A Crisis Is a Terrible Thing to Waste


Despite some early missteps by Pres. Barack Obama's administration, it seems that our new president understands a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. And, we now have a double crisis: not only is the economy collapsing, but every part of nature is rebelling against the toxic nature of the dominant economic model. The Chinese have a cool saying that is apropos of our current state: suffering shared is suffering halved; joy shared is joy doubled.  

At the Green Festivals we promote the glass-is-half-full perspective. We believe there are two types of analysis: The analysis of the way things are and the analysis of the way we can make things be. As social change activists, we believe that cynicism is what passes for insight when courage is lacking.  

So in the current situation, with a global economic crisis coming on top of a global environmental crisis, the courageous approach is to not let the crisis go to waste. Let's use this opportunity to create the next system: A triple-bottom-line economy that links social justice, environmental restoration, and financial sustainability.  

We can either continue to allow money values to rule over the life cycle, or we can revolutionize our world to have life values rule over the money cycle.  
The question at the top of the agenda is: How do we save humanity from itself?

The challenge is daunting. Every day, more people feel the climate crisis in their daily lives as energy prices go up, weather instability and coastal erosion push up insurance rates, and droughts cause water rationing and higher water bills (both California and China's main agricultural region are experiencing severe drought).  
So people are waking up to the challenges and opportunities, and it is getting easier to recruit people to conservation economics. To be conservative does not mean taking a far-right position on all issues, it means preserving the wonderful bounty nature has given us so future generations can enjoy it.  

The self-destructive nature of corporate globalization -- especially the financial sector -- is so evident that we progressives can switch most of our political energy from critique and protest to creating an alternative system.  

The good news is that thousands of grassroots groups all over the world are busy building this first-ever global revolution. All previous revolutions were national revolutions where the revolutionaries sought to gain control of the capital city to run that country differently. This revolution, in contrast, is a transnational alliance of progressive forces in the non-profit, government, and private sectors. The goal? Transition our world to the green economy.  
Here are some of the trends that give us hope that we are in the early stages of a revolutionary transition to a green economy:  

  • As the environment is destroyed and resources are depleted, the profitability of saving the environment increases. Thus, the green sectors of the economy -- renewable energy, biofuels, green building technology and organic agriculture -- are growing more rapidly than most non-green sectors.  
  • The combination of mounting political protests against coal and other fossil fuels, and the implementation of carbon taxes, will accelerate the shift to renewable energy. Thousands of activists turned out in the streets of Washington in early March to protest coal-fired power plants.  
  • "Urban mining", or retrieving valuable material from the waste stream is becoming a growth industry. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, one metric ton of recycled cell phones contains 140 kilograms of copper, 3.14 kilograms of silver, 300 grams of gold and 130 grams of palladium.  
  • City and state governments -- and now even the federal government -- saving money while reducing their impact on the environment.  
  • Campus activism around environmental issues -- especially global climate chaos -- is picking up steam. Thousands of young people are having their lives transformed by participating in the green economy movement; it is awe-inspiring.  

What got us out of the last big depression in the 1930s was World War II, and we cannot rely on that solution this time -- nor should we.  

A green economy is the solution, because it is not simply a matter of getting our economy back to where it was before the crash. We need to drastically reduce our consumption (and waste) of the world's resources, and totally reshape the global economy in the direction of sustainability.  

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