The world in 2070 will not be a utopia. We’ve already locked in enough climate change to melt the Arctic, no matter what we choose from here. But we will have a world that works for everyone in a way that it just doesn’t right now – that, in the words of Joanna Macy, is “the work that reconnects”. That is our shared goal now.
A world not focused on growth, but on life.
A world not focused on ownership, but on solidarity.
A world not focused on competition, but on connection.
Those might sound like wishy-washy socialist utopian dreams, but they must be true for our civilisation to survive. So, I believe that they will become true, and it will happen in the next 50 years.
One person’s utopia is another person’s (or planet’s) survival. The key point about these ideals, though, is that they are revolutionary, requiring the wholesale reinvention of human politics, economics, and culture.
That is the scale of change needed, and it is clarifying, Nothing we do over the next 50 years, nothing we do after the coronavirus fades, should be similar to what we did before. We don’t need to reclaim the old. We need to wholeheartedly, and as a species, embrace the new.
Call it Globalism 2.0, and if climate change hadn’t already made clear that humanity needs to start acting more like a family than a chaotic (and violent) gaggle of competing clans, then the prospect of future pandemics certainly does:
But that doesn’t have to be. Pandemics are preventable, and the world can do three things to prevent them.
A pandemic, because it affects individuals much more directly than climate change, may be just the sort of wake-up humanity needs to start transcending nationalism and competitive capitalism and start finding our way towards an era of global cooperation and common purpose. Emphasis on “may be”…
Sometimes it is hard to believe how cruel, and lacking in humanity, people can be (though sometimes I worry that it is all too easy to believe). The shark-dragging case is one of those times:
While fishing in state waters near Egmont Key in Hillsborough County, Benac shot a blacknose shark with a speargun at about 3 p.m. Heintz took a photo of Benac holding the speargun and Wenzel holding a gaffed blacknose shark with a spear through it.
Twenty minutes later, Wenzel shot a video as Benac, Easterling and Heintz danced on the bow of the boat. Benac was holding the speargun.
Less than two hours later, Benac caught a six-foot blacktip shark on a hook and line in state waters near Egmont Key, the reports said.
At 5:08 p.m., Heintz recorded Benac retrieving the shark. In the 10-second video, as the shark is pulled near the right side of the boat by Benac, Wenzel shoots the shark one time with a .38 revolver in the left side of the head, near the gills, the report said.
“All occupants can be heard celebrating by laughing,” according to the report.
At 5:10 p.m., Heintz recorded Benac continuing to fight with the shark. The eight-second video shows Wenzel shoot at the shark three times with the same revolver as it is pulled close to the left side of the boat, the report said.
After the shooting, all occupants cheered and erupted into laughter, the report said.
The report said it was unknown whether any of the bullets hit the shark. However, after being shot at, the shark tried again to flee.
At 5:14 p.m., the shark was landed and Wenzel recorded it lying on its back and tail roped. During the video, the occupants are heard laughing while Easterling holds the rope.
The next 10-second video shows Wenzel driving the boat while Benac records the shark as it’s dragged at high speed. The shark can be seen bouncing and skipping across the surface of the water.
As the camera pans to the port side, Heintz is seen recording the same incident. In both videos, all of the men are seen and heard laughing while the shark is dragged.
These guys are beyond redemption (and beyond stupid for posting their cruelty on social media). But what gives me hope is the strong reaction to their cruelty. Maybe this incident, like the starving polar bear I posted earlier, can help people break through their disconnectedness to the natural world, and inspire them to do more to protect the interests of nonhuman animals and the environments they live in.
Watching this video will make you very sad (backstory here). It should. It is heartbreaking.
But the real question is: what are we collectively willing to do about it, if anything? Is it enough to inspire changes in the choices we make and the way we live. Because how humanity lives (what it values and what it doesn’t) is what is starving this polar bear.
Here is just a partial list of all the things we can do that relate to this polar bear and his fate: have fewer children, eat less or no meat, drive less (and walk, bike, or use public transportation more), stop flying so much, reduce electricity consumption, shower a few times a week instead of every day, stop buying so much stuff, and stop wasting so much food. Vote for politicians who believe climate change is happening and are willing to ask for sacrifices to deal with it. Support leaders who are fighting global inequality. Support the global education of women, and family planning. Put the lives and needs of ALL species, and stewardship and conservation of the natural world, above your personal convenience. In short, simplify your life and radically reduce its environmental footprint. What else?
Yes, it involves doing less of a lot of things marketers and our culture want us to do a lot of. Doing fewer things that we associate with comfort and convenience. To live in a way that is radically different from the way we have been raised and acculturated to live. But it really isn’t that hard. And it feels good, because it feels right, to DO something.
So let’s work our way through the list, and then we can honestly lament the condition of this polar bear. Because our tears won’t do him any good. Only actions.
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
From “The Outermost House,” a brilliant book that is a must-read in my universe.
Tis the season. So this is a good time to revisit this story:
It started with Christmas.
And what happened was what always happens: I did no shopping.
I have on one or two occasions experienced the slightly awkward moment on Christmas morning when the gifts are finally all opened and it becomes apparent that none of them are from me. This general awareness is something I try to avoid, and sometimes, if I have the sense that the need for some kind of public admission is approaching, I have to think quickly. That’s what happened with the vegan thing. It just came to me — in the nick of time. The oranges were barely out of the stockings when I blurted out my entirely spontaneous idea. I told my 30-year-old daughter, who is a committed vegan, that her gift was six months of my being vegan. I said I’d give it a try.
I’ve been a big advocate of using your personal choices to reduce your climate and environmental footprint–because you can and it DOES make a difference. So I am happy to see this sort of research:
Maya Almaraz, a postdoctoral researcher who works with Houlton at UC Davis, said she wishes she had a magic wand that could make everyone understand just how powerful their food choices can be.
“A lot of people feel really helpless when it comes to climate change, like they can’t make a difference,” said Almaraz. “What our research is showing is that your personal decisions really can have a big impact.”
Different foods have vastly different carbon footprints. Swap your steak for fish, for example, and you get an eight-fold reduction in emissions. And if you’re game to switch that to beans or lentils your emissions drop to near zero. It really gets interesting when lots of us start making similar changes.
Go forth, and eat wisely, and maybe others around you will be inspired to do the same…
“Woke” is a concise and excellent concept that comes from social and cultural activism. Woke means aware, and motivated to fight…injustice, racism, chauvinism.
Without diminishing the central role of the “woke” concept in social activism (I would argue, in any case, that promoting veganism has important social justice and environmental elements), I now find myself mentally applying the concept to veganism whenever I try a new restaurant. I scan the menu looking for things that I can eat, and even more important things that I can and WANT to eat. If I see plenty of tasty vegan options I know think of a restaurant as “woke vegan.” If I see an endless parade of meat and seafood, and find myself ordering a salad (and asking to hold the cheese; there is always cheese on salads. Why?) then that restaurant ain’t woke.
In DC there are not that many woke vegan restaurants. Yesterday my family went to a local place called Millie’s Spring Valley. I ended up ordering a tomato sandwich, hold the mayo, hold the cheese. Even the salads were almost all meat and seafood adorned. Got a cup of coffee, and asked if they had any non-dairy milks? Nope. Definitely a restaurant that is still slumbering.
In contrast, in Ireland this past summer, there were vegan options everywhere (and the best one came from a mobile lunch cart). Many restaurants say they will cater to vegans, or have vegan food. Sometimes that means they will make you a salad (I’m not sure I would label that “catering”). But sometimes they really mean it. We went to a restaurant in nearby Rosscarberry called Pilgrim’s. They had a diverse and local menu that upon appearance is not very vegan. When I asked them if they had vegan options (thinking I was about to hear: “Sure, we can make you a salad”), the waitress said absolutely, and then spent five minutes explaining how, for vegans, they combine different elements of their menu dishes into real dishes that a vegan could love. And I did. That is seriously woke vegan.
You can also have “woke vegetarian” of course, though I like to set the bar high. Anyhow, I explained the concept to my family as we ate yesterday. It got a good eye roll from my social justice warrior daughter, but no real pushback. It’s an irresistible concept, and works perfectly in the food context too.
So here’s to all the woke restaurants out there now, and planning to be out there in the future.
If it does, will we finally care about biodiversity and conservation? We should:
Three-quarters of the world’s food today comes from just 12 crops and five animal species and this leaves supplies very vulnerable to disease and pests that can sweep through large areas of monocultures, as happened in the Irish potato famine when a million people starved to death. Reliance on only a few strains also means the world’s fast changing climate will cut yields just as the demand from a growing global population is rising.
There are tens of thousands of wild or rarely cultivated species that could provide a richly varied range of nutritious foods, resistant to disease and tolerant of the changing environment. But the destruction of wild areas, pollution and overhunting has started a mass extinction of species on Earth. The focus to date has been on wild animals – half of which have been lost in the last 40 years – but the new report reveals that the same pressures are endangering humanity’s food supply, with at least 1,000 cultivated species already endangered.
Moving from marine- to land-based or closed-containment aquaculture is a decidedly uphill battle. Terrestrial systems can cost several times as much as sea pens. Even though net-pen farms are restricted to suitable coastal sites, the ocean provides space and water, and free access to water circulation. On land, a similar arrangement may work on a small scale, but be prohibitively expensive on a commercial scale.
Land operations have hidden costs, too, says Tony Farrell, an animal physiologist at the University of British Columbia. Existing terrestrial operations take a lot of energy and produce a lot of greenhouse gases, he says. “They will get better,” he says, but the development of new technologies should proceed in a “positive, but cautious, way.”
I once looked into the many impacts of fish consumption, and how to reduce the impact of eating fish if you give a damn. And while there are definitely better and worse ways to consume fish (the best I concluded is to stick to farmed mussels), I came away thinking it just seems easier to me to simply not eat fish. The impact of that choice is both positive and beneficial to the oceans in countless ways.
Is it really that hard to not eat salmon and tuna? I feel completely out of touch with consumers who feel that their desire to please their palates (yes, salmon is healthy, but there are other ways to eat healthy) outweighs all the profound impacts of fishing and aquaculture on the planet. Yes, that is a judgement. But the cold balance of logic just seems so clear to me.