Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Greatest Challenge Facing Humanity – Climate or…?

So, Inverted Alchemists – what was it about 1215 that could have had such an abiding impact on the modern economic condition of humanity? What could have launched, in the same year, the Fourth Lateran Council under Pope Innocent III, the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest, and the commissioning of the Chinese expeditionary fleet to explore the edges of the world? I wouldn’t be my father’s son if I didn’t point out that, on tax day, April 15th, 1215 there was a major solar eclipse that would have clearly carried with it ancestral significance. And, what I’m going to discuss may, in some giant macro system way be linked to the eclipse, but was… drum roll please … the eruption of the Eternal Forever White Mountain on the current border between China and North Korea.

For all those “Inconvenient Truth” aficionados, the hyperbole around “greatest challenge ever is carbon emissions” is, well, just that, hyperbole. The eruption of 1215 altered everything about the known universe and actually put into motion one of the most consequential alterations in geopolitical, religious, and economic shifts in recorded history. The first eruption sent ash into a global circumnavigation which immediately changed the climate of Europe for hundreds of years. The ash altered crop production, altered economic activity and destabilized entrenched incumbent assumptions in such a profound way that the effect is seen today.

In the wake of a year of profoundly and adversely altered crops throughout the entire northern hemisphere, the Church responded with an elaborate dogma justifying debt-based monetary systems and providing tacit assent to the necessity of usury. Further, it went on to establish the sacrosanct nature of taxation as the primary utility of the state to support central banking activities. The nobles of the Isles saw their opportunity to extract from the King a series of concessions in which they negotiated delegated sovereign authority (the Magna Carta) for the maintenance of balanced social order. At the same time they demanded the perpetual creation of, and stewardship for the Commons for the benefit of the Commoner (the Charter of the Forest) – specifically arguing that the Commons must be maintained for the sustenance of the people and their enterprises. And the Chinese recognized that their obsession with the Western frontier exposed them to resource shortages evidenced by the breakdown of access to their own coast leading them to launch the ships that navigated the world for the first time in the modern era – over 200 years before Europeans “discovered” their ignorance.

What I find amusing is the degree to which the progeny of these civilizations (and I use that term advisedly given the fact that the Fourth Lateran Council was the beginning of the genocide called the Inquisition) are exhibiting indistinguishable responses to the current climate conversation modeled after their forbearers. The Western scientific and industrial complex (our new purveyors of dogma and creed) are pronouncing apocalypse which can only be averted through mass conversions, crusades, and tribunals of truth (called by the Republicans, Democrats and Tea Partyists “debates”). If we are going to “save civilization” from the infidel (aka. emitters of carbon), we must realize that failure to act will certainly destroy our fine civilization. Federated states – the post Doha aspirational Lords – are feverishly using the moment in an attempt to extract concessions from the Bretton Woods, World Bank, IMF, UN sovereigns and, not surprisingly evoking the value of Commons. And, the Chinese are executing the most aggressive extractive resource expeditionary fleet of modern times with whole countries being the resource reserves for behemoth consumption on the horizon.

Do any of you see the irony in the fact that the SAME actors are behaving in the SAME fashion to, you guessed it, the yet again apocalypse called Climate Change? Is it possible that the reason for this redundancy of doomsdayers and opportunists is that we have failed to understand humanity’s role in an appropriate scale?

For the record, I think pollution sucks. Further, I think that Americans and Europeans who celebrated their investments supporting companies who, in an interest to jack up profits for the benefit of their shareholders, moved operations to countries where the cost of production wasn’t impaired by environmental regulations and now wring their hands about Chinese, Mexican, Korean, or Indian pollution suck even worse. Those who shop at Wal-Mart, the most ubiquitous icon of polluting consumption on Earth so they can save $0.15 on “Made In China” plastic tableware for their “Save-the-environment” party…, well, “suck” doesn’t come close to the right word for that and I keep my blog family friendly so…..

But, here’s the cold hard facts. The climate and its change are NOT our biggest challenge. They’re not even close. Our biggest challenge is to get out of our polycarbonate consumer economy addiction and realize that, as long as we don’t concern ourselves with the “all-in-consequence” of all we use and consume, we are doomed to another 800 years of ash. The ice-age of indifference that has created the hothouse of acrimony, if unaddressed, will continue to repeat its tiresome cycle and billions will be the worse for it. The Church in 1215 abandoned the Divine and took things into their own mercenary hands. The agents of federated power in 1215 negotiated sovereignty to a monarch rather than calling for accountable stewardship of the Commons. And those who saw themselves in 1215 as the “greatest kingdom on Earth” set sail for the purpose of extracting resources and tribute from every corner of the globe.

So here’s a thought. How about overturning one of these paradigms? How about moving from the fear of mortality and the apocalypse to call for unified, ecumenical action indifferent to race, color, creed, religion or any other nonsense that separates and divides? How about embracing the Commons as the preferred form of resource and enterprise engagement where reward goes to the most beneficial use – not the cheapest exploitation to land shelf space at a big box store? How about the magnificence of a country from which came most of the world’s greatest innovation, reclaiming its creative destiny rather than accelerating the demise of the unsustainable consumer morass? Or, are we simply too complacent to consider another path?


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Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave