Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Way Forward

I am in awe of this reality we live in.  It is amazing to think about the size of the universe; amazing to think how it works; amazing  to think how it gives life to so much complexity.  How can one not appreciate these wonders?  How can we not see the life each of us has been given as a gift… a gift that comes with responsibility; a gift that obligates us to take care of the living fabric of our planet?

The problem is, we are not meeting our obligation. We are not taking care of the Earth. Start with climate change.  We humans are responsible for billions of tons of heat trapping pollutants  being pumped into the atmosphere from our cars, our power plants, even from the food choices we make.  The result: higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and more powerful weather events.   We are stripping the forest from our landscapes. We are polluting the sea and exhausting its biological bounty. We are abusing  our fresh water supplies shamelessly.  The soils we depend on are being parched of critical nutrients. We are propagating ourselves mindlessly, consuming all the resources nature has given us like there is no tomorrow.  There are now more than seven billion humans on Earth. How many is too many? We have ravaged our nest nearly to exhaustion. We are supposed to be intelligent beings. We are not behaving that way.  

If we make the Earth uninhabitable,  where else are we going to go?  Oh yes, some say, ‘no problem, we can go live on the Moon or on Mars’.  What are they thinking?   At best, we are hundreds of years from that possibility.  Even if this was not a fantasy; even if it could happen, have you seen pictures of the Moon and Mars?  Would you want to live there?  Isn’t it so much easier and smarter just to take care of what we have?

Some people believe it’s too late to make things right; too late to avoid civilization  scale collapse.  I hope that  is wrong, but there is no denying, we are already being tested by potentially  catastrophic forces like climate change;  forces we ourselves have unleashed.  It’s happening, and it will get worse. How much worse depends on the decisions we make as a global human culture now. Every moment we delay equates to more suffering for future human generations and  more destruction of the natural world we depend on. 

About three out of ten people totally get what I am saying. The rest are indifferent, undecided, or stubbornly resistant to science and reason. Those of us who share a progressive world view must be assertive. We must encourage our friends who are out of step to see the light.  We must urge them to be part of shaping a future that is sustainable and life affirming.  
Where Do We Start?

Our poor stewardship of the biosphere has consequences. Some cannot be stopped, but the worst may still be avoidable. Clean, sustainable technologies are emerging or are already here that can be transformative.   There are behavioral  changes and policy changes we can make that will allow us to reassert thoughtful control over the world we will leave to future generations.

As a first step, beyond the nationalities reflected in our passports, we must begin to see ourselves as citizens of the Earth. Insular thinking does not serve the best interests of society as a whole. Taking proper care of the biosphere must become everyone’s cause.

There is reason for optimism. Tens of millions of people around the world  are already asserting themselves as Earth citizens. They are engaged in progressive action on a whole range of human challenges.  That is a very good thing, but an assertive focus on a single narrow issue, no matter how worthwhile,  is not enough.  Women’s rights activists, and LGBT activists, and animal rights activists, and those fighting for economic fairness must devote a share of their activist energy toward the root cause of our dysfunction.   

Governance, on a local, national, and global scale, is the way the common good is supposed to be facilitated. But what happens when a small number of privileged elites are able to use their wealth and influence to pervert our political systems? What happens when the common good is trampled by self-centered corporate and special interests?   The answer to those questions is abundantly clear. We see the evidence revealed every day on one issue after another.  Everywhere we turn, we find public policy that is  shaped to serve private interests over the public good. 

What is the root cause of our inability to effectively take action on global scale challenges?  Here is the one word answer: corruption.  Governance, politics, the media, finance, health care: all of these arenas have been egregiously corrupted, favoring entrenched private interests over the public good. He who has the money makes the rules, that’s the unfortunate bottom line.  As long as we the people accept that; as long as so many citizens remain unaware or indifferent to that, we’re screwed.

It starts with governance. The congress runs on its own brand of legalized  bribery. The courts, particularly,  the Supreme Court, are corrupted.  Most agencies responsible for managing the government’s regulatory functions are deeply corrupted by industry ‘insider’ appointees.

Candidates for elective office at the local, state, and national level can’t get elected without the financial support of corporations, special interest political action groups, and rich campaign donors, all of whom expect allegiance to their narrow agendas in return. The Supreme Court’s ‘Citizen’s United’  decision opened the floodgates for anonymous and essentially limitless campaign contributions for candidates willing to pledge allegiance to their financial underwriters.  So, who gets elected?  In way too many cases, it’s the candidate with no principles who takes the political sewer money.  It amounts to a barely disguised form of legalized bribery.

Instead of wearing ourselves down fighting the symptoms of this corruption,  we need to get at the root cause.  The evidence suggests that the foundation for this particularly American style of political corruption lies with two morally bankrupt legal constructs. One is the idea that money equates to free speech. If you have money, you are allowed to run roughshod over  the political process; to spend as such as you like to control your own public policy agenda. Thus, we end up with elected officials, who are the best money can buy.

The second corrosive legal construct has never been codified in law. It is the precedent that corporations are considered persons under the law.  It is not the product of any legislation. It has never been properly vetted by the courts.  Yet, it is accepted as legal precedent.  This very bad idea blossomed back in the 19th century during the robber baron era which, it turns out, had more than a little in common with the dysfunctional politics that prevail today.  Assigning personhood to corporations has led to all kinds of ethically repugnant behavior that puts their self-interest ahead of the public interest.

Getting rid of ‘money equals speech’ and ‘corporate personhood’ would do much to make populist political candidates more electable.   How do we make it happen?  It turns out, there is already a clear pathway. A non-profit populist action group called,  Move to Amend [] has emerged. Its mission is tightly focused on one very specific goal: to pass a constitutional amendment that would end ‘money as speech’ and repudiate ‘Corporate personhood’. 

 Move to Amend is not the only group that claims to have a remedy for our constitutional malaise.  There are other initiatives with different focuses. Some are about turning back the clock on ‘Citizens United’.   The problem is ‘Citizens United’  is not the cause of our broken democracy, it is an exacerbation that makes a bad situation worse. The legal foundation for ‘Citizens United’ is the entire focus of Move to Amend.  A constitutional amendment nullifying ‘money as speech’ and ‘corporate personhood’ is a game changer; it is the closest thing to a cure that exists.  It is the critical first step; the foundation on which government can be revitalized and made accountable to its citizens again.  

No matter what the cause,  Move to Amend has the ultimate answer. A constitutional amendment nullifying ‘money as speech’ and ‘corporate personhood’ is the single most important thing that can be done to restore our democracy.  Every citizen needs to become part of the grass roots effort to get this done

Go to the Move to Amend website.   Inform yourself, and become part of the solution.


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