22 June 2010

good medicine

What is the complete opposite of self-centered? If The Dirt by Motley Crue was an enjoyable egotistical adventure into appetite and depravity, where tales of individual wealth, poverty, illness, addiction and emotion were all-consuming (and it was), More Good News by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel is the complete opposite. A matter-of-fact book about the global eco-crisis situation where the facts are readable and the tone is hopeful. I am actually learning a lot of great things and because it is a Canadian book by Canadian authors, I am getting more information that is relevant to my ecosystem and political arena, not just that of our (rather self-centred) neighbours to the south.

I have only just started, so I will probably do another post on this great book later. Anyway, here is a peek:

Today, with the unmistakable signs of systemic ecological breakdown in evidence - the loss of glaciers, the collapse of fisheries, and the alarming changes in the chemical makeup of the planet's atmosphere and oceans - it is impossible for intelligent people to think that the environment and the economy are unrelated or that we can tackle one without taking care of the other.

The Natural Step [created by Swedish doctor, Karl-Hendrik Robert]... sets up four simple conditions that must be met if a society is to achieve environmental health and sustainability. The first requires that as little material as possible from underneath the Earth's crust be brought to the surface (since so many of these materials are poisonous to life)> The second requires that humans not subject natural systems to overly large concentrations of any of the materials that they produce. The third stipulates that the Earth's natural systems must not be systematically depleted through overharvesting, displacement or other manipulation. The fourth condition... the one that causes his mostly corporate audiences to balk... [states] social justice and fair and equitable distribution of resources... is a foundation of any sustainable management system.

If your waste can't be safely absorbed by natural systems or fed back into industry easily, that's proof that your methods don't accord with nature's, that you're losing part of your investment and causing damage.

On a social level, humans seem to need morality, ethics and spirituality as much as we need jobs and money.

The reason functional democracy is so important to the sustainability of natural systems is that one of the primary requirements of sustainable systems is that they be managed from the bottom up, like nature. All life in the oceans or the savannas rests on humble clouds of phytoplankton and myriad blades of grass. Managing from the bottom up in a human society means that all the people in it - however strong or weak, big or small they are - must have everything they need to survive and thrive. In other words, to mimic nature, human society has to be as democratic and as equitable as possible.

Growing fuels may sound nice, but like every other large-scale management technology, it really depends on who, where and how... Deforestation for agriculture involves draining the peat bogs that lie under the forests. Peat bogs are known to be among the most efficient carbon sinks in the world; when they're drained for oil palm in the tropics, they release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, eclipsing any benefits using biofuels may have conferred in the first place. Wetland International has revealed that draining peat bogs in Indonesia, some 2 billion tons per year, has now "made Indonesia the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, right after the U.S. and China, despite the country's small industry base".

Back in the 1890s the U.S. Supreme Court instituted a staggering legal, social and environmental precedent that haunts us to this day. It granted legal status "identical to the human person" to private business corporations.

Article 71 of the new Ecuadorian constitution, ratified in September 2008, has been hailed around the world as a precedent-setting, legal breakthrough that carries the idea of legal "personhood" one step further. Ecuador's constitution is spearheading a new era in recognizing the legal rights of animals, rivers, trees and ecosystems as being equal to those of persons - theoretically, more important than those of corporations.

Excerpts from More Good News: Real Solutions to the Global Eco-Crisis by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel, Greystone: Vancouver, 2010. My photo.

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