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Thoughts in Support of the Draft Policy on Care of the Environment

The following are some thoughts in support of the new Draft Policy on Care of the Environment, which was published in the October 2017 Present Time. They are from the committee that wrote the policy.

FACTORS THAT HAVE BROUGHT US TO THIS POINT

Here are some of the factors that have brought us to the situation we face today:

Greed and class oppression

As humans our fears for survival, passed down from generation to generation, have made us feel like we always need more to be secure. This has led us to thoughtlessly manipulate the earth and its life forms.

Class societies have made possible the mastering of the environment by allowing a small minority of people the time and leisure to think, accumulate knowledge, and plan the activities of society. Class societies have improved our survival as a species, but all of them have exploited the work of the majority to enrich the ruling minority.

Modes of production driven by feelings of always needing more are deeply embedded in our societies—especially in our industrial, commercial, and financial systems.

Capitalism puts nations and corporations in competition with each other for resources and demands growth and profit with little regard for the Earth and its life forms.

Class oppression separates us from one another and from nature. Separated in this way, we are confused by our feelings of insecurity and oppression. We lose touch with our inherent cooperation with and caring for each other and all of life.

We will need to end classism and capitalism to end environmental degradation and reverse climate change. We can begin by discharging on how class oppression has affected us personally, by supporting working-class involvement and leadership, and by building unity across all classes.

Colonialism and imperialism

Some Western European nations, and later the United States, colonized and ruled (militarily and/or economically) much of the world. They destroyed local cultures, languages, and religions. They occupied land and extracted resources, destroying and polluting in the process. They removed Indigenous peoples from their homes, exploited their labor, and killed them. Over hundreds of years the wealth of much of the world was transferred to Europe and the United States, and whole nations were impoverished.

The white colonizers justified their actions with theories that said that white people were racially superior to the Global Majority. Severe, often violent repression, over generations, led to widespread recordings of racial inferiority and a belief in the legitimacy of the oppressive system that became capitalism.

Modern colonialism, or neocolonialism, continues that legacy with ongoing wars, occupation of land, and economic dominance. Environmental degradation and climate change are direct results.

We will need to end neocolonialism and capitalism to end environmental destruction.

War

War poses one of the biggest threats to our environment. It intensifies deforestation, desertification, air pollution, water contamination, and poisoning of the soil. It destroys humans, animals, and other forms of life. All this is intensified by climate change.

War is the ultimate manifestation of greed and oppression. The economies of imperialist countries depend heavily on war to gain access to resources. Selling arms generates huge profits, as wars generate a continual need for more arms. Wars are extremely profitable for the owning class.

War installs distress recordings of powerlessness, discouragement, confusion, terror, and hopelessness on everyone.

Capitalism and classism, racism, and other forms of oppression separate us from one another and disconnect us from the environment. In their absence no human would participate in war.

The current environmental crisis cannot be resolved without ending war.

Racism

“Environmental racism” refers to environmental injustice directed at a group of people because of their race or skin color. For example, toxic facilities are often located in Global Majority communities and countries, with no remediation for the people.

Global Majority communities and countries have long suffered a disproportionate amount of environmental degradation. Now they face a disproportionate impact from climate change. And because they have been impoverished by colonization and imperialism, they have few resources to help them adapt to it.

Many of the effects of climate change first appeared in Africa, Asia, and South America, and they were not acknowledged because of global racism. Also, these continents have contributed only a small part of the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change.

The wealthy nations that have built their societies on the resources and labor of Global Majority countries (along with the resources of Indigenous people and the labor of working-class people in their own countries) have contributed the greatest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. They have not acknowledged their responsibility to repair the damage they have caused or to help Global Majority nations address it—for example, by giving them funding and technical assistance and opening borders to climate migrants.

Racism divides the climate movement. It has been difficult to build unity between mainstream environmental organizations (which tend to be large, national, white, and well-known) and environmental justice groups (which tend to be grassroots, underfunded, and predominantly Global Majority). This is a major barrier to successful organizing.

The environmental crisis cannot be resolved without ending racism. Strategies and solutions must include input from the targeted groups. Any actions must be thoughtful and respectful of all people and support sustainable development that does not cause harm to any ecosystem, person, or culture. People need to discharge any distress that inhibits them from becoming fully aware of the effects of environmental racism. 

Genocide against Indigenous peoples

For thousands of years Indigenous peoples have been guardians of the land. Traditional stories and ancestral wisdom convey a way of life in which a rational relationship to the environment is a daily routine.

Despite the collapse of their societies and destruction of their ways of life from genocide and colonization, Indigenous people have found ways to restore their cultures and move beyond survival to thrive in the world. They have had to develop a powerful viewpoint and clear thinking.

They understand that humans have to be separated from each other to submit to a system of ownership, that oppressive patterns generate disconnection, that disconnection taints our relationships to one another and the environment, and that this is a huge source of grief for humanity.

Indigenous peoples understand the importance of reclaiming one’s connection to and love for the Earth. We need to follow their lead, discharge our unawareness of and disconnection from people, and stand up for all humans and the Earth.

OTHER GROUPS IMPACTED BY CLIMATE CHANGE

People of the Global Majority and Indigenous people, along with poor people, are the groups most impacted by climate change. But the following groups are heavily impacted as well:

Women

Women in developing countries produce sixty to eighty percent of the food. Many of them, including girls, walk long distances every day in search of food or water.

Drought, desertification, loss of biodiversity, acidification of the oceans, and increasingly unseasonable weather patterns cause food and water shortages and thus greater poverty, especially for women. This diminishes opportunities for women. (They cannot work outside the home or attend school when domestic work takes all their time.) It also makes them more easily exploited.

Patterns of male domination and sexism (including obsession with power, control of women’s bodies, and numbness) have played a large role in oppressive societies, war, and the degradation of the environment. Women’s leadership is needed at every level.

In recent years women have been successfully defending natural resources and resisting male domination. Movements led by women are preserving the environment and furthering environmental justice. They are creating forms of community that promote a solidarity economy, recover peasant agriculture, value native seed, and strengthen cultural identity and ancestral wisdom.

Young people

Young people are usually more connected to the environment, other humans, and their own intelligence and power than are older people. They are good leaders. They can fight hard for things they care about, including their connections. They know how to have fun. These things are vital to the environmental movement.

Young people are needed in determining society’s direction, and we need to consider the effect of all decisions on their lives.

Young people’s oppression limits the leadership of young people. Their ideas and thinking are systematically undervalued. They are denied their rights. At the same time, adults have to be careful not to rely on young people as the “hope for the future” and leave them to lead the movement alone.

Young people cannot escape the destruction we fail to prevent.

People with disabilities

People with disabilities are ten to fifteen percent of the global population. They are more vulnerable during and after storms and floods and in times of extreme heat. They are more susceptible to disease. They face complex challenges during relocation and are typically neglected and sometimes left to die. Emergency responders rarely have the training or resources to effectively assist them. We have to do much better, in particular as we confront climate change.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS

Here are some additional thoughts about our work to save the environment:

Education

Schooling today may support learning, thinking, and caring, but it also installs the patterns of oppression, passivity, and submission to capitalism that have led humans to destroy the environment. We can and must create schools that are a force for liberation and preserving and restoring the environment.

Students need to learn about the interconnectedness of all things and the many factors that have allowed environmental destruction to occur—including oppression, an economic system based on greed and competition, excessive consumption, and distress recordings.

Teachers, parents, and students need to face the severity of the current situation and the profound changes required, and feel and discharge the feelings that come with facing this.

Environmental activists

Environmental activists are working for laws and policies that protect and restore the environment. They are raising awareness and mobilizing more and more people to work for change.

Activists deserve appreciation. They often work for low wages (or as volunteers), for long hours, and to the detriment of their health and family life. They face ongoing discouragement and despair. Some of them risk their lives. They are often ridiculed and disregarded.

In a world without distress, all humans would be activists, and activists would be well supported in their work. Until we get there, allies can reach out to, support, and appreciate environmental activists, who are acting in all of our interests.

Urgency

Climate change scares us. It restimulates early fears. Some of us retreat and become passive. Those who become active often do so with a strong sense of urgency. (“Very bad things are going to happen; we must act now!”)

In our early work in RC on care of the environment, we discharged consistently on urgency. We need to do that again. Otherwise we will scare people and turn them off to thinking about the environment.

The world needs us to be like a rock in the storm—confident, hopeful, caring, patient, relaxed, well rested, and pleased with all that is benign and all that we do.

Creativity

Creativity is about being human. Art, music, dance, poetry, drama reveal our human connection, caring, intelligence, and joy.

Creating helps us remember how wonderful it is to be alive. Our minds become more active. We become present. We are reminded of who we really are and how we are united.

Creativity (for example, creating posters and banners or singing songs) helps us organize. It makes the work fun and attractive. It helps people discharge and remember that they care about the world. It is pro-survival in this time of societal collapse, when things are getting harder and discouragement is widespread.

Huge complex problems like climate change will require many innovative solutions. People will need to think differently than they have before. Creating, and sharing our creations, can help people think in new ways.

If humor, creativity, and play are not a regular part of our lives, we need to reclaim them in our sessions.

SOME MORE SUGGESTIONS

Here are a few additional suggestions:

  • Remember that each of us is in charge of the universe and responsible for the well-being of our Earth and all of the life on it.
  • Assume an attitude of hope and confidence.
  • Put your attention on the solutions and being part of them.
  • Know that we don’t have to reach everyone; we just have to reach enough people.
  • Assume that you are significant. Be a model of deciding, against the pulls of distress, to speak up and take action.
  • Try new things. Don’t wait until you know what to do or think you will be successful. Risk mistakes.
  • Talk about the issues. Say your thinking. Get other people talking.
  • Value each person’s contribution. Everyone can play an important role.
  • Interrupt blaming—of any person, group, or country.
  • Each of us is already a leader. Take leadership, stay connected, and discharge along the way.

(Present Time 190, January 2018)


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00