Make Peace with the Earth

December 9, 2006

It’s time to make Peace with the Earth.
We have tortured her for too long. We have dug into her heart and stolen her essence. We have flouted her rules. We have murdered her children. We have pretended to have dominion over her like children playing Gods in dress up.

Our arrogance has become so toxic that those in power have become poisoned with it like the arsenic addicts of the 19th century – a megalomanical buzz before the gasping end. I watch Bush and his handler, Cheney, deny the Arctic Ice is melting; deny that Halliburton is oil profiteering at the expense of the young of at least two countries; deny that there is a limit to our funds, our understanding, and the Earth’s patience. And I despair for our future.

Nature’s deputies are about to evict us from our Earthly home. It is time we stop and hope it is not too late.

We need to make Peace with the Earth. Begging and pleading won’t help. The Earth doesn’t care about us any more than a mountain cares about a mountain climber. We need to do something different, something as fundamental as it is dramatic. We need to change what we eat.

Each American spends, on average, $2245 a year on food – much of it fast food eaten out. Most of the rest is transported 1500 miles or more, stored for weeks in warehouses and refrigerators, before being delivered to our neighborhood supermarkets, restaurants, and drive-ins.

This long distance, bullet-proof food looks good. In fact, it often looks perfect – blemish free, uniform color and size. But it is nutritionally empty. Like a bleached blonde air head of Hollywood legend, it looks good but contains nothing.

When combined with preservatives, additives, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides this industrial food moves beyond the realm of “crap” to “dangerous, unhealthy crap.” Modern food can make you sick. Not nuclear war sick like cancer or stroke, not at first. But through subtle and not so subtle disfunctions of your immune system. New food allergies appear. Skins rashes break out. Auto immune diseases like arthritis and lupis develop and get worse. The list is very long.

So what can we do, besides commit slow suicide at the driveup window?

The answer is to eat healthy food, raised locally, raised humanely, raised in harmony with Nature’s complex and wonderful systems. Local is the first value. When food travels fewer miles, it is fresher, more nutritious.

But local is just the beginning. To be truly healthy, think organic production. “Organic” food is more than just the absence of man-made poisons. “Organic” means raised in harmony with nature, feeding the soil, respecting diversity, leveraging natural systems controls. The truth is a strong plant can resist many pests naturally. And a strong plant needs a healthy soil, a soil full of life and energy. Plants are part of a whole living system, not a product to be manufactured with chemicals.

Also think humane treatment. Nature farms with animals. Animals and their wastes are part of the complex web of life we conduct our agriculture in. But animals need to be respected. In most traditional native societies, animals are honored in formal ceremonies before being consumed.

As one farmer I work with says, “We need to let animals live the way God intended them to live.”
When an animal’s behavioral needs are respected, antibiotics are not needed. Growth hormones should be banned. Animals should be raised outside.

We need to lay down our industrial food armaments and make Peace with Nature. One field of peacemaking can be found in a new kind of farmer’s market, one where organic and humane are the standard, not the exception.

The first of these began in 2004 in Sioux City, Iowa. The Floyd Boulevard Local Foods Market was the nation’s first to exclusively sell “healthy, humane, homegrown food.” Since then the East Central Indiana Heritage Market in Muncie and the Sweetwater Local Foods Market in Muskegon, Michigan have joined the ranks.

These markets are battlefields in reverse. People come there to make Peace, to seek Peace, to join a peacemaking community. The experience of making Peace is unlike anything else. It is as if a great burden has been lifted off your shoulders, a heavy sorrow removed from your heart.

The act of buying organic, humanely raised food from a local farmer is so simple. And so revolutionary. Peace has always been revolutionary.

I hope there is enough time.

Chris Bedford

This Commentary piece appeared in the Detroit News, December 7, 2006 edition.
It was written in response to a long piece in The Democratic Strategist by Celinda Lake and Daniel Gotoff about “The Role of the Economy in the 2006 Elections.” They wrote, “neither party had advanced a credible vision for a prosperous 21st-century economy that works for all Americans.”

That observation is correct, in my opinion. This drought of innovative economic thinking and vision is based in the fundamental disconnect between our political process and the realities of nature. I wrote the DETROIT NEWS piece to offer a different vision based on ecological intelligence — hence the name of this blog. It appears below.

DETROIT NEWS – December 7, 2006
Local Commentary
We need new spirit of Pearl Harbor
State must adapt now as it did in World War II to gain final victory
by Christopher Bedford of the Center for Economic Security

In the dark days of early 1942, Frank Loesser wrote a song to capture the nation’s mood after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Entitled “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” it expressed the desire by millions of Americans to get involved in the fight in spite of what seemed to be overwhelming odds.

On the 65th anniversary of the attack, many of us in Michigan are asking the same question, “What must we do to win our current fight?” — the fight to save our economic future from a Pearl Harbor-scale disaster.

State faces staggering task
This Dec. 7, Michigan is staggering under bad economic news — 40,000 manufacturing jobs lost in 2006; 54,000 more predicted to be lost in 2007-2008. Most of these manufacturing losses are well-paid union jobs with benefits. They probably will be replaced by less well-paid service jobs with no benefits. This triple combination of job loss, income loss, and benefits loss inaugurates a crisis so large that it threatens to overwhelm Michigan’s governmental system.

In addition, the elimination of the Single Business Tax has removed $2 billion of tax revenue from the state’s books. The ailing manufacturing economy makes replacing these public funds painful and difficult. So at the very time Michigan’s tax revenues face their greatest challenge, the demand for state-funded services has never been higher — and continues to grow.

Unlike the federal government, the state can’t engage in deficit spending to cover the shortfall. We are approaching a kind of “perfect financial storm.” So what do we do? What is our version of “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” in this moment of crisis?

Albert Einstein once observed, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” If Michigan is to transcend this crisis, we need to think creatively. We need to envision our future from a different level of consciousness.

New outlook needed
I believe that new level of consciousness is something revolutionary thinker, designer, and architect Bill McDonough calls “ecological intelligence” — business initiatives that gain competitive advantage from working in harmony with nature, accepting nature’s order and operating within its laws. This is what Charles Darwin meant when he wrote “survival of the fittest” — the species that fit most effectively into nature’s order would survive the best. Our state’s future economic security depends almost totally upon our ability to achieve this ecological fit. If we do, many of our most pressing and costly problems will diminish greatly in size, and ultimately, disappear. For ecological intelligence is about being “good,” not just “less bad.”

Instead of establishing more regulations to marginally reduce the amount of pollutants flowing into the Great Lakes, Michigan could invest in changing the fundamental DNA of industry and agriculture, substituting ecologically safe materials for toxic inputs, mandating ecologically sustainable farming techniques to eliminate nutrient runoff.

Instead of promoting new carbon-based fuels like ethanol and biodiesel as alternatives to existing carbon-based fuels like coal or oil, Michigan could lead the transition to a solar-electric and hydrogen-based economy, harvesting the wind and the sun to power our state without adding to global warming.

Encourage diversity
Instead of exclusively seeking a few large new employers or investing in monocultures to solve the state’s economic decline with one or two big deals, Michigan could aggressively invest in many small enterprises innovating in diverse and unpredictable ways. That would be the ecologically intelligent thing to do because nature’s prime directive is encourage diversity.

I believe if Michigan were to be intentional about being ecologically smart — we could create new ways of making things and doing business that would attract customers worldwide.

Our solutions to these problems represent a great business opportunity for the state.

This Dec. 7, amidst the closing plants and falling employment numbers, we should adapt the song of 1942 and sing, “Praise the Lord and Work In Harmony with His Creation.” This is a fight we can win.

Christopher B. Bedford is president of the Center for Economic Security in Montague. E-mail letters to letters@detnews.com or fax (313) 222-6417

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December 8, 2006

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