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America at a crossroads: Veering left

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 23, 2001


During the last election the folks at EarthFirst! had a T-shirt that read - "Vote for Bush. Hasten our demise." Far from prophetic they were simply stating the obvious. I'm sure what they didn't predict was how George W. would be so unapologetic in his contempt for all things that contribute to a healthy environment. If anything, you have to give W. credit for his unwavering sense of purpose.

Long over the shock of George W. setting policy, I've come to the conclusion that this is exactly where the United States needs to be in the natural orders of things. Considering the past two hundred years of biological exploitation, our linear thinking, and an economy purposely designed without breaks, it would seem we have always been destined to hit the proverbial wall. It is only fitting a Bush should be behind the wheel.

It has often been said we deserve the leaders we elect. Talk about speaking the truth. As a nation we have embraced the seven deadly sins as if they had been written into the constitution. So why should any of us be surprised that our commander in chief is willing to allow those who profit most from environmental destruction to dictate policy that allows them to continue business as usual. Sadly business as usual is poised to put us all out of business. How is that for irony?

Gluttony, sloth, avarice, lust, pride, envy, and wrath can all be used to describe Americans, and their relationship with the environment that surrounds and supports them. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The California energy debacle is all about gluttony on the part of residents and the avarice of those controlling a deregulated energy market. Wrath is evidenced when anyone suggests they might learn to live with less.

The fact that Californians refuse to drive fuel efficient cars, or better yet demand comprehensive mass transit choices, can be found in pride and envy. Keeping up with the Jones is crippling California, but still our elected officials refuse to except any limits other than those dictated by the ballot box. And why should they? Those who put them in office are just as unwilling to face the fact that the American rate of consumption is far from sustainable.

Sloth can be seen in how we actually design our lives. Not only do we create neighborhoods which are unwalkable and environmentally unsustainable, as a culture we have opted to take the easiest way out. Sloth is America personified, as our waist lines grow and our capacity for manual labor lost. Why walk to the corner market when you can drive? Why rake leaves when you can use a gas powered blower?

Our machines have gotten the better of us, and we are too blinded by convenience to understand what such convenience costing us.

If we our to save ourselves from the linear path of destruction we call western civilization it is time for us to reject our current trajectory. If the United States of America is to survive with any semblance of the progress we now enjoy it is vital that we redesign our communities in keeping with the biological limitations and ecological realities facing us in the 21st century.

It doesn't take government to build a home, generate electricity, or plan a family. In fact it seems the only thing government is good for is turning us all into corporate slaves. What we need is a new set of ethics where the accumulation of stuff is seen as the psychological disorder it is.

Picture if you will the unfortunate woman who hordes everything, including waste, until her house is little more than a health hazard, now multiply it by five hundred million, and that's America in a nutshell. In puritan America less was more. Why not return to those values? The Amish prove it can still be done.

This new set of ethics should also embrace the teachings of Thoreau, Dickens, and Muir, encouraging people to walk once again. To plan there lives around walking when possible, and clean transportation choices when not. Americans must once again pride themselves at living lightly on the land. We must make room for every species that share this planet, allowing them the freedom to live life as nature intended, not as corporations see fit.

But to do this requires us to reject the religion of economics, understanding that nothing is free in a free market, and that money is a false god, created to leave everyone wanting.

If we are unwilling to take the road once traveled, we should prepare ourselves for the dark days ahead.

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