By Contributor on July 21, 2010

By Michael T. Klare

The BP oil spill is more than an environmental disaster—it is a civilizational crisis, in that it constitutes a shock not only to the environment but also to the nation’s political, economic, and energy systems.

...

Avoiding future environmental disasters from these activities cannot be achieved through improved oversight, as suggested by Obama and countless other politicians, both Democratic and Republican. Environmental catastrophe is an inevitable outcome of extreme energy extraction because the energy companies are operating at the very edge of technological capacity in inherently dangerous environments where unforeseen calamities are to be expected. Global warming—itself the product of over-reliance on fossil fuels—will only make matters worse, producing more high-strength hurricanes in the Gulf and more drifting ice in the Arctic. Even with the most stringent regulatory reforms, drilling in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and/or the Arctic Ocean will invite a repetition of the current crisis at some future point.

Our reliance on extreme energy underscores the extent of the political and economic problems associated with the Gulf disaster. The only way to overcome our dependence on increasingly hazardous fuels is to undertake a crash program to develop and install alternative energy systems—notably wind, solar, geothermal, and advanced (non-food) biofuels. But this will be very costly, and the big energy firms are unwilling to abandon their traditional reliance on fossil fuels and uranium in order to invest massive sums in alternatives. Hence, they will persist in their drive to dig in ever deeper waters and in other extreme energy locations.

This means the transition to an alternative energy future must be led by governments. But just at the moment when governments are needed to step in and assume leadership for managing the transition to a safe energy future, they are being paralyzed by massive debt problems and anti-big-government sentiments. ...

Only by visualizing an entirely new type of civilization, based on renewable fuels rather than existing ones, can we face the future with hope and confidence.

This is an excerpt from Michael T. Klare's article in the latest issue of The Progressive. To read the article in its entirety, and to read the rest of the special issue The Big Spill online, and to subscribe to The Progressive for a year—all for just $14.97—simply click here.

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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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