San Francisco is poised in a unique position in today's world. As America serves as a cultural beacon for the world, so does San Francisco stand as that beacon for America. For generations we have led the way in cultural innovation, from the Beats in the 50s, the Hippies in the 60s, the Gay Liberation movement in the 70s, and the dawning of the Information Age over the last two decades. Today, the world is calling for another revolution, one greater in size and perspective than any in humanity's history. I refer, of course, to the transformation to a sustainable way of living, one founded on the well-being of the Earth's life-systems, not the narrow pursuit of human happiness, as the highest good. The necessity of this revolution is caused in no small part by the exportation of the American way of life around the world, as growing populations adopt our disposable, materialistic lifestyles and meat-heavy diets, creating even more strain on the fragile ecosystems on which our lives and the lives of billion of species depend. As a result, we are facing a litany of crises unfolding across the world, from climate change, mass extinction, peak-oil, sky-rocketing food prices, fresh water scarcity, and the social unrest that inevitably accompanies such challenges.
If the world is to avoid the full bloom of these compounding crises, it is incumbent upon America to replace the white-picket-fence-2.3-kids-steak-for-lunch-and-dinner-consumerism identity with a new image, one that values sharing, community, reusing and resilience. The world cannot transform quickly enough without the American flagship, and America as a whole will never figure it out if we fail to create this transformation in the microcosm that is the Bay Area. And, while we like to think we've got it all figured out with our farmer's markets, strong bike culture and radical social tolerance, the reality is that the Bay Area, like every other major metropolis at this point in time, is a lot of talk and very little walk. If a major spike in the price of oil were to halt the global machine that supplies our grocery stores with food every day, or even if we experience the major earthquake we've known for years is coming, all of us would be exposed as gravely unprepared. The good news is that, despite our current deficiencies, we are still looked upon as the leaders in this burgeoning movement, meaning that the successes that we do find are readily broadcast to the nation, pre-approved as the cutting edge in cool. If we are to believe in the possibility of averting staggering catastrophe, then we must above all believe in ourselves.
Now before you run out to get 1,000 signatures on a petition in support of clean energy legislation, I have some other jarring news. These problems cannot be solved through the usual governmental means of lobbying and lawmaking. No doubt, these are essential pieces of the puzzle. But they aren't coming any time soon, not with our schizophrenic political climate and the painfully slow machinations of the legislative machine. What's more, even if we woke up tomorrow with $5 trillion for clean energy, we will all still need to learn to make the correct lifestyle decisions to slow climate change, transform our abhorrent food system, and stop filling landfills with our waste.
If you really care about where we're headed, don't spend your time asking your elected officials to solve the problem when they get around to it. Instead, go out today and start talking to your friends and neighbors about organizing your community to become more resilient, that is, to be able to be self-sufficient in the likely event of an earthquake or a spike in the price of oil or the collapse of our financial system.
Becoming a resilient community organizer in your neighborhood or town has a number of benefits: You get to learn new skills like gardening or canning as you help develop your local food system, you make a whole slew of new friends as you meet your neighbors, your local farmers, business owners and all sorts of folks who share your ideals, you gain a stronger connection to place and learn again (or perhaps for the first time) what it means to be in community. An even greater result of this work is that your community will undoubtedly fare much better in the likely scenario of a true crisis. But the greatest benefit to becoming a resilient community organizer is knowing that you are actively manifesting the cultural ideal that is poised to sweep America and the rest of the world. You are on the front-lines in this most sacred of movements. The only way out of this situation is by organizing on a community-by-community level to build local resilience and, yes, to create the political will to finally address these issues with powerful legislation. And the only way this organizing fever is going to sweep the nation is if we show everyone what we're really made of here in the San Francisco Bay Area. When we really create something meaningful and exciting here in San Francisco, the rest of the world will know about it.
So go out and talk to your neighbors and your friends. Get people in the same room to craft a vision. Study other groups like the Transition Movement, Bay Localize or my group the Wigg Party. Get together to eat delicious food from your backyards. Teach each other to sew and pickle. Visit your local urban gardens and businesses. Ride your bikes together. Start right now. Don't wait. It takes time. Effective organization will not emerge overnight. But when we become serious about our responsibility to create a resilient Bay Area, when we finally bring our tribes out into the streets of San Francisco en masse, we will create a tidal wave that will spread the world over. The whole world is watching. Do you know what it means to be a San Franciscan?
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