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Authority is Sorely Lacking

There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers.

-Erich Fromm-

Last year, I got invited to an event held by the David Suzuki Foundation.  I was so happy to be able to have a conversation with Dr. Suzuki as I have always greatly admired him.  I remember going to a talk he gave about 20 years ago–he was the first person I had ever heard speak about climate change.  He said that it wasn’t just about global warming, but that it would bring about extreme weather conditions.  Yeah, no kidding!  So at this recent conversation, I mentioned that from my point of view, people weren’t doing enough to pare down their lifestyles and that we held so much of the power to bring about change.  Power that we weren’t using.  I thought that he would agree but he didn’t, really.  He blames the government and the system for the predicament that we’re in.

Business as Usual

Of course, authority is lacking around this issue.  I wonder if the four-year mandate we allow for our governments is enough.  Most political parties seem to lack the long-term vision needed to plan for reducing carbon in the atmosphere, among other things.  They strategize about what popular measures will keep them in power in the short run.  Dangling glittery carrots in front of our noses.  Tax cuts, a strong economy, yada yada.  But then again, I’m not sure that they would take the necessary environmental measures even if they had longer mandates.  Lobbying is much too powerful.  I’m afraid that our leaders have gotten sucked into a big economic machine and that despite their best efforts, they get chewed up and spit out by the present setup.

The Planet vs. the Economy?

Because what it comes down to is the planet versus the economy.  Not that the two are irreconcilable, they aren’t.  Laws could be put into place to bring about an economic system that is more just and less wasteful.  I’m particularly inspired by Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics.  It’s just that the present economic powers that be don’t want to bring about these changes.  Changes that would weaken them.   I don’t think that we can expect commercial and financial leaders to help the planet in a major way any time soon.

What I don’t understand in the first place, is why are we allowing commerce to do what they will with the planets’ resources?  If unlimited extraction of petrol and other materials is contributing to the deterioration of life as we know it, why is it even allowed?  Who, in the name of all of us, gave them permission to take these resources for their products?  Who gave them permission to have them shipped half way around the world, polluting the air?  Why are certain products, like Styrofoam trays, being produced massively if we rarely recycle them?  Why are those single-use plastic water bottles still sold in cases?  That only encourages waste.  Why are coffee shops still allowed to serve coffee in those disposable cups that we see everywhere on the side of the road?  Why are companies allowed to plan obsolescence for their products?   Why, in this era of climate change, are these practices still permitted? 

Why can’t we have a council of experts in charge of this?  An international regulatory board, that would consider the (real!) science and make ethical decisions based on the well-being of all life, present and future?  They could decide which products would make it to the marketplace, only if the product and the manufacturing standards are ethical and sustainable.  As consumers, we can’t be expected to have all the information needed to make a sustainable choice for each and every purchase.

Claiming our power

But, as far as I know, no such council exists. Or has any such motivation or power, anyhow.  Our present situation is what it is, as they say.  And this is where I depart from Dr. Suzuki’s way of seeing things.  If it’s our lifestyle that is doing the damage, what is stopping us from changing it?  “Be the change”, Gandhi said, and he inspired millions of citizens in India to reclaim their power.   What if we all came together, in a massive way, without violence, not even civil disobedience?   We don’t have to take to the streets, we will oppose policy and industry through our choices.  By refusing to buy what we do not need.   Are we willing to say “I have enough” to avoid climate catastrophe?


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