~ Happy Fourth of July to my American friends (and a belated happy Canada Day to friends and family too, eh.) Today we remember the challenges our ancestors overcame when they pulled together and became one nation. Affirming their commonality and equality, they did what needed to be done in casting aside differences to find common ground against that which oppressed. In the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence, they chose to pursue "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Today, however, fractious in the face of fact, divided, we face a different kind of tyranny, oppressive in its own insidious way, that deprives us of those lofty pursuits about which Thomas Jefferson wrote so eloquently:
- Life. We are destroying life on our planet, which, if continued, won't spare humans. As atmospheric carbon increases from so too does its absorption into the oceans, making them more acidic and killing organisms of many kinds. Rising sea levels are swallowing land, shrinking shorelines and inundating species and communities. The death of ecosystems, of habitats, and of communities will lead to privation, encourage disease, force eco-migration, exacerbate conflicts, and, ultimately, kill millions of people.
- Liberty. As a nation we borrow $1B per day to buy foreign energy, mostly oil, reinforcing our growing bondage to others that take our wealth but spurn our higher values. Even as we burn the fossil fuels that change our climate and our lives for the worse, we ransom our future prosperity to the tyranny of an unsustainable present, both environmentally and economically. The sprawl of its derivative effects reaches deeply into every facet of our economic and political life; the tentacles of this deathly octopus now entwine the arteries of our well-being. It is becoming harder to change, to move.
- Happiness. How do you feel? Large majorities of people worry that we are "on the wrong track" and fear for the future of the country and themselves. Things must change, but our political institutions have become feckless and sclerotic while their leaders grow more craven, venal and self-aggrandizing. Corporations and their chieftains give their allegiance to shareholders and profit maximization, not nations, their citizens or constituent communities. Shedding the constraints of political boundaries for the global bazaar where they can create their own rules, enterprises more powerful and far-reaching than countries force ever-greater regulatory concessions and richer financial inducements. In the resulting race to the bottom treasuries are looted, institutions hollowed of their power, and the well-being of real people sacrificed. What is gained in return? A triple bludgeoned line: flimsy and unspecific IOUs for better economic, environmental and social times to come later. Perhaps.