Earth Is Warning Us We Must Change. Will We Listen?
By David Korten
Our present course puts humans on track to be among the species that expire in Earth's ongoing sixth mass extinction. In my conversations with thoughtful people, I am finding increasing acceptance of this horrific premise.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with climate change, drives home the lesson that we must honor and care for Earth. The increasing frequency of the appearance of deadly viruses reminds us of the consequences of disrupting the natural systems by which life on Earth organizes to create and maintain the conditions essential to both its own existence and ours.
This is a time for learning and conscious collective choice like no other in the human experience. Defining lessons are coming from a variety of "teachers," including the pandemic and climate change, protests against systemic racism, and oddly enough, Donald Trump.
Perhaps we can now recognize and accept the limits of Earth's regenerative systems and our need to help Earth heal from the damage of our recklessness. The Earth is strong, but also vulnerable. As Earth cares for us, we either care for it or bear the consequences of our recklessness.
The pandemic may be seen as a not-so-subtle warning to humanity that we may be sacrificed, if necessary, to protect the health of the planet. On the path to human extinction, the most vulnerable will go first, but there will be no human winners.
COVID-19's attack also exposes the culpability of the economic system that bears major responsibility for our assault against Earth and each other. We now see with ever greater clarity the disconnect between two economies. One is a financial economy devoted to generating unearned profits for monopolists and speculators. The other is an economy of Earth's regenerative systems and humans doing work essential to the well-being of people and planet. We can get along just fine without financial speculation, and labor devoted to wasteful or destructive purposes to make money for rich people. We cannot survive without the regenerative systems of a living Earth and the beneficial labor of both human and nonhuman beings.
We also see more clearly the devastating consequences of concentrating power in the hands of the financial elite. For example, the pandemic has exposed the long and vulnerable supply chains that only serve the interests of exploiters who locate industry where wages and taxes are lowest and environmental regulations are most lax to produce consumer goods for the world's affluent. Disruptions of those supply lines led to shortages of critical products, such as nose swabs and face masks, that we're only now realizing can be more quickly and securely obtained through local producers—assuming we still have some that can take on the job.
Another lesson we're learning involves the nature of money. COVID-19 prompted the U.S. Congress and Federal Reserve to create trillions of dollars in instant money for purposes both good and bad. Never has it been so clear that money is just a number that national governments can create from nothing. Consequently, lack of money should never be a society's defining constraint so long as idle or misdirected resources are available for new money to put to work meeting real needs.
Of course, meeting essential needs is very different from creating money to keep stock prices inflated and to bail out businesses, such as the corporate travel industry that electronic communication may have rendered obsolete. Too much of the money instantly created by Congress and the Fed was aimed at propping up financial markets while the real economy floundered. Therein lies another lesson: Follow the money and know its purpose, which takes us to the lessons of the Trump disaster.
With his perpetual deceptions, his assaults on the integrity and competence of government, and his persistent denial of responsibility for their devastating consequences, Trump reminds us of how much we depend on honest and functioning government at all system levels. He is forcing state and local governments (and also other nations) to take on new responsibilities because they know they cannot wait for leadership from his feckless administration.
In sending unidentified Department of Homeland Security officers to impose his will on the people of Portland, Oregon, and other cities, Trump is reminding us of the dangers of tyranny and the importance of having political leaders who are honest, intelligent, of sound mind, and committed to a strong democracy. We are becoming ever more conscious of the fatal error of electing politicians who believe government is inherently burdensome and best minimized.
These are all lessons essential to the future we seek and to our choices in the upcoming election.
During a July 23 webinar hosted by YES! Media that I took part in, Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the System Shift Lab and research fellow at the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems, noted that the emergence of the new depends on the disintegration of the old. While many of us have been eager to welcome the new, we are not always so ready to accept the disintegration of the old. Yet the point that Nafeez drove home in our webinar is that both are part of the process of transformation.
As the institutions of the imperial civilization of our past disintegrate, it exposes the extent to which their power has rested on a foundation of war, racism, and violence devoted to enforcing mass servitude and securing the rights of property owners. Succumbing to the enticements of money worship, we celebrate the successes of a miniscule super-wealthy minority, and the fiction that we might one day join them.
Let us welcome the growing recognition that returning to business as usual is neither possible nor desirable. We must accept our current mission to birth a new civilization devoted to the well-being of people and Earth: A civilization in which money is just a tool, and nurturance of life is the prime purpose.
David Korten is co-founder of YES! Media, president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of influential books, including "When Corporations Rule the World" and "Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth." His work builds on lessons from the 21 years he and his wife, Fran, lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on a quest to end global poverty.
Reposted with permission from YES! Magazine.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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