by Dorothy H. Engel, North Carolina Mountain Greens

We the people have the power, but we must take back control of our lives, our land, our institutions, and our planet.

Simply expressed, ecological wisdom is “whatever we take from the earth, we must give back to the earth.”

To uphold ecologically wise values, people must determine what can be done to practice sustainability in their own daily lives and then tackle the vast problems confronting all of us – pollution prevention, waste management, renewable energy and energy efficiency, conservation, liberation of animals from cruel practices, biodiversity, and enforcement of environmental laws currently not in force.

In this country, the giants of agribusiness loom large and seem frighteningly determined to dwarf that American institution – the family farm. The Green Party’s platform position paper states the American family farm is the most efficient unit of agricultural production in the world, yet today vertically integrated and concentrated agribusinesses, increasingly dominate our agriculture. This monopolistic control of our food economy means: overpriced farm production inputs, price instability for agricultural products, exorbitant farm credit costs, overbearing family farm debt, the spread of ecologically damaging factory farming by corporate agribusiness, and inordinate market power for a select circle of corporate agribusinesses.

Even more frightening than the giants of agribusiness are the giants of greenhouse gas production – the producers of coal, oil and natural gas. According to Green Party sources, the 12 hottest years in recorded history have taken place since 1980. When heat is trapped in the atmosphere, 20 percent of it goes to warm the air and 80 percent of it produces increased evaporation. Because of the increased heat energy in the atmosphere and higher rates of evaporation and precipitation, there has been a significant increase in the last decade in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events – hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and heat waves. There have been ten times the average number of catastrophic floods worldwide in the last ten years.

The global climate is predicted to increase two to six degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed. A two degree increase may be enough to melt the glaciers of Greenland and raise sea levels 20 feet, which is enough to swamp the southern half of Florida, most of Bangladesh, and all of several island nations.

Climate change could be a significant cause of crop failures in the world’s major breadbaskets. Without immediate and massive measures to reverse global warming, human society will experience millions of deaths due to changing climate zones, crop failures, hunger and disease in the next century.

The pollution and misuse of our most basic natural resources – air and water, due to rapacious capitalistic enterprises is also appalling. Over half the total amount of water consumed in the United States goes to irrigate land growing feed and fodder for livestock. Enormous additional quantities of water must also be used to wash away animal excrement. It would be hard to design a less water-efficient diet-style than the one we have come to think of as normal. To produce a single pound of meat takes an average of 2,500 gallons of water – as much as a typical family uses for all its combined household purposes in a month.

There are so many issues and overwhelming forces. Maybe the answer is consolidation through the formation of coalitions among organizations with common interests. Being ecologically wise means being aware that “united we stand, divided we fall.” It would behoove us all to put personal differences aside and focus on the larger picture of our common goals – remembering the only power we have is power in numbers. We the people have the power, but we must take back control of our lives, our land, our institutions and our planet.

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