The status quo is never constant. Societies, governments and economies ebb and flow like tides. And it is a colossal mistake to assume otherwise because you will always be wrong.

This virus, now combined with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been a clarion call to many on a number of levels.

To me, the primary message has been the impact of our collective dependence upon each other and the scope of the colleterial damage caused by that interdependence. Collectively, we have accomplished great things in the past 150 years, but those gains have come at immense, debilitating and accelerating costs.

It didn’t used to be this way. We used to be much more self-sufficient. Our food used to be “local.” Local farms provided that food, and those farms were far less dependent upon fossil fuels for production and transportation. Jobs were local because manufacturing was local. We didn’t have as much; but we didn’t need as much. The world was greener, cleaner, slower and healthier.

Then something happened and all our stuff had to be cheaper and produced and consumed in ever increasing quantities – almost all of it driven by cheap unlimited energy.

The virus and the war have brought it home for all to see. It feels like a convergence of forces to me, a perfect storm much of our own making that has lifted its ugly head to say, “It’s time. I have come for you. This is just a taste of things to come. Get used to it. “

Networked. Interlinked. Interdependent – states to states, countries to countries, hemispheres to hemispheres, and corporate nation-states to everything – and still in denial of the cost, the imminent implosion of the natural environment that has sustained us until now, an implosion caused by our addiction to fossil fuels and owning so much stuff.

It always kills me when I hear someone say that it’s not realistic to stop using coal or oil, that it costs too much to move to sustainable energy. “Compared to what,” I always think, “compared to a world unfit for life for our children and their children?” Really? “Don’t you realize that your comfort and style and little conveniences are coming at the cost of your children’s future?”

You really want that stuff that bad?

“Interconnected” is a double-edged sword. No chips for cars because the car makers don’t make their own chips. No automotive wiring components because much of that was manufactured in Ukraine. No on-time transportation of bulk goods by worldwide fleets because of labor shortages in ports and container shortages – shortages caused by the impact of the virus on labor, and the unraveling of the supply chain: manufacturer-to-transporter-to aggregator to retailer to ultimately, consumer. But we can still go to Walmart and buy something cheaper than almost anywhere else, right?

Is it really cheaper?

China manufacturers for most of the world. Large sectors of the world economies rely on these manufactured goods produced and transported cheaply using fossil fuels. Her products are moved by great fleets that burn diesel supplied by just a few oil producing countries. In the long run, in whose best interest is this? And how cheap is it really?

When we consider “price” of anything today, might it be time to start including all those other indirect costs that are now starting to wreak havoc on us all?

China’s economy must grow annually in the 6-7 percent range for it to maintain domestic stability. If the Chinese economy slows down or worse, all economies take big hits. Of course, there is an upside; China cannot afford or allow Ukraine to disrupt the world economy too much. That would not be in its best interest. Stand by for that story.

Famine was generally blamed for the rise of Isis in the Near and Middle East and the almost fall of Syria. Food instability threatens all governments. If people don’t have food, nothing is stable.

For over a century, The United States has fed much of the world. Food has always been one of our “big sticks” we have used to “manage” the world. Now drought and fire plague agricultural production in our Midwest and West in large part because of our suicidal use of fossil fuels which is causing the climate to heat up.

Before the current war, Russia and Ukraine provided a large percentage of the global food supply, accounting for 12 percent of all global food exports, almost 30 percent of global wheat exports and 20 percent of corn. Most of Africa and the Middle East rely on food produced in Russian and Ukrainian. Yemen imports most of its food and relies on Ukraine for half of its wheat. Lebanon imports 60 percent of its wheat from Ukraine. Egypt depends on Russia for 85 percent of its wheat and 73 percent of its sunflower oil.

Anyone seen any increases in food costs at the grocery store? Plan on that getting worse, maybe a lot worse.

According to the UN World Food Program, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the impact of climate change that has produced widespread famine in much of Africa, and the virus has increased the number of people facing severe hunger worldwide from 80 million to 276 million. Again, there can be no social stability anywhere in the world without adequate food.

Almost all of the current situation directly or indirectly is tied to the use and dependence on fossil fuels and the money associated with it. Putin’s war in Ukraine is all about energy and food – strategic geopolitical assets he wants to control.

Industrial food production is absolutely oil-dependent – both in its production and transportation. Small farms used to produce our food and provide a stable employment base in small towns across America. The same can be said of the manufacturing sector that used to exist. It has largely been exported to markets where labor is cheaper and cheap oil-based energy is used to transport the finished products to market. But, at what cost?

What is the cost of being so reliant upon “somewhere else” for our food, for our manufactured goods, for our energy, for our jobs? What is the cost of perpetuating our crazy out-of-control consumerism, our conveniences, our indulgences, on the back of cheap climate-killing oil and coal-based energy? Wat is the cost of trying to sustain this “life” we have created in the West – a life that is not sustainable?

If we could step back and change course, even if we have to pay more for our local food, our local jobs, our local stuff, and our simpler way of life, there is still a chance.

Individual change is where we start to heal – little things you and I can do. Consume less. Consider the carbon footprint of the product. Think about how far away it was made and the cost to transport it. Look at the packaging. Seek local sources. Patronize local vendors.

And the politicians, that’s the easy part; vote them out. If they don’t support “green” 100 percent, if they continue to suck at the teat of the energy lobbyist and big business, vote them out, out, out.

In a recent interview, Richard Powers, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Overstory,” describes our current situation far more succinctly.

He says: “We are now engaged in a massive, communal, consensual sleepwalk, a trance that we can’t even see, under the spell of individualist humanism and commodity culture that we call inevitable progress. The fact that the blessings of contemporary life have been won at the expense of a disastrous depletion of natural capital remains almost invisible to most of us. “

Any way you spin it, he is right. We all know it.

The time – the season – for change of the status quo, is now, not tomorrow. We can’t continue to not see what we are doing.

For every time there is a season – turn, turn, turn. It’s not too late.


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