Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Wresting Ecotopia from Dystopia (Klaatu Probably Isn't Coming)

“We need a system of governance that takes a more long-term view”, said Professor Randers, speaking in Rotterdam. “It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate friendly solutions, and must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind ... Humanity has overshot the earth’s resources, and in some cases we will see local collapse before 2052 – we are emitting twice as much greenhouse gas every year as can be absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans.” Club of Rome, New Report issues warning about humanity’s ability to survive without major change ..., 5-7-12

Wresting Ecotopia from Dystopia (Klaatu Probably Isn't Coming)

By Richard Power

In 1969, Buckminster Fuller articulated the choice looming before us, Utopia or Oblivion? Twelve years later, he was still urging us on.

Think of it. We are blessed with technology that would be indescribable to our forefathers. We have the wherewithal, the know-it-all to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and give every human on Earth a chance. We know now what we could never have known before -- that we now have the option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet in this lifetime. Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. R. Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path

Back then, all things still seemed possible.

In 2012, our choices are much starker and narrower.

We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke. And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted -- and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way. Noam Chomsky, A Rebellious World or a New Dark Age?, 5-8-12

There is still time (although it is rapidly slipping away). Unless we are visited by Klaatu and the Earth does indeed stand still, wresting Ecotopia from Dystopia will require MASSIVE, NON-VIOLENT EVOLUTION. Honestly, I suggest that while you hope and work for the best, you also prepare for the worst.

"A Certain Route to Failure"

The so-called doctrine of "Austerity" is a cruel farce perpetrated by the 1%, and enabled by its minions in the mainstream media and its worshippers in the body politic.

After all, it was in 1979 that then President Jimmy Carter offered a true message of Austerity.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure. All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem. Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny ... The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them ... President Jimmy Carter, Crisis in Confidence, Televised Address to the Nation, 7-15-12

But tragically, in 1980, America dispensed with Jimmy Carter, denying him a second term, and consigning him to the limbo of humanitarianism, where he could not threaten the Grand Illusion any further. Instead, swaddled snugly in its delusional exceptionalism, America elected itself a jelly bean god to tell it fairy tales about a past that never was and a future that never could be. Sanity was put in storage along with the solar panels that Carter had installed on the White House roof.

Watch Carter's prophetic warning again, knowing what you know now! It is available on You Tube (at least for now), and I have embedded it at the end of this post. Of course, it will never be mentioned as context for our current circumstances, on Meat the Press or This Weak or Fork the Nation. Wolf Bluster won't bring it up, nor will George StopandLaughatUs. (Indeed, the only voice in either the mainstream or alternate media that won't let you forget Carter's speech is Thom Hartmann.)

And, needless to say, you won't read any reference to it from the NYTwits, at least not on their front page or in their "Business" section.

Bleeding patients, or nations, to cure them is quackery that harms the patient and the nation. Economists pushing the Berlin Consensus violate the first principle of the Hippocratic Oath – do no harm. Paul Krugman needs to run a teach-in at the New York Times for its international business reporters. They are helping the economic quacks who prescribe the snake oil of austerity and have as their real objectives (1) gutting Social Security, (2) destroying unions, (3) slashing working class wages, and (4) making the one percent ever richer and more politically dominant. William Black, Why Paul Krugman Needs to Run a Teach-in for Ignorant New York Times Business Reporters,,

"Austerity"? Willful ignorance. Or perhaps more accurately, deceit grounded in a fundamental self-deceit about the nature of self-interest. Ah, but that brings us back to ignorance, doesn't it? The Buddha's conclusions are inescapable; it is human ignorance that is at the root of human suffering.

"We Have to Let Things Go ..."

Yes, we have arrived at our one last chance to choose if not Utopia over Oblivion, at least Ecotopia over Dystopia.

Consider this remarkable final testament from Ernest Callenbach, the author of Ecotopia (1975), discovered on his computer after his recent death ...

To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support — a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging. As I survey my life, which is coming near its end, I want to set down a few thoughts that might be useful to those coming after ... Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans’ political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them. Humans tend to try to manage things: land, structures, even rivers. We spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and treasure in imposing our will on nature, on preexisting or inherited structures, dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go. All things “go” somewhere: they evolve, with or without us, into new forms. So as the decades pass, we should try not always to futilely fight these transformations. As the Japanese know, there is much unnoticed beauty in wabi-sabi — the old, the worn, the tumble-down, those things beginning their transformation into something else. We can embrace this process of devolution: embellish it when strength avails, learn to love it. Must-Read: The Powerful Final Words Of Ecotopia Author Ernest Callenbach, Climate Progress, 5-7-12

If the USA had listened to R. Buckminister Fuller, or Ernest Callenbach, or President Jimmy Carter, or any of the other voices crying in the wilderness, we would find ourselves in a very different world today.

But those prophetic voices were ignored.

America, whose voices are you ignoring now?

Klaatu probably isn't coming.

Jimmy Carter on the Crisis of Confidence (Televised Address to the Nation, 1979)

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Circumference and Center

A full view of the Giant Buddha Statue of Leshan, Sichuan, China 
Photo Credit: Ariel Steiner (June 2005)

Circumference and Center

If prayer is not its own answer, it is not true prayer; it is petitioning or bargaining.

If meditation is not its own goal, it is not true meditation; it is only a contrived means toward some imaginary end.

What we arrive at in true prayer is our own true intention; what we arrive at in true meditation is "who" and "what" we really are.

In one sense, true prayer and true meditation are synonyms; in another sense, they are two distinct movements within the dance of being.

In true prayer we experience the embrace of the circumference; in true meditation, we experience the clarity of the center.

In true prayer, we move from the embrace of the circumference to the clarity of the center; in true meditation we move from the clarity of the center to the embrace of the circumference.

 -- Richard Power

George Clooney, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky and the Rainbow Race at the Gates of Eden

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at a demonstration of
 Syndicate of Technical Workers, Painters, and Sculptors, May 1, 1929
At times I think there are no words / But these to tell what’s true / And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden ... Bob Dylan, Gates of Eden (1965)

One blue sky above us / One ocean lapping all our shore / One earth so green and round / Who could ask for more / And because I love you / I'll give it one more try / To show my rainbow race / It's too soon to die ... Pete Seeger, Rainbow Race (1971)

George Clooney, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky and the Rainbow Race at the Gates of Eden

By Richard Power

Two songs have been rattling around inside my head in these last few nights. Yes, two songs are dueling for dominance in the stream of my consciousness; one is a song of rekindled hope, "My Rainbow Race," and the other is a song of defiant clarity, "Gates of Eden

Tens of thousands of Norwegians marched beneath pouring rain in Oslo today, converging at Central Square to sing together a Norwegian version of American folk music singer Pete Seeger's "Rainbow Race" in a moving protest against mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 Norwegians last year in the name of eliminating "multiculturalism" and leftist ideologies. Common Dreams, 40,000 Norwegians Sing Out in Defiance and Love, 4-26-12

(See the video embedded at the end of this post to savor the profound poignancy of the moment.)

Meanwhile ...

Consider May Day 2012 in the USA. It is, after all, a time of great economic injustice and deepening disparity between the 1% and the 99%. Yet people are not streaming into the streets in the hundreds of thousands (or even tens of thousands).

Consider Earth Day 2012 in the USA. While the much of the Fortune 500 spent the day greenwashing themselves, POTUS edited all mention of climate change from his official proclamation.

"All in all can only fall," Dylan sang in Gates of Eden, "with a crashing but meaningless blow." Of course, it could be worse.

"The Stench of Hypocrisy and Expediency ..."

Consider the plight of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

George Clooney and others have been warning about this turn of events for quite some time; and Words of Power has documented these warnings. And yet ...

On Sunday dozens of people from Darfur held vigils in front of the US and UK embassies and headquarters of the Arab League to draw attention to the situation in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The protestors call for an end to war, rape and aerial bombardments and to hand over president Bashir to the International Criminal Court. Radio Dabanga, 4-29-12

Indeed, as I have noted repeatedly, other than the Climate Crisis itself, none of the numerous disappointments of POTUS' first term is more incomprehensible than his policy on Darfur and Sudan.

The stench of hypocrisy and expediency is in the air wherever one turns in assessing international responses to recent events in Sudan ... And in their attempts to achieve a factitious “even-handedness,” various actors—including the UN, the U.S., the AU, and the EU—have encouraged Khartoum to believe that it has somehow gained the diplomatic, even moral upper hand ...” Eric Reeves, Scandalous International Hypocrisy on Sudan, 4-23-12

Of course, not only could it be worse, it will be worse - for all of us, unless ...

The Climate Crisis 

Over the years, senior military and intelligence officials have caught up with what some of us were declaring a decade ago, i.e., that the Climate Crisis is a national security issue of the highest order. Similarly, Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food is now calling the Climate Crisis a profound human rights issue.

Climate change represents an enormous threat to a whole host of human rights: the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to development. There is therefore huge scope for human rights courts and non-judicial human rights bodies to treat climate change as the immediate threat to human rights that it is. Olivier De Schutter, Guardian, 4-24-12

The Royal Society

The kingdoms of Experience / In the precious wind they rot / While paupers change possessions / Each one wishing for what the other has got / And the princess and the prince / Discuss what’s real and what is not / It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden ...

We are in the throes of the greatest failure of governance in human history. Nowhere is this failure more egregious than in the USA, where our realistic political options are limited to choosing between the Death Eater corporatists who deny the reality of the human-induced Climate Crisis and corporatist-lite neo-liberals who do not deny the reality of it but are unwilling to prepare the populace for the consequences of what we are doing to ourselves. Going green, you need to know, means more than just transitioning away from an energy model that is bound to the burning of fossil fuels.

World population needs to be stabilised quickly and high consumption in rich countries rapidly reduced to avoid "a downward spiral of economic and environmental ills", warns a major report from the Royal Society. Contraception must be offered to all women who want it and consumption cut to reduce inequality, says the study published on Thursday, which was chaired by Nobel prize-winning biologist Sir John Sulston. The assessment of humanity's prospects in the next 100 years, which has taken 21 months to complete, argues strongly that to achieve long and healthy lives for all 9 billion people expected to be living in 2050, the twin issues of population and consumption must be pushed to the top of political and economic agendas. Both issues have been largely ignored by politicians and played down by environment and development groups for 20 years, the report says. John Vidal, World needs to stabilise population and cut consumption, says Royal Society, Guardian, 4-25-12

"The Ultimate Question is ..."

Relationships of ownership / They whisper in the wings / To those condemned to act accordingly / And wait for succeeding kings / And I try to harmonize with songs / The lonesome sparrow sings / There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden

"The ultimate question is can we move from conversation to action?" That's how Tavis Smiley articulated the challenge in a recent Democracy Now! interview.

In The Rich and the Rest of Us, A Poverty Manifesto, Smiley and co-author Dr. Cornel West deliver a scathingly insightful analysis and follow it up with a bold 12-point program to, as Smiley states,"reduce and eradicate poverty in this country."

CORNEL WEST: Poverty is the new slavery. Oligarchs are the new kings. They’re the new heads of this structure of domination. And we’ve got to coalesce in our critique of oligarchs and oligarchy and plutocracy, without hating oligarchs and plutocrats. 
JUAN GONZALEZ: So what happened to the "audacity of hope"? 
CORNEL WEST: Of Barack Obama? 
CORNEL WEST: Well, it’s a wonderful language. He got it from Jeremiah Wright, our dear brother Jeremiah Wright. Jeremiah Wright comes out of a black prophetic tradition that talks about hope, not cheap American optimism. So he borrows the language of Martin King, he borrows the language of Jeremiah Wright and a whole host of others, Fannie Lou Hamer and others—blood, sweat and tears, critiques of oligarchy and critiques of patriarchy and critiques of anti-Semitism, anti-Arab, anti-terror, anti-Latino racism and so forth. So we get these mainstream politicians, these neoliberals, who preserve oligarchic rule, use the language of progressives, and think that somehow they will not be disclosed for what they are: neoliberals still tied to the status quo. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West: The Rich and the Rest of Us -- a Poverty Manifesto

It's Too Soon to Die ...

One blue sky above us / One ocean lapping all our shore / One earth so green and round / Who could ask for more / And because I love you / I'll give it one more try / To show my rainbow race / It's too soon to die ...

As these two songs have been vying for hegemony in my stream of consciousness over these last few nights, I have been thinking about George Clooney and Noam Chomsky.

Although it is unlikely he would acknowledge it publicly, George Clooney no doubt understands what a dismal disappointment POTUS' Sudan policy has been; and yet Clooney is hosting a high-profile Hollywood fund-raiser for POTUS' re-election. Why? Because like us, George Clooney thinks "it's too soon to die." He knows the Death Eaters would only hurry doom along. Because like us, George Clooney is willing to "give it one more try." What choice do we have?

What's A "Sensible Revolutionary" To Do?

Consider the May Day ruminations of Noam Chomsky.

A sensible revolutionary will try to push reform to the limits, for two good reasons. First, because the reforms can be valuable in themselves. People should have an eight-hour day rather than a twelve-hour day. And in general, we should want to act in accord with decent ethical values. Secondly, on strategic grounds, you have to show that there are limits to reform. Perhaps sometimes the system will accommodate to needed reforms. If so, well and good. But if it won't, then new questions arise ... If you get to a point where the existing institutions will not bend to the popular will, you have to eliminate the institutions. Noam Chomsky, May Day, 4-29-12

Yes, Professor Chomsky, but what does the "sensible revolutionary" do when the push for reform has smashed into a brick wall, and there is no mass of humanity in the streets to tear down that brick wall?

Perhaps sing a song?

All and all can only fall with a crashing, but meaningless blow / No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden ...

 Thousands Sing Parts of My Rainbow Race By Pete Seeger in Oslo, Norway 

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and