Today’s epic scale, inter-twined problems of climate change and inequality demand that we mobilize unprecedented reservoirs of human creativity and collaboration in the spirit of Einstein’s maxim that “We can’t solve vexing problems by using the same kind of thinking that we used to create them.”
That’s what we’ve been doing when we bail out the banks first and leave communities in wreckage, when we figure out how corporations can buy pollution credits from people who don’t even have the resources to pollute, and when we remove possibilities for feeding the hungry from the Farm Bill.
How can a nation be so short-sighted, you ask? In a letter to the editor in today’s L.A. Times, David Klein offers, “The problem is that changing the status quo would decrease the profits of of powerful corporations, and politicians continue to serve their interests above all others.” Klein, who is a professor of mathematics and climate science, continues, “but when the laws of capitalist economics come into conflict with the laws of physics, there can be no doubt as to which will prevail.”
Whether we intend to or not, we accompany each other in that conflict, because it is in the nature of our world that we are all connected. Every act of war, every land grab, every act of usury ultimately affects the aggressor as much as the victim. We are all victims here.
But not the planet. There is no doubt that our planet, which has survived massive change –– an ice age, earthquakes,tsunamis –– will adapt well to a world without us. It is we humans who are in peril.
To avoid that prospect, we need to infuse our misguided human ingenuity with higher levels of understanding, empathy, and divergent thinking than ever before. We need to heighten our tolerance for complexity, our capacity for “eco-systems thinking” (seeing the world as a complex web of interconnected, interdependent parts) and develop a deeper practice of collaborative experimentation. We need to get better at learning, authentically and together, from our failures and successes. Yes, we need to “think different.”
It is in that spirit that I introduce you to the Climate Justice Alliance, which is comprised of around 35 environmental justice, eco-systems thinking, local, national, and international organizations. United by shared experience and vision, the alliance has just launched the inventive and intensive OUR POWER campaign which focuses on creating comprehensive JUST TRANSITION pilots in three “hot spot” communities: Black Mesa, Arizona, Detroit, Michigan, and Richmond, California –– each community throwing down a demonstration of how locally appropriate, equitable economies can be produced with renewable energy.
The following three short videos will give you a sense of the context, motivation, and challenges that have shaped these locally based, globally meaningful experiments. The links above connect you to the forward-thinking aspirations of the shared effort.
The Price of Power to A Nation
Rachel Maddow on Losing Democracy in Detroit
Living and Breathing in the Shadow of Chevron
I teach EcoSystems Thinking in Antioch’s Urban Sustainability Program, but the real teachers of what is to be done are these folks who are advancing the just transition work against some very tough odds.
And that is why Waleah Johns from the Black Mesa Water Coalition was our commencement speaker last year; why my visit to the Allied Media Conference in Detroit last month was supported by my program; and why this month’s “residency” is being designed in partnership with Communities for a Better Environment, a co-leader of the Richmond Just Transition pilot.
I’m hopeful and excited by any contribution I can make to this thoughtful and important work, and in the meantime, I am learning a lot from the people who are doing it.