Now that progressives (and fake Democrats) have been smashed to bits by an election won by corporate wolves in grassroots clothing, where do we go next? Perhaps not where we're expected to go. A lot of my friends, ones that care about human rights, animal rights, social and economic justice, and sustainability, are unsurprisingly depressed right now. But I am happy to say that I have the drug that you're thinking of, and it's not Prozac.
A few weeks before the election of 2010, I found myself on the West Coast, learning about an exhilarating nexus between politics and activism. I was lucky enough to attend the 2010 Bioneers conference, and I'll be back again next year, and the year after that, and so on. It was a life-altering experience, and that's not hyperbole.
Surrounded by brilliant activists in the mountains around Marin County, my hope was restored to November 2008 levels. So what if Obama failed my card-carrying liberal litmus test and gave away the farm in the name of "compromise"? I left Bioneers feeling like the failures of our political process are not even close to the end of the world.
It's easy to be jaded when heroes on the left seem few and far between, partly because of the false equivalency between MSNBC and Fox News. On one hand we have moderate liberals, and on the other, we have radical right-wing extremists. If MSNBC would give Noam Chomsky a prime time slot, Jon Stewart's argument about the right and left on TV would make sense. But the real left isn't on TV at all, so Jon, for probably the first time, has his facts wrong.
Do me a solid. Now that we've brought Keith Olbermann back on the air, turn off your TV and tune into some of the work that's being done in local communities all over the country and the world, and you won't need to self-medicate for the next two years. All is most certainly not lost.
I was impressed by everything I witnessed at the Bioneers, including keynote speaker Jane Goodall who brought down the house with her humor, humility, and a discussion of the work she's now doing with Roots and Shoots, a youth organization working to make positive changes in local communities. I was enlightened by a discussion about Ecopsychology, an emerging discipline that explores the "synergistic relation between planetary and personal well-being." And I was honored to find copies of my book Eco-Sex sold in the conference bookstore.
But most of all, I was blown away by the work of Lynne and Bill Twist of the Pachamama Alliance. They work with indigenous communities in the Amazon regions of Ecuador. But it's definitely not the same-old, same-old. The tribal elders in the Amazon, in concert with Westerners who get it, are working to create a new world in which corporate power is not the dominant paradigm.
This sounds radical, and it is. My mind was utterly blow by the "Giving Rights to Nature: Becoming a Global Movement" panel that I attended on the last day of the conference. The concept of giving rights to nature was written into the new constitution of Ecuador in 2008. They recognize the legal rights of ecosystems. You heard me right. Trees with rights. Rivers with rights. They cannot be plundered because some oil giant CEO wants a bigger corporate jet.
Imagine what would happen if we did that here in the US? That would be the end of oil disasters in the Gulf, fracking, mountain-top removal mining, and all the other disgusting, earth-raping damage done by mega-corporations every single day.
Now this world-changing paradigm is broadening, and although it will take years and lots of blood, sweat and tears by activists and progressive, enlightened lawyers, it's already happening. Trust me, you want to be a part of this.
The next Bioneers conference isn't until next year, but I met a lot of people with sleeves eagerly rolled up. I know that they're back in their communities doing the hard work of making change. Rather than sitting around grumbling about how much we hate Sarah Palin and fear her world-takeover, let's get radical. This is no time for neurosis and navel-gazing. We have serious work to do.