By Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero

The climate summit in Durban, South Africa, does not appear to be making great strides. The United States is dragging its feet, blocking any binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

Along with Washington, businesses are trying to turn the whole Durban process away from urgent emissions cuts and toward an increasingly perplexing and sophisticated array of non-solutions. These include large-scale biofuel plantations, genetically engineered “supercrops,” synthetic biology, unworkable yet lucrative carbon offset schemes and something called geoengineering, whereby scientists would turn the globe into a giant experiment by injecting newfangled materials into the atmosphere to try to counteract global warming.

Such technological quick fixes all assume that global warming can be tackled without changing entrenched patterns of production and consumption in industrialized societies. Even worse, they assume that the multifaceted ecological and societal crises that we face today can be addressed without confrontation, sacrifice or trade-offs. They assume that the free market can solve the climate change crisis when, in fact, it created the crisis.

The suits who are in Durban and elsewhere trying to sell us these technological fixes and free market fallacies are in the environmental act to make money.

But turning this into a business is simply not right. The Freedom Riders, the 19th century abolitionists, conscientious objectors against wars past and present, and the crusaders who risked life and limb for women's suffrage and workers' rights were not in it for the money. They would have regarded the idea of turning their brave struggles into business opportunities as comically obscene.

The major movements for social change, including the U.S. civil rights movement, well understood that power concedes nothing without a demand, that they could not afford to live in a make-believe “win-win” world in which freedom and progress are attained without a price.

For a way out of the climate crisis, proposals are not enough. We can talk all we want about local sustainable economies, organic city gardening, recycling, solar energy and steady-state post-growth economics, but we need action. We simply cannot continue along the path we’re on. It is literally destroying the planet.

And when it comes to action we should look to the example of activists who have physically obstructed the extraction of oil shale and tar sands and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

These protesters are politically close relatives of the everyday folks who camped out in the Wisconsin state capitol earlier this year and the anti-Wall Street occupiers who are protesting all over the country right now.

This kind of activism holds out the most promise, as the late historian Howard Zinn taught us.

We need civil disobedience and massive non-collaboration with illegitimate authority if we are to reverse course on global climate change.

To save the environment, the last thing we should do is turn it into a business venture.

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, essayist, investigative journalist and environmental educator. He is a research associate of the Institute for Social Ecology.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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