A COMMITMENT TO RADICAL CHANGE

About a year ago, I made my first public commitment to stop just talking about How to Save the World, and actually do something about it. Here’s my progress report:

My Commitment: Clear Actions My Subsequent Action My Score
Move to a more energy and space-efficient house Did an Energy Audit on our house, and have reduced energy by 20% (target is an additional 30% by Dec./05). C
Become a vegan I’m about 80% of the way to vegetarian (target is vegan by Dec./05) D
Become active in organizations advocating ‘Maybe One’ family size reduction encouragement programs. No progress, other than continuing to write about it. On my ‘Getting Things Done’ to do list. F
Reduce our Ecological Footprint by 80% by Dec./05 Housing component of EF down 20% due to energy conservation & elimination of lawn chemicals; other components down 50% (buying less, buying local, buying more durable, recycling & reusing, less garbage) B
Produce Boycott List and stop buying from socially and environmentally irresponsible companies. Boycott List done. Not buying from any companies on the list. A
Lobby Canadian government for a shift in tax laws from income and employment to resource consumption, pollution, waste, and excessive wealth Written letters. Activism through professional institutions I belong to not started, on my ‘Getting Things Done’ to do list. C
Quit job with multinational organization that facilitates corporatism, and set up my own Natural Enterprise. Quit my job. New business Meeting of Minds set up but not yet financially viable. Wrote the book on Natural Enterprise. A

Not a perfect scorecard, but not too bad either. The problem is, even if everyone in North America did these things it wouldn’t be enough. As the acceleration of global warming and other interminable bad news on the environment, the endless victories of corporatists over citizens and consumers, our continued theft of our children’s and grandchildren’s heritage, the prevalence of suicidal economic policies, the endless global thirst for blood and imperialist adventure, and last month’s US elections all showed, we’re losing ground fast. We need to be doing much more.

So while I’m still working on completing the actions I committed to last year, reading Bill Moyers’ stirring and depressing speech has convinced me to add some more radical, and controversial, actions to my ‘to do’ list, to publicly commit to do more.

Earlier this year I set out the political and ecological philosophy behind what I called ‘Plan B‘, a set of radical solutions to use once it becomes clear that social and political activism, networking, education, and the plodding pace of new technological innovation simply aren’t going to be enough to save the world from inevitable social, political and ecological catastrophe and collapse in this century. The principles of this philosophy are:

  • We need to end the ‘growth’ economy quickly, putting a stop to the increased destruction of our environment and increased consumption of scarce resources.  To reach a sustainable level and stave off collapse, we must achieve an 80-85% reduction  in resource consumption,  through a combination of conservation and population reduction. Today this consumption is doubling every forty years. The longer we wait, the greater the challenge to achieve sustainability.
  • <>We need to drastically cut the disparity of wealth and power between rich and poor, so that the means of control of our future would return to all of us. Globally the Gini index (the difference between the percent of income or wealth of the richest and poorest 20% of the population) stands at an astronomical 80 (81% owned and earned by the richest 20%, <1% owned and earned by the poorest 20%, with a sizeable proportion of that 81% owned by the world’s richest 0.1%); it should be close to that of civilized nations like Denmark and Japan, which have Gini indices of 25 (35% of wealth owned by the richest 20%, 10% by the poorest 20%). Economic power and wealth often trumps (or buys) votes, making democratic political and economic change impossible.
  • <>We need to increase our self-sufficiency, resiliency and readiness to make the rapid transition to a new and radically different human culture. Individuals and communities are currently helpless in the face of centrally controlled infrastructure and total dependence on  government and foreign markets. Communities and individuals are currently enslaved  and imprisoned by political, social and economic systems they simply can’t walk away from without dying.

I believe it is now time for Plan B. Like the rest of nature, humans only change their behaviour (adapt) when they must — there is a little minority serendipitous experimentation with changes occurring all the time as an inherent part of evolution, but for the most part that is merely fine-tuning and diversification to protect the gene pool. The vast majority of the world’s people support the Kyoto Accord and even more radical action to protect the environment, and appreciate that the world is overpopulated, but in the face of opposition by the rich and wealthy elite and of religious leaders, they’re not about to rise up and overthrow the intransigent governments, stop having children, disband the churches and revoke the charters of polluters. They would only do that when they know beyond reasonable doubt that they must do it — when there is no other choice. By the time we reach that point it will be too late. Persuasion has almost never brought about radical change in human culture. There must be a ‘burning platform’ — either you jump or you perish. Radical change occurs when there is no choice: Change or die.

Plan B is designed to give people no choice but to change. Let’s take fossil fuels as an example. We could have started developing alternatives to fossil fuels a century ago. There was no burning platform. In the 1970s, prices spiked modestly. The reaction of the vast majority was to demand that the government increase the supply and reduce the price. Governments complied, even though that meant first getting into bed with and becoming dependent on ideological enemies, and later launching imperialist adventures to take over the major sources of supply economically and politically. As long as there was any choice, no matter how socially, politically, economically and environmentally high the cost, people would not change. As we near the end of oil, we will see a resurgence of nuclear power plants, more strip-mining and burning of coal, the destruction of arctic wilderness, the ruin of coastal waterways, massive, and bloody and incessant imperialist wars with oil-rich countries — anything to forestall the need to change. The cost will be horrendous. That’s human nature. That’s nature, period. Do not change until you absolutely must.

For oil, the answer is to not give people a choice. That means rationing supply, and imprisoning those that buy in the black market. That means huge oil tax increases to make it unaffordable for most people to buy oil beyond the bare minimum, tax-free ration, with the taxes used to finance fast-track research on alternative renewable energy. That means prohibiting bringing on-board new sources of supply that merely delay the inevitable crisis, prolong the bad habits of reckless consumption, and ruin the environment for the sake of a few month’s supply. That means higher income taxes to pay for the development of a completely new infrastructure based on alternative energy (corporations won’t pay for it). All of these options are anathema to North American governments, which understand human nature and won’t dare impose these draconian solutions on people after seventy years of preaching that government and taxes are bad and the market will fix everything automatically.

So we need to make sure there is no choice. Since we can’t do this by changing  human nature, persuading people to voluntary reduce consumption, we have three options: Precipitate a crisis by interfering with supply (socially and environmentally conscious sabotage), precipitate a crisis by interfering with price and supply (persuade OPEC to quadruple prices and curtail production), or avert the crisis by coming up with innovations that reduce demand. The third of these options is not available because those with wealth and power would have to invest massively in these innovations, innovations that would reduce demand for their products, so it would be both politically insane for them to do so, and a violation of the modern ‘maximize short-term profit at all costs’ corporate mantra, and hence would subject these courageous corporate idealists to legal action and dismissal from their posts.

We can and should encourage OPEC to drastically cut production and to quadruple prices (that’s what many OPEC members believe is a fair price for their product now, but they’re unwilling to risk an invasion by the West if they raised the price). Production cuts aren’t in their short-term interest either, though steep price increases are (I’m sure awareness of this is what’s behind the recent crude price volatility). Why would OPEC nations sell for $40/barrel when they could sell for $160/barrel with little drop in demand? The only conceivable reason is military threats from the West.

If OPEC doesn’t have the courage to confront Bush & Co and charge fair market rates for their increasingly scarce products (which seems to be the case), the only solution left is sabotage of the energy and transportation systems, done in a way that doesn’t cause human or environmental injury — preventing the supply from getting to the market. We need a lot of individuals to sabotage the system at its most vulnerable (probably pipelines, dams, power transformers, tankers, refineries, drilling platforms, border crossings and major hubs in transportation routes). At the same time, we need to take the opportunity to block traffic in the despicable goods that finance the flow of oil — arms flowing out to oil countries, and the IMF-mandated flow of other underpriced locally-needed raw materials and slave-labour-produced manufactured goods from poor countries to rich.

This monkey-wrenching needs to be done in a coordinated but non-hierarchical way by a large number of caring, ingenious, enterprising, self-disciplined individuals. But before we can do it, we need to research how best to do it, what and where the vulnerabilities are, hand ow to achieve maximum disruption of supply with minimum effort and no serious injury to people or the environment. I am confident that most of this knowledge is online, and the rest can be put online by those in the know so that the rest of us can share it.

The result would be a constant and debilitating disruption of supply to the point where both consumers and producers say ‘uncle’ and start to change their behaviour because they have no other choice.

I think it can be done. It will take great courage (I expect this blog is already under government surveillance and will probably eventually be attacked or taken down). And it will take great intelligence, to avoid it backfiring on us, and to ensure that, once the media get addicted to this story, they are getting our message loud and clear: We are selectively sabotaging the most serious excesses of the modern economy to bring about conservation of resources and the environment the only way we know will work. If we’re going to save the planet, we all need to consume less, and we’re doing our part to make that happen.

So here are my additional commitments for actions for 2005.

  1. Establish a loose network of individuals who are committed to researching, sharing knowledge, and then acting upon ways to selectively sabotage the most socially and environmentally destructive elements of the modern economy without causing physical harm or suffering to people or the environment, and in a coordinated way. A million cells of one caring individual each. No formal organization, no hierarchy, no command and control. No name.
  2. Develop and share significant research on the vulnerabilities of the energy, mineral, forestry, water, food, and other natural resource production and distribution industries, and means of exploiting those vulnerabilities to disrupt supply, to dampen demand by undermining public trust in and reliability of their products, and to begin to force communities to look at ways of increasing their resource self-sufficiency.
  3. Develop and share significant research on the vulnerability of the major media, and means of exploiting those vulnerabilities to jam, hack and occupy broadcast facilities in order to educate the public about the threats to our planet and how they can help solve them, to communicate clearly our network’s purpose and carefully selected actions, and to recruit new individuals.
  4. Develop and share significant research on the vulnerability of the world’s financial systems, and means of exploiting those vulnerabilities (such as short-selling currencies) to undermine confidence in the fiscal and monetary systems through which the rich and irresponsible wield power, and to disrupt the flow of money that supports socially and environmentally damaging activities.
  5. Educate the public about how to reduce consumption and debt without causing hardship, since excessive consumption and debt are the fuel that enables massive disparity of wealth and power to accumulate, and the continued enslavement of the people to a corporatist economy and agenda.
  6. Develop and share significant research on ways in which human fertility can be reduced and population growth rate reversed, including both voluntary (innovative new birth control, abortion and suicide technologies) and involuntary (airborne, waterborne or food supply-borne agents, provided they have no effect on other creatures, cause no human suffering, and take effect across the entire human population without discrimination and therefore cannot be used in any eugenic way).
  7. Create one or more spaces where like-minded activists can share knowledge and ideas, coordinate activities, and collaborate, to find less disruptive, more positive ways to save the world.

Not your average set of New Year’s resolutions, I’ll admit.

It is absolutely critical that these million individuals take great care to avoid causing harm or suffering, other than economic harm. Otherwise, extremists on either side of the political spectrum, and government agents, could exploit or defeat this movement. We need the media to understand that this principle is inviolate, so that they immediately rule us out as the source when an act occurs that causes harm or suffering. We are not terrorists, we are anti-terrorists. Corporatism is economic and political terrorism, and it is threatening all life on Earth. Our goal is simply to disrupt this economic and political system before it destroys our planet, so that there is no choice but to find a better way to live.

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8 Responses to A COMMITMENT TO RADICAL CHANGE

  1. Tom says:

    Dave, I like your blog and respect your committiment and intellect. I think things may be worse than we know. Without too much ado, just what are we going to do as world Oil production declines while use goes up? Then finally no matter how we conserve and all the rest, it will be gone. 10, 50 100 years, I don’t know: what I have read is alarming and depressing. We may need to think now, of gathering together resources that tell us the mechanics of living in a world without oil. We as a people don’t have the skills or knowledge. Take people who expect cars that run,hot water from the tap, electric lights and plentiful food and put them into a 19th century technological environment and… well you know.

  2. Claire Smith says:

    Dave, I am so impressed by your efforts. Even though you don’t feel that you are meeting your own goals yet, it is so much more than most people are doing out there. You should be so proud and know that you are serving as inspiration to others.The problem is, even if everyone in North America did these things it wouldn’t be enough.As much as I know this statement to be true, it was hard to read.

  3. David Jones says:

    I think you need two additional measures, and to score yourself highly on them:1. Evolution of personal understanding2. Communication and engagement

  4. Gil Friend says:

    Lester Brown’s new book, also entitled _Plan B_, takes a rather more moderate, legal and optimistic approach. Derek Jensen’s new book, _Language Older than Words_, on the other hand, focuses on ‘dismantling civilization,’ with quite the opposite perspective.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks, everyone. I was afraid I’d lose some readers over this, but the only furor I’ve created is over at the Grist magazine GristMill forum, where one reader called my resolutions ‘Stalineque lunacy’. Gil, I’ve read both boooks and they certainly stake out the end-points of response. I guess I’m closer to Derrick’s position in Language Older Than Words, though I understand his soon to be released new book is even more strident.

  6. kara says:

    Congratulations on your 80% Vegan Dave! I still eat the occasional dairy product….This year I’ve also been giving more support to organizations that promote an animal friendly Earth. Such as Farm Sanctuary and PeTA.

  7. Lee says:

    “Stalinesque lunacy” is a bit over the type. What you propose is garden variety tyranny.

  8. Steven says:

    An interesting and thought provoking post. I have posted some thoughts/reactions to this on my blog at http://steven902.blogspot.com/

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