US military makes Hawaii a target

SUBHEAD: Things Hawaii must do in response to recent false ballistic missile alert that terrified many.

By Gary Hooser on 29 January 2018 in Gary Hooser's Blog -

Image above: An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, flies past the north shore of Kauai on July 14, 2014 during RIMPAC 2014. Photo by Joseph Pfaff. From (

Providing leadership and support for a strong and conscientious movement toward global peace and the dismantling of all nuclear weaponry, must be Hawaii’s response to the events of this past Saturday morning.

To be clear, I believe in having a strong national defense. I know there are bad people in the world who want to hurt us, and we need to protect ourselves from those threats.

But hosting a vast nuclear arsenal is not the answer. And neither is it necessary for the United States to be the largest exporter of guns, tanks, bombs and military weapons in the world, supplying our enemies as well as our friends.

My father was a career Navy man and I grew up on military bases. Members of my family currently serve in the military, and I am proud and thankful for their service. But our national conversation needs to shift from investing in guns, bullets and missiles toward investing in diplomacy, human rights and the alleviation of poverty.

The ballistic missile attack that did not happen, should be our call to action. Knowing we are personally vulnerable to the narcissistic and delusional games played by our obviously unstable so-called world leaders, is more than sufficient justification to at least try to take away their ballistic nuclear missiles.

Hawaii can lead the world conversation by starting here at home with an honest and open discussion about the large military presence in our islands and its impact on the environment, on our economy, and on our core value systems.

As the military presence in Hawaii grows, so does our attraction as a target. When the testing and tracking of missiles transitions into the establishment of a launching site for missiles, our risk factor jumps exponentially.

This is our 6,000 lb gorilla in the room, and this is a conversation that must occur.

As Ikaika Hussey tweeted on the day the missiles were not launched,
“The world should remember that we’re not a target because of our unique history or cultures, but because of the way that the US has turned our islands into the command center for the Pacific fleet. Militarism is reducing, not enhancing, our security.”
Hawaii must seize this moment.

The launching of the ballistic missile that never happened, can, bizarrely enough, be the catalyst needed to propel our state forward as a leader in the effort to bring sanity and peace to the world.

Both local and global conversations must occur, and Hawaii can play a unique and important role in hosting and convening those discussions. If we are serious about pulling our planet back from the edge we only recently had a taste of, we must embrace an active and leadership role toward peace.

Image above: A good reason Hawaii is in the crosshairs is Pearl Harbor, the center of American domination of the Pacific Ocean with nuclear weapons systems. Note two nuclear attack subs in foreground. From (

Hawaii’s leaders at all levels must immediately and loudly proclaim their resolute support for a diplomatic resolution to the situation in North Korea.
  • Our voices in Hawaii must unite with a message to all who hold the levers of global power to “stand down,” cease their military bluster and posturing, and come to the table of diplomacy and reason.
Hawaii as a “Geneva of the Pacific” is not a new idea and it is time now to breathe fresh life into it.

The University of Hawaii, Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution was established in 1986.

This body has the potential to convene and host both local and global conversations to promote peace and the ultimate dismantling of nuclear weapons through-out the world.

This really is the only answer to the madness that engulfed us this past Saturday morning.
  • We can demand the firing, transfer, or forced retirement of all responsible for the debacle that occurred that day, and we should, for the mismanagement is inexcusable. 
  • We can redesign the early warning systems and policies, and we should, as they were clearly inadequate.
  • We can blast President Trump for his irresponsible actions and comments that have exacerbated and unnecessarily inflamed the tension between North Korea and the United States, and yes we absolutely should as his conduct is also inexcusable.
But at the end of the day, we must work toward ending the constant escalation of conflict in the world, and certainly we must strive to rid the planet of nuclear weapons.

While it might sound pollyanna-ish to some, think about it for a moment. What else are we going to do? There are not enough storm drains in Hawaii to hold all of us.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: strafing run at Salt Pond Beach 12/9/17


The Good Life First

SUBHEAD: The good life or the ballot? Both you say? I say the good life first, the ballot second.

By Patrick Noble on 23 January 2018 for FEASTA -

Image above: Integrate your flock into a healthy growing system that is self-supporting. From (

We have reached a pivotal moment. I think we can be certain that governments and other powers, such as corporations and their promotional arms, such as the BBC, are set on destruction. The powers have made no appropriate attempts to act on climate change, or on the current ecological catastrophe.

It is plain that those in power think climate change is not real – rather it is a bee in the bonnet of just enough of the electorate to make it politically worth the posture of a response.

Since the first world climate summit in 1990 carbon dioxide emissions have risen steadily, so that by 2017 they were 60% higher than when nations first pledged to act.

Argument within governing systems is without hope of being heard, or even vaguely understood.

But there is hope. It is (as it has always been) in living the good life. Though such a course may fail, until it does so, it remains a source of happiness. It is now the only productive course we have to mitigate the worst of climate change.

By all means speak to the powers – you never know – and this writer is frequently wrong – but without rapid and then hopefully fashionable personal change, there’s not a realistic hope in hell…

If political engagement means that we become distracted from the problems of our own lives, then that engagement will be more destructive than productive. To consider that social change comes more from hierarchical instruction than personal consideration denies laws of physics.

Crowds, electorates, gangs, or societies are made up of the physics of people – one by one.

A crowd is five people, thirty people, a thousand people with those specific weights, energies and substances.

But the crowd; the electorate; the corporation; the government are also imagined – they are ideas in our singular heads.

The politically-engaged proposition (political influence is more powerful than the good life) suggests that to live well, we lobby an abstract authority to permit us to live how we choose and then, because consensus denies our request, we can continue to live how we do not choose.

Oh democracy, we say with a sigh – it’s bad, but not as bad as the alternatives. We propose that we are not moral beings – that we are a part of the moral consent of the crowd.

We misname that permission as liberality – we’d do better to accept it as permissiveness.

And so, climate change “authorities” jet to so many climate conferences, that they may be among the most climate-destructive groups on Earth.

Likewise, I may vote green, while taking holiday flights. I say that I lobby for the greater good, and propose that my small footprint is insignificant relative to the power of a green cross in the ballot.

Meanwhile political consensus (the amoral permission) is an idea. It does not exist. People exist.

One by one, we have physics, ecological connections, unique dreams and also, of course – common dependencies. We are responsible for all of those things. Our own causes generate unique effects, which only we can understand.

No greater good will remedy them. The greater good cannot see them. We walk in personally-imprinted landscapes.

People cause climate change. Governments cannot do so. Governments are communally accepted ideas (accepted by coercion, violence, inheritance, fearful prudence, or the ballot). Ideas have not the physics to cause anything.

Living the good life in that landscape is the greatest contribution to the greater good, since the greater good is the physical, moral and spiritual addition of our unique experience and contributory action to all the other unique experiences, which together make the whole.

Culture is what I do. Of course, I converse with others about my effects. It is cellular. I am both complete and incomplete. I am myself and my society and in the end my species.

My species has evolved within groups – as a social species. Ours is a eusocial evolution. Even so, every experience which enters the commons of folk memory, or tradition has first entered the senses of an individual.

No-one can experience birth, death, wind, sunshine and rain, but on their own. Yet my and all our yearnings are also to properly belong in family, friendship, neighbourhood, religion, tradition, memory…

Before it is too late, we must pay attention to our unique and lonely senses – to what we love and to what feeds us in taste, scent, sight, sound… We must be attentive. Those things will be modified by our inattention; by our distracted attention to more powerful notions of economic governance.

Climate is warming by my actions. The casino does not register it. If we listen we’ll hear the change. Already, at the dawn chorus, some small birds have ceased to sing.

We inherited a living culture. Our lives are the culture. We, not governments, bequeath that culture to our children and beyond.

The household remains as the model for the economy as a whole. The economy is a collective of households. It is true that the casino of rent, currency manipulation, usury, trade in shares and bonds and so on is not related to the household. But the casino is not an economy. It is a casino. Modern economists – even most green economists live strategically inside that casino to manipulate it for the better. They are misguided. The following are also disconnected from the casino – pillaged soils, pillaged ecologies, pillaged resources – that is: capital is not connected to the casino. But pillaged soil, ecology and resource and also diminishing infrastructure capital are very directly and sensually connected to the household – and to me. They are my responsibility. Their cause is my diminished responsibility.

Listen! – The household is ingenious and fierce and is rooted in family and folk tradition. It is limited to the restraints of wage, local resources and neighbourly opinion and is a dynamo for the pursuit of what we may call the most appropriate distribution of happiness. Isn’t that what we want for an economy?
Yet, modern European and American households have abandoned those restraints for what they see as the larger and progressive world of the governing casino. Even so, modern households are responsible for cascading ecologies and climate change.

They provide the physics to the casino’s abstraction. The abstraction can fix nothing and it causes nothing – doughnut economics, or true cost accounting fix nothing.

Only by fixing the household – the physical acts of the sensual, sensitive household, can we can fix ecology and economy. Only through the household do we have a landscape which is worth the governing.

But here’s the thing – who does not want to come home? We are prodigal sons and daughters unravelling threads to our various and anxious ways home.

Don’t forget that restraints give shape and meaning – borders can be drawn to be beautiful and true. We are placed within them. They trace the possible forms of home.

Rationally (abstractly) climate change is already beyond technological recall and settled cultures are set on almost certain unsettlement. The most populated cities and communities (and most ancient) are coastal communities, which must soon migrate to higher land.

Nearly all central government offices will be beneath the tide. Yet those government offices are (almost universally) making no attempt to guide their dependent populations to act on climate change.

The miracle could be the household.

Most of us agree that we are part of a collective madness and so we attempt to manipulate and reason within the madness – by petition, at the ballot and by consumer-choices. I disagree. Why don’t we school ourselves to be sane?

The governing psychosis oversees a changing physical landscape of people and resources.

The physics is where we should be. Physics reacts to our tools and teaches us how to belong. People change the physics. Corporations? – they are a part of the governing psychosis and they are also abstract.

Has anyone seen a corporation? – they don’t exist beyond an idea and our consent to it. Let’s remove consent. It’s late – but there may still be time to bail out and descend to solid ground.

The casino (which we pretend is an economy) will collapse – unless beforehand, ecology, or climate change wreck the culture as a whole. Money flow and the power of what we do – that is energy flow, are directly related. Perhaps 95% of that energy is from fossil fuels. Even so, current debt-created and quantitively-eased money-flow has exceeded even that vast fossilised under-pinning.

In a sense fossil fuels had suspended time and negated laws of nature – we dreamed that history had ended. It had not. Instead, history accumulated invisibly in cultural effects, which were sequestered beyond our collective imagination.

 Most in positions of power and their academic and journalistic sycophants, or critics remain inside that collective. That collective imagination will not be changed. We can reason within its borders, but reason from the real world of sunshine and rain will be treated as nonsense. Inside the casino, it does not rain.

Meanwhile, nothing can replace the power of fossil fuels. They came and money-flow vastly expanded. Now they must go – and money-flow must dramatically shrink. It will be confined to limits of natural physics again.

Collapse is inevitable.

When the casino collapses, companies fold, unemployment soars, tax revenues crash and infrastructures of social security, health-care, building and road maintenance and so on, crumble. The casino will bring down the real economy.

Once again, households can be lifeboats in the wreckage.

After the crash, what will change? Looking around at fields, crops, houses, roads, bridges, harbours… – nothing – nothing at all. The ideas will have changed – corporate structures, currency values, the complacency or anger of the crowd, the excitement or despair of the stock market…

All that is physical will remain, while all that was polemical, coercive, psychotic, or despotic will be in chaos.

The same food will be on the shelves, but we may have no wage to buy it. The same crop will grow in my field, but my tractor may be short of fuel to harvest it. The ecological means to the needs of an economy will remain unchanged. The sun will shine and the rain will fall. Trade’s people will have retained their skills.

Though money-flow will have lost its fossil power, still, all that is essential will remain – food, shelter, good conversation, people gathering to sing at the piano… Yet, they are a tiny percentage of what we used to buy, just yesterday, as we pillaged the Earth. We can be happy – rich in good things – without asking for more.

If I’ve lost my wage – still, all that is best of what a wage could buy will remain. My friends, family, neighbours, colleagues… will remain. All will be unchanged, but for the money, the governance and the high-pitched shrieking of share-holders and currency manipulators.

That is why, rather than pushing for a more benign casino, which registers natural capital, eco-system services and so on, we should divest from the casino and step by step build a real economy of people and resources, which can emerge alive from beneath the coming rubble. I don’t mean baked bean tins and bunkers.

I mean that we shop with businesses which are not financed by the amoral stock market, but simply by me, the purchaser.

A community of trade’s people, proper shops, village/corner shops and stores, street markets and farmers’ markets, pubs, libraries, theatres and concert halls, meeting houses, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, council buildings… can be revived in the transition town manner- perhaps with a protective local currency and perhaps via locally issued (non-tradeable) shares, or bonds.

If I don’t find what I need by my local pound, then that lack is revealed and it may be to someone’s advantage to learn the missing trade (perhaps myself). Step by step we can divest from the garments of the casino (are we sure it had any clothes?) and put on what we can find in our terrain.

Am I fixated on aviation? – Yes – because it is both the least necessary and the most destructive of all our activities. Everyone, everywhere and forever could stop flying with very little effect on their lives.

We’ve no need to wait, while we lobby for carbon taxes, air traffic duty, or against runway expansion. Family connections? – jet-propelled connections will impoverish the lives of those we’d connect with. Love? Filial bonds? It’s an easy equation to understand. Trans-oceanic family duties contain a very near betrayal of still deeper bonds. Air freight? – It’s frivolous and unnecessary.

Those conferences (business, political, scientific)? – Nothing results without all parties carefully writing and reading the documents – why not begin and end with documents? Air-born climate authorities are not speakers, or performers, but writers, readers, data gatherers and statisticians.

Politicians, scientists and business people would do better to turn away from the posturing mirror – they’d achieve more and have more time to do so. Travellers? – Why travel without travel? Why not discover the cultures and terrains in between?

Many, or perhaps most of our destructive activities can only be changed in concert with others, but aviation is marvellously different – we can remove it on an instant.

Electric aviation is a fantasy. We’ll have trouble generating enough for more pressing needs, such as domestic heating.

With regards to government – had we proper governance, then all aviation (apart from the pleasurable hang glider) would long ago have been made illegal. For all their earnest lobbying, those who’d propose this, or that reduction in aviation, will still be ridiculed as lunatic fringe.

Aviation came with oil and must go with oil. The super market, the family car, suburbia and so on are the same, but more problematic in ascending degrees.

Many can abandon the super market on an instant, but others may have no alternatives nearby (until they are created). A family car, tied-in to work and pleasure is as destructive as occasional aviation.

However, ditching the family car is a more difficult proposition – it is tied to existing infrastructures – such as suburbia, lack of public transport and inconvenient work places. We can only change those things in concert with others and so conversation of some sort (not necessarily party political) becomes essential.

Earth has not the capacity to power the electric family car. Wind, hydro and solar generated electricity is the answer to many needs, but within absolute limits.

The car is redundant and must be made so by personal change, assisted by communal change.

Suburbia? – Well clearly, that’s an epic adventure – re-centring into new (or revived) towns and villages, accompanied by mass migration to coast and countryside and then re-cultivation of new hinterlands into farms and market gardens.

With regards to climate change, another powerful, easy and instant effect is to switch our general electricity supplier to a green supplier – making sure the source is wind, hydro, or solar – some use biomass, which is utterly destructive. We can also decide on an instant to farm and garden organically.

If we are fortunate to have land, we can plant trees on an instant – and we can let our existing hedges grow up – to flower, berry, nut and photosynthesise! For these important things, we need no advice from authority and need lobby no-one politically.

Other good personal activities such as re-using, re-cycling, refusing plastic packaging and so on have a tiny beneficial climatic impact relative to the large impact of refusing to fly, ditching the family car and switching to a green electricity supplier (or contributing to a community energy project).

Nevertheless, they do have very important ecological consequences and they are an essential part of the good life.

How do we find a way of life which is not powered by fossil fuels and which sits happily inside its ecology? For me, it is firstly, a society organised so that both work and pleasure are walking, or cycling distance from anyone’s door.

That is a society, which has removed the need for personal transport. It is also a more egalitarian society. The wealthy, by the sheer weight of their energy-bloated behaviours and purchases, cause the bulk of climate change, resource depletion, ecological destruction and social depravation.

A common ethics, followed by common law may control what is anti-social wealth.

So political engagement is a part – but I maintain the secondary part of firstly discovering what is the good life and then living it. That will be a process of trial and error – new truths are discovered by new errors.

How do we know where to begin? Why not start with the question – what is happiness? Only my reader can know the answer.


Hawaii's choice - Tourism or survival

SUBHEAD: A fertile group of islands with the ability to grow crops year round—now imports 90% of its food.

By Kurt Cobb on 6 January 2018 for Resource Insights -

Image above: Organization Na keiki koa 4 Haloa trains young Hawaiians in traditional food self-sufficiency. From (

Hawaiians used to feed themselves quite easily on this island paradise. With the arrival of Europeans and Americans came European and American ideas about plantation agriculture. Hawaii became a producer of coffee, sugar, pineapple, papaya, rice and other plantation crops.

While destroying Hawaii's diverse food system, the growers created a prosperous agricultural trading economy with mainland markets as customers.

But competition from low-cost producers elsewhere has more recently devastated that economy. The last remaining sugar plantation closed in 2016.

The decline of the previously large sugar and pineapple industries now make Hawaii much more dependent on tourism as a source of income.

Tourists are Hawaii's largest industry. They spent $15.6 billion in 2016 on vacations there representing about 18.5 percent of the total economy.

That certainly underestimates their importance as many additional support services are needed to maintain the businesses that service the tourists.

As tourism has grown, land used for agriculture has declined by 68 percent since 1980.

Some of the former plantation operators have turned themselves into land development companies to take advantage of the tourism and real estate boom.

The result is that Hawaii—a lush, fertile group of islands with the ability to grow crops year round—now imports 90 percent of its food.

Importing food is not a problem in and of itself. It turns out that some of the world's top food importing nations such as China, the United States and Germany are also top food exporters.

They choose to specialize in what they grow most efficiently and export some of it, while importing foodstuffs which other countries are more efficient at growing by reason of climate, soil, water availability, labor costs and other factors.

For countries such as China, the United States and Germany, disruptions in food imports might represent a mere inconvenience. Americans might feel deprived without bananas at their morning table, but they would have the option of choosing apples, pears or other fruit instead.

Hawaii could make policy that would encourage more food growing. But such policies are likely to raise the cost of government through agricultural subsidies. If Hawaii were an independent country, it could impose import duties on certain agricultural products in order to encourage local production of them.

But subsidies and other available measures—unless they are focused on building a diverse agriculture—might simply bring Hawaii back toward a plantation economy, not an economy that could actually feed the people of Hawaii. Here Hawaii faces two problems.

A census done by Hawaii's still then independent government in 1850 put the population at around 84,000. The 2010 census showed a population of more than 1.3 million according to Hawaiian state census information.

Using current agricultural lands, it would be difficult to feed a population that has grown more than 10 times (let alone the tourists who add another 220,000 people daily to the population)—even if crops were broadly diversified.

In all likelihood much more land would have to be put under cultivation and many more people would have to be engaged in growing food in residential vegetable gardens, truck farms and large polyculture farm operations.

The second problem is that so long as the tourists keep coming, there is little impetus to reverse the trend in Hawaiian agriculture. The assumption is that the tourists will simply keep coming and coming forever.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and the deep recession of 2008 and 2009 taught Hawaiians that there will be significant disruptions in tourist traffic, but that that traffic will always come back. Have they learned the right lesson?

Other importers of food aren't so fortunate as Hawaii which even in the worst situation would receive aid from the U.S. federal government.

Countries such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, Niger, and Yemen, in fact, 34 countries in all "are unable to produce their own food due to water and land limitations."

For many in these countries getting their daily sustenance is a life and death struggle. The modern global economy has forced countries to specialize. This works well for those properly positioned with the appropriate infrastructure and skilled workforce.

Without these many countries simply become sources of raw commodities for the factories and mills of advanced countries—and that's if those developing countries are lucky enough to have such an endowment.

Some day Hawaii may have to contemplate what it will do without tourism or at least less of it. For that matter, it may have to contemplate what it will do without the heavy U.S. military presence which represents the second largest part of the Hawaiian economy.

Specialization has its advantages. But it can also bring frightening vulnerabilities. A whole city of beautiful hotel rooms means little if few people come to stay in them.

Hedging against such a day may just be too painful for Hawaiians to contemplate—which is the very reason they should start thinking about it right now.
• Kurt Cobb is a freelance writer and communications consultant who writes frequently about energy and environment. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Resilience, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique,, OilVoice, TalkMarkets,, Business Insider and many other places. He is the author of an oil-themed novel entitled Prelude and has a widely followed blog called Resource Insights. He is currently a fellow of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions. He can be contacted at


Farming for a Small Planet

SUBHEAD: Agroecology is aligned with nature and balances power relationships, from the village level upward.

By Frances Moore Lappé on 9 January 2018 for Local Futures -

Image above: Aerial view of a sustainable farming practice. From original article.

People yearn for alternatives to industrial agriculture, but they are worried. They see large-scale operations relying on corporate-supplied chemical inputs as the only high-productivity farming model.

Another approach might be kinder to the environment and less risky for consumers, but, they assume, it would not be up to the task of providing all the food needed by our still-growing global population.

Contrary to such assumptions, there is ample evidence that an alternative approach—organic agriculture, or more broadly “agroecology”—is actually the only way to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, healthful food. Inefficiency and ecological destruction are built into the industrial model.

But, beyond that, our ability to meet the world’s needs is only partially determined by what quantities are produced in fields, pastures, and waterways.

Wider societal rules and norms ultimately shape whether any given quantity of food produced is actually used to meet humanity’s needs. In many ways, how we grow food determines who can eat and who cannot—no matter how much we produce.

Solving our multiple food crises thus requires a systems approach in which citizens around the world remake our understanding and practice of democracy.

Today, the world produces—mostly from low-input, smallholder farms—more than enough food: 2,900 calories per person per day.

Per capita food availability has continued to expand despite ongoing population growth. This ample supply of food, moreover, comprises only what is left over after about half of all grain is either fed to livestock or used for industrial purposes, such as agrofuels.1

Despite this abundance, 800 million people worldwide suffer from long-term caloric deficiencies. One in four children under five is deemed stunted—a condition, often bringing lifelong health challenges, that results from poor nutrition and an inability to absorb nutrients.

Two billion people are deficient in at least one nutrient essential for health, with iron deficiency alone implicated in one in five maternal deaths.2

The total supply of food alone actually says little about whether the world’s people are able to meet their nutritional needs. We need to ask why the industrial model leaves so many behind, and then determine what questions we should be asking to lead us toward solutions to the global food crisis.

Vast, Hidden Inefficiencies
The industrial model of agriculture—defined here by its capital intensity and dependence on purchased inputs of seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides—creates multiple unappreciated sources of inefficiency.

Economic forces are a major contributor here: the industrial model operates within what are commonly called “free market economies,” in which enterprise is driven by one central goal, namely, securing the highest immediate return to existing wealth.

This leads inevitably to a greater concentration of wealth and, in turn, to greater concentration of the capacity to control market demand within the food system.

Moreover, economically and geographically concentrated production, requiring lengthy supply chains and involving the corporate culling of cosmetically blemished foods, leads to massive outright waste: more than 40 percent of food grown for human consumption in the United States never makes it into the mouths of its population.3

The underlying reason industrial agriculture cannot meet humanity’s food needs is that its system logic is one of disassociated parts, not interacting elements. It is thus unable to register its own self-destructive impacts on nature’s regenerative processes.

Industrial agriculture, therefore, is a dead end. Consider the current use of water in agriculture.

About 40 percent of the world’s food depends on irrigation, which draws largely from stores of underground water, called aquifers, which make up 30 percent of the world’s freshwater. Unfortunately, groundwater is being rapidly depleted worldwide.

In the United States, the Ogallala Aquifer—one of the world’s largest underground bodies of water—spans eight states in the High Plains and supplies almost one third of the groundwater used for irrigation in the entire country. Scientists warn that within the next thirty years, over one-third of the southern High Plains region will be unable to support irrigation.

If today’s trends continue, about 70 percent of the Ogallala groundwater in the state of Kansas could be depleted by the year 2060.4

Industrial agriculture also depends on massive phosphorus fertilizer application—another dead end on the horizon.

Almost 75 percent of the world’s reserve of phosphate rock, mined to supply industrial agriculture, is in an area of northern Africa centered in Morocco and Western Sahara.

Since the mid-twentieth century, humanity has extracted this “fossil” resource, processed it using climate-harming fossil fuels, spread four times more of it on the soil than occurs naturally, and then failed to recycle the excess.

Much of this phosphate escapes from farm fields, ending up in ocean sediment where it remains unavailable to humans.

Within this century, the industrial trajectory will lead to “peak phosphorus”—the point at which extraction costs are so high, and prices out of reach for so many farmers, that global phosphorus production begins to decline.5

Beyond depletion of specific nutrients, the loss of soil itself is another looming crisis for agriculture. Worldwide, soil is eroding at a rate ten to forty times faster than it is being formed.

To put this in visual terms, each year, enough soil is washed and blown from fields globally to fill roughly four pickup trucks for every human being on earth.6

The industrial model of farming is not a viable path to meeting humanity’s food needs for yet another reason: it contributes nearly 20 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, even more than the transportation sector. The most significant emissions from agriculture are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

Carbon dioxide is released in deforestation and subsequent burning, mostly in order to grow feed, as well as from decaying plants. Methane is released by ruminant livestock, mainly via their flatulence and belching, as well as by manure and in rice paddy cultivation.

Nitrous oxide is released largely by manure and manufactured fertilizers. Although carbon dioxide receives most of the attention, methane and nitrous oxide are also serious. Over a hundred-year period, methane is, molecule for molecule, 34 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas, and nitrous oxide about 300 times, than carbon dioxide.7

Our food system also increasingly involves transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, storage, wholesale and retail operations, and waste management—all of which emit greenhouses gases.

Accounting for these impacts, the total food system’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, from land to landfill, could be as high as 29 percent. Most startlingly, emissions from food and agriculture are growing so fast that, if they continue to increase at the current rate, they alone could use up the safe budget for all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.8

These dire drawbacks are mere symptoms. They flow from the internal logic of the model itself. The reason that industrial agriculture cannot meet the world’s needs is that the structural forces driving it are misaligned with nature, including human nature.

Social history offers clear evidence that concentrated power tends to elicit the worst in human behavior. Whether for bullies in the playground or autocrats in government, concentrated power is associated with callousness and even brutality not in a few of us, but in most of us.9

The system logic of industrial agriculture, which concentrates social power, is thus itself a huge risk for human well-being. At every stage, the big become bigger, and farmers become ever-more dependent on ever-fewer suppliers, losing power and the ability to direct their own lives.

The seed market, for example, has moved from a competitive arena of small, family-owned firms to an oligopoly in which just three companies—Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta—control over half of the global proprietary seed market.

Worldwide, from 1996 to 2008, a handful of corporations absorbed more than two hundred smaller independent companies, driving the price of seeds and other inputs higher to the point where their costs for poor farmers in southern India now make up almost half of production costs.10

And the cost in real terms per acre for users of bio-engineered crops dominated by one corporation, Monsanto, tripled between 1996 and 2013.

Not only does the industrial model direct resources into inefficient and destructive uses, but it also feeds the very root of hunger itself: the concentration of social power.

This results in the sad irony that small-scale farmers—those with fewer than five acres—control 84 percent of the world’s farms and produce most of the food by value, yet control just 12 percent of the farmland and make up the majority of the world’s hungry.11

The industrial model also fails to address the relationship between food production and human nutrition. Driven to seek the highest possible immediate financial returns, farmers and agricultural companies are increasingly moving toward monocultures of low-nutrition crops such as corn—the dominant US crop—that are often processed into empty-calorie “food products.”

As a result, from 1990 to 2010, growth in unhealthy eating patterns outpaced dietary improvements in most parts of the world, including the poorer regions. Most of the key causes of non-communicable diseases are now diet-related, and by 2020, such diseases are predicted to account for nearly 75 percent of all deaths worldwide.12

A Better Alternative
What model of farming can end nutritional deprivation while restoring and conserving food-growing resources for our progeny? The answer lies in the emergent model of agroecology, often called “organic” or ecological agriculture.

Hearing these terms, many people imagine simply a set of farming practices that forgo purchased inputs, relying instead on beneficial biological interactions among plants, microbes, and other organisms.

However, agroecology is much more than that. The term as it is used here suggests a model of farming based on the assumption that within any dimension of life, the organization of relationships within the whole system determines the outcomes. The model reflects a shift from a disassociated to a relational way of thinking arising across many fields within both the physical and social sciences.

This approach to farming is coming to life in the ever-growing numbers of farmers and agricultural scientists worldwide who reject the narrow productivist view embodied in the industrial model.

Recent studies have dispelled the fear that an ecological alternative to the industrial model would fail to produce the volume of food for which the industrial model is prized. In 2006, a seminal study in the Global South compared yields in 198 projects in 55 countries and found that ecologically attuned farming increased crop yields by an average of almost 80 percent.

A 2007 University of Michigan global study concluded that organic farming could support the current human population, and expected increases without expanding farmed land.

Then, in 2009, came a striking endorsement of ecological farming by fifty-nine governments and agencies, including the World Bank, in a report painstakingly prepared over four years by four hundred scientists urging support for “biological substitutes for industrial chemicals or fossil fuels.”13

 Such findings should ease concerns that ecologically aligned farming cannot produce sufficient food, especially given its potential productivity in the Global South, where such farming practices are most common.

Ecological agriculture, unlike the industrial model, does not inherently concentrate power. Instead, as an evolving practice of growing food within communities, it disperses and creates power, and can enhance the dignity, knowledge, and the capacities of all involved. Agroecology can thereby address the powerlessness that lies at the root of hunger.

Applying such a systems approach to farming unites ecological science with time-tested traditional wisdom rooted in farmers’ ongoing experiences. Agroecology also includes a social and politically engaged movement of farmers, growing from and rooted in distinct cultures worldwide.

As such, it cannot be reduced to a specific formula, but rather represents a range of integrated practices, adapted and developed in response to each farm’s specific ecological niche. It weaves together traditional knowledge and ongoing scientific breakthroughs based on the integrative science of ecology.

By progressively eliminating all or most chemical fertilizers and pesticides, agroecological farmers free themselves—and, therefore, all of us—from reliance on climate-disrupting, finite fossil fuels, as well as from other purchased inputs that pose environmental and health hazards.

In another positive social ripple, agroecology is especially beneficial to women farmers. In many areas, particularly in Africa, nearly half or more of farmers are women, but too often they lack access to credit.14

Agroecology—which eliminates the need for credit to buy synthetic inputs—can make a significant difference for them.

Agroecological practices also enhance local economies, as profits on farmers’ purchases no longer seep away to corporate centers elsewhere.

After switching to practices that do not rely on purchased chemical inputs, farmers in the Global South commonly make natural pesticides using local ingredients—mixtures of neem tree extract, chili, and garlic in southern India, for example. Local farmers purchase women’s homemade alternatives and keep the money circulating within their community, benefiting all.15

Besides these quantifiable gains, farmers’ confidence and dignity are also enhanced through agroecology. Its practices rely on farmers’ judgments based on their expanding knowledge of their land and its potential. Success depends on farmers’ solving their own problems, not on following instructions from commercial fertilizer, pesticide, and seed companies.

Developing better farming methods via continual learning, farmers also discover the value of collaborative working relationships. Freed from dependency on purchased inputs, they are more apt to turn to neighbors—sharing seed varieties and experiences of what works and what does not for practices like composting or natural pest control.

These relationships encourage further experimentation for ongoing improvement. Sometimes, they foster collaboration beyond the fields as well—such as in launching marketing and processing cooperatives that keep more of the financial returns in the hands of farmers.

Going beyond such localized collaboration, agroecological farmers are also building a global movement. La Via Campesina, whose member organizations represent 200 million farmers, fights for “food sovereignty,” which its participants define as the “right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods.”

This approach puts those who produce, distribute, and consume food—rather than markets and corporations—at the heart of food systems and policies, and defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation.

Once citizens come to appreciate that the industrial agriculture model is a dead end, the challenge becomes strengthening democratic accountability in order to shift public resources away from it.

Today, those subsidies are huge: by one estimate, almost half a trillion tax dollars in OECD countries, plus Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Africa, and Ukraine.16

Imagine the transformative impact if a significant share of those subsidies began helping farmers’ transition to agroecological farming.

Any accurate appraisal of the viability of a more ecologically attuned agriculture must let go of the idea that the food system is already so globalized and corporate-dominated that it is too late to scale up a relational, power-dispersing model of farming.

As noted earlier, more than three-quarters of all food grown does not cross borders. Instead, in the Global South, the number of small farms is growing, and small farmers produce 80 percent of what is consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.17

The Right Path
When we address the question of how to feed the world, we need to think relationally—linking current modes of production with our future capacities to produce, and linking farm output with the ability of all people to meet their need to have nutritious food and to live in dignity.

Agroecology, understood as a set of farming practices aligned with nature and embedded in more balanced power relationships, from the village level upward, is thus superior to the industrial model.

This emergent relational model offers the promise of an ample supply of nutritious food needed now and in the future, and more equitable access to it.

Reframing concerns about inadequate supply is only the first step toward necessary change. The essential questions about whether humanity can feed itself well are social—or, more precisely, political.

Can we remake our understanding and practice of democracy so that citizens realize and assume their capacity for self-governance, beginning with the removal of the influence of concentrated wealth on our political systems?

Democratic governance—accountable to citizens, not to private wealth—makes possible the necessary public debate and rule-making to re-embed market mechanisms within democratic values and sound science.

Only with this foundation can societies explore how best to protect food-producing resources—soil, nutrients, water—that the industrial model is now destroying.

Only then can societies decide how nutritious food, distributed largely as a market commodity, can also be protected as a basic human right.

This post is adapted from an essay originally written for the Great Transition Initiative.

1. Food and Agriculture Division of the United Nations, Statistics Division, “2013 Food Balance Sheets for 42 Selected Countries (and Updated Regional Aggregates),” accessed March 1, 2015,; Paul West et al., “Leverage Points for Improving Global Food Security and the Environment,” Science 345, no. 6194 (July 2014): 326; Food and Agriculture Organization, Food Outlook: Biannual Report on Global Food Markets (Rome: FAO, 2013),

FAO, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015: Meeting the 2015 International Hunger Targets: Taking Stock of Uneven Progress (Rome: FAO, 2015), 8, 44,; World Health Organization, Childhood Stunting: Context, Causes, Consequences (Geneva: WHO, 2013),
; FAO, The State of Food and Agriculture 2013: Food Systems for Better Nutrition (Rome: FAO, 2013), ix,

Vaclav Smil, “Nitrogen in Crop Production: An Account of Global Flows,” Global Geochemical Cycles 13, no. 2 (1999): 647; Dana Gunders, Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill (Washington, DC: Natural Resources Defense Council, 2012),

United Nations Environment Programme, Groundwater and Its Susceptibility to Degradation: A Global Assessment of the Problem and Options for Management (Nairobi: UNEP, 2003),; Bridget Scanlon et al., “Groundwater Depletion and Sustainability of Irrigation in the US High Plains and Central Valley,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 24 (June 2012): 9320; David Steward et al., “Tapping Unsustainable Groundwater Stores for Agricultural Production in the High Plains Aquifer of Kansas, Projections to 2110,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. 37 (September 2013): E3477.

Dana Cordell and Stuart White, “Life’s Bottleneck: Sustaining the World’s Phosphorus for a Food Secure Future,” Annual Review Environment and Resources 39 (October 2014): 163, 168, 172.

David Pimentel, “Soil Erosion: A Food and Environmental Threat,” Journal of the Environment, Development and Sustainability 8 (February 2006): 119. This calculation assumes that a full-bed pickup truck can hold 2.5 cubic yards of soil, that one cubic yard of soil weighs approximately 2,200 pounds, and that world population is 7.2 billion people.

FAO, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use,” March 2014, infographics/infographics-details/en/c/218650/; Gunnar Myhre et al., “Chapter 8: Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing,” in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013), 714,

Sonja Vermeulen, Bruce Campbell, and John Ingram, “Climate Change and Food Systems,” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37 (November 2012): 195; Bojana Bajželj et al., “Importance of Food-Demand Management for Climate Mitigation,” Nature Climate Change 4 (August 2014): 924–929.

Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (New York: Random House, 2007).

Philip Howard, “Visualizing Consolidation in the Global Seed Industry: 1996–2008,” Sustainability 1, no. 4 (December 2009): 1271; T. Vijay Kumar et al., Ecologically Sound, Economically Viable: Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, India (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2009), 6-7,

Estimated from FAO, “Family Farming Knowledge Platform,” accessed December 16, 2015,

Fumiaki Imamura et al., “Dietary Quality among Men and Women in 187 Countries in 1990 and 2010: A Systemic Assessment,” The Lancet 3, no. 3 (March 2015): 132–142,

Jules Pretty et al., “Resource-Conserving Agriculture Increases Yields in Developing Countries,” Environmental Science & Technology 40, no. 4 (2006): 1115; Catherine Badgley et al., “Organic Agriculture and the Global Food Supply,” Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 22, no. 2 (June 2007): 86, 88; International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, Agriculture at a Crossroads: International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2009).

Cheryl Doss et al., “The Role of Women in Agriculture,” ESA Working Paper No. 11-02 (working paper, FAO, Rome, 2011), 4,

Gerry Marten and Donna Glee Williams, “Getting Clean: Recovering from Pesticide Addiction,” The Ecologist (December 2006/January 2007): 50–53,

Randy Hayes and Dan Imhoff, Biosphere Smart Agriculture in a True Cost Economy: Policy Recommendations to the World Bank (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2015), 9,

Matt Walpole et al., Smallholders, Food Security, and the Environment (Nairobi: UNEP, 2013), 6, 28,

• Frances Moore Lappé is the founder of the Small Planet Institute, and the author or co-author of 19 books about world hunger, living democracy, and the environment, beginning with Diet for a Small Planet in 1971.

Organizing on a Sinking Ship

SUBHEAD: The Climate Justice movement will have to deal with the aftermath of capitalism's climate crisis.

By Kevin Buckland on 27 December 2018 for Roar -

Image above: Painting "People in the Sun" by Edward Hopper, 1960, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum. From ( IB Publisher's note - I've always thought these folks were looking at an atomic bomb test in Nevada.

Our response to the climate crisis has been to rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic — but whatever we do, it isn’t working. It’s time to try something new.

Climate change rarely comes up at the top of the list when people are asked about issues that concern them most. While this is not surprising, it is nonetheless disturbing considering the gravity of the climate crisis. Yet the key problem of our collective negligence of the climate crisis is reflected in the question itself, rather than the answer.

Let us be clear: climate change is not an “issue.” Rather, it is now the entirety of the biophysical world of which we are part. It is the physical battleground in which every “issue” is played out — and it is crumbling.

The global justice movement is one of the many actors trying to maneuver on this battlefield, and the direction it is headed in is reshaping the narratives, tactics and structures that comprise it, hinting at the future of social movement organizing on a radically transformed planet.

The rules of the game have changed: welcome to the Capitalocene (the era of capitalism's rule over nature) — and goodbye to “activism-as-usual.” As the climate changes, so must movements if they are to withstand, even thrive, inside the coming cataclysm of winds, waves and wars.

As our planet rockets into a new geological epoch, we find ourselves on unfamiliar terrain. The only thing that is certain is that no one knows what will happen, and no one is in control.

The rest of our lives will be defined by an exponential ecological entropy that will increasingly destabilize both the economic and political foundations upon which the modern world has been built. All bets are off. The collapse will be anything but boring.

The Capitalocene is defined partly by a disappearance of spaces of refuge: there is no escaping this problem, and nowhere to hide. We’re all in the same boat.

But the boat has crashed into a drifting iceberg, and is sinking fast. Our response to the climate crisis has been to rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic, but whatever we are doing, it isn’t working. It’s time to try something new.

On a sinking ship, one’s logic and frames of references must change, just as the traditional frames of the left must evolve in the emerging context of crisis. The struggle is no longer to organize the deck-chairs so that we can ensure equal access for all.

Rather, the most critical question now becomes: “How can we best organize ourselves to turn as many of these deck-chairs into life rafts?”

Perhaps as obvious as the climate crisis itself has been the inability of social movements to properly organize around it. For years, the climate movement has been trapped between two discordant discourses: between changing light-bulbs and global revolution.

On one hand, any action can seem minuscule and ineffective compared to a crisis as big as the entire world. On the other, deep systemic change can seem far too slow for the urgency of the crisis we face.

Yet one cannot “fight climate change” in the absence of such structural transformations, for the climate crisis is itself the result of an extractivist logic based upon an exploitative relationship with the world around us.

Long before the industrial revolution, the emerging capitalist world-system was fueled by the exploitation of women, people of color and entire ecosystems.

The climate crisis is the ultimate symptom of this extractivist dynamic, and is an entirely new species of crisis that requires our movements to enact an entirely different logic — including entirely different values, morals, assumptions and strategies — if we are to confront it.

Confronting climate change means confronting the system and the culture that has caused it, and providing a scalable alternative.

More than merely constructing a new politics to confront the “issue” of climate change, the task of the left in the Capitalocene is to cultivate new processes for engagement in politics. The culture of organizing itself becomes key.

If movements in the Capitalocene are to effectively confront this crisis, it means enacting an alternative set of values and organizational principles.

The legacy may have less to do with solar panels and community gardens than with incubating scalable organizing cultures that can be shared with allies, volunteers and partners in ways that improve access to justice as we move together into an exponentially tumultuous future.

It may just be these cultures, being incubated now inside globally connected movements, that will write the next chapter of human history.

Cultural revolution is not only desired; it is needed. If we fail to offer scalable discursive, tactical and structural alternatives to the extractivist logic that has created the climate crisis, capitalism may itself transform the coming wave of disruptions into its own benefit, exacerbating existent inequalities for every social and ecological “issue” as it strengthens its stranglehold of the future on a rapidly destabilizing battleground. History is speeding up. It’s time to play to win.

Shifting Narratives

The climate crisis has reached a critical stage at a strange time. Neoliberalism is devastating the social and ecological commons even as technological change has radically horizontalized media and communication platforms. People are both coming together and being pulled apart.

Importantly, new technologies are creating social spaces for communities to tell their own stories on a global scale. This is transforming global organizing, allowing once-marginal groups to influence the mainstream environmental discourse that had previously been controlled by a few privileged groups.

In recent years, frontline and indigenous groups in particular have managed to shift the narrative.

Rather than playing the role of victims in someone else’s savior story, they are increasingly reframing themselves as the heroes of their own.

One poignant example comes from some of the most remote places on the planet: the atolls of the low-lying pacific islands.

The slogan of the self-named “Pacific Warriors” — “we are not drowning; we are fighting” — attests to the broad narrative shift that is possible when communities are able to speak for themselves.

Their organizing has taken different forms, all of which are carefully constructed to be useful not only in building resistance to climate change but also in building resilience by strengthening traditional culture.

From using handmade traditional canoes to blockade the world’s largest coal port in Australia, to three-day ceremonies outside of the Vatican to a gift-giving ritual with German communities resisting lignite coal mining on the morning of a mass direct action, the Pacific Warriors — and thousands of other front-line and Global South communities — are decolonizing the stories the climate movement is telling itself.

Such narrative shifts have been pulling the global climate justice movement towards a more intersectional systemic analysis.

By telling stories of compounded struggles of racism, colonialism and sexism, front-line and indigenous groups are grounding the intangible climate crisis in lived experience. They are pulling climate change out of the atmosphere, into their bodies and out onto the streets.

In a small but notable shift, the once marginal slogan — “system change, not climate change” — has now been absorbed into the hegemonic discourse.
Shifting Power

At the same time as front-line and indigenous groups are claiming increasing agency in steering the climate movement, more and more NGOs and “Big Greens” are reassessing their traditional approach and working to take “leadership from the most impacted” and support grassroots movements.

This change is important, and it is amplifying stories that need to be told. Yet the same development points to an important structural paradox: how can a top-down organization support bottom-up organizing?

Despite the narrative shift, few mainstream NGOs are making serious efforts to actually embody the structural shift towards horizontality and bottom-up organizing.

A rift is opening between discourse and structure, between form and function, between process and product.

As movements prepare for the coming destabilization, the structure they use will dictate the scale, scope and depth of their capacity to respond. Any incoherence between discourse and structure that is now a small crack may eventually crack open into full-blown crisis.

If movements are to survive, even thrive, in the Capitalocene, they must be looking to build a structural integrity that aligns with their political mission. These organizing structures will set the limits to our collective capacity to respond to the climate crisis.

The structures through which groups organize give body to their politics. In the wake of natural disasters, people find themselves uprooted and in need. Decisions are made on the basis of urgency, not political preference, and people participate in structures that appear to function in a given social context.

An organizational structure’s ability to suddenly absorb new people into meaningful participation will determine its success in both disaster relief and in activism, and may function as a door opening up unto a new politics, as people are forced by the nature of events to step outside of their traditional organizing structures.

As the scale of the crisis becomes more apparent, traditional boundaries of tactical differences are falling away.

The unraveling world is reminding us just how tightly we are bound together. Children’s climate education campaigns, food forests, electoral campaigns and road blockades are at the heart of grassroots efforts that are increasingly embracing an “all hands on deck” approach, carrying collective disobedience into the mainstream.

This marks another important cultural shift, as more and more communities challenge not only unjust laws but also start questioning the legitimacy of the process by which laws are written and enforced.

People and organizations are turning towards participatory democratic processes, and demand inclusion in the making of decisions that affect their life.

Yet for hierarchical organizations like major environmental NGOs, this points to another friction between form and function. Can one truly advocate for external disobedience while internally replicating those same power structures that are to be disobeyed?

Can any type of organization coherently advocate for disobedience against decision-makers, yet expect unwavering obedience towards their own hierarchical and unaccountable internal decision-making structures?

The German movement Ende Gelände has for three years been using a participatory organizing structure to coordinate thousands of people to enter and shut down open-cast coal mines. Their scalable structures have allowed thousands of newcomers to direct action to create safe spaces for participants to engage in actions within their comfort zones.

This has only been possible by allowing groups the autonomy to make their own decisions and fostering a culture of co-creation through a participatory organizing process.

Taking this politics even further, the Queer Feminist finger has for the last two years been enacting an eco-feminist politics of care by further collectivizing organizing and decision-making processes.

Their radical inclusiveness is dependent upon opening participation to decision making, and has been growing exponentially.

Shifting Structures

Environmental struggles are never won. They require constant vigilance. Furthermore, one may defeat a coal-fired power plant in one place only to find it built in a neighboring town ― the project hasn’t been stopped, just moved.

The climate movement, faced with an endless uprising of imposed projects, has been realizing the limitations of the NIMBY (“Not in My Back Yard”) frame that could easily see Exxon Mobil construct mega-sized wind parks for shareholder profits rather than local energy.

The climate justice movement is at a crucial transition as it pivots from a focus on fixing the problem to addressing the cause; from a discourse focused on “solar panels and wind turbines” to “democratically-controlled renewable energy.”

As such, the material infrastructure of the coming world is beginning to align with the organizing structures themselves.

This same pivot also aligns the climate movement with the major popular uprisings of recent years, from the Egyptian Revolution to the indignados in Spain and Greece, Occupy Wall Street in the US, the Gezi movement in Turkey, the Umbrella Revolution in Taiwan, and far beyond — all part of an overarching participatory process bubbling out of the occupied plazas, squares, parks and airports.

These place-based occupations have come and gone, but they have left a deep mark on the political education of a new generation of organizers who, having glimpsed a crack in the façade, are continuing to experiment with radical democratic processes in a growing diversity of forms.

As the global climate movement shifts towards an increased focus on process and participation, it can play a crucial role in global movements by organizing the physical infrastructure of power generation that embodies these principles.

As movements reframe the process by which they are organizing, it is the battlefield itself that expands, opening up a space that suddenly includes the vast majority of the world’s population that has traditionally been excluded from decision-making processes.

This transformation, which is already underway, may mark a turning point in history as anti-imperial, anti-sexist, anti-colonial, and anti-racist movements understand themselves as not only part, but leaders of a global insurrection to democratize the physical infrastructure and management of the coming world. It is time to be building bridges, for the waters are rising and there aren’t enough boats.

“Transition Is Inevitable — Justice Is Not”

As movements come to terms with the fact that stopping climate change is impossible, they are tackling the hard task of imagining what a “just transition” would actually entail. The US-based broad coalition of environmental justice groups and labor unions, Movement Generation, spent three years tackling precisely this problem by envisioning such an eco-social process. Their strategic framework outlines that:
Just transition is a framework for a shift to an economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable and just for all its members. After centuries of global plunder, the profit-driven, growth-dependent, industrial economy is severely undermining the life support systems of the planet.

An economy based on extracting from a finite system faster than the capacity of the system to regenerate will eventually come to an end — either through collapse or through our intentional re-organization. Transition is inevitable. Justice is not.
This understanding of the “inevitable transition” is key for movement organizing today. Any group pursuing radical change now has sufficient evidence that such change is not only necessary but urgent.

In her eloquently written book, A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit shows that while “power” has a history of turning natural disasters into the next process of accumulation, privatization and destruction of the commons, people themselves tend to react very well in disaster.

As the world gets turned upside down by a hurricane, earthquake, explosion or fire, values are also turned upside down and the individualism portended by capitalism is commonly replaced by an honest (and remarkably human) altruism.

People spend days digging strangers out of rubble, shared food is cooked collectively, harvested from unmanned supermarkets or fields. Collective self-organization becomes key to survival.

As with Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sandy, structures can lie dormant for years only to spring back to life as they are needed.

Let us be clear: responding adequately to the coming catastrophe will not be easy. Millions are already suffering from the impacts of a crisis they had no role in causing, and the nations and individuals who have grown rich off generations of exploitation will not simply roll over and share their accumulated wealth.

From border walls to immigration policies to land grabs to LNG terminals to underground bunkers to private islands and private militaries: those with power and privilege are preparing to protect it.

Far from helping, the state often comes back in to put the genie back into the bottle. This use of force, when so openly directed at the victims, begs the question if those in power are not more afraid of our response to the disaster than of the disaster itself.

Solnit comments: “The possibility of paradise hovers on the cusp of coming into being, so much so that it takes powerful forces to keep such a paradise at bay.”

Do not be conned into thinking that your government is doing nothing about climate change, or that the ultra-rich all believe it to be a hoax. Great preparations are underway for what is coming ― they just aren’t for you. Instead, they are based upon and aim to reinforce a systemic logic of competition and scarcity.

All major crises leave a power vacuum in their wake. The ability of people to meet their immediate needs through functional participatory structures reveals windows of opportunity for radical change.

Often, these same shocks that are used as excuses for neoliberalism to privatize emergency services relocate entire communities or impose economic reforms. Yet each crisis is also an opportunity to enact a different form of politics based on cooperation instead of competition, an opportunity that can provide a glimpse of another possible world.

“It’s tempting to ask,” Solnit cleverly points out, “why if you fed your neighbors during the time of the earthquake and fire, you didn’t do so before or after.” The climate crisis will provide our movements with clear opportunities to enact their politics and grow by providing a more functional response to the Capitalocene than that of capitalism.

Building Life Rafts

The word “crisis” comes from the classical Greek krisis, meaning “decision.” Yet despite the powerful slogan to that effect, the main decision we are confronted with is not one of system change or climate change.

Climate change is now inevitable and so, therefore, is system change. The decision at hand is how that change will be organized: will it trickle down or will it rise up?

Will it be based upon competition or cooperation? While the climate crisis is rapidly becoming a fact of life, the coming “system change” is precisely what has yet to be defined — and it is this decision that will shape the coming generations of human culture and society.

Confronting a crisis as big as the world means reimagining and re-engaging an understanding of collectivity that neoliberalism has not been able to sell or steal.

If movements continue to be caught unprepared for the coming and current calamities, we risk letting those most vulnerable fall prey to those with the most privilege and power.

The pressures of the climate crisis have the capacity to bring people closer together. Solnit reminds us how, “just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster… [W]e revert to something we already know how to do.

The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.” If movements do not adequately seize on this possibility, however, the future itself will belong to those who have created the problem and who would only push us further apart.

As we scramble to adapt to life on a sinking ship, we can see the development of discursive, structural and tactical innovations that hold the potential to allow movements to narrate, enact and defend an alternative future that matches the scale of the crisis.

Each crisis that ruptures our communities also ruptures cultural norms, creating an opportunity to organize.

Nothing we can do will stop the ship from going under, but we can slow the sinking. Instead of waiting in line for the captain to give us a place in the lifeboat, perhaps it is time we started deciding — together — how to turn all these deckchairs we’ve been moving around into life rafts.

Note: author Kevin Buckland is a Barcelona-based artivist, storyteller, and arts-organizer for the Global Climate Justice movement with He is a 2017 guest editor for the Transition Network, and publishes occasionally with the Transnational Institute, New Internationalist and others.


Going through a real collapse

SUBHEAD: When the "Shit Hits the Fan" can you be prepared for a period without civilization?

By Daisy Luther on 17 January 2018 for the Organic Prepper -

Image above: A Serbian paramilitary kicks the dead body of a woman in Bosnia in 1992. Photo by Ron Haviv. From (

[IB Publisher's note: This article by Daisy Luther is from an interview with "Selco", a survivor of a brutal military occupation during the Balkan War in the early 1990s. For months civilians died of thirst, starvation and sniper fire in European towns. Selco is not a native English speaker and we have corrected some language.]

Did you ever wonder about the differences in how people behave in a crisis? Why some people survive and some people die? Are there characteristics that we can nurture now in good times that could help see us through bad times?

I have talked with Selco previously about who lives and who doesn’t in a long-term emergency, and a great determiner is a flexible mindset. In this interview, we go deeper into who can withstand the stress of a SHTF (Shit Hits the Fan) event and who crumbles. Today he shares his insights from the Balkan War.

Luther: What were the worst mental stresses during the situation in Bosnia that are probably common in many long-term scenarios?

Selco: Obviously, it was a situation when violence was very widely used and in a random way, often without any logic. So people lived n very poor conditions under constant physical threat.

Of most importance were mental stresses. This part of survival is in my opinion very important and commonly overlooked in the prepper community.

It is a huge topic, but we can touch on some of this in the article. I researched it a lot. A few factors were important, and will be important in any future collapse event:

#1) Loss of control

If you are living a normal average life with your family, you have a job, the kids go to school and can eat their favorite foods, and when someone is sick you go to the physician.

There are police to help if there are problems, there is law and order, everybody knows their place more or less.

You feel that you are in control of your life and lives of your family.

And then one day all that is gone. You find yourself in the world where very often things of life and death are a matter of pure coincidence or chance. For example, is there going to rain that day for enough water?

People had a very hard time of dealing with it. You can be prepared very well to some extent, but also you need to be prepared that for a number of things that you are simply not in control anymore.

#2) Hopelessness
Hopelessness is the big word when it comes to survival, and from my experience, it is hard to beat it.

A survival event that lasts for few days, even a week or two, is like a camping trip, something like people go together, share food, help, there are nights spent next to lamps, violence is possible but not widespread because people see that event is going to last only for week or two.

Some people will take a chance and do violence or steal, but the majority are going to keep it together to the end of SHTF.

Events that last for month or two are harder, more violence and a harder time, but still, people see that everything is going to go back to normal.

When you are thrown into an event that looks like (or you think ) it is going to be a permanent or very prolonged condition, rules change.

From one side you have people that are not going to be so nice and helpful to each other simply because they see this is going last and they will be forced to fight for resources; and from the other side you are going to have hopelessness.

Most humans need to see cause in order to operate in the proper way, or in other words, in hard conditions people need to see ‘light“ no matter how far it is, otherwise, you might just mentally “surrender“ because it is hopeless to push on.

#3) Re-setting of the values
In normal life, you might be a lawyer or clerk, or teacher, or famous writer and then one day the world collapses (let say because of an EMP- Electro-Magnetic Pulse- weapon).

In a few weeks you find out that you are living in the world where you are valuable if you can quickly and efficiently chop wood, or pickle vegetables, repair weapons, devise a setup to charge a car battery, or simply shoot a rifle effectively.

I am not saying a teacher or writer is useless in SHTF, but values are “re-set“. If you do not have any immediate useful skills you’ll be forced to learn one. You may be forced to understand that the values (knowledge and skills) that you had prior collapse simply may not be valuable anymore.

People had problems with this new “value system“.

#4) Responsibility
People have responsibilities in normal times taking care of their families. Those responsibilities are still there when there is a serious collapse but because the "System" is out, all help is out too.

For example, you are responsible for your old mother who has high blood pressure problem but there is no doctor anymore and there is no medicine. There is no help for your kid who has special needs, for example.

You realize that everything is up to you.

Some people simply could not take that. People could not watch their sick child because they could not help them.

Some people would simply “surrender" or leave everything.

#5) Bending the rules
Most interesting is actually how people would (or would not) bend the rules that they had prior to the collapse.

A majority of us live by some mental and moral rules. They tell us what is right and what is wrong.

It is wrong to steal, it is wrong to harm people. It is right to take care of sick and elderly.

When the SHTF you’ll be in a position to “bend“ these rules, simply because you’ll be faced with lot of tough decisions and choices.

For example is it right to steal from others if that means my child will not be hungry or die from an infection?

Is it OK to harm other people because of that? How are you going mentally live with that?

I am not advocating anything here, and I cannot give you suggestions but be sure that you’ll have to bend the rules, and that you will be be faced with tough decisions.

It is up to you how much you are going to bend or break them.

All of the factors mentioned above are examples, and usually, you meet all of them more or less, and in combinations.

Luther: What kind of person tended to do better when everything went belly up?
Selco: First, we need to formulate a definition of “person who tended to do better when everything went belly up.”

I know people who were powerful in that time: maybe because they had manpower, or a role in the black market. For example, they’d sell baby formula to people (sometimes mixed with plaster), or they simply robbed people.

When war stopped they ended up very powerful and they are still (years after) very powerful.

But they are not my definition of normal people.

We are talking now about ordinary folks, and I use the term “small circle“ when describing how to live in those times.

You need to mentally adapt to the fact that you will have to overcome some serious problems, but what is more important you need to adapt to the fact that some of the problems cannot be solved, some people will not survive, and you still will have to move on.

That small circle is your family or your group, and while the world outside is falling apart that does not mean your family needs to fall apart. You will just have to adapt to the new world.

Many people survived hard times, some of them by doing bad things. Other survived but fell apart when they found themselves back in normal times.

One thing about who did mentally good in those times is that people who had support from other people (family, friends) in that time did good.

It is very hard to be alone during events like that, especially if it is prolonged, of course, because obvious reasons, for example security reasons (guarding home), or simply resources gathering.

But when it comes to the mental aspect you need to have support from trusted people (just like they are going need that support from you) otherwise resetting your values is much harder.

Hopelessness will kick down. Simply bending the rules too much may change you in a way that, in the end, turns yours into something that is more animal than human.

Luther: Do you remember any stories you can tell about specific people who thrived?
 Selco: Ordinary folks usually did not thrive. We all dragged ourselves through that way-too-long period feeling lucky if we were alive, with all parts of our body intact, and with families alive.

Everything else was day by day.

I remember this guy, I’ll call him Ed here, he was the man with information.

You need to know that there was a complete information blackout, and even if you could somewhere find a radio most of the stuff that you heard on it was pure propaganda junk.

When you find yourself cut off from real information, all that you are going have is a whole bunch of rumors and misinformation, and only then you realize how much people are used to having information.

I cannot even remember what kind of ridiculous information I have heard in those times, and I believed much of it because I needed to believe in something.

I have heard (and believed) probably 100 times that peace is coming in 3 days, or a new big UN convoy with food for everybody coming to the city tomorrow, big enemy movements there.

People need to know. It is human nature.

And during very hard times people are simply ready to believe in a lot of things that look like clear nonsense in normal times.

Note: Have a means to communicate with other people, CB, radio, satellite phone, ham radio. To hear correct information, it is valuable for many reasons - including mental health.

Ed was the guy who spread rumors, information, and news; and people would give him food for that information.

I believe we all deep in ourselves knew that it is probably just rumor, but “Ed said yesterday“ was some kind of information, something to talk about, something to hope for.

Ed survived alone whole event (pretty rare) thanks to the fact that “he had information.”

Luther: What kind of person suffered the most?

Selco: Survival is about being able to adapt to new things, and those new things are bad mostly.

There are many factors here that are influencing how you gonna mentally cope with collapse. A few of those are:
  • how prepared you are (how much food, water, medicines in stock)
  • how many usable skills you have? (natural remedies knowledge, gardening, technical skills, fighting skills…)
  • how dependent you are on the system? (you are living in city apartment building or in a small rural community)
  • what kind of group (or family) you have around you, what kind of skills those people have, how close and trusted are those people?
    These are just a few examples. Even if you have all of the above you still need to have mental strength.

    Or in other words, you may be perfectly prepared survivalist when SHTF just to find that you are simply falling apart mentally.

    In my case (I am talking about people who were not preppers at all) people who suffered most were people who failed to recognize the new rules.

    We had (in that time, in my family), a college professor, a man that was pretty important in normal times. Students were kinda trembling when they used to see him.

    When SHTF he mentally fell apart and become useless because he felt that suddenly he become nobody, completely unimportant.

    Every scum with a rifle was more important than him.

    It is not about that we could not find a use for him, it is about fact that he was “plugged-in" so heavily in the system and when that system was gone he felt there was no sense to anything.

    He did not want to try to be useful in any other ways.

    One definition would be that people who are “plugged-in" or depended too much on the system had worst time when system disappeared (SHTF).

    Luther: What are some things that can help a person who is having a difficult time during a crisis?
     Selco: I mentioned that you need to have support from other people, but also you need to have peace of mind.

    It is easier said then it is done, but yes, faith and religion, or kind of spiritual-mental order helps a lot.

    I cannot say that religious people had less hard times, but I am sure that religious people went more peacefully through that hard time because it helps you to make sense of everything.

    Personally, I had a kind of “philosophy“ during that time. It went something like “I’ll do whatever I can, and the rest is not in my hands anyway.“

    Over the times it grew into “It will be whatever it has to be.“ It worked for me at that time.

    It sounds simple, but this philosophy helped me through some of the hardest periods because I understood that I can do only do so much. There were so many things that were way out of my control, and way random. If I worried too much about it I might lose my mind.

    It worked for me then, but remember that I was not prepared. Preppers today are more prepared, and by combining that prepping with peace of mind, it makes even more sense.

    Remember that you need to find sense in life when SHTF. You need to have reasons to push on and on.

    God, faith, kids, love… you need to have some reason and to stick to it.

    It can be things like teaching others about herbs, or food growing.

    If you do not have good reasons you either end up dead because you stop caring, or simply you turn to an animal just following the most primitive instincts.

    Luther: What are the things that made people feel better and helped recapture some normalcy?
     Selco: I have to say that drugs and heavy alcohol drinking were in use very much, but not as a mean to recapture normalcy, it was more to get lost – to forget reality.

    You need to have a “vent“ - it is different for different people. As I said, for a lot of people it was alcohol or drugs, for me it did not do the complete job and often it was dangerous to get “lost“ in times like that.

    It was very usual to see people smoking marijuana, people who never even heard of it prior the SHTF.

    For me, two things were like “charging my mental batteries“ – music and reading.

    Music was rare, and it was actually if you stumble on someone who plays guitar, reading was more available, and for me, it was like I was still there but I had escaped to a better place while reading or listening music.

    In some bad situations I did find myself singing songs, maybe I looked retarded in that moment because of that, but actually it helped.

    When you are dirty, hungry, insecure, frightened and worried for your family, and when all that goes for months, you need something that going to make you feel fine for some time, not to forget all troubles (like with heavy drinking or drugs maybe) but more like to push all worries aside for a bit.

    Note: do not mix alcohol abuse with fact that it is a great idea to store alcohol for SHTF. Have alcohol for a trade, or drink, but do not try to solve heavy times with alcohol abuse, it does not work.

    Small snacks, like candies, are precious things as a mental help.

    Check today what kind of small things comfort you when you are down or having problems, and count on that when the SHTF. Those small things will probably comfort you ten times more then.

    Luther: Are there specific personality traits that we can focus on now which would help us through a situation like this? 

    Selco A sense of humor! In that time, for me, a friend with a good sense of humor was worth some rifles or and a pile of MREs.

    A good sense of humor is an important survival skill and often overlooked. I am not joking.

    And storytelling.

    We had in our family old man who was guerilla fighter during WW2, and he combined both of these qualities.

    In hard times, when we were more or less desperate he would tell us stories of his fighting in WW2 – how they fled from the Nazis, how they starved, how they froze in the woods.

    And over the time it helped. 

    For example, one of us would comment “Oh, there is only one can of food today for 5 of us" and then he would say “Oh, you wimps, it is piece of cake, during the WW2 in the German encirclement I ate my shoe for a week.“

    And for whatever hard time in our SHTF, he would have a story of “Oh, you wimps, during the WW2 I…“
    Over time it became partly a joke, but also partly a serious thing.

    Even between each other, when we saw it is a hard situation, we would joke “Shit, this is bad, we are in serious trouble now, call grandpa with one of his “oh, you wimps, during the WW2“ stories.

    That old guy knew exactly what kind of mental relief we needed – joking and storytelling how someone else had hard times and how he managed to survive.

    He had a sense of humor, a gift for storytelling, and he had spirit.

    Thanks to him I grew the habit of using humor in hard situations.