INTRODUCTION & SYNOPSIS
Like all professionals, sustainability experts and educators succeed to the degree that our stories are engaging, compelling, and effective. In this field more than almost all others, the story must be technically valid to be effective.
Yet, how do we keep a deeply disturbing story engaging and compelling and effectively factual? How can we realistically include encouraging glimpses of light at the end of what seems like the longest, darkest tunnel of all? And what do we do when both the story and honesty are unwelcome or worse?
These are the big questions, core issues, and main problems every sustainability SME faces and the Greenbook addresses. It provides potent information and strategic guidance for crafting stories that work. Remember, neither a large fraction of the truth nor an impressive bunch of knowledge can be as compelling as a whole truth nor as effective as deep wisdom and understanding.
Partial knowledge and narrow views, are dangerous in direct proportion to their deficiency. No matter how nicely or carefully we administer a medicine, if we fail to prescribe the right medicine or enough, the results will be bad. In this case, the results determine the quality of human life.
Doctors who fail to radiate encouraging confidence, competence, and compassion have less than ideal results. Our effectiveness depends on not losing our audience to despair or fear and denial disguised as hostility. Still, your boss or client may think they want to go green, but not be ready to see what you need to show them to earn your paycheck. In his article for the Fall 2010 issue of Yes! Magazine, Robert Jensen quotes a few of more than 300 replies to an essay he posted online. In the essay, Jensen asked for reports on feelings about the ecological crisis and the reactions they witnessed. A few telling examples follow his question...
"What if the unsustainable systems in which we live are beyond the point of no return?"
"I feel hopeless... sad... amused at the absurdity of it all... depressed... enraged... guilty and I feel trapped... I'm not even sure how to fight yet, but I know that I want to."
"I've lived long enough now to be very aware of how different the world has become, how the cycles of nature are off kilter, how the seasons and climate have shifted. This is the second year in a row that our apple trees have no apples on them... But most people get their food in grocery stores where apples still appear, and food still arrives, in season and out, from all over the world. This will soon end, and people won't understand why. They don't see the trouble in the land as me and my friends do."
"I grieve daily as I look on this altered world. My grandchildren are young adults who think their lives will continue as they have been. Who will tell them? They can't hear me... My grief for the world and for them is compounded by this feeling of helplessness, because there is no way to have the collective action you speak of when the 'collective' is in denial."
"We really need to take it back to the basics and keep it simple... 'Be humble or be humiliated' is my own personal reminder."
Paycheck or no paycheck, to be honest and effective we need to communicate the truth about the possibility of collapse and the rapidly accelerating rate of change. As Jensen reminds us, politics and projects based on denial and unreality are unsustainable for the long run. At the current rate, most of us alive now would live to suffer the consequences and humiliation of failing to advise clients to prepare for reality of the next 18 years.
To jump start the solution, the Greenbook story begins near the modern beginning of The Problem...
Before powerful corporations ruled the world, the USA had relatively sane, effective policies for protecting our economy and the environment. The Great Depression and our devastating Dust Bowl era of the 1930s taught almost everyone some very hard lessons not easily forgotten. The exceptional few who ignored the karmic lessons of human folly, greed, hostility, and negligence were soon back to devising new ways to deceive, seduce, subvert, divert and divide all the good folks who just wanted a nice American Dream, nice towns, nice schools for nice children, and a modest, middle-class level of affluence. Back then, most business owners never cared about making only 2 to 10 times as much as their companies' lowest paid employees.
We were not perfect. Greed and vice were with us from before there was a USA. Yet, for most Americans in the 50s and 60s, enough was enough. Like most Japanese executives and middle-class folk, most of us had a sense of what was enough. Now it seems most of us have no idea what that means.
This is no accident of evolution. The rise of global Consumer Society and corporate plutocracy (rule by greed-crazed elitists) were perfectly synchronized, by design. In his nonfiction book, Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley summarized the prime initiative decided at a pivotal post-war conference of the Ad Council (of America). The Mad Men must use all the techniques, technologies, and stratagems of Hitler's Ministry of Propaganda in order to ensure the growth of American industry (big corporation and the major stockholders). Mad Men of America must create demand, support planned obsolescence, foster waste and unsustainable consumption, or else the well of financial growth would run dry, and mass production would falter and grind to a halt. Modern technologies were just to good, products could be made to last so long that manufacturers would go broke before selling their second run of products. No sales, no business, no ads, but they never explained that to the majority of folks who were targeted to become the Consumer Society of the future, us.
In the 1950s, old school conservative radicals who hated communism, socialist capitalism, and outlandish extremists, like novelist Ayn Rand and her protégés (like Alan Greenspan & Co.), were generally considered freakish oddities, to few and too far out in the lunatic fringe to worry over much. Yet, Rand's vision of a world ruled by cruel, cunning, "strong" and ruthless egomaniacs was a customized version of Neitzch's superman theory of personal power as the prime value, almost identical to the version Hitler and the Nazis used to create their nightmarish reign of tyranny, insanity, and mass stupidity. So, it was an instant hit among like-minded industrialists, bankers, big ad men, and the ill informed dupes who could be as easily manipulated here as in pre-Nazi Germany.
In the old days, only the few egomaniacs who cared about winning excessive riches and virtual power more than they cared for their children were willing to win at any cost. One can almost sympathize with the forgotten British Loyalists (who fought against the very idea of American independence) and the famous Robber Baron monopolists and Union Busters of the 19th century — the Rothchilds, J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller, and many others — who went on to master-mind the Federal Reserve Banking system. They grew up with a world-view lacking any concepts of bioethics, child-abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Weaned on stories about the "Law of the Jungle" (wolf eat wolf, eat or be eaten, kill or be killed), witnessing it openly and covertly ruling the world of politics and business, they won what they won by doing whatever was necessary to win and stay at the top of their socioeconomic food chain.
That was not the scientific truth, but Social Darwinism was quickly adopted by the top dogs of the dominant elite and progressively enshrined in their damaged brains and those of the legion of envious wanna-be top dogs. Science and technology advanced, the truth was revealed: Acting like reptilian predators is not humanity's best option, but that was easily suppressed, preempted and ignored in the massive struggle for survival as the super-rich set themselves up as the gods of the Free Market.
Why would anyone with such high intelligence and potentials turn against everything good and healthy about America? Clearly, they did not see it as many of us do now. They saw the slaughter and atrocities and treacheries against the native nations of this land, their parents had witnessed and/or suffered the Civil War and its aftermath. They saw that the power brokers and lobbyists behind the scenes and behind the thrones of Europe were ruthless exploiters acting in accord with the Law of the Jungle. Some of them grew up in dire poverty or modest means and great hardship, whatever the case, most if not all envied the super-rich and royalty of Europe. Naturally, a realist would also see that The Game was really about cheating by making or changing the rules so "the elite" get ever more with ever less effort and less risk.
For more detailed history & options, see:
Most of the common folk were trying to be good Christians or Jews or whatever, but by the early 1960s most were so confused about ethics, morality, money, economics and political corruption they were incapable of debunking the tyranny of the richest. Since most Americans had no desire to emulate or worship the new demigods of unbridled greed, nor to obsessively investigate their devious ways and means, they lacked sufficient motivation and information to denounce and dethrone greed and money. Still, America's truly moral majority had not accepted the pseudo-Darwinist notion that the Free Market is the prime value and source of the good of society.
After President Johnson defeated Sen. Barry Goldwater with a landslide majority vote for the vision of a Great Society, the rich elitists and their reactionary fans sensed it was time for a new, bolder, yet more confusing strategy. They decided to win the war of ideas by gradually shape shifting their ravenous attack dog image to a new, conservative "visionary" disguise. The cunning wolves sold the sheep on a Free Market Utopia fantasy.
They orchestrated President Reagan's regime, Reagonomics, Voodoo Economics, corporate Ponzi Scams packaged as rational economic policy. They expanded the federal government by 300% and used the Cold War and dirty little hot wars to balloon the military budget beyond all previous excesses. The situation devolved through increasingly complicated tactics guaranteed to bamboozle the numb, dumbed down workers. They deliberately ruined the economy to prove that sane government is impractical and unaffordable. Behind the scenes, it was all managed by Club Fed — eventually run by the Goldman Sachs Gang and their multinational allies — the team who won the Great Meltdown and the Big Bailout for themselves.
What does all that have to do with providing advice or education for sustainability policy reform?
For example, the ecocidal elitists used their Meltdown to get away with bamboozling people into thinking that upgrading EPA's clean air and water regulations would reduce the number of jobs available. Letting BP and other energy industry corporations ruin the oceans, the air, the soil, and our health is another example.
The ancient institution of The Commons — natural and cultural "assets" held in common for the common good — and its champions (like Robinhood), are hated by the ruling elite. The new Commoners point out that government now has no legal mandate to perpetually protect or conserve any natural asset for future generations. Until government has a valid sustainability mandate, we need a transitional strategy for the interim. We will not get one without the best knowledge, wisdom, and resources.
Another reason for this one-stop sustainability resource is the current fog of confusion enveloping all things green. As JB McKinnon says in Explore (magazine, May 2010):
"Environmental responsibility, of late, is an increasingly epic-scale pain in the ass. For every pilgrim trying to live true to his or her beliefs, there is some harder-core-than-thou type with a comment on the link between your chosen brand of boots and dying sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, every possible choice from diapers to cremation is overwhelmed by conflicting information about what's better or worse for Spaceship Earth.
"That sound you hear? That's every ounce of fun being sucked out of your life. Yet, there is one choice we know the cost of perfectly clearly, and that's the choice of doing nothing at all."
While all green professionals should cringe at the idea that green shopping lists, shallow opinions, and corporate propaganda guide popular notions of how to live sustainably, the alternative is up to us. The fact that it involves something as slippery as fun makes it as tricky as it is difficult. Since it requires real ethics, how do we make saving the future fun or, at least, compelling enough to do it? Solving that part of the problem is essential to the Greenbook's mission objectives.
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How will we accomplish The Mission? Our socioeconomic paradigm needs a major overhaul. Without elemental wisdom and ethical pragmatism, the paradigm will remain beyond repair and most of us will keep acting as if the biosphere and our global quality of life are expendable, exploitable resources.
Catering to modern desires without realistic consideration of the consequences may be destroying our ability to live healthy lives now, not later, while our grandchildren are at the helm. Epigenetics, psychoneuroimmunology, cognitive science, and ecopsychology all show that wellness of mind and body and environment are inseparable. Greening the world means greening our mind-bodies and the environment all at once. We are subject to illness as much from our own biochemistry, toxins produced with each negative decision or reaction, as from the tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals pervading the air, the waters, the soil, our food & mothers' milk. We cannot afford the pretense that making green shopping lists for corporations and governments will lead to healthy, peaceful sustainability.
The Greenbook policy directives begin with seven decisive essentials for preventing cultural, socioeconomic, and ecological collapse, initially inspired by the work of Dr. Jared Diamond, author of the best selling books Guns, Germs, and Steel, and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Gandhi's principles, strategies, and tactics inspired an update supporting the effective mandate needed for appropriate policy, law making, enforcement, and cultural empowerment. The section on global policy necessities, based on the UN's Earth Charter, serves as a master template for green laws that work. If the Seven Essentials are the heart of the Greenbook, effective green planning standards and the new Green rating form are the arms and legs. The new form simplifies evaluation of policies, planning, development, projects, products—and much more with realistic qualifications. The new Green rating form is based on the sophisticated yet simple standard developed by Malcom Wells, the godfather of ultragreen earth-sheltered architecture. The section on Green Credit features a nonprofit alternative to universal debt slavery and further ruin of the economy.
The section on Green Credit is long because the economic dimensions of the problem and solution are complex and complicated, and because the impacts of financial tyranny and financial confusion are severe. Systemic corruption rules and skews the market economy for the sake of corporations and major stockholders whose current strategies are totally opposed to healthy ecological and cultural sustainability. So, the section on green spirit and ethics is essential to realistic response and for motivating billions of very religious people and other voters. Drawing from the accumulated wisdom of ancient sustainable cultures, from great leaders, policy analysts, bioneers, ecotects and scientists, great teachers, healers and culture heroes, the other sections of the Greenbook offer realistic options for remedial action and real recovery or an exit strategy.