Posted by: Mr. Austin | April 23, 2010

Ghost Dancing About Our Future

You know, the way I read a whitened version long ago, ghost dancing by the people whose continent our forbears overran, was sometimes practiced in the belief that red, white and brown cultures would grow into beautiful cooperation. The way some histories present it, American Indian ghost dancers believed their diety would hasten either the demise or pacifism of their oppressors.

It’s easy to imagine a culture desperate enough to retreat into the Technicolor grandeur of imagination and hope things will right themselves by miraculous intervention. Of course, it didn’t happen. Indian ways of living in harmony with the Earth passed over. But that was then.

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

An environmental tipping point forecast by the Indians has already come – and gone – where our tribe is now suffering the consequences of its choices. Lester R. Brown mentions in his book a 2002 study which estimates the Earth’s carrying capacity was already reached in 1980 (see page 14). That’s 30 years ago! It’s especially interesting that only 120 years after the ghost dancers foresaw change, it’s easy to make a respectable case the ghost dancers were right.

Our way of life is coming to a screeching halt because we tried to fudge our science, or we simply ignored the good science of ecosystems. And if you’re paying attention to the best sources, you’d conclude the same thing. Time’s up to get busy. Your future just phoned and it’s not happy. Plan A already failed. So what’s next?

To paraphrase Lester R. Brown from his Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, we need to move at wartime speed. If you want a blue planet in good condition you can leave your children, you have to read this book. There are a whole list of highly-respected people and publications which suggest this. There exist no “ifs,” “ands” or “buts” about this. The book’s free as a download if you like.

I don’t think Brown would say he invented the books concepts, but I think it’s safe to say he’s one of the first to aggregate them in a synergistic fashion. Even if you decided you didn’t like what Brown has to say, he’s well-respected and influential enough that you need to know what he sees happening.

But President Obama won’t read it for you, the mayor of your town won’t read it for you, your broker at Goldman Sachs might run from it, and you can’t depend on your child’s school to tell you what’s in it. Your employer or clients won’t pay you to read it. But I’d bet they’d respect you for it when you do, and that would grow your stock in their enterprise.

One of my favorite examples from Plan B 4.0 is about how the U.S. has often moved toward it’s goals without the help of elected officials or government authorities: “Some of the most impressive climate stabilization advances, such as the powerful U.S. grassroots movement that has led to a de facto moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, had little to do with international negotiations (editor’s note: like the ineffectual Copenhagen). At no point did the leaders of this movement say that they wanted to ban new coal-fired power plants only if Europe does, if China does, or if the rest of the world does. They moved ahead unilaterally knowing that if the United  States  does  not  quickly  cut  carbon  emissions,  the world will be in trouble.”

But this isn’t the book’s only message – in fact in its 368 easily read, digestible pages, you’ll find information on climate change, food, soil erosion and recovery, geopolitical wrangling over cropland – everything you need to know to get a view from 50,000 feet of what’s really happening on Earth. Brown asks us to pick something we can sink our teeth into and get busy. Soft-peddle it at your next cocktail party or whack your favorite conservative upside the head with it as you choose.

Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute

Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute

So, on this coming Monday’s Blue Planet Almanac I’ll have the privilege to talk with the renowned Earth Policy Institute’s respected Director of Research, Janet Larsen, about Earth Policy’s work, it’s platform and Plan B 4.0. Earth Policy Institute is an independent environmental research organization in Washington, DC.

Larsen was: “one of its incorporators, is a co-author its Earth Policy Reader and has written on topics ranging from natural resource availability to population growth and climate change. Her research has been translated into other languages and featured in print, on-line and in radio publications. Prior to the creation of Earth Policy Institute in 2001, Janet worked at Worldwatch Institute (founded by Brown), providing research support to its State of the World and contributing to its Vital Signs. Janet holds a degree in Earth Systems from Stanford University. She has conducted ecology fieldwork on the Chilean coast and in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.

Opinions differ on what will work to resolve our predicaments. Although industrialized cultures based on science have drawbacks, one of them isn’t that good science isn’t available to show us how to proceed. But for most of us, our participation in solutions will take the form of bite-sized activities, proffered to us daily by a variety of organizations. So as yet another example of an organization who can show you things to do which will actually make a difference, we’ll be talking with Green America’s Fran Teplitz and Todd Larsen. Green America is, “a nonprofit, membership based organization in Washington, DC that involves consumers, businesses and investors in economic strategies to advance positive social and environmental change.”

Todd Larsen, Green America

Todd Larsen, Green America

Todd is Green America’s Corporate Responsibility Programs Director and tells me that his division of Green America’s “programs educate consumers and investors about the environmental and social records of major companies and encourage them to take action to promote greater responsibility.  In addition, Green America provides tools and resources to companies to help them improve their impacts on people and the planet.”

Fran is Green America’s Director of Social Investing and Strategic Outreach. Her “work focuses on socially responsible investing, including community investing and banking as well as shareholder action. She also manages Green America’s role in various coalitions related to sustainable business and economics, climate change, and other policy issues.”

“Fran worked with Peace Action and the Peace Action Education Fund for seven years before joining Green America. Prior to Peace Action, she worked on U.S. policy toward Central America.  She holds a Master’s Degree from the Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and earned her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis in Political Science.”

Fran Teplitz of Green America

Fran Teplitz of Green America

Blue Planet Almanac radio airs live with host Mike Austin on on the 4th Monday of each month at 8:00 A.M. Pacific Time. Blue Planet Almanac is also re-broadcast later in the week and shows are archived three days after airtime at that same site, with some available through this link. is an all-positive talk station and has over 3 million listeners monthly in 104 countries and all 50 United States.

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