Too Big to See?

“Sometimes the fate of the Earth boils down to getting one person with modest powers to budge.”   So writes Rebecca Solnit in a recent HuffPo piece,  Bigger Than That.  She describes what happened when a bureaucrat defending the status quo (because he is stuck in ‘ordinary-time’ thinking) meets Divest activists who want to defund the fossil fuel industry, one endowment at a time.  The article itself is bigger than that and  worth your time.  Solnit is well-versed in, and passionate about, her subject yet manages to inspire optimism against all the odds.


That climate change is the elephant in the room is a cliché.  We get a lot of support for failing to recognize the big, obvious issue that we are all, to one degree or another, complicit in the melting of Artic ice, drought in  Australia, forest fires and monster storms.  It’s easy these days to blame media, corporations and government lackeys for inaction on global warming.  It can make you feel powerful, yet is a waste of time and energy, of which we have neither.  Better to find the one thing you can do, and do it, because if nothing else, it can be a very humbling exercise.

Support the divest movement if you can’t physically join the students at Harvard or Brown calling their respective schools to account.  Hooray for The Harvard Crimson taking a stand in an Open Letter to President Faust: …we believe it will take the world’s most renowned academic institution to reign in the world’s most wealthy, powerful, and destructive corporations.

Today, Congress is negotiating the Farm Bill.  Do you understand what this could mean for the future of food in our country?  Why are so many people opposed to GMO seeds?  Who is Vandana Shiva anyway?  Why is the  health of our soil vital to life on the planet?  What is Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement, up to these days?  How does the Slow Food movement fit into the big picture of climate change?   More questions.  Few answers.  I have made food security my thing because I can. What’s yours?

Here’s Wendell Berry on Moyers and Company recently: We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?

From Consumers to Producers?

We Can Do It! Rosie the RiveterIt must be something in the air or drinking water, but I am coming across this consumer vs. producer idea more and more lately.  Just today, someone posted on Facebook a story about how Cuba, which became an engineering and technological wasteland after the US left and the Soviet Union’s economy stalled, has pulled itself– out of necessity — into the 21st century by a new DIY ethic – one might even say ‘chic.’

The other item that floated to my desktop was that in Greece, whose economy is in dire straits,  young people have given up looking for jobs in urban areas and are going back to the land.  The reason they can is that, somewhere in their backgrounds, there is a homestead that belonged to a grandparent or other relative, a house and a garden in a village.  Romantic?  I doubt it.  Practical, yes.  They are returning to places where they can learn what previous generations took for granted about self-sufficiency and making a decent life without so goddam much stuff.  Many are taking up farming or learning to prepare food.  They are acquiring survival skills and building community at the same time.

Maybe these are important models for us to study in the post-consumer age we may be entering.  Consumers  — especially those wired to their electronic ‘friends’ — don’t generally make for great neighbors.  But people who make things (or create ideas), have to connect with others: mentors, partners, co-workers, and customers.  Producers live in a world of ideas and possibilities that encourages generativity, in the sense of “making your mark” on the world, creating or accomplishing things that matter.

It’s not too late to get our hands dirty, to build things, to maintain and repair the things we have, to share our new found skills with others.  In fact, in a future where the cult of go-it-alone individualism is sure to be severely tested, it is about time.

Photo credit: Mike Licht, / Foter / CC BY