When Profit Drives Us, Community Suffers
By David Korten
As I was reading the current series of YES! articles on the mental health crisis, I received an email from Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at University of Notre Dame. She was sending me articles being prepared for an anthology she is co-editing with the working title Sustainable Vision.The articles present lessons from indigenous culture that underscore why community is the solution to so much of what currently ails humanity.
Both these collections underscore why so much of what currently ails us can be traced to the ongoing global process of commodification, monetization, corporatization and the increasing trend of machines, robots and artificial intelligence replacing people in jobs ranging from manufacturing to customer service. All this is separating us from one another and from nature so that billionaires can grow their fortunes. The consequences—including environmental, social and political collapse—are dramatic, devastating and unnecessary.
Narvaez observes that for roughly 99 percent of the time that has elapsed since the appearance of the first humans, we lived as hunter-gatherer tribes with deep and direct connections to one another and nature. Together, tribal members foraged for nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Together, they stalked, killed and dressed their game. Together, they prepared their food in communal kitchens.
Relationships with one another and nature were direct, strong, lifelong and grounded in intimate knowledge of one another and the plants and animals they lived among. Tools were simple, self-made and shared.
Our human brains evolved in this context to facilitate living in co-productive relationship with one another and the Earth. The distinctive developmental needs of the brain as a child matures into adolescence and adulthood can only be fully understood in this context.
As human beings, we begin life with bodies and brains only partially formed and in a state of total dependence on our parents. No mother can completely provide for her own needs and those of an infant by herself. That's why, it's said, it takes a village to raise a child.
The human child's path to physical and mental maturity is long, can be treacherous, and requires proper nutrition and exercise. A hunter-gatherer newborn was breast-fed for its first 2-5 years. This provided nutrition and constant reassurance of its mother's love and care. The maturing child led an active outdoor life. He or she experienced constant engagement and enduring relationships with playmates of many ages, the support of an ever-present tribal family spanning multiple generations, and the accessible wisdom of honored elders. This is what the maturing human mind and body evolved to expect and which it continues to require.
In our modern setting, we pride ourselves on our liberation from the need to forage for our food, make our own clothes and build our own shelter. This can work well for those with adequate income to buy what they need or want. No amount of money, however, can buy the love and caring we need to meet our emotional needs.
Statistics on global trends suggest we are creating a world where it is ever harder to meet those needs. More people are living in single-person households. Since the 1960s, the percentage of households with only one person has more than doubled in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.
In the U.S., 28 percent of households are now single-person. Between 1960 and 2016, the number of children in the U.S. living in single-parent households increased from 22 percent to 31 percent of the population. Often the single parent is a mom struggling to make ends meet with one or more low-wage jobs that may require long commutes, offer little security and separate her from her children during most of her waking hours.
Too exhausted to prepare home-cooked meals, we depend on nutritionally deficient, chemically laced packaged meals. Online retailers provide for our material needs with no need to venture out of our single-person residence or even for any human contact. To fend off our isolation-produced depression, we become addicted to drugs and alcohol.
The mental health consequences are devastating. U.S. suicides have increased 25 percent since 2000 and experts predict that 50 percent of the current U.S. population will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.
For all the advances of modern societies, traditional tribal communities may have better served the essential needs of people for emotional support, nutrition and exercise than does contemporary society. We don't need to return to the ways of our ancestors, but we do need to learn from them.
What are those lessons? Instead of building more single-family dwellings, we should build multi-generational, multi-family homes in vibrant eco-villages that share facilities, tools, labor and resources. Instead of designing cities for self-driving, single-person cars, design them for walking, biking and public transportation with lots of places for people to meet and greet, mix and mingle. Instead of growing an economy dependent on global movements of money, people and goods to maximize profit uncoupled from place, create economies that bring people together to maximize health and well-being in the place where they live.
As we envision our future, don't think money, money, money to maximize profit. Think relate, relate, relate to maximize community.
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.