Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sustainability Update: Thom Hartmann & Bioneer Kenny Ausubel on Evolution, Not Devolution -- From Warring Tribes of Bacteria to Green Collar Justice

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Sustainability Update: Thom Hartmann & Bioneer Kenny Ausubel on Evolution, Not Devolution -- From Warring Tribes of Bacteria to Green Collar Justice

Every weekday morning on the air waves, and in cyberspace, Thom Hartmann of Air America Radio conducts a virtual teach-in, raising public consciousness on political, social and environmental issues.

Here is my transcription of a recent interview Thom did with Kenny Ausubel, co-founder of the Bioneers.

Both Hartmann and Ausubel made important appearances in Leonardo Dicaprio's The Eleventh Hour.

In this interview, they engage in a dialogue that is both practical and visionary, and like The Eleventh Hour itself, they deliver an urgent message of profound importance.

I urge you to tune into the Thom Hartmann Show, support the work of the Bioneers, and share The Eleventh Hour with your friends, family and colleagues.

-- Richard Power

Thom Hartmann: Kenny Ausubel is the co-founder, along with his wife Nina, of Bioneers. The website is www.bioneers.org. It is an extraordinary conference that happens every fall in San Rafael, California ...

Kenny Ausubel: Yes, San Rafael, just north of San Francisco, Oct. 19 thru Oct. 21.

Thom Hartmann: ... and gets broadcast by satellite to secondary sites all over the world. And you are one of the stars, one of the major players in The Eleventh Hour. You set it up, and you wrap it up. ... At the Bioneers conference, you have some of the very best people in identifying the problems, and some of the very best people at solving the problems. So let’s start out with identifying the problem. This goes way beyond global warming.

Kenny Ausubel: Well, sure. The litany is well known to many of us, e.g., the crash of biological diversity, the very web of life, on which our own life depends. (The great micro-biologist Lynn Margulis has said perhaps the real purpose of human life on earth is that we are such great hosts for the bacteria; and that they were here long before us, and will be here long after us.) We are facing massive fresh water shortages, and the crash of oceans and marine life, and the list goes on and on …

Thom Hartmann: The point is made in The Eleventh Hour that 90% of the cells in our bodies are not human cells. They are things that we are hosting.

Kenny Ausubel: Yes ... One day, I believe, Lynn Margulis will win a Nobel Prize for her work. She has a theory of endosymbiosis; basically, her proposition is that billions of years ago, there were these warring tribes of two kinds of bacteria. Neither was able to exterminate the other one; so they surrendered, instead, to the urge to merge, and learned to cooperate, and is where multi-cellular life came about, as we know it, and led up, of course, to human beings who are fantastically complex organisms that harbor all of the life of the planet going back to the origins.

Thom Hartmann: And we are full of fungi, bacteria and viruses, hundreds of millions of other organisms, probably the vast majority of which we haven’t even begun to identify. ... There are over four hundred and fifty known bacteria in the gut, of which fewer than one hundred are even named so far.

Kenny Ausubel: We know so little, Thom, about the tree of life, the web of life. We are clueless, to be honest. We have a lot to discover. But what we do know, after four billion years of R&D, is that life works. There are no recalls in nature. If it doesn’t work, it is gone.

Thom Hartmann: That brings us directly to the “E-word,” which is used in Leonard DeCaprio’s movie, The Eleventh Hour, i.e., the extinction of human life on Earth. This movie picks up where Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth leaves off. The extinction of human life on Earth?

Kenny Ausubel: Well, it is entirely possible. This is what is known as the sixth great era of extinctions, there were five previously, and about 99.9% of the species that lived before us are gone. This is not uncommon. What is different in the sixth great extinction crisis is that for the first time it is actually caused by human beings. That is just a very different proposition. The truth is the Earth will survive just fine, it is just not on a human time frame. It would take about a 100 million years to re-institute the scale of diversity that we know in the world today. It will happen, it just won’t be on our time frame. And you know, human beings are incredibly adaptable. My dear friend and teacher, the late John Mohawk has said, “People will survive, one way or another, it is a question of what kind of world we are going to survive in.” It could be even less Road Warrior.

Thom Hartmann: And the kind of society we are going to have as well. One of the fascinating things that I learned when I wrote Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, a book I wrote about these subjects back about a decade ago, is Peter Farb’s brilliant ethnography of first contact with Native American societies … over and over again, what he and others since then have found is that many of the most egalitarian, peaceful and ecologically appropriate societies on Earth got that way because they had experienced crashes, they had experienced the destruction of their own environments at their own hands.

Kenny Ausubel: It doesn’t really solve the problem if you slow down to fifty-five. We need to change directions; and we need to do it immediately. Some people give us five years, some people give us ten, we don’t know. In this next five years, I think, we are going to see all kinds of serial collapses … We know we need to change, why we wait? We need to stop and turn around now.

Thom Hartmann: In the two minutes or so that we have left here, what are the changes that need to be made? This is more than just replacing the light bulbs in your house.

Kenny Ausubel: Part of what I appreciate so much about The Eleventh Hour is that they really don’t pull punches. They recognize that government policy is pivotal. You look at most of the great fortunes in the world, and they were made directly because of government policies and subsidies, and all of those kinds of things. So why spend thirty billion dollars a year on the oil, gas and nuclear industries, which are mature industries? If they can’t make it without corporate welfare at this point, let them fold. We should be subsidizing the transfer to renewables immediately, and on a very large scale. And we need to create green collar justice. Poverty is one of the main causes of environmental destruction in the world today, where half the people live on two dollars a day or less. We need to create a huge job creation engine, that is going to also bring about justice. The only Gulf War we should be focused on is to end the gulf between rich and poor. So a lot of what Bioneers talks about is that it is all connected. It is not just the web of life that is interconnected; it is all of the issues that are interconnected. That is probably the biggest influence we had on the film is to tip it in the direction of solutions, so the latter third of the movie really focuses on the kinds of solutions that the Bioneers are promoting, and which work. In 90% of the problems we face, we know what to do right now, with state of the shelf solutions that we already have. We have intention-deficit disorder.

Related Posts and Additional Resources

See also Climate Crisis Update 8-21-07: How Will You Spend Earth's Eleventh Hour? Thom Hartmann Interviews Eleventh Hour Directors

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