I just finished Lester Brown’s newest iteration of the world situation: Plan B 3.0, and one word stands out: WOW. Lester Brown, of the World Watch Institute, is author of over a decade of annual “State of the World” reports, which I’ve been perusing over the years, including Plan B 2.0, his previous work of this magnitude. He is quite arguably, the best informed citizen on the planet about the statistics of world hunger, overpopulation, global warming, water scarcity, crop failure, air pollution, as well as renewable energy, reforestation, and every known aspect, both positive and negative, or our global challenges and their solutions. So, sight unseen, when this book was announced, I ordered several copies and have already given them away. “Download it for free”:http://www.earthpolicy.org.
What he describes, in painstaking detail, is a cascade of crises, intricately connected, such that an increase in any one of them furthers the threat of the others. For instance, he shows how the rise of global temperatures not only changes sea level and threatens extinction to countless species and scores of major coastal cities, but also makes it impossible, above a certain temperature (104 F), to grow corn or rice, the staple foods of the planet. In addition, rising temperatures create water scarcity, which creates starvation and disease, then failed states, wars and terrorism, to say nothing of hundreds of millions of environmental refugees. And while these connections may not be new realizations, the compilation of this data within a single volume paints the big picture in way that is crucial for all to see.
What is needed at this unprecedented time is unprecedented solutions: to understand that a cascade of crises leading to catastrophe, can only be offset by a web of solutions, equally interconnected, potent, and global. In the second half of the book, he shows how solutions are still possible, if humanity acts quickly, and with a level of mobilization, equal to that which was rallied for World War II. But this mobilization is toward solutions, not destruction, toward saving a precious world before it’s too late, and for having something other than a dying world to share with our grandchildren.
The second half of the book shows how the solution to social malaise, such as addressing illiteracy, reproductive choice, health care, and world hunger comes to a modest price tag of $77 billion. Environmental actions of reforestation to prevent soil depletion and sequester carbon, restoring rangelands, fisheries, biological diversity, and stabilizing water tables – a mere $113 billion, for a grand total of $190 billion. With equal attention to detail, he analyzes the effects of a wind industry on employment and economic stimulation as well as lowering C02 levels, how increased education lowers birth rates, how nations are already working to ban logging, conserve water, plant trees, and having success environmentally, socially, and economically at doing so.
His solutions are pragmatic, realistic, and achievable. But they fail to address how these solutions need to be woven into a web of awakening so profound that history has no equal. We know how to reduce energy consumption, cut emissions, halt population, and lower consumption. If we can spend more than double that price tag in Iraq, then we know the money can be found as well – when we consider something a threat to our society. So how do we make this happen?
It is said that there are no problems for which solutions do not exist. What I propose here is a seven-leveled model for creating an equally potent web of solutions, and mobilizing them as quickly as possible. For the technical fixes, read Lester Brown, or any of the many books on renewable energy, local economies, decentralization of food and manufacturing. But for creating an awakening as fast as possible, here’s some ideas that can perhaps get the ball rolling in the right direction:
Seven Point Plan:
1. Mediate the Media.
Mobilization of these plans will require public realization of their necessity. The media doesn’t want to touch it – they would rather distract us with stories of Paris Hilton or John Edwards’ haircut. If we were under a terrorist attack, there isn’t a single network that wouldn’t be broadcasting it night and day. These threats to our future security are far greater than any terrorist attack could be and require an equal amount of attention – not in terms of alarming, but of awakening. The media doesn’t have to preach doom and gloom, because there are solutions – they just need to be adopted swiftly and expansively.
What you can do: Call your local radio stations, write letters to your editor or op-eds for the paper, hold town meetings, stage marches, make videos, podcasts, blogs, and spread them widely.
2. Politics as Unusual.
Of more than 2000 questions asked to the candidates running for president, only 3 questions were about global warming. While all the candidates give lip service to it, how much do we know about their plans for addressing it? Make our votes speak for the candidates who have awareness of these issues. Set up departments to address these issues and staff them with people who have a sense of the problem. Lobby for Leverage: If lobbyists can influence policy, so can large groups of people. Give to your environmental agencies that are going to Washington. Organize local groups into larger sectors, craft proposals that address not niche markets, but niche preservation in the natural world.
What you can do: Demand that these questions be answered by local, state, and national representatives. Write your representatives, call their offices. Be informed about voting records. Join the hundreds of thousands of NGOs that are spontaneously forming to address these issues, in what Paul Hawken calls the largest movement on the planet. To see a listing of these organizations, go here: http://www.wiserearth.org
We need new laws passed about everything from vehicle emissions to wasteful packaging. In Europe, grocery stores don’t handout bags at the checkout – this simple act would save a million paper bags per hour, and the trees that make them. Junk mail catalogs use 8 million trees a month. What can you say about a culture that uses scarce resources to create things that we know will be trashed, sight unseen, by about 90% of the recipients?
What you can do: Sign local petitions that put these laws onto ballots. Better yet, spend an afternoon getting people to sign. Discover what kind of apathy there is out there and figure out a way to break through it. Stop junk mail and catalog mailings. Go to http://www.catalogchoice.org.
We are an incredibly creative species, in love with technology and elegant design. New technologies are enabling us to do more with less impact. We can and must design for sustainability.
What you can do: Purchase from organizations that are designing sustainable products, such as hybrid cars, solar and wind systems, energy efficient appliances, green building products, recyclable packaging. Buy local products and food when possible. (the average grocery item at a retail store travels over 1000 miles to get there.) Use your own creativity to find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Collaborate with others to find solutions.
5. Energize the economy.
Prior to the Italian Renaissance, Europe was at an economic low and one third of the population had died from the plague. Those with money decided to invest in art – and creativity soared. Today’s stock market is falling. People are drawing their money out of it in fear. Unemployment is rising. Where’s that money going to go? What shall we do with our time? Can we reinvest our money in that which is sustainable? Can we use our free time to volunteer our efforts? Can we develop local economies that trade for goods that don’t have to be shipped by oil across large distances?
What you can do: If you have money, invest in sustainable companies – companies that are part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you have time, donate it to a cause that touches your heart. Be active. Get involved.
Media reaches the public, but schools everywhere need to teach sustainable ways to every student, from elementary school to universities.
What you can do: Read Plan B 3.0. Design a course and offer it. Contact your school board and see about implementing a parent’s teach-in on these issues. If you work in the school system, get students involved in teaching each other. Make it “hip” to be green.
7. Visualize, Organize, Vitalize, Realize.
We know that consciousness creates, vision vitalizes, and conversation catalyzes. If you can see something better, share it with others. Set up dialogs, talk to people standing next to you in line, on the bus, on airplanes. Break the boundaries of your own behavior.
What you can do: Go on a vision quest. Hold a group visioning ceremony. Vitalize your visions by imagining them frequently. Join with others in co-creating a vision for your local environment, talk about these issues, and help others realize what’s at stake, and how it is possible to handle it.
These seven points don’t deal with the deeper issues of our psychological malaise, nor does Plan B 3.0. That’s a different story, and if you are interested in how to get to our wholeness as a culture, see Waking the Global Heart: Humanity’s Rite of Passage from the Love of Power to the Power of Love. Suffice it to say that our own healing as citizens in the global community contributes to the overall “upwising” in consciousness, as Swami Beyondananda so cleverly states. Perhaps that is Plan C, for without healing the underlying issues, these things will be but temporary solutions. However, our personal healing is in vain if civilization collapses. If we cannot stop these impending crises, there is nothing but our personal vanity to blame. First we stop the bleeding, then we address the slaughter.
Complex problems require complex solutions. SEED magazine named 2008 as the year that “reality begins to sink in.” Let it also be the year that we mobilize our efforts toward creating a better reality – one we know is possible. It’s up to us. If we don’t do it, others won’t have a chance.
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“Anodea Judith, Ph.D.”:/global-transformation/author
“Waking the Global Heart”:/global-transformation