Joanne Poyourow's blog

Don’t you love it when the same publication carries conflicting reports about the economy, posted on the very same day? 

Thursday, CNN ran a piece celebrating the job count, claiming the economy is nearly back to pre-crash figures.  Yet in a simultaneous article, more than half of Americans now agree that the American dream is out of reach.

Friday, the leading headline of the Los Angeles Times touted job figures.  And in the same issue they carried an article decried the sharing economy for its darker side: desperation.  That article calls the sharing economy “disaster capitalism.”

I love the phrase, because capitalism in its current form is truly a Disaster.

I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna hafta. I won’t unless you make me.

In a way, this is the grand Toddler Tantrum of them all. Mother Earth has said a firm No, and we’re in the midst of a huge-ola, larger-than-life, encompassing-all, societal Toddler Tantrum. 

Last week marked the trimphant wrap-up of our Human Ecology class at Otis College of Art and Design.  It was a great group of students this semester, and their enthusiasm shone through in their final projects.

We celebrated with people from Transition Mar Vista/Venice as well as people from other departments at Otis.  As teacher Elektra Grant expained so well in her introduction, it seems approprate that the "Human Ecology" class has so many stakeholders.

For me, this class was particularly special because it debuted the economics puzzle pieces I'd so long wanted to try.

It's all a matter of perspective.  
 
In a previous post I argued that economic contraction is necessary and in fact underway.  Is this "Collapse" -- that scary term that so many authors love to throw around?
 
I find the C word to be counterproductive.  Depending on where you are standing as the grand cascade of change ripples through, the ruthless C word might be how it all feels to you in the moment.  But the big scary C word disclaims all the brilliant aspects of the new, emerging economy.  It denies that there is anything positive going on.
 
Huh?

This post is in response to one by Rob Hopkins, which was in response to one by David Holmgren.  

In case I don't use sufficiently 'skillful means,' please let me begin with stating: I am not advocating for intentionally creating an economic crash.

Rob says about economics "once it starts getting even vaguely complicated, leaves me rather puzzled." I don't shy away from complicated, although I do strive to simplify things as I explain them, so that more people can understand.  I have waded through tons of what many people lay out as possibilities for new economic alternatives, hunting for how to successfully unwind the terminally-flawed system we've got (success=relatively peacefully), and ideas for how to build a wiser parallel system.

In Rob's "One: A Post-Growth Economy = Economic Crash?" most of the thinkers Rob has selected to list -- including all the Steady Staters -- are missing a HUGE element as they create their post-growth economic pictures, while Holmgren seems to have understood it from the very early days of his Energy Descent curve: that element is Biocapacity, a.k.a. Ecological Footprint. Right now humanity consumes far more, and generates more waste, than the ecosystems of the planet can handle.

We're caught in the squeeze right now.

Climate change is advancing at an incredible speed. We know we should do something, but we lack the political will to do what it takes to hold it to 2°C. UN committees are now being counseled to prepare for 4°C of warming. To keep it survivable, there's got to be a powerdown -- starting today.

Meanwhile green-tech enthusiasts cheer the rapid rate at which certain countries are installing renewable energy infrastructure. But reports are now surfacing of shortages in the rare earth ingredients needed to make that renewable infrastructure. We don't have enough rare earth materials to replace the whole fossil infrastructure and continue on our current level of consumption. No one dares speak the little secret: Even with renewables, there's got be a powerdown.

Shale oil is environmental desecration. But people are willing to consider it because there is potentially vast amounts of money in it because the easier-to-get-to oil is running out. Along with stopping fracking, there's going to be a powerdown. But no one is talking about that part.

We should "keep the coal in the ground" scientists are telling us, and activists have (rightfully) picked up the cry. But no one never mentions the other side of the Stop Coal equation: the powerdown. We have to start talking about what we are willing to give up. 

It's a sign of a really good essay when bits of it linger with you for days after you've read it and it keeps popping up in your mind. Naomi Klein's "Why Science is Telling All of Us to Revolt and Change Our Lives Before We Destroy the Planet" is one of those. Her theme? "Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that 'earth-human systems' are becoming dangerously unstable in response." 

"Serious scientific gatherings don't usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage," Klein writes. She describes UC San Diego geophysicist Brad Werner at a major scientific conference as "observing that mass uprisings of people -- along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street -- represent the likeliest source of 'friction' to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control."

The part that keeps itching at me, days after I read Klein's article, is the presumption that "mass uprisings" are the only way out of this mess. 

In so many ways, GMOs deplete any resilience in our food supply.
 
GMOs are perhaps the ultimate pinnacle of petroleum-dependent agriculture. These plants are laboratory-engineered specifically to work together with petro-chemicals: herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers. Headed into a world with increasingly less and less fossil resources, deepening the petro-dependence of our food supply is an absolutely disasterous course.
 
For thousands of years, humanity has fed itself “organically” — only your great-grandmother didn’t have a term for it. That was normal agriculture. This chemical-dependent stuff is very recent, widespread just since WWII. GMOs are the ultimate in UN-organic. The useage of farm chemicals with GMOs has vastly increased; it's now producing SuperWeeds and SuperBugs which are resistant to chemicals, requiring stronger chemicals in greater and greater quantity.  And the chemical-centric agribusiness process is stripping out our topsoils, polluting our waterways, sickening our farm workers.
 
The long-term impacts of GMOs on human health are completely untested.  For many years the companies that produced GMOs refused to allow independent studies, and there has been no transparency of scientific findings.  The first independent, longer-term studies are just now beginning to emerge in Europe, and these studies suspect the GM process itself (not just the chemicals) is detrimental to those who consume it.  (YouTube) We can indeed have a better life than this.

Fear.  It's that chill that creeps up your spine.  That awful, churning hot knot, deep in the pit of your stomach.  The tremble that makes your hands feel powerless.  The freeze-up, that tempts you to inaction.  But you can't give in to it.  You still need to DO SOMETHING.
 
I'm not a very public person by nature.  But right now life -- my activist life, and life on the planet in general -- demands that I do some very public things.  It's terrifying.
 
My husband tells me fear and excitement have some of the same roots.  Maybe.  Sometimes it is excitement, disguised.  But sometimes, like a week ago Wednesday, like today, it is just plain wanting-to-crawl-in-a-hole rather than do what needs to be done.

A delightful and thoroughly enjoyable read:  in my many years of reading environmental books there aren't many I could say that about.  I found The Seed Undergound on a table at the home of a member of Transition Mar Vista/Venice, at an open house (open garden) as part of last month's 100+ home Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase.  
 
The book's quirky handwritten double-entendre title called to me -- plus it was about SEEDS.  The cover photo looks a bit like the shelves in my house.  I opened the book to a random page, and after the first clever turn of phrase I was hooked.  I kept reading humourous excerpts aloud to anyone at the event who would listen.
 
The Seed Underground is a wonderful and heart-warming story, a treasure hunt in the best, most joyous meanings of the phrase.  The book threads together a series of personal vignettes as author Janisse Ray seeks and collects seeds for many varieties of heritage and heirloom food plants.

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