Building a world of resilient communities
The current focus of environmentalism leaves little hope of successfully defeating the ecologically destructive political, economic, and cultural forces that undermine the very foundations of life. It will require a dramatic reboot if the movement is going to reverse Earth’s rapid transformation and help create a truly sustainable future—or at least help humanity get through the ugly ecological transition that most likely lies ahead.
Are Today’s Environmental Organizations Succeeding?
Many campaigns focus on treating environmental problems rather than addressing their roots, and they typically do so in ways that fail to build an alternative vision for a species not in a permanent state of conflict with the planet.
What is more, most environmental organizations, including Worldwatch Institute, receive funding from affluent donors, foundations, and corporations that depend on a growing economy to keep their endowments robust enough to continue their philanthropy. Ironically, if environmental groups actually succeed in building a sustainable, equitable, steadystate economy, there is a good chance that their donors’ philanthropic giving would shrink as wealth is better distributed and as stock markets stop growing. And if environmentalists fail in their mission, there’s also a good chance the economy will contract: a 2012 report by DARA International projects that gross domestic product worldwide will shrink 3.2 percent a year by 2030 if climate change and air pollution are not dealt with. A shrinking economy is rarely a boon to philanthropy.
Getting from Vision to Reality!
The odds are that the state of the world is going to get really bad—and much sooner than we think. Reports about the fallout from climate change alone make it clear that the twenty-first century is unlikely to follow a linear path of more growth, more progress, more “development.” There are probably going to be major political, social, and economic disruptions, a flood of failing states, the dislocation of millions of people. Will people in environmental organizations simply close their doors as things unravel, as their funding dries up, and turn instead to simply surviving—taking any job still available in order to feed their families? Who will serve as a voice for Earth? Who will help steer us through this historically unique global ecological transition? Will it be fundamentalist religious institutions that read the unraveling ecosystems as signs of the end times? Or authoritarian governments that offer security in exchange for the last remnants of freedom?
Let us hope that centuries from now an ecocentric civilization — celebrating its nurturing niche on a once-again flourishing planet—tells stories of the bold individuals and communities that changed humanity’s path in such a glorious way.