It’s the System

Earth Day, Denver 2010

I went to the Denver Earth Day fair in Civic Center park on Earth Day, mostly out of a sense of curiosity but also just to be a witness to whatever it is that the environmental movement can put forward. For anyone who understands the urgency of our situation, the event was obviously disappointing. The fair was rather small (I counted 27 different tables) though tolerably well attended.Greenpeace, probably the most radical group, was there.  They had a “photo petition” of people willing to say that they want to ban the slaughter of whales and have their picture taken holding one of several signs which they provide. Save the whales? Isn’t this where the environmental movement came in decades ago? I understand the public relations behind this idea, but deplore the reality that makes it necessary.

Another group offered a vaguely-worded petition urging strong action on climate change. Cap and trade is a fiasco, but I signed the petition anyway. Among the other groups there was a CSA farm, a “green” lawn care company, a solar company, Goodwill, and a number of governmental agencies, including the Denver Public Library, the Regional Transportation District, and the Department of Energy.

This is it? Why isn’t this event bigger, and why isn’t every table screaming for action? Paul Kashmann, editor of the Washington Park Profile, wrote an editorial lambasting the city. Maybe people just aren’t in to “Earth Day fairs” any more? But what I hear in Congress and in the media, where climate change is somehow “controversial,” reinforces what I see before me. The hold of unreality on the mind of the public is pervasive, and no one dares (or is able) to speak out against what is clearly madness.

Why is this happening? Sure, there are greedy bankers, but there are always greedy people; what is really the problem is that we have a social and political system which rewards and reinforces them. Let’s not hear any more about “what you can do for the environment.” Let’s hear instead about dismantling the system which makes all of this inevitable. We do not need a system in which sustainability has to stand at the door, waiting for handouts, and is expected to pay its own way into the temple of industrial excess. We need to identify a fundamentally different system — a system in which environmental sustainability is the basis of all our economic activities.


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