Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Seeking Connection with the Web of Life

Opening session this morning of the Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization conference at Clermont College

There are more than 1,500 people here for the conference in Clermont, California and about half of the folks are presenters.  The event has drawn people from all over the world, including a large delegation from China.

The conference has 12 different broad topic sections and each section has anywhere from 6-11 different tracks (workshops).  Each of the tracks has at least a half-dozen speakers.  The plan is to stay with your track the entire three-days to search for common themes and find ways to integrate the various topics that emerge.

I am in a track called Transforming the Economic System and we have seven presenters.  Today four people, including me, made presentations that were each followed by 20 minutes of inquiry of the speaker by the other presenters.

I talked about conversion of the military industry complex into the 'Natural Guard' that would be used to help deal with the coming crisis of severe weather events.  At the same time I proposed that the military production system would be used to build rail, solar, wind, tidal power and other useful things that help us even in a small way lessen our enormous carbon boot print on our Mother Earth, which is now in toxic shock.

One illustration I gave in my presentation is that the US is spending money on the military rather than dealing with climate change at a rate of $24 million (military) to $1 million (climate change).  In China the ratio is $1 million (military) to $1 million (climate change).  It would cost up to $1 trillion a year globally to immediately deal with the current reality of climate change.  The US currently spends $500 billion per year giving subsidies to the oil corporations and about $1 trillion a year on the Pentagon and related war making agencies.

The essence of the conference is a moral and spiritual call for the US to end its denial of climate change.  Many people from educational and religious institutions are here seeking to find ways to ramp up the amount of teaching and organizing around the climate crisis.  The idea of integration of the issues - the linking of the various strands of problems and solutions into an inter- connected web is a key goal of the event.  Just like nature, where everything is linked, one to the other, our educational and organizational work must follow the same natural path. "We are in trouble unless we immediately allow the natural system to teach us how to live", said conference organizer and American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist John Cobb.

There are four colleges here - one connected to the other.  I am staying in a dorm at Pomona College and various meetings are held at the other colleges.  My track group is meeting at Pitzer College but it is virtually impossible to tell where one campus begins and the other ends.

The food here is fantastic - of course I am always quite impressed by good food and always must comment on what I've been eating.  Suffice to say I am content.

I woke up at 4:00 am this morning (7:00 am back in Maine) so by mid-day I was yawning non-stop.  Hopefully tonight I get a good sleep and adjust to Pacific Time. 


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