In Hindi, the words Vasudhaiva Kutumbam mean “Earth Family,” the democracy of all life.
(Quoted from Vandana Shiva’s Restoring the Earth in David Suzuki’s 1997 book, The Sacred Balance.) I thought of using Earth Family as a title for the poem, but reduced it to “Be.” For more on Vandana Shiva see the end of this post.
How to live? How to be?
I wrote lines one and three of the above haiku on a plane, after making notes on Suzuki’s book. The sky just before sunset on October 18th was spectacular looking West in the late afternoon from the Caribbean Airlines plane bringing us back from a family funeral.
By flying return to Trinidad, about 4055 km (2535 miles) one way, the two of us together “caused” about 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. 2.5 tonnes each. That’s enough CO2 to grow about 23, 500 tonnes of potatoes – if that helps you understand the impact that modern travel has on global warming and highlight the difficult ethical choices which, if not faced right now, will produce much global suffering in the not too distant future. It will take some fortunate gardener working for a long while to turn that amount of gas into potatoes. These CO2 numbers are based on information from www.deliveringdata.com.
Something about turning 70 today makes me reflect more intensely on big issues.Thinking about the world I’m leaving for my grandchildren – not that I’m planning to resign anytime soon…
As promised, I have done more thinking about Décroissance. It is definitely going to be a while as I grow in awareness and commitment. But here goes:
Unsustainable is a word that must explode, not creep, into our everyday vocabulary. Our economies, as they currently are measured, cannot continue to grow.
I chose décroissance over degrowth for the title because the French word hints at the verb décroire – to disbelieve. This is important because, for the concept, it is necessary for one to disbelieve in the current capitalist model that demands growth as its life blood. On both sides of the Atlantic, those who pretend to lead in the great drama of politics extol economic growth as the basis of national success and happiness. Growth is measured by an outdated parameter called Gross Domestic Product, a measure that does not care how the jobs and productivity are created. The classic example of its failure is that, from the aspect of GDP, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill off the Alaska coast in 1989 was a “success.”
David Suzuki, who, based on a 2004 CBC poll, is considered the 5th greatest Canadian ever and, by a process of biotic elimination, the greatest living Canadian, has, since the 1980’s, been a high-profile advocate for reducing our impact on the environment. Thanks to Suzuki and other caring thinkers, many now kind of “get” the fact that we in “The West” pamper ourselves by using up precious resources in obscene amounts to provide very special goods and services. We consume too much of everything (energy, minerals, meat, fish, forests, chemicals, drugs and yes, even health care) and have grown to believe that these relative luxuries are things to which we in the West are entitled.This “entitled” feeling battles with the growing guilt and, if we are honest about it, usually wins.