My guest today is Ma'ikwe Ludwig, executive director of Commonomics USA and author of Together Resilient: Building Community in the Age of Climate Disruption.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Ma'ikwe. You recently wrote "Paris Agreement Discord Highlights Need For Community-based Climate Action." What motivated you to write that piece?
Ma'ikwe Ludwig: My primary motivation was the level of angst I am seeing among people over us pulling out, and my belief that we can't slide into hopelessness and inaction. The reality is, the Paris Agreement was far from adequate as a response to climate disruption, and yet it was a big step forward for the US. We've done a lot of resisting real change, essentially saying that the American lifestyle (which is highly materialistic and resource consumptive) is more important than the lives of people around the world. Paris represented hope for many people that we were finally starting to lean more into empathy and responsibility for how our choices have affected others.
But the reality is that it was still symbolic in many ways-- a feint in the right direction. A deeper response to climate disruption is needed and in some ways the signing of the Paris Agreement served to let a bunch of the rest of us (the non-politicians) off the hook: "Look, we've signed on! Now we don't have to look too closely at American culture and lifestyles."
Pulling out was a bad move for a host of reasons, but it also represents an opportunity to say once again that it was never enough, and that we need to take matters more into our own hands at the local and state level.
JB: I know you wrote a book about this local level environmental activism. What can it look like? Tell us more, please.
ML: Well the good news is that it can take many different forms. For instance, I profile a whole bunch of different urban agriculture initiatives happening in Detroit, which are simultaneously feeding people, creating a sense of community and strengthening people's resolve that they can effect change in their world. And I highlight them because initiatives like this reduce a community's dependence on imported, packaged, unhealthy foods. The food system is just one example of a system where the default in America is heavily carbon consumptive and these local initiatives are far less so.
It can also look like intentional communities: groups of people who live together based on common values. In some ways, Together Resilient is "about" intentional communities, and I was actually asked to write it by the Fellowship for Intentional Community, the biggest North American organization working on promoting cooperative living.