Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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David Kupfer is an environmental activist, biker, artist, Frisbee tosser, and culinary risk taker whose writing has appeared in Bay Nature, The Progressive, and Adbusters. He lives in Northern California, where he is working on three books, two screenplays, and one big garden.
Politicians are not leaders; they are followers. They think that, because they can plunder the public treasury, they are leading. In fact they are terrified of the people. The people are a problem for them to manage, and when they can no longer manage them, they must follow them, or oppress them.
The Western scientific paradigm is materialistic, meaning that scientists do not believe in anything that cannot be perceived or measured. Look how restrictive that belief is. It’s the reason for the limited acceptance of mind-body medicine. The nonphysical causation of physical events is not allowed for in the reigning scientific paradigm. If you talk about nonphysical causes of changes in physical systems, materialists either ignore you or make fun of you or, if you keep at it, get angry with you.
Cancer is definitely not a random tragedy. If you look at a map of the U.S. and plot out the incidence of different sorts of cancers, you see patterns. Some cancers are more common in the Midwest and the Great Plains. Other cancers tend to cluster around certain industries. Those cancer maps are not proof, but they present a compelling hypothesis. If we see, over and over again, that bladder-cancer rates are higher in counties with leaking toxic-waste dumps — which is indeed the case — then that’s a clue. If we see leukemias and lymphomas are highest in areas of the Great Plains and the Midwest where herbicide use is highest, that’s a clue. It means “Dig here. Further inquiry required.”
Our mission, in both our business and our nonprofit, is to increase respect for the natural world. Creating more-sustainable products and processes is just an extension of that. To learn from nature, you have to become involved with what Wes Jackson calls the “deep conversation.” To learn how to take carbohydrates and water and turn them into a fiber as strong as steel, as a spider does, you go to a spider and respectfully ask, “How are you doing that?” Then you go and try to do it yourself. And when you fail — it’s very hard to do! — you go back to the organism and ask again.
There seems to be a mass awakening in process, comparable to the evolutionary jump in consciousness that took place during the sixties. It gives me a sense of hope, as well as a sense of continuity, that countercultural values have “infiltrated” the mainstream: the peace movement, organic food, protecting the rain forests, environmental sustainability, growing hemp, recycling waste, racial equality, feminism, animal rights, renewable energy. The seeds that were planted then continue to blossom, and the counterculture that began in the sixties continues to be celebrated at such annual events as the Rainbow Gathering, Burning Man, Earthdance, the Oregon Country Fair, and the Starwood Festival.
You hear more lately about the concept of “food miles” — how far food travels to get to your plate. To most people fewer food miles just means that it’s fresher, but others are starting to make the connection to carbon emissions, though I don’t think that’s the primary reason people buy local. I think the local-food movement is more concerned with nutrition and community connection: people want to meet the farmers who grow their food, and they know that local food tastes better and is healthier and more nutritious.
Certainly the Vietnam veterans were made scapegoats for many of the illegal and brutal tactics of that war. Then there are the veterans of all the little forgotten wars: Grenada, Somalia, Lebanon, El Salvador, the secret ops in Africa and Eastern Europe. They are like wandering ghosts, neither honored nor recognized. Many of them are not even classified as combat veterans. I worked with one man who’d been in Somalia and taken part in the fighting around the U.S. Black Hawk helicopter that went down there. He isn’t classified as a combat veteran, and other combat vets don’t accept him because he was “in the shit” for only thirty hours. But anyone who knows the story of what happened that day in Mogadishu can see that it was enough to traumatize anybody.
“Eco-apartheid” is a situation in which you have ecological haves and have-nots. In other words, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you visit Marin County, you’ll find hybrid vehicles, solar panels, organic food, organic everything. If you then get in your car and drive twenty minutes, you’ll be in west Oakland, where people are literally choking on the fumes of the last century’s pollution-based technologies. That’s eco-apartheid, and it’s morally wrong, because we should deliver clean jobs and health benefits not just to the wealthy, but also to the people who need them most. Eco-apartheid doesn’t work on a practical level either, because you can’t have a sustainable economy when only 20 percent of the people can afford to pay for hybrids, solar panels, and organic cuisine, while the other 80 percent are still driving pollution-based vehicles to the same pollution-based jobs and struggling to make purchases at Wal-Mart.