EARTH AT RISK - Conference Notes
Sponsored by Fertile Ground Institute, Bellingham, WA
San Francisco November 21 and 22, 2014
This past November, some of the world’s preeminent strategists in environmental defense, social justice, and grassroots activism came together to share their insights and speak toward ONE goal: crafting game-changing responses to address the converging crises we face.
Keynote Speakers: Derek Jensen, Chris Hedges, Alice Walker, Thomas Linzy, Vandana Shiva.
Members of 350 Sonoma County attended the Earth at Risk Conference. Anna Jacopetti wrote this article to share her experience. The conference was an indictment of our culture which has allowed the economic sphere, with power concentrated by global capitalism, to dominate and essentially take over the political and cultural spheres.
Corporations view the natural world as a resource for commodities and identify people as consumers of material goods and/or wage slaves. An unrelenting quest for profit has resulted in unfettered growth and unlimited consumption that are destroying our biosphere. Those in power are infused with a neo-liberal ideology – a cult of the individual that bears no responsibility for any larger public good. This form of capitalism is intrinsically sociopathic and requires permanent war to defend its hegemony. The result is increasing polarization of wealth, a glut of wasteful products and a dearth of public goods (education, health, social safety net, etc.). We have a fictive democracy that maintains procedures, but has little substance. Charles Derber calls it Corpocracy. Sheldon Wollen (through Chris Hedges) calls it inverted totalitarianism. This rule is buttressed by a militarized police and a mass surveillance apparatus. Our judiciary has largely been co-opted and our main stream media are corporately owned and controlled.
The results have been devastating for the biosphere with runaway global warming resulting in climate chaos. We are potentially on track for an unthinkable temperature rise of up to 6 degrees by 2050. Two hundred species are going extinct every day. Half of all vertebrates have been annihilated in the last forty years. Vandana Shiva reports that we have already lost 22% of the world's biodiversity.
There is also increasing evidence of social pathology. Twenty two veterans commit suicide each day. Between Newtown and June, 2014 there were 74 additional school shootings. The pornographic industry underlies increasing incidents of rape and sexual violence. One in three African American men will spend time in prison and will be disenfranchised. One in six Latino men will go to prison. No accurate statistics are available for the number of black and brown men who have been killed by the police.
What can we do? The presenters at this conference did not advocate trying to work with our existing system. They recommend that we:
1) Decolonize our hearts and minds by challenging our conditioned belief systems about America and our role in the world.
2) Ask ourselves “What do we love?” and commit to defending our beloved.
3) Shift from being informed to doing an action
4) Build community and alliances for our actions.
The indigenous First Nation people on the front lines of pipeline and tar sands resistance are exemplars. They inspire us to reconnect with the natural world and to be willing to defend it with our lives, knowing that we are, in fact, defending “Life” - our own, the lives of our children and our grandchildren. We can be inspired by actions like those of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, led by Thomas Linzy, who are calling for legal status for ecosystems. They have won suits in Ecuador, the first country to give inalienable rights to the biosphere and are currently engaged in Pennsylvania in a suit between Little Mahoney Watershed and the PGE Corporation over their right to build a fracking injection well against public rejection of the plan.
Resistance movements also offer us an opportunity to come together and to heal our profound disconnection from the earth and from each other as we build strong and creative communities.