As a longtime writer and activist campaigning for decades on food and farming issues, most recently Prop 37, the California Ballot Initiative to label genetically engineered foods, I am reminded daily of the allure, indeed the addictive pleasure, of single-issue organizing. Despite the constant frustration of being the underdog in a David versus Goliath battle, it’s great to have an avocation, not to mention a paying job, fighting Monsanto and its minions.
It’s immensely gratifying to thoroughly understand, backward and forward, an issue like genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or organic agriculture.
It’s stimulating to read and share dozens of articles and emails every day in my area of expertise, to stay in touch with other foodies working in the “buy local,” “buy organic” movement across the continent. It’s ego boosting to see my name, or my organization’s name in print, and to see thousands of “shares” and “likes” on Facebook.
Let me tell you. There’s nothing better than hanging out with the activist fish in our little pond. Nothing more satisfying than fighting the good fight, even if the bad guys always seem to win.
Or is there?
What about our collective new normal? What about the weird weather, melting polar icecaps, killer droughts and floods, raging forest fires, permanent recession, deteriorating public health, senseless violence, and those never-ending wars for oil and natural resources?
Why is it that the massive, world-changing majorities for social change, the proverbial 99%, and the campaigners like myself who are supposed to be leading the charge, are still working in relative isolation from one another? Why aren’t we talking about radical change and climate-friendly food, farming, buildings, energy, transportation, jobs, education, foreign policy, mass media, and elected officials in the same breath?
Why aren’t we united, indeed up in arms against the maniacs in the Corporatocracy and their political hirelings who are gambling not only with our hard-earned money and taxes, but also with our future?
Can we connect the dots between our primary passions and the burning issues? Can we bring together the full spectrum of the activist rainbow into a single, powerful, laser-focused movement before it’s too late? Can we reach critical mass in public consciousness and grassroots mobilization before the tipping point in greenhouse gas pollution and runaway global warming (565 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide, 450 ppm of CO2) knocks us down forever?
While we’ve been dutifully carrying on this year in our daily lives, in our separate domains, doing the right thing – taking care of our children and grandchildren; trying to save the whales, farm animals, and the bees; organizing the unorganized; promoting natural health; opposing the wars overseas; electing, or trying to elect, decent candidates; supporting green commerce; fighting GMOs; safeguarding organic standards – we have nonetheless been steadily losing ground.
Despite our best, often heroic efforts the New World Order of post-2012 is shaping up to be very difficult, indeed downright scary. How is it possible that tens of thousands of non-profit organizations and millions of health, environmental and justice-minded citizens have been stymied by the deadly “business-as-usual” practices of a ruthless Corporatocracy hell-bent on disaster?
It’s time for a New Year’s Revolution.
Reviewing the balance sheet of the economy and public policy where I work every day, I see that progressive change is advancing. But the pace of transformation is too little, too late. While we may pat ourselves on the back because the multi-billion dollar U.S. market share for sustainable, relatively climate-friendly organic foods and fair-trade products has moved toward the magic 5% threshold, energy-intensive industrial farming, agricultural-related deforestation and factory farms are pumping out billions of tons of greenhouse gases and laying waste to the climate and the environment.
Meanwhile, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and the mass media, out-of-control fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas pollution (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot) in the energy, housing, manufacturing, military-industrial and transportation sectors are driving us inexorably toward catastrophic global warming, crop failures, resource depletion, endless war and mass starvation.
The bottom line for humans, as we review our year-end 2012 financials, is discouraging. If we cannot reduce fossil fuel consumption by 90% within the next 20 years and leave most remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground, if we cannot naturally sequester several hundred billion tons of CO2 and greenhouse gases through global reforestation, organic farming and carbon ranching practices we are doomed.
This mental accounting, according to a number of astute psychologists, is so terrifying that it has plunged millions of us into denial or depression. No wonder it’s such a relief to take out our frustrations on Monsanto, Karl Rove, or Big Pharma, to work on single-issue problems or solutions. So please just pass me a stiff drink, or a joint, or at least a Millions Against Monsanto leaflet that I can hand out in front of Whole Foods.
As climate activist leader Bill McKibben pointed out in July 2012, the mathematics of human survival, of staying below the tipping point of 2 degrees Celsius – the temperature that the world’s scientists warn us will trigger runaway global warming – are terrifying, yet quite simple:
“Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons (billion tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by mid-century and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees (Celsius) . . . .”
Between May 2011 and May 2012, business as usual on the planet pumped 31.6 gigatons of CO2 and other greenhouse gas pollutants into the already-saturated atmosphere, up 3.2% from the year before. Do the math. Twenty more years of the Corporatocracy’s New World Order, 20 more years of single-issue activism, of failing to connect the dots between our fragmented movements and communities, and we’re doomed.
Our life-giving but delicately balanced atmosphere has now been pushed into the flashing red-light danger zone of 391 parts per million of CO2 – 41 ppm higher than the level required to maintain civilization as humans have known it. We are fast approaching the catastrophic tipping point of two degrees Celsius, and 450 ppm of CO2, in greenhouse gas pollution that will melt the polar icecaps and the frozen tundra, burn up the world’s forests, kill the oceans, and set off massive crop failures and other “natural” disasters.
Our now terminal dilemma is that single-issue, activism-as-usual organizing, and a fragmented activist rainbow, will never be able to overthrow the Corporatocracy and resolve the most serious threat that humans have ever faced in our 100,000-200,000 year evolution: runaway global warming and climate meltdown.
In other words, you and I and a billion others need to jot down more than just a New Year’s resolution. We need a New Year’s Revolution. We need a Main Street-to-the-Middle East Global Declaration of Interdependence. We need a 21st Century Green Manifesto to overthrow the Corporatocracy and dismantle the suicide economy, before it’s too late.
And, of course, I don’t need to tell you the hour is late. We need to jump-start this revolution in consciousness, coalition building, and action now. This doesn’t mean we have to give up on all of our daily responsibilities and our primary passions. But it does mean that we must all, or at least a critical mass of us, immediately connect the dots between climate-friendly food, energy, transportation, media, public education, public policy, and politics. We must harmonize our discourse, broaden our alliances, and bring together the myriad currents of a U.S. and global movement for survival and revival into an unstoppable force.
Starting today, not next year, we all have to become climate hawks and democracy activists, breaking corporate control over the marketplace and over our elections, media, and public policy. Starting today we must move together to save our climate, our civilization, and Mother Earth.
Ronnie Cummins is the co-founder and National Director of the Organic Consumers Association. He is a contributor to Hopelesss: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.