Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life emerges from the roots

But it's not how the political culture works. The dominant culture - economic and political - imposes an economic paradigm over us all with little regard for how life actually works. With humans' increasing technological prowess, that dominance is becoming more pervasive - and more destructive - as it spreads over the planet. It has abstracted us from our living community, separated our sense of self and identity from the ecological whole, but only our "sense" of self because in reality we can never be separated at all.

The dominant political culture also tends to be hierarchical. Even big progressive organizations tend to mimic hierarchy, with structures of top-down decision-making, boards of directors, directives sent out (or down) to affiliates, and a culture of leadership that reveres "experts" with advanced college degrees rather than the wisdom of the local, the experiential, the wisdom of the "native."

Why do I start THIS blog page, a page about stories, with that reflection? Because here we want to share the stories of what is emerging "from below" to challenge the dominant culture. We believe that all social change movements not only begin from below but are most successful when they remain true to that source.


We live in a culture that tends to revere top-down authority, while neglecting vital sources of knowledge and wisdom at the most local grassroots levels where most people live their lives. Too often institutions grow to the size where their own identity and survival become the main rationales for their existence, replacing what may have been a worthy original mission. It's not that these institutions are not needed, but that they need to remember that they are at the service of something more essential than themselves. Their role is to empower, and for the most part follow the lead of those they serve.

Alice's Garden, an urban farm in Milwaukee
I am overwhelmed on a nearly daily basis trying to follow, find, keep up with all the emergent grassroots "uprisings" occurring all over the country - and the world - facing down the fossil-fueled capitalist growth economies that are destroying the living communities of bioregions everywhere. Indeed, there is nowhere to go on the planet now that is not facing egregious harm because of climate change, biodiversity loss, toxic contamination of water and air, threats to human health, habitat loss, and more.

When we look at the big picture of economic and political power in our nation right now, the challenge in front of us looks daunting, overwhelming, impossible. Who of us can today stop ExxonMobil or BP or Koch Industries or Goldman Sachs from doing more harm to the planet and the human communities living here? Who of us has the resources to challenge them head-on?
This system, this paradigm that continues to force us all to live within its logic, is failing. It's failing the living ecosystems of our planet. It's failing our rivers and forests, our land and oceans. It's failing the living creatures with whom we share the planet. It's failing the human community marked by extremes of economic and social injustice. It is not sustainable. It is facing collapse.
What happens in the meantime? Life doesn't stop growing up, appearing, rising through the cracks because of one errant paradigm. It keeps looking for new opportunities to take off. It wants to heal what is damaged, regenerate what is lost, start again, as it has over and over through millions of years of evolutionary life.

And that's where the stories come in. They are about what is rising through the cracks, what is appearing - first here and there, and now everywhere - over the past couple of decades as more of the world begins a collective refusal to allow the beautiful living communities of the Earth to die. Millions of people around the world are reconnecting with their "places" as they come under threat from the dominant economic paradigm. As the world grows more crowded, growth economies see the need for more extraction (mining, drilling, fracking, and more) to feed the growth in consumption that they eagerly anticipate.

But the Earth responds - you are already taking too much. I cannot possibly do this anymore.

Humans are part of that Earth response. The millions who are reconnecting are those still able to get past the distractions of the economic era to "feel" the crisis of life presented by a planet that has been overstretched, is changing all around us, is becoming less rich, less resilient. And the rising up that is occurring through the cracks of the failing system is the best promise we have for creating a new and different future, the "degrowth" economy that begins to bring humans back into balance with the planet's living systems as quickly as possible. And, for the most part, they are doing this in ways that return dignity to human labor, that create the local resilient communities that are our best hope for the future, based as they are in non-hierarchical, broadly participative, and just models of community development.

So that's where this page is headed. We think one of the best ways to encourage a real transformation of this culture is to tell the stories where that is happening in all the diverse expressions that run the gamut from concrete local hands-on projects to articulation of new earth-based spiritualities to organized resistance and advocacy to art and poetry and on and on.

We have one of the most inspirational examples of this going on right now in North Dakota where more the 200 indigenous nations now have offered solidarity with the Sacred Stone Camp of the Standing Rock Sioux  who are seeking to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The project threatens their land, their sacred sites, and the waters of the Missouri River. They see themselves not as protestors but as "protectors," which is exactly what they are. Indigenous leaders have come from as far away as Ecuador to offer their solidarity. Black Lives Matter has shown up, as have activists from around the nation to show their support. This was a rising from below and it has now drawn the attention of the world to an isolated corner of North Dakota.

So, come back to visit, or subscribe to this page to get updates via email. We promise here a steady dose of hope and inspiration.

I leave you with this video, which is today's best example of exactly what I mean. Here's some emerging new life from the heart of Milwaukee's inner city.

Growing with the Youth Of Milwaukee: Teens Grow Greens from PTK Productions LLC on Vimeo.

~ Margaret Swedish

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