These are valuable notes that I did not include in my post, La Mouvement Décroissance in October 2014. I had planned to revise and post them later. Here they are, much later.
Many of the ideas I’ll present below are obvious and have been known for decades. If we are to truly share the resources of our finite planet fairly with fellow humans and other living things we must make serious changes now. As Naomi Klein points out in her latest book, This Changes Everything, if we want to avoid the most horrific of futures we need to change what we’re doing fast. The time to dither and debate has disappeared. Klein argues here that the present grow-or-die model of capitalism is simply incompatible with human survival. See my Sept. 15 post on this topic here.
What is relatively new to me is the latest activity of the small, experimental, Degrowth Movement communities that are happily choosing to live very frugally as we must live some day all too soon. They go without many of the luxuries that we take for granted, recognizing that, if everyone on the planet were to consume resources at the rate of the average Canadian, we would need several more Earths immediately. This was pointed out 15 years ago in David Suzuki’s 1999 book, From Naked Ape To Superspecies on page 42. And Richard Branson ain’t gonna get us that far alive, hoes and pitchforks in hand, anytime soon.
Suzuki and his family have been walking the talk for a long time. He lists, in a gentle, inspirational style at the end of The Sacred Balance, many things that we could do to reduce our human footprint on the Earth.
A simple list of ten ways we can make significant changes is also given here.
Vandana Shiva, The “Seed Lady,” has been protecting India’s indigenous seeds from being patented of for over three decades. She is a dedicated activist and is involved in the leadership of many organizations around the world dedicated to biodiversity. Her work opposes the patenting of seeds and the practice of monoculture agriculture in general, preferring the planting of many things (food, herbs, medicinal plants) in natural soil the way Indian farmers have done it for centuries. Read her impressive life story here. Or observe her brilliance in this YouTube video – Part 1 of The Future of Food. Her movement, Navdanya, which she founded in 1991, is many faceted but is best known for the banks of seeds it has saved from extinction. Navdanya means “Nine Crops” – these are the essential sources of India’s food and she is fighting to save them.
Ideas From David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance:
- Avoid using a car for short errands that can be walked or biked.
- Consider carefully before buying clothes, etc. whether they are needed.
- Construct a hierarchy of your own needs modeled on Mazlov’s
- Push for an economic system that considers the true cost of depleting the Earth’s resources and pollution
- Act to control pollution at the “top of the pipe.”
- Protect the vigor of local communities – support local activities and businesses
- Build on traditional ritual and reconnect
- Get involved
- Contribute time and/or money to organizations that advocate to protect our environment
- Reduce, reuse, recycle and redesign
- Both sides of a sheet of paper
- Garbage-free lunches for children
- Go out into nature
- Accept your imperfection at not doing all these things complete
ghts – and more frequently
- Lead by example – walk the talk
Inspirational Eco-Heroes From David Suzuki’s The Sacred Balance:
- Wangari Maathai, Nobel Prizewinner (2006) from Kenya, inspired the Billion Tree program that planted 12 billion trees in Africa and around the globe.
- Vandana Shiva – The Seed Lady
- Severn Cullis-Suzuki – Suzuki’s 12 y/o daughter spoke at the Rio Summit in 1992
- William McDonough – architect
- Karl-Henrik Robert – The Natural Step (begun in Sweden)
- Motohiko Kogo – Mangrove Replanting in Viet Nam and Thailand
- Muhammed Yunus – The Grameen Bank – microloans, etc.
From Naked Ape To Superspecies:
This 1999 book takes a hard, quantitative and qualitative look at many of the challenges we face: agribusinesses, monoculture in chemically poisoned soil, biotechnology, pesticide use, resource extraction, consumption, etc. Several activists and their organizations are mentioned throughout the book and listed in a special 20 page section at the end under the title Organizations To Contact. The Canadian Parliament and several Liberal cabinet ministers are listed here, allowing me to reminisce about a regime that was ever so slightly better than Harper’s slick, uncaring brigade. The 1992 warning of senior world scientists is mentioned. Neil Postman observed the dumbing down effect of TV (perhaps the main distracting reason for our crippled democracy – ed.). Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society, Elizabeth May was still with The Sierra Club. Ebola, AIDS and Hep C were concerns in 1999 too. On p. 115 a quote from Vandana Shiva: “So we are now eating, in our soy and canola, season-long residues of this herbicide,” (Monsanto’s Roundup) without having tested it for safety. And, on p. 118, the following Shiva quote:
If you take the Green Revolution in industrial agriculture, 300 units of input – that is energy from fertilizers, machines, pesticides and so forth – were used to produce 100 units of food. For organic, biodiversity-intensive agriculture you need only five units of inputs for the same 100 units of food.
Since the energy inputs come largely from fossil fuels, the industrial form of agriculture is completely unsustainable. On page 129 Jeremy Rifkin likens the patenting of genes to scientists 100 years ago patenting oxygen because they discovered and isolated it. The plight of Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser being sued by Monsanto for using their patented seed that had blown onto (i.e. polluted) his fields is mentioned on p. 140. The Supreme Court in May 2004 ruled 5-4 in favour of Monsanto against the canola farmer, proving that most laws are designed first to protect property. Beyond the pale is the story on p. 209 of the Japanese giant, Daishowa suing three Toronto students for $12 million for organizing a boycott of their paper products. And so this great, depressing book goes on, pointing out the totally tail-wagging-dog issue of corporations having the rights of a human being, in my opinion the root cause of the eventual destruction of our democracy. Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians gets a shout-out on p. 192 on NAFTA’s injustices. The disease-causing evils of flaring gases released by oil drilling in Alberta and Nigeria are discussed on page 227.
YET MORE NOTES
Richard Swift – examines the degrowth movement and meets its proponents in The Degrowth Paradigm a CBC podcast on a new contender for changing the politics of unsustainable growth
From wiki’s degrowth article (link above) “The Romanian economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen is considered the creator of degrowth,[dubious ] and its main theoretician. In 1971, he published a book called The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, in which he noted that the neoclassical economic model did not take into account the second law of thermodynamics, by not accounting for the degradation of energy and matter (i.e. increase in entropy). He associated every economic activity with an increase in entropy, whose increase implied the loss of useful resources. When a selection of his articles was translated into French in 1979 under the title Demain la décroissance (“tomorrow, degrowth”), it spurred the creation of the movement in France.”
Belfast, Maine – Jim Merkel: 13 yard sales at the age of 30
Alternativos, Locavore, relational goods,
Eric Pinot at UQM; division of labour needs relaxing
Ile de France – Décroissance site
Cerbère mentioned here; it houses the Can Decreix on a hill above its train yard (see below)
Can Decreix experiment; François Schneider; no fridge; fresh and dried fruits, porridge, vegetarian diet all enable no fridge; Filka Sekulova (Bulgarian): challenging the economic model, deepening democracy (we’ve not been asked whether we want this model), ecological roots, equity on Earth requires degrowth, search for more meaning, voluntary simplicity
Barcelona: Juan Martinez Alier: guaranteed income for all; less use of specialized medicine, disobedience (economic disobedience research team and manual, including tax-evasion, squatting), Catalan cooperatives, whole new set of values; “spending all your time working to acquire things that are empty…” e.g. clothes are empty when you are not in them…
Alier founded the International Society For Environmental Economics