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The Path Beyond Extinction and Escape: Return to Earth, Regenerate and Share

Message for World Environment Day, June 5, 2020  

By Dr Vandana Shiva

On May 31, while people were dying during the coronavirus pandemic, while millions had lost their livelihoods and were going hungry during the “lockdown,” while millions were marching in city after city in the USA to protest against police brutality and police violence after the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis, billionaire Elon Musk launched Space X.

For me this was a brutal display of the hubris, indifference and power of the 1% who have pushed ecosystems, communities, countries and humanity to the brink.

Musk wants to create a “self sustaining” Space X city on Mars over the next century for a privileged faction of humanity. He ignores the fact that there is no Planet B, that the Earth is our only living planet, she is Gaia, she is alive.

Musk talked about being emotional during the launch of Space X. Powerful men have “emotions” for their machines, not for people or other beings. They talk of humans becoming a “space bearing civilization and a multi-planetary species.” They are still in denial that we are all earthlings who share life with other beings on the earth, our common home.

The billionaires who have violated planetary boundaries and contributed to the destruction of the earth and injustice and inequality in society, seem to want to “escape” from their humanity and the threat of extinction they helped create.

As members of the earth community they have the responsibility to care for the earth, not exploit her and when the damage is done, decide to abandon her to colonize other planets.

With the money Musk is pouring into Space X, millions would be fed and engaged creatively in regenerating the Earth, our common home, making it livable for present and future generations, everywhere.

The sixth mass extinction is a manmade phenomenon:  It is driven by the limitless greed of the few.

Take just one example, even when it is painted “green” – the limitless appetite of Musk’s electric car industry for Lithium has led to the expansion of lithium mines in Northern Tibet, Southern America and Chile, and Bolivia. With the demand for electric cars, the demand for lithium is expected to more than double by 2025 with exponential damage to the environment and surrounding communities.

According to Evo Morales, the former President of Bolivia, the coup against him was a lithium coup. The coup came a week after Morales nationalized lithium on November 4, 2019, saying it belongs to the Bolivian people, not to multinationals, and cancelled the December 2018 agreement with Germany’s ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) following weeks of protests from residents of the Potosí areawhich has 50% to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. ACISA provides batteries to Tesla owned by Leon Musk and the coup resulted in a massive rise in the company’s stock. [1] [2]

When the rich and powerful destroyed the binding Climate Change treaty in Copenhagen in 2009, Evo Morales addressed the Conference of Parties, reminding everyone that governments were supposed to be negotiating ways to protect Mother Earth, not the rights of polluters.

As a countermeasure, he announced he would call a people’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. I was honored to work with the group created by the Government of Bolivia to prepare a Draft Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.[3]

As Earth Citizens we have a choice – to either follow the market’s laws of greed and unlimited profit or the laws of the Earth.

As we make shifts to a post COVID-19 economy, we need to take into account the full ecological, social, and political costs of what is being offered and what choices we make.

Rendering invisible the real costs to the earth and people is how the mega corporate world accumulates its wealth, polarizing society further, denying millions their fundamental rights, undermining democracy, and increasing their ecological footprintleaving these costs to be born by the earth and vulnerable communities.

As always, colonizers leave the places and spaces they have destroyed and polluted, and find new colonies to occupy and extract from, touting them as the next step of progress, as solutions to the ecological and poverty crises they have contributed to, finding other places and other people to dominate and plunder.

Cecil Rhodes who colonized Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) stated frankly:

“We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories”.[4]

This is still the model of the economy of the 1%. The tools of extraction, and the colonies might change but the patterns of colonization remain unchanged – grab and steal what belongs to others, make it your own property, collect rents from the original owners, transform the displaced  into cheap slave labour to provide cheap raw materials, and turn them into consumers for your industrial products.

For Elon Musk, the colonies are both other planets like Mars and countries rich in lithium. For Bill Gates and Big Tech, the new colonies are our bodies and minds – as spelled out in WIPO’s patent no. WO2020/06060 which the billionaire has just been granted at the peak of the coronavirus and in the midst of lockdown at the end of March.

This Is the next step in the tech giants’ plan for the digitalization of the world where people and their work are being rendered “useless” and are being reduced to “users” of the “machines.”

A digital dictatorship based on the premise that 90% of humanity is disposable has no obligation to social justice and human rights. A digital dictatorship is not a life generating and livelihood supporting economy. It can work through extraction of data from our minds and bodies for a few years as “surveillance capitalism,” but because it does not create the generative conditions that support life in nature’s economy and the sustenance economy of people, because it does not nourish our health, our bodies and minds, or our creativity, our freedom or our earth being – it will destroy the ecological and social base of the economy and our future as a species.

Denial of ecological processes that support the economy, and externalizing social and ecological costs, creates conditions for ecological collapse.

Economy and ecology are both derived from the same word “oikos” our home, both our planetary home as well as the particular places we call home. Yet what is called economy today is destroying our common home.

Aristotle defined “oikonomia” as the “art of living.” He differentiated it from the “art of money making” which he referred to as “chrematistics.”

The game billionaires play is not worthy of being called economy, either as care for the home, or as the art of living. It is extractive, naked money making, at war with life and creativity.

The Digital Giants are misleadingly creating the language of “dematerialization,” as if the digital economy will run on thin air, with no resources, no energy. However, a digital economy is very energy intensive and has a very heavy social and ecological footprint. Digital technologies now emit 4% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and its energy consumption is increasing by 9% a year.

Data traffic is responsible for more than half of digital technology’s global impact, with 55% of its annual energy consumption. Every byte transferred or stored requires large scale and energy-greedy terminals and infrastructures (data centers, networks). This traffic is currently increasing by more than 25% a year. How long will it take before the ecological load of the digitalization of every aspect of our life will push the remaining ecosystems to collapse, driving the surviving species to extinction?[5]

All democratic societies and citizens need to assess these costs, and ensure that the “precautionary principle” and “polluters pays principle” are applied to the digital economy. That polluters do not “escape” their ecological and democratic responsibilities, and dictators do not impose their “surveillance capitalism.”

There are options beyond colonization, beyond extinction ,which first pushed other species and other cultures to extinction – and is now threatening the extinction of the entire human species.

Instead of the rich ignoring and fleeing  from the Earth, the path as humanity we should be following is to Return to Earth, in our minds, our hearts, and in our lives – as one Earth Community with a potential to co-create, coproduce, and regenerate and allow the earth to provide for all.

This is the path to reclaiming our creative powers to shape our economies and democracies from the bottom up. This is the practice of Earth Democracy.

We need to shift from Anthropocentrism to the recognition that all humans and all beings are members of one Earth Family. The assumption of superiority of humans over other species, and some humans over others of a different color, gender, or religion is at the root of violence against women, blacks, and indigenous people. It has justified extermination of species and cultures. It is what led to the brutal killing of George Floyd, and many others before him. And this assumption of anthropocentrism is at the root of the extinction crisis.

We need to shift from the assumption that violating planetary boundaries, ecosystem boundaries, species boundaries, and human rights is a measure of progress and superiority – to creating economies based on respecting ecological laws and ecological limits, and respecting the rights of the last person, the last child.

We need to shift from seeing money and technology as masters in a new religion of money making, ”chrematistics,” to recognizing they are mere means that must be governed and regulated democratically for higher ecological and human ends.

We need to shift from extractivism as the basis of the economy to solidarity and giving as the basis of circular, solidarity economies of permanence.

We need to shift from enclosure of the commons by the 1 % to recovery of the commons for the common good and well being of all.

Humanity must opt for staying alive by caring for our common home, the Earth and each other, rejuvenating the Planet, and through it sowing the seeds of our common future.

“Only as one earth community and one humanity, united in our diversities, can we hold ourselves together and step away from the precipice, and escape the destructive, ecocidal, genocidal rule of the 1% and the hallucinations of the mechanical mind. The 1% have brought us to this point, like sheep to slaughter. But we can turn around and walk away, to our freedom. To live free. To think free. To breathe free. To eat free. Seeding the Future is in our minds, our hearts, our hands.”

(Oneness vs 1% – Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom, Women Unlimited, New Internationalist, Il pianeta di tutti – Come il capitalismo ha colonizzato la Terra, Fetrinelli, El Planeta es de todos: Unidad contra el 1%, Editorial Popular, 1 % – Reprendre le pouvoir face à la toute-puissance des riches, Rue de l’échiquier)

References:

[1] https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/was-bolivia-s-coup-over-lithium-32033

[2] https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/11/11/bolivian-coup-comes-less-week-after-morales-stopped-multinational-firms-lithium-deal

[3] https://www.navdanya.org/newsite/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=343:universal-declaration-of-the-rights-of-mother-earth&Itemid=214&tmpl=component&print=1

[4] (Pg 116  Terry Gibbs, Why the Dalai Lama is a Socialist)

[5] (Source: https://theshiftproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/2019-02.pdf)

Reposted with permission from Navdanya

Exposing the Dirty Business Behind the Designer Label

Even before it gets worn once, that new T-shirt you bought is already dirtier than you can imagine. It’s soaked through with toxic waste, factory smog and plastic debris—all of which is likely just a few spin cycles away from an incinerator, or maybe a landfill halfway around the world. Our obsession with style rivals our hunger for oil, making fashion the world’s second-most polluting industry after the oil industry.

According to the think tank Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), the majority of fast-fashion products —the hyperactive production and marketing cycle fueled by high-volume, high-speed supply chains, which often bludgeon the environment while driving ultra-cheap retail market —are incinerated or trashed within a year. In the U.S., wasted leather, cloth, rubber and other scraps constitute over 8 percent of the total volume of solid waste. Global clothing consumption averages about 22 pounds annually per person, though the U.S. and Europe each average roughly triple that amount.

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UN Declares 2021 to 2030 ‘Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’

The United Nations has issued a massive global ‘call to action’ to mobilize the political and financial support necessary to restore the world’s deforested and degraded ecosystems over the coming decade to support the wellbeing of 3.2 billion people around the globe. More than 2 billion hectares – an area larger than the South American continent – stand to be restored.

Photo credit: Pixabay

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, approved by the General Assembly on 1 March, will run from 2021 to 2030 and emphasize scaling-up of restoration work to address the severe degradation of landscapes, including wetlands and aquatic ecosystems, worldwide. It will likely boost landscape restoration work to the top of national agendas, building on a public demand for action on issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and the resulting impacts on economies and livelihoods.

“I think there are many stars that are aligning now,” said UN Environment’s Tim Christophersen.

 

KEEP READING ON LANDSCAPE NEWS

Native Shrubs and Why They’re Essential for Carbon Sequestration

“Shrubbiness is such a remarkable adaptive design that one may wonder why more plants have not adopted it.” (H. C. Stutz, 1989)

In light of the newest IPCC and US climate change reports, coupled with reports of the ongoing declines of wild species—birds, insects—you name them, just so long as they aren’t human, I have turned to thinking about shrubs. It is precisely their adaptive characteristics that give shrubs their potential to be powerful players in soil carbon sequestration and ecosystem regeneration in certain parts of the world, such as the Midwest.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Although alarming, the reports are not surprising to anyone who’s been keeping track. The IPCC report says human global society has 12 years to reduce carbon emissions to 45% below 2010 levels if there is to be any hope of holding overall average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

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An Agro-Ecological Europe: A Desirable, Credible Option to Address Food and Environmental Challenges

Alarming signals about the need for a transition of the agricultural and food system in Europe have been accumulating for several years and social expectation for such a transition is growing. How can we feed Europe – and feed it well – while preserving nature and the climate? This is the purpose of a study, which main conclusions are summarized in this paper.

Key messages

1. Current diets, which are too rich and unbalanced (three times the recommended amount of sugar, double the recommended amount of protein, not enough fruit, vegetables or fibre):

  • contribute to the increase in many conditions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases);
  • lead Europe to depend on the rest of the world for food, through its imports of 40 million tonnes of plant proteins, which represent 20 % of its utilised agricultural land and far exceed the level of its exports.

2. The TYFA scenario is based on abandoning pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, redeploying natural grasslands and extending agro-ecological infrastructures(hedges, trees, ponds and stony habitats) and the generalisation of healthy diets (fewer animal products, more fruit and vegetables).

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The Savory Institute’s Land to Market Verification Aims to Regenerate 1bn Hectares of Land

Author: Elizabeth Crawford | Published: March 27, 2018

After decades of a slow build, the regenerative agriculture movement is finally taking off, thanks in part to the Savory Institute, which has launched the Land to Market verification program, which is designed to help stakeholders not just sustain the environment, but also improve it.

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EU Agrees Total Ban on Bee-Harming Pesticides

The world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields within six months, to protect both wild and honeybees that are vital to crop pollination

Author: Damian Carrington | Published: April 27, 2018

The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

But in February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors(Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

KEEP READING ON THE GUARDIAN

Climate Change, Human Impacts, and Carbon Sequestration in China

Authors: Jingyun Fang, et. al. | Published: April 17, 2018

The scale of economic growth in China during the past three decades is unprecedented in modern human history. China is now the world’s second largest economic entity, next to the United States. However, this fast economic growth puts China’s environment under increasing stresses. China can be viewed as a massive “laboratory” with complex interactions between socioeconomic and natural systems, providing an excellent opportunity to examine how environmental changes and intensive human economic activities influence natural systems. This special feature explores the impacts of climate change and human activities on the structure and functioning of ecosystems, with emphasis on quantifying the magnitude and distribution of carbon (C) pools and C sequestration in China’s terrestrial ecosystems. We also document how species diversity, species traits, and nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) stoichiometry mediate ecosystem C pool and vegetation production. This overview paper introduces the background and scientific significance of the research project, presents the underlying conceptual framework, and summarizes the major findings of each paper.

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Land Degradation Threatens Human Wellbeing, Major Report Warns

More than 3.2bn people are already affected and the problem will worsen without rapid action, driving migration and conflict

Author: Jonathan Watts | Published: March 26, 2018

Land degradation is undermining the wellbeing of two-fifths of humanity, raising the risks of migration and conflict, according to the most comprehensive global assessment of the problem to date.

The UN-backed report underscores the urgent need for consumers, companies and governments to rein in excessive consumption – particularly of beef – and for farmers to draw back from conversions of forests and wetlands, according to the authors.

With more than 3.2 billion people affected, this is already one of the world’s biggest environmental problems and it will worsen without rapid remedial action, according to Robert Scholes, co-chair of the assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). “As the land base decreases and populations rise, this problem will get greater and harder to solve,” he said.

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Regenerative Farming Trailblazers: How Reintegrating Livestock and Restoring Soils Can Lead to More Resilient Farms

Author: Marcia DeLonge | Published: March 29, 2018

Across the United States, more farmers are finding that practices that have worked in the past are no longer cutting it. Persistent low prices for common crops (especially corn) paired with high production costs (for example, expensive equipment and fertilizers) have made it hard to stay afloat. At the same time agriculture has also moved increasingly toward systems dominated by a few annual crops—typically corn and soybeans—often with fields left bare between growing seasons. This trend has degraded core resources like soil and water, endangering the long-term viability of many farms.

Faced with growing pressures, some farmers are exploring their options, including testing regenerative farming practices that can rebuild soil health, conserve water, improve water quality, and more. For example, farmers are diversifying their crops and animals, implementing more complex crop rotations, and protecting soil year-round by using cover crops. Such changes come with both challenges and opportunities.

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