THIS CANNOT BE REPEATED TOO OFTEN: Life rules, we don't. We are not larger than Life, and we cannot live apart from Life though we have tried mightily to do just that. Life is the only context within which we can understand what we need to do both to survive and mitigate this Critical Mass* we have caused and to avoid causing it again.
*Critical Mass...suggests the full significance and weight of the collection of crises we are already experiencing. The term critical mass in itself has no positive or negative connotation. Originally used by nuclear physicists to name the amount of fissionable material required to trigger and sustain a chain reaction, it is now used more generally to identify a point in time or in a process when enough of something has been literally amassed that a spontaneous transformation occurs. After critical mass is reached, something new emerges or is created, or a new state of being is achieved.
Acceptance of the fact that Life rules and knowledge of and obedience to Life's Rules are as vital to our survival as a species as genetic encoding of those rules has been to other-than-human species. Mimicking Life is how we may yet, if slowly, fix what's going wrong everywhere at once.
What does mimicking Life's ways mean that we need to do?
Acknowledge Life's Wisdom: Move Into Harmony
As quickly as we are able, in all the particular and diverse places in which the crisis finds us, we bring our lifeways into harmony with Life's ways and try as hard as we can to honor Life's prime directive to live within Earth's means.
Given how deeply and widely the present system is entrenched and how utterly dependent on it we are, we will only be able to take incremental steps in Life's direction. But the faster we can take them and the more of us who do, the better for our longer term prospects and for the likelihood of the continuation of Life as we know it.
We treat Life, including human life, as if it had been given a death sentence that only we, working together and with Life, can commute. We become (as Paul Hawken has suggested that we can in Blessed Unrest) the equivalents of the antibodies in our immune systems that, after much trial and error, are equipped precisely to deal with such threats in every unique part of Earth's body.
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We do what other-than-human species do when the support systems on which they've depended fail: we cut back. How do we do that? All of us, everywhere trim our populations, activities, consumption and expectations.
Mitigating Critical Mass is a task that falls to each of us able adults alike but to none of us only as individuals. It is a vital and necessary task at which we can only succeed together. Together, as families, neighborhoods, towns and villages, communities and communities of communities, we make do. We learn to work within the limits of resources that are available to us locally and regionally and we stop abusing the environments and ecosystems that provide them.
We do these things not because some political party or ideologues or pundits or preachers tell us we should, but because our survival depends on it.
Honor All Life
We take the lives of the other-than-human species on whom our survival depends as seriously as we take our own and our loved ones' lives. We learn intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and behaviorally to perceive and to treat human and natural communities as they are in reality: one community, the community of Life as a whole.
We take the common good — the well-being and survival of the diverse species we did not create and cannot recreate — even more seriously than we take our own. Not only because, within the tenets of the world's major religions, it would be the right thing to do, but because it is necessary.
Engage in the Healing
We give the natural communities with which we cohabit a chance to heal and to teach us how healing works. We engage in what Tim Watson, a North Carolina architect, teacher and president of the EarthWalk Alliance calls eco-restoration. We become partners with natural communities in the maintenance of our local ecosystems. And by that means we will increase the possibility that, taken together — each community itself and as many as possible at the same time, engaged in the process of evolving a planetful of Earthogical human communities — we may help to heal Earth's failing immune system so that there will be a human future and it will be worth living.
Downsize Economic and Energy Systems
More specifically, we begin to downsize, diversify and decentralize our economies and the energy systems that support them. We learn toorganize, govern and regulate ourselves as Earthological communities, and we do all of this democratically because life teaches us that democratic methods of organization and democratic behaviors and relationships (which are already being taxed by scarcity, recession and uncertainty) are fundamental to our survival.
And I repeat: We will do these things not only because they are virtuous or altruistic, not because it would be nice, but because it is necessary. Our survival as a species may depend on it; our quality of life will depend on it.
Restoring the Health of Our Communities
The analogy of HIV/AIDS with our viral economy breaks down exactly here, and it breaks in our favor. The immunodeficiency virus in the human body dies only when the patient dies. The viral global economy is dying — if by fits and starts — and taking many human and natural communities with it. But not all of them. And not all of us.
There is a rapidly vanishing window of opportunity within which we can still rescue and restore health to many of our communities (even the designated poorest ones) and to the natural communities on which they, our economies and futures depend. We are yet able to become successful antibodies and active, cooperative, co-creative participants in Earth's equivalent of an immune system.
©2012 by Ellen LaConte. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Society Publishers. www.newsociety.com
Life Rules: Nature's Blueprint for Surviving Economic and Environmental Collapse
by Ellen LaConte.
This sobering yet essentially optimistic manifesto is required reading for anyone concerned about our ability to live within Earth's means. A powerful tool for community transition and cultural transformation, Life Rules offers a solution to our global challenges that is at once authentically hopeful, deeply inspiring, and profoundly liberating.
About the Author
Ellen LaConte is acting director of the EarthWalk Alliance, a contributing editor to Green Horizon Magazine and The Ecozoic, a frequent talk show guest, and publisher of the Starting Point online newsletter. She has written two books about Helen and Scott Nearing, homesteaders and best-selling authors of Living the Good Life, and she is the author of the upcoming environmental novel Afton. After twenty three years homesteading in Mid-Coast Maine, she resides now in the Piedmont bioregion of North Carolina. Visit her website at www.ellenlaconte.com.