Evolution is co-evolution, and Bioneers’ arc has tracked with the world’s serial upheavals and shape-shifting zeitgeist.
As we delved into the archive to create our 25th anniversary yearbook, it was startling to realize how very much can change in 25 years. Expect the unexpected, even more so today with a deck increasingly stacked with jokers.
Climate Change Warnings
In 1990, it was a moment of great hope. Society seemed to be awakening at the highest levels to the mounting litany of environmental crises and seeking action. When NASA climatologist James Hansen testified before Congress in 1988 as the Paul Revere of global warming, he warned we had the decade of the ‘90s to start closing out our fossil fuel accounts and avoid runaway climate change. He hoped to provoke a national response. He did. It came from Exxon and the oiligarchy, which spent the next two-plus decades sowing doubt and delay with the biggest and most expensive disinformation campaign in history. It was a catastrophic success.
The “Original Sin” of Oil & Politics
Oil has remained the “original sin” of American politics. In 1991 the first Gulf War exploded and the Exxon Valdez trashed Prince William Sound. A decade later, oil drove the invasion of Iraq and uncorked geopolitical nightmares. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina dropped the calling card of climate disruption, spotlighting the life-and-death environmental injustices of race, class and carbon. In 2010, the BP spill again exposed the fossil fuel follies. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy walloped New York and New Jersey and the climate changed politically.
With the reality-based military and insurance industry facing facts on the ground, climate denial began to lose credibility in the U.S. But by now a problem had morphed into a predicament, which by its very nature is insolvable and demands creative, dynamically shifting responses. Now the best we can hope for is to avert complete climate chaos, change our ways of living really fast and adapt to ongoing global weirding and mass dislocations.
Global Power Shifts
Meanwhile the global balance of power has shifted. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union and Cold War vaporized. 9-1-1 ignited the Global War on Terror. The trillion-dollar quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq shifted immense resources to the National Security State, riddled with corruption writ large in the name of “Homeland Security.” The massive diversion of resources has contributed to infrastructure erosion, high education costs, a shrinking middle class, increasing poverty, and federal political paralysis.
Corporate Economic Globalization
With just one superpower still standing in 1993, President Clinton signed NAFTA and GATT, putting corporate economic globalization on steroids with dire consequences for nature, labor, the concentration of wealth and distribution of poverty. In 1999, the anti-globalization movement countered with the Battle of Seattle and mass resistance against the WTO. It marked the globalization of dissent and foreshadowed today’s wildly diverse global movement that connects the dots between market fundamentalism and mass destruction.
The Casino Economy
The 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act rolled the dice on the casino economy, followed in 2000 by the dot.com bubble bath. The 2008 banking crisis institutionalized the too-big-not-to-fail, too-big-to-jail, catch-and-release program for the biggest bank robbery in history—by the banks. The crimes keep escalating and fines are just a cost of doing business. More crashes are inevitable, as is the brewing confrontation over breaking up the banks. Too big to fail is too big.
The Internet As Start-Up
In 1990, the Internet was a start-up. E-mail wasn’t in the lexicon and wouldn’t go mainstream for years. Google was founded in 1998, followed by You Tube and Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. Today our wired world experiences tweet revolutions, while paradoxically enabling the NSA’s Total Information Awareness agenda and equipping Wikileaks and Edward Snowden to disrobe government secrets.
Race, Class & Guns
In 1991, the Rodney King beating led to riots in L.A. by the following year. Fueled by the doomed War on Drugs, the prison-industrial complex exploded into a profitable growth industry, driving catastrophic racial disparities. The War on Drugs directly fueled the militarization of police departments with Pentagon surplus that dominated the airwaves from Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. It has sparked a national movement that’s here to stay.
The Democracy Deficit
In 2000, the democracy deficit spiked with the stolen presidential election and the Supreme Court’s partisan thumb on the scales of justice. In 2009, the Tea Party was nurtured by the well-heeled corporate grass-tops with an agenda of business deregulation and cutting taxes for the wealthy. Political instability increased with income inequality, poverty, endless war, and climate disruptions.
Money Talks: Capital Rules
In 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision blew the lock off money in politics. Speech became anything but free. In 2011, Occupy Wall Street put the 1% on notice. Today 85 billionaires have as much wealth as half the world’s people. It’s no coincidence climate extremes are striking simultaneously with the greatest extremes of wealth ever seen in human civilization.
Hanging By a Thread, Weaving the World
The Cold War is back and asymmetrical war bedevils the very structure of nation states. China is ascendant and a third of California’s air pollution comes from Chinese shores. A handful of fossil fuel billionaires who’ve captured government policy hold the world hostage to climate chaos defending their stranded assets. An interconnected world is bumping into itself everywhere and there’s nowhere to run. Time to face facts. Time for a change.
It’s all hanging by a thread. Fortunately, the Bioneers community and many others have been weaving the world anew: an elegant tapestry of healing, regeneration, justice, and love of life and each other.
It’s Up to Us
It just goes to show how many things can change in the blink of an eye. Berlin Walls of culture, politics and economics are crumbling as we write this. Death and rebirth, breakdown and breakthrough.
More than ever, it’s up to us to re-imagine civilization in this Age of Nature – and to bring it into being. The worst failure we could have is a failure of imagination.