a peak.”</p> <p>The initial occupation began in April, but since early August people from across Indian Country, and now the world, have turned up every day by the hundreds to protest ongoing construction—even if it means confronting angry workers, lines of riot police, attack dogs, and jail time.</p> <p>North Dakota, a state of nearly 740,000 people, is similar to other conservative states with sizable Native American populations, places like Arizona and Oklahoma, where natural resource extractions have terribly harmed indigenous land—like the uranium mining fallout across the Navajo Nation or the lead contamination on lands leased by the Quapaws. Yet where these environmental ordeals did not so much draw the kind of activism now swelling at Standing Rock today, they have similarly intensified attention to the greater systemic problems that exist whenever ancestral tribal lands are targeted for energy development.</p> <p>For North Dakotans unaware of this context, the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline has caught them off guard.</p> <p>“The outsiders coming in, we feel, are bringing this unrest,” said Ron Ness, a multigenerational North Dakotan. “Certainly it’s not the norm of the tribal nations to do business here and who we all know and who we are neighbors with.”</p> <p>Ness, who is president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, represents the state’s overwhelming conservative view of the protests—a combination of annoyance and anxiety—that illustrates the historic and cultural divisions of the Northern Plains.</p> <hr size="0" /> <p>One thing all parties seem agree on, directly or indirectly, is that this oil pipeline is not wanted around water supplies. But whose water supply?</p> <p>An early proposal of the Dakota Access pipeline once examined a route that would have extended the multibillion-dollar project 10 miles north of Bismarck. But the company, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, rejected it, opting for a plan that would snake a portion 92 feet below the Missouri River, directly under Standing Rock’s main water source.</p> <p>The Corps had evaluated the Bismarck route and determined it was not a viable option. One reason: The route posed a potential threat to the city’s water supply. Municipal water wells were at risk, according to the agency’s environmental assessment. Meanwhile, the Corps stated that the initial route would have been difficult to stay 500 or more feet away from homes, as state regulations required. That’s when the agency recommended the path of the pipeline traverse the Missouri River underneath land belonging to the Corps, an easement less than half a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.</p> <p>The tribe argued environmental consequences would be grave if the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline, transporting 450,000 barrels of Bakken crude a day, were to leak. Standing Rock is now suing the Corps on claims that the agency inadequately consulted with them prior to approving the pipeline project. The tribe is appealing the recent federal ruling denying its request to stop construction. “We’re prepared to face the court,” Phyllis Young said. “We have an ambitious agenda.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, defending the pipeline in North Dakota lately has evolved into routine theater. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has so far arrested as many as 69 people for what it described as illegal protest activities. On Thursday three men attached themselves to construction equipment. Many of those arrested have been charged with criminal trespassing. The majority are people who reside in other states. At least two were booked with identification from communities in Canada.</p> <p>Morton County State’s Attorney’s office filed charges against four activists involved in the tense clashes of September 3, where private security guards hired by Dakota Access and its partner, Energy Transfer Partners, used attack dogs and pepper spray against protestors. The demonstration, which was video-recorded by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, effectively stopped pipeline construction for the day. The affidavit, including charges filed against Goodman, came in direct response to Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s call to seek reimbursement from anyone who costs the government money from their civil disobedience. That threat was made the same day the Republican governor activated the National Guard.</p> <p>This week, Kolette Ostlund, a deputy court clerk of the North Central Judicial District Office in Minot, North Dakota, received a formal warning for her Facebook comment made over the Labor Day weekend. The September 5 rant about the pipeline battle began: “Solution: let them keep their sacred land. Go around their water and burial grounds. It obviously means a lot to them and they should have it ... Then ... Stop the monthly checks and ALL the government payouts! Stop all the subsidies and hand-outs. Done!”</p> <p>She added, “The government has paid out enough over the last few hundred years. Enough is enough!”</p> <hr size="0" /> <p>At Sacred Stone Camp, where as many as 2,000 people have journeyed to pitch teepees or tents to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, Ashley Thunder Hawk stood in the wet grass and soft mud wearing a single white flip-flop. “The other one broke,” she laughed, wondering out loud how she would make her way around the camp.</p> <p>“There is racism,” said Thunder Hawk, a lifelong resident of Cannon Ball. “We get treated shitty on our own piece of land, but at the same time we go on the other side and it’s worse. We get treated really shitty.”</p> <p>In recent months, Thunder Hawk said, she’d given up on plans to move off the reservation and into the nearby community of Mandan or Bismarck. A felony record made getting a job and renting an apartment seem next to impossible. For now, her focus was on exercising extreme willpower, to ward off drugs, to resist alcohol, and to ignore a wave of negativity that seemingly permeates the reservation. The 24-year-old mother could count the days of her sobriety: six months and 13 days. Ron Yellow Jr., the father of her only child, was on the same healthy path.</p> <p>In Thunder Hawk’s world, practicing sheer determination is even difficult to do. “If you want to go somewhere, you gotta drive maybe 50-60 miles north to have fun or something, you know?” She paused and shifted her weight onto her naked foot.</p> <p>Yellow Jr., 37, added, “It’s why a lot of people say that we’re stuck here.” The social problems, many tribal residents say, began when treaties were broken and ancestral lands were lost to colonizers.</p> <p>The existing land base of the Standing Rock Sioux was determined by the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. When the U.S. government claimed victory 11 years later, following the Great Sioux War, the terms of that treaty were amended. Threatened by starvation, the tribe, under duress, ceded a great deal of Laramie land to the federal government. In partial recognition of this painful history, modern federal Indian law today accords certain rights to tribes, including entitlement programs linked to health care, housing, education, and even gaming.</p> <p>But even with these concessions, reservation life across Indian Country is often bleak and exacerbated by a disconnection from political power or voice. Consider North Dakota’s strict voter-ID law. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Chase Iron Eyes, the first Lakota Sioux to run for the state’s only congressional seat, said he has witnessed many Native American voters being denied access to the polls. North Dakota doesn’t have a voter registration system. Instead, the state has required residents to provide valid identification. Polling precincts have accepted driver’s licenses and state-issued identity cards, as well as identification from North Dakota’s federally recognized Indian tribes. &nbsp;</p> <p>But there’s one catch: All IDs must have a current address. “In Indian Country we all know damn well that we don’t have physical addresses,” said Iron Eyes. &nbsp;The 38-year-old attorney and member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is running for Congress, challenging incumbent Kevin Cramer, a Republican, who’s been the U.S. representative for North Dakota’s at-large congressional district since 2013.</p> <p>“I never had a physical address until I came back from law school,” Iron Eyes continued. “Our whole lives we have P.O. boxes, and so this is something that in the law we have to prove discriminatory intent.”</p> <p>In August, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that will make it easier for Native Americans to cast their ballots in the upcoming general election. But the court ruling didn’t strike down the 2013 law. With only weeks left before Election Day, North Dakota’s secretary of state vowed to review the issue during the next legislative session, in early 2017. Like so many voter-ID laws nationwide, the North Dakota statute was passed by a Republican-led legislature that claimed a need to curb statewide voter fraud. &nbsp;</p> <p>“If Native people don’t vote, what you get are instituted roadblocks and military-style checkpoints,” Iron Eyes said, referring to the National Guardsmen staked out along Highway 1806, a direct response to the pipeline protests. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Iron Eyes faces an enormous political battle. To begin, his opponent can outspend him by nearly a million dollars. (T-shirt sales have been a humble fundraising approach for the Iron Eyes for Congress campaign.) The Democratic National Party will not formally endorse him. With only around $40,000 in campaign coffers, he lacks the money to interest the DNC.</p> <p>And so Iron Eyes must rely on a vast Native American turnout to come even close to a win. Most tribal members are too poor to donate. Voting, at least, is free.</p> <p>To be sure, North Dakota is a state dominated by Republican influence. During North Dakota’s GOP convention last April, Cramer was among the first to endorse Donald Trump. It was a show of support soon followed by the state’s governor, who now sits on Trump’s newly created agricultural advisory committee.</p> <p>The state’s Democratic senator, Heidi Heitkamp, is an advocate for Native American programs in North Dakota. But she has remained mostly silent on action swirling around &nbsp;Dakota Access. On Thursday, though, she was compelled to respond after online threats were made by the hacker group Anonymous, targeting North Dakota lawmakers and law enforcement.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Threats of violence cloaked in anonymity never have and never will have any place in North Dakota,” Heitkamp’s statement read. &nbsp;</p> <p>That Anonymous has entered the fight for indigenous rights at Standing Rock, whether the occupation’s organizers like it or not, helps amplify a very simple narrative: “We decided to stand with Native Americans whose lands you raped, whose sacred lands you destroyed,” said its video mostly addressed to Gov. Darymple. </p> <p>Despite the passionate and widespread support for the Standing Rock Sioux’s position, the outlook for defeating a pipeline is grim. The very fact that the tribal community is situated in the state’s poorest county, Sioux County, prompts the question: What happens here once the pipeline battle ends?&nbsp;</p> <p>Systemic poverty that has gripped this tribe goes beyond a lack of money. It involves often young lives burdened early by hopelessness, homelessness, alcoholism, and chronic suicide. More than half of Cannon Ball’s students drop out of school.</p> <p>Addressing areas of insecurity would do Standing Rock justice. Despite its position on the prairie, it’s a virtual desert—of data, healthy foods, digital technology, political representation.</p> <p>“Fear of racism, it’s alive and well in the Dakotas,” said spiritual leader Arvol Looking Horse about the sentiments among the Lakota. “And today, it’s even gotten worse because of our political leaders.”</p> <p>Looking Horse was the elder who led a ceremonial blessing for President Obama during his visit to the Standing Rock Reservation in 2014. “Americans don’t even know that we exist today,” he continued.</p> <p>“But finally, the world is watching,” he said</p> <p>“We have no choice but to stand on prayer and peace and unity, because in our circle there’s no ending and beginning. &nbsp;We are all equal.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published by <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/this-moment-at-standing-rock-was-decades-in-the-making-20160916?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20160916">YES! Magazine</a>.</p> <p class="image-caption">See also: <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/how-you-can-support-standing-rock-20160921?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20160923">How you can support Standing Rock</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-j-dax/zuni-tribe-returns-to-sacred-ceremonies-to-strengthen-community">Teaching values of collective prosperity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jim-shultz/pipeline-strikes-back-audacity-of-transcanadas-15-billion-suit-against-us">The Pipeline Strikes Back: the audacity of TransCanada&#039;s $15b suit against the U.S.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/shannon-biggs/would-you-bulldoze-your-own-temple">Would you bulldoze your own temple? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jenni Monet Transformative nonviolence Activism Environment Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Jenni Monet 105666 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Catastrophism is as much an obstacle to addressing climate change as denial https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/stephen-jackson/catastrophism-is-as-much-obstacle-to-addressing-climate-change-as-den <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is our confidence in the unifying power of fear obstructing action to combat global warming?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/StephenJackson4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://www.pixabay.com/">www.pixabay.com</a>. CCo Public Domain.</p> <p>For a long while people have used the phrase ‘climate denier’ or ‘denialism’ as pejorative labels to admonish those who reject the reality of climate change. Whether it’s industry-funded disinformation spin doctors or members of the public&nbsp;who are perceived as dupes for believing that climate change is just a hoax, anyone who rejects the assertion that human-produced CO₂&nbsp;emissions are dangerously altering the Earth’s climate system is frequently labeled in this way. </p> <p>But a curious thing has happened over the past few years: the use of ‘denial’ has expanded to include people who&nbsp;<em>do</em>&nbsp;accept established scientific evidence about climate change, but who nonetheless devote little personal time and energy to engage with the issue through activism or changes in their daily habits and routines. This growing concern with&nbsp;‘our’&nbsp;denial as opposed to ‘theirs’ has spawned a fair number of books and academic studies that seek to explain why people’s concern about climate change so often fails to translate into action. Kari Marie Norgaard’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/151011/living_in_denial:_why_even_people_who_believe_in_climate_change_do_nothing_about_it"><em>Living in Denial</em></a> is a good example. </p> <p>In this context, the meaning of denial typically suggests that a number of ingrained psychological <a href="http://discoversociety.org/2015/03/01/apocalypse-when-not-thinking-and-talking-about-climate-change/?utm_content=bufferd2dfe&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer">coping mechanisms</a>&nbsp;are preventing people from taking action even though they understand the consequences. The imminent danger of climate change is, it seems, so unsettling that many of us unconsciously push reality to the backs of our minds so that we can get on with our daily lives and pretend that everything is fine. Simply put, we find ways to avoid feeling the fear that would otherwise compel us to act.</p> <p>In the introduction to her book<em>&nbsp;</em><a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=1451697384"><em>This Changes Everything</em></a>,&nbsp;Naomi Klein follows this line of reasoning when recounting her personal experiences with the politics of climate change: “I denied climate change longer than I cared to admit,” she writes “A great many of us engage in this kind of climate change denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or we look but then we turn it into a joke (‘more signs of the Apocalypse!’). Which is another way of looking away…We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of the crisis will change everything. And we are right.”</p> <p>Were we to accept this reality,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/capitalism-vs-climate/">Klein suggests elsewhere</a>, we would recognise that “climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.”</p> <p>These assumptions about what science and fear can achieve<em>&nbsp;</em>politically are widespread in the climate movement. Whether denial is applied to ‘us’ or ‘them’,&nbsp; the underlying belief is that a better grasp of scientific facts and a sufficient level of dread—if spread widely enough—will &nbsp;cause people to agree on some course of action. If only conservatives would stop denying the science, and if we could all muster the courage to face the terrifying calamity that lurks on the horizon, then&nbsp;<em>finally</em> we could come together through a mutual&nbsp;sense of self-preservation. This is the power that catastrophism exerts over public and political thinking.</p> <p>Given this belief, it's no surprise that prior to the publication of the International Panel on Climate Change’s <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/">Fifth&nbsp;Assessment Report</a>,&nbsp;a former United Nations executive secretary&nbsp;<a href="http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/former-un-official-says-climate-report-will-shock-nations-into-action-20121106-28w5c.html">optimistically remarked</a>&nbsp;that it was “going to scare the wits out of everyone,” and “create new political momentum.” The same hopes for political unity—informed &nbsp;by science and animated by fear—are echoed in the political advocacy group&nbsp;<em>Climate Reality'</em>s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/open-letter-world-leaders">call to action</a>, which dreamily concludes, “When the world speaks with one voice, our leaders have to listen.”</p> <p>However, even a cursory review of the positions advanced by the different groups who are sounding the alarm reveals that, although anxiety about climate change can certainly generate political responses, it does so in remarkably different ways.</p> <p>For some, continued&nbsp;<a href="https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/geco-road-paris-study-published">economic growth</a>&nbsp;and climate mitigation go hand-in-hand, while for others&nbsp;<a href="http://clubfordegrowth.org/">‘de-growth’</a>&nbsp;is the only way to avert catastrophe. Some argue that effective climate mitigation can occur within the confines of&nbsp;<a href="http://newpol.org/content/reflections-crisis-capitalism-climate-change-and-resistance">capitalism</a>, while others insist that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/03/tony-abbott-and-naomi-klein-agree-we-cant-beat-climate-change-under-capitalism">getting rid of capitalism</a>&nbsp;is the only way to overcome the crisis. For some, rapid technological innovation and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ecomodernism.org/">intensifying<em>&nbsp;</em>the processes of modernisation</a>&nbsp;are essential, while for others an overly-optimistic&nbsp;<a href="http://dark-mountain.net/blog/beyond-the-life-of-the-sun-ecomodernism-and-its-discontents-2/">faith in technology and progress</a>&nbsp;lie at the root of the problem. Has the situation become so dire that we need to consider&nbsp;<a href="http://motherboard.vice.com/read/geoengineering-scientists-planet-climate-engineering-2014">geoengineering</a>&nbsp;our way out of the problem, or is this ‘Plan B’&nbsp;too dangerous a gambit?</p> <p>Even within the progressive climate movement, positions range from <a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/09/05/naomi_klein_big_green_groups_are_crippling_the_environmental_movement_partner/">anti-capitalist and de-growth</a> to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ephemerajournal.org/contribution/capitalizing-chaos-climate-change-and-disaster-capitalism">pro-capitalist and pro-growth</a>, and from pro- to anti-nuclear power.&nbsp;Climate activist and author Naomi Oreskes, for example,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/16/new-form-climate-denialism-dont-celebrate-yet-cop-21">recently tarred</a>&nbsp; James Hanson&nbsp;and other scientists&nbsp;as ‘deniers’ for insisting that CO₂ emissions targets can’t be achieved without nuclear power. Added to these diverging opinions are the growing number of &nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/shannon-biggs/no-surrender-responding-to-new-breed-of-climate-change-inactivists">climate ‘in-activists’</a> who believe that the chance to avert a catastrophe has already passed, so the only realistic thing to do is to accept this ‘fact’ and “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/carolyn-baker/welcome-to-planetary-hospice">prepare society for the end of life as we know it</a>.”</p> <p>It’s clear that even climate activists don’t speak with one voice.<em>&nbsp;</em>So while it’s reassuring to believe that science and a sense of dread will compel different groups to come together under the same political banner, this is highly unlikely. Fear of catastrophe is an affective state, not a world-view or a strategy.&nbsp;The meanings that people ascribe to&nbsp;climate change—what they believe is at stake, who’s responsible and what’s to be done—will always be interpreted through their own ideological&nbsp;lenses.</p> <p>To be sure, basic goals like keeping the average temperature of the globe from rising two degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels, or demanding an 80 to 90 per cent reduction in global CO₂&nbsp;emissions by a certain date, are easy enough to agree on—the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37265541">ratification of the Paris climate agreement by China and the US</a> last week is a good example. But when it comes down to the gritty questions of&nbsp;how&nbsp;to accomplish these things people usually part ways, and often bitterly. The idea that catastrophism can create a political consensus and that ‘denial’&nbsp;is the key barrier to progress clouds our capacity to recognise how great a hurdle these divisions represent.</p> <p>Is it possible, therefore, that concerns about ‘our’ denial reflect a creeping awareness that inducements to fear can’t accomplish what’s commonly expected of them? If so, what’s the alternative? </p> <p>In my view the primary focus of climate change activism needs to shift from highlighting imminent catastrophe to&nbsp;focusing on how to overcome political divisions—barriers to action that are conveniently ignored because it’s assumed that the policies needed to address the crisis are obvious once people acknowledge the basic facts.</p> <p>The highly generalized rhetoric that marks out many demonstrations and climate marches is symptomatic of this problem, with slogans such as&nbsp;‘<a href="http://www.campaigncc.org/TimetoAct">Act on climate change</a>’,&nbsp;‘<a href="http://archive.stopclimatechaos.org/tags/Scotland">Stop climate chaos</a>’,&nbsp;and ‘<a href="http://350brooklyn.org/2015/11/22/protect-what-you-loveclimate-justice-now-at-the-statue-of-liberty-1212-930am/">Climate justice now</a>.’ Actual policy proposals—the&nbsp;<em>how-to&nbsp;</em>of the matter—are rarely the centrepiece of the action. </p> <p>Obviously, street protest and detailed policy-making are different and complementary processes, and persuading millions of people to rally around anything specific is going to be extremely difficult. But grappling with questions like these requires devoting much more time and energy to foregrounding the disagreements that exist between climate campaigners and figuring out how to bridge or reconcile them in practice. </p> <p>As counter-intuitive as it may seem, one approach to this problem would be to stop using the threat of averting a catastrophe as the main incentive for a reformed energy system. A more unifying and productive discourse could emerge, for example, if the primary end-point for decarbonization were to be re-framed as empowering people by having cheaper, cleaner and more abundant forms of energy. This would place contested political values rather than risk mitigation at the centre of the debate, and might even resonate with people who don’t identify with environmental activism.</p> <p>An end to catastrophism as the key motive for creating a low/non-carbon energy system would aid this process by shifting the focus away from ineffective and often paralysing appeals to fear and dread, and re-orienting the conversation towards the many ways in which different groups can act, alone and together. </p> <p>We need to confront this particular elephant in the room and soon, or else we really are all in denial.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/socially-constructed-silence-protecting-policymakers-fr">Socially constructed silence? Protecting policymakers from the unthinkable.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/puzzle-of-low-oil-prices-has-race-to-beat-carbon-bubble-already-started">The puzzle of low oil prices—has the race to beat the carbon bubble already started?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/camila-moreno-lili-fuhr-daniel-speich-chass/beyond-paris-avoiding-trap-of-carbon-metr">Beyond Paris: avoiding the trap of carbon metrics</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation climate change Stephen Jackson Activism Environment Tue, 06 Sep 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Stephen Jackson 105118 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Wildlife conservationists need to break out of their Stockholm syndrome https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/margi-prideaux/wildlife-conservationists-need-to-break-out-of-their-stockholm-syndrom <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Instead of fighting a destructive economic system, international conservation NGOs are bonding with its brutality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Margi2cropped.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The Kanha tiger reserve in India. Credit: By Honzasoukup - Own work, Public Domain, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7608599">Wikimedia.org</a>.</p> <p><span>Conservationists like me want a world where wildlife has space, where wild places exist, and where we can connect with the wild things. Yet time after time, like captives suffering from </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome">Stockholm syndrome</a><span>, wildlife conservation NGOs placate, please and emulate the very forces that are destroying the things they want to protect.</span></p> <p><span>Despite our collective, decades-long, worldwide commitment to protect wildlife, few indicators are positive. The&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/">Red List</a><span> that’s issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature now includes 22,784 species that are threatened with extinction. Habitat loss is the main problem for 85 per cent of species on the list.</span></p> <p><span>The number of African rhinos killed by poachers, for example, </span><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/news/iucn-reports-deepening-rhino-poaching-crisis-in-africa">has increased</a><span> for the sixth year in a row. Pangolins are now the most </span><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/news/saving-the-worlds-most-illegally-traded-wild-mammal">heavily poached</a><span> and trafficked mammals on the planet. One third of the world’s </span><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/news/one-third-of-the-worlds-freshwater-fish-at-risk-from-hydropower-dam-expansion">freshwater fish are at risk</a><span> from new hydropower dams. Two hundred </span><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/initiatives/amphibians/analysis/major-threats">amphibians</a><span> have already gone and </span><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/news/new-assessment-highlights-climate-change-as-most-serious-threat-to-polar-bear-survival-iucn-red-list">polar bears</a><span> are probably doomed. Human beings are simply taking too much from the world for its rich diversity to survive.</span></p> <p><span>None of this is news to people in the conservation movement. The reality of devastation has been apparent for many years, which should prompt some soul-searching about why we are failing.</span></p> <p><span>The main reason is that we are allowing the market to dictate conservation while ignoring the very people we should empower.</span></p> <p><span>Communities everywhere know their non-human kin—the animals that live among them. We know the seasons we share, and what grows when and where. We know the ebb and flow of life in our shared places. For some, those vistas are forests. Others look out to the sea, and some on endless frozen horizons. These are not empty places. They are filled with wildlife </span><a href="http://www.logosjournal.com/interspecies-cosmopolitanism.php">with which human beings commune</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>But if wildlife are local, the impacts of human activity on them are unquestionably global, and they require global management. Industrialized fishing, mining, forestry and mono-agriculture raze whole areas and replace diversity with a single focus. The illegal international trade in exotic species provides a path for the unethical to hunt, kill, package and commodify animals and plants. The market’s quest for resources and power floods, burns and devastates whole landscapes.</span></p> <p><span>For the last two decades, the conservation movement of the global North has believed that little can be done to counterbalance the might of this vast economic system, so the reaction has been to bond with it and accept its brutality—to please it and copy its characteristics. In the process, organizations in this movement have developed the classic symptoms of psychological capture and dependence through which victims develop a bond with, and sympathy for, their captors.</span></p> <p><span>I’m being deliberately provocative here by evoking Stockholm syndrome because it clarifies the crucial point I want to make: I believe that the conservation movement’s unhealthy relationship with the global economic system exacerbates harm to both people and wildlife.</span></p> <p><span>NGOs in Europe and North America raise money from philanthropists, corporations and other donors to arrange or establish protected areas that extend over large, pristine and fragile lands in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The public in the global North flock to their ambition, hoping it will lock precious places away from harm and raising even more money in the process. But this support turns a blind eye to the inconvenient fact that these areas </span><a href="http://www.scidev.net/global/forestry/feature/conservation-plans-sacrifice-forests-indigenous.html">exclude local communities</a><span>—people who have lived for millennia beside flamingos and tigers, orangutans and turtles and who are just as wronged by big business and globalization as are wildlife.</span></p> <p><span>These agencies also court the market by selling ‘adoption products’ and ‘travel experiences’ to these protected areas. They smooth out the ripples from their messages so that their supporters’ sensibilities are not offended. They deflect attention away from harmful corporations. They expand their marketing departments and shut down their conservation teams. They adopt the posture and attributes of the very things—capitalism, consumerism and the market—that destroy what they seek to protect.</span></p> <p><span>Hence, their capture-bond is informing how they see the world. In their efforts to please and emulate the market they fail to look for the broader, systemic causes of elephant poaching or killing sharks for their fins. They trade stands of forests for agreements with corporations and international agencies not to campaign against dams that will flood whole valleys. They defend sport hunting by wealthy western tourists as legitimate ‘conservation’.</span></p> <p><span>For example, the </span><a href="http://www.kanha-national-park.com/history-of-kanha.html">Gonds and the Baigas</a><span>—tribal peoples in India—have been </span><a href="http://www.survivalinternational.org/about/tigers">evicted from their ancestral homelands</a><span> to make way for tiger conservation. Tourist vehicles now drive through their lands searching for tigers, and new hotels have been built in the same zones from which they were evicted.</span></p> <p><span>Or take Indonesia, where massive illegal deforestation has burned and destroyed huge areas of precious rainforest. Even though a </span><a href="http://rightsandresources.org/en/news/press-release-forests-on-the-brink-six-weeks-after-cop-in-paris-new-research-finds-forest-peoples-losing-ground-in-key-nations-despite-proof-of-their-role-as-best-guardians-while-ot/">court order and a national commission</a><span> have compelled the government to hand ownership of the forests back to the people who live there, the corporate sector is resisting. At times they hide behind their NGO partners through the </span><a href="http://www.rspo.org/news-and-events/news/rspo-statement-on-the-indonesian-forest-fires">Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil</a><span>, a global, multi-stakeholder initiative that includes many conservation NGOs as members.</span></p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/mar/07/halt-polar-bear-trade-fails">International NGOs have scuppered</a><span> efforts to control polar bear trophy hunting in the Arctic while they benefit from </span><a href="http://www.herinst.org/BusinessManagedDemocracy/environment/environmentalists/WWF2.html">lucrative corporate partnerships</a><span> for other areas of polar bear conservation. A major project run by Conservation International in the </span><a href="http://www.redd-monitor.org/2016/02/05/how-safeguards-fail-poor-farmers-in-the-corridor-ankeniheny-zahamena-redd-project-in-madagascar/">Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor</a><span> of Madagascar has restricted villagers’ use of their traditional forests for food harvesting in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and NRG Energy are all members of the organisation's </span><a href="http://www.conservation.org/projects/Pages/Business-Sustainability-Council.aspx">Business &amp; Sustainability Council</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>Even worse is the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), which stands </span><a href="http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/11107">accused of breaches</a><span> of OECD Guidelines on the Conduct of Multinational Enterprises and of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. The </span><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/03/wwf-accused-of-facilitating-human-rights-abuses-of-tribal-people-in-cameroon">complaint in question alleges</a><span> that WWF has financed and supported ecoguards that have brutally displaced the Baka tribespeople who have traditionally lived in the area now declared as a national park in Cameroon, while turning a blind eye to the destruction of the Baka’s way of life through logging, mining and the trafficking of wildlife.</span></p> <p><a href="http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/11107">Stephen Corry, the director of Survival International</a><span> (which in this case is blowing the whistle on another NGO), has this to say:</span></p> <p><span>“WWF knows that the men its supporters fund for conservation work repeatedly abuse, and even torture, the Baka, whose land has been stolen for conservation zones. It hasn’t stopped them, and it treats criticism as something to be countered with yet more public relations.”</span></p> <p><span>Writing on </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/gordon-bennett/wwf-baka-and-importance-of-due-diligence">openDemocracy</a><span>, Gordon Bennett argues that NGOs might avoid toxic situations like this if they undertook proper investigations before committing to new parks and protected areas. I agree, but I also believe that WWF should have supported the Baka people to propose their own solutions to conserving their forests instead of assuming that a park and ecoguards were the answer.</span></p> <p><span>These depressing examples are being replicated around the world. The situation will only get worse as human populations increase. Local communities and wildlife are bound to lose out.</span></p> <p><span>The world is changing, however, and </span><a href="http://www.civicus.org/index.php/en/opeds/2480-putting-citizens-at-its-heart-the-un-needs-a-21st-century-makeover">local civil society is on the rise</a><span>. International conservation NGOs therefore need to think long and hard about their relevance as local groups grow stronger. As more communities gain access to international politics, they will be trampled on less easily by agendas from afar. The challenge is to ensure that they become empowered to look after their own land and the wildlife around them.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>If the conservation movement is brave enough to transform the ways in which it works, it can support this process of empowerment and the radical changes that come with it. It can connect with local civil society groups as a partner and not as a decision maker. It can devolve its grip on how conservation is conceived and respond to community ideas and wisdom about protecting the wildlife with which they live.</span></p> <p><span>In this task the conservation movement has </span><a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1758-5899.12253/abstract">a lot to offer</a><span>. International NGOs are skilled and experienced, and they have access to international processes of negotiation and decision making. If they free themselves from corporate pressures and transform themselves into supporters of local civil society, together everyone is stronger. NGOs can help to project the unpasteurised voices of local communities into the halls of the United Nations.</span></p> <p><span>To do any of these things, however, they must remember who they were before they were captured. It’s time to break free from Stockholm syndrome.</span></p><p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/margi-prideaux/zoos-are-problem-not-solution-to-animal-conservation">Zoos are the problem, not the solution to animal conservation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/carol-j-adams/sexual-politics-of-meat">The sexual politics of meat</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights conservation NGOs Margi Prideaux The role of money Activism Economics Environment Mon, 29 Aug 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Margi Prideaux 104986 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Looking back: 12 of Transformation's greatest articles https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/in-retrospect-10-of-transformations-greatest-articles <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>I'm leaving after three years at openDemocracy. Here are some of my favourite, must-read articles from writers to watch out for.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Today is my last day working for openDemocracy, after three and a bit years as the co-editor of the Transformation section.</p><p>By far the highlight has been collaborating with some incredibly talented writers and activists. I've tried to use the platform to publish people with marginalised identities who don't always get voices in more mainstream papers, or who have to struggle to get into the mainstream, despite having more to say than most established journalists.</p><p><span>I've learned that good editing is 10% editorial skill and 90% diplomacy. Sending polite to passive-aggressive chaser emails is perhaps the key skill in the editor's toolbox (sorry to everyone who received them). I've also</span><span>&nbsp;become a far better journalist and editor through working so closely and intensively with other peoples' writing. </span><span>If you wrote for me, thank you for your time and effort.</span></p><p>Here are the 12 articles I'm most proud of, for various reasons, not in any order:&nbsp;</p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/emily-apple/i-was-arrested-75-times-how-violent-policing-destroys-mental-health" target="_blank">1. I was arrested 75 times: how violent policing destroys mental health, by Emily Apple</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Emily Apple riot police mental health_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Emily Apple riot police mental health_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/adrienne-brown/visionary-fiction-when-social-justice-means-giving-up-on-utopias" target="_blank"><span>2.&nbsp;</span><span>Science fiction and social justice: giving up on utopias, by Adrienne Maree Brown&nbsp;</span></a></h3><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/adrienne brown Octavia-Butler-detail_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/adrienne brown Octavia-Butler-detail_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="263" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/nina-power/time-does-not-always-heal-state-violence-and-psychic-damage" target="_blank">3.&nbsp;Time does not always heal: state violence and psychic damage, by Nina Power</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Nina Power time transformation state violence alfie meadows_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Nina Power time transformation state violence alfie meadows_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/zoe-samudzi/dylann-roof-is-terrorist-but-he-is-not-extremist" target="_blank">4.&nbsp;Dylann Roof is not an extremist, by&nbsp;Zoé Samudzi</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/dylann roof burning flag_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/dylann roof burning flag_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tatiana-garavito/migrants-rights-protest-st-pancras-ticket-barrier-shut-down-eurostar" target="_blank">5.&nbsp;Why I glued myself to a ticket barrier and shut down the Eurostar, by Tatiana Garavito</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Tatiana Garavito_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Tatiana Garavito_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/enough-talk-about-intersectionality-lets-get-on-with-it" target="_blank"><span>6.&nbsp;</span><span>Enough talk about intersectionality, let's get on with it, by Chitra Nagarajan</span></a></h3><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/chitra nagarajan no recourse to public funds southall black sisters intersectionality_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/chitra nagarajan no recourse to public funds southall black sisters intersectionality_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/charlotte-cooper/i-am-fat-dancer-but-i-am-not-your-inspiration-porn" target="_blank">7.&nbsp;I am a fat dancer but I am not your inspiration porn, by Charlotte Cooper</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/CharlotteCooperSWAGGA_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/CharlotteCooperSWAGGA_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/florence-okoye/black-to-future-afrofuturism-and-tech-power" target="_blank">8. Black to the future: afrofuturism and tech power, by Florence Okoye</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/florence okoye janelle monae nerdreactor_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/florence okoye janelle monae nerdreactor_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/anna-h%C3%A1jkov%C3%A1/how-should-we-remember-auschwitz" target="_blank">9. How should we remember Auschwitz? by Anna Hajkova</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/AnnaH auschwitz_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/AnnaH auschwitz_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="215" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-abikaram/there-is-no-such-thing-as-prison-reform-interview-with-cece-mcdonald" target="_blank">10.&nbsp;There is no such thing as prison reform: an interview with CeCe McDonald, by Andrea Abi-Karam</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Andrea Abi Karam CeCe McDonald_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Andrea Abi Karam CeCe McDonald_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/zia-x/on-superheroes-who-will-save-us-now" target="_blank">11.&nbsp;On superheroes: who will save us now? by&nbsp;Zia X</a></h3><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Superhero_Occupy_Zia_X.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Superhero_Occupy_Zia_X.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3><span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/janey-stephenson/when-resting-is-resistance" target="_blank">12. When resting is resistance, by Janey Stephenson</a></span></h3><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Janey Stephenson_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Janey Stephenson_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/meet-sex-workers-using-art-to-expose-truths-about-sex-industry">Meet the sex workers using art to expose truths about the sex industry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar-kate-bornstein/staying-alive-kate-bornstein-faces-down-gender-binary-cancer">Staying alive: Kate Bornstein gives the finger to cancer, suicide, and the gender binary</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/how-trans-movement-sold-out">Trans ™: how the trans movement got sold out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/dead-name-why-facebook-doesnt-know-who-we-really-are">Dead name: why Facebook is wrong about who we are</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/dont-vote-political-case-for-not-voting-in-2015-general-election">If you care about politics, don&#039;t vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/miserable-cynics-guide-to-mindfulness">The miserable cynic&#039;s guide to mindfulness</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/how-home-office-keeps-getting-it-wrong-on-lgbtq-asylum-seekers">How the Home Office keeps getting it wrong on LGBTQ asylum seekers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/why-i-am-antizionist-jew">Why I am an anti-Zionist Jew</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/liberation-in-age-of-hashtag-activist">Liberation in the age of the hashtag activist</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/silence-death-sarah-schulman-on-act-up-forgotten-resistance-to-aids-crisis">Silence = death: Sarah Schulman on ACT UP, the forgotten resistance to the AIDS crisis </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/willing-impossible-interview-with-judith-butler">Willing the impossible: an interview with Judith Butler </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ray Filar Activism Care Culture Economics Environment Intersectionality Love and Spirituality Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:38:34 +0000 Ray Filar 102859 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Zoos are the problem, not the solution to animal conservation https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/margi-prideaux/zoos-are-problem-not-solution-to-animal-conservation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Instead of imprisoning animals for profit, why not support shared efforts in coexistence?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MargiePrideaux.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/lyle58/1299640182">Flickr/Lyle</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <p><span>In the past month the deaths of animals in captivity have highlighted continuing concerns around conservation. Zoos are entertainment, and while they contribute to conservation they don’t provide any real solution. Wildlife can only be saved by empowering their protection in their own natural habitats—and that means we have to work with local communities and not against them.</span></p> <p><span>On 28</span>th<span> May 2016, for example, </span><a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36414813">Harambe</a><span>, a captive born gorilla, was shot dead after a young boy fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo in the United States. One week earlier, </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/25/man-mauled-by-lions-in-chilean-zoo-is-recovering-say-authorities">two lions</a><span> were destroyed at Santiago’s Metropolitan Zoo in Chile, and a week before that a Sumatran elephant called </span><a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-12/critically-endangered-sumatran-elephant-dies-in-indonesian-zoo/7410176">Yani</a><span> died in the notorious Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia. An online discussion has exploded about each of these sad cases, but by and large it’s a debate that excludes the views of those most important for success.</span></p> <p><span>Opponents of zoos such as </span><a href="http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/why-was-harambe-the-gorilla-in-a-zoo-in-the-first-place/">Marc Bekoff</a><span>, a behavioural ecologist and professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, argue that an animal’s life in captivity is a shadow of their experience in the wild. Proponents of zoos such as the </span><a href="http://www.waza.org/en/site/conservation/conservation-potential">World Association of Zoos and Aquariums</a><span> counter that the conservation benefits zoos provide outweigh the isolated (albeit tragic) costs paid by the animals involved.</span></p> <p><span>On social media zoo supporters say that captive animals serve as conservation ‘ambassadors’ for their wild counterparts, and that zoos are a ‘Noah’s Ark’ that provides a buffer against the decline of endangered species. In truth, this is a script that even the zoo industry has </span><a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10806-015-9537-z">quietly abandoned</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>While some species such as oryx, wolves and condors have benefited from </span><a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10531-012-0256-8?LI=true">captive breeding</a><span> programmes, there is precious little evidence that zoo bred genetics are being used to strengthen wild populations of gorillas, elephants and dolphins. Zoos recognise that they have insufficient space to engage in successful breeding programmes for large mammals, and are unable to accommodate more than the smallest fraction of the world’s </span><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/news/conservation-successes-overshadowed-by-more-species-declines-iucn-red-list-update">22,784</a><span> species that are threatened with extinction. So why do zoos persist?</span></p> <p><span>Zoos began life as amusements, and while they have evolved they still exist to make money and tap into a wealthy societal appetite for entertainment. But at a deeper level they are key components of an international conservation system that resembles the West’s colonial and racial past. This system believes that communities in parts of the world where most endangered species live are a </span><a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001671851500069X">problem that must be fixed</a><span>—most often by acquiring traditional lands, establishing camps and other experiences for wealthy tourists, and employing gun-carrying guards to patrol the boundaries of parks and reserves.</span></p> <p><span>Both zoo proponents and their opponents rarely recognise that discussions about conservation radiate almost exclusively from Europe, North America and Australia. Meanwhile, the voices of those who actually live alongside the animals in question are ignored. To fill their exhibits, zoos either breed animals or remove them from the wild. And that leaves a trail of money behind each individual animal as it moves from one enclosure to another along the long chain of captivity, bearing an uncomfortable resemblance to other commodities that are traded under global capitalism including slaves and human trafficking.</span></p> <p><span>However, most of this money doesn’t flow to the communities where these species naturally live. It flows between professional (and sometimes illegal) wildlife traders and the coffers of governments along the way. Sometimes animals move through </span><a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01639625.2010.483162">intermediaries</a><span>, perhaps to remove any traces of their origins.</span></p> <p><span>Zoos do invest in conservation programmes, but the generosity of these exchanges is small compared to the profits that are derived from the animals in their exhibits, or the large sums that are spent on acquiring animals and creating zoo displays: in 2011 </span><a href="https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=g-lAx0P4oM0C&amp;rdid=book-g-lAx0P4oM0C&amp;rdot=1&amp;source=gbs_vpt_read&amp;pcampaignid=books_booksearch_viewport">John Fa</a><span> and his colleagues calculated that investments in situ or in local conservation efforts represented less than five percent of the total income of zoos in the USA.</span></p> <p><span>The people of the forests and lowland swamps of Central Africa—the home of Harambe’s kin—don’t sit on the </span><a href="http://cincinnatizoo.org/about-us/board-of-directors/">Board </a><span>of the Cincinnati Zoo. Communities in the arctic north are not part of the </span><a href="http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/rzss-management/">management decisions</a><span> for Walker, Victoria and Arktos, three polar bears at the UK’s </span><a href="http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/">Highland Wildlife Park</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>In 2015 </span><a href="http://www.biggameparks.org/">Big Game Parks</a><span>, the trust that manages three game reserves in Swaziland, sold 15 infant and three pregnant female wild elephants to US zoos. The move was </span><a href="https://www.elephanttrust.org/index.php/articles/item/statement-on-swaziland">roundly condemned</a><span> by more than 80 experts as having “no single redeeming virtue.” Were local people’s views sought or listened to in this transaction? My sources say no, yet many zoos continue to imply that their exhibits exist to contribute to conservation in these regions.</span></p> <p><span>What would happen if these communities were asked for their opinions on how best to conserve animals with which they’ve lived for generations? Instead of transporting elephants halfway around the world, they might ask for support to move their village outside of a wild elephant migration path. They might prefer that efforts were focused on reducing carbon emissions so that polar bears and their human neighbours could continue to live their lives successfully on the ice. They might also ask for assistance to help buffer the impact of globalisation on their livelihoods so that trading, hunting and poaching could be reduced.</span></p> <p><span>My bookshelves are buckling under the weight of science and discovery about animal cognition and culture that has exploded in the last ten years. But my most treasured possession is a copy of a book called </span><a href="https://books.google.com.au/books?id=wi4n8i4YgpYC&amp;dq=Communion+of+Subjects&amp;lr=">A Communion of Subjects</a><span>, edited by Paul Waldau and Kimberly Patton, whose pages echo with the stories of the many ways in which people across the world relate to animals.</span></p> <p><span>Many human cultures understand that people and wildlife share the same spaces, and therefore </span><a href="http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-12133-8_10">need to cohabit</a><span> in order to survive. Human and non-human cultures alike are threatened by pollution, deforestation and climate change. The destruction of the natural world impoverishes everybody. So if we did ask local communities for their opinions on what to do about these issues, we might be surprised by their suggestions.</span></p> <p><span>But for these voices to be heard, zoos have to abandon their dominant position in debates over conservation, a position which overshadows the multitude of smaller views and the wisdom they often represent. Zoos should speak with honesty about the work they do and don’t do, and admit that many of their living exhibits are designed for profit.</span></p> <p><span>This honesty would allow their visitors to have a much franker engagement with the issues surrounding endangered species, one made more powerful by direct witness of the animals they are discussing—like a silverback gorilla that has been robbed of his heritage because he earns money for the zoo. It would also give zoos more leverage to promote other attractions that are not mired in the same </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/07/science/gorilla-shot-harambe-zoo.html?_r=0">ethical debates</a><span>, such as species that are local to the region of the zoo, or computer simulations and robotics.</span></p> <p><span>When zoos cease to dominate the conversation, the public will be able to hear </span><a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320715000518">how they can empower local conservation efforts</a><span> wherever apes, elephants, dolphins and big cats are threatened—and what the stewards of their natural habitats can do the stem these risks. By reversing the neo-colonial structure of international conservation, this will put animals and people at the centre of the debate.&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-barnes/veganism-and-compassion">Veganism and compassion </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/diana-moreno/from-shelf-to-bin-food-waste-and-culture-of-rush">From the shelf to the bin: food waste and the culture of rush</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights zoos conservation Margi Prideaux Care Environment Wed, 22 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Margi Prideaux 103152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What's happening to the millions of people displaced by climate change? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/max-harris/climate-refugees-whats-happening-to-millions-of-people-displaced-by-climat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Weather-related hazards are displacing millions of people globally. The World Humanitarian Summit was a start, but countries need to start dealing with climate refugees.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Max Harris climate refugee.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Max Harris climate refugee.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Bangladeshi child displaced by river erosion collects drinking water. Credit: Press Association/Shahria Sharmin.</span></span></span></p><p class="p1">The World Humanitarian Summit, which concluded last month in Istanbul, aimed to reform the humanitarian system. But that system&nbsp;was created for a climate that no longer exists.</p> <p class="p1">In 2015, disasters and climate change impacts led to the displacement of twice as many people as conflict and violence. </p><p class="p1"><span>This is only going to increase. It needs more attention.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">While estimates vary, climate change will cause or contribute to the displacement of millions of people. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 21.5 million people have already been displaced by weather-related hazards each year since 2008. That figure does not include those forced to flee because of gradual hazards such as sea level rise.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">If countries are to be more resilient and able to contend with this expected large-scale increase in displacement then they need to act now.</p> <p class="p1">The international laws and policies on human movement, in particular, need revisiting.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">One challenge that lawyers have been tussling with is how to protect and ensure the human rights of those who move due to climate change. People displaced by climate change have not been considered ‘refugees’ under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Judges have thus far refused to give refugee status to people displaced by climate change, arguing that they do not face state persecution of the kind that is necessary for a person to qualify as a refugee.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">In New Zealand, for example, a man from Kiribati, Ioane Teitiota, claimed refugee status and argued he could not return home because of rising sea levels and the threat of climate change. Domestic courts rejected his arguments; his final appeal was dismissed last year.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">Another policy challenge that must be addressed is whether solutions to climate displacement are best designed at the local, regional, or global level.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2"><span>International efforts to address climate change have progressed slowly. While regional agreements may face fewer obstacles and raise less controversy, they are unlikely to provide a complete solution for the problem.&nbsp;</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="p2"><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">It is important that the voices from countries affected most by climate displacement are given prominence.&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">Local solutions are not often acknowledged as important on the international stage. But grassroots movements are vital to building the community resilience needed to prevent displacement, and to ensure that if climate change impacts force people to move, they are able to do so in safety and with dignity.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">Itinterunga Rae Bainteiti, a youth activist from Kiribati, reflects on the critical role of civil society in local solutions after waves from Cyclone Pam pummeled his island in 2015. “Grassroots efforts”, he told us, “are very important so that people are resilient, educated, and prepared before the next disaster strikes.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">These challenges—and many others—have not yet been the subject of enough discussion. There are, however, glimmers of hope. The World Humanitarian Summit sought to initiate concrete actions to make countries more resilient in the face of crises. Its process and outputs are controversial.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2"><span>One clear positive development—although not the result of work at the work the Summit itself—was the announcement that the Nansen Initiative would be maintained and revitalized as the ‘Platform on Disaster Displacement’, with Germany taking prime responsibility for steering the group. Launched in 2012 with Switzerland and Norway at the helm, the Nansen Initiative was a state-led regional consultative process that produced a ‘protection agenda’ on disaster-induced displacement. It was endorsed by 110 countries.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">The former Envoy of the Nansen Initiative, Walter Kaelin, called the launch of the Platform “a crucial next step”. He explained that it will provide continued focus and energy because “if there is a lack of political will, then things fade away. That is the important thing that the launch has done - ensure that the issue does not fade away.”</p> <p class="p1">Displacement of people from climate was also referred to in an earlier draft text of the agreement reached in global negotiations in Paris last year. This text was removed in the final agreement, but a Climate Displacement Task Force was set up to further investigate climate-related migration and displacement.</p> <p class="p1">But global leaders must do more. While the new Platform on Disaster Displacement and the Task Force are important steps to focus on climate displacement, it is clear that creating these new fora alone is not sufficient.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">Countries could treat this challenge as an opportunity to review and revise the overall framework for dealing with refugees and displaced people, which has proven to be inadequate in recent months. Adaptation measures, which are referenced within the Paris Agreement, could also be supported with an explicit concern for migration. Greater consideration could be given to the topic at the G20 and General Assembly meetings scheduled for September.&nbsp; Candidates to be the new Secretary-General of the U.N. could also make this a priority issue. In all discussions, it is important that the voices from countries affected most by climate displacement are given prominence.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">Kaelin notes: “I am optimistic about the future of the disaster displacement issue compared to a few years ago. Things are changing.” But there is still more to be done.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="p1">As three young people committed to developing solutions to climate displacement, we hope that politicians and policy-makers can play their part in putting this issue on the global agenda. Our generation, which has inherited a world deeply affected by climate change, demands – and deserves – nothing less.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/veena-vasista/coal-vagina-monologues-of-climate-change">COAL: the Vagina Monologues of climate change</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/marc-brightman-jerome-lewis/why-is-it-so-hard-to-believe-in-climate-change">Why is it so hard to believe in climate change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/camila-moreno-lili-fuhr-daniel-speich-chass/beyond-paris-avoiding-trap-of-carbon-metr">Beyond Paris: avoiding the trap of carbon metrics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/richard-heinberg/100-renewable-energy-what-we-can-do-in-10-years">100% renewable energy: what we can do in 10 years</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Erica Bower Lauren Nishimura Max Harris Economics Environment Mon, 20 Jun 2016 10:47:29 +0000 Max Harris, Lauren Nishimura and Erica Bower 103104 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Socially constructed silence? Protecting policymakers from the unthinkable. https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/socially-constructed-silence-protecting-policymakers-fr <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The scientific community is profoundly uncomfortable with the storm of political controversy that climate research is attracting. What’s going on?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PaulHoggetcroppede.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: By <a href="https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/">NASA Scientific Visualization Studio</a>/<a href="http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/16-008.jpeg">Goddard Space Flight Center</a>. Public Domain, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46523508">Wikimedia.org</a>. </p> <p>Some things can’t be said easily in polite company. They cause offence or&nbsp;stir up intense anxiety. Where one might expect a conversation, what actually occurs is what the sociologist Eviator Zerubavel calls a ‘<a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-elephant-in-the-room-9780195332605?cc=gb&amp;lang=en&amp;">socially constructed silence.’</a> </p> <p>In his book&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/dont-even-think-about-it-9781620401330/"><em>Don’t Even Think About It</em></a>,<em>&nbsp;</em>George Marshall argues that after the fiasco of COP 15 at <a href="http://unfccc.int/meetings/copenhagen_dec_2009/session/6262.php">Copenhagen</a> and ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_email_controversy">Climategate</a>’—when certain sections of the press claimed (wrongly as it turned out) that leaked emails of researchers at the University of East Anglia showed that data had been manipulated—climate change became a taboo subject among most politicians, another socially constructed silence with disastrous implications for the future of climate action.</p> <p>In 2013-14 we carried out <a href="http://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/explorations/blogs/173-outriders-of-the-coming-adversity-how-climate-activists-and-climate-scientists-keep-going">interviews</a> with leading UK climate scientists and communicators to explore how they managed the ethical and emotional challenges of their work. While the shadow of Climategate still hung over the scientific community, our analysis drew us to the conclusion that the silence Marshall spoke about went deeper than&nbsp;a reaction to these specific events.</p> <p>Instead, a picture emerged of a community which still identified strongly with an idealised picture of scientific rationality, in which the job of scientists is to get on with their research quietly and dispassionately. As a consequence, this community is profoundly uncomfortable with the storm of political controversy that climate research is now attracting.</p> <p>The scientists we spoke to were among a minority who had become engaged with policy makers, the media and the general public about their work. A number of them described how other colleagues would bury themselves in the excitement and rewards of research, denying that they had any responsibility beyond developing models or crunching the numbers. As one researcher put it, “so many scientists just want to do their research and as soon as it has some relevance, or policy implications, or a journalist is interested in their research, they are uncomfortable.”</p> <p>We began to see how for many researchers, this idealised picture of scientific practice might also offer protection at an unconscious level from the emotional turbulence aroused by the <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01198.x/abstract">politicisation of climate change</a>.&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>In her classic study of the ‘stiff upper lip’ culture of nursing in the UK in the 1950s, the psychoanalyst and social researcher Isobel Menzies Lyth developed the idea of ‘<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/social-defences-against-anxiety.../dp/1782201688">social defences against anxiety</a>,’ and it seems very relevant here. A social defence is an organised but unconscious way of managing the anxieties that are inherent in certain&nbsp;occupational roles. For example, the practice of what was then called the ‘task list’ system fragmented nursing into a number of routines, each one executed by a different person—hence the ‘bed pan nurse’, the ‘catheter nurse’ and so on. </p> <p>Ostensibly, this was done to generate maximum efficiency, but it also protected nurses from the emotions that were aroused by any real human involvement with patients, including anxiety, something that was deemed unprofessional by the nursing culture of the time. Like climate scientists, nurses were meant to be objective and dispassionate. But this idealised notion of the professional nurse led to the impoverishment of patient care, and meant that the most emotionally mature nurses were the least likely to complete their training.</p> <p>While it’s clear that social defences such as hyper-rationality and specialisation enable climate scientists to get on with their work relatively undisturbed by public anxieties, this approach also generates important problems. There’s a danger that these defences eventually break down and anxiety re-emerges, leaving individuals not only defenceless but with the additional burden of shame and personal inadequacy for not maintaining that stiff upper lip. Stress and burnout may then follow.&nbsp;</p> <p>Although no systematic research has been undertaken in this area, there is anecdotal evidence of such burnout in a number of magazine articles like those by <a href="http://grist.org/climate-energy/climate-depression-is-for-real-just-ask-a-scientist/">Madeleine Thomas</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://read.hipporeads.com/scientists-have-feelings-too/">Faith Kearns</a>, in which climate scientists speak out about the distress that they or others have experienced, their depression at their findings, and their dismay at the lack of public and policy response.</p> <p>Even if social defences are successful and anxiety is mitigated, this very success can have unintended consequences. By treating scientific findings as abstracted knowledge without any personal meaning, climate researchers have been slow to take responsibility for their own carbon footprints, thus running the risk of being exposed for hypocrisy by the denialist lobby. One research leader candidly reflected on this failure: “Oh yeah and the other thing [that’s] very, very important I think is that we ought to change the way we do research so we’re sustainable in the research environment, which we’re not now because we fly everywhere for conferences and things.”</p> <p>The same defences also contribute to the resistance of most climate scientists to participation in public engagement or intervention in the policy arena, leaving these tasks to a minority who are <a href="http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/">attacked by the media</a> and even by their own colleagues. One of our interviewees who has played a major role in such engagement recalled being criticised by colleagues for “prostituting science” by exaggerating results in order to make them “look sexy.”<em>“</em>You know we’re all on the same side,” she continued, “why are we shooting arrows at each other, it is ridiculous.”</p> <p>The social defences of logic, reason and careful debate were of little use to the scientific community in these cases, and their failure probably contributed to internal conflicts and disagreements when anxiety could no longer be contained—so they found expression in bitter arguments instead.&nbsp;This in turn makes those that <em>do</em> engage with the public sphere excessively cautious, which encourages collusion with policy makers who are reluctant to embrace the radical changes that are needed. </p> <p>As one scientist put it when discussing the goal agreed at the Paris climate conference of limiting global warming to no more than 2°C: “There is a mentality in [the] group that speaks to policy makers that there are some taboo topics that you cannot talk about. For instance the two degree target on climate change...Well the emissions are going up like this (the scientist points upwards at a 45 degree angle), so two degrees at the moment seems completely unrealistic. But you’re not allowed to say this.”</p> <p>Worse still, the minority of scientists who <em>are</em> tempted to break the silence on climate change run the risk of being seen as whistleblowers by their colleagues. Another research leader suggested that—in private—some of the most senior figures in the field believe that the world is heading for a rise in temperature closer to six degrees than two.&nbsp;</p> <p>“So repeatedly I’ve heard from researchers, academics, senior policy makers, government chief scientists, [that] they can’t say these things publicly,” he told us, “I’m sort of deafened, deafened by the silence of most people who work in the area that we work in, in that they will not criticise when there are often evidently very political assumptions that underpin some of the analysis that comes out.”</p> <p>It seems that the idea of a ‘socially constructed silence’ may well apply to crucial aspects of the interface between climate scientists and policy makers. If this is the case then the implications are very serious. Despite the hope that COP 21 has generated, many people are still sceptical about whether the rhetoric of Paris will be translated into effective action. </p><p> If climate change work is stuck at the level of&nbsp; ‘<a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Symbolic-Uses-Politics-Murray-Edelman/dp/025201202X">symbolic policy making</a>’—a set of practices designed to make it look as though political elites are doing something while actually doing nothing—then it becomes all the more important for the scientific community to find ways of abandoning the social defences we’ve described and speak out as a whole, rather than leaving the task to a beleaguered and much-criticised minority.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jem-bendell/carry-on-flying-why-activists-should-take-to-skies">Carry on flying: why activists should take to the skies </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/puzzle-of-low-oil-prices-has-race-to-beat-carbon-bubble-already-started">The puzzle of low oil prices—has the race to beat the carbon bubble already started?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/camila-moreno-lili-fuhr-daniel-speich-chass/beyond-paris-avoiding-trap-of-carbon-metr">Beyond Paris: avoiding the trap of carbon metrics</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation science climate change Rosemary Randall Paul Hoggett Environment Mon, 06 Jun 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Paul Hoggett and Rosemary Randall 102719 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Four ways mainstream animal rights movements are oppressive https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mahealani-joy/four-ways-mainstream-animal-rights-movements-are-oppressive <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Animal rights campaigns like PETA care more for animals than they do for the lives of marginalized people.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="p1"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Mahealani Joy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/Mahealani Joy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Members of the Animal Rights Action Network protest sheep exports in Dublin. Credit: Press Association/Julien Behal.</span></span></span></p><p class="p1">Growing up Kanaka Maoli, there was always a part of me that understood that my relatives did not just include people. The honu (green sea turtle), mano (shark), and pu’eo (owl) were my relatives too, and they were deserving of respect and care just like their human counterparts.</p><p class="p1">Based off of that, it might be easy to assume that I wholeheartedly support the animal rights movement, along with vegan and vegetarian diets.</p><p class="p1">And you know what? I do support accountability for how our actions harm animals, and I am completely on board with people making changes to their diet and lifestyle that are in line with their values and physical needs.</p><p class="p1">But what I’m not down for is the rampant racism, sexism, ableism, and colonialism that dominate the mainstream animal rights, vegan, and vegetarian spheres.</p><p class="p1">If you’re thinking of becoming or are currently vegan or vegetarian — or if you’re invested in the animal rights movement — reflecting on the language, behaviors, and attitudes currently attached to the movement with an intersectional perspective is vital.</p><p class="p1">If we don’t, we end up with organizing that&nbsp;<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-MU-IND7DP00/UUU1klcEklI/AAAAAAAAAJs/jVu2uLO6odE/s1600/shilpa-peta.jpg" target="_blank">equates women of color to exotic animals</a>,<a href="http://www.bwvaktboom.com/" target="_blank">sexualizes violence against women</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://i.ytimg.com/vi/wCmYpRuF2jQ/maxresdefault.jpg" target="_blank">body shames women</a>,&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://fatgayvegan.com/2015/01/08/oppression-takes-many-forms/" target="_blank">so much more.</a></p><p class="p1">That’s what I want to talk about today: how white supremacy and oppression manifest themselves in mainstream animal rights organizing/ideologies — and what we can all do to challenge that.</p><p class="p1">To be clear, I’m not saying that everyone who is vegan, vegetarian, or involved in the animal rights movement is an oppressive asshole perpetuating colonial and white supremacist beliefs and behaviors.</p><p class="p1">There are a number of fabulous people out there — particularly those frequently invisiblized people of color who are doing incredible anti-oppressive work around&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/black-folks-animal-rights-mvmt/" target="_blank">animal rights</a>, veganism, and vegetarianism in their communities (see just a few of them&nbsp;<a href="http://www.blackvegansrock.com/about/" target="_blank">here</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://decolonizeyourdiet.org/about" target="_blank">here</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://apachesinthekitchen.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">here</a>!).</p><p class="p2">The thing is, those people and the work they are doing is not what most people think of when they think of veganism, vegetarianism, and animal rights.</p><p class="p1">If I were to ask 20 random people to name one organization that supports animal rights and going vegan, the most common answer would likely be PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).</p><p class="p1">That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about mainstream organizations — the places and people who have millions of dollars in funding, celebrity endorsements, splashy billboards and media spots, and name recognition in the general public.</p><p class="p1">And it’s these mainstream groups that are often the biggest culprits of perpetuating oppression.</p><p class="p1">Just to give you a brief idea of what I mean, PETA has run ads that are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nutritionunplugged.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/whalebb4.jpg">fatphobic</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef01310fda7ea2970c-600wi" target="_blank">classist,</a>&nbsp;compare the murder of<a href="http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/fr/story/petas-campaign-glamorizes-violence-against-women-say-local-activists/10328" target="_blank">&nbsp;sex workers to pig farming</a>,&nbsp;compare&nbsp;<a href="http://static.bilerico.net/2010/03/peta-lynching-ad-thumb-400x381-10630.jpg" target="_blank">eating meat to lynching</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://static.bilerico.net/2010/03/exotic-woman-peta-ad-thumb-380x239-10632.jpg" target="_blank">exotify women of color</a>, and&nbsp;compare&nbsp;<a href="http://i1.wp.com/bennorton.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/peta-holocaust.jpg?w=590" target="_blank">factory farming to the Nazi Holocaust</a>, among other examples.</p><p class="p1">If we are committed to ending oppression in all its forms, we must be willing to critique our movements and then push for change to make them better.</p><p class="p1">So, without further ado, here are 5 ways that the mainstream animal rights movement and veg(etari)anism perpetuate oppression and what you can do about it.</p><h2 class="p3">1. The mainstream animal rights movement values animal life more than the lives of marginalized people</h2><p class="p1">There are countless examples out there of times when folks have been more concerned about animals suffering than people.</p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cecil-black-lives_us_55b9482ce4b095423d0dc4d5" target="_blank">Television hosts cry</a>&nbsp;over Cecil the lion being shot, but no tears are shed for all of the Black and Brown folks being murdered and experiencing violence every day.&nbsp;<a href="http://bennorton.com/peta-has-horrible-sexist-racist-politics/" target="_blank">PETA sends rescuers to save animals</a>&nbsp;during Hurricane Katrina, but offers no assistance to the thousands of people (mostly people of color) who are stranded.</p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.rawstory.com/2016/01/cop-savagely-beats-hawaiian-man-after-he-performs-native-healing-prayer-near-seal-on-the-beach/comments/%2523disqus" target="_blank">There was a video released recently</a>&nbsp;of a kanaka maoli man approaching an ilio holo i ka uaua (Hawaiian monk seal) in order to do a healing ceremony nearby.</p><p class="p1">A few bystanders called the police because they felt he was bothering the seal, and after the police arrived the man stood to leave. As he was attempting to leave the police officer pepper sprayed him and then beat him with his baton, breaking several bones in the process. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Throughout all of this, the people who called the cops are still recording what’s going on, and you can hear a woman crying. She says, “I was so scared he was going to hurt her [the seal],” and the man filming says, “Don’t cry, I know that, I got him on film.” &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">A Native man has just been beaten for practicing his traditional spirituality, and the two people are crying and comforting each other over how the&nbsp;<em>seal</em>&nbsp;is okay, and the Native man can’t hurt it any more. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">You could maybe write it off as someone responding poorly in the face of seeing someone be&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/police-slavery-white-supremacy/">brutalized by the police</a>, but if you take the time to look at the comments on any of the articles about the incident, you’ll find wave after wave of people talking about how the seal’s rights were being violated, how the seal needed to be protected, and how it is the kanaka maoli man’s own fault for not being respectful of the seal. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">The opinion that the seal’s rights were more important than the right of the kanaka maoli man to not be assaulted by police is shared with righteous anger, and that’s a huge issue. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">I could go on for ages about all the problems with this specific incident and the countless others like it, but what it boils down to is this: it is not okay to prioritize or value the lives of animals more than the lives of people.</p><p class="p1">It’s not okay to use the protection of animals as a validation for the perpetuation of&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/myths-about-police-brutality/">state violence</a>&nbsp;on marginalized bodies or the continued colonization of cultural heritages we’re struggling to sustain. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Being able to empathize and fear for a seal and not for the Native man being beaten, or the Black man being shot, is a symptom of white supremacy and colonization. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">The intentional and systematic de-valuing of the lives of Indigenous folks and people of color has been happening for hundreds of years, and it culminates in a society where animals are seen as innocent victims of violence who deserve protection and safety while a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/28/us/tamir-rice-shooting/" target="_blank">12 year old Black boy</a>&nbsp;is viewed as&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/10/police-brutality-victim-blaming/">inherently dangerous and deserving of violence</a>. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">When I talked at the beginning of this article about animals being relatives and deserving of the same care and respect as humans, it is key to recognize that there is an inherent balance there.&nbsp;It is not saying, “Animals are the only ones who matter and we must protect them first at all costs regardless of the context.” &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Rather, it is a call to afford all of our relatives, both animal and human, the love and support they all intrinsically deserve. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Thus, if you are really striving for balance in this world, you&nbsp;<em>must</em>&nbsp;react with the same outrage to incidents of violence and oppression against marginalized folks as you do to an animal being abused. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">If you only respond to harm done to animals and not the harm being done to people – especially marginalized folks — you are buying into white supremacy and colonization. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Be mindful that, while finding vegan or vegetarian options might be as simple as walking to your local co-op for you, for many people it is simply not an affordable option. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">If you truly want to end oppression, in all its forms, you need to check yourself (and the people around you) to make sure you aren’t unintentionally replicating oppressive beliefs and behaviors.</p><h2 class="p3">2. Classism can be a huge barrier to being able to get involved</h2><p class="p1">There are two parts to this. The one I hear talked about most often is folks who are poor&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/classism-of-eating-healthy/" target="_blank">not having the economic means to afford</a>&nbsp;a vegan diet. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">This might be due to any combination of factors, ranging from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.foodispower.org/food-deserts/" target="_blank">food deserts</a>&nbsp;to increased mainstream (read:&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/foodie-without-appropriation/" target="_blank">White</a>) use of foods like quinoa or soy, thus&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jan/16/vegans-stomach-unpalatable-truth-quinoa" target="_blank">driving demand and therefore prices sky-high</a>. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Be mindful that, while finding vegan or vegetarian options might be as simple as walking to your local co-op for you, for many people it is simply not an affordable option. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">On top of the expenses that may be associated with obtaining the ingredients themselves, there is also a cost associated with the preparation and storage. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">For example, to make a meal I might need an hour of prep and cooking time, along with several pots, pans, cooking utensils, oils, and spices. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">And once I make the meal, if I’m trying to save leftovers or make my lunch for the next day I better have a fridge… which requires living space, money to get the fridge in the first place, and electricity. I also need to have something to store it in, which is an additional expense. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">To finish it all off, I then need to have time to clean everything up in preparation for doing it all over again.&nbsp;</p><p class="p1">That’s a ton of time, money, and resources when taken cumulatively, and for folks who have kids, are working multiple jobs, have a disability, or don’t have access to resources in the first place sometimes it’s just not possible to do it all. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Simply saying, “It’s really not that difficult to switch to a vegan lifestyle, you just have to try!” doesn’t magically erase all of the systemic barriers that might prohibit someone from being vegan or vegetarian. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Assuming that everyone has access to the resources and support system needed to become vegan erases the lived realities of many marginalized folks and plays right into the oppressive trope that anyone can&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/debunking-bootstraps-myth/">pull themselves up by their bootstraps</a>.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Instead of ignoring the fact that systematic oppression prohibits some people from being able to be vegan or shaming folks who are unable to be vegan for whatever reason, think about what it would take to change those systems and create support systems for your community.&nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Could you and other community members facilitate vegan cooking classes? Set up a schedule to help folks prepare meals? What would it take to mobilize the community and ensure affordable access to fresh produce in the neighborhood?&nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Those are the questions we should ask ourselves if we are really interested in fostering well-being in our communities for everyone, vegan or not.</p><h2 class="p3">3. When mainstream vegan feminists talk about animal rights, they are super trans-exclusionary</h2><p class="p1">I’ve seen a lot of adverts and signs over the years declaring that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.collectivelyfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/11425411_677700322336661_2890716906971803821_n.jpg" target="_blank">being vegan is feminist</a>, and that the animal industry is&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/feminism-and-vegetarianism/" target="_blank">built on the exploitation of the “female reproductive system”</a>&nbsp;— thereby making it an issue that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.collectivelyfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/12516353_1643732579212413_722978443_n.jpg" target="_blank">all women should resonate with</a>. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">The problem is that defining what it means to be female as having a uterus, ovaries, vagina, and mammary glands completely erases trans women, trans men, non-binary folks, and anyone whose body doesn’t conform to that super essentialized (and incorrect) definition.</p><p class="p1">By rooting their analysis of animal rights in this archaic definition of gender, mainstream vegan feminists ignore and exclude the lives of trans folks. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">If you want to be a vegan feminist, great! &nbsp;But there’s no need to resort to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.autostraddle.com/its-time-for-people-to-stop-using-the-social-construct-of-biological-sex-to-defend-their-transmisogyny-240284/" target="_blank">inaccurate and harmful tropes&nbsp;</a>about biology and reproductive organs to make a point. &nbsp;</p><h2 class="p3">4.&nbsp;Mainstream veganism and the animal rights movement are a form of colonization</h2><p class="p1">Okay, let’s be blunt: veganism, vegetarianism, and the animal rights movement are only necessary to begin with because of colonization. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Animal rights and treatment weren’t a concern pre-contact/pre-westernization/pre-industrialization because animals were viewed as relatives, not commodities.</p><p class="p1">Many tribes have stories about how they came to eat fish, deer, and other meats, and the central theme in the stories I have heard is love.&nbsp;Love for each other as relatives, and a genuine investment in each other’s well-being. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Now that animal rights&nbsp;<em>are</em>&nbsp;a concern due to colonization, being vegan or vegetarian is one of the easiest ways for people to create tangible change in their own lives. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">However, there’s a certain rhetoric I’ve heard from mainstream vegan and vegetarian folks that says&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/02/feminism-and-vegetarianism/" target="_blank">if you are truly concerned with ending oppression</a>, you will adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Taken in the context of traditional lifeways for Native people, this kind of statement becomes just another form of colonization. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Many of the foods that we ate in my community, for example, were based around subsistence fishing. We’ve had to fight to keep our traditional foods, which have historically been labeled as strange or uncivilized, and becoming vegan or vegetarian now would require giving up those same foods. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">I will never forget being at a family gathering and my uncles bringing in fish and octopus they had caught and everyone gathering around to eat together – except for me. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Not only was it isolating for me, but several family members took my refusal to eat as a&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/black-folks-animal-rights-mvmt/" target="_blank">rejection of part of our culture</a>. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">In hindsight I imagine it must have been incredibly painful for my tutu, who was old enough to remember a time when eating raw octopus would have been ridiculed, to watch as I declined to share in a piece of our way of life people like her had fought so hard to sustain. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">If the mainstream vegan/vegetarian movement had its way, I would view my people’s traditions as inherently oppressive and inferior simply because we eat meat, and that is not okay.</p><p class="p1">The issue is doubly important for all of the tribes and communities that still rely on subsistence hunting and fishing to survive. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">If anyone remembers Ellen DeGeneres and her ultimate selfie at the 2014 Oscars, there’s a part of the story you might have missed. Ellen decided to donate part of the money the selfie raised to the Humane Society, which has a history of actively condemning and campaigning against seal hunting. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">For many Alaska Natives and Inuit communities in Canada seal hunting remains one of their primary sources of food and fur for clothing and shelter. &nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/seal-hunters-ellen-degeneres-selfie-2014-4">A 17-year-old from Iqualuit started a “#sealfie” campaign</a>&nbsp;to draw attention to the issue with animal rights orgs making sweeping condemnations of seal hunting, and to try to educate Ellen and the general public on the realities of subsistence hunting. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">Now, I want to be very clear that there are Indigenous folks who are vegan, for a variety of reasons, and I support them wholeheartedly. Being vegan or vegetarian can be an awesome political act and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.decolonialfoodforthought.com/2011/03/palabra-on-indigenous-veganism.html">form of decolonization</a>&nbsp;for some, and that’s great!</p><p class="p1">The issue here is that the mainstream animal rights and vegan/vegetarian movements set arbitrary requirements for what it means to work towards eliminating oppression without bothering to take into account historical and cultural factors. &nbsp;</p><p class="p1">It’s fine if you have your own beliefs — just be aware of the historical and cultural context that you exist within, and recognize that if you are not&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/what-checking-privilege-means/">checking yourself</a>, your anti-oppression efforts might end up causing harm to those with different identities than your own.</p><p class="p2">***</p><p class="p2">The mainstream animal rights, vegan, and vegetarian movements are unfortunately responsible for perpetuating numerous forms of oppression. &nbsp;</p><p class="p2">The good news, though, is that you can be invested in animal rights or be veg(etari)an and choose not to be complicit or support organizations that uphold systems of power!</p><p class="p2">Be diligent in checking out the organizations that you affiliate yourself with, and don’t be afraid to have these kinds of conversations with the people around you. &nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Perhaps most importantly, tune in&nbsp;if folks from marginalized groups are telling you that what you’re doing is harmful and needs to change. &nbsp;</p><p class="p2">We cannot dismantle one form of oppression while upholding others, and we need to hold ourselves accountable to doing better.</p><p class="image-caption">This article was originally published by <a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/03/animal-rights-oppressive/" target="_blank">Everyday Feminism</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-barnes/veganism-and-compassion">Veganism and compassion </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/diana-moreno/from-shelf-to-bin-food-waste-and-culture-of-rush">From the shelf to the bin: food waste and the culture of rush</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/craig-holdrege/thinking-like-plant">Thinking like a plant</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Mahealani Joy Activism Environment Intersectionality Love and Spirituality Fri, 03 Jun 2016 09:55:17 +0000 Mahealani Joy 102679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Carry on flying: why activists should take to the skies https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jem-bendell/carry-on-flying-why-activists-should-take-to-skies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Protesting against air travel might displace attention away from the actions required to reduce carbon emissions at the necessary scale.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/crojem4cropped.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2231665">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="http://www.af.mil/photos/index.asp?galleryID=22&amp;page=2">Original image cropped by Gralo</a>. Public Domain. </p> <p>I’m writing this at 35,000 feet above the Bay of Bengal, on my way to lecture in Malaysia at <a href="http://help.edu.my/">HELP University</a> on <a href="http://iflas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/innovation-leadership-public-talk-in.html">Innovation Leadership</a>. Just before take-off, I received some emails from <a href="http://lifeworth.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=c58fbb0d721b1e5f3e4787bdf&amp;id=f6f98efd16">subscribers to my newsletter</a>, questioning my international speaking schedule: “You’re a <a href="http://www.iflas.info/">Professor of Sustainability Leadership</a>, so how can you justify all that flying?” was the gist. “You should lead by example” and encourage everyone to fly much less. </p> <p>My travel this year means that my carbon footprint will be approximately double that of the average person in Britain, which is around <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/may/27/why-india-is-captured-by-carbon">14 tonnes of CO2</a> or its equivalent per annum. Like many readers of <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation"><em>Transformation</em></a> I believe that we should seek to align our daily lives with our political views and values. So is it hypocritical of environmentalists to fly? </p> <p>Not necessarily: in fact I’ve come to see critiques of flying as sometimes misguided and even counter-productive. That's because <em>not </em>flying isn’t an effective way for me to combat the causes of environmental degradation and climate change. Here are three reasons why. <strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Beyond the ideology of 'one by one'</strong></p> <p>The assumption of most current environmental advocacy is that the best way to reduce carbon emissions is through changes in our personal behaviour. But significant reductions can only come about through political activity that transforms the economic systems that drive up pollution. The limited impact of voluntary action by individuals is highlighted by household electricity consumption in the UK, for example, which has been targeted by government, charities and business. These emissions account for about <a href="http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/publications.php?id=367">seven percent</a> of the UK total. </p> <p>Comprehensive measures to reduce electricity consumption could bring these emissions down by <a href="http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/publications.php?id=367">30 percent per household</a>. But despite strong efforts over two decades, only a small percentage of people have achieved this target, and <a href="http://www.wwf.org.uk/wwf_articles.cfm?unewsid=2224">research shows</a> that about half of them spent the money they saved on products or activities that had similar or even bigger carbon footprints. So the net impact on UK carbon emissions is probably less than one percent. That’s why we need more emphasis on policy frameworks that reward investments in renewable energy, more efficient electrical appliances, and taxes that increase the costs of producing energy from fossil fuels like coal.</p> <p>My argument isn’t that there’s no point in reducing personal carbon emissions, nor that in some unknown way such personal actions wont positively <a href="http://charleseisenstein.net/project/the-more-beautiful-world-our-hearts-know-is-possible/">affect a ‘collective field</a>’ as author Charles Eisenstein puts it; it’s that focusing on this approach can distract attention from exploring other solutions that really matter. And that takes me to reason number two: it’s not how much carbon you use but what you do with it that counts. <strong></strong></p> <p><strong>So what do you <em>do</em> with your carbon?</strong></p> <p>At the heart of the claim that it’s hypocritical to fly is the idea that everyone should have the same carbon footprint, but that makes no sense. What about ambulance drivers, or firemen, or members of the armed forces?</p> <p>If flying is acceptable for them, then why not for activists? My own work focuses on promoting more effective leadership on sustainable development, including the systemic drivers of climate change like misplaced investments and destructive <a href="http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com/content/pdfs/TNT_bendell.pdf">monetary systems</a>. The travel I do is crucial for that work. </p> <p>Hypothetically, I might even spend a year on a jumbo jet if it would help to secure a global agreement on carbon taxes that could be connected to trade treaties and enforced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), since that could shift personal consumption patterns dramatically. If phased in while other taxes on income are reduced, a carbon tax would dramatically raise the price of air travel and thus have an overall impact on emissions in that sector.&nbsp; <strong></strong></p> <p><strong>The need to think as citizens not consumers </strong>&nbsp;</p> <p>Third, the effects of green critiques of flying may actually be insidious, because they frame environmentalism only in terms of restraints. Think of ubiquitous messages to turn off lights, separate your rubbish, and avoid eggs from factory farms. These are all good things, but the dominant theme is very clear: everyone should discipline themselves for the greater good.</p> <p>The most sophisticated expressions of this view applied at a societal level are found in books on the ‘steady-state’ economy like <a href="http://steadystate.org/discover/enough-is-enough/"><em>Enough is Enough</em></a>, but such arguments aren’t so useful in helping us to get there. That’s because their underlying message is about limits, rather than achieving greater personal expression or new collective freedoms. It’s these more positive and liberating messages that are missing from mainstream environmentalism, and that’s important because they are what’s required to trigger transformation. </p> <p>To renounce worldly goods and experiences is an interesting spiritual path for some, but throughout human history it has been adopted by very few. Mass political movements nearly always mobilise around securing greater freedoms for more people. So what might a freedom-based environmental activism look like in practice?</p> <p>Through my <a href="http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com/content/pdfs/TNT_bendell.pdf">own work</a> on contemporary capitalism I’ve come to see that people are restrained from harmonious living with each other and the environment as a result of the economic systems they inhabit. We all experience the fundamental ‘un-freedom’ of having to compete for scarce bank-issued money in order to service our unending debts. Viewing environmentalism as a struggle by citizens for greater freedom from mainstream monetary systems and the delusions they propel holds much more promise than a movement of guilty consumers who quibble over the details of carbon footprints. </p> <p>The seeds of such a movement are already present in groups like <a href="http://www.grassrootseconomics.org/">Grassroots Economics</a>, which is creating autonomous local currencies in slums across Africa that help to insulate low-income families from boom-bust financial cycles; in the <a href="http://www.unrisd.org/sse">‘social’ and ‘solidarity’ economies</a> that are spreading across many countries; and in ‘intentional communities’ that offer the potential for <a href="http://gen.ecovillage.org/">living together</a> without the need for large salaries and inequalities.&nbsp; </p> <p>In <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-Opqi-2UgY"></a><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-Opqi-2UgY">a recent</a><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-Opqi-2UgY"></a><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-Opqi-2UgY"></a><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-Opqi-2UgY"> lecture</a> I describe activities like these as forms of “freedom with” rather than “freedom from,” responding to the reality that we must work together if we are to liberate ourselves from exploitative systems. But this aspect of freedom through collective action is often marginalised in public discussions because individualist notions of freedom as self-expression are so dominant in liberal societies. </p> <p>To be effective, these seeds of environmental freedom have to grow dramatically. And that may require <em>more</em> flying, not less, so that people can learn from, support and connect with each other. Even participants in the <a href="http://gen.ecovillage.org/">Global Ecovillage Network</a> recognize the value of such exchanges, with some members meeting in an international conference every year. </p> <p>Just as those driving to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-35651166">protest a new runway</a> at Heathrow Airport don't turn back because of the carbon that’s involved in their journeys, most people understand that they are public beings, citizens engaged in change and not just responsible consumers. Reviving our self-identity as <a href="https://newcitizenshipproject.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/this-is-the-citizen-shift/">active citizens</a><a href="https://newcitizenshipproject.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/this-is-the-citizen-shift/"></a> is a key challenge of the times.&nbsp; <strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Authenticity is not always obvious</strong></p> <p>On the face of it, criticising those who fly is an obvious target for those concerned with climate change. But protests against flying <em>per se</em> can displace attention away from actions that could transform societies and reduce carbon emissions at the necessary scale. They may reinforce assumptions that changing personal consumption habits is a more important goal than working together as politically active citizens for fundamental changes in our political and economic systems. </p> <p>Does this mean that we should <em>not</em> seek to reduce carbon emissions in our own personal lives? No—so long as we’re aware of the things that would have most impact, like having fewer children in the West or choosing a job that doesn’t promote relentless consumption. Carbon reduction initiatives from employers are also welcome, including those from travel. But even the best of these actions shouldn’t be allowed to distract attention away from the broader and deeper shifts that are required for systemic, long-term change. </p> <p>I was triggered to reflect on these issues by private criticism, but their implications should be a matter for public debate on the ethics of flying that explores both the intention of the flyer and the outcome of the flight. It should also explore the ethics of a growing discourse <em>against</em> flying among activists, in particular the consequences of those critiques. As the <em>New Internationalist</em> <a href="http://newint.org/features/2008/03/01/flying/">once wrote</a> “What would happen to a world in which the only people who travelled by plane were those most committed to its rapacious exploitation?”<a href="http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/glbj/jcc/2015/00002015/00000060/art00004"></a><a href="http://www.iflas.info/"></a><a href="http://www.leadingwild.com/"></a> </p> <p>In my case, the conclusions that I've reached on whether or not to fly create more self-scrutiny, not less. Is my theory of change good enough? Am I making a tangible impact? If my doubts on these questions increase, then an authentic response will be to slow down, stop flying and allow a new approach to emerge in my life.&nbsp; </p> <p>But for now, deluded or not, I'll fly. If you’re creating alternative economic models or self-sufficient communities, then please fly when you need to. And if you’re challenging exploitative corporate and banking power that stretches across international borders? Carry on flying.<a href="http://www.twitter.com/MAS"></a><em></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jem-bendell/future-of-climate-debate">The future of the climate debate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shannon-biggs/no-surrender-responding-to-new-breed-of-climate-change-inactivists">No surrender: responding to the new breed of climate change in-activists</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/carolyn-baker/welcome-to-planetary-hospice">Welcome to the planetary hospice </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation global warming climate change Jem Bendell Environment Mon, 30 May 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Jem Bendell 102531 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Going out, I found I was really going in: John Muir’s spiritual and political journey https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tim-flinders/going-out-i-found-i-was-really-going-in-john-muir-s-spiritual-and-politi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The story of a pioneering naturalist stands as one of the best examples of an individual’s spiritual awakening becoming a catalyst for social change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TimFlinders.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Yosemite Valley and the Merced River. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28519137">Wikimedia/By King of Hearts</a>&nbsp;- Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Some rights reserved.</p> <p><span>On September 2 1867, a 29-year old Scottish immigrant called </span><a href="http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/muir_biography.aspx">John Muir</a><a href="http://www.amazon.com/John-Muir-Spiritual-Writings-Masters/dp/1626980357/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1459553826&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=flinders+muir"></a><span> sat alone in an oak wood on the shore of the Ohio River, a pocket map spread in front of him, his forefinger tracing an arc through the deep South of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, and finally pausing along the Florida Gulf coast a thousand miles away. He planned to walk there.</span></p> <p><span>A lover of wild nature, Muir had long fantasized about visiting Florida, the “land of flowers” as he called it in his </span><a href="http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/a_thousand_mile_walk_to_the_gulf/">journal</a><span>, and from there board a ship to South America. His immediate plan was to take the wildest and “least trodden” path he could find. “Folding my map,” he wrote, “I shouldered my little bag and plant press and strode away among the old Kentucky oaks.”</span></p> <p><span>A self-taught mechanical genius and trained botanist, Muir had been offered a lucrative partnership in an Indianapolis machine works and had been tempted to accept it, but at the risk of abandoning his lifelong dream of exploring the wilds of the Southern hemisphere. Only the clarity drawn from an accident six months earlier that had nearly blinded him had given him the resolve to abandon convention, renounce the prospect of wealth and success, and go “wholehearted and unafraid” into the American wilderness.</span></p> <p><span>Along with his plant press, he took with him a botany text, Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” a Bible, and a journal that would serve both as field log for botanical observations and a record of his immersion in a “Godful wilderness.” He called his journey a “floral pilgrimage”—a fusion of field study and sacred mission during which he encountered “God’s wilds” as both naturalist and seeker. “I bade adieu to mechanical inventions,” he wrote about this decisive moment, “determined to devote the rest of my life to the study of the inventions of God.” &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>While Muir took immense delight in the natural beauty he found in the untamed wilds he passed through on his way to Florida, he was unprepared for the darkness, social isolation and outright enmity he experienced as a northerner passing through the “war ruined” landscapes of the deep South two years after the end of the Civil War—including walking inadvertently along the actual route taken by General William Sherman on his </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman%27s_March_to_the_Sea">scorched-earth campaign</a><span> through the Georgia heartland. On reaching Florida he was deeply distressed to find a “vine-tied,” almost impenetrable swampland instead of the “flower garden” that had long stirred his imagination.</span></p> <p><span>A malarial fever overtook him in Cedar Keys, and would have killed him had not a friendly family nursed him back to health. After a three month convalescence, Muir sailed for Cuba, New York and then, in April, 1868, to California, where he worked as a day laborer and shepherd in the Sierra foothills in order to save enough money to continue his journey to South America.</span></p> <p><span>But he lingered, tending a flock of sheep in the Sierra foothills at </span><a href="https://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/a_thousand_mile_walk_to_the_gulf/chapter_9.aspx">Twenty Hill Hollow</a><span> through the winter of 1868, exhilarated by the unexpected beauty of the California spring (“Here, Here is Florida!”). One day, with the hills erupting with new plant life, Muir had an experience of the Hollow suddenly overflowing with sunlight “of an unspeakable richness,” as though “pouring from a fountain.” Transported in a momentary rapture, he felt himself merging with the land and with the light. “You cannot feel yourself,” he wrote later of the incident. “Presently you lose consciousness of your own separate existence; you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature.”</span></p> <p><span>In June, Muir accepted an opportunity to accompany a flock of 2,500 sheep into the Sierra high country for summer grazing, having been assured that he would have ample time to explore, botanize, sketch and write. As the flock “nibbled” its way into the high alpine meadows above the north rim of </span><a href="http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/my_first_summer_in_the_sierra/">Yosemite Valley</a><span>, he became increasingly absorbed in the natural beauty he encountered there. “Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days,” Muir wrote in his journal in June, “Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.”&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>Determined to place himself on a permanent basis in the Sierras, Muir found work in a small lumber mill in Yosemite and built himself a cabin at the base of Yosemite Falls. The valley would serve as his home base for the next four years, allowing him to go on extended excursions into the alpine regions of the </span><a href="https://www.us-parks.com/yosemite-national-park/watersheds.html">Merced and Tuolumne River watersheds</a><span> where he could immerse himself in the landscape and blend his unusually acute empirical eye with visionary insights.</span></p> <p><span>Sometimes he would sit for hours on a granite overlook, sketching or journaling, until he became rapt in communion with the “divine wildness” of the Sierra landscapes. “I don’t know anything of time, and very little of space,” he wrote to a friend from the Valley while still working at the mill. “I have spent every Sabbath for the last two months in the spirit world . . . diffused evenly throughout my whole substance.”</span></p> <p><span>As the years passed Muir became more and more a man of the wild, his hair unkempt, his eyes rapt with an intensity that made him appear to the tourists he met as more Old Testament prophet than naturalist. In fact, the wilderness had become for Muir a “divine manuscript” as revelatory of the sacred as the Bible itself. “Every natural object is a conductor of divinity,” he wrote, “and only by coming into contact with them…may we be filled with the Holy Ghost.”</span></p> <p><span>However, his friends were worried. Muir’s siblings pleaded with him to abandon his “clouds and flowers” for more practical pursuits. "You must be social John," </span><a href="https://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/people/carrs.aspx">Jeanne Carr</a><span>, a transcendentalist friend and spiritual mentor had written him, trying to coax him to leave the mountains and re-enter public life. “I could envy you your solitude, but there may be too much of it.” Carr felt strongly that Muir had a singular gift for carrying the transcendentalist vision of a sacred nature to a wider public, a vision she believed could help to dismantle the industrial consensus that saw nature only as a commercial resource to be exploited.</span></p> <p><span>But Muir was now spending long weeks alone in the high country, often in the regions above the timberline where, he wrote, “spirit is more thinly clothed.” He would not listen to Carr or his siblings or even to </span><a href="http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/people/emerson.aspx">Ralph Waldo Emerson</a><span> who visited Muir in Yosemite and entreated him to “be done with the mountains” and go east to teach in colleges. “Although there is no common human reason why I should not see you and civilization in Oakland,” Muir wrote finally to Carr, “I cannot escape from the powers of the mountains.”</span></p> <p><span>Nonetheless in 1873, at Carr’s insistence, Muir spent several months in Oakland writing a series of </span><a href="http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/studies_in_the_sierra/">studies of the Sierras</a><span> that appeared in newspapers and magazines in California and on the East Coast. A seminal </span><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Nature-Life-John-Muir/dp/0199782245">abstract</a><span> on Sierra glaciation was published as part of the 1874 Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But the coarse food, unrelieved clamor and “unmixed materialism” of city life grated on his sensibilities.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>One day Muir suddenly fled back to his home in Yosemite, even running part of the way, only to find that the deep spiritual rapport he enjoyed with the landscape now eluded him, dimmed by his immersion in the city. “No one of the rocks seems to call me now,” he wrote to Carr shortly after his arrival in the Valley, “nor any of the distant mountains.” “Surely,” he concluded, “this Merced and Tuolumne chapter of my life is done.”</span></p> <p><span>Muir moved to Oakland permanently in 1875 in order to take up journalism. His pilgrimage had ended, and the long, unbroken communion with his “warm God” was over. But from out of the crucible of that long, taxing and sometimes unsettling journey through wilderness landscapes “steeped with God” Muir had found his calling: if Americans could come to share his passion for wilderness, he believed, they would support its conservation and protection.</span></p> <p><span>“I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness,” he wrote to Carr when he made the agonizing decision to leave his Yosemite home and enter public life. “Heaven knows that John the Baptist was not more eager to get all his fellow sinners into the Jordan than I to baptize all of mine in the beauty of God's mountains.”</span></p> <p><span>Muir succeeded beyond his wildest imaginings. His many travel articles and almost a dozen </span><a href="http://www.amazon.com/John-Muir/e/B000API2FA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1459640901&amp;sr=1-2-ent">books</a><span> were widely read and helped to generate a groundswell of public opinion in favor of conservation. In his fifties, Muir developed a talent for political advocacy and during the last quarter of the century, he inspired and collaborated with some of the nation’s leading intellectuals, financiers, reformers and policy makers, including presidents Roosevelt and Taft, to lobby Congress to establish the nation’s first national parks, including his beloved Yosemite. With little more than his pen and his inexhaustible passion for “divine wildness,” Muir helped reverse the industrialized West’s unbridled exploitation of nature, while setting in motion what would become the modern conservation movement.</span></p> <p><span>In 1892 he founded the Sierra Club to advocate for the cause of conservation—the first organization of its kind—and served as its president until his death in 1914. Since his passing, </span><a href="http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/studies_in_the_sierra/">6600 federal and state parks</a><span> have been established in the USA, while more than one hundred million acres of America’s wetlands and forests, deserts, and mountains have been set aside as wilderness areas for the enjoyment, health, and—decidedly for Muir—the </span><em>spiritual</em><span> well-being of the public. His story stands as one of the best examples of an individual’s spiritual awakening becoming a catalyst for social change.</span></p> <p><span>“Not like my taking the veil—no solemn abjuration of the world,” he later reflected on his journey. “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/pete-mcbride/love-letter-to-wilderness">A love letter to wilderness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/erika-summerseffler-hyunjin-deborah-kwak/where-are-missing-mystics-of-revolution">Where are the missing mystics of the revolution?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/james-k-rowe/zen-and-art-of-social-movement-maintenance">Zen and the art of social movement maintenance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation conservation Tim Flinders Environment Love and Spirituality Mon, 18 Apr 2016 00:00:00 +0000 Tim Flinders 101433 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The environmental movement: a blockbuster in the making? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/robert-holtom/environmental-movement-blockbuster-in-making <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things are the building blocks of transformation, but they have to be told wisely and well.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/505460836.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/search/2/image?artist=dan%20kitwood&amp;family=editorial&amp;sort=&amp;excludenudity=true">Getty Images/Dan Kitwood</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p><span>Thirteen people crouch inside a three-sided metal cage in the middle of a runway at London’s </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/13/heathrow-disruption-climate-change-activists-claim-chained-runway">Heathrow Airport</a><span>. Some are clamped to the bars of the cage by their necks, and one is chained to the top of a tripod of scaffolding poles. Airport security lights illuminate the scene while police try to untangle the thicket of arms, legs and steel. For the duration of the protest, all planes are grounded.</span></p> <p><span>The goal of the protest is to halt plans to build a third runway at one of the world’s largest airports, a project that British Prime Minister </span><a href="http://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/news/4694685.David_Cameron___No_third_runway___no_ifs__no_buts_/">David Cameron</a><span> had promised would not be built in 2009. “The third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead,” he had said, “no ifs, no buts.” But there were many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ in the years that followed.</span></p> <p><span>By the end of February 2016, six months after the runway protest, the ‘Heathrow 13’ had been arrested, accused of aggravated trespass, and tried at </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/25/heathrow-climate-protesters-found-guilty-of-aggravated-trespass">Willesden Magistrate’s Court</a><span> in London. Having locked up their homes and said their goodbyes to their friends and families, the group were prepared for jail. But Judge Deborah Wright suspended their sentences of six weeks each for a further 12 months. The 13 </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/24/heathrow-13-climate-change-protesters-avoid-jail">left the court</a><span> to joyous applause, key protagonists in a much larger story.</span></p> <p><span>Heroes who risk prison by putting their bodies on the line, villains who renege on their promises, tension as the judge decides the verdict, and the biggest ticking time bomb of them all—climate change: the environmental movement is full of drama, and it’s these stories of struggle and triumph that need to be told in order to attract wider attention and support.</span></p> <p><span>But there’s a fine line between communicating passionately about protest actions and manipulating audiences emotionally. It’s a line that environmentalists need to tread very carefully, but walk it they must if they want to maximize their impact. How so?</span></p> <p><span>Like many other struggles for justice throughout recent history, the Heathrow 13 story is packed full of drama. There’s a well-defined and vociferous group of protagonists; a clear, central and compelling conflict; and high stakes—including possible prison sentences for the Heathrow 13, more deaths from air pollution in the airport flight-path, and increased carbon emissions into the world’s atmosphere from yet more flights.</span></p> <p><span>The local conflict over the runway is also set against a wider backdrop of turmoil and dissent that’s marked out by on-going efforts to unite countries in a concerted response to climate change. And the extended cast of characters is colourful and large, including politicians, airport officials, airline companies, passengers whose flights were cancelled, and the many supporters of the thirteen protestors.</span></p> <p><span>The same dramatic combination of circumstances is present in many other environmental campaigns, like the struggle to establish </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecocide">ecocide</a><span> as a crime under international law. </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecocide">Ecocide</a><span> is defined as </span><em>“</em><em>extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.”</em></p> <p><span>The struggle to criminalise ecocide stretches back to 1996 when the United Nations debated the articles of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_Statute_of_the_International_Criminal_Court">Rome Statute</a><span>—the treaty that eventually established the </span><a href="https://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/Pages/default.aspx">International Criminal Court</a><span> (ICC). At that time ecocide was considered a “</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_against_peace">Crime Against Peace</a><span>” alongside genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity, but would it be included in the remit of the ICC?</span></p> <p><span>Deliberate destruction of the environment on a mass scale had occurred during the Vietnam War when </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_Orange">chemical weapons</a><span> were used, not only to gain ‘military advantage’ but to kill civilians and render land uninhabitable for years to come. Today, deepwater drilling for </span><a href="http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/arctic/what_we_do/oil_gas/">oil in the Arctic</a><span> and the extraction of bitumen in the Canadian </span><a href="http://www.no-tar-sands.org/">Tar Sands</a><span> are also tremendously destructive to the environment, so if the CEOs of energy companies and heads of states </span><em>were</em><span> faced with possible prison sentences for ecocide then the incentives to halt these practices would change completely.</span></p> <p><span>However, when the ICC was formally established in the Hague in 2002, ecocide was omitted after a series of “</span><a href="http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/4830/1/Ecocide_research_report_19_July_13.pdf">informal meetings</a><span>” between convenors, lawyers and government representatives. Eight years later, a British barrister called </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecocide">Polly Higgins</a><span> reinvigorated the campaign by establishing the ‘</span><a href="http://eradicatingecocide.com/">Eradicating Ecocide Initiative’</a><span> to ensure that trashing the planet would finally be made illegal. Along with other lawyers and backed by a growing groundswell of grassroots support, she lobbies the United Nations to adopt ecocide as a crime under international law.</span></p> <p><span>Given that ecocide is hugely profitable to corporations this movement faces an enormous challenge, but it’s precisely this conceptualisation of the earth that it wants to reverse—the idea that the planet is an asset to be profited from instead of a home to be lived in and protected. A </span><a href="http://eradicatingecocide.com/the-law/mock-trial/">mock ecocide trial</a><span> has already been held at the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supreme_Court_of_the_United_Kingdom">UK’s Supreme Court</a><span> in London, which found two CEOs of fictional energy companies guilty in the case of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands#Canada_2">Canadian Tar Sands</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>At the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_United_Nations_Climate_Change_Conference">COP21 climate meetings in Paris</a><span> the Ecuadorean president </span><a href="http://eradicatingecocide.com/2015/12/04/president-correa-calls-for-eco-crimes/">Rafael Correa</a><span> also called for the establishment of an ‘International Court of Environmental Justice’ to punish eco-crimes. And at the start of this year, REPSA – the Spanish African palm oil corporation – was found </span><a href="http://eradicatingecocide.com/2016/01/05/guatemalan-court-upholds-ruling-on-ecocide/">guilty of ecocide</a><span> by a Guatemalan court after continued pollution of the La Pasión River.</span></p> <p><span>Here again, a multitude of characters, conflicts, twists, turns and tensions make the story of Eradicating Ecocide compelling. And like a great film or novel, it’s a story that also invites active participation—whether as an activist, a lawyer or just someone who’s concerned about the environment. It’s an invitation to write </span><em>yourself</em><span> into the story and its future, and in that sense it’s a model for the environmental movement.</span></p> <p><span>No matter how large or small, environmental groups would do well to explore the inherent drama in their work—both the macro conflicts that take place in response to global issues and the everyday tensions that occur as people try to work together. Storytelling makes the work of environmentalists more engaging by rendering abstract concepts like carbon emissions into concrete accounts of people who are struggling to make a difference.</span></p> <p><span>But unlike in a fictional story, the boring parts of real life can’t and shouldn’t be cut out—the hours and hours of meeting and planning that the Heathrow 13 had to put in before taking action for example, or the endless repetition of the Eradicating Ecocide mission to anyone that asks. To paint a struggle as constantly interesting and action-packed would be misusing the skills of storytelling (also known as lying). And it strips out some essential elements of stories that aim to convey the realities of social transformation. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>That’s because—unlike a film that can be watched in an hour or two and a book that can be read in a week—societal change takes generations. Activists shouldn’t mislead the public about the time it takes to achieve anything that is significant, even though the world is obsessed by efficiency and speed. When spin and public relations trump substance and veracity in NGO campaigns, potential supporters can become cynical, so a movement that wants to build a groundswell of support does itself a disservice when it implies that results will be quick—that the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible is just around the corner when we know there are many more corners to be turned.</span></p> <p><span>Spin and exaggeration could actually reduce the impact of the environmental movement by reducing it to no better than the deceptive adverts and biased media of the mainstream. So movements which aim to be transformative need stories that inspire but don’t exaggerate or cover over the disappointments and struggles of deep social and personal change.</span></p> <p><span>Stories of people chaining themselves to cages on a runway or lawyers challenging the international justice system do this by simultaneously emphasizing the bigger themes of justice, equality, courage and resilience </span><em>and</em><span> being honest about the everyday realities of social action—like waiting around in the cold until the start of an endless meeting, or inching towards a consensus in a group over many cups of tea, or forming new relationships that spiral upwards and outwards into larger struggles and campaigns.</span></p> <p><span>Stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things are the building blocks of social transformation, but to inspire courageous action they have to be told wisely, and well.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/simon-hodges/what%E2%80%99s-so-special-about-storytelling-for-social-change">What’s so special about storytelling for social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/robert-holtom/tar-sands-and-world-tree-%E2%80%93-can-ragnarok-be-avoided">The Tar Sands and the World Tree – can Ragnarok be avoided?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/joanna-wheeler/unlocking-transformative-potential-of-storytelling">Unlocking the transformative potential of storytelling</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation storytelling ecocide climate change Robert Holtom Culture Environment Tue, 22 Mar 2016 01:00:00 +0000 Robert Holtom 100792 at https://www.opendemocracy.net