Energy in New Directions: WAND. as a Model Based in Linking Progressive Legislative Leadership, People-Centered Policy
Models will remain thematically important here; almost every essay will ask a reader to ponder and fondle some sort of template for action, reflection, conversation, and such, especially in the energy realm. However, today's posting, in particular, involves listening to a couple of women who have some powerful messages to deliver, but whose subtext--the message behind the message--is probably as critical as, or even more crucial than, their primary ideas.
The upfront points first of all concern reorientation: away from militarism and dominance and toward cooperation and sharing. "We all have to be peace makers," no matter how hard that task is. contends Bobbie Paul. And, in the 'WANDish' ways of operating, this involves empowering women legislators and moving through electoral politics toward policy, budgetary, and political restructuring.
Secondly, this pair of reform-minded mothers seek to create bridges between communities and power that begin to flow from the bottom up as readily as they currently do in the other direction. "We put people in touch with what they need to get what they want," states Amanda Hill.
Third, Bobbie and Amanda have committed themselves, collectively for going on forty years, to the notion of assisting in making the folks at the grassroots capable: capable of understanding the complexities involved in their oppression, capable of impelling a release from that oppression, and eager to form alliances and networks that make these capabilities come to the forefront to transform the political and social world.
The subterranean notions that this pair of progressive crusaders point out concern duplicity, the difference between the surface and the roiling depths of what we seek to understand and influence, and how paradoxical the necessity of making peace appears in the teeth of the manifest intention of many of those in charge of all this madness to create division, mayhem, and uproar of all against each.
Deeper still lies something that one can only call a sense of mothering. In Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), men are not only welcome but also active and as often as not on the front lines of any action, side by side with leaders such as Bobbie and Amanda. That "this is not primarily about gender but about a common sense that might be easier for women with children to 'get'," which only bears mention once, would only be necessary to repeat among audiences that didn't hear at the deeper level that Bobbie asks us to listen.
"Precaution goes along with being a woman with a child," Bobbie repeats, speaking of a toddler at the top of the stairs as a reflection of the current pass of humanity. "Are we going to put a pillow at the bottom to break his fall?" she inquires. "That would be cheaper," she adds. "And also insane," adds Amanda, a new mother herself; "obviously, we're going to put a gate across the top to keep the little angel from risk," Bobbie concludes simply.
But in the world of corporate cost/benefit and risk assessment, if the political system even gets around to mandating taking care in the first place, the cheaper pillow almost always wins out. This theme, of feminine thinking, of hard metaphors at the heart of hard policies and tough customers, with attendant quips about Viagra and fears of 'softening,' are more than a leavening of humor.
These barbs point to important notions for considering our energy policies, our 'security policies,' and all of the other interconnected policies that in current practice roll down from on high like monsoon storms. However, these ideas often don't show up on the home page or in the policy argument, but they are critically important to understand, as they underlie important qualities arguably necessary to make transformation happen.
These conceptualizations, though, do not emerge from the nitty-gritty data-driven analytics of two hours with Amanda and Bobbie. As I ponder how to present this absent piece, perhaps overly theoretical, but plausibly of core import in making something useful of WAND's magnificence, I remember the Partnership Institute.
Riane Eisler writes powerfully about these sorts of enigmas, dealing with power and oppression and the whirl of socio-economic life, in all of her works, most recently in The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. Eisler writes a fitting precis for readers to consider about this necessary intersection between surface tropes and deeper levels of meaning.
"Generally, economists don't write about people's daily lives... .And when they address our environmental and social problems, they're usually still caught in the free market/privatization versus central planning/government regulation debate that framed the conflict between communism and capitalism. These discussions ignore the fact that (nobody) ha(s) been able to solve chronic problems such as environmental degradation, poverty, and the violence of war and terrorism... .In our time of rapidly changing economic and social conditions, we must go much deeper to address our problems, to matters that conventional economic analsyes and theories have ignored. ...We need an economic system that takes us beyond...isms (to) support caring for ourselves, others, and our Mother Earth. An economics based on caring may seem unrealistic to some people. ...(But)without caring and caregiving, none of us would be here. ...This book proposes that a radical reformulation of economics is necessary not only for us to thrive, but to survive. ... Giving greater value to caring won't cure all our problems. But it is impossible to solve our current global crises, much less advance our personal, economic, and global development unless we do."
Neither Amanda nor Bobbie mentions Eisler. They may be unaware of her book. Yet their probing assessment of the many layers of contemporary oppression point to transformative necessities that we cannot easily articulate when we talk of policy and politicians, when we speak of budgets and treaties, when we count votes and ponder tactical moves.
Moreover, their repeated emphasis on caution, caring--even love, and on making peace with our opponents as part of gaining the power that we seek all suggest the sorts of ideation that Eisler develops in her groundbreaking work. After all, the precautionary principle, which Bobbie extols as a baseline for 'doing no harm,' is inherently about caring enough to be careful, or cautious, about seeking gain in the face of risk to life, health, and well being, or in the face of risk of harming our home, this fair planet.
Bobbie Paul and I go back for quite a few years. As I sit and listen to her, though "born a critic," as my mama was wont to say, I feel a sense of honored awe. Across from me sits a woman who is a font of compassion, who burns with righteous indignation at the perfidy of ruling liars, who insists that the poorest and weakest in the land gain the resources and power not only to participate but also to lead, and yet she needn't sit there at all.
She's perfect for the Tea-bagger demographic, not quite wealthy but able at a moment's notice to flee in the family airplane. But she's never wavered, facing arrest and intimidation, working for nothing or next to nothing, moving in the direction of conflict rather than running away, being willing again and again "to speak truth to power."
When she first encountered the ideas of Helen Caldicott, the founder of WAND, "I was managing a theater in...Florida." Activists used the space for meetings on nights with no performances, slowly ensnaring Bobbie in their nefarious webs of compassion and saving the planet.
She continues, "Helen was a doctor"--a cofounder and leader-for-life of the rejuvenated 1978 version of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), "and she watched the film, 'On the Beach,'" which basically tells a tragic tale of love as the world succumbs to massive radiation poisoning from an all out nuclear war. "She had children, she was a mother," she might have added that Dr. Caldicott was very familiar with the groundbreaking work of Dr. Alice Stuart, suggesting that low-level radiation was much more dangerous than institutional sources acknowledged.
Living in Australia, according to Bobbie, Caldicott conceived Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament in the aftermath of this experience. Teaching at Harvard a few years later, in the late 1970's, Dr. Caldicott wrote an inaugural New England Journal of Medicine article on the dangers of radiation from nuclear power. Insodoing, she made a connection between the effects of atomic power and weapons, in her professional evaluation of the risks of radiation, that she has never broken.
Ever the activist, Dr. Caldicott in addition promulgated a women's political party, "The Women's Party for Survival," to bring some semblance of precaution and humanity to governments obsessed with bigger weapons, more thrust, and other phallic metaphors of rape and domination. This followed her assisting in the birth of PSR. But her passionate desire for impact carried her further still.
WAND began operations in the U.S. in 1981, and Helen and Randall Forsberg helped to lead a massive social coalescence in opposition to nuclear weapons and for social justice and jobs in peaceful production. The grassroots response to these attempts at a 'Nuclear Freeze' and 'Jobs With Peace,' with which I worked directly in the early 1980's, brought millions--perhaps tens of millions--of people to the streets in the U.S. And in this context, Bobbie Paul found a calling more powerful even than her love of drama.
According to such students of 'peace movement' history as Benjamin Redekop, the outpouring of support for the elimination of America's homegrown WMD's helped to initiate strategic arms reduction in the mid-1980's. And according to Bobbie, when the Soviets under Gorbachev seriously engaged detente and began unilateral weapons cutbacks, WAND's strategists began to consider their own reformulation, which continues to this day.
'Nuclear Disarmament' became 'New Directions,' and, in a frequently repeated motif, peeling away one layer of social domination revealed further levels of oppression beneath the uppermost fabric. The present direction of WAND's national office grew out of this period twenty years ago, when a focus on budgetary shifts, beating swords into ploughshares, and empowering women as leaders to seek peace became WAND's watchwords.
Amanda joined the fray, in the Atlanta office, about ten years later. While her roots were in the peace movement, she soon became the Georgia WAND chapter's community liaison, working on concerns about power and weapons' waste and other issues that were having profound local impacts, "overwhelmingly on poor people in out of the way places who didn't know much at all about what was going on."
"As an engineer, I had the technical background to help people know how a nuclear power plant operated" or how other situations of environmental toxicity might affect folks. She suggested that she could "see beyond the sugar coating" that the Southern Company used to speak about such facilities as Plant Vogtle and the Department of Energy (DOE) used to communicate about the notorious Savannah River Site, where a noxious stew of high level liquid waste, plutonium, and plans for further H-bomb manufacture all commingle in ways that have infiltrated the surrounding environments for decades.
"This chance to work with people who were so tentative, and always at least a little afraid, really excited me," she said. "This is what captivates me about this work, this chance to interact with people in a way that helps them to stand up for themselves, that gives them the tools they need to take heart and make a difference, play a part; it's very empowering, for men as well as women."
The next sections expand on this background to the work of Amanda and Bobbie. We watch first how the work of the national office of WAND today has evolved. A bit more thoroughly, we then discuss the efforts that Bobbie and Amanda are orchestrating in the Georgia offices.
Finally, these women and the reader have to weigh the unsettling fact that after decades of being right, of pointing the way toward superior policies, more empowering relationships, and greater democracy, "the same patterns of deception and misinformation are being repeated," says Bobbie.
As Amanda notes, "the roots of oppression are deep indeed," and we "can't just tell people that they're not going to be oppressed any more." Nonetheless, come what may, both of these women have put their faith and the substance of their lives in the idea that democracy and justice are the only way to achieve a human transformation of our present pass.
BEGINNINGS, PRIORITIES, AND AN INSISTENCE OF SEEKING POWER NOW
"Helen Caldicott creates organizations the way that some women have a lot of children," laughs Bobbie Paul at one point. As we have seen, WAND's early years focused primarily on nuclear weapons, on the social costs of manufacturing these death machines and the ominous shadow cast by the potential that governments might some day use them.
The transition that WAND underwent, to become a powerful voice for women's political empowerment, to actuate its role as one of the most articulate defenders of 'peaceful policy' formulation, to establish an efficient get-out-the vote and 'beat-the-bushes' national and regional political mechanism, took a decade or more and is still ongoing. The formation of the Women's Legislative Lobby (WiLL), a coalition of progressive female politicians, actually occurred in 1990, preceding the name change by a year.
National WAND's presence in Atlanta revolves around WiLL, which Nan Orrock, a longstanding proponent of women's rights and grassroots democracy, now leads. This coalition has grown from a couple-hundred member organization to nearly seven hundred office holders today. Both Amanda and Bobbie acknowledge the relative backwardness of the United States in relation to such formal measures of women's empowerment.
Both appreciate the efforts of the United Nations in regard to these issues. Pier Ferdinando Casini wrote in a Unesco essay, for Womenâs Day 2009, stressing, "the participation of women in political life is changing political priorities in the world and asserts a strong belief that: 'There can be no democracy without a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of public policies.'"
WAND's work has in no small measure revolved around the failure of the US to 'get this memo.' Policies that support peace, in this view, inherently support women. The point of much of WAND's budgetary and policy work echoes this perspective.
Amanda goes to a pie chart the size of a circular big-screen TV. She points out that slightly more than half the pie, in black, stands for that portion of discretionary spending that end up in the Pentagon. All kinds of data is available that the U.S., increasingly over time, has become a permanent war economy.
As I point out, it's actually significantly larger, inasmuch as about half of DOE's 8% or so goes to H-bombs, and all sorts of EPA and Administrative and other funding ends up being one way or other a part of that special complex that the U.S. can't seem to shake, even though one or our favorite generals, in the form of Ike Eisenhower, warned us explicitly to guard against its 'acquisition of too much power.' More than half the money might be what Ike was talking about as 'too much power'.
Bobbie, after we've been talking nearly an hour, jumps up, practically shouting, "I wasn't going to go here, but I can't help myself." She runs to a closet stuffed with props and charts, the theater manager ever in search of the perfect schtick to let the audience feel that 'ah-ha!' She turns over this giant circle, in which the war portion of the budget was lower, only fifty per cent.
"This is what I call my 'wheel of misfortune,' flashing categories such as 'Waste,' 'National insecurity,' 'Weapons of Mass Destruction,' 'Direct Casualties, Dead and Maimed,' and others, each with the part of a big pie that Bobbie points out never gets accounted for. None of them are in any budget, but the costs have to be astronomical.
WAND, in its leadership role in the peace movement, is purveying what Unesco calls a best-practices, evidence based policy orientation. It mobilizes millions to write letters, hundreds of thousands to turn out and vote, tens of thousands to make phone calls and show up as citizen lobbyists, and thousands and thousands annually to attend workshops, to gain skills in this civics of federalism and constitutional formula.
Its impact, over the years, has fluctuated, but its base of support has certainly expanded. The breadth of its reach has grown. The sense of rectitude is enormous. However, as a fellow who very much endorses the factual and analytical assessments of this group, and of these awesome women, I have to note that the actual capacity to project power--a very male notion--is not obvious.
In this vein, Helen Caldicott may not be a prescient political strategist, but she is clearly willing to put her body on the line. In 1999, when she and Patch Adams, another humanitarian physician, called together a conference on "Creating a Culture of Peace," and corporate media outright ignored the meeting despite attendance by hundreds of prominent peace activists, about fifty of those in attendance, including Adams and Caldicott, did more than bare their souls.
They agreed to stage a nude march in downtown San Francisco. They went to jail, naked. The papers told their stories, even if the tone was that they were pulling a stunt to promote an 'unrealistic' conception of neighbors loving their neighbors that might work at mass on Sunday but otherwise had to make way for realpolitick.
In a confrontation with Chevron, Caldicott demonstrated her solidarity with poor communities in energy matters far beyond nuclear considerations. She and a group of Nigerian women "stared down company officials by threatening to disrobe if conditions in their village did not improve." Such tactics do not add up to a cohesive strategy, but their employment may be part of a wide-ranging willingness to do 'whatever is necessary' to achieve some semblance of justice in these matters of wealth and energy and power versus communities of disenfranchised seekers.
Perhaps concepts of 'soft power' are apt. Perhaps, as will transpire in chemistry and physics, some sort of sea change is preparing to show up, amazing all and sundry of the doubters and the skeptical. Then again, maybe elements of political potency are missing, and now, having done this great work, Amanda and Bobbie and the rest of us have to figure out what those missing links are.
A NETWORKED INDEPENDENCE AND A MELANGE OF VISIONS, TACTICAL AND STRATEGIC
The point bears repeating at least three times. Atlanta's WAND office has its own space and its own mission, despite its affiliation with and loyalty to the national offices in Washington. To an extent, this is undoubtedly political caution. 'Nothing that I say or that this wild man of a reporter spins will enmesh the larger forces beyond the scope of the modest offices in a community center near downtown Atlanta.'
Besides, though WiLL and Georgia WAND share a space in the intown Georgia-Hill Center, Amanda makes clear, "We have our own 501-C-3 tax exempt status and our own priorities and strategies." At the same time, naturally, the Dixie offices support national initiatives and integrate their labors with national perspectives and output. This is not a military organizational model, however.
Thus, Georgia WAND also represents a commitment to autonomy and experimentation, a recognition that doing something--anything--to fight the power represents a step worth taking, whether as part of the 'party line' or as a result of spontaneous inspiration or as a matter of principal that is additional or ancillary to the overall approach. Thus, the grassroots can lead, even if forces occasionally murky and sometimes all too visible are trying to "mow down the grasstops, often the first to go under," according to Bobbie Paul.
Bobbie's work revolves around keeping the word percolating about recent decisions to increase funding for nuclear weapons, which, twenty years after the end of the cold war, continues to dumbfound her. She also writes press releases and manages the flow of incoming and outgoing information so as to serve both the priorities of the WAND National, promoting a resuscitation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which Congress allowed to lapse almost a year ago, and the objectives of the Georgia office, more focused on SRS clean up and working with partners on areas of mutual concern.
And generally speaking, Georgia's projects have a decided taste of salad greens. Grassroots work remains the key priority in Georgia's office, although Bobbie is tireless in promoting both the national agenda and Georgia's own policy orientation. Amanda has traveled over the State and throughout the region in support of advocacy for community empowerment, as an active listener to community concern and complaint.
Environmental and social justice are the operative intersections through which Georgia WAND's legislative and policy efforts pass. "We build up from the grassroots," instead of "going into a community and telling them what they need to do," notes Amanda.
This is especially important now in the towns surrounding Plant Vogtle or across the Savannah River, "not even a stone's throw," says Bobbie, from the nasty mess at SRS.,These little places mainly consist of poor Black folks who wonder at cancer rates that, locally are through the roof and, County wide in Burke County, are up 30% or more.
They insist that no one has studied their plight, that no one monitors what's happening to them. Next week, JustMeans readers will meet some of these people, our cousins who might easily benefit from renewable energy programs and alternative energy sources, but for what Mike Ewall, of Environmental Justice Network, called "the lack of political will to do the right thing."
Amanda voices a subtly different concern. She sees that many folks in Burke County, despite their fears and their lack of trust of Southern Company and really almost any outside organization, have bought in to Georgia Power's position. "This buy in, which many people now realize was a mistake, results from veils, not just of secrecy but of distortion and lies, from people who are very comfortable" with prevarication and half truths. In this context, says Amanda, "Informed and mobilized citizens are difficult to imagine."
To effectuate what is currently hard to believe in, Georgia WAND has a simply massive partner program. "We absolutely depend on our partners," says Bobbie. In relation to Plant Vogtle issues, they rely on Safe and Clean Energy. For a community oriented media outlet, they turn to Radio Free Georgia. Project South proffers community education models drawn from Paolo Freire. Over seventy grassroots, policy, and advocacy groups have joined WAND in Atlanta, constituting one of the most extensive networks in the Southeast.
"We always build bridges," says Bobbie, "It's part of being peacemakers." And, while "WAND is not a service organization, their networking expertise often provides them with opportunities to assist in better service delivery. Thus, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they orchestrated caravans of drugs and medical supplies going to one Louisiana community, and generally served to enhance liaison among those who had help and those who desperately needed assistance.
Specific work around energy and weapons has come to define WAND in part because of DOE's failures in the State. In 2002, DOE withdrew funding for monitoring for Georgia's Environmental Protection Division to measure water air and human impacts of radiation releases from SRS. "And they have kept telling Congress, to this day," fumes Bobbie, "that they have kept up the moneys to do the testing."
DOE's recently appointed head of Environmental Monitoring, Dr. Inez Triay, a woman, was aghast--"she almost didn't believe me," Bobbie recalls--when she and Amanda confronted the new appointee about conditions at SRS in relations to keeping track of Georgia. She promised quick action, "but now it's eighteen months later, and they're waffling. Last week, they even backtracked a little, 'Oh, we didn't promise that,' and I'm about to go to CBO or the GAO if they don't get their act together," says a frustrated Bobbie.
A New York Times article from less than a year ago documents internal struggles within DOE that are unconscionable given what is at stake here, with millions of gallons of lethally poisonous wastes leaching small amounts of toxins and radiation into the ground water and otherwise entering the biosphere. "Crippling Infighting at Nuclear Site," according to Michael Cooper,
"is so severe that it threatens to undermine public confidence in their work, a federal watchdog warned Thursday. The watchdog, the Department of Energyâs inspector general, conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into a host of accusations that have been swirling ever since relations between the department officials who work at the site and those who oversee them from Washington broke down last summer. The resulting report ... highlighted what it called an 'unusual level of distrust and acrimony' among officials in charge of the highly contaminated nuclear site."
Whatever the story behind this vituperation in the midst of mortal danger, which is clearly something akin to insanity, Bobbie intends to hold DOE accountable. This is another area that lacks adequate reportage, and the need to go into greater depth about these issues is not addressed by corporate media. Given the severity of the contamination, weekly, or even daily, updates should be de rigeur.
Finding a way to document travesties such as this is next to impossible. "DOE points to EPA," says Amanda, "and they tell me that it's a standards issue, and we're meeting the standards." But EPA doesn't know what all is there at the site, and DOE isn't forthcoming about what they'd prefer not to have to worry about anyway.
In follow up over the next few months, JustMeans readers will have a chance to get a clearer picture of this situation. As things stand now, in no sense would anyone in the vicinity of SRS find these crazy management behaviors reassuring.
Although the scenario at Plant Vogtle is less bizarre and treacherous, there the classic case of the fox in charge of the hens is present. Georgia Power must monitor itself, and while it routinely reports small releases of various radionuclides, community members insist that independent verification is essential. Moreover, community activists call for long term health studies. Folks know they're not going crazy when they say that way too many people are dying of cancer.
Recognizing the tactics of dismissive derision is part of what Bobbie and Amanda communicate to me. "I've seen their training videos," says Bobbie on several occasions. "They teach their people to pick at you, to try to make your look small, to find the little fact that is off, so they can say you're not qualified, you don't know anything, and stuff like that." She laughs sadly. Maybe it would be funny in a movie, but it's a mockery of honest engagement.
Amanda says, "We're gearing up to resist this 'nuclear renaissance,' but nukes are the great experiment that failed. You cannot resuscitate the dead." She warns that taking the U.S. down that pathway will eventually lead to massive costs and significant, perhaps horrifying, public health consequences.
Bobbie makes sure that I comprehend their mission. Every WAND chapter adheres to the idea that key social tasks are to "Empower women to act politically, ..., and redirect military spending to meet human needs." Georgia WAND has "fine tuned things a with strategic plan that blends grassroots and legislative focuses to include environmental and social justice and community power building."
THAT FEARFUL SENSATION: RIGHT AND IN THE MAJORITY ONCE AGAIN, BUT ON THE LOSING SIDE
How exactly can people transform the perquisites of corporate power so that rule, or at least potent influence, emanates from among the common folk? How can the majority make its will felt? These questions again and again have percolated from the experiences that these pages have reflected back to readers. To an extent, says Bobbie, "We've got to get beyond the notion of winning" and come up with ways of relating to each other that yield power.
"Power isn't about beating the other side." It's about creating the social movement that make the changes organic, about establishing parameters of action so potent that 'resistance is futile,' of having women and men so knowledgeable and strong and centered and aligned that transformation occurs without the necessity of domination. Of course, this might be fantasy.
But glimmers of hope still emanate from the ongoing work. A couple of youngsters from North Carolina have produced a mini-documentary about the women and men of Shell Bluff, next to Plant Vogtle. Watching that, according to Bobbie and Amanda "is very powerful. You really think they can stop that reactor." Their pain, "all the extra cancer," the years of fears, the dismissive arrogance and purposeful derision of bureaucrats and administrators and 'experts' has not derailed this community's growing sense: 'we can learn; we can participate, we can be powerful.'
A power to see can yield a power to act. A power based on grassroots networks can reach upward and outward, leading to a demonstration that social change cannot happen everywhere if it cannot first happen somewhere. However, one might posit that the aphorism is reversible.
'Empowerment in one place is dependent, at least to an extent, on the capacity to broaden the reach of a single community to include communities acting in concert, that something in the nature of a national, or even a worldwide, political upsurge is essential in order for a Shell Bluff or a Waynseboro to find justice.' Such apparent paradox is unavoidable in all probability.
"What it comes down to," says Bobbie at one point where she is expressing such frustration that she seems almost about to sputter, something that is rare in this polished P.R. pro with a theater background, "is I just can't see how people anymore can 'believe in the man,' what with so many people down in the dumps," or, as Eric Justian said recently about Muskegon, 'at the end of their ropes.'
"Corporate 'persons,' with the stamp of approval of the Supreme Court, move us toward empire and war," notes Bobbie, and how are we to stop that? WAND honors the political compact but builds bridges from and to communities that can source a different sort of force than votes. But the flanks, the parameters, the operational elements of these relationships in action are amorphous.
Amanda agrees: "Having the majority isn't enough," if that popular preponderance isn't aware of itself, "or if people are afraid that they are weak or ignorant. Belief in change, and seeing the necessity of change, are so difficult." Bobbie nods as her colleague posits further, "Education and capacity are just two of the important things that have to happen for people to 'rise up.'
I wish I could close the body of this report like "Three Days of the Condor" ended, with the edifices of imperial treachery crumbling under the weight of a New York Times headline. That would be absurd at best. The work is slow, the questions come faster than any semblance of answer. And a strategic vision will proffer just a part of what we seek and need.
Precaution must be a part of the answer, in Bobbie's estimation. One of Helen Caldicott's early partners, the young M.D. with whom she co-founded PSR, Eric Chivian, expressed the matter simply. "Can doctors teach the rest of us to follow a piece of advice from Hippocrates: 'Help, or at least, do no harm' âwhen dealing with the environment?"
In addition, Bobbie demands that policy account for four elements of a mandatory military, social, environmental, and energy precaution. "Number one, heed early warnings; two, shift the burden of proof from victims to proponents of technology; third, when different choices about technologies are all possible, choose the safest even if it is not cheapest; finally, and most important, always require open and transparent democracy about the whole process and all its problems."
"Profit over people must run amok," she and Amanda both agree. But they acknowledge that the present pass looks bleak and that they are in search of, sometime desperately, ideas that can create a sense of motion toward justice, toward impact, toward power.
Perhaps what has to come to pass are strategic linkages that have the dynamism to move whenever, and in whatever way, that is necessary. What might that look like? Maybe a thousand JustMeans readers joining WAND would help, especially if they then turned around and started a California Fund For Shell Bluff Justice. But that's still probably too much like a movie, like a dream of power.
The reality of creating a sustainable energy policy, in such a view, might merely represent a broader formulation of the task of insuring environmental justice in a cancer-ridden town. Jump-starting wind power in Western Michigan, following such a formulation, would go hand in hand--somehow, maybe in ways that we cannot fully articulate now, but somehow--with the capacity simply to end the ability of an organization as potent and long-tentacled as Southern Company to mandate a cancer factory among poor Black workers. The legerdemain necessary to take a chunk of the Department of Defense's trillion dollars a year might end up being indistinguishable from fully funding a detoxification of the Savannah River Site and other 'cancer alley' boondoggles of death that our government commands.
Are these uncertain, groping notions the best that we can do? The words here tell of decades of passionate commitment, of a woman willing to strip herself bare to the world in order to make the point that we are all naked to mother nature's power, yet we act as the emperor did in preening his non-existent new clothes. We plunder the earth for oil when other ways of serving our needs, softer and less vile, are readily at hand.
These paragraphs present powerful advocates for justice devoting themselves not only to empowering others, but also to listening to and learning from them. But where we are to turn, how we are to proceed to a point of consolidating different communities' growth in capacity, what step needs to follow the next step, and what that step should be strategically, remain elusive.
One further possibility is that of communication itself. Perhaps some nascent notion of Peoples Information Networks has a part to play in this drama of democracy, this so far still relatively genteel struggle to give powerful voice and direction to the perquisites of the people, instead of the standard operating procedure of providing for those who already own the earth out of the broken bodies of those who manage to hold on to little or nothing for themselves except, even to this day, some semblance of hope.
Arjun Makhijani has written a powerful little monograph entitled The Nuclear Deception. Just as we 'spin a tangled web' when we seek to deceive, so too we find ourselves confronting wickedly intricate knots when we need to unravel the lies and distortions of others. Thus, the sense of being cornered, of having one insoluble dilemma after another come up, and other such difficulties make sense in the current environmental and energy and general political realms.
How we deal with the complexities attendant on the level of duplicity and chaos that characterize the current situation must be fluid. If easy answers were accessible, we'd all be on vacation a month out of the year, only reasonable disparities in rights and outcomes would transpire, and everyone would be able to see doctors and dentists when they needed. And homeowners would find a policy environment supportive to renewable energy. And 'cancer alleys' would no longer be places that loom outside of poor communities generally full of Black people. And so on.
The watchwords that these reports have adopted in elaborating possible pathways to "Business--Better," as well as more socially democratic ways of stating progress, come down to democracy and community. The sense of majority rule must be extensive, or "strong." The involvement of community must promote empowerment, participation, and social-economic justice.
A lot more has emerged in these pages, just as today's post has gone deeper than these two, relatively straightforward ideas. In terms of WAND's campaigns and labors, perhaps the following would serve to sum up the path necessary to follow. 'Making peace must ever mean following the path of social justice and social equality.'
Riane Eisler put the point in different terms. However, her program of putting caring at the center of economics may in fact come down to the same thing. We can listen to her again, in any event, to see if something resonant results. "I have written this book to invite discussion and action. It is a book for everyone who wants a better life and a better world, and is looking for practical tools to realize these goals. I am confident that together we can build a new economic system that promotes creativity and generosity rather than greed and destructiveness. Indeed, I am convinced that this is the only viable option at this critical juncture in our cultural and planetary evolution."