February 5th, 2019
Thinking for Ourselves
As some of the coldest temperatures in nearly a century move out of the Midwest, devastation is everywhere. In Detroit the thaw brought over 50 breaks in water mains, flooding streets and closing buildings. Thousands of homes, offices, schools and public facilities face burst pipes and are preparing for what will likely be intense flooding as warm weather brings rain on top of melting snow. Roads are closed as concrete crumbles. The famous landmark of Detroit’s decline, the Packard pedestrian bridge that has defied more than a century of weather, scrappers, and decay, finally collapsed into the street. Its crash signals the vulnerability of all our bridges and overpasses.
Meanwhile, Sunday morning warm breezes brought a disturbing smell of natural gas throughout the region. Much of the problem was located at the Marathon Refinery, but people in Macomb County and Highland Park made hundreds of emergency calls about the intense odor.
No one doubts our infrastructure is in trouble. The extreme weather, likely to intensify in the future, lays bare our refusal to provide for common responsibilities of basic systems.
This reality is part of what makes the Green New Deal so appealing. It is a vision of dedicating our resources and imaginations to the redevelopment of the basic structures essential for daily life. At the same time, it promises to provide a platform to move toward renewable resources and a more just economy. The GND would directly address rebuilding infrastructure, shift us toward renewable energy, and pay for this by taxing the super-rich.
Progressives everywhere are signing on to help support this effort. We, at the Boggs Center join these groups. However, we think this effort needs to be combined with some serious thinking.
As currently proposed, the GND accepts the corporate-capitalist system and its commitment to continued, even accelerated, economic growth. The GND argues that through rapid growth, lower income households will benefit. This ideas of simply a repackaging of the same old trickle down economics that has never worked.
As many thoughtful economists point out, continued growth is inherently unequal and distorts not only the lives of those pursuing it, but our relationships to people around the planet. More is not always better. We need to think beyond sustainable growth to “degrowth” economies. We cannot continue a wasteful, self-centered, disposable culture.
Capitalists assumptions and practices are catastrophic. The future demands much more of us than fixing our bridges and pipes and using more solar and wind power.
We need to cultivate a deep ecological wisdom that explores basic questions of how to live on a more human scale, with responsibility for our communities and for the earth. Small scale production, aimed at developing our human capacities for creativity and connection should form the heart of any new economy. Producing what we need for ourselves and our neighbors shifts us away from productive forces and corporate powers that inherently aim to control and degrade life.
The Green New Deal promises much. But it needs to challenge us more. The transformation we need to secure a just future requires all of us to consider the question posed by Indigenous activists, ”How do we live more simply, so that others can simply live?”
Finance. Climate. Food. Work. How are the crises of the twenty-first century connected? In Capitalism in the Web of Life, Jason W. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human nature.
“Nowadays, we talk about King as though he were an isolated one-off event. In some ways, we talk about him as though he were superhuman, his life and exploits becoming part of our national mythology.”
“King is one of the people to whom I am deeply indebted, one of the people who make up my lineage. These four figures are the greatest social change agents of the 20th Century, recognized as world leaders and inspiration to billions of people throughout the world.” – KEEP READING Shariff Abdullah’s reflection on Moving Beyond King and Gandhi