Next Wednesday is the Fall Equinox. The sun will rise due east and set due
west, everywhere on the planet. On Wednesday, the sun will be directly
above the equator as it moves swiftly from the northern to the southern
The Fall Equinox also marks the beginning of the ninth year of Living on
the Earth broadcasts. These essays have been, and still are, dedicated to
the proposition that we need to evolve a new relationship with our planet.
Understanding the flows and cycles of the natural world, we should use
direct, energy-efficient and environmentally-sound approaches to fulfill
our basic needs. These approaches will include wider solar energy-use and
a greater reliance on the bounty of green plants. Individual actions,
education and community alliances are needed to work toward a future we can
look forward to and live with, all over the Earth.
Almost every day now new evidence points to severe problems in our
relationship with this planet. The more we pay attention, the more things
there are to worry about. Many of our problems- from the massive species
extinction and habitat destruction to changes in the climate- are the
unintended consequences of human actions. More frequent,
unexpectedly-violent or "worst-of-the-century" weather events seem to
confirm the worries of climate experts. Signs from Antarctica to Alaska,
from old growth forests to inner city neighborhoods and the global
financial system, point to large-scale social and environmental changes and
Hundreds of millions of people around the world don't even have enough to
satisfy their basic needs for water, food and shelter. Factor in those
whose health or educational needs aren't realized, and the numbers rise
into the billions. Yet, the global production juggernaut keeps creating
more material goods for those who already have too much, always encouraging
greater consumption, even in these times when this behavior is so
The poor of the world don't need cars, computers, cell phones, fast-food
restaurants or television shows. They don't even need genetic engineering.
They need 2,000 calories of food a day, potable water, positive role
models for their own lives and peace.
Meanwhile, many people in this and other wealthy countries could do quite
well with less consumption, too. Junk and unhealthy foods, television
shows, automobiles, toxic chemicals, alcohol and tobacco are just some of
the goods whose shrinking consumption could improve health and the
environment. Yet the perverse logic of global capitalism considers all of
these goods, as well as traffic accidents, hurricanes, floods and expensive
medical problems as positive in its accounting system. The more costly the
problems are, the bigger their positive impact is on the global economy.
This system creates less self-reliance and greater dependence on distant
sources nearly everywhere, while its side effects (from climate change to
global financial problems) argue for the opposite.
Our situation is well-illustrated by a humorous message from the Internet
quoted in The New York Times recently. This communication between a US
Navel ship and Canadian authorities hopefully isn't true.
The Canadians politely ask the American vessel to change its course to the
south in order to avoid a collision. The US responds, "No you change
course to the north to avoid a collision." After the Canadians reply,
"Divert your course to the south," and the Americans retort, "No you
divert your course to the north," the Americans become threatening. They
give a description of the vessel in question - a very large aircraft
carrier accompanied by destroyers, cruisers and other vessels - and demand
that the Canadians change course or be subject to being blown up. The
Canadians respond calmly: "This is a lighthouse, your call."
The dominant culture is so focused on increasing consumption, and so
distracted by events which are trivial compared to our survival on Earth,
that it ignores the most blatant warnings as it speeds straight ahead
toward a brick wall.
It's comforting to know, however that there's a steadily rising
undercurrent of practical opposition to this system from those who take the
warnings seriously. People are increasing pleasure by decreasing
consumption and making more intelligent choices: gardening, staying home,
using solar energy, reading, talking, walking, and simplifying life.
Thanks to my listeners who've shared stories of their successes along this
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C)1998, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "Living on the
Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays Living on the Earth:
Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from Bill
Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14 postpaid. These essays first
appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted
weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since November 1995 are
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