Newsletter – April 21, 2023
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On April 22 we will celebrate Earth Day, a day that 53 years ago launched the modern environmental movement. What makes this day especially significant right at this moment is that we are fast running out of time to align our way of life with the reality that we live on a finite living Earth.
This month’s newsletter highlights two important voices in an essential Earth Day dialogue. Joshua Wright is a young activist who, at age 14, dropped out of school to travel the world with a video camera learning about and raising awareness of the global environmental crisis and its implications. John Perkins, who in his earlier life made his living luring poor countries into debts they could never repay, has just launched a new book calling on the world’s two global superpowers—China and the United States—to recognize their common interest and join in partnership to create a future of peace, equality, and environmental health for all.
The Special Importance of This Earth Day
David Korten | April 22, 2023
On this 53rd Earth Day, there is wide public awareness that the growing environmental crisis has put humans on a path to self-extinction. This raises the question: “Can we navigate fast enough the seemingly impossible transformational changes that a viable human future requires?”
I find that a great many thoughtful people are inclined to answer, “It is too late. But thankfully, Earth will recover and will be the better for it once we humans are gone.”
In my most realistic moments, I am drawn to the same conclusion. I regain my commitment to advancing the transformation to an Ecological Civilization only by reminding myself that we humans are a species of exceptional potential. If we assume we are too late, we will guarantee our self-extinction. That may set back life’s evolutionary unfolding by millions, if not billions, of years. We owe it to Creation to do all we can to find our way to a viable relationship with one another and Earth.
There are many videos and books I might have chosen to communicate an appropriate Earth Day message. The two I highlight here are from colleagues who bring exceptionally powerful messages and have drawn on my work in important ways.
In 2018, when Joshua Wright was in 9th grade, he was struck by the scientific warning that humans had no more than 12 years to address global warming before Earth passed a 1.5C temperature rise and a potentially unrecoverable climate emergency. Recognizing the implications for himself and his generation, he dropped out of school to pick up a camera, form a film crew that included his father and uncle, and produce “Eden’s Last Chance.” The video, which includes footage from Joshua’s interview with me on the prospects for transformation, documents the insanity of financial interests mobilizing to profit from the unconscionable devastation of two of Earth’s most wondrous surviving natural habitats – one in Australia and one in the Pacific Northwest corner of North America.
I find Joshua’s cinematic presentation of the massive disruption of the beauty and order of Earth’s natural systems to be powerful and meaningful. The dramatic images have a much greater impact for me than the essential yet often dry and complex statistics with which we commonly report on this existential crisis (e.g., the IPCC’s 2023 Climate Change Report). I especially appreciate the clarity with which Joshua identifies corporate financial interest-driven consumer demand as a primary driver of the destruction.
Turn now to the United States, China, John Perkins, and the 3rd edition of Confessions of an Economic Hitman. In his first two editions of Confessions, Perkins told the story of his years as an agent of U.S. imperialism, advancing corporate control of the resources of the world’s poor countries. In this 3rd edition, he lays out how China has followed the pattern of the United States—and even outdone it—to take control and turn the global economy into a competitive battleground that China now dominates. Ultimately, however, it is a competition everyone is losing for the obvious reason that it is killing Earth. There will be no winners on a dead Earth.
Joshua Wright’s video begins and ends with this inescapable truth. John Perkins spells out the devastating Economic Hitman strategies that drive the crisis and offers suggestions for individual and collective action. In a related article for Common Dreams, Perkins offers a list of profound transformational changes that must be achieved by all countries if there is to be hope for a human future.
It is evident that our discussion of solutions must go far beyond anything currently discussed in official circles. As Wright and Perkins both make clear, we can create a future consistent with our true needs and nature only if we the people – all people – put extractive competition behind us. I am because you are. My wellbeing depends on your wellbeing, as yours depends on mine. We are one people born of and nurtured by one finite living Earth.
Our time has come to acknowledge the depth of our mutual interdependence and respond together accordingly.
Beginning May 6, Age Nation, a global organization serving older GenXers, Boomers, and elders who are living vital, conscious lives, presents the Celebrating Life 2023 series, featuring a long list of gifted wisdom keepers.
David’s presentation – “The Gift of Life and Human Possibility” – will be part of the Wisdom track, connecting with wisdom traditions and natural law that have helped humanity and eco-systems thrive for millennia.
In his review of the latest book by professor, ecological economist, and long-time friend and colleague, Jon D. Erickson, David wrote:
“A searing, authoritative, and well-documented indictment of an economics that advocates economic growth as the solution for every problem created by economic growth. If you know a young person contemplating a career in economics, you owe it to them to save their soul by giving them a copy of this book.”
From the Book Shelf …
“If we limit ourselves to what is politically feasible, we in effect declare that human survival is politically infeasible. That creates a self-fulfilliing prophecy and assures we will end up where we are going.
The only intelligent course is to define together what is necessary. Then, together we’ll figure out how we will make it politically inevitable. Transformation can – and does – occur even in the face of determined repression by powerful interests that control mass media, education, and state power.”
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