1.0. Preface: Emergencies Now

The nature of an emergency requires everyone to drop their normal activities and normal behaviors and to respond to a catastrophe. A catastrophe is usually quite evident, a wall of fire or a massive surge of water that will destroy or has already destroyed homes and people, as well as insects and birds, plants and animals, and their habitats. But, we are finding that not all catastrophes are fast, middle-scale or visible. The effects of those changes make us uneasy but not adrenaline-ready; the changes are reflected in starving children, hotter summers and stronger storms, and failing food supplies and collapsing infrastructures. We seem reluctant to give the causes of these catastrophes the status of real emergencies. Partly because the catastrophes seem like natural events, such as a warming trend, and partly because they are related to our industrial habits, which provide us with necessities, as well as with comforts and luxuries.

We have to learn to recognize and respond to these slow catastrophes, these invisible catastrophes and these very large and long-term catastrophes. And, we have to do it now, before they crest and become overwhelming. We can do it. We have the evidence that things are taking a downward turn (the original meaning of the word catastrophe). We have acted on a large-scale before, in times of a world war. We were able to treat war as an emergency and to encourage or enforce remarkable changes, such as rationing or job remolding. We were able to take these actions without destroying our citizens or our cultures.

Although nature, and our human nature, are not enemies to be vanquished, the current situation has similarities to war. Massive changes threaten our lifestyles. Resources are removed from our reach by thoughtless or inefficient use. Changing insect and animal populations seem to be attacking our food supplies. Changes in climate and ocean balance, as well as renewed diseases and infiltrated toxic chemicals, threaten our lives. And, it is happening on a total, all-out front.

We have been fooled by the fact that we cannot see an enemy. We have been misled by the slowness and subtlety of the penetration of our defenses. We have been betrayed by our own desire to continue our industrial dreaming at any cost.

Some people have noticed changes and have been crying alarms, but they have not been loud enough or persuasive enough. Everybody needs to be awakened; everybody needs to participate, everybody needs to sacrifice and work towards peaceful solutions. Perhaps it is too late and the catastrophes cannot all be reversed. But, we can act as if we were wise, as if doing the right thing will prevail. Perhaps we cannot know for sure if these actions were needed, but we will have worked together to help others, to improve things and to make good places. If we act now.

 


1.1. What this book is not

This book is not a doomsday report, backed by massive volumes of statistics and deaths. It is not a history of problems linked to human weaknesses and genetic determinations. It is not an exhaustive list of cultural losses and biological extinctions. Nor is it an ideal utopia that would force everyone into one narrow way of living, with predetermined behaviors, uniforms, diets, or housing boxes. Nor is it a technological solution based on elaborate and delicate future scenarios. Nor is it a set of rules for individuals to turn off extra lights and recycle plastic bottles. This book is not a set of steps to save the planet. As James Lovelock notes, the planet does not need saving; it has survived many more dramatic changes.

 

1.2. What this book is

This book is an excerpt from a comprehensive approach to our unique situation. The unique approach is 'Eutopias,' which is a paratraditional nostrum for preserving what is good and useful in human cultures and sciences, and for reserving what is necessary for nature to keep regenerating itself, while addressing the cascading problems of the modern expansion and catastrophic development with an immediate emergency approach. Eutopias is a practical framework for allowing the creative anarchy of traditional-size cultures to be able to implement appropriate technology to deal with their resources and with other cultures through a revitalized and empowered international body that has the power of taxing global resources and properties for its own support, as well as the power to disarm and neutralize the unhealthy influences of large nations and corporations. Eutopias is a framework that limits human expansion to domestic and artificial areas, by specifying responsibilities and duties, while permitting the free operation of nature on the majority of the planet. It also saves neopoetic areas and reserves wilderness. It encourages respect for natural and cultural capital. It recommends recognizing limits and planning for them using an ecological perspective and a metaphorical approach-it is metaphor-based as well as science-based, and limits-based as well as culture-based. Eutopias is concerned with saving human cultures and the environments that human cultures have come to fit and love.

 

1.3. Why it would work

Why would Eutopias work? Because Life has a billion years experience with changing and adapting, because human life and cultures have over 50,0000 years of practical experience adapting and making changes, and because humans are immensely adaptable-if they can adjust to poverty and suffering, they can adjust to a few good changes.

The division of size and power of nations would allow the coordinating international body to regulate resource use based on ecological and cultural carrying capacities. Being small and self-governing allows nations to be more responsive and anticipatory to local changes and developments, Being based on traditional cultures, with their wealth of experience and rules, allows nations to be more closely connected to their lands and places.

A Eutopian framework and sizing will reduce many of the problems of industrial development and allow dedevelopment where effective. Violence and famine will not disappear; nor will corruption, bad decisions and mistakes with scale and technologies, but they will be limited by the structure of the framework. A Eutopian framework avoids the risks of unproven technologies and the industrial redesign of cultures. A Eutopian approach avoids the abstraction, dehumanization and scale effects of large industrial organizations.

The framework provides a holistic context for individual and community actions. It is also a collection of ideas and simple examples that, as Ivan Illich once suggested, could indicate simple directions people could take, for example, to use buses instead of cars, slow easily repairable trucks for fast standard trucks, diet and exercise not surgery, medical workers instead of doctors, community food storage instead of personal refrigerators, communities instead of addresses, and small nations instead of regional empires.

The threatening catastrophes could be addressed in the industrial framework that spawned or exacerbated them, but these physical catastrophes are related to other social catastrophes, such as declining health or gross inequities, that might not get sufficient attention, and might work against any simple solution to the physical catastrophes. For such a eutopian program to work, it has to be integrated and it has to work now. Why now? Because everything is changing and just reacting is not enough. Because everything is being converted to human patterns and human flesh in a linear pattern from resources to waste.

 

1.4. Why We Should Try

Big Problems seem insurmountable-millions starving, billions suffering, catastrophic conflicts, species being forced to extinction, habitats collapsing, dangerous chemical wastes accumulating, ozone holes growing, extreme climates pressing, and the planet wobbling. But, simple actions will not save the earth from long-duration, large-scale catastrophes, part-time participation will not be enough to reverse the degradation of ecosystems, and partial business greening will not stop the unraveling of global cycles.

Satisfactory (or suboptimal) solutions might work-regardless of what kind of unforeseen catastrophes will happen, from asteroid impacts and climatic change to technical failures and cultural collapses, there are things that we can do to promote human survival. We can create a framework for a small-nations network. We can reduce national populations to an optimum, far below a maximum and well above a minimum. We can reduce our levels of consumption and conflict, equalizing wealth and promoting health. We can start creating food banks, with five to seven years of food. We can preserve flexibility for our civilizations, while being self-reliant, and, we can plan and design for seven generations into the future. There are things we can do to protect and restore ecosystems. We can preserve the self-renewing operation of natural ecosystems. We can integrate our food, technology and economics into healthy ecosystems.

 

1.5. Think about it!

In the face of the challenges and losses facing human civilization, Eutopias uses tools, from metaphors, questioning, and thought experiments to gigatrends and ecological analyses, to understand and realign the operation of human actions. It addresses the concept of place on many levels; the characteristics of place are expanded from those of fields and ecosystems to those of good societies and good designs, as each emerges from its environment. New approaches in topopoetics, the science of making places, are expanded, beginning with knowing a place, living in place, managing a place, and expressing place. The approach is both descriptive and prescriptive, which allows people to interiorize the system and appreciate the details.

The eutopian framework is more than is a simple perspective; it is a design for a self-renewing process using proven cultural methods to improve human situations and environments. The frame is not a final goal but a way to allow the many small useful, culturally determined (or limited) changes that we need for our survival on the planet as we like it.

Eutopias, as a general description, uses a root metaphor of many places, in different bioregions. This eutopias is a framework for human cultures, to preserve the unique image that each society needs to guide it and to make it different from others. To be effective, in contrast with the ideal characteristics of ideal cities, a eutopian framework embodies attributes that are compatible to the values and norms of living cultures.

By being attentive to the characteristics of place, and those of a good society, a eutopian framework can be described by its own characteristics from groundedness to comprehensiveness. These characteristics are quite different from the characteristics that can be observed with utopias or industrial designs.

To avoid fanaticism and violence, Karl Popper has suggested that utopians should try to build an open, progressive, partially planned society, instead of a finished, closed, Completely planned society. Indeed, this is how general systems theory would describe a working, successful society. Such a utopia would have to accept the imperfect nature of man and the changing ambiguity of nature.

Eutopias exist in the extended present, incorporating past traditions and future values. It would concentrate earthward (down) and inward. Heaven is home, eutopia is here and now. Eutopias is a new comprehensive philosophy to make sense of the world.

Eutopias is comprehensive and global, using a broader, ecological frame of reference. It is concerned with evolution unfolding, producing new emergent forms, and not just with a static description. Eutopias is grounded in environmental concerns. Its values are based on cultural and natural values. Its direction develops from existing social and political forces.

Eutopias is vitally concerned with the well being of society. Options must be site and culture specific. Eutopias recognizes and preserves slow cultural knowledge. A social base may be partly developed through ecological education. Social diversity may have cross-cultural appeal. Eutopias would retain the capacity to change and innovate, with changes in environments and human values.

Eutopias is politically aware. We humans make political statements by the way we live. Every tradition is only one tradition among many. The framework requires an open, planetary dialogue between modern experience and sacred tradition. Eutopias requires a planning process that bridges all cultures and sciences. It must be a participatory political movement. It must appeal to a large segment of the total human society. Since not all interests will be satisfied, there must be opportunities for transformations or alternate paths.

The eutopian frame can be justified. It is not just one kind of global society in one place. If we try to make one society, it will change over time, because people are in different places. Solutions come from living in place. A new model may solve some problems but will definitely create new problems; Niccolo Machiavelli reasoned that this would always happen. This is a good argument for eutopias, since changes would occur mostly on a small scale, easily correctable. That is why eutopias can be a framework, by limiting human evil and good to small places, with minimal control or competition.

Eutopias is a total reconsideration of the current pattern of places, cultures, technologies, values systems, and behaviors, that are evolving into a code for preserving those parts of the earth that are needed for renewing the holecosystem and the habitats of billions of animals, plants and living beings that are part of the earth. It is a code for allowing fair use of that part of the earth that is human. It is a code for human equality in opportunity and worth. And, it is the demand for a margin from catastrophe, so that if humanity is unable to live peaceably, the rest of the earth will not become extinct as well.

Work for it. Now. As if it were the greatest catastrophe ever facing us.

 

1.6. Celebrate First?

People's consciousness has gradually increased, as shown by recycling programs and by celebrations such as earth day, which has been getting larger every year, as a celebration. But, celebrations did not seem to have lasting effects. Environmental deterioration has worsened in many places. Levels of consumption have increased; populations have increased.

This year's earth day celebration is over. What were we celebrating? That we are going to save the earth or maybe just still think about it? Perhaps we were celebrating our intention to go on a material diet or an opportunity to spend money on t-shirts and buttons. Perhaps earth day is a new springtime variation of a new year's resolution-a temporary awareness, a limited intent, and a reason to party before business as usual. Or, perhaps it is a modern penance that allows us to buy a place in heaven by promising to save the earth with small tokens.

The token changes and vows do help, but are they enough? Will a little conservation avoid a great human disaster? Are these easy remedies reminiscent of medical cures for diseases and problems, such as smoking, overeating and stress, that could be avoided by simple denial. The implication is that a few small things, such as using less water or recycling bottles, will save the earth-that ozone depletion, rainforest destruction, population growth, and the polarities of wealth will somehow be corrected automatically, as governments and industries continue as before, adjusting their labels by using greener colors.

We have been told that saving the earth starts in the home. No wonder corporations give their blessings to this event-most pollution and waste is industrial and agricultural! Which issues have higher priority? Deadly local ones, such as toxic waste dumps or topsoil loss, or deadly global ones, such as greenhouse gases or chemical runoff? Is an alarm justified, or is caution enough? Should we listen to the ecological Cassandras or to the economic Neros?

Are we too lazy to follow through with the effort that we already celebrated? Are we too cheap to deduct a required percentage from profits to pay the real environmental costs? Are we too crazy to stop our material and biological growth? Where is the will and the vision necessary really make radical changes? We have, in fact, taken the easy way at every branch. We have assumed that corporations will choose the proper path of production and regulate their pollution. Yet, we know that they put profit first and only prevent pollution when forced to do so by public action or government regulations.

We have wasted thirty years attacking the symptoms and not their technological or social origins. We must acknowledge the failure of our remedial efforts, and our failure even to address the flaws of our designs and ideologies.

I do not want to participate in the wrong games. I do not want to drive fewer miles in a high-powered gas guzzler-I want to travel by train; I want my radio shipped by train and not truck; I do not want my vegetables shipped at all, but grown locally. I do not want farmers to do slightly less aerial spraying of fertilizers and biocides, I want organic produce. I do not want to recycle aluminum and plastic, I want returnable glass containers. I do not want safer coal-burning centralized power plants, I want local solar power. I do not want to give more money to the homeless, I want my tax money to help them build and keep their own homes. If industries cannot help me with what I want, then I want my government to encourage them and channel them, tax them and regulate them. And, if my government cannot do that, I want to encourage a change in government and support better candidates.

Leaders, corporate, religious or political, rarely decide the direction of development. People living in communities decide that. Decisions bubble up through consciousness. People get tired of consuming and seek more meaningful ways of living in nature. And, out of frustration, they participate in selecting leaders or run for office themselves, or, in my case, write a grand outline about it. The history of the book has ranged from statistics to the psychology of place, from the ecology of place to the politics of place.

This work is a collection of thoughts, but as Aristotle said about emotion: Thought by itself moves nothing. Our living together, and our ancient social tendencies, give rise to a shared morality that directs our behavior. I would want nothing more from this book than it direct a discussion and perhaps suggest good behaviors.

We need to propose and execute national policies to steer technology. I want my representatives to ban CFCs, to ban burning, to tax nonrecyclables-and if they do not, then I will run for office myself. We do not have time to look at all the information that we have collected, or to convert it to knowledge. We never have had time. We cannot connect with all the information flows. So, we will have to act as if the information we have is enough for wise decisions.

The earth does not need to be saved or healed, as if we could do either. The ways of life that we remember and prefer, the places that depend on other species and natural processes-these can be saved. Our own divided minds, that let the poor be enslaved by the wealthy, that let 'good' animals be domesticated and 'bad' animals be eradicated, can be healed. The sacrifices will have to be great; the changes will have to be radical. But, the celebrations will be meaningful only then.

 

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