Archive for May, 2010

a note on the process of systemic change

May 18, 2010

In short, although there are many uncertainties about the trajectories of individual populations and species, we know where biodiversity will go from here in the absence of a rapid, transformative intervention: up in smoke; toward the poles and under water; into crops and livestock; onto the table and into yet more human biomass; into fuel tanks; into furniture, pet stores, and home remedies for impotence; out of the way of more cities and suburbs; into distant memory and history books. As biodiversity recedes, we also lose the stories that go with it and many ways of relating to the world in which we evolved. (Paul R. Ehrlich and Robert M. Pringle)

We need both regulation, and public education/boycott/pressure campaigns. One or the other isn’t enough. We need politicians and policy wonks who can present and vote for justice. And we need all social justice activists doing what it is they do. But, both the government and the public are on the wrong side of power in a capitalist system. So government regulation and public campaigns aren’t going to change the system, or the structure, at least not rapidly.

It can be argued that if the right regulations were passed things would change. But the right regulations are not been passed. Take a look at the Gateway Project in British Columbia. There isn’t a person in transportation planning who doesn’t know that widening highways, in essence promoting car travel, actually increases traffic congestion. And yet, in BC the government’s response to traffic congestion is to widen roads. The principle of induced traffic was discovered in 1942, and yet today, political response benefits capitalist interests. How long does education take?

Sort of what I was getting at questioning “rapid transformative intervention.” Really what does that mean? Neither the government nor public interest groups have the power to get in between corporations and their material interests. So while it might be “intellectual” to string those three words together. The phrase is practically meaningless.

And to head off an objection, the idea that there is an actual practical application in the call for an RTI. I think historically we might see that these calls for actions that can’t actually be accomplished might give the public the comfort that good things are in the works, which simply alleviates the urge to actually do good things.

So government regulation/policy is necessary, and public education (boycotts, protest, campaigns, etc). work is also necessary. and they are both as necessary as the other in the system. Both kinds of action inform and sustain and legitimate the other. Both kinds of (systemic) action are necessary for a “transformative intervention.” See how I dropped the rapid? Because without a shift in value development, which isn’t going to happen overnight, there will never be the desire for change necessary to fuel the intervention, that is where public interest comes between capitalist interest and the material world. See the very real material world is socialized, as opposed to the privatization of the material world, the dangerous monetization of our shared biological, physical environment.