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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/17/11

Channeling Citizen Solidarity into Productive Channels of Action

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We clear-cut rainforests to plant genetically engineered soybeans and industrial corn in a "chemicals in/chemicals out" system to produce food substitutes that provide little nutrition, and actually damage health.   We consume our available water aquifers to get one more year of crops delivered to supermarkets. It takes hundreds of years to recharge aquifers to full capacity.   As we destroy animal habitat we also destroy the supporting structures of survival for our own species.   We may not think that honeybees and earthworms have much to do with advanced cities in a global industrial economy, but all human civilization would collapse fast if these seemingly humble neighbors in our shared environment disappeared from the earth.

10.   The Military Industrial Complex consumes and misdirects human financial and intellectual capital. Throughout the Cold War, politicians and intellectuals across a wide range of the political spectrum warned us of the catastrophic economic consequences of reductions in U.S. military spending. The paradox is that this irrational fear that "The Russians Were Coming" gave way to the reality that the Russians collapsed their own economic and political power through military expansion in Afghanistan.   Will Afghanistan now factor in the economic collapse of the USA as well?   We had a national treasury surplus before we ventured into Iraq and Afghanistan.   Now we have a $15 trillion national debt.  

It is not just the trillions spent directly on war, but rather the cumulative effect of an entire economy distorted by irrational worship of the military industrial complex. Every military empire in history has failed, because of the misdirection of resources into mindless military expansion. There are no exceptions to this historic fact. Our blind obedience to military expansion and empire building is now bringing the USA to the end of our own travel down that very well worn historic path.   Fear is used by war profiteers to dupe taxpayers.    Military graft transfers wealth to the economic elite, it does not provide real security to the common citizens.

We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute military power. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every missile fired signifies a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone, it is spending the   sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of our children.   -- Eisenhower, 34th US President

Human life is on the line

The age of cheap fuel, trillions of dollars flowing through a debt based economy, cheap water and cheap food and expensive military empire building is now coming to a very rapid end.   The future of life on our planet will require something far more evolved than the infantile, selfish and self-destructive "civilization" that humanity demonstrated so far in our short human history.   We cannot claim that a civilization that destroys each other and its own life support system is anything closed to an advanced society.   The big question of our time is to know who will survive the end of the unsustainable systems we are presently operating and be around to help shape a sustainable society based on scientific ecological economic systems. The simple fact is that the opposite of a sustainable system is an unsustainable system that cannot sustain life.


The current captains of industry and their obedient crew in Congress are dedicated to the disastrous status quo. Change must happen in small citizen groups. Are you going to spend your life re-arranging your luggage on the Titanic, or are you going to have the courage to sail in a new direction?    Use your citizen collective bargaining power to create A Brand New Deal.

20     Guiding Principles to Build Sustainable Communities


1. Start now. Start small, in your own home, with your extended family.   Connect with other people in your neighborhood, in your city or town.   Action breeds power.

2 . Meet as many local needs from local sources as possible through the mutual work of citizens.  Build a local and regional economy that supports the creative and productive enterprise of local free market entrepreneurs, not state subsidized multi-national corporate behemoths.  We are in a stage of diminishing returns in the global industrial economy.   Bigger is not better.   As we evaluate "economic development" in our own community, it is important to ask how any proposed change or new development will effect the entire community; the commonwealth of citizens and the surrounding ecology. We need whole systems thinking.

3 . Use local resources to meet local needs first, and then market any surplus outside of your local community in concentric circles of distribution.  Sell closest to source first to minimize energy used in transport of goods.

4. The industrial concept of "labor saving" technology diminishes the real economy of a community if it results in an increase of unemployment or a substandard quality of goods produced.  Technology and mechanization may save time and money from a one dimensional view, and then cost the community greatly from a "whole system" perspective.  Our present industrial model of agriculture is a striking case in point; We now spend 10 calories of petrochemical energy to produce 1 calorie of food energy. 

Industrial agriculture presently operates with a huge net loss to the community; It is only propped up with expensive subsidy programs. In the USA, the petroleum industry receives nearly $100 billion in annual subsidies. The actual cost of petrochemical fuels is $10; $3 at the pump, and $7 in tax payments, and this doesn't even measure the huge impending costs of climate chaos from a carbon burning culture. The bio-fuel sector is propped up with another $10 billion in subsidies.   Crop productions subsidies add about $40 billion each year.  Subsidies can only be supported as long as the global economy buys US paper currency.  Our global monetary system is not sustainable; it's based on "shared illusion".  Once this illusory money bubble collapses, the entire economic system collapses.  A real economy must be built in each local region by real people with real resources within a new real value paradigm.

5. Set up inter-generational communities where the old and young work within a "whole system" community structure to care for the specific needs of people at each stage of the life-cycle.  Institutional childcare and the exploitive nursing home industry have very high social and financial costs. We must integrate all ages into efficient systems of a well functioning local community.   Inter-generational co-housing is a good model to develop.

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Michael Richards is a life long innovator, entrepreneur and author. His most recent book is; SUSTAINABLE OPERATING SYSTEMS/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available on line at; Mr. Richards has presented as an author, speaker and (more...)
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