Time for Resurgence

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

Last winter I wrote about the magazine with the same title and subsequently, my decision to reinstate a subscription that I let lapse to save a few dollars. Well, last week the new issue (September/October 2013)
issue cover 280
arrived. It continues to solidify in my experience, that it is THE periodical of sustainability. Non-subscribers can view a few articles for free each month as you’ll note by clicking on the link above. But the editing choices that Satish Kumar and his team make each issue, continue to support the possibilities of a more sustainable future by fueling how we think about that common future. The writing is uniformly passionate and compassionate, inspiring, and potentially transformational. When taken as a whole, each issue beginning with Satish’s welcoming essay invites one to reflect on our personal and social futures and the community of life we share it with. A few excerpts from pieces I’ve enjoyed over the past few days.

     Evolution favors diversity and decentralization. GM food favors monoculture and monopoly. So, in my view, this so-called scientific food revolution is anti-evolution.
     We need to give dignity to farmers and gardeners. We need to realize that dirt is not dirty; working with the soil is a respectful profession. Why should a banker be paid $10,000 a day, and a farmer one-hundredth of that? This should be the other way around! (Satish Kumar, p.1)

While profitability may necessitate the emergence of intensive and specialized urban farming models, there is also another, perhaps forgotten, social and educational role that urban farming can play. A report by Kubi Ackerman of Columbia University’s Earth Institute points out other benefits, including utilizing neglected space, educating the public on food, and benefiting deprived neighborhoods through the availability of healthy foods. All of these could yet entice private companies, charities and city governments to support and develop a second, less profit-driven urban farming sector. (Tom Levitt, p. 19)

 Imagine you own agricultural land near a town or a city. Imagine you take just one acre and divide it into five gardens, each about one fifth of an acre (about 750 sq. meters). These would be quite large, certainly large enough to contain an orchard, a vegetable garden and grassy areas, as well as flower beds. Such a garden could be for example, a rough rectangular shape 25 x 30 meters. These gardens could be surrounded by hedges and laid out with access paths, a parking area for cars and bicycles, and maybe even a communal picnic area with a fire pit for barbecues. (Rupert Sheldrake, p.25)

So if the first step towards getting beyond skepticism is empathy, the more critical second step is solidarity. And this is a far more challenging leap to make. Whereas empathy involves being able to put yourself vicariously in someone else’s shoes, solidarity is created when we understand our shared experience and the mutual need to collaborate. It moves us from seeing people as the ‘other’ to recognizing that we can address our collective problems jointly and that, to use the well-worn phrase, “we’re all in this together.” (Deborah Done, p.38)

…so we are almost all, at times, concerned about what psychologists call extrinsic values – concern about money; social status and image; authority. At other times almost everyone prioritizes what psychologists call intrinsic values. These are values associated with greater concern about social and environmental problems. They include values of connection to family, friends and community; appreciation of beauty; broadmindedness; social justice; environmental protection; equality; helpfulness.
     …It’s difficult to prioritize extrinsic and intrinsic values at the same time. It’s difficult to be concerned about making money while also being concerned about equality.
     …Firstly, exercising one value within a group (for example, an intrinsic value like broadmindedness) is found to increase the importance that person places on other values within that group (for instance, environmental protection).
     …Secondly, exercising an intrinsic value tends to suppress the importance that person places on extrinsic values, and vice versa. This has been called the ‘see-saw’ effect. So, for example, drawing a person’s attention to the importance of money (an extrinsic value) is found to reduce the likelihood that person will help someone in need, or donate to a charity (behaviors associated with intrinsic values).
     …The trouble is that, in highlighting the financial benefits, you are also subtly drawing attention to extrinsic values that are associated with lower social and economic concern. This is likely to have knock-on effects in other areas of a person’s life. (Tom Crompton, pp.42-3)

We need a resurgence of possibilities and this is one great source for exploring the possibilities of a sustainable future for all.

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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