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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/17/11

Channeling Citizen Solidarity into Productive Channels of Action

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I can appreciate the dedication, perseverance, and solidarity of the Citizens of Wisconsin and their friends and supporters have exhibited as they carry on their recent fight for citizen rights and their common interests. The challenge is, are they fighting a winning battle? Are they even fighting the right battle?   The fact is, the fine Citizens of Wisconsin are fighting over the drying carcass of a collapsing economy.   State, municipal and federal government entities are saddled with unsustainable debt. The Governor is not addressing the real structural issues at a causal level. He needs more citizen involvement, not limits on citizen participation and collective power.   Picking a fight with the citizens does not induce the kind of community problem solving that we need to find our way out of the current economic crisis.    Effective citizen engagement and community participation are necessary to bring about deep systemic change on the scale that is required.   The present us/them standoff does not meet the needs of either side. Financial facts make it painfully clear that State Government budgets must contract rather than expand. You cannot suck more milk out of a dead cow. The real question is how do we make a shift into a sustainable economy?   Both the Governor and the citizens need to define the real problem. The entire state can then work together for common solutions.   The real problem is the fact that our economic structures are totally unsustainable.    We must build sustainable new systems.

The citizens of Wisconsin and all other localities will be much better served when Citizens harness the kind of collective energy exhibited in Wisconsin to begin building a sustainable economy from the ground up.   Rather than fighting for a slightly better view on the deck of the Titanic as we sail blindly to the impending crash with economic icebergs, it is better for active citizens to build effective lifeboats in our own local economies in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

This week, the largest single holder of US Treasury bonds dumped the entire lot into a weak global financial market. Hundreds of city and county government bonds are on the edge of a mass default.   The federal government is 14 trillion dollars in debt. Many nations are considering replacing the US Dollar as the official international reserve currency.   Citizens need to read the writing on the statehouse wall"   -Rather than storming halls of government to solve real economic problems that most politicians do not even comprehend.   We need to get busy and direct our solidarity and collective citizen will to the building of alternative economic structures.   Using collective bargaining to suck a little more air out of a system that is nearly out of breath is not effective.   We can no longer look for a short term fix in an economy that is addicted to mindless consumption and waste.   We need to call on this "collective solidarity" into a collective effort to build sustainable solutions in a reality based economy.

The time is now here to face facts. The present structure of our debt based consumer economy is not working.   We cannot prop up bloated governments with more and more inflated dollars.   We cannot put any more patches on the broken bottle of our petrochemical powered, globalized mass consumer economy.   Rather than fighting against corporate controlled politics and fighting to hold on to the tiny 2% share that the common citizens now hold within the corporate dominated economic system, it is time to break away and use our collective citizen energy to create alternative and workable economic structures. The present economic structure where a 2% minority control the majority of the economic assets and 98% of the citizens clamor or "collectively bargain" for a measly share does not work.  

A minority ownership class with the majority kept in the ranks of wage slaves is an obsolete economic structure.   That system is broken an irreparable.   There is no real value in "bargaining" within a system that is already broken.   We need to build a new economic system that works.

Unions and collective bargaining were a very necessary strategy for the mass of humanity during the passing dark age of the industrial revolution. There is one sure way to balance the power of the owners over the workers, and that is for the workers to become the owners.   Put your union and this energy of citizen solidarity to work as we build new systems of independent enterprise that provide essential goods and services. It is time for the workers to become owners through joint entrepreneurial action in the form of citizen controlled co-ops and worker owned businesses that function in a vital and open free market.   A great example is already operating with great success in the State of Wisconsin. The Organic Valley Cooperative in Wisconsin is the largest source of organic milk in the entire nation.   In Iowa, Hy Vee Stores demonstrate a modern industry that is wholly owned by the same employees that serve as the workforce. Hy-Vee operates more than 220 retail stores in eight Midwestern states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Hy-Vee Inc. employs over 55,000 individuals and is the largest employer in the state of Iowa. This employee owned company has annual sales of over $6.4 billion. In 2009, Hy-Vee ranks 48th on Forbes magazine's annual list of the largest privately owned companies in the United States.

If you do not condone the unethical actions of big mega banks, boycott them, and join a local credit union.   If you do not like big oil, park your car, ride a bike, take the bus. If you cannot support the actions of global mega corporations, then don't support them with your dollars -vote with your wallet and buy from small business owners that need your support to support their families.   Realize that we already have the power, if we just use it as active citizens.

  Citizens can harness the power of solidarity that has been activated in Wisconsin and use this new found common will to build a vital common wealth.   Our energy is being misdirected if we try to build even larger government structures. We have already proven the fact that large government entities are not efficient economic engines.   At the local, state and federal level, ineffective government structures are either already bankrupt or rapidly headed in that direction. To solve our present economic crisis, we need creative and productive non-governmental economic initiatives.   Citizen co-ops and worker owned industries can begin the inevitable work required to build a sustainable economy.   The citizens of Argentina had to take such action because of a nationwide economic crisis.   Americans still have a brief window of opportunity to do this by choice and with a plan for action.   If we do not take action, then we too will be taking this action motivated by the necessity of crisis as the citizens of Argentina have demonstrated.

We must now have the same attitude and intestinal fortitude that motivated the pioneer ancestors that first settled Wisconsin, and then work together to meet our own needs within our own communities.   Such citizen organizational skills require intelligence and good communication. In every city, in every state, we need to catalog and evaluate the building block economic resources in your own local ecology; local labor, available sun and wind energy and the base stock of regional soil and water resources.   We must build local food systems and local industries to meet our own needs as the current sick system collapses under its own burdensome weight.    It is time to face the fact that the petroleum powered, globalized economic model is no longer functioning.   It could only function as long as we had massive quantities of cheap fuel.

Below, I will identity 10 key economic structures within our present society that are just not sustainable within the natural ecological systems of the planet and the natural constraints that shape the social structures of the human species;

1) Agriculture must be the foundation of any economy. Without reliable food sources, civilization cannot exist.      Our present agricultural systems are not at all sustainable.

The current industrial agricultural system is based on the mass consumption of non-renewable petrochemical inputs. A small monopoly controls most of the seeds and chemical inputs. This system cannot be sustained as these non-renewable resources are rapidly being depleted.   We are already at the stage where the costs are more than the value of the nutritional output.   We spend 10 calories of petrochemical energy to gain 1 calorie of food energy.   Our present system clear-cuts forests to grow genetically modified mono-crops that feed factory farm cattle which are turned into processed meat for fast food chains and supermarkets. Even the plant crops grown through conventional agriculture depend on chemical fertilizers from sources that are running out ( fossil fuels , phosphate mines, etc.)   Much of "organic" agriculture is powered with petroleum.

Genetically engineered seeds are spreading altered genetic codes all across the world. The DNA of GMO crops is detectable in soils, foods and water systems. What is the result?    It is actually   unknown. Thanks to companies like Monsanto , the human race and all earth species under our "dominion" are a massive global science experiment . When genetic pollution causes problems, how do you "clean up" genetic pollution?   You can't!   Genetic pollution endures.   Once crops become infected with GE seeds, it's all but impossible to eliminate the DNA contamination.   This is a one way road.   We are on the wrong road, and it has a huge dead end sign straight ahead.

The mass application of chemical pesticides , fungicides and fertilizer chemicals is destroying the viability of soils while polluting the world's farms, rivers, streams and oceans . 50% of our topsoil has already been consumed, and with our current industrial farming methods it would take a thousand years to replenish and regenerate. We are destroying our underlying "natural capital".   This system is unsustainable.   There is a simple equation; no soil=no food.   With $5 fuel, the present system collapses.   As oil prices spike, humanity will fast be learning the hard way that only sustainable agriculture can sustain human life on any extended cycle of time . The last one hundred years of petrochemical powered agriculture is actually a very brief historic anomaly.   This brief anomaly cannot last without cheap and abundant oil, and it will never be repeated. We need to establish an economy that actually works within the host ecology, not make a vain attempt to live outside of it.   Any economy that makes the absurd attempt to function outside of the ecology is short lived.    We are at the end of that dead end road.

2) Debt-based banking and elite controlled economic systems are not structurally sound

-        Evidence is mounting daily that the global fractional reserve central banking system is rapidly heading into catastrophic collapse.   Our present consumer based economy is based on debt rather than sound and sustainable economic production and the intelligent utilization of renewable resources.   This systemic collapse was rapidly underway in 2008, and the trillion dollar T.A.R.P. temporary tourniquet stopped the hemorrhaging.   T.A.R.P. pushed the inevitable collapse forward a few years, by deepening and making the actual injury and disease much worse.   Government intervention has actually made the underlying economic reality worse by bailing out the same dishonest investment institutions that were the central cause of the impending and inevitable collapse of these unsustainable economic systems. We are now moving headlong into the most complete economic "correction" in human history.    We need to face the financial facts and deal with it.

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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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