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20th Anniversary Rendezvous - Peter Warshall

    If there are any commandments at all, the lost commandment is that all creatures are interdependent. We now learn interdependence from bad news: yup, sister, your hair spray just caused changes in the ozone layer, etc. There is little love associated with interdependence, little wonder that both you and the bear love the same package of blueberries. When the first Whole Earth Catalog appeared, there was a great quixotic hope that knowing our ties to earth, air and water would create new ethics. At the moment, there's no new age or mahayana credo. It's really an individual choice: do you want to pay attention, be part of, the non-monetary world of interdependence? The question is not even posed by the major monotheist religions (Jews, Christians, Muslims). Like obsolete PC programs, the menu still says God, abstracted love and here's how to cash in. At the moment, the tangled infusion of divinities, humors and the elements can only be learned by a rather deliberate, difficult refocusing.

    One of the surest ways to stop desertification and provide trees for the next generation is to mix trees with religion. If US AID could offer any Muslim a hajj, a trip to Mecca, if he keeps a patch of trees alive to maturity you can imagine with what great care those trees would be protected and nurtured. Cheap, straightforward, impossible foreign aid.

    There are many ways of looking at the '60s. One of them is that suburban real estate was just too expensive for the young at that time, so the back-to-the-country green-out movement just skipped that suburban edge, and went out into the country where the real estate was cheaper, and settled the real estate. But now teenagers growing up find that all the real estate is settled in some way. They don't have the possibility of doing all the green-out stuff that characterized the earth movements of the late '60s and 70s. They're excluded from a land base. Combine that with a media that thrives off the environmentalists' attitude that the ozone, endangered species, wilderness, is all going to hell, and we get
a real punk kind of alienated youth that doesn't have the same desire to commit itself to what seems like the inevitable death of the planet.

    In the twenty years post-WEC (Whole Earth Catalog), the U.S. environmental movement has become very strong. It set up a people base and then lawyers, politicians, advertisers (too much Audubon junk mail!), even artists began to see how to use, how to exploit the ideals. There's now an environmental sleaze factor which is equal to Meese's judicial sleaze factor. It's apparent in the Environmental Protection
Agency; the end-runs around the Endangered Species Act and the gutting of the National Environmental Policy Act.

And all this, always starting with the phrase: "I am an environmentalist ..."

    I find the most effective work being done on the planet is by Euro-Americans or Third Worlders who are willing to commit a period of years to a particular project. Over 60 percent of the World Bank money does not go for direct action. It goes back to predominantly Euro-Americans who, like myself for the last two years, run in for two or three weeks, write a report and split. My last report on arid lands and refugees in Ethiopia (for the UN) has been lost in the bureaucracy for two years. This jet-set ecology and anthropology has very limited influence on the host country. It may, if you're real lucky, change the priorities of the donor countries refocus their financing. The compassionate actions come from individuals who seriously ask: What do I know? What does each special-interest group (fishermen, grazers, farmers, traders) want? And what will everyone accept? Inside this context of people earning a livelihood, the environment can be protected.

    Conflict resolution is probably the major environmental tool these days.

    Learning another language is part of healing the environment.

    Education is most likely the most effective long-term ecological work. An underestimated tool. I remember the African Wildlife Foundation stopped all kinds of poaching and hunting in national parks by galvanizing Kenyan students into Wildlife Clubs. It took only five years.

    A temporary commitment to poverty or low wages is probably necessary to do meaningful work and learn about nature human and the planet's. It's a very hard thing
to promote.

  Even though I still speak of the "Third World," I find it sticking more and more in my throat. Imagine what California would become after sixteen years of drought. Imagine the difficulty of keeping its rivers free of dams. The indigenous people of the Sahel have suffered sixteen years of drought. There's been an incredibly imaginative, vibrant and muscular reaction that never makes headlines. There is, for instance, a populist seed exchange covering hundreds of miles. People who lost species because of the drought are trading to get those seeds back and then using small amounts of supplemental irrigation (wells) to mimic the pre-drought period. Farmers from the south are coming north to find drought-adapted seeds, they now know the drought may never break in their lifetime. A young woman from CIDA (the Canadian Peace Corps) was one of the many truckers for Sahelian women's groups since she could get gas. They were (I am) all mutually meshed in discovering, rediscovering seed power.