Bill McKibben’s rant on CBS on November 20, 2018 (as seen in the video below) on how extreme weather is shrinking the planet may sound extremist but that’s only because the common narrative of middle America and the extremely insane partisanship, hypocrisy…and short term thinking on both sides of the moderate political divide is dysfunctional. Even the extremes of both parties ignore the fundamental principles that serve all people.
By Chuck Woolery, Activist not TV Host
The liberal base and its leadership rarely advocate for freedom – the most fundamental principle of nature — the freedom to move away from dangers or toward essential elements to survive. The base word of ‘liberal’ is liberty. Yet most liberal mission statement won’t list freedom as a priority. The trajectory of local and global events is escalating security concerns from multiple arenas (global warming, pandemics, poverty, war, terrorism, crime, WMD proliferation…). Each of which will eventually diminish almost everyone’s freedoms equally. Liberals fear of fear inhibits an enlightened view of national security that could forward their sublimated primary agenda — to maximize freedom and security for all. They fear using fear to motivate rational urgent actions to address even the most inevitable non-military threat. That’s just loony.
The Conservative base and party leadership rarely advocates for justice. It is the most fundamental principle that every major world religion preaches as the Gold Rule. Conservatives champion another golden rule. Those with the gold make the rules. They champion freedom. American’s are free to be as rich as we want and ignore any of the other fundamental God given human rights (except the right to own a gun to defend yourself and family). Most would acknowledge that the protection of human rights is the primary purpose of government. Even justice, applied equally to all, being the primary tool essential to building the foundation of any lasting government. They advocate however weaponry and walls to deliver on their view of national security virtually ignored the other inevitable threats, some more lethal than war. That’s crazy!
Both sides persistently ignore the increasing velocity, variety and volume of threats to all Americans and our nation. Advances in technology are increasing our global interdependence while increasingly our nation’s dependence on technology. That’s just loony and crazy.
Extremists on both sides of our toxic political divide have spoken words of wisdom. Ron Paul has said ““The condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life. This is one of the core principles…” Naomi Klein (a progressive movement guru) preached at the 2014 Climate March in NYC, “What we need a movement of movements” to overcome war, environmental degradation, economic injustices, and other human rights abuses.
But putting words into effective action however, is something that we all struggle with. Regardless of our commitment to maximizing human freedom and security after we frequently pledge to our flag ‘liberty and justice for all’.
President Trump excites a sizable number of Americans who rightfully feel they have been unjustly treated by the status quo partisan middle – which they see as a mass of swamp creatures sustained more by campaign financing than eligible voters or sensible party leaders.
“There is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.” H.L. Mencken
Both sides of the middle mass and even each side’s extremes suffer from what George Lakoff considers “direct causation” thinking. This shallow thinking leads to actions that fail to address the root cause(s) of problems. If people are killed by a gun. Liberals focus on taking the gun away. If dark skinned people break a law. Conservatives demand ‘Build the wall!” Neither seriously considers the systemic failures of our government and culture that fuels their often-legitimate concerns/grievances. Instead, Mr. Lakoff suggests deeper brain functions of more critical analysis or “systemic causation” to find effective solutions to common problems.
Naomi Klein’s wisdom urged progressives to build a “Movement of Movements” (MoM) as the only sound means for making sustainable progress within each of the three major progressive movements (peace, environment, and social/economic justice). To this day liberal leaders have not created one. I blame too much freedom, arrogant thinking, and not enough coordination/cooperation. As former Chair of the United Nations Association Council of Organizations (over 100 US based progressive NGO’s working on virtually every progressive issue with a combined membership of over 25 million Americans) getting consensus to act collectively on a single priority was impossible. Growing US debt and budget deficits ensured they would be pitted against each other in a zero-sum game. Even competition for memberships, grants, media attention, and access to policy makers on the hill blocked their coming together as one MoM. One group’s success unintentionally undermined the others. Making matters worse, the same factors applied with each movement.
In the early 1990s as Advocacy Director the Alliance for Child Survival we lobbied for increased appropriation of tax payer dollar within USAID and the World Bank for extremely successful and cost effective child survival technologies like immunizations and micro-nutrients. When we succeeded Maternal health programs would be cut to fund them. When we combined maternal and child health advocacy efforts we competed with the family planning groups who saw “over population” as the top priority. If they won, funding would come from specific or general global public health projects. The fundamental principle that improving an impoverished population’s primary health care delivery system would accomplish all three priorities (reducing infant and maternal mortality, and inevitably leads to reducing birth rates) was rarely acted on.
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Today, it should be painfully clear with nearly 9 million Yemenis on the verge of starvation in their civil war that stopping war should be a primarily measure to protect public health. War related deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases are multiple times higher than combat itself. But also true — protecting public health can prevent conflicts. The war in Syria which has killed approximately half a million people and displaced millions more was sparked by a three-year drought (that may have been exacerbated by global warming) pushing thousands of farming families off their lands and into the cities. Eventually their suffering created a significant demand for critical services that the Syrian government was unwilling to meet and people protests were violently crushed. Even US military security experts agree that if we don’t address the causes of global warming, we will see the consequences of more refugees, wars, malnutrition and infectious diseases. And if we don’t fund more development aid we will need to “buy more bullets.” Each of these issues are interconnected and require a holistic, comprehensive, and whole of government systemic approach.
Our existing government systems and structures are not protecting the natural systems and structures that communities and nations rely on for their general health and wealth. Too often US policies undermine or exacerbate their problems (like providing refueling, targeting information, and explosive ordinance to the Saudi government to use against their enemies in Yemen). Our bodily systems require essentials that nature, funding and/or governments must ensure. Without which civilized life on this planet for anyone will be unsustainable.
Conservatives champion the fundamental principle of freedom. But then preach that our freedom is best protected by our national sovereignty, military power, and defending our borders. They refuse to acknowledge that their freedom trifecta will fail in protecting the health, wealth, and lives of Americans from climate change, WMD proliferation, terrorism, economic instability, pandemics or other environmental insults.
Bill McKibben’s unnervingly gloomy picture of our future is certainly possible. But his singular focus on preserving and restoring the mostly favorable environmental living conditions is insufficient. Lethal global economic inequity for half the world’s people attempting to survive on less than two dollars a day, or billions of others suffering under repressive regimes or lethal injustices drive any sane souls to consider fighting with armed force. Environmental sustainability is simply unachievable or sustainable without progress in the protection of human rights (liberty and justice for all) which are also essential to peace.
Fortunately, there is a globally approved campaign to do this. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a comprehensive and globally agreed upon effort to be achieved by the year 2030. We are not on target to meet them. Past liberal failures included their inability to mobilize a hundreds of millions of dollars to achieve the 1990 World Summit for Children’s’ affordable and achievable goals for the year 2000. Then came the failure to adequately fund the billions needed to achieve the eight 2015 Millennium Development Goals the world unanimously agreed to in 2001.
Now we have the SDGs which will cost trillions of dollars. The amazing news is that this volume of economic resources can be devoted to meeting the 17 SDGs without raising any taxes on the general public. According to one reliable study there is over $32 trillion ill-gotten dollars stashed in offshore accounts by kleptocrats and their cronies, drug cartels, and immorally wealthy capitalist avoiding taxes. Freezing and then seizing large amounts of this money and applying much of it to achieving the SDGs would be the wisest investment of money governments could make. Prevention of the threats and rapid effective responses to those we cannot prevent will save millions of lives and trillions of government dollars that will be needed to if we fail to meet the SDGs.
Without adapting government systems and structures to improve the lives of all human and natural systems and structures, do not count on a future of freedom and security.
Our government institutions are currently doing the opposite.
Connect the dots. See the web of life. Achieve global justice for all. Or, prepare for the catastrophic consequences.