September 25, 2010

What a Native utopia looks like

Here's a description of what a sustainable global economy and environment might look like. It's probably too utopian, and I don't see how we'd get from here to there. But it provides an alternative to a world dominated by wealth and power.

Not coincidentally, it embodies the best values of indigenous cultures. If Westerners had let these cultures mature on their own, without imperialist interference, they might have evolved into this. There's no way to know, of course, but it was certainly possible.

An Anarchist Solution to Global Warming

By Peter GelderloosI base the description of this future possible world both on what is physically necessary and what is ethically desirable, in accordance with the following premises.

Fossil fuel extraction and consumption need to come to a full stop. Industrial food production must be replaced with the sustainable growing of food at the local level.

Centralizing power structures are inherently exploitative of the environment and oppressive towards people.

The mentality of quantitative value, accumulation, production, and consumption—that is to say, the mentality of the market—is inherently exploitative of the environment and oppressive towards people.

Medical science is infused with a hatred of the body, and though it has perfected effective response to symptoms, it is damaging to our health as currently practiced.

Decentralization, voluntary association, self-organization, mutual aid, and non-coercion are fully practical and have worked, both within and outside of Western Civilization, time and time again.

Welcome to the future. No one ever knew global society would look like this. Its defining feature is heterogeneity. Some cities have been abandoned, trees are growing up through their avenues, rivers rush where asphalt had once covered the ground, and skyscrapers crumble while deer forage at their foundations.

Other cities are thriving, but they have changed beyond recognition. Rooftops, vacant lots, and sidewalks have turned into gardens. Fruit- and nut-bearing trees line every block. Roosters welcome every dawn. About a tenth of the streets—the major thoroughfares—remain paved or gravelled, and buses running on biofuels traverse them regularly.
And:In short, the city has a negligible environmental footprint. A high density of people live in an area that nonetheless has an impressive biodiversity, with many plant and animal species cohabiting the city. They don’t produce pollution that they don’t remediate themselves. They take some water from the watershed, but far less than a capitalist city, and in agreement with the other communities that use the watershed. They release some greenhouse gases through fuel burning, but it is less than the amount they take out of the atmosphere through their own agriculture (since all their fuels are agricultural, and the carbon they’re releasing is the same carbon those plants removed from the atmosphere as they grew). Nearly all their food is local and sustainably grown. They carry out a small amount of factory production, but most of it uses recycled materials.

Outside the city, the world is even more transformed. Deserts, jungles, mountainous regions, swamps, tundras, and other areas that cannot sustainably support high population densities have rewilded. No government programs were necessary to create nature preserves; it simply wasn’t worth the effort to remain there once fossil fuel production ended. Many of these areas have been reclaimed by their prior indigenous inhabitants. In many of them, people are again existing as hunter-gatherers, enacting the most intelligent form of economy possible in that bioregion and turning the conventional notion of what is futuristic on its head.
Comment:  This is roughly my impression of what an ideal Native society would look like. It offers many of the qualities missing in our consumer-driven culture. Respect for the environment and all living creatures. Concern for the community, not just for oneself. Thinking about the long-term consequences of one's actions. Etc.

For more on the subject, see Oil Spill = "Runaway Greed," Copenhagen Talks = "Climate Injustice," and Indians Know Global Warming.

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