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Ultimate Civics!

The Road to Resilience

It was about eight years ago that we formed Transition Vashon, and about six years ago that I started writing this column as a means of getting transition ideas out into the community.  Our goal was to orient our community towards transitioning away from fossil fuels and putting together an energy descent plan.  If it wasn’t clear then, it certainly is now that we need to transition to renewables, and making a plan to use less energy would make us much more resilient in the face of energy shortfalls.  In 2009, it was clear to many of us that we needed to make serious changes in our lifestyle to head off CO2 buildup and catastrophic climate change.  For others, it was still in the realm of speculation that we needed to act right away, so our job at Transition Vashon was to sell the idea that the sooner we got started, the better.  The fact that Transition Vashon folded about five years later due to lack of interest was not a good sign.  Still, I’ve continued to write, and there seems to be ongoing interest in that.

It is true that over that period we have made some strides in lowering our carbon footprint:  more electric cars, hybrids, bikes, LEDs, etc., but, in the big picture, we have only been making some nips and tucks in what remains a very large change yet to be made.  What we need to do is reexamine the basis of our culture.  Patrick Christie, UW professor, touched on this in his keynote address last week for the Nature Center educational talks.  His thesis was that our worldviews determine our perception of reality and our behavior.  We won’t make the kinds of changes we need to make because we think it is the right thing to do.  A change of this magnitude requires stepping into a new way of seeing the world.  

Christie touched on the fact that Native Americans have a markedly different worldview than Euro-Americans.  He mentioned that the Tulalip tribe recently invested $20 million dollars of casino money in buying 300 acres of Puget Sound shoreline and converting it back to saltwater estuary.   Several other tribes have created similar estuaries. How many relatively small Euro-American communities do you know that would make that kind of investment in something that had no apparent economic or social payback?  It has to do with worldview.  Native Americans see the health of the environment as their own health.  They see themselves as partners rather than rulers of the Earth.  This is not a mystic woo-woo sort of thing for them:  it is just a fact.

We Euro-Americans look at the history of Native Americans in North America and tend to think that they way underperformed on a continent with abundant resources.  I mean, they have been here for at least 13,000 years and, when Europeans came, they were still in the Stone Age!  Europeans, on the other hand, spent those same 13,000 years developing all sorts of technology and gaining control over much of the planet and the creatures thereon.  Our worldview is that humans are the reason the Earth exists and that everything upon it is ours to do with as we want.  It never occurred to us that those were choices we made and that there might be merit in other views.

As to our denigration of Native Americans, the fact is, they grew to a population of 60-90 million, rivaling the 90 million in Europe in 1500, and, far from depleting or degrading the continent, had created a continent with robust health and abundant resources.  It isn’t that they didn’t alter their environment, but that they altered it in cooperation with other life systems, and did little that was deleterious to environmental health as a whole.  After 13,000 years, we came upon a paradise that seemed to us to be pristine. In the last paltry 600 years, during which European culture has come to dominate the world, look at what we have done to it!  Certainly there is something important and of value in European culture, but we need to see that it is flawed and that there is much that we need to incorporate from other cultures.  It gets down to a very fundamental reconsideration of who and what is most important.

Our worldview is reeking havoc for us and all the world:  we continue to promote fossil fuels even though they are going to kill us, we have never-ending war with confusing  alliances, all fueled by the same greedy arms merchants; we can’t make laws because our legislators no longer listen to each other or to us; a full time worker earning the minimum wage can no longer afford to live anywhere in this country; we are breaking up into armed camps that are committing more and more acts of violence, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Don’t you think it’s time to change our worldview?

Remember that tonight, Thursday, June 22, at the Library at 7 pm., Riki Ott is going to give us a civics presentation so we the people can learn how to regain control over our government.  Also, the second Fixit Café will take place this Sat., June 24, 10am-2pm, at the Penny Farcy Bldg. across from the Fire Station in town.  Get your stuff fixed, save money and resources, and watch how it is done, so you can become more resourceful and do it yourself!  These are two valuable skills that we all need to have.