What do Koalas, Orangutans, Pandas, Western Lowland Gorillas, Northern Right Whales, Siberian Tigers … and humans have in common? We're all endangered species. A fundamental difference between homo sapiens and the other animals, though, is that while they—and Earth itself—are threatened from without, by external forces beyond their control, humans are threatened from "within" and serve as the external force endangering not only near-extinct species, but much of the rest of Creation, too. While we humans are devouring the world, we're also devouring ourselves!
This fatal cycle not only continues but accelerates, not because the majority of humans doesn't see what we are doing, but rather because most individuals seem not to know what each one of us might do to step out of this deadly dance. Most Westerners polled report that society is "headed in the wrong direction" even as the same polls show countless people have lost confidence in our leaders' abilities to turn this drift around. Because we fear what seems to be a threatening future, our better instincts lead many moderns to want to change the status quo, yet for the most part we feel helpless to influence the world our ancestors and, more recently, we have built: Thus, we need help—fast.
Ironically, the most effective, powerful and empowering way to get help is to help ourselves—as easy as simply opening our eyes and being more fully present. If we stop for a moment and clear our minds of the myriad distractions cluttering our daily lives, we can see that most of what it would take to change our lives—and thereby rescue our world—entails not necessarily "adding to" but rather "reducing" our burdens. Happily, worthwhile recalibration can be accomplished in small degrees, not only radical shifts. In any case, we need to clear the "junk" left from having had too much, too long.
"Junk" isn't the same as "trash" or "dirt;" the American Heritage Dictionary defines "junk" as "discard[able] material… which may be reused in some form." In an age of growing scarcity, it'd be foolish to discard materials that could be of vital use in some other form. And, letting currently unproductive resources languish unused in the face of genuine need—by someone, somewhere—is not just unwise, but arguably immoral. How could all of us share more of the abundance that already exists on the planet, so that each of us has enough to cover not just her or his basic needs, but also realize many of our species' nobler dreams? More than survive alone, how can we thrive together?
Not directly the fault nor the duty of government, we in Europe and in Anglo-based cultures such as the US, Canada and Australia suffer not from too little, but rather under the weight of too much—too much junk food, junk debt born of junk bonds and junk mortgages, junk jobs taken to pay for our addiction to buying too much junk… junk wars fought for illicit reasons at the expense of national coffers and the lives of our young as well as "enemies" who weren't… junk ideas, habits and values. We thought we'd find happiness in possessing so much "stuff" but found it has possessed us, instead.
After some 500 years of driving the world in search of ever-growing material riches, European-based cultures have arrived at a point where not only, but especially the elite seems to believe that in order to survive in an age of growing natural-resource scarcity and, thus, shrinking career, travel and other opportunities we in the West long took for granted, the best defense is to amass as much "junk" as possible—even if that means abandoning not only the less-educated and less-moneyed portion of their own societies, but of countries where the elites' companies or manufactories do business. We who are not members of the elite must become louder and clearer as we help our richer cousins realize the folly of their illusions; we must help them see that for some of us to survive in the ever-hotter, ever-less-stable environment of the 21st century, all humans, everywhere, must cooperate.
Unavoidably, reinventing the world will require living on deeper levels, embracing different values, nurturing new behaviors. A requisite place to start in those processes lies in each of us declaring fuller sovereignty, in stopping being "subjects" who unquestioningly comply to the expectations or commands of a few, and starting to be "citizens" who co-create; doing so will mean taking stock of our genuine needs and sustainable wants, verses junk "needs" or desires that cost too much to maintain in an age of shrinking resources and shifting values. We can revise only that for which we take heartfelt responsibility; we can take responsibility only for that which we can see, acknowledge and more fully understand; to continue to refuse to take responsibility keeps us enslaved to others.
Rather than looking to some "leader" to dictate what each of us needs to do in order to reverse our collective deadly slide into irrevocable disaster, an implementable solution based on each person deciding how s/he could alter (for example) fuel consumption, caloric intake, television or cellphone or computer use by ten percent less than one's current usage would liberate each of us to act sovereignly where we are, right now—each one in our own skins, led by our own hearts and minds.
tips on using this template:
Initiated by an American living in Germany, the 10 x +/- Solutions template and suggestions arose with primarily a North American standard of living in mind but also, if to a lesser extent, Europe's. As conditions and the most pressing needs vary from culture to culture, adopt or adapt whatever suggestions seem helpful to you, where you are—perhaps per the motto "Embrace the best; bless the rest" as you decide which to be of most use to you: it was never intended that one person or family follow each proposal. Imagine solutions borne of your own life—and if you feel led share them with others per the below Readers' Tips, sorted according to which "province" your tip best applies:
The above measures are only a nudge, a beginning for each user to implement to the degree that s/he can or will. Rather than a rigid number or regime, more than anything else the suggestions are meant to provoke reflection by each who considers them: you decide, how much "more or less"…
about the initiator
Born to an Iowa farm family that has lived in North America since 1630, for over a decade Michael Luick-Thrams has served as director of an anti-war museum project [see www.TRACES.org]. He has been teaching and writing since he left New York in May 2011 aboard a freighter and arrived in Germany two weeks later. A Quaker, he humbly hopes that this brainchild of his might be of service to others.