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And then There Was One

10:03 pm in Uncategorized by greenmassgroup

As the dust settled on the first televised debate for this year’s gubernatorial contest in Massachusetts, one clear truth emerged. There was one candidate, and only one, who could legitimately be called "the people’s candidate."

While Scott Brown positioned himself as the people’s candidate in his January special election victory, a late surge of campaign cash and get-out-the-vote efforts from Wall Street executives and lobbyists and other special interests surely put his campaign over the top. Capitalizing on the Democratic Party machine’s condescending sense of entitlement to the late Senator Kennedy’s seat, Brown asserted that it was "the people’s seat", and rode his truck right into the leadership vacuum that the Democratic Party has helped to create. But Brown’s slick posturing does not make for genuine leadership. And as economic and ecological meltdown continues, that leadership vacuum continues to grow.

Enter Jill Stein. Mother, medical doctor, public health advocate, climate activist, and community leader. As the Green-Rainbow candidate for governor, Stein is running the kind of campaign that is easily marginalized and sidetracked. In this two-party political system, voters and pundits alike don’t know what to make of third-party political upstarts like the Libertarian Party and the Green Party (the Green-Rainbow Party is the Massachusetts affiliate of the Green Party of the U.S.). Even in Massachusetts, where 50% of registered voters are registered unenrolled, i.e. independent, there is a tendency to write off third-party candidates as a wasted or spoiled vote.

Since Stein and the Green-Rainbow Party openly challenge the influence of money in politics, and refuse to take money from vested business interests, their campaigns are funded exclusively by regular people ponying up whatever they can afford. This is an incredible political disadvantage, on top of the fact that the Green-Rainbow Party’s voter registration has fallen to under 6,000 from its peak of 11,000 or so, and the general anti-third-party inertia of the populace. But this is also a profound political opportunity for Stein, for the Green-Rainbow Party, and most importantly, for the people of the Commonwealth. Having successfully made the November ballot through sheer volunteer support, and having clawed her way into the gubernatorial debates and media recognition, Jill Stein’s grassroots campaign has positioned itself for a major political breakthrough.

And here’s why. Stein is a genuine leader, and a true people’s champion. At a time when our society needs bold, visionary leadership, Jill’s presence in the debates is a game-changer. And because she’s the only candidate refusing tainted money from special interests, she’s the only candidate accountable to the people of Massachusetts alone. She is the people’s candidate, pure and simple. And there is only one.

Stein’s voice in these debates that are critical for our future is the voice of We The People. And with our political and economic systems coming unhinged, and the frenzy of special interest money that poisons the political process just heating up, it is time for the citizens united to take back Beacon Hill so that it works for the people. If we organize our voices, our dollars, and our votes over the next 2 months, we can put the people’s candidate into the people’s corner office.

Let’s get to work!

Private Empire, Shadow Warfare. America Slipping Towards Fascism?

10:55 am in Uncategorized by greenmassgroup

"Who should be running the shadow war?" asks a recent New York Times article which simultaneously exposes and lends support to the recent shift towards secret, unaccountable, and unconstitutional military aggression by the United States government.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.

Obama administration officials point to the benefits of bringing the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants into the shadows. Afghanistan and Iraq, they said, have sobered American politicians and voters about the staggering costs of big wars that topple governments, require years of occupation and can be a catalyst for further radicalization throughout the Muslim world.

Progressives who continue to defend and cheerlead for President Obama because they’re afraid that the right wing will destroy his presidency need to ask themselves at what point they will drop their loyalty to Obama and/or the Democratic Party, and take a stand against the imperial madness that Obama is accelerating.

While the Times article provides tacit approval of such a shadow war — asking questions only of its effectiveness rather than its moral or constitutional validity — the people of the U.S. need to go much further and ask where this strategy is leading. As the White House, Pentagon, and CIA expand their shadow aggression to new lands, and beef up programs for covert destruction, it is time for the good people of the U.S. to derail this agenda, regardless of the impact on President Obama’s legacy. At the very least, U.S. citizens need to force Obama to take a clear stand, and stop giving him the benefit of the doubt that he is an ethical, empathetic leader of good will. Nearly every single move of his presidency has shown the opposite. Robert Gibbs was wrong that those who compare Obama to Bush ought to be drug-tested. Obama is far more dangerous because progressive-minded citizens who took to the streets against Bush’s wars are mindlessly and reflexively supporting many of the same devastating policies.

If you are an Obama supporter, it is time to make sure that you are NOT building a religion. Are Obama supporters opiated? Who needs to be drug-tested?

4-Way Race for Governor of Massachusetts, and One Clear Choice for Democracy

6:52 pm in Uncategorized by greenmassgroup

It’s Democracy Day today, and Massachusetts voters have a clear choice before them. They can support the one candidate who refuses to take corporate money to fuel her campaign, or the 3 candidates who swim through lobbyist-fueled campaign coffers like Scrooge McDuck. They can support the one candidate who unequivocally stands up for justice and sustainability, or the 3 candidates who treat ill-fated and harmful get-rich-quick schemes as though they were sensible, thoughtful, and helpful policy. They can support the one candidate who is standing up for real democracy — clean elections, open meeting and public records laws that apply to the legislature, and meaningful transparency and oversight of government spending — or the 3 candidates who laugh at real democracy as though it were a joke.

With the Green-Rainbow Party putting 3 candidates for statewide office on the ballot November 2nd — Jill Stein for Governor, Rick Purcell for Lt. Governor, and Nat Fortune for Auditor — Massachusetts voters have some real choices. These candidates will unwaveringly support, and fight for, government of, by, and for the people. They have great ideas to strengthen the Commonwealth and a compelling vision of our common future. While Bill McKibben laments the shameful collapse of the mainstream environmental movement’s ability to push climate legislation, the Green-Rainbow Party’s leadership never held out hope that our government — nearly entirely beholden to corporate interests — would have the answers.

Which brings me to Democracy Day. Real democracy means participatory democracy. While upstart candidate Deval Patrick managed an impressive grassroots campaign in 2006, it would have been nice to see him carry that kind of participation into the halls of power. Oh well. The same can be said for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Disappointed? You were had. Plain and simple. You projected your dreams and your hopes onto the blank slates that they put out there for you — never publicly committing to any sort of progressive vision for the Commonwealth or the country. They inspired people for sure… to VOTE for them, to DONATE to them, and to tell their friends to do the same.

Well, Democracy Day is just like that, only it’s about We The People insisting upon much higher standards for the candidates we support.

Here’s one MA citizen showing why he’s supporting Jill Stein on Democracy Day:

And here’s another:

If we don’t demand this from the people we give money to and ultimately vote for, then we’re undercutting our own vision for the Commonwealth and our common well-being.

But if we work our butts off, we can build a citizen-led clean elections infrastructure, pooling together small contributions from thousands of people who refuse to support candidates who will take lobbyist money.

Some of you will point out the spoiler argument in this election, but real democracy doesn’t happen on election day — it happens between elections, every day. What are you building? What are you working for? Where are you throwing your money?

The Green-Rainbow Party candidates are building THE independent political alternative for Massachusetts, and supporting them now and on November 2nd is a step towards real democracy, regardless of who becomes the next governor of Massachusetts. They got the 10,000 certified signatures they need, and MA voters will have that choice.

Now, if 10,000 people gave just $10 to Jill Stein by mid-September, it would help her secure $125,000 in state matching funds. And while she received over 75,000 votes when she ran in 2002, if 75,000 people from across the Commonwealth and beyond gave her $10 by mid-October, we’d be talking about $750,000 in clean-money donations, another $750,000 in state matching funds, and a $1.5 million campaign for Jill, which could propel We, The People into the corner office.

What do you say?

Stein campaign in MA is a clarion call for clean elections

9:38 pm in Uncategorized by greenmassgroup

FDL’s current fundraising success is a breakthrough for politically-engaged, independent media. I’m particularly excited at the possibilities of FDL engaging with and supporting third-party campaigns, and especially Green Party campaigns, that can start to challenge the two-party corporate duopoly and build meaningful progressive alternatives.

In Massachusetts, we have an opportunity for a breakthrough clean-money campaign… so I’ve been working with some friends on a grassroots fundraising mechanism to turn the tide against big-money politics.

Nobody symbolizes the interests of organized money to corrupt the political process in Massachusetts, to generally subvert the will of the people, and in one notorious instance, to squash the Clean Elections Law, more clearly than disgraced former House Speaker Tom Finneran.

And nobody symbolizes the struggle for clean, corruption-free elections in Massachusetts more clearly than Jill Stein, the Green-Rainbow Party candidate for governor in 2002 and now in 2010.

And Finneran is all but daring voters to tip the balance towards democracy.

Finneran’s king-like rule over the Massachusetts Legislature was legendary, setting the stage for years of supplicant legislators fearful that crossing him and subsequent House Speakers might land them punishment in the form of basement offices, bad committee assignments, or marginalized hopes for influencing legislation. Those who did the Speaker’s dirty work were rewarded with lucrative committee chairmanships, legislative boondoggles for their home districts, and other tempting rewards. Finneran’s role in peddling influence in the State House should have landed him in jail but much of the corruption he was engaged in was perfectly legal. Yet it took the intervention of federal prosecutors in 2005 on a federal voting rights case to eventually land Finneran in disgrace as he plead guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, sparing him jail time.

But it was Finneran’s posturing against the voter-mandated Clean Elections Law that placed him right at the heart of the battle between special interests and the public interest. Voters who approved the measure by a 2-to-1 vote were stonewalled for years as Finneran, who called the law "welfare for politicians", did everything in his power to stop the legislature from doing what it was legally required to do and appropriate money to fund Clean Elections candidates who met certain criteria to be eligible for Clean Elections funds. Finneran’s activism made him a target, and while the Supreme Judicial Court was willing to seize cars owned by the state’s lottery commission to raise funds for the law, they stopped short of honoring the plaintiff’s request that the SJC seize Finneran’s office furniture.

Make no mistake. This is not the story of one man sabotaging an otherwise functional democracy. This same State Legislature has had 3 house speakers in a row disgraced with federal indictments. This is the same legislature that has written itself out of the Open Meeting and Public Records laws, and typically enjoys 75% uncontested elections and 98% incumbent reelection rates. Massachusetts politics is rotten to its core, and whitewashing attempts like last year’s ethics reforms don’t even begin to address deep-rooted problems. The rhetoric of ethics, transparency, and responsibility ebbs and flows, but the corruption and influence-peddling continue apace.

But we don’t have to take this sitting down.

While Deval Patrick pays lip service to a green agenda — a people’s agenda — he continues to represent the interests of the well-connected few and heed their disproportionate guidance over the political process. Republican Charlie Baker and Independent Tim Cahill have shown even less interest in taking money out of politics. But there is one candidate who has refused to take money from corporate lobbyists or the executives who hire them, and she continues to point out the ways in which our government is being bought and paid for by big money interests.

Dr. Jill Stein, who was on the board of the Massachusetts Voters for Clean Elections, and came close to qualifying as a Clean Elections candidate in 2002, is running an inspired campaign to take back Beacon Hill in 2010. Her growing team is fueled by small grassroots donations, by volunteers, by Green-Rainbow Party activists, by independents and disaffected Democrats and Republicans alike. Alongside her campaign, her supporters have been assembling a grassroots fundraising mechanism to demonstrate what a clean elections campaign might look like.

So it was quite a shameful and fearful display by Finneran on June 16t when his WRKO-AM radio show "Tom & Todd" hosted the first broadcast debate in the governor’s race, and he refused to invite Dr. Stein to participate. What was Finneran afraid of? He was likely afraid that Stein would burst his status quo bubble, and was doing his part to keep her out of the story line.

With $750,000 available for public matching funds in Massachusetts this cycle, there’s a good chance that this election can become the tipping point for a permanent shift towards independent, clean-money politics. And that’s something that Tom Finneran spent most of his career trying to undermine. So it’s no surprise that his corporate-sponsored debate excluded one of his fiercest, most fearless, and most articulate opponents.

Now the ball is in our court. It’s up to us to build a clean money tidal wave that the corporate media can’t ignore, and that will get Jill’s message out through other more thoughtful channels.

Today is Democracy Day for Massachusetts, and I invite you to join us by making a $10 contribution to Jill Stein’s insurgent campaign for the corner office. Help us take back Beacon Hill so that it works for the people of the Commonwealth.

Open the Floodgates to Inspired, Participatory Democracy

4:27 pm in Uncategorized by greenmassgroup

[Cross-posted at Green Mass Group]

An Open Letter to the FireDogLake Community:

Dear friends at FDL,

I come to you with open arms, an open mind, and an open heart. I read your analysis and commentary and reporting and informed discussions, and I am grateful for all of it. It is heads and tails more open-minded and thoughtful than other similar progressive blogs, even those on your blogroll. FDL gives me hope. But then I take a look at your blog family, and your affiliation with the Blue America / Act Blue fundraising PAC, and my heart sinks. Ultimately I yearn to know the answer… how open-minded *is* the FDL community?

I write this as a Green activist, an active member of the Green-Rainbow Party — the Massachusetts affiliate of the Green Party of the U.S. I like to think that my allegiance to the Green Party is not rigid, or dogmatic, or permanent, or tunnel-based – the types of things that made Ralph Nader promise his father on his deathbed (as the story goes) that he wouldn’t ever join a political party. I myself am brimming with criticism of the Green Party. But it’s constructive criticism, because I think we desperately need to make the Green Party viable in the United States and around the world. Any global ecology-based movement will do, so long as it does not shy away from the difficult, frightening, and often-nauseating terrain of modern-day politics.

I was more-or-less indoctrinated into the Democratic Party by my family. My dad switching his registration to Green after John Kerry ignored the Ohio election fraud was a breathtaking event in my life. My mom switched too. Their unyielding support for the state of Israel, no matter how criminal or destructive, made me think this was a sheer impossibility. My dad’s early support of the Iraq War sparked some bitter debates where voices were guaranteed to rise. Now he’s tweeting away about indigenous peoples’ rights and injustice across planet.

My sense of FDL, from the few months that I have paid it any attention, is that its members are genuinely concerned about the issues and, like me, have political allegiances that are grounded more in reality and insight than in irrational identity. If this is accurate, FDL will be open to the most pragmatic paths to a vibrant democracy, and progressive, forward-looking policy. And if this is right, I know I need to make my arguments in that reality-based, non-emotional space, where each of our minds can grip the potential and possibilities around an idea and start to rally creativity and energy in that direction. I think our movements are atomized and diffused. Our vectors are pointing in too many different directions, and while there are more of us progressive, thoughtful people out there than the loud, hateful, and reactionary crowd, our collective voice is largely muted. We are canceling each other out with bad strategy, little funding, poor communication, and the countless traps of mainstream, conventional politics.

The reality is that we live in a two-party system, and the success of an upstart third party is all but impossible. The reality is that the Green Party is a mess — a complete, disorganized, incoherent mess. The reality is that the Green Party has provided infinite reasons to turn people off, from our processes and rules to our self-righteousness and our quest for immaculate position statements that will gain no political traction whatsoever. The reality is that would-be Greens would have to commit to supporting a perennial loser, and would-be candidates would have to give up truly beneficial party machinery, name recognition, and a stamp of political feasibility. The reality is that the American people are not likely to elbow each other out to be the first on the block to proudly declare their support of the Green Party’s Ten Key Values. If I ignore these realities, then I should give up the game of trying to convince anyone here of anything.

But there are plenty of other realities that outweigh these crippling shackles. The economic reality is that the growth economy is sputtering, and it is hurting people across the political spectrum and even across the class spectrum. The social reality is that the mythologies that keep our society humming are starting to be exposed as myth, and compelling narratives that securely replace them are few and far between. We see our families struggling, we see our neighbors struggling, we don’t really understand what’s going on, and we don’t have confidence that things will get any better. The ecological reality is that the very survival of our species is now under threat, that the whole web of life that we are inextricably dependent upon is under severe strain and existential threat. The political reality is that voters and non-voters alike are ready for a transformative break from our old, unraveling systems. That someone as supposedly as transformative as Barack Obama could spend precious political capital, as well as tax-payer dollars, on giving such an outdated and destructive energy source as coal a new sheen speaks volumes about just how pathetic the politics of the past have become.

We need new ideas. New forms of governance. New forums for collective decision-making. We need a politics of the people, because the people are proving themselves more open-minded and collaborative than the elites in power. 44% of Congress are millionaires — how could they possibly, ever, ever, ever, relate to the people of this nation? How could we ever expect them to consider the devastation they are bringing to the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen or wherever their next decision will impact? How could we ever expect their climate legislation to protect the people of the Maldives — people our over-consumption is directly threatening with drowning? To the extent we support these aloof lemmings in Congress, we are complicit in these and countless other daily tragedies.

Thankfully the time is ripe for a new kind of politics to emerge — a politics that isn’t so quick to label tea party supporters as Nazis. A politics where revenue growth isn’t the only solution to deficit spending, and neither is cutting badly-needed programs. A politics where the people have a voice in decision-making, and corporations don’t have exclusive access to self-interested politicians. A politics that is overflowing with common-sense solutions and possibilities, where jumpstarting the green economy can solve the climate crisis and the jobs crisis and the energy crisis and the healthcare crisis in one fell swoop. A politics of the whole — of the interconnected parts and the connections themselves.

The crises that are converging upon us are shifting the political terrain beneath our feet. There is something of a slow, global uprising afoot. If we remain blind to those realities, we will be left in the dust like empires of old. If we embrace them and further catalyze them, we will find ourselves in the midst of the greatest revolutionary struggle of all time. Like the movie Independence Day, when the nations of the world cooperated against extraterrestrial enemies, the people of the world are starting to unite themselves in an emergent people’s globalization. We have seen a common enemy, and it is our way of life, our dirty rotten politics of short-sighted self-interest, and the greedy economics of maximal extraction of resources and wealth accumulation.

It is in this spirit that I ask FireDogLake to embrace the possibility that the direction forward lies not with the Democratic Party, but with a much more open-ended, non-partisan approach. I ask FireDogLake to ditch its affiliation and use of Blue America or Act Blue, and to take the necessary steps to create an independent PAC that will support candidates based on commitments to a more thoughtful and inclusive agenda. I further ask that the FDL community engage in a purposeful dialogue about Which Way Green, Which Way Progressive, Which Way Forward. With such a sizable, impassioned, engaged and informed readership, I think that taking a new look at mobilizing around the Green Party might open the floodgates to an inspired, participatory democracy in this country and beyond.

Yours in Hope,
Eli Beckerman

40 Years of Earth Day. Where Are We Now?

1:37 pm in Uncategorized by greenmassgroup

[Cross-posted at Secure Green Future]

After 40 years of organized rallies and events raising awareness and promoting environmental advocacy, I think it is fair to ask the question "to what end?" Where are we now compared to the first passionate rallies shook the nation? As Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham prepare to unveil a polluter-friendly, tri-partisan direction for US energy legislation, and the United States jockeys to control international climate negotiations, where exactly are we headed?

In this great interview of ecologist David Orr, he speaks about some of the lost thunder from those inspired days:

The one thing that was missing in that dialogue in the Seventies and Eighties was that nobody was really talking about strategy. How do we convey this as a message? We made the assumption, at least I sure did, that all people needed were the facts, data and logic. That meant more articles, more books, and then pretty soon they’ll see what’s at stake. I think we missed the whole issue of how you motivate people and how you actually move the dialogue. I don’t know that even if we had tried to do that, I don’t know that we could have done. I know that I went to meetings in the Seventies and Eighties, talking about the politics of these things and I don’t think people got how important the political dimension was, even at the local scale, the national or global scale, I don’t think people were understanding it.

I think the past 40 years have proven the inability of the environmental movement to gain traction on protecting planet Earth and her inhabitants. And I think that in order to make a serious dent in staving off the worst of the environmental crises that we now confront, we need to start a new conversation. Let us not make the same strategic failures of the past 4 decades. Let’s learn from our mistakes and figure out what it takes to build an effective movement to reverse course before it’s too late.

As Bolivian President Evo Morales kicked off the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth with a choice between capitalism and the planet, it should be clear that we need to be exploring these issues in greater depth. "We have two paths – either capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies. Either capitalism lives or Mother Earth lives. Of course, brothers and sisters, we are here for life, for humanity, and for the rights of Mother Earth."

Please join the conversation by entertaining some of the following questions. What is your sense of the successes and failures of environmental advocacy of the past 40 years? What’s been missing from the strategy and how do we best change course? How do we reframe the conversation and shift the debate so that it is grounded in reality and possibility? How do we organize ourselves in our communities and across the Commonwealth, the nation, and the globe, to have a voice in the debate about the survival of our species? How do we bridge the gaps that keep us divided? What are realistic goals for US climate legislation and the UN climate negotiations in Cancun this December? What are realistic goals 3-5 years out? 10 years out? How do we change the political realities so that they are up to the task of confronting the daunting ecological realities of our time?

Beyond progressivism: Toward a new politics and a new economics

9:09 pm in Uncategorized by greenmassgroup

This article was written in response to this post at GreenChange.org, and is cross-posted at Green Mass Group.

"We are neither left nor right; we are in front."
-a Green slogan

I learned more about the Green Party from two old books* and two old white dudes** in my local chapter than anywhere else. I joined the party in 2001 and voted for its presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, but it took me over ten years to even begin to get a sense of what it’s really all about.

There are some major things that distinguish the Greens from simply being more progressive than, or to the left of, the Democrats. I’d say the single-most important point is that the Green Party is an ecological political party, trying to establish an "ecological politics" in a country whose politics — left and right — has a fundamental disconnect with reality.

I hope to develop a better understanding of what ecological politics means in practice and theory both, but my simplistic version is that Greens view our economic, social, and political structures as complex systems of interrelated parts, all of which are ultimately woven into a greater fabric of natural systems — the environment our human-constructed systems are fully dependent upon, the solar system, and beyond.

This has dramatic implications for the 21st century. One thing that excites me is the extent to which the green movement is genuinely global in nature, because we have reached a point where we are now talking about the very survival of the human species. And globally, people of all stripes and all backgrounds are organizing like they’ve never organized before. There are indigenous movements, landless movements, farmer movements, peasant movements, worker movements, and other peoples’ movements that are standing up to the accelerating assault on their most basic rights. This ecological uprising is happening just in the nick of time… either that, or it’s happening too late, so I prefer the former.

But even in the United States, there are stunning implications of applying an ecological lens (and the 10 Key Values are not much more than a lens) to the systems we depend on for our livelihoods and lifestyles — individually and collectively. At the heart of most government policy is a guiding rule — that economic growth is the engine of our society. Whether we are talking about pharmaceuticals or prisons, healthcare or warfare, clean coal or next generation nuclear… if the economy is growing (and tax revenue along with it), then all is well.

But our economy, and the energy fueling it, cannot grow indefinitely. If you need to be convinced of this, then watch the incredible set of videos developed by Chris Martenson, called The Crash Course. Martenson points out that in order for our system to function, the economy has to grow each year by at least as much money as is needed to pay interest on existing debt. A growing economy of 3% each year is an exponentially expanding economy, and we are already hitting the physical limitations to such growth. As David Orr points out in this interview, we knew about these limits back in the 1970s, we knew about the grave threats to our survival, but we lacked a strategy for incorporating this knowledge into our social systems. Not only have we failed to adapt, but we have dreamed up new ways of accelerating our destruction and exploitation.

So all is not well, and we’ve lost about 40 years. Note well that this year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and I can’t think of a better marker of the complete and utter impotence of the environmental movement. We need an ecological movement that is steeped in social justice, recognizes that humans are part of nature and are bound by its physical limits, and appreciates the simple fact that our economic systems must be ecologically grounded. We need a new politics, a unifying politics that ends the tragic distractions of divide-and-conquer tactics. Our species has been divided against itself for too long. If we don’t learn to see each other as human beings, and to focus on the things that bind us together, we might be passing up the key to our survival. From the corporatists and the billionaires to the Tea Partiers and Progressive Democrats, from the Amazonian tribes who stand to be flooded out by the Brazilian government to the rising tide of Americans who face home foreclosures, our ultimate self-interests can only be met by working together.

Our current political system leaves no room for speaking truthfully about the converging crises that confront us. A fundamentally limited debate about climate change serves no one but the fossil fuel industry (and even then, it only serves their short-term narrowly-conceived self interest). Peak oil and its extensive threat to the entire US economy and infrastructure isn’t even entertained as an important issue. The Democrats and Republicans have absolutely no narrative for what’s currently unfolding, and are categorically committed to an unsustainable economic model that has started to unravel. The Democrats, as anyone would expect, have thrown their weight behind propping up their dying models.

If our political system cannot honestly discuss the enormous problems facing us, we will never address them. Yet while the Greens are brimming with common sense, cross-cutting solutions, many of which don’t cost any money and actually save lots of money, we have not found a way to organize effectively around our ideas. We know we need to change the system, but we don’t know how to do it. And this is much harder than simply running more progressive candidates or running to the left of the Democrats.

Donella Meadows, in her groundbreaking article Places to Intervene in a System, points us in the direction of system change:

People who manage to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm hit a leverage point that totally transforms systems.

You could say paradigms are harder to change than anything else about a system, and therefore this item should be lowest on the list, not the highest. But there’s nothing physical or expensive or even slow about paradigm change. In a single individual it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click in the mind, a new way of seeing. Of course individuals and societies do resist challenges to their paradigm harder than they resist any other kind of change.

So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that. In a nutshell, you keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you come yourself, loudly, with assurance, from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.

I tend to believe that we need a paradigm shift away from economic growth, and that we need a new economics that will replace our exploitative and destructive models. But I’ve learned this lesson from Meadows:

The highest leverage of all is to keep oneself unattached in the arena of paradigms, to realize that NO paradigm is "true," that even the one that sweetly shapes one’s comfortable worldview is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe.

It is to "get" at a gut level the paradigm that there are paradigms, and to see that that itself is a paradigm, and to regard that whole realization as devastatingly funny. It is to let go into Not Knowing.

People who cling to paradigms (just about all of us) take one look at the spacious possibility that everything we think is guaranteed to be nonsense and pedal rapidly in the opposite direction. Surely there is no power, no control, not even a reason for being, much less acting, in the experience that there is no certainty in any worldview. But everyone who has managed to entertain that idea, for a moment or for a lifetime, has found it a basis for radical empowerment. If no paradigm is right, you can choose one that will help achieve your purpose. If you have no idea where to get a purpose, you can listen to the universe (or put in the name of your favorite deity here) and do his, her, its will, which is a lot better informed than your will.

It is in the space of mastery over paradigms that people throw off addictions, live in constant joy, bring down empires, get locked up or burned at the stake or crucified or shot, and have impacts that last for millennia.

Let’s get to work!


* Green Politics: The Global Promise by Charlene Spretnak and Fritjof Capra, 1986 AND Seeing Green: The Politics of Ecology Explained by Jonathon Porritt, 1985

** Thanks Bill and Elie. I hope that doesn’t sting, but look at the facts!