“We humans will always have an impact. The thing is: what type of impact we choose to have?” ~ Starhawk at her PDC and Earth Activist Training, OUR Ecovillage, 2017
“Amory Lovins says the primary design criteria he uses is the question “How do we love all the children?” Not just our children, not just the ones who look like us or who have resources, not just the human children but the young of birds and salmon and redwood trees. When we love all the children, when that love is truly sacred to us in the sense of being most important, then we have to take action in the world to enact that love. We are called to make the earth a place where all the children can thrive.”
~ Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religions of the Great Goddess
Earlier this week, the BC government (NDP) approved what has been a real controversial project: Site C dam, a project that is not only over budget but also plans to inundate thousands of hectares of sacred indigenous land, good farmland and healthy ecosystems, so a few thousand more of us can enjoy electricity in the future…
Last week, I also finished Frijtof Capra’s course called “The Systems’ View of Life” and this week, I was schedule to finish (but couldn’t due to health issues) the Executive Certificate in Ecopsychology from Viridis Institute, which studies the psychology behind it all: from our individual decisions to groups, organizations and government decisions. Next week, I am also completing the first module of Education for Sustainability or EDE from Gaia Education.
Of course, and at risk to sound too obvious, it is all related…
While I was completing these courses, I was thinking: every politician, every CEO, every “leader” should be committed to take courses like those above. They shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions in our names without first understanding ecology, how systems work and how communities, groups and organizations work, make decisions and related within themselves.
There is a concept we studied in permaculture but that is ignored by many permaculturists or even permaculture teachers; this concept was also studied in Transition, but only a few serious Transition groups understand how important and central to their existence this concept is. I am talking about EDAP: Energy Descent Action Plans. They are plans designed by members of a community, group, organization, household and even entire cities and regions, to look realistically at how we produce, distribute, use and waste energy. They are based on the ecological reality that energy cycles but is not infinite nor magical: energy needs to be captured, stored, distributed and used properly and the resources utilized for these processes need to be obtained and disposed in manners that are as resilient and sustainable as possible.
When Starhawk wisely said that we will always have an impact on Earth, she was talking about a reality: even if all of us suddenly go back to hunting and gathering, we will still have some impacts on the land, because we are part of it. The key is a permaculture concept called “appropriate technology”: what is good in a place and time, may be really bad in another (place and time)…a dam is no necessarily a bad idea, it is the where and when, the how and most important the “why” what matter.
Even the so much celebrated wind, solar, geothermal and so on, all of them require resources and produce waste or some type of impact on the land, the culture, the ecosystems: that is why is so important to start with real needs and do a thorough assessment of who and where we are…
We haven’t been courageous enough to ask questions:
- Do we really “need” more electricity that this dam is supposed to produce?
- What are the long-term and unintended consequences of this project?
- Who are we betraying? Who and whose interests are we serving or protecting?
- What other ways do we have to get that energy and what are their consequences?
- How do we solve this problem using systems and ecological thinking?
- Do we even have a problem or is all this a bluff of more of the same old misleading discourse about “jobs, the economy and growth”?
These questions (and many others) apply to the Kinder Morgan project to bring a pipeline across Burnaby Mountain…and to all the projects that should by now be obsolete and ridiculous examples or narrow, short-sighted and reductionist thinking (well, and many times also greedy)
My point with this post and the Facebook group I created is to have us all thinking. Not just complaining or blindly eliminating a possibility as a 5-year-old with a tantrum but thinking about some important questions:
- What is what we really need and want? What do we care about beyond what we share in social media to impress others?
- What are we ready to sacrifice or embrace so others can live a full life, and we too?
- What are the long-term consequences of every option we have for obtaining, distributing, using and disposing of energy and resources in this region and with what we are and have here?
- What solutions to the energy and resource “problems” may be more systemic and holistic (i.e. addressing many aspects at the same time, such as urban food production, which addresses food security and sovereignty, carbon sequestration through soil management, waste management, community relations, health issues through eating local and seasonal whole foods, etc.)
- In which practical ways can we reduce our use and dependency on energy coming not only from fossil fuels, but from “renewable” sources that have the potential to be highly destructive?
- In which ways can we make energy and resource production and transformation, etc. a local sovereignty issue that provides meaningful livelihoods (jobs) and long-lasting contributions to all the members of the community?
The technology and know how are out here: available through books, articles, courses, etc.
But technology doesn’t offer responses of ethical or ecological nature. It is only when us, human beings, courageously sit together willing to leave our differences and 5-year-old like patterns aside, that we can come up and co-create real long-lasting impacts and systemic solutions that work…
This year, I am dealing with a health issue that has been following me for months and has decided to show up in full bloom this end of the year (probably a message from my body-soul to show me the real path and tell me to slow down and choose wisely). But If all is good, next year (2018) I would love to call for a World Café event to discuss these questions and any others that show up…and find together what’s necessary next.
“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”
~ Paul Hawken