Ernest Callenbach wrote a book titled Ectopia in the mid-1970s. It showed an alternative to the dystopian path we are presently hurtling down.
May 7, 2012
Epistle to the Ecotopians
By Ernest Callenbach
[This document was found on the computer of Ecotopia author Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012) after his death.]
To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support — a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging.
As I survey my life, which is coming near its end, I want to set down a few thoughts that might be useful to those coming after. It will soon be time for me to give back to Gaia the nutrients that I have used during a long, busy, and happy life. I am not bitter or resentful at the approaching end; I have been one of the extraordinarily lucky ones. So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times.
How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?
I contemplate these questions in the full consciousness of my own mortality. Being offered an actual number of likely months to live, even though the estimate is uncertain, mightily focuses the mind. On personal things, of course, on loved ones and even loved things, but also on the Big Picture.
But let us begin with last things first, for a change. The analysis will come later, for those who wish it.
Hope. Children exude hope, even under the most terrible conditions, and that must inspire us as our conditions get worse. Hopeful patients recover better. Hopeful test candidates score better. Hopeful builders construct better buildings. Hopeful parents produce secure and resilient children. In groups, an atmosphere of hope is essential to shared successful effort: “Yes, we can!” is not an empty slogan, but a mantra for people who intend to do something together — whether it is rescuing victims of hurricanes, rebuilding flood-damaged buildings on higher ground, helping wounded people through first aid, or inventing new social structures (perhaps one in which only people are “persons,” not corporations). We cannot know what threats we will face. But ingenuity against adversity is one of our species’ built-in resources. We cope, and faith in our coping capacity is perhaps our biggest resource of all.
Mutual support. The people who do best at basic survival tasks (we know this experimentally, as well as intuitively) are cooperative, good at teamwork, often altruistic, mindful of the common good. In drastic emergencies like hurricanes or earthquakes, people surprise us by their sacrifices — of food, of shelter, even sometimes of life itself. Those who survive social or economic collapse, or wars, or pandemics, or starvation, will be those who manage scarce resources fairly; hoarders and dominators win only in the short run, and end up dead, exiled, or friendless. So, in every way we can we need to help each other, and our children, learn to be cooperative rather than competitive; to be helpful rather than hurtful; to look out for the communities of which we are a part, and on which we ultimately depend.
Practical skills. With the movement into cities of the U.S. population, and much of the rest of the world’s people, we have had a massive de-skilling in how to do practical tasks. When I was a boy in the country, all of us knew how to build a tree house, or construct a small hut, or raise chickens, or grow beans, or screw pipes together to deliver water. It was a sexist world, of course, so when some of my chums in eighth grade said we wanted to learn girls’ “home ec” skills like making bread or boiling eggs, the teachers were shocked, but we got to do it. There was widespread competence in fixing things — impossible with most modern contrivances, of course, but still reasonable for the basic tools of survival: pots and pans, bicycles, quilts, tents, storage boxes.
We all need to learn, or relearn, how we would keep the rudiments of life going if there were no paid specialists around, or means to pay them. Every child should learn elementary carpentry, from layout and sawing to driving nails. Everybody should know how to chop wood safely, and build a fire. Everybody should know what to do if dangers appear from fire, flood, electric wires down, and the like. Taking care of each other is one practical step at a time, most of them requiring help from at least one other person; survival is a team sport.
Organize. Much of the American ideology, our shared and usually unspoken assumptions, is hyper-individualistic. We like to imagine that heroes are solitary, have super powers, and glory in violence, and that if our work lives and business lives seem tamer, underneath they are still struggles red in blood and claw. We have sought solitude on the prairies, as cowboys on the range, in our dependence on media (rather than real people), and even in our cars, armored cabins of solitude. We have an uneasy and doubting attitude about government, as if we all reserve the right to be outlaws. But of course human society, like ecological webs, is a complex dance of mutual support and restraint, and if we are lucky it operates by laws openly arrived at and approved by the populace.
If the teetering structure of corporate domination, with its monetary control of Congress and our other institutions, should collapse of its own greed, and the government be unable to rescue it, we will have to reorganize a government that suits the people. We will have to know how to organize groups, how to compromise with other groups, how to argue in public for our positions. It turns out that “brainstorming,” a totally noncritical process in which people just throw out ideas wildly, doesn’t produce workable ideas. In particular, it doesn’t work as well as groups in which ideas are proposed, critiqued, improved, debated. But like any group process, this must be protected from domination by powerful people and also over-talkative people. When the group recognizes its group power, it can limit these distortions. Thinking together is enormously creative; it has huge survival value.
Continue reading at:
Learn to live with contradictions. These are dark times, these are bright times. We are implacably making the planet less habitable. Every time a new oil field is discovered, the press cheers: “Hooray, there is more fuel for the self-destroying machines!” We are turning more land into deserts and parking lots. We are wiping out innumerable species that are not only wondrous and beautiful, but might be useful to us. We are multiplying to the point where our needs and our wastes outweigh the capacities of the biosphere to produce and absorb them. And yet, despite the bloody headlines and the rocketing military budgets, we are also, unbelievably, killing fewer of each other proportionately than in earlier centuries. We have mobilized enormous global intelligence and mutual curiosity, through the Internet and outside it. We have even evolved, spottily, a global understanding that democracy is better than tyranny, that love and tolerance are better than hate, that hope is better than rage and despair, that we are prone, especially in catastrophes, to be astonishingly helpful and cooperative.
We may even have begun to share an understanding that while the dark times may continue for generations, in time new growth and regeneration will begin. In the biological process called “succession,” a desolate, disturbed area is gradually, by a predictable sequence of returning plants, restored to ecological continuity and durability. When old institutions and habits break down or consume themselves, new experimental shoots begin to appear, and people explore and test and share new and better ways to survive together.
It is never easy or simple. But already we see, under the crumbling surface of the conventional world, promising developments: new ways of organizing economic activity (cooperatives, worker-owned companies, nonprofits, trusts), new ways of using low-impact technology to capture solar energy, to sequester carbon dioxide, new ways of building compact, congenial cities that are low (or even self-sufficient) in energy use, low in waste production, high in recycling of almost everything. A vision of sustainability that sometimes shockingly resembles Ecotopia is tremulously coming into existence at the hands of people who never heard of the book.
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/07/arne-duncan-endorses-gay-marriage
Barack Obama‘s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, has become the latest administration official to declare support for same-sex marriage, going beyond the president’s “evolving” views on the issue.
Asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show on Monday whether he thought same-sex couples should be legally allowed to marry, he said: “Yes I do.”
Duncan’s endorsement comes after the vice-president, Joe Biden, became the highest-ranking government official to back same-sex marriage on Sunday, telling Meet the Press he was “absolutely comfortable” with the issue. Obama has appeared reluctant to take up the issue in an election year but has said his views are “evolving” on the subject.
The comments by Biden and Duncan opened up speculation that the White House is moving towards a new position of support for gay marriage, beyond its already stated backing for civil unions.
But Obama’s main political strategist, David Axelrod, played down the prospect of an imminent shift. In a conference call with reporters on Monday, he insisted that Biden’s comments are consistent with those he expressed during the 2008 campaign.
Obama captured a large proportion of the gay vote during in 2008, but some disillusionment has crept in among campaigners since then. While the Obama administration has scrapped the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, which prevented gays serving openly in the military, it has made no moves on federal recognition for same-sex marriage. Obama also declined recently to sign equal employment rights into law by an executive order.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/07/arne-duncan-endorses-gay-marriage
BY Frank Selvaggi
May 07 2012
New Yorker Frank Selvaggi says the LGBT community should be outraged over the mayor’s cuts to homeless youth programs.
It is disturbing that Mayor Bloomberg’s budget proposal would cut needed services to so many of our city’s most disadvantaged youths. But truly shocking are the cuts he proposes to homeless youth services, which would force 160 destitute children out of their shelter beds and into the streets. Especially since what is currently provided is grossly inadequate; there are currently only 250 youth shelter beds for a population of 4,000 homeless kids.
This reckless proposal must be met with outrage from the LGBT community. For LGBT youths, homelessness is a terrible crisis. In New York City, 40% of the youths suffering homelessness are LGBT. So many parents are unwilling to accept their LGBT children that an LGBT teen is eight times more likely to become homeless than a straight teen. And while the experience of homelessness is horrific for any teen; LGBT youths face greatly escalated risks of violence, HIV infection, and suicide when on the streets. These risks are greatly exacerbated by the shameful lack of shelter beds.
With the passage of marriage equality in New York State, there is growing awareness that too many of our youths are not sharing in our progress. It is galling to see political leaders who strongly supported the rights of LGBT adults to marry simultaneously take actions to bring great harm to the most vulnerable of our community. With so many parents refusing to support their LGBT children, adults face a particular obligation to support and advocate for our abandoned youths.
By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, May 7, 2012
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a Fox News contributor, tea party activist and personal friend of Sean Hannity’s said in a sermon recently published to YouTube that America’s greatest mistake was allowing women the right to vote, adding that back in “the good old days, men knew that women are crazy and they knew how to deal with them.”
In the video, published to YouTube in March, Peterson explains that he believes women simply can’t handle “anything,” and that in his experience, “You walk up to them with a issue, they freak out right away. They go nuts. They get mad. They get upset, just like that. They have no patience because it’s not in their nature. They don’t have love. They don’t have love.”
Despite his statements being online for more than a month, Hannity welcomed Peterson on his show last Tuesday to castigate the Obama administration over “taking credit” for the Osama bin Laden assassination — but the segment didn’t exactly go as planned.
In his March sermon, Peterson adds that Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student who recently spoke to a House Democratic hearing on contraception coverage, was actually revealing “all the sex” college students are having. “It’s really all about maintaining the freedom to kill babies in the womb,” he says. “Women are now degraded. Women have no shame.”
At roughly 8:30 into his 12-minute sermon, he doubles down, amazingly, saying that he believes America went wrong when it gave women the right to vote.
A prominent North Carolina pastor has joined the chorus of voices speaking out in favor of Amendment One, which would define marriage as being between a man and a woman in the state’s constitution.
Ron Baity, founding pastor of Winston-Salem’s Berean Baptist Church and head of the anti-marriage equality organization Return America, referred to homosexuality as “a perverted lifestyle” in a Sunday sermon before telling his congregation that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people should be prosecuted, Good as You is reporting.
“For 300 years, we had laws that would prosecute that lifestyle,” he is quoted as saying. “We’ve gone down the wrong path. We’ve become so dumb that we have accepted a lie for the truth, and we’ve…discarded the truth on the shoals of shipwreck!”
Baity’s commentary come on the heels of anti-gay marriage remarks made by two other North Carolina religious leaders, Beacon Baptist Church Pastor Tim Rabon and Pastor Sean Harris, also of Barean Baptist Church.
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/opinion/krugman-those-revolting-europeans.html
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: May 6, 2012
The French are revolting. The Greeks, too. And it’s about time.
Both countries held elections Sunday that were in effect referendums on the current European economic strategy, and in both countries voters turned two thumbs down. It’s far from clear how soon the votes will lead to changes in actual policy, but time is clearly running out for the strategy of recovery through austerity — and that’s a good thing.
Needless to say, that’s not what you heard from the usual suspects in the run-up to the elections. It was actually kind of funny to see the apostles of orthodoxy trying to portray the cautious, mild-mannered François Hollande as a figure of menace. He is “rather dangerous,” declared The Economist, which observed that he “genuinely believes in the need to create a fairer society.” Quelle horreur!
What is true is that Mr. Hollande’s victory means the end of “Merkozy,” the Franco-German axis that has enforced the austerity regime of the past two years. This would be a “dangerous” development if that strategy were working, or even had a reasonable chance of working. But it isn’t and doesn’t; it’s time to move on. Europe’s voters, it turns out, are wiser than the Continent’s best and brightest.
What’s wrong with the prescription of spending cuts as the remedy for Europe’s ills? One answer is that the confidence fairy doesn’t exist — that is, claims that slashing government spending would somehow encourage consumers and businesses to spend more have been overwhelmingly refuted by the experience of the past two years. So spending cuts in a depressed economy just make the depression deeper.
Continue reading at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/opinion/krugman-those-revolting-europeans.html
From Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/05/meat-glue-gross-it-sounds
By Tom Philpott
Mon May. 7, 2012
Broadcast news and social-media sites have been aflame with reports about something called “meat glue.”
“If you were disturbed to hear about ‘pink slime’ in your burger, you’ll want to know about ‘meat glue,’ because a fat, rare-cooked filet mignon may not be what it seems,” ABC News’ Bay Area affiliate gasped last week.
First reaction: Ooh, gross. Reaction upon a bit of reflection: Meat glue, an enzyme known as transglutaminase, is indeed a trick up the meat industry’s sleeve, but a relatively minor one in the grand scheme.
A couple of weeks ago, I named four common industry practices that are “grosser than pink slime.” (Pink slime itself is pretty gross.) Here’s a fifth: Every year, dairy and beef cows are fed around 2 billion pounds of chicken litter—chicken shit, dead chickens, and leftover feeds, which contains cow protein. Cows being fed chicken shit is deeply gross; cows eating cow protein is downright scary.
But using transglutaminase as to glue pieces of meat together? It’s can be a dodgy practice, but it doesn’t make the cut.
Transglutaminase is an enzyme, naturally found in blood, that can bind proteins together. Food scientists figured out how to synthesize it from bacteria, and a Japanese company called Ajinomoto markets it in the United States under the brand name Activa.
Continue reading at: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/05/meat-glue-gross-it-sounds
From RH Reality Check: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/05/03/anti-abortion-game-life
by Sofia Resnick
May 4, 2012
To bring down the high rate of chlamydia among teenagers in Tennessee, an anti-choice pregnancy center in Athens, Tenn., has proposed spending federal tax dollars on a life-sized version of the Game of Life.
The “Teen Life Maze” is just one of the ideas put forth by a cluster of crisis pregnancy centers that are receiving government grants to conduct abstinence education as part of President Obama’s health-care reform law.
Records obtained by The American Independent show that the government is paying for abstinence programs run by centers that promote dubious medical information. For example, crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) receiving funding through the program claim that “reliable studies” have shown a link between abortion and breast cancer.
One of the centers says it seeks to help students understand “the lack of effectiveness of condoms/birth control in STD protection and pregnancy.”
TAI previously reported that a South Dakota anti-abortion CPC that requires its volunteers to be Christians received funding under a program created by Obama’s stimulus bill.
Between 1996 and 2009, taxpayers spent more than $1.5 billion on abstinence-only education, paid for by federal grants and state matching funds, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). In 2004, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) released a report that found that these programs often contained false or distorted information about sex and reproductive health, such as claiming that condoms have a high failure rate at preventing HIV and pregnancy, women who have abortions have a high risk of becoming sterile, and HIV can be transmitted through sweat and tears.
Continue reading at: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/05/03/anti-abortion-game-life
Does Hollande’s win signal a left turn for France? Probably not. But we’ll take him over Sarkozy.
By Lynn Parramore
May 6, 2012
After a long, bad-tempered race, François Hollande has won the French presidency, defeating Nicolas Sarkozy, who was swept out on Sunday in a wave of popular discontent in the eurozone.
The 57-year-old Socialist leader was applauded by supporters who swarmed around the Bastille monument in Paris to cheer the first presidential victory for the left since 1988. During his campaign, Hollande steadily denounced Europe’s fixation with austerity, in favor of modest increases in government spending financed by higher taxes on the rich and businesses. He also backed subsidies for companies taking on younger and older employees.
Sounds good, but will he follow through? In America we’ve seen that big promises don’t always translate into useful policies.
A bespectacled wonk, Hollande is a far cry from the kind of flamboyant playboy Europeans have become increasingly frustrated with, including Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the erstwhile Socialist leader whose presidential hopes were thwarted in the wake of his arrest on suspicion of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid. Hollande has said that as president he will push ahead with his pledge to refocus European Union fiscal efforts from austerity to growth. “Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option,” he said.
But claims that Hollande’s win signals a big left turn for France are probably exaggerated. Hollande is more a proponent of “austerity lite” than a serious challenge to wrong-headed neoliberal policies that have been destroying economies throughout Europe.