Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When the Chips are Down

It’s been a tough week, certainly here in Toronto. Forty-seven percent of those who voted chose a right wing mayor, making true what so many feared for months. Mayor Ford has vowed to devote the city’s congested streets to cars, ripping up streetcars and halting progress on bike lanes.

South of the border Americans brace themselves for a Republican sweep during the mid-term elections on Tuesday. Most of the about-to-be-elected politicians espouse serving the ‘market’ interests, while stripping the public sector. Oh, and they don’t believe in climate change.

Pundits of course are weighing in. George Monbiot, the UK’s climate activist journalist, argues in a recent article “The Values of Everything” that extrinsic values (“what about me”) have overtaken intrinsic values (“what about the community”). Progressives need to understand this and work to shift societal attitudes back to the intrinsic side, he argues.

Henry Giroux goes further, predicting the eminent collapse of democracy in America. In his recent article in Truth Out he writes: “young people are increasingly presented with a future in which there is no language of democracy, justice, solidarity and the public good. Instead, they offered a language that maximizes self interest, undermines any shared sense of purpose and devalues public service. Under such conditions the formative culture necessary for critical citizens and a vibrant democracy collapses into a Hobbesian world in which the competitive, self-absorbed, unattached, materialistic individual consumer is the only meaningful category of citizenship.”

This is a dark vision. It certainly seems we’re headed in that direction. Kunstler’s predictions in his book The Long Emergency are not only coming true (he predicted the subprime mortgage crisis) but seem to be taking a very dark turn.

And yet, one gets a sense that a counter movement is brewing. It’s organizing. It’s learning. I’m listening in on teleconferences of the Citizen Climate Lobby where American citizens share how they are engaging congresspersons to adopt a fee and dividend approach to climate change. Reduce income tax and tax carbon to prompt market signals to invest in renewable energy. For them legislative failure on climate action is a citizens’ failure. They are adopting a methodology, proven successful through RESULTS, an organization that addresses poverty, to effectively lobby for legislative action. These are citizens bringing intelligence and passion to the democratic process for the betterment of all communities. I and two other Canadians are in initial stages to build our own Citizen Climate Lobby groups here in this country.

I also just became a member of Transition Toronto, a local organization that is part of the global Transition Town movement for a low-carbon economy.

If you feel the world is going to hell in a hand basket, you’re right it is. That doesn’t mean we give up in despair. The world needs you. It needs me. I encourage you to connect with your local movement. Find your local Transition Town and become a member. If your town doesn’t have one, create it. Connect. The likelihood that we will see profound change in the next 20 years is great. The end of cheap oil is here. The carbon heavy economy isn’t doing so well. It’s not going to get better. Be part of a positive grassroots movement that will help you become more resilient, prepared and connected.

Still depressed? For those of you in Toronto, Ford will likely not scrap the streetcars. Too expensive. City Council will likely act as a brake to much of his other crazy campaign promises. It’s going to be a struggle, no doubt. But all is not lost.

Finally, I want to leave you with this. Please view it. It’s inspirational.

1 comment:

Christine said...

What a thought provoking way to start my day, Cheryl - thanks for your reflections and the encouragement to "keep on keeping on".