Reading daily about the decline of the natural world is disheartening, at best, but it’s not too late to turn things around.
Much has been written about why we should not return to normal once we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, which will still take months to years.
The pandemic is telling us to voluntarily curb our numbers or face increasingly dire circumstances from overpopulation.
To create a sustainable future, we must commit to doing things very differently. The spring 2021 issue of Yes!, a magazine that seeks to stay positive in an increasingly negative world, examines a way forward.
The cover illustration shows half a tree ring juxtaposed next to a half a human fingerprint, an uncanny pairing of nearly identical images.
The message is clear: we are part and parcel of the natural world. In “What an Ecological Civilization Looks Like,” Yes! explored six ways we can reimagine a healthier future for all living things.
As Executive Editor Zenobia Jeffries Warfield wrote, “The path toward an ecological civilization moves us from an uncivilized society based on selfish wealth accumulation to one that is community-oriented and life-affirming.”
If you think about it, early humans had to be community-oriented and life-affirming because they were still so closely connected to each other and the natural world.
In our modern world, however, we emphasize profit and growth over health and sustainability.
The Yes! issue explores six ways humans can rejoin the natural world.
Diversity must be respected, not used as a weapon.
Balance requires a global wealth tax, abolition of offshore tax havens and legal support for co-ops and the commons.
“Fractal organization” requires universal basic income, access to housing, health care and education, and cities designed for walking.
Life cycles eliminate waste and control growth. Instead of extracting resources and accumulating waste, we would create a circular economy that reuses waste products from the outset.
“Subsidiarity” requires decision-making to be at the community level.
Symbiosis measures well-being instead of gross domestic product, utilizes regenerative agriculture and permaculture and recognizes the rights of nature.
This may sound utopian, but it’s the only way for life to sustain itself indefinitely, and there are steps already underway in this direction.
In the U.S., the Climate Justice Alliance, with a network of more than 70 grassroots movements, is working toward food sovereignty, energy democracy and ecological regeneration.
In Bolivia and Ecuador, ecological principles are part of their constitutions, offering a legal and ethical platform for legislation based on harmony with nature and among humans.
In Spain, the Modragon Cooperative has 100 businesses and 80,000 worker-owners producing a wide range of industrial and consumer goods while staying focused on community.
The only way to change the world is to reimagine it for our children and grandchildren. Let’s get started.
Shannon Brennan is a Central Virginia Master Naturalist, a Lynchburg Tree Steward and a volunteer for the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club and the James River Association. She can be reached at email@example.com.