How To Build the Zero-Carbon Economy. The Green New Deal sets an ambitious goal.
Here’s how to get there.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY RYAN JOHNSON
THE ANISHINAABE PEOPLE HAVE A PROPHECY that a time will come when we have to choose between two paths: one scorched, one green. For those who choose the green path, a more peaceful era will follow—known as the Eighth Fire—in which the Anishinaabeg will return to our teaching of Mino Bimaatisiiwin, the Good Life. Mino Bimaatisiiwin is based on reciprocity, affirmation and reverence for the laws of Nature—quite a different value system from that of the Gross National Product.
How to ensure we make the right choice is the art of now. As Dakota philosopher and poet John Trudell often says, first you have to “keep the beast out of the garden.” I refer to the beast that’s destroying our collective garden as Wiindigo (cannibal) economics—the practice of extracting every last bit of oil just because you’ve got the technology to do it, ecosystems be damned.
Killing Wiindigo economics is doable, but it will be a big job. We must work with the determination of people who actually intend to survive, and we must find the Achilles’ heels of the current system. For inspiration, look to the roughly $8 trillion moving out of the fossil fuel industry thanks to global divestment campaigns. Look to the social movements emerging as water protectors block “Black Snakes”—that is, oil pipelines. Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline is another year behind schedule while renewable energy moves ahead.
So, what’s next?
In “We Produce Too Much Food. The Green New Deal Can Stop This.”, Eric Holt-Giménez of Food First reminds us that we have a food overproduction problem. How baffling is it that we waste roughly 40 percent of our food in the United States? A study once found that Chicagoans’ fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table; we also slather them with fossil fuel-based chemicals, from everything ending with -cide to the plastic packaging. In the meantime, Indigenous nations worldwide are adapting to the times. Through the agroecological techniques Holt-Giménez proposes, we could grow less food, nearer to home, and grow it better. Organic agriculture sequesters carbon and rebuilds top soil—might want to stick with ancient, time-tested wisdom. The carbon needs to be in the soil, not the air.
The time you kill a Wiindigo is in the summer. When the warmth of the sun returns to the north country. There’s a proverb, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” It’s time to plant the seeds.