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A Living Democracy/Equitable Sharing of the Earth's Resources

Similar to the recent toxic benzene spill on the Songhua River some 236 miles upriver from Harbin, China - which eventually contaminated the city's water for some 4 million residents, and was not reported for 10 days after the spill - the true long term environmental disasters facing New Orleans are mostly unreported and don't seem to appear as a concern for the current administration.
As Vandana Shiva states in her paper The Myths of Globalization Exposed: Advancing toward Living Democracy - "...as millions lose their livelihoods, millions lose their democratic rights."
Economically, environmentally, and politically our globally dependent corporate systems are failing us and the consequences could become explosive in nature as people strike out to recover their livelihoods.
Vandana suggests that we take three steps in a movement toward a "living democracy" where there is an equitable sharing of the earth's resources.
1] Passing legislation which decentralizes democracy - where local communities and towns have more power than state or federal governments,
2] Electing, by law, at least 30% women representatives - thereby our governing bodies woud become more inclusive, less sexist, and a more balanced form of governance, and
3] Developing an earth or ecological community - a sense of place - where we live, work, and share a common ecological vision.
Whether New Orleans is rebuilt or reconstructed elsewhere, perhaps the new "sustainable politics" as suggested by Vandana is an urgent first step in the right direction.

Posted by rwinkler on December 2, 2005 at 11:17 AM | Permalink


Bob, thank you for joining us tonight.

I am in complete agreement about #3, but not sure if I want to mandate a percentage of women representatives. I'm interested to hear what folks think about #1, passing legislation that decentralizes democracy.

Posted by: Charlene | Dec 5, 2005 8:02:20 PM

Glad to be here Charlene - yes, decentralized democracy seems to fly into the face of globalization. But globalization works from the top down [if it reaches there] while decentralized democracy works from the bottom up.The trick is which works for whom...

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:06:49 PM

#1 is a very interesting suggestion. How would it work inconjunction with things such as civil rights, voting rights and other human rights regulations? My primary worry would be the re-institutionalization of Jim Crow (or worse) by local regulations, one town at a time.

Posted by: Liane | Dec 5, 2005 8:10:49 PM

Hi Liane - dd would have "more power" but still work within the national framework. The idea is to give more control back to the local or regional populations and away from the corporate/banking/governmental structures that now dominate the global economy and environment.

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:17:17 PM

Liane is expressing the very concern that I was worrying about. However, there are instances that are working very well in some communities, such as the resolutions to minimize the powers of the Patriot Act.

Posted by: Charlene | Dec 5, 2005 8:22:10 PM

Char, I see this as the key issue we'll have to deal with in the next ten years are so. The global corporates vs the grassroots localize groups. As the corporations press from the top, the grassroots will push from the bottom. When they meet the sparks will fly. I think this is what we'll see in New Orleans and other environmentally ruined areas of the world.

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:28:31 PM

Hi Bob, thanks for always being forward thinking and getting us think beyond the typical "iron cage" of discourse. : )

where does economics fit within the perspectives that you propose?

Posted by: Quintus | Dec 5, 2005 8:28:52 PM

I'm still interested in a more inclusive form of governance. What we have isn't working, and so we need to step back and take a look at our values and come up with ways to change our behaviors. What I see now is so ugly - yet we need to work hard on coming up with new alternatives politically. It's not going to be pretty - but necessary. I'm looking for a different way to carry on our business - obviously the past 4,000 years hasn't been all that successfull!

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:34:31 PM

One tip is that the idea of decentralizing democracy is discussed at length in a humorous manner in Thom Hartman's book, "We the People."

Bob, since you've had practice starting campaigns on campus to bring the organization and the community's attention to greening the area, what would you suggest to someone that wants their community to start using sustainable practices.

Posted by: Charlene | Dec 5, 2005 8:34:58 PM

Hi Quintis - I'm honestly thinking that the current, and growing, permacultural movement is the way to go. Where the local and regional means to obtain sustainable communities exists - that do not waste and use all their resources to benefit the community. Much like Jermey Rifkin's HEW [Hydrogen Energy Web] the control of economic activities that benefit the citizens locally is enchanced by creating regional grids - self dependent and "off" the huge corporate/global grids that dominate our world today. It has to do with control, and being able to live a life free from fear of staving, or not having the ability to stay healthy.

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:41:48 PM

Hello - we have a new local charter elementary school which has its curriculum focused on sustainable practices, including buildings that are "green," such as packed bale construction. I was recently at Evergreen State College which also built an entirely "green" building...the savings will be enormous in the long andpossibly short run though educating local builders is not easy. What do you suggest in terms of using local businesses which is part of the "keep it local" process, yet not be threatening with respect to what they are used to doing and, to stay financially afloat, doing quickly. Cheers, Cathy

Posted by: Cathy | Dec 5, 2005 8:44:18 PM

Char - In an organizational view point - the steps are simple, as I've mentioned so many times in my workshops. If you decide that sustainable activities are what you want, talk to your neighbor, find common grounds, and make plans to change.
In a practical sense, help develop alliances with community, governmental and university groups - the stakeholder, approach to make your views know. It takes hard work but the results are rewarding and meaningful to all involved.

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:48:07 PM

Excuse me for posting this in the midst of this but given the reference to New Orleans, I thought it appropriate. The UFPJ "Steering Committee adopted a proposal to encourage and support peace and justice activities on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 16). The suggestion is to connect Dr. King's Riverside April 1967 speech at Riverside Church, where he denounced the Vietnam war and the "giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism," to today's struggles of Katrina survivors to return home."

Posted by: Charlene | Dec 5, 2005 8:53:46 PM

Cathy - local builders aren't necessarily a mystery. Most developers and most workers these days have college educations, belong to local unions and take an active part in making their businesses grow. If you can show them a "bottom line" and how this can be gained by using local resources, [and being less energy intensive] they'll be interested and will find the resources to help make it come about.

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:56:13 PM

Char - seems we still face the same triples today...

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 8:58:39 PM

Bob, you'll be happy to know that at work; myself and a coworker have undertaken an attempt to retrofit the company in a more sustainable manner. We're making headway. I've been utilizing community-based social marketing techniques to build support in the company.

Posted by: Charlene | Dec 5, 2005 9:02:40 PM

Thanks again for joining us, Bob!

Good night!

Posted by: Charlene | Dec 5, 2005 9:05:44 PM

Char - that's beautiful - progress one room at a time!!
I see our time is up - there's just so much to talk about and I appreciate all your comments. Every day take just one step toward bringing about peaceful change, honest debate, encourging behaviors, comforting thoughts and the wisdom to lead others. And don't forget to smell the roses.....

Posted by: Bob | Dec 5, 2005 9:07:59 PM


My husband and I embarked on a sustainable building project this spring. All the folks we've dealt with in the local building community have been genuinely interested in what we're up to, and have at least heard about sustainable building, most specifically straw-bale construction. I think that some critical inflection point has been reached in the last couple of years, so people are much more receptive to the concept - especially after this fall's energy-price scare.

Posted by: Liane | Dec 5, 2005 9:39:34 PM

Sorry I'm late. Will try to catch up and post sometime tonight.

Posted by: Jessica | Dec 5, 2005 9:45:40 PM

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