Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is community actually more exciting than being an economic hit man?


Yes, someone actually asked me that.

Some people really love the largeness of the game of corporatocracy. They subscribe to the Ayn Rand philosophy that a small handful of individuals are just bigger and better than everybody else and they therefore have the right to play the game however they want to. Joe Sixpack is content to go to work and then drink beer and watch TV on the weekend. That's why it's ok to sell him toxic food, shelter, water and energy (and everything else). Those little guys are not really as important as the game we're playing, us big boys.

I'm not going to question the merits of Ayn Rand's philosophy. What I will question is - "If ya'll are so big and so smart and superior, why can't you come up with a better game?" Poisoning the earth and your fellow human beings is a pretty sorry excuse for one, really, because you're trying to destroy the playing field!

Can you imagine Shaq going out on the court with cleats that ripped up that beautiful wood flooring so everybody was tripping over it? Or maybe a spike in his hand that deflated the ball? What is exciting about that? If he did that, you would think he was crazy, right? Maybe you would want to forcibly remove him from the court, even.

Well, anybody who is observing what is going on thinks that the big boys and what they're doing is crazy too, because it is.

Some of the guys who are creating the most damage are getting genuinely scared, with the growing evidence about climate change and the degraded state of key aspects of our environment (like soils, water supply, etc). But they want to keep their unworkable game intact, somehow. They are just trying to slow down the destruction, so the game lasts longer. Which of them is saying, "No guys, sorry, we have to change the whole structure of the game, because it's a losing game, and everybody including us loses." Nobody wants to make that call, nobody wants to be the one that points that out. Nobody wants to confront what would actually have to happen to make the game last long enough for the next dozen or one hundred or more generations to enjoy it. If I'm wrong about that, and there is a member of the powers that be who is actually suggesting we scrap our failing cultural design and substitute a better one, I would truly love to hear about it!

Only when those people in real positions of power become willing to change the rules of the game so that life can truly prosper on this planet, will they become an asset instead of a liability. It really doesn't matter how great your abilities are, if you are using them to destroy the game for the rest of us, you are a party-pooper, a petty tyrant, a wet blanket. It is an illusion that you will lose by doing the right thing - you have everything to gain.

Some of the radical changes that are needed (minimally) would be:

1. Regulations that enforce true costs of doing business on those who are profiting from that business instead of passing those costs covertly to others (like our children). An example would be charging big agriculture to clean up dead zones in the Gulf caused by chemical run off from their fields. There is nothing that would motivate business faster to get clever about finding sustainable solutions.

2. Laws that effectively penalize those who destroy or compromise natural resources that all of us depend on (like water resources)

3. A change in economic statistical measurements - a GDP that shows a country is "doing well" when it is going broke from fighting wars and raping its future resources, and profiting from the sickness of its citizens is not a workable way to measure economic progress.

There are many more points, but this gives an idea.

Some people just don't see how they could play the game any other way. They are so stuck in it, they can't get outside and look. The first step to getting out is to consider that there may actually be ways to play the game without destroying the playing field. These are things you haven't necessarily thought of yet, but those possibilities exist, nonetheless, and can be discovered with enough intention and willingness to explore those realms.

It may involve changing some structures and activities pretty radically. That could involve some chaotic moments, a willingness to experience change, a willingness to reach beyond one's comfort level and to confront things none of us wants to confront. It doesn't mean, however, that you have to give up the size of game you want to play. If anything, you could have an even more rewarding and challenging game by making it more of an ethical game. There is no need to feel that you are going to lose your ability to play an utterly engrossing and fulfilling game by keeping the playing field there for the rest of us!


It may seem like there is a lot to lose by truly and honestly looking at what it would take to play a game that doesn't mess up the playing field. But there is far more to gain.


And Big Mistakes


I just read about how British Petroleum wants to create some genetically modified prairie grass to make biofuels. Well of course! The fact that prairie grass is a perfectly fine solution all on its own is just not good enough. You can't patent weeds!

The problem with corporate solutions to sustainability is that people who are in decision making capacities in these places unfortunately usually have a really hard time confronting an actual ecosystem. It is all a bunch of figures on a piece of paper, or in an offshore bank account, or in a power point presentation.

My suggested program for corporate executives who want to make their activities in life sustainable would be to spend a month or two 'vacation' time at Tom Brown's school:

If they did that, they might walk away with some real knowledge about how ecosystems work - about how life itself works - and what their personal relationship is to other forms of life. Otherwise, discussion about sustainability is all just an intellectual exercise.

I feel it's important to find some point of reality with the industrial/corporate/consumer world, if we are to bring it to sustainability. It's hard sometimes though. Here is why:

For a few hundred dollars or less, you can convert a gasoline engine so that it can run on prairie grass ethanol. And you could make your own still in the backyard to create the fuel from weeds (lots of people did that during Prohibition...). But wait, that means anybody who can grow or find some weeds could...provide their own fuel! Oh, no, no, we musn't let that happen! We need multimillions, even billions of dollars of investment by multinational emperors in order to solve this problem. It shall not be given to the common man to do - he would no longer be dependent on us and our ultra complicated, patented and expensive monster weed fuel!

As long as corporations have a vested interest in "controlling resources" and patenting what should be available to anybody who can actually be responsible for it, they are not going to pick the solution that actually makes the most sense and is the greatest good for the vast majority of us (and all other life, as well as future generations).

Let me repeat that - we are never going to get an optimum solution to sustainability from multinational corporations or big governments. It's not that they do not have the resources. They do not have the motivation, because the optimum solution too often means putting them out of existence or cutting off their money teat - making them irrelevant. At the very least it would mean a serious restructuring and reevaluation of virtually all of their activities. To find a truly ethical solution - the most optimum solution, one must be willing to change one's position in life, one's occupation, one's daily habits, or perhaps even give up some of one's favorite beholden beliefs.

It is impossible, in most cases (maybe every case), for corporate decisions makers, because of the very nature of corporations, to choose the most sustainable model of behavior and production available. It is simply not "competitive" or so it seems. This is always an illusion because sustainability is the ONLY thing that actually is always competitive - the artificiality of the game we're playing is what makes that seem not true. Think about it - in nature, the only things that survive for any length of time are things with the most sustainable qualities. Then think about all the civilizations that no longer exist, like Rome, that didn't have those qualities.

There has been a lot of discussion about the legal problems with corporations gaining personhood status. Perhaps a more insidious problem is that the people who work for corporations grant this abstract legal concept more personhood than they grant to themselves! Why else would they think it's ok to work for and support an organization that is destroying their own playing field?

This is a problem that is sooner or later going to come home to roost on all of our doorsteps, to the degree each one of us does not take responsibility for it.

There are growing numbers of towns and communities who are taking responsibility for this and taking back their natural resources and their sovereignty and trying to do something that is sustainable with these things. Here's an example:

More and more people are starting to realize that if they take responsibility for their existence (which means food, water, energy and shelter minimally), they can actually be in control of it. They do not have to be slaves to the "system" or be effect of what wealthy money manipulators do behind closed doors in foreign locales.

The only way we can be slaves or adverse effect of anything is if we agree to be.

This is a difficult concept, until you see it demonstrated in your life. Every one of us can think of an example where this is true. Sometimes it is hard to see how one could have done anything but agree, in certain situations.

If a person can't see it, then they simply do not have the technology or knowledge of how to avoid slavery in that area. That know-how does exist however! The answers are there.

We continue to experiment with getting these answers implemented - currently focusing in on Clearwater, FL, and in Los Angeles. Our latest efforts can be viewed at:

It is a gradient process, because we are trying to take a culture in which almost nothing about it is sustainable, to one where just about everything about it is. If nothing else, it is quite a challenging and interesting adventure. And it is quite a bit more fun than being a slave and not even trying to do anything about it.