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Margaret Morgan - Hubbard

At the core of the question of achieving real change, as opposed to reforms, lies the question of what transformations are necessary in order to reverse environmental degradation and to live once again in harmony with other living things.

Many community-based activists are aware that the environmental degradation in their communities is caused by unaccountable institutions, be they corporate, government, or non-profit, making decisions without the involvement or consideration of how they impact workers and jobs, habitats and households, current resource stocks and future generations.

Unless we have in place an alternative worldview, and models of decision making where human beings confront each other directly, ethically, and responsibly, we cannot effect ecologically sound production and distribution mechanisms, nor rid ourselves of the materialist and consumption driven ethic that now prevails. Nor can we build on the natural synergy between environmental activism and a broad range of progressive concerns that have an appeal that crosses age, class, regional and ethnic lines.

It was twenty-six years ago that Wendell Berry told us clearly that all our physical and social problems are inextricably linked. He said then:

The mentality that exploits and destroys the environment is the same that abuses racial and economic minorities. The mentality that destroys a watershed and then panics at the threat of a flood is the same mentality that gives institutionalised insult to black people and then panics at the prospect of race riots... We would be fools to believe that we can solve any one of these problems without solving the others.

We need to adopt a worldview that fully appreciates the links between all the destructive forms of domination - a worldview that is fully life-centred - a worldview that reminds us that:

Our survival, our life quality, and our economies are dependent on Nature.

And that:

Nature exists for all life, not just for us.

And that:

Our success will depend upon learning to cooperate, rather than to dominate and control everything for our own use.

And that:

There is not always more, and it's not all for us.

Human actions are now changing the global environment more dramatically than that environment has changed over millions of years. And we have only begun to understand the serious consequences of these actions.

The challenge before us is to work together to transform our social, economic, and political systems into living systems of justice. No amount of piece-meal, expert-dominated, technocratically-oriented work is sufficient to this challenge.

It is time now for all of us to, in the words of the poet Gary Snyder, "find our place on the planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there".

Margaret Morgan-Hubbard is executive director of Ecology Action, based in Washington, D.C.

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