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Culture Change

The activist within calls us
Dam blasting and building the greenhouse world

by Jan Lundberg 

I work toward an alternative to global-warming industrialization.  If I don’t, who does?  If not you, who?  Of the few who say they do, more often than not they compromise on policy as they remain unduly attached to consumer comforts.  So, the best effort we see from almost any environmentalist known via the mainstream corporate media is the attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by just a modest degree. 

My position regarding the changing of society to best deal with the destruction of the natural global climate is one of kind rather than degree.  However, my own preferences, and John Q. Public’s expectations, are irrelevant compared to whatever will likely be our common experience ahead. 

Technological civilization’s onward march is not a given.  Its reign has been a very short span in recent human experience.  Even the blind admirers of Western Civilization must admit that modern threats to life — excesses of material power by the dominating elements of Western Civilization’s societies — are perhaps so immense, and escalating, as to be beyond humanity’s control.  Unfortunately, the admirers’ and the dominant elite’s approach is above all to maintain today’s form of order and to serve up more of the same, with no real abatement of polluting the beleaguered ecosystem.  It has gotten to the point of our having to accept a probably disastrous amount of global warming as the only future.

An analysis of our lot in the 21st century allows for greater tolerance of and experimentation with a much less technological way of life.  For decades it has been premature, oddly, to be opposed to relying on a skewed transportation system that has killed more Americans than all the wars that have involved us.  And, looking at the epidemic of cancer, so few of us have found it reasonable to reject eating factory-farm food and minimize toxic and radioactive environmental hazards, that these habits are taken for granted as normal and acceptable.  An explanation lies in the average person’s principal need to just get along and “make the grade” or get the next paycheck. 

Is it not one’s right and duty, nevertheless, to decide there is little to like under a deadly civilization that can’t seem to stop distorting the climate until it reaches the greenhouse effect of a hothouse known as Venus?  We can promote a new socioeconomic model and predict the demise of technological civilization, whether we enjoy aspects of current culture or not.  We must separate the benign accomplishments from the terrible errors, and look at the common basis of it all: coercion and growth, spiced with superlative works.  Mozart was a great composer and musician, but that does not make the case that the civilization he and you and I share is sustainable or the only way to live. 

Dam blasting for sustainability

On February 23 the city of Fredericksburg and the powers-that-be exploded the old Embrey Dam to let the Rappahannock River run free again, for the first time in a century and a half.  Here is evidence that we are finally getting on the right track.  Civilization has wowed us with the works of man, but has killed off countless cultures that lived in peace with their lands for millennia.  The native Americans needed no dams, cars, prisons, nuclear missiles, petroleum-packaged junk food, TV-addiction—you name it.  Obviously, one can no longer just walk off and join a simpler culture of Indians (which was what many a white newcomer did in the first several decades of Virginia’s European invasion and conquest). 

What we can and must do is examine our way of life insofar as overwork and absence from home & family all serve to render less and less rewarding our materialist value system.  Primitive cultures don’t even have a word for “work” because they take care of basic needs as a matter of daily activity.  Such “work” is not even needed every day, because a pristine ecosystem provides endless amounts and varieties of food.  That leaves extra time for leisure.  “Progress” has deprived us of leisure and a free ecosystem.

Getting riled up is healthy

Opposition to the concept of having intrusive government over one’s head, and resisting exploitation, oppression and pollution, are clear enough to the few who manage to get a whiff of such ideas.  However, the achievement of such consciousness does not often translate to actual programs or new communities that function on a mutual-support basis. 

Moreover, if social movements are not off-base (almost always the case), they are powerless even when on the mark in dealing with technological civilization and alleviating the abuses of oligarchy. 

Therefore, forecasting the likely end-results of today’s trends (e.g., petroleum dependence and population growth) is perhaps the only doable course. But it also can serve to stimulate social movements, however doubtful in a time of massive complacency and various forms of oppression, subtle and otherwise. 

Refining one's critique 

“Rage against the machine” and frustration regarding dominant society’s crimes against humanity and the planet are consequences of knowing the truth and developing one’s critique.  It is arguable that our collective situation is so bad and so extreme in victimizing the individual that any reaction – despair, hate, violence – is understandable even when not justifiable by you or me. 

The near brain-dead among the abused masses of consumers would do well to keep their eyes and ears open for “the extreme critique” that rejects the value system responsible for an increasingly intolerable and irrational system of management.  At the same time, the values that elevate our humanity, such as our kindness, innovativeness, and respect for family must take on greater roles if we are to turn a corner on the current direction of war, environmental destruction and the dead end of economic growth that benefits only the few. 

A good indication of lack of intelligence amongst the majority of people is made when one considers the obvious role of industrial advertisers “reporting” the “news.”  Despite the overt pressure and the covert perversion of editorial and social messages in all media, all to many people imagine they are receiving enough correct information such that they can see through any lies or bias.  The near universal refusal to seek or receive alternative views and vital new information bodes poorly for any society facing fundamental change. 

The active suppression of public discussion on basic issues such as climate change and petroleum dependence is a cruel disservice to everyone.  However, it props up the status quo that is ultimately interested almost solely in accumulating wealth individualistically. 

It can be easily claimed that the wealthy, particularly the extremely wealthy, are “the problem,” as if their removal from the face of the Earth would alter the system — like a decapitated creature no longer feeding on other forms of life.  However, a million Bush and Kerry wannabes are waiting in the wings to seize power and enjoy maximum privilege.  A bloodbath is an absurd and weak-minded “solution.”  At the same time, it is remarkable that poor masses tolerate so much misery “at the hands of” the rich. 

A most conservative bastion of the U.S. is Fredericksburg, Virginia, a recently acquired suburb of Washington, DC on the Rappahannock River.  It was a vital town in colonial times.  Amidst this relatively affluent population that is blithely consuming along, thanks in large part to huge military-industrial complex wages, two signs of discontent were recently spotted in the cutesy, historic downtown: (1) “Eat the rich” is a stencil depicting a lion marked with a circled “A” (for anarchy) who is eating up a man (presumably evil).  (2) “Revolt!” is part of some wall-graffiti visible just off the main street.  In terms of numbers of non-mainstream citizens, the anarchists responsible for these public sentiments are barely outnumbered by the Naderites who might be 1% of Fredericksburg. 

Given the gravity of issues facing us, how can falling in love, for example, solve any of this?  It can’t, but it can help.  Enjoying a good movie or bottle of good wine can help too.  But it is getting past the time to get organized, if we are to successfully and honestly address the challenges that would completely unravel the social fabric and the natural world. 

The American flag has nothing to do with any of these issues.  Any national flag can obscure issues, and can be co-opted by the forces of reaction to defend and extend the status quo.  But the flag is also anyone’s right to fly as a symbol of personal freedom and defiance of any form of oppression.  Wave your flag(s), but let’s talk to each other and get to the next level before the flood hits.  That would imply taking proactive measures such as taking out the dams and working together for the common weal.


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Pentagon plans for climate change: read a Fortune magazine article.

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Jan Lundberg's columns are protected by copyright; however, non-commercial use of the material is permitted as long as full attribution is given with a link to this website, and he is informed of the re-publishing:


Articles of interest:
Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results.  WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California . Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)



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