Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Riding together

I’m a passenger riding on Interstate 5 in southern Oregon, heading from Grants Pass to Portland. It is Memorial Day and the freeway is humming along, the forests are thick and green, and we are well fed and headed home after a weekend in the California Redwoods, looking forward to our work—in the case of the adults—and to school, for the seven-year-old. Everything is right; what could be wrong?

The world’s powers are in a race to control, own, access, exploit, and sell the remaining fossil fuel, strategic minerals and  every last of the increasingly scarce and commensurately expensive natural resources in every corner of the planet.

In the US in particular, the economy is so hollowed out from military overspending that a crash is coming that will make Bush’s fiscal diving act of 2008 look like a tiny warm up.

Global warming is producing bigger storms, melting glaciers, weird droughts in places that don’t normally have them, floods in places that never have them, rising seas, vanishing polar caps, and a land grab by the oceans that will drown more lowland and ports than can be handled by a more crowded mass of hungry humans.

The countervailing trends are in motion too.

The car I’m riding in is getting 54 mpg and up. More of these are on order than can be fulfilled by Toyota and as efficiency is achieved so will economic success for any corporation or nonprofit that develops it.

In my town, Portland, Oregon, there are sometimes signs in yards in the middle of frontyard gardens that identify the yard as part of cooperating with a Food Not Yards effort. The gardens with the signs are probably being worked by some neighbor who wants space to garden and doesn’t have it. The owner of the house probably has no time or desire to garden. Together they can share and each gets more. Less gets shipped, less sprayed with poisons, less packaged with landfill plastic.

Americans want an end to the occupation of Afghanistan. We are sick of the bottomless pit of corruption and death we have helped to create in that poor country.

Americans would prefer a society with less inequality and a smaller gap between rich and poor, with a larger middle class.

Alternative energy and alternative institutions are on the rise. They are developing capacity to replace old dead-ender paths.

Finally, finally, Americans get that the military budget is the problem, not the solution. This is despite a relentless battering of propaganda from the war profiteers and their agents in the publicity business (aka the media).

So we’ll see if peace, equality and care for the Earth prevails. The race is on. One side is life and one is death. Opinions are changing, but opinions are not enough. Action is required. Voting is not enough; indeed, voting is the mere icing on the cake of real, robust, functioning democracy. Work on your part of this puzzle at least a little bit every day and a lot on many days. This is for you if you are young and if you are old then you are doing it for your children, grandchildren, and the unborn. I'm old and should just take the rocking chair, but that seven-year-old needs a bright future and my work is never done--and neither is yours, if there is a little one you care about.

No one can take your place. Together, rewiring toward collaboration, we can learn to think in new ways and open new possibilities for problem-solving without killing and stealing. From Gandhi all the way forward to Arab Spring, we are seeing more Hebbian Learning, that is, if our thinking is fired together, it's wired together. Nonviolence is going viral and is our best chance. Piaget started us thinking about how children can develop as individuals and as society. We see this sort of societal constructivism and we need more.

Tomorrow I will return to my carless life of biking or riding mass transit, gardening and political activism. The Redwoods and wide blue Pacific ocean and the company of a mother and precious child all reinvigorate my intentions because I see how much we have to lose. Not on my watch. Not on ours. Let’s fix this.

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