Uitzicht over een meer vanut een vakantiewoning, Anonymous, c. 1900 – c. 1910. Courtesy Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
“Seizing an Alternative” Conference Guide for Environmentalists
Some people have become environmentalists because of their love of birds, or wilderness, or whales, or their enjoyment of hiking or hunting. They have learned that improving laws and policies focused on these is worthwhile, but that the improvements have limited value if the wider context is ignored. The study of nature often leads to a focus on ecological relationships and to awareness of how human activities, determined by economic interests, disrupt these repeatedly and globally and lead to the rapid extinction of species. The image we have selected for our conference is Pando, an aspen grove in southern Utah that turns out to be a single organism, the largest on the planet. It has survived through all kinds of environmental changes for perhaps 80,000 years, since every part supports every other part through a single root system. But today human interference with the natural ecology may be ending its life.
We cannot save our environment without challenging the primacy of the quest for wealth. Our conference is entitled, “Seizing an Alternative,” and that means an alternative to the present organization of society around money. We call the alternative “An Ecological Civilization.” That would be a society that prizes life more than money and lives in integration with the whole, that is, as a responsible part of the natural system.
The change we need affects every aspect of our lives: our commitments and attitudes, our way of raising and educating children, our food, our culture, our art, our technology, our work, our business, our governance, and on and on. Changes in any area affect all the others, but there is no one key to changing them all. We need to work together, but each in her or his special way.
The organization of the conference reflects this. There are some eighty tracks, each with its specificity and individual importance. This may be bewildering, but it reflects the reality of the task before us. There is no simple recipe, no one key. The changes we make in one place will help, but only a little unless they are reinforced by supportive changes elsewhere. Our hope is that we can each work on one particular topic, seeing its importance and what changes will adapt that part of our lives to the needs of an ecological civilization. We hope that as all of us focus on one aspect of the task we will both appreciate all the others who are working on other aspects and be supported by them.
On no topic are we starting something new. For many years millions of people have been working in the needed direction. We celebrate many accomplishments. We want to build a network in which all can learn from the achievements of all and build on one another’s progress. The role of those who work directly to save the environment is essential. Depending on your interest, you will find a track to which you can contribute and from which you can learn.
What to Look For
At the conference, environmentalists may want to pay special attention to Sections I (“The Threatening Catastrophe”) and V (“Ecological Civilization”). For many reasons, most environmentalists recognize that the human future is now precarious. Currently, climate change is the most discussed of these perils.
Within Section I:
- The track titled “Climate Change and Global Governance” is a discussion of where the situation now stands with regard to climate change and how best to respond. David Griffin, the organizer, has recently published Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis?
- The track titled “The Technological Response: Geo-Engineering” looks at proposed technological fixes to climate change. Sadly, if we do not respond wisely now, we may be forced to respond desperately in a few years. Geo-engineering is becoming an increasingly serious topic.
- Additional tracks examine the intertwined matters of economic, agricultural, and political issues and the terrible threat of nuclear war:
- Economic System Transformation
- The Threat of Massive Hunger
- Political Collapse: The Alternative
- Just Peacemaking: Response to Threats of Catastrophe
- The track titled “Organizing for Change and Sustaining Involvement” is especially for those who find themselves personally threatened with burnout and are looking for healing.