Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving


January 15th, 2013

“Indigenous peoples have said that the fundamental difference between Western and indigenous ways of being is that even the most open-minded Westerners view listening to the natural world as a metaphor as opposed to the way that the world really works.”

Aric McBay, Lierre Keith & Derrick Jensen
Deep Green Resistance (2011, p. 58)

From a talk by Kevin Anderson on the slim margin for surviving climate change.

“What is the proper relationship between human beings and the natural world?”

Bill Moyers talks with a Yale professor about six different American “publics” – each public representing a particular orientation to climate change. Professor Leiserowitz explains how human psychology inhibits perception of the threat of climate change simply because the evidence is not immediate to our physical senses. He uses the analogy of a warning sign on a mountain highway alerting drivers to a slippery patch ahead which we are ignoring. Prof Leiserowitz bridges religious and secular views, chastises Democrats and Republicans, and discusses how to address each specific public, emphasizing that it is time to increase the volume on this conversation.

  • the Alarmed (16%) – climate change is happening, it is human-caused, they’re eager to get on with the solutions (but what are the collective solutions?)
  • the Concerned (29%) – climate change is happening, it is human-caused, but distant in time and space – later (e.g., ‘not my lifetime’) and far away (“polar bears” or “islands”, serious but not a priority
  • the Cautious (26%) – still on the fence, paying attention but haven’t made up their minds
  • the Disengaged (8%) – they’ve heard about climate change but don’t know anything about the concerns, causes, or remedies
  • the Doubtful (13%) – don’t think climate change is happening but if it is, it is natural and nothing humans did or can do anything about (Prof Leiserowitz agrees there has been non-human climate change in the past but adds that this time is different and the scientists agree it is human-caused)
  • the Dismissive (8%) – firmly convinced climate change is not happening, may believe this is a government hoax (tend to be well-organized and loud)

“Yes, we can kill the planet.” (Lierre Keith, DGR, p. 61)

In the two-minute video embedded below, Yeb Sano pleads for us to find the political will “to take responsibility for the future we want.” So far, the politicians have not been able to find it. Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco argue that this means we, the people, must revolt.

In the face of devastating and catastrophic news that humanity is about to become extinct, there is some hard talk about the futility of hope. This is not because there definitely is “no hope,” but because the kinds of hope people are expressing are baseless, they are not effectively directed at tangible, material actions to alter the trajectory we are plummeting along.

Popularized versions of hope include fantastic magical thinking — “Technology will save us!” and/or “The planet is infinite!” — or outright avoidance, call it denial or repression or the cultural effects of being trained to consume. Professor Leiserowitz himself engages in motivated reasoning, supposing that we can actually maintain the planet and capitalism. He’s straddling the fence between hope and hopelessness, linking hope with success of the current economy (which is a common confusion).

Rather than believing in false hope, and instead of surrendering to the fear-mongering talk of so-called “Doomers,” we can choose to evolve ourselves beyond the limits of these human-created conditions, to deepen how we listen to the natural world and each other so that we can create and spread the motivation, means and methods of resilient survival.

Understanding the Enemy: Civilization and Its Hazards

On acting for human survival in the face of climate change (talk by Kevin Anderson).

Civilization itself is the main hazard.  This is the coldest fact of all. The second chapter of Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet lays out what we are up against. Aric McBay lists twenty-two things “we need to know about civilization [in order to] to defeat it” (p. 33, listed below). Kevin Anderson suggests the Pareto effect demonstrates how the 1-5% who most benefit from industrialized society could mobilize the necessary changes in order to avoid the most calamitous result of complete human extinction. The thin margin of hope hinges on how motivated we can become, and how fast, to sacrifice our present comforts in order to maintain conditions in which human children can live.

The enemy (a.k.a., civilization) depends upon our participation:

  1. Civilization is globalized, its infrastructure and economy is integrated despite political boundaries. (p. 33)
  2. Civilization is mechanized, it requires machines for production. (p. 33)
  3. Civilization is young, according to any meaningful environmental/ecological timescale (no matter that it feels ‘old’ in terms of your own lifetime and family history). (p. 33)
  4. Civilization is mainly urban, promoting and maintaining itself in cities. (p. 33)
  5. Civilization requires division of labor and social stratification, generating a vast middle class who doesn’t want to surrender their privilege. (p. 34)
  6. Civilization is militarized, because of competition and the desire for control. (p. 34)
  7. Civilization is patriarchal, celebrating the masculine expression of power and violence. (p. 34)
  8. Civilization is agricultural, insisting on surplus to feed concentrations of populations in cities and specialized elites. (p. 34)
  9. Civilization is predicated on perpetual growth. (p. 34)
  10. Civilization is characterized by short-term thinking. (p. 35)
  11. Civilization, historically, is defined by collapse. (p. 35)
  12. Civilization is hierarchical and centralized. (p. 35)
  13. Civilization increasingly regulates individual behaviorwhich increases regimentation. (p. 35)
  14. Civilization invests heavily in monumental architecture and propaganda. (p. 35)
  15. Civilization requires large amounts of human labor. (p. 36)
  16. Civilization is capable of making Earth uninhabitable. (p. 36)
  17. Civilization centralizes power and externalizes consequences. (p. 39)
  18. Civilization is premised upon industrial drawdown - it accumulates resources faster than they can be replaced. (p. 42)
  19. Civilization has led to the global food crisis, especially water drawdown and soil loss. (p. 44) [See previous entry on Nance Klehm]
  20. Civilization is causing soil drawdown and desertification: “It takes a thousand years for the earth to create a few inches of topsoil” (p. 45).
  21. Civilization has caused overfishing: “90 percent of the large fish in the ocean have been wiped out” (p. 46).
  22. Civilization is causing deforestation: without  major intervention”…by 2030 only 10 percent of the tropical forest will retain intact, with another 10 percent in a fragmented and degraded condition…hundreds of thousands of species will go extinct; global warming, drought, soil erosion, and landslides will all worsen severely” (p. 47).

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