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Starting Point: Let's Calculate Our Ecological Footprints

No matter which ecological footprint calculator I use, the results come out the same: I use more of Earth’s ecosystems annually than what they generate. My lifestyle is too big for our one planet. So, I use more than my share, depriving others of theirs. I take advantage of the economic and political systems that privilege me over other people. But not only people, I also endanger the habitats of animals and plants. The Earth Day Network footprint calculator tells me I’m requiring 3.7 planets. Ouch! A similar calculator at the Center for Sustainable Economics doesn’t soothe me either. Its criteria calculate me at 3.59 Earths. Their website explains how science continually updates the metrics by which footprints are calculated to assure the greatest accuracy possible.

How can my footprint be so large? I’m trying so hard to reduce, reuse, recycle, and rethink. A recent decision that my spouse, Juanita, and I made is just one example. When we faced $1000 or more of repairs to our 1998 Honda Civic, we opted for a previously owned 2004 Toyota Prius, upping our miles per gallon from 34 to 50. But there’s no getting around those footprint calculations. When I look at myself in their mirror, who do I see? I see a Multi Earther, a conqueror of Eden.

Deep within me lives the unshakeable conviction that Earth generates abundance for all life on the planet, not just for me, and not just for my family or my country — not even just for humans, but for all animals and plants. A share of that abundance belongs to each of us. It’s that share that I want to learn about and live with. Not 3.7 of the shares. How I’ve come to this point, and my quest to change, is what this blog is about.


How the One Earth Project Was Born

It was March, 2009, when Michael Johnson and I met one another after a presentation I gave on “Ecological Economics.” By mid-2012, we had committed to producing a book and video on One Earth living. I would write the book; he’d produce the video. But we’d be full partners in both.

The manuscript of the book is done and getting some edits. What an encourager Michael has been to me! Anytime I was losing energy, he’d say something to infuse me with what I needed to put this book together. On the video side, he brings greats skills as an artist and producer. Just check the website of his company, Industrial Strength Television.

If you wonder about the name, One Earth Project, it states our quest for how to use only one planet’s resources by the way we live. Currently, if all the world lived like the U.S. average, we’d need FIVE Earths. In other words, U.S. lifestyles and the U.S. economy are a Multi Earth Project!

This gets personal for me because my lifestyle requires 3.7 Earths. And that’s what the book is about. How can I get to 1.0? Why does Multi Earth living have such a tight hold on us? And, I tell why I’m convinced that our current global economy will never get us 1.0 living. The U.S. and other leading countries have given up on our planet. We have not. But in this context, how do we live?

This blog will be growing faster than the U.S. economy over in the rest of 2012. Visit again soon. BUT before your next visit find out your footprint on the planet. I so hope you’re footprint is smaller than mine. But, whether it’s smaller or bigger, share what you are learning about One Earth living. Leave your comment and help expand the consciousness we need to live as part of Earth’s magnificent community of life.


Nine Convictions in an Economy for One Planet

The following Nine Convictions are developed in the Eden Series trilogy I am writing as part of the One Earth Project.

  1. Earth Community is more than human community.
  2. The Commons evokes more mature human capacities than do corporate-led markets.
  3. Commonwealth is richer than private wealth.
  4. Abundance is richer than prosperity.
  5. Limits to growth increase innovation and creativity.
  6. Economic democracy achieves fair distribution more effectively than corporate-led markets.
  7. Local economies generate life for regions without destroying global connections.
  8. Wealth is not the same as lots of money.
  9. Wellbeing and happiness happen through One Earth living, not Multi Earth economics.

A Money Autobiography — Have You Written Yours?

If you’ve never written a money autobiography, you’re missing a strong experience of better self-understanding. I’ve written several over the years. Each helped me look at my relationship with money and its deity powers over our world. Me included. Reading aloud my autobiography to a small group and inviting conversation (not critique) adds even more value. It’s part of getting freer from the economic clutches of More.

Our exodus from empire and civilization’s Multi Earths economy cannot be accomplished if we do no more than stop using empire’s socio-economic structures, big as that is. To truly leave empire ways behind and change out of the civilization story to another requires a more holistic exodus.  That exodus must also happen within us, in our relationships, and in all organizations where we have influence.

—From my upcoming book, The Eden We Can Choose, to be released in 2012

Writing a money autobiography will help get empire-think out of you. So how does one start? There’s an excellent guide in Faith and Money Study Guide, an eight session manual for groups put out by Faith and Money Network, Washington, D.C. Getting people to write a money autobiography is just one of the really important contributions F&MN has made to many lives.


7,000,000,000 Humans on One Planet? How Does That Work?

It happened somewhere in October, 2011. A baby homo sapien was born and she or he became the seven billionth member of that species alive at that moment. As recently as 1940, the year I was born, homo sapiens totaled a “mere” 2.3 billion. We tripled our numbers in my lifetime!

“With seven billion of us now inhabiting our planet, it is time to reflect on our current path.” So says the introduction of the United Nations report prepared by its Panel on Global Sustainability. That report, “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing,” has been released in anticipation of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held this summer on the 20th anniversary of the Rio Conference where U.S. President George H.W. Bush said that the U.S. lifestyle was not negotiable. The report makes 56 recommendations for sustainable development and says “we need to change direction dramatically, beginning with how we think about our relationship to each other, to future generations, and to the eco-systems that support us.”


But I’m putting my money on the activists who recently gathered in Port Alegre, Brazil. They, too, were preparing for a conference on the 20th anniversary of Rio. Their People’s Summit will be a counterpoint to the UN Summit. The People’s Summit is far more likely to identify the “dramatic change” that the UN report calls for than is the UN Conference. The reason is that the UN Conference relies too heavily on the global corporations to design the green economy. Because the ruling corporations are committed first to their own profits, not the planet or people, their greening of global capitalism cannot make the sharp turn Earth now requires. Unless the U.S. lifestyle becomes negotiable in 2012, 20 years after Rio, the unequal distribution of Earth’s resources assures a system that will careen off the path for living in right relationships on one planet. As of this moment, there is NO turning from such planetary disaster. The breakdown of the current corporate-driven system in 2008, and the extreme weather episodes it accelerates, will multiply like breakdowns of an overloaded, 30 year old jalopy tagged with a sign “California or Bust.”

The People’s Summit, by contrast, will be resilient, flexible, and driven by scientific information, life-changing commitment, and love. They will decide democratically and act on the hardwiring in us for cooperative ventures that improve the wellbeing of all life in our regions.

Coincident with the time of these summer gatherings, the One Earth Project that I’m part of will be promoting my book about living on one Earth. There I detail how we, the people—the majority of the seven billion—long to live in right relationships with one another and all animal and plant species of our regions. We have the skills to create the economic structures that fit Earth’s resources. At the moment, governments, captured by corporations that are void of democracy and life-sustaining wisdom, make far more policies to hinder us than help us. When will our people’s work reach the tipping point when governments are forced to change and love the people and planet more than the money of corporations?

With 7,000,000,000 billion of our aggressive species now roaming the planet, love compels us to reflect deeply and to act justly and compassionately for one another and all life. Profit compels no such thing.


Austerity?! Let's Talk about Abundance for All

By now we see that all the talk about austerity in these economic hard times does not apply to the wealthiest whose wealth has increased as their taxes remain low  It does not apply to military spending or the budgets of the intelligence community.  It does not apply to the bankers in the too-big-to-fail banks. It does apply to those with no jobs, low-paying jobs, and insecure jobs. It does apply to students in state universities, to people without health insurance, and to many who can no longer self-identify as middle class.

If truth were the reigning norm instead of ideology, the word “austerity” could come from the lips of our president, Congress, financial and corporate leaders only with embarrassment. More significantly, the word is an insult to Creation who continues to offer abundance intended for all. If the ones talking about austerity would use an economic model of sustainability instead of unlimited growth, Creation’s abundance would be finding its way to the tables of families. Energy would be low-carbon or no-carbon, decentralized in its distribution, and increasing quality of life in countless places.

Consider the following paragraphs on abundance from my upcoming book on “The Eden We Can Choose: Moving to a One-Earth Economy and the Stories That Get Us There” —at least that’s the working title.


In a culture where more is better, where more means progress, where more grows the  economy, “Enough!” is heard by many as quitting or as agreeing to be marginalized.  The business and organization proverb, “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying,” goes even further by regarding “Enough!” as economic suicide.  But in a one-Earth economy, “Enough!” is the strong word that reveals the very order of Creation.  It defines the limits in which all of life can thrive, or, if ignored, decline and die.  Creation’s order includes limits such as gravity, distance, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, and high-velocity wind storms.  These are unforgiving and yet vitally beneficial to Earth’s gifts of rich, livable habitat.  

In a multi-Earth economy, “More!” is the goal to which imaginations and most daily efforts bend.  Limits?  Regulations?  These are to be circumvented or undone.  “Enough” cannot be defined in a model of economics that serves empires. But in an economic model that serves all Earth’s life, “Enough!” stirs our generative and creative powers in a model of abundance that has the astonishing capacity to cooperatively distribute the resources of the planet for all her life forms.

Much as we humans can rebel against imposed limits, real limits give us precisely the structures in which we can live freely, justly, and interdependently.  It is the real limits inherent in nature that give us the structures within which to work.  They are not government regulations, state control, or institutional policies.  Nor are they corporation contracts for resources and labor that give greater priority to wealth accumulation than to a better life for all.  They are the order of Creation, what makes Creation work.  They are evolutionarily exciting, and gift us with the stability that sustains life.  Creation’s order is revelatory, informing us of limits that are recognized by commonsense.

The after-Egypt manna gatherers in the wilderness learned to imitate nature’s life-giving limits.  They learned to use self-restraint by gathering only enough for each day, literally, daily bread.  Any more would rot.  And if they practiced greed instead of repeated actions of self-restraint, they would rot the entire sharing economy. That’s what the multi-Earths global economy has done.  Instead, the daily achievement of the manna-gatherers was not only sufficiency for their household, but to assure the common good—two high ideals in their post-imperial consciousness.

All of the learnings involved in the manna story, all of its power to help us go feral, nonetheless, do not, guarantee that we will not again be attracted to the civilization story requiring multi-Earths.  Our choice to live a one-Earth story is made again and again, each day.  Each choice deepens our conversion from the scarcity worldview of empire to an abundance-with-limits worldview.

Only in a one-Earth economy where abundance is real and has limits—both!—can we experience the feeling of an abundance that is sufficient, sharing, and loving.  Multi-Earths economies have created a legacy of capturing a lot of Creation’s generosity, but with limited consciousness or structures for sharing.  One-Earth economies, by learning from nature how she does it, have created a legacy of claiming as much of Creation’s generosity as is needed, and also growing the consciousness and structures for sharing.  It is the recognition by one-Earth, jubilee economies that nature is a wise teacher, a revealer of how to live, that makes one-Earth living so well-adapted for Earth’s style of abundance.


Putting Ourselves in the Geological Epochs

Here is another excerpt from an early chapter of an upcoming book on an economy that fits our one planet, Earth.

The revelatory aspect of the ecological age finds expression in the ecological archetype which finds its most effective expression in the great story of the universe.

—Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth, p. 34

What time is it in Earth’s story? Thinking in terms of geological epochs, we currently live in the Holocene epoch, a subcategory of the Pleistocene Era. The Holocene dates from 12,000 years ago, or 10,000 BCE. That is when the last epoch of glaciation across the northern hemisphere receded and temperatures began to moderate globally. All of what we call the “history of civilization” has happened within this Holocene period (Wikipedia) —a period of relative climate stability. The story of homo sapiens goes back well before civilization to 200,000 years ago. That puts the emergence of our homo sapiens ancestors in the latter part of the Pleistocene epoch which measures back to 1.8 million years ago.

The appearance of civilization, so recent in the human story, begs the question of how our ancestors embraced or resisted the big changes that evolved with the emergence of the civilization project. Because saying “yes” or “no” to what the process of civilization calls progress continues today, we can project ourselves into those same debates of our ancestors 12,000 years ago.

As temperatures moderated in the Holocene epoch, changes began to accelerate and the debates inevitably followed. What was good about the changes? What was not? Was a more sedentary lifestyle really better than a migratory or nomadic one? Not for many whose migratory patterns became blocked by settlements. Settling in a location became more and more possible as humans learned to select seeds and grow grains with nutrition and greater yield. Previously, humans had necessarily followed migratory herds and food sources that changed with seasons and weather cycles. Only in the Holocene epoch did homo sapiens accelerate the development of agriculture, exchange of resources, trade, and language skills. Transportation, writing, standards of measurement, art, contracts—all these and other components to “civilize” life evolved.

The advance and progress these capacities brought, organized humans in new ways. Advance and “progress” did not automatically empower all equally. Power and wealth concentrated among some even at the expense of others and of nature herself. Occupations increased in specialization. Villages became towns; towns became cities. Huge ambivalences regarding justice emerged. Contradictory views on good and evil emerged and expanded throughout civilization as its story unfolded over millennia to the present (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization).

In time, rules for owning land privately and making economic exchanges through money greatly accelerated the civilization story, a story that became more and more a story of economic domination, and more and more a story of the domination of the homo sapiens species over all others. The good and evil in this evolving story is staring us down today—12,000 years from its beginning, just a staccato note in the music of Earth and Cosmos.

Today, it is common for humans to function with amnesia regarding the recentness of our presence as part of Earth’s majestic trajectory. For that reason, putting ourselves in the geological timeline adjusts the lens we use for seeing how we fit in with Earth herself. It gives us a perspective that the human civilization story does not. The geological timeline reveals important truth missed by the civilization story, namely, that for hundreds of thousands of years homo sapiens lived WITHIN the story of a single planet. For all those years on Earth, we humans did not threaten the carrying capacity of Earth to sustain and regenerate life. We fit.

Despite this important revelation, most modern human beings will not find much in this evolutionary timeline to excite us for living today. After all, have we not evolved to a higher level of consciousness and capacity than those primitive peoples? Are primitive peoples not dying out, a relic of past times? What is there for us to aspire to among the uncivilized? Do they not need to be brought into the modern world? None of us wants to be a hunter or gatherer today.

Today, words like “primitive” and “uncivilized” are used to emphasize the inferior status of these early humans compared to us. They had not yet evolved to our advanced brain capacities or cultural complexities. Against this usage, and in light of how modern humans exceed Earth’s carrying capacity, I want to emphasize that “primitive” also means first, primary, primal or foundational; and “uncivilized” also refers to capacities that all of us have to this day which we can use to undo or resist “civilizing” influences that we determine to be unhealthy for us and our planet.