EARTH MEANDERS: Resisting Global Ecological Change
By Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet
Earth Meanders come from Earth's Newsdesk
Shared survival requires powering down, going back to the land, and ecological resistance.
The human family faces imminent and (Copenhagen would suggest) inevitable collapse of the biosphere – the thin layer of life upon an otherwise lifeless planet – that makes Earth habitable. Marshes and rivers and forests and fish are far more than resources – they and all natural ecosystems are a necessity for humanity's existence upon Earth. A few centuries of historically unprecedented explosion in human numbers and surging, albeit inequitable, consumption and resultant resource use, ecosystem destruction and pollution; is needlessly destroying being for all living things. Revolutionary action such as ending coal use, reforming industrial agriculture and protecting and restoring old forests and other natural ecosystems, is a requirement for the continuation of shared human being.
Earth is threatened by far more than a changing atmosphere causing climate change. Cumulative ecosystem destruction – not only in climate, but also water, forests, oceans, farmland, soils and toxics — in the name of "progress" and "development" — threatens each of us, our families and communities, as well as the Earth System in total and all her creatures. Any chance of achieving global ecological sustainability depends urgently upon shifting concerns regarding climate change to more sufficiently transform ourselves and society to more broadly resist global ecological change. Global ecological, social and economic collapse may be inevitable, but its severity, duration and likelihood of recovery are being determined by us now. It does not look good as the environmental movement has been lacking in its overall vision, ambition and implementation.
The growing numbers of ecologically literate global citizens must come forward to together start considering ecologically sufficient emergency measures to protect and restore global ecosystems. We need a plan that allows humans and as many other species as possible to survive the coming great ecological collapse, even as we work to soften the collapse, and to restore to the extent practicable the Earth's ecosystems. This mandates full protection for all remaining large natural ecosystems and working to reconnect and enlarge biologically rich smaller remnants that still exist. It is time for a hard radical turn back to a fully functioning and restored natural Earth which will require again regaining our bond with land (and air, water and oceans), powering down our energy profligacy, and taking whatever measures are necessary to once again bring society into balance with ecosystems.
This may mean taking all measures necessary to stop those known to be destroying ecosystems for profit. As governments dither and the elite profit, it has become dreadfully apparent that the political, economic and social structures necessary to stop human ecocide of our and all life's habitats does not yet exist. The three hundred year old hyper-capitalistic and nationalistic growth machine eating ecosystems is not going to willingly stop growing. But unless it does, human and most or all other life will suffer a slow and excruciating apocalyptic death. Actions can be taken now to soften ecological collapse while maximizing the likelihood that a humane and ecologically whole Earth remains to be renewed.
Geoengineering Won't Work
The only "Plan B" offered by the ruling elite is to actively consider geoengineering global ecological processes and countless other techno-fixes. Rather than power down or sacrifice, it appears we as a species are willing to gamble with long odds with our and all lives. As if scouring all sorts of ecosystems of their life, global polluting industrialism, and embrace of consumption as the meaning of life is not enough of a load for global ecosystems. Now it is proposed we further alter oceans and the atmosphere unnaturally at a global scale to engineer a biosphere. Humans cannot control most invasive species, keep oil out of water, or feed everyone; yet now we are fit to run the biosphere? Unintended, inequitable and horrendous consequences are assured.
Gaia – the Earth System – is far too complex to engineer and trying will seal the demise of our shared, finely honed, and naturally evolved biosphere. Geoengineering and the blind faith in technology it represents can only lead to further degradation of ecosystems and biosphere, over population and consumption, while virtually annihilating any chance of maintaining a natural and habitable Earth. It would be far better to embrace ecological restoration and other necessary policy measures including ending coal, industrial agricultural and old forest logging. A biosphere can never be engineered, but it may be planted, tended and assisted to restore itself. First you take the pressure off ecosystems, and then allow and assist them to naturally recover. Global ecological protection and restoration is the only sort of human ecosystem manipulation that can save us now.
Given the momentum of seven billion super-predators consuming ecosystems to meet their every (and endless) whims, it is not possible to stop social, economic and ecological collapse. But there is a still chance of a worthy human society post economic and ecological collapse if we return to the land, power down and resist. It is all about having as much intact ecosystems as possible to lighten the blow and reconstitute society and ecosystems post-collapse. Here, and in my forth-coming book "New Earth Rising", as a political ecologist I offer a very different plan to the blind faith in technological progress that removes us more from natural life-giving ecosystem processes and patterns. Perhaps this can be called Plan "ER" for Earth Restoration.
It is a global ecological imperative that we begin dismantling the industrial growth machine to return to honest, well-lived and simple lifestyles – protecting, tending and restoring natural agro-ecosystems. Though terribly difficult given the choices society presents us, each of us must begin the process of getting off the grid, dramatically cutting our energy use and refusing to consume energy from burning fossil fuels. There will come a time where dismantling roads, industries and cities will be appropriate. We must insist that society's resources are used towards these ends. But make no mistake, no amount of "renewable energy" can allow current, much less predicted, excessive energy usage for everything from our food to our transport to our housing to continue.
The "slowing" economy in the over-developed world is the logical conclusion of disease like growth in human populations, resource use and consumption. Highly satisfying for some for awhile, but such ecocidal resource binging cannot and will not last. And now the entire world, including the 2 billion that live on under $2 a day, understandably and justly want better lives. Sadly though, through the power of corporate media, most poor style the ideal life upon the excesses of the West. This means they undervalue their own more ecologically sustainable and personally satisfying lifestyles and livelihoods driven by community and sharing. Life is clearly more than what you own and consume, it is what you do and who you are that counts. And it is never too late to make positive changes.
Both personally and societally we must wean ourselves from gluttonous energy use and conspicuous over-consumption, and demand political and social structures that compel others do so as well. As individuals we are faced with much outside of our control, so it won't all happen at once, but each of us must begin disengaging ourselves from the dominant growth paradigm, and begin to achieve some measure of self-sufficiency. Start by becoming as independent from slave wage labor and marketing neuroses as fast as financially feasible. Those that voluntarily begin to power down will be at an enormous advantage as the ecological shit hits the fan. And there is no better place to start than loving and being one with a piece of land. The land, think always of the land.
Back to the Land
The age of Ecological Restoration will be predicated upon a return to the land to practice local agrarian democracy. There is no chance of survival post economic, social and ecological collapse if you do not have a homestead – a piece of land, with water, good soils, tools, seeds and other implements of self-sufficiency. Cities are artificial constructs that consume resources from far and wide, and whose resource use and pollution can never be sustained. When collapse hits, billions will die there in a very short time, as the modern and ecologically illiterate learn food and water does not come from grocery stores and taps. Living the good life – or for that matter any life at all – will soon not be possible unless you have prepared your land and are willing and able to defend it. This does not necessarily suggest survivalist paranoia, as when the rains stop and Earth grows parched, it is highly likely mobility will cease and we will be left to live where we are.
Prepare to live upon land within the limits of your bioregion. There are many opportunities to pursue alternative sharing communities. Large numbers of well-networked people locally, and on the Internet for as long as it lasts, going back to the land to live in an ecologically sustainable manner is the second component of a radical turn away from inappropriate technology and economic growth; to a restoration economy, living more fulfilling lives with the land and reintegrating humans with nature. Even the richest countries still possess relatively inexpensive land with remnant ecosystems that can be assisted to enlarge. Not-yet-over-developed countries still hold much potential for self-support. We must all relearn to plant and tend our forest gardens, organic permaculture and native ecosystems starting now and for eternity.
As with any animal, we cannot long persist without intact habitat. Human well-being all comes back to the state of the land and its soil and biota. When we protect and restore land – water, oceans and atmosphere are much improved as well. It has long been known that full and sensible lives are possible from living within a local bioregion's bounty. The explosive growth in everything is a new phenomenon and cannot and will not be sustained under any conditions. It is not necessary to work so hard to acquire stuff. Much satisfaction comes from being one with land, having a loving family and community, and enjoying the arts, sports, literature and other aspects of culture we love. Ecological collapse will still be wrenching, but on the land you and a civilized way of life have a fighting chance. Live simply, laugh often and love deeply.
The next stage towards ecological enlightenment and serving Gaia is passive refusal to participate in the system, escalating through various stages of resistance until known ecocidal activities are ended – and ecosystems protected and widely restored – as soon as possible. No one including this political ecologist is suggesting that imminently we should start waging violent revolution against the speculative industrial growth machine that is killing us all. At this time we would lose an outright fight. But clearly it is time to have a conversation regarding what other types of protest activities besides petitions and protests are valid in a dying world, even within supposed democracies.
What the Earth System needs badly right now is a million acts of resistance to obstruct and eventually destroy the ecologically unsustainable economic growth machine. There is an immediate need to vigorously obstruct the growth machine through active non-participation in the speculative industrial system. At some point others may wish to consider destruction of Earth destroying equipment through carefully targeted acts of sabotage. And if this fails, we may come to realize a need to pursue more revolutionary acts, such as insurgency and guerrilla warfare. From time to time through human history it has been necessary to wage war to promote greater justice, equity and freedom – and now perhaps ecological sustainability as well.
Those that are so enamored with Gandhi and King that they cannot even broach the subject of possible revolutionary tactics are na