Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Adapting to the New Normal

I bet you know that today is the penultimate day of 2015. For 2016, how many folks do you think will catch on finally to the reality that the "New Normal" in weather, economics, politics, and just about everything, isn't going to be like the old normal only better? The number of times recently we've seen "unprecedented" weather, floods like those currently being experienced in the United Kingdom and the Mississippi River in the US, inequitable wealth concentration that mirrors the days of the Pharaohs, unarmed civilians killed by those who are supposed to "serve and protect," should start to have an effect on our expectations. Fortunately, we've also attained unprecedented agreement to do something meaningful about climate change. I think and hope the Naomi Klein is correct in her This Changes Everything. It's not just about climate change and fossil fuels. It's about growth and capitalism and corporations and globalism and "everything." We're beginning to learn just how correct John Muir is with his observation that:
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
chickadee after a snow storm
chickadee after a snow storm
Photo by J. Harrington

Chickadees have adapted to today's world and even survive Minnesota Winters. Self-preservation (for humans) suggests strongly that we have some adapting to do ourselves, to keep the world we've been creating from doing us in. We all know that depending on exponential growth on a finite planet is insane no matter how much we reduce, reuse and recycle. We also have lots of existing guidance on how to create better development and a more sustainable future. Minnesota, back in the days when it had a state planning agency, produced Sustainable Development: The Very Idea. For 2016, might it be beneficial to pull out or download a copy and see how we're doing? I suspect there's lots of room for improvement before we can claim that we're following  anything like the Natural Step process. One example has to do with mining and how it relates to the four system conditions of a sustainable society. (You knew I'd get around to that, didn't you?)

sustainable society: 4 system conditions
sustainable society: 4 system conditions

Please read that first condition again: "nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust," Don't you begin to wonder, if mining companies are processing ore that is less than .5% (less than one-half of one percent) copper, when and how processing existing electronic waste makes as much or more sense than mining ore? Maybe it's like those electric utilities which, not being able to control access to the sun or the wind, question the value of renewable energy. Anyhow, it might not be only fossil fuels that we need to start leaving in the ground. Our current rates of extraction for ores are designed to support more and more growth on a planet with finite resources and waste sinks. If we really want to talk about becoming sustainable, it's got to be more than "sus-wash," right? (That's the best I can do for now on the equivalent of green-wash for sustainability.) Remember the old saying about "insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results?" Mining, and society, need to produced different results for the sake of our children and our own old age. How's that sustainability thingy working our for you? Can you begin to see a connection to A Guide to Simple Living? One last old-timey punch line for today. Remember the old "doctor it hurts when I do this" complaint?  And the answer: "Stop doing it." Can you see that connection?

Of History and Hope

By Miller Williams 
We have memorized America,
how it was born and who we have been and where.   
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,   
telling the stories, singing the old songs.
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.   
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.   
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.   
The rich taste of it is on our tongues.
But where are we going to be, and why, and who?   
The disenfranchised dead want to know.
We mean to be the people we meant to be,   
to keep on going where we meant to go.

But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now?
The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?   
With waving hands—oh, rarely in a row—
and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow.

Who were many people coming together
cannot become one people falling apart.
Who dreamed for every child an even chance
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not.
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head   
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart.
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child   
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot.
We know what we have done and what we have said,   
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,   
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become—
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free.

All this in the hands of children, eyes already set   
on a land we never can visit—it isn’t there yet—
but looking through their eyes, we can see   
what our long gift to them may come to be.   
If we can truly remember, they will not forget.


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