Mainstreaming alternative agriculture

SUBHEAD: What it will take to mainstream small size local farming practices in America.

By Maywa Montanegro & Alistair Isles on 20 July 2016 for Ensia -
(https://ensia.com/voices/what-would-it-take-to-mainstream-small-size-local-farming-practices/)


Image above: Kauai Farm Connection in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii is a two acre permaculture farm supplying a variety of produce. From (http://www.kauaigrown.org/kauai-farm-connection).

Ensia Editor’s note: This Voices piece is published in collaboration with the academic journal Elementa. It is based on “Toward thick legitimacy: Creating a web of legitimacy for agroecology,” a peer-reviewed article published July 20 as part of Elementa’s New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems forum.
The industrialized food system, studies have shown, is linked to greenhouse gas emissions, algal blooms, pesticide pollution, soil erosion and biodiversity loss, to name a few ecological troubles. Add to this a long list of social ills, from escalating rates of obesity to the demise of the family farmer and deadening of rural landscapes and rural economies across much of the U.S.

In 2010, the National Academies of Science updated its seminal 1989 publication “Alternative Agriculture” with a fresh look at the state of food and farming in America. Its expert panel concluded, “Growing awareness of unintended impacts associated with some agricultural production practices has led to heightened societal expectations for improved environmental, community, labor, and animal welfare standards in agriculture.”

Yet that growing awareness and those heightened expectations haven’t led to alternative agricultural systems becoming the norm in the U.S. Organic has made some headway, but many organic growers have been forced to imitate industrial farming.

That is grow bigger and resort to monocultures instead of truly diversified fields, and sell to large supermarkets — forgoing many of the benefits alternative agricultural systems offer, such as natural pest control, pollination from native bees, and a smaller production scale conducive to family farmers and local food economies.

So, what gives industrialized agriculture such staying power despite its adverse impacts, even as alternatives offer such benefits? And how can more wholesome food production methods such as agroecology become conventional instead of alternative? To achieve real change in how food is produced and eaten, we need to change people’s expectations of what “normal” agriculture should look like.

What Is Normal?
The industrial food system is considered “normal” and remains intractable for many reasons, including consumer habits.

For example demanding perfectly shaped, vine-ripe tomatoes year-round, or political and economic interests like agribusinesses wielding influence through election donations and lobbying

Also because of the priorities of government departments and universities. For example, research programs favoring biotechnology over agroecology and classical plant breeding.

International trade plays an outsize role too.

Partnerships among U.S. government negotiators, multinational food companies and groups such as the Biotechnology Innovation Organization help shape deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership to smooth the way for corporate-friendly trade agreements.

But beneath the global tomatoes, research budgets and trade pacts, there is something less visible that makes the industrial food system powerful: something called legitimacy.

Legitimacy is what makes one food system more credible and “normal” than another. Legitimacy is what makes it commonsensical for consumers to buy soda in Big Gulps and for companies like Walmart to advertise everyday low prices as a good thing, ignoring the hidden costs behind the cheapness. Legitimacy can be tricky to define because, while it is obvious once something has it, how to get it is not so clear.

Legitimacy is what makes it commonsensical for consumers to buy soda in Big Gulps and for companies like Walmart to advertise everyday low prices as a good thing, ignoring the hidden costs behind the cheapness. Legitimacy can be tricky to define because, while it is obvious once something has it, how to get it is not so clear.

Like a spider’s web, thick legitimacy is created by multiple strands that reinforce one another.That’s partly because legitimacy isn’t even a single thing, but depends on multiple bases.

Something can be scientifically legitimate if it meets the standards of research. It might become politically legitimate through legislative backing or government grants. Legitimacy might also result from the civic legitimacy of social trust, or the practical legitimacy of a proven practice. And people can accept something as ethically legitimate — agreeing it’s fair and right.

Industrial farming is supported by all of these types of legitimacy at once, giving it what we call “thick legitimacy.” Like a spider’s web, thick legitimacy is created by multiple strands that reinforce one another.

How can truly alternative alternatives — those that support localized food economies, biologically diverse production, and just distribution of land, water, seed and knowledge resources — gather thick legitimacy? As a start, they must not simply criticize industrial agriculture. They also need a proactive strategy for reshaping people’s expectations about what agriculture should look like and do.

Three Steps to Thick Legitimacy
Here, we’ll focus on agroecology, but what we sketch below also applies to diversified organic, biodynamic, permaculture, local, slow and other forms of alternative agri-food systems.
Agroecology can attain thick legitimacy through three interconnected pathways:
  1. build on and revise existing research practices, developing scientific legitimacy; 
  2. garner legitimacy in policy, practical and civic arenas; and 
  3. focus attention on the ethics and values of food systems themselves, which will feed back and affect all other forms of legitimacy.
Scientific Legitimacy
Agroecology is already a thriving science. Universities with agroecology departments and training programs, journals dedicated to agroecology research and international societies such as the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology show that agroecology science is increasingly accepted around the world, at least within research communities. Still, a criticism sometimes levied at agroecologists is that their science is more ideological than empirical, more aspirational than applicable.

Agroecologists can bolster the empirical basis of their science. A long-running criticism of agroecological farming is that it cannot possibly “feed the world.”

However, research is still only beginning to establish “agroecological yield.” University of California, Berkeley scientists are showing that organic systems can lag behind conventional systems by just 19 percent when it comes to productivity, and just 8 or 9 percent when farmers alternate crops year-to-year or grow several crops together in their fields.

In other words, adding more agroecological practices results in yields that are significantly better than “bare-bones” organic. And this is the case even though organic and agroecological research has been systematically underfunded. With further research into agroecology on tap, industrial food supporters will find it harder to refute evidence that agroecology is yield competitive.

While we can joust on the productivity battleground, thereby strengthening agroecology’s credibility in agricultural science and policy, we don’t have to copy the same logic that supports industrial food.

Many inventions of agribusiness, such as large-scale monoculture, are the outcome of what is known as a “productionist” mentality: the philosophy that food output should be prioritized at the expense of other agricultural values.

This productionist science has apparently accomplished a great deal (e.g., supplying pesticides, mechanized harvesters and genetically modified organisms), and it now promises to provide solutions for climate change (e.g., efficient irrigation, crop-sensing drones and GPS-driven harvesters). Such effectiveness makes industrial agriculture highly legitimate — for now.

However, it neglects a critical part of the equation: While an output-first ideology seems on its face legitimate, it disregards the fact that agricultural landscapes are complex human-nature ecosystems.

Farms that ignore or discount the connections among abiotic (minerals, nutrients, wind, precipitation, energy), biotic (living) and social (needs of farmers, habits of eaters, political economies of local and global markets) components are less resilient to unpredictable changes like California’s now frequently recurring drought.

By moving beyond the simplistic science of industrial farming to a science that embraces this complexity, we create systems that produce not just food but also resilience, stability and sustainability — in the long run a far more valuable output than the one-dimensional yield of industrial agriculture.

A final strategy to increase the scientific legitimacy of agroecology is to capitalize on the broader trend of science embracing multiple ways of knowing.

The National Science Foundation has begun awarding grants to researchers who want to pursue “transdisciplinary” science — research that combines social sciences such as ethnobotany, sociology and philosophy with natural sciences such as agronomy and ecology, and puts them into conversation with the traditional and indigenous expertise of farming communities — and other funding organizations will likely follow suit.

Agroecology is already well poised to gain traction and scientific legitimacy in these emerging programs.

Policy, Civic and Practical Legitimacy
To achieve political, policy, civic and practical legitimacy, we must learn to discuss agroecology in a way that diverse people will understand. This means putting agroecology into the frames and language of legislatures, government departments, corporations and the public at large. Right now, for example, a particularly powerful language that government officials use is “cost-benefit.”

When deciding whether to control a pesticide or whether farmers should house pregnant pigs in bigger boxes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency often employ cost-benefit analysis, a method that quantitatively compares the monetary costs and benefits of a given thing.

We could start using the language of CBA to push for more support of agroecology. For instance, if even a few million dollars more were invested in agroecology research and development, there may be ripple effects in credibility.

Long-term studies, like those of the Rodale Institute that show that ecological farming yields can match — and, in drought years, exceed — conventional yields across a period of 30 years, could persuade skeptical scientists, the media, legislators and consumers to take agroecology more seriously.

But this strategy of speaking to power is successful, in part, because of the structures of power and knowledge that currently exist. In fact, most agroecologists would say using CBA is the wrong approach. To disrupt the locked-in systems of technology, capital, policy and science, we must rethink the very criteria societies use to evaluate agricultural outcomes.

Currently, these criteria emphasize ever-growing crop and animal yields, turning fossil fuel inputs into highly productive “labor,” maximizing profit, and feeding large populations at a low cost. By these standards, industrial food is highly efficient.

Evaluated according to different criteria, however, our current food system, led by industrial farming, becomes terribly inefficient on almost all counts. In the U.S. alone, up to 40 percent of food produced is wasted somewhere from on the farm field to the household refrigerator.

Much of the food thrown away on farms is rejected because of supermarket specifications or consumer preferences. Globally, it’s thought that around a third of the food produced for human consumption every year — some 1.3 billion metric tons (1.4 billion tons) — is lost or wasted. We also do not count the “externalities” of industrial food — that is, the hidden economic costs of current production and consumption.

According to researchers at the Universidade Estadual de Londrina, for example, the cost of soil erosion in Brazil is US$242 million per year in the state of Paraná and US$212 million per year in the state of São Paulo. Meanwhile, researchers from the McKinsey Global Institute estimate that excess weight and obesity comes at a price tag of US$2 trillion in global health care costs.

Prominent international initiatives like The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity and conferences such as the True Costs of American Food have begun to make headway in exploring and tallying these externalized costs.

But we need more creative and more comprehensive criteria with which to size up our food systems.

These could include: Do farmers have food security and stable livelihoods? Are rural economies systematically replenished rather than siphoned dry of people, capital and biodiversity?

Does a farm treat its workers fairly and recycle its natural resources? Do urban and rural populations have access to affordable, culturally appropriate and nourishing food?
Although there is certainly room for improvement, agroecology is already much more likely than industrial agriculture to perform well according to these whole-systems criteria.

Ethical Legitimacy

Historian Taylor Branch’s trilogy about the evolution of the Civil Rights movement offers insights into how focusing attention on the ethics and values of food systems can begin to pare away the thick legitimacy of industrial food, and build up new thick legitimacy for agroecology. Accustomed to a culture of racist oppression,

Blacks didn’t believe they could vote, ride undisturbed in the front sections of public buses or sit on city councils.
Only when they began rejecting the normalcy of this culture — a painful process that included watching their own children beaten while they stood by — did they start exercising their moral power.

Similarly, we can withdraw our tacit consent to industrial agriculture as something normal, weakening its moral legitimacy.

We can simultaneously accept agroecology and other alternative agricultures as “conventional” — indeed, ethically better — food systems.

We can say that while we like the cheapness and availability of industrially produced food, we don’t want the pervasive labor abuses, obesity and hunger crises, environmental pollution, and resource extraction that come with this way of eating.

We can say we want something that will truly persist over time, instead of contributing to Earth’s growing burden of overstressed ecosystems and people who are unevenly stuffed and starved.

By contrast to the extractive focus of industrial farming, an ethic of renewal urges that societies revive and mend the environmental cycles on which they depend.

An ethic of renewal could help societies pivot toward a new, sustainable normal. Rejecting human dominion over nature, renewal insists upon the interdependency of all living things. Renewal means moving away from systems of input and output that equate with extraction and pollution.

It means recycling biomass, nutrients and biological resources, and regenerating cultural and ecological knowledge among communities and from one generation to the next. It means treating humans and nature as co-evolving rather than as discrete parts.

This ethic can be backed up legally and politically, enshrined as an environmental right. One example is Bolivia’s proposal in 2009 that the United Nations General Assembly enact the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth (“Pachamama”). The declaration would oblige governments to “respect, protect, conserve and where necessary, restore the integrity, of the vital ecological cycles, processes and balances of Mother Earth.”

While the U.N. hasn’t yet passed this declaration, Bolivia, Ecuador and other Latin American countries have taken the lead on inserting similar clauses into their constitutions and laws.

The human right to food is another way to strengthen a regenerative ethic. Olivier De Schutter, former U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, says that agroecology is an essential part of achieving the right to food globally. Agroecology can enable societies around the world to make rapid progress in meeting the needs of many vulnerable peoples while maintaining the ecological and social foundations of food systems.

Many governments are now beginning to introduce anti-poverty programs aimed at those without sufficient food, such as Brazil’s Zero Hunger policy, which connects family farms with schools in some regions.

Meanwhile, La Via Campesina, a global peasant coalition, is demonstrating the practical, civic and political legitimacy of a new moral moment for agroecology. Formed in 1993 in response to free trade and globalization, LVC has grown into the largest social movement on the planet with an estimated 250 million smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fishers and indigenous peoples in 164 organizations from 73 countries. Agroecology has become an important tenet of the LVC movement, which says,
“Agroecology is the answer to how to transform and repair our material reality in a food system and rural world that has been devastated by industrial food production and its so-called Green and Blue Revolutions. We see Agroecology as a key form of resistance to an economic system that puts profit before life.”
 Gathering Momentum
The good news is, agroecology is already beginning to make headway toward thick legitimacy across the U.S.

In Ohio, David Brandt is showing skeptical neighbors that cover crops — plants such as rye, radishes and hairy vetch — can feed the soil during the corn off-season and save on fertilizer and land erosion costs. In West Oahu, the Mala Ai Opio Organic Farm is growing rows of lettuce, collard greens, oriental cabbages, beets, radishes, kale, chard and eggplants next to fruit trees.

Its student farmers are convincing other farmers across Hawaii that this indigenous intercropping technique can control the island’s plentiful pests.

In public libraries around the country, citizens are saving and exchanging seed, while gardeners are learning to remove toxic metals from urban soils. Indigenous elders and university students are practicing subtle acts of resistance with participatory research that envisions reclaiming land for public agriculture.

Very importantly, the transformers are not only or even primarily those of the white elite. Many agroecologists are Black, Latino and Asian farmers reclaiming their heritage in places from the Southern plantation states to the South Bronx.

A number are indigenous communities restoring seed and knowledge diversity. Some are formerly incarcerated individuals making new futures for themselves in urban tilth; others are entrepreneurs, busily connecting agroecological farms with food deserts, from Baltimore to Dallas.

At the moment, most Americans still accept industrial food practices as credible and authoritative, and in doing so consent to the use and existence of such practices. But movements are underway to change that.

With a focus on what’s right about agroecology, not just what’s wrong with industrial agriculture, we can turn the alternative into the everyday and the undervalued into the legitimate — and give agroecology the credibility and authority it well deserves.

Maywa Montenegro @MaywaMontenegro is a food systems researcher, University of California, Berkeley.

Alastair Iles @AlastairIles is a rofessor of environmental policy and social change, University of California, Berkeley 
.

My Whole Heart is With You

SUBHEAD: We have survived this USA’s plan for us because we are a fire that their water cannons cannot extinguish.

By Kelly Hayes on 30 November 2016 for Yes Magazine -
(http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/my-whole-heart-is-with-you-tonight-a-letter-to-the-dakota-access-front-line-20161130/)


Image above: The Standing Rock front line. Photo by Rob Wilson. From original article.

A letter to the Dakota Access Front Line

I write these words on what’s a cold night in my city, and a much colder night where my heart is—with my friends in Standing Rock. My writing, which typically centers movements, often sways between news and analysis.

My coverage of #NoDAPL has been no exception. But this piece is neither news nor analysis, because these words are for you, my people, for our protectors and resisters—for those who aren’t seeking to be heroes but who are nonetheless members of heroic movements and communities.

To you, I write these words on the night the governor of North Dakota has issued you an eviction notice, like so many notices issued to so many displaced people.

One of the ironic distinctions, of course, is that marginalized people are usually pushed out into the cold by eviction, whereas you are being threatened with rescue, due to your own decision to face the elements. While that menace has thus far masked itself in concern, we know better, and we know what stage is likely being set—one of forcible removal, consistent with the history of colonialism.

I hope people see your determination and know that the future isn’t set. Myself, I am not mourning today’s news, as I am sure you wouldn’t want me to. We know despair heals nothing, builds nothing, and further empowers our enemies.

We live in a disciplined state of hope and have done so for centuries. I didn’t always understand what that meant for me or my own freedom, but I do now, and I feel it more deeply because of you.

We all take joy and comfort where we can, but my whole heart is with you tonight. Whether you are afraid or not, whether you are staying or not. I know a good many of you will hold the space you’ve grounded yourself in, and that on every front this struggle will continue. I know we are not stifled by their proclamations.

I am grateful to you all—those who will stay, those who feel they must leave, and those who made that space a home for as long as they could. There is something revitalized in the air we breathe because of you.

In this moment, I believe in us as I never have, not because I didn’t believe in our potential, but because I had only witnessed snapshots of its expression.

I have not been alone in my years of resistance, but I have never felt far from loneliness in what it means to struggle as a Native person—even as an “urban NDN,” because I believe we have found something there, too—a connection of the dots in our collective constellation, and in some moments, where those lights branch elsewhere.

I believe in us, and that we are ready, more so than I have ever envisioned, to rise up against every threat to our survival and self-determination. We have survived the rise of a nation-state—a “super power”—grounded in our genocide.

This country, built on death and human bondage, has not extinguished the lives it meant to snuff out nor fully subverted the lives it has strived to control. It has accomplished much toward these ends, but our ancestors have risen, time after time, to prove what we are made of.

We have survived this nation-state’s will for us because we are a fire that their water cannons cannot extinguish.

I am so many miles away from you tonight, but I feel your fire, burning in the freezing cold in a place I’ve visited but have not managed to live. You have fed that fire with every hour you have held that space. I know you’re not done yet, but I want you to know that your victories have come in stages, all building to this moment and whatever trial or climax comes next.

I want you to know that you have moved us and will continue to move us, bringing us closer to the united front we must form with ourselves and with those pushing against every other pillar of White supremacy.

I am here for you and this.

My disability and responsibilities keep me from joining you in that cold, beautiful heart of resistance that your blood—the blood of what couldn’t be killed—has kept beating.

But I am living in this moment with you so that our peoples may live and until we all get free. I will live for that, now and always, until we uproot every pipe they try to lay through our land, until we halt their violence and empty their cages.

I want you to know, and have to tell you, that I will live for you, for us and our co-strugglers until we are living our freedom dreams—whether I live to see that day or not—and that in this moment, you give me life.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Loving Containment of Courage 12/1/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Beginning is Near 12/1/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Feds to shutdown NoDAPL Camp 11/25/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL people are going to die 11/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Hundreds of vets to join NoDAPL 11/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama must support Standing Rock 11/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump's pro oil stance vs NoDaPL 11/15/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai NoDAPL Demonstration 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama to Betray Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump impact on Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Ann Wright on Standing Rock 11/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Turning Point at Standing Rock 11/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jackson Browne vs DAPL owner 11/5/16
Democracy Now: Boycott of DAPL Owner's Music Festival
Ea O Ka Aina: World responds to NoDAPL protests 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL victory that was missed 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: DAPL hid discovery of Sioux artifacts 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Dakota Access Pipeline will leak 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Route of the Dakota Access Pipeline 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sanders calls for stopping DAPL 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama hints at DAPL rerouting 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: New military attack on NODAPL 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How to Support NoDAPL 11/3/16
Unicorn Riot: Tweets from NoDAPL 11/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Rock & the Ballot Box 10/31/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL reclaim new frontline 10/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How far will North Dakota go? 10/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodman "riot" charge dropped 10/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodwin to face "Riot Charge" 10/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Shutdown of all tar sand pipelines 10/11/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why Standing Rock is test for Oabama 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why we are Singing for Water 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Labor's Dakota Access Pipeline Crisis 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Firm for Standing Rock 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Contact bankers behind DAPL 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL demo at Enbridge Inc 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Militarized Police raid NoDAPL 9/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop funding of Dakota Access Pipeline 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: UN experts to US, "Stop DAPL Now!" 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: No DAPL solidarity grows 9/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: This is how we should be living 9/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: 'Natural Capital' replacing 'Nature' 9/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Big Difference at Standing Rock 9/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein joins Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Pipeline temporarily halted 9/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Native Americans attacked with dogs 9/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Mni Wiconi! Water is Life! 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sioux can stop the Pipeline 8/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Officials cut water to Sioux 8/23/16    

.

The Loving Contagion of Courage

SUBHEAD: American military veterans are coming to Standing Rock to protect the Water Proctors facing a police state.

By Four Arrows on 1 December 2016 for Truth Out -
(http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/38558-the-loving-contagion-of-courage-veterans-standing-for-standing-rock)


Image above: Teepee town in the snow at Standing Rock. From (http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2016/12/01/53385/roundtable-the-many-competing-interests-at-standin/).

In spite of freezing weather and orders from the North Dakota governor to curtail emergency medical services to Standing Rock and deem people's mere presence there illegal, thousands of veterans are coming to take part in a massive, peaceful operation December 4-7 at Standing Rock, the site of ongoing Indigenous resistance to the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL).

At this point, 2,000 veterans from Veterans for Peace and Veterans Standing for Standing Rock have registered to take part in this operation, and more are continuing to sign up. I am one of them. Together we will help the Water Protectors and give them a break from the brutality they have suffered.

 Initially drawn together by Army veteran Wesley Clark, Jr., and former Marine Michael Wood, Veterans Standing for Standing Rock has circulated its invitation far and wide since early November, calling for veterans to "assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia" and "defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security."

In what appears to be a counter-move in response to this impending mobilization of veterans, the Army Corps of Engineers, which has the power to disallow DAPL from crossing the river, gave an eviction notice on November 25 to the tribal chair to have all the campers at the main oceti sakowin camp move to 40 acres on Corps of Engineers land on the other side of the cannonball river.

The order document is full of obvious contradictions. For example, it expresses a "sincere" concern about the ability of emergency services to take care of those in the camp, but the Corps has done nothing to order DAPL to remove barriers on the short route to Mandan and Bismarck that have forced emergency services to go nearly two hours out of their way to get from Standing Rock to a hospital.

The Corps has decreed that the thousands of campers who have set up elaborate survival systems and dwellings will be arrested for trespass if they have not left the encampment by December 5. Meanwhile, no such eviction has been given to the pipeline workers who appear to be violating the Army's order to halt work. Is it a coincidence this eviction is planned for the first day of the Veterans Standing for Standing Rock action?

Standing Rock Tribal Chair Dave Archambault has already expressed regret and disappointment in response to the eviction notice and has said it will be met with an even stronger resolve. Meanwhile, our Veterans for Peace and Veterans Standing for Standing Rock are conferring this weekend to strategize possible modifications to some original plans.

As was always the case, any response is all about peaceful, courageous resistance to an illegal, immoral and unnecessary pipeline with significant risks to local and global life systems.

Wesley Clark and the other organizers of the Veterans Standing for Standing Rock operation are carriers of the highly contagious emotion we call "courage." After serving a stint as a peacetime Army officer, Wesley Clark, Jr., wanted to re-enlist for the Iraq war after 9/11.

His famous father, General Wesley Clark, Sr., wisely talked him out of it. General Clark understood that the war was a mistake. Wesley Clark, Jr., is now full throttle for his new mission at Standing Rock. Even after his father cautioned him about the risks of this planned peaceful civil disobedience, Wesley Clark, Jr., was not deterred.

Although he may have some Osage ancestry, Wesley Clark, Jr., has had little exposure to the ways of "Indians." However, when Standing Rock tribal elder Phyllis Young explained the history of Standing Rock's conflict with DAPL and its global importance, he had a transformational epiphany.

Young met Wesley Clark, Jr., in Washington, D.C., where they were both working on renewable energy ideas. When she talked about the courageous commitment of the Native people to "all their relations," he said a memory from his early childhood about the idea that "what you do to your brother you do to me" suddenly fanned the simmering "fire in his heart."

Almost to tears, he told me during a recent phone conversation that he is no longer an atheist. He said he has understood for the first time that the Great Mysterious (he used the word "God") has taken his hand and is guiding him. With his military background and his respect for veterans, he feels that organizing and leading veterans to stop the abuse of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock is his destiny.

As I wrote in a previous Truthout article this past Veteran's Day, Indians honor veterans not for participating in wars per se, but for their learned wisdom about the sacredness of life. We respect veterans for their willingness to serve as protectors, even if this is not what they wind up doing in their various deployments.

Veterans have a great potential for understanding that everything is related and sacred, even the "enemy." Ultimately, the virtue Indians revere in the veteran who has willed herself or himself to be available to die for others is courage.

Michael Wood -- another co-organizer of Veterans Standing for Standing Rock and former Marine who is also a retired Baltimore police officer fighting for police reform -- refers to this operation as "the bravery business."

Both Clark and Wood are willing to take a live round to stop the human-caused destruction that threatens all life on this planet. That they would connect with the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota with such courage is no coincidence.

My father was also a decorated combat veteran. He flew 35 missions in B-24s as a bombardier/navigator in WWII, crash-landing twice. I used to sneak readings of his always hidden combat diary, before it was lost in a flood to the Mississippi River.

He wrote about the bloody red "blood popsicles" hanging from fuselage ledges and the loss of so many of his friends. Nonetheless, I joined the Marines during the Vietnam war. I was commissioned after Quantico and then entered the aviation program at Pensacola.

Blindly gung-ho and ignoring the "hippie" protestors on TV, one night in a bar a South Vietnamese officer I was working with got drunk enough to tell me about what the US was doing to his country. I just barely stopped myself from punching him when I saw the look in his eyes. He was telling the truth.

At that moment I joined the anti-war movement and used my grandfather's political connections to gain an honorable discharge just before a possible court martial. Many years later, I cofounded the Northern Arizona chapter of Veterans for Peace. Dad was against the war himself and supported me.

Six years after my discharge, however, he died at age 52 of post-traumatic-stress-related alcoholism.

The courage recognized in many veterans seems inherent in all Indigenous peoples who have managed to follow traditional ways. This is why especially courageous veterans seem to get along so well with American Indians. In the Indigenous worldview that guided all of us for 99 percent of human history, generosity is the ultimate expression of courage and fearlessness. (The latter phenomenon comes after courage prompts resolute action and one "trusts the universe" without further need for maintaining courage per se.)

Martin Brokenleg talks about this when referring to educational programs for youth at risk when he says, "The highest expression of courage is attained when children learn to show compassion for others and to give a higher priority to relationships rather than possessions."

I first learned this from wild Bureau of Land Management mustangs I trained in the 1970s. When wild horses that are not violently broken submit to being handled, it is both the generosity of the animals and their respect for the generosity of the handler that overcome their fears.

I have often believed that the amazing relationship between the Lakota and the horse is related to this phenomenon. Indeed, woohitika (courage) is a cardinal virtue in Lakota philosophy and almost always refers to taking care of others.

Similarly, in the Anishinaabe language, aakode'win literally means the state of having a fearless heart and doing what is right, even when the consequences are unpleasant or dangerous.

In my latest book, Point of Departure: Returning to Our More Authentic Worldview for Education and Survival, I talk about the natural legacy of courage and fearlessness that is in all of our potentialities and how it has been stifled by the dominant worldview.

It is no coincidence that Indigenous peoples who have managed to hold on to this legacy of Nature are on the front lines around the globe in the stand against destroyers of Mother Earth.

It has taken courage and fearlessness to hold onto Indigenous ways against all odds. In spite of being less than 6 percent of the world population, Indigenous peoples hold 20 percent of the planet's land mass, harboring 80 percent of the remaining biodiversity.

Of course, they continue to pay a great price. In most countries, those hired to stop Indigenous environmental and water protectors don't use rubber bullets. At least 185 confirmed activists were killed in 2015 alone.

In her Truthout article, Alycee Lane reminds us that what we will be up against in the December veterans deployment is not just a corporation and its unawakened accomplices but also the global energy behind colonization itself.

The colonizers of all kinds will fight the Indians because the pipeline project actually requires the exploitation of other than whites. She continues:
Ultimately, "climate change" must be a commitment to undertake a radical politics of decoloniality -- to dismantle the murderous, nihilistic colonial power matrix against which the Sioux are courageously fighting and which is assailing Indigenous communities wherever fossil fuel exists, all the while driving millions of life forms to extinction.
The Indians at Standing Rock from the hundreds of tribes there know this, of course. Most have struggled their entire lives against such colonization and the historical trauma from previous generations is in their DNA.

Yet they also have amazing courage and fearlessness in their blood. When I was sitting around a fire for a safety meeting with 14 medics at Standing Rock a couple of weeks ago, one of the medics passionately revealed why courage and fearlessness are vital for such a radical "decoloniality." He looked around and asked, "How many Natives are here in this group?"

There were only two others, in addition to him. He nodded, then slowly talked about the importance of helping one another out on the forthcoming action "no matter what."

Then, as he proceeded to talk about the great difficulties of his life as an American Indian growing up in a foster family in an urban setting, he talked about the courage to survive and to be there for others. He spoke with such emotion and passion that everyone was spellbound.

Looking at the dedicated and courageous EMTs volunteering their time, he thanked them but predicted that the Indians would be the ones to run toward the bullets. "This is what we must do to save our living waters for future generations," he concluded.

We do not know yet what will happen next week when the Veterans Standing for Standing Rock are engaged in their operations.

We do not know if there will be a forceful eviction or how peaceful actions will occur strategically.

We do not know what strategy DAPL will employ or how they will instruct their state and government allies.

We do not know the effects of weather or what will happen after the Veterans Standing for Standing Rock and large numbers of people return to their homes.

Whatever will happen will require the utmost in loving courage and fearlessness on the part of the Water Protectors.

Send them your prayers, and please also send prayers that our brothers and sisters who are in the National Guard and the police departments will catch this spirit of loving courage.

We must pray that these officers, who are in danger of conducting more terrorism, will instead set down their weapons to join us all in remembering who we really are, as we transition away from the dominant worldview and toward a worldview of interconnectedness.



• Wahinkpe Topa (or Four Arrows), also known as Don Trent Jacobs, is currently a professor in the College of Leadership Studies at Fielding Graduate University. Of Irish/Cherokee descent and a made-relative of the Oglala, he previously lived and worked on the Pine Ridge reservation where he served as director of education at Oglala Lakota College on Pine Ridge. 

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Beginning is Near 12/1/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Feds to shutdown NoDAPL Camp 11/25/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL people are going to die 11/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Hundreds of vets to join NoDAPL 11/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama must support Standing Rock 11/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump's pro oil stance vs NoDaPL 11/15/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai NoDAPL Demonstration 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama to Betray Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump impact on Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Ann Wright on Standing Rock 11/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Turning Point at Standing Rock 11/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jackson Browne vs DAPL owner 11/5/16
Democracy Now: Boycott of DAPL Owner's Music Festival
Ea O Ka Aina: World responds to NoDAPL protests 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL victory that was missed 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: DAPL hid discovery of Sioux artifacts 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Dakota Access Pipeline will leak 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Route of the Dakota Access Pipeline 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sanders calls for stopping DAPL 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama hints at DAPL rerouting 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: New military attack on NODAPL 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How to Support NoDAPL 11/3/16
Unicorn Riot: Tweets from NoDAPL 11/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Rock & the Ballot Box 10/31/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL reclaim new frontline 10/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How far will North Dakota go? 10/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodman "riot" charge dropped 10/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodwin to face "Riot Charge" 10/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Shutdown of all tar sand pipelines 10/11/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why Standing Rock is test for Oabama 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why we are Singing for Water 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Labor's Dakota Access Pipeline Crisis 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Firm for Standing Rock 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Contact bankers behind DAPL 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL demo at Enbridge Inc 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Militarized Police raid NoDAPL 9/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop funding of Dakota Access Pipeline 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: UN experts to US, "Stop DAPL Now!" 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: No DAPL solidarity grows 9/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: This is how we should be living 9/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: 'Natural Capital' replacing 'Nature' 9/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Big Difference at Standing Rock 9/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein joins Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Pipeline temporarily halted 9/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Native Americans attacked with dogs 9/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Mni Wiconi! Water is Life! 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sioux can stop the Pipeline 8/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Officials cut water to Sioux 8/23/16   

.

The Beginning is Near

SUBHEAD: Don’t operate out of a place of fear, operate from hope. Pipeline deadlines threaten project.

By Winona LaDuke on 29 November 2016 for Indian Country News -
(http://www.indiancountrynews.com/index.php/columnists/winona-laduke/14339-the-beginning-is-near-the-deep-north-evictions-and-pipeline-deadlines)


Image above: Winona LaDuke with unidentified child. From original article.

Standing Rock is an unpredicted history lesson for all of us. More than any moment I recall since Wounded Knee, the Vietnam War, or the time of Martin Luther King, this moment stands as a crossroads in the battle for social justice.

It is also an economic issue, in a time of economic system transformation, and profoundly a question of the future of this land. The world is watching.

As the US Army Corps of Engineers issues a December 5 eviction notice for thousands of people gathered on the banks of the Missouri River, we face our truth. Those people at the Oceti Sakowin and Red Warrior Camps, along with the 550 people who have been arrested so far, are really the only thing standing between a river and a corporation that wants to pollute it.

That we know, because absent any legal protections, and with a regulatory system hijacked by oil interests and a federal government in crisis, the people and the river remain the only clear and sentient beings.

In short, this is a moment of extreme corporate rights and extreme racism confronted by courage, prayers, and resolve. This moment has been coming. The violence and the economics of a failing industry will indeed unravel, and this is the beginning.

The Deep North
North Dakota did not become Alabama – or the Deep North, as it is now called – overnight. Native people in North Dakota have been treated poorly for more than a hundred years, whether by the damming of the Missouri and the flooding of millions of acres of tribal land, or by poverty and incarceration, North Dakota is a place of systemic and entrenched racism.

Two of the poorest counties in the country are on Standing Rock, Native people comprise almost a fourth of the people in prison, Native suicide rates are ten times that of North Dakotans, infrastructure (like the fifty year old hospital with four doctors for 8000 people, and a now blocked Highway l806, without a shoulder) is at an all time low, and people freeze to death and overdose in the shadow of the Bakken Oil fields.

That’s the first layer of abuse, aside from the day to day racism, emboldened by Morton County and the incoming Trump government. It is visible for the world to see now.

For many who come, North Dakota is something unknown. Americans fly over the state, talk about how the movie Fargo was funny, and wonder sheepishly about how it’s working out in the Bakken. Very few visit, and there is almost no civil society to advocate for the environment or the people.

Let me put it this way, until this year, the Sierra Club had one staff person in North Dakota, and the American Civil Liberties Union had one staff member covering both North and South Dakota. It is as if North Dakota is just too uncomfortable for a progressive movement to visit or work in. Instead, we have watched.

After all, the sex trafficking, violence, and corruption has overwhelmed most of the state’s capacity to address it, and a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences found widespread groundwater contamination in the fracking fields.

 For North Dakotans it has become just how it is…

That is to say: accommodating corporations is the North Dakota way. This last year, North Dakota health officials excused more oil spills without penalty, and increased the allowable levels of radiation in municipal and county dumps to accommodate the fracking industry. The corporations direct state policy.

It’s been easy to put it out of mind because after all, it seems so far away when we view the world from our television or smartphone. In the midst of this, we find ourselves facing a larger set of forces. As of November 18, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department inventoried their troops at 1,287 deputies, including police from 25 North Dakota counties, 20 North Dakota cities, and 9 states (Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming).

Over 550 people have been arrested, many of them strip searched and cavity searched for misdemeanor charges, and a number of them held overnight in dog kennels. Now the state has fired on unarmed people who want to protect the water from contamination. After all, that’s what this is about.

To serve the convenience of a deadline for Energy Transfer Partners’s corporate profits, the police have fired teargas canisters, water hoses, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, tasers, and bean bag rounds at unarmed people trying to protect their water supply. Most of them are Native, and the North Dakota media has continued to portray the water protectors as outlaws.

When 21 year old New York resident Sophia Wilansky’s arm was blown off by a concussion grenade, Morton County Sheriff Kirchenmeir suggested that the water protectors caused it.

A statement of her father, attorney Wayne Wilansky, differs: “At around 4:30am after the police hit the bridge with water cannons and rubber bullets and pepper spray, they lobbed a number of concussion grenades which are not supposed to be thrown at people directly, at protesters or protectors as they want to be called.

A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it.

Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well. All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away.

The police did not do this by accident - it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in the face and groin, intending to do the most possible damage…”

January 1 Energy Transfer Deadline
On January 1, the Dakota Access Pipeline may turn into a pumpkin. This is to say, that the Dakota Access Pipeline was proposed in 2014, when the Bakken was at a peak. The Bakken is presently producing 900,000 barrels a day of oil, and steadily declining. All of that oil is already being refined locally, or shipped out by train or pipeline.

The state of North Dakota has announced that they project to have the same 900,000 barrels of oil a day coming out of the Bakken in 2019, two years from now, and even that may be optimistic.

In other words, there’s already plenty of infrastructure to move all the oil from North Dakota; this pipeline is not needed. We call it the Dakota Excess Pipeline.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis with Sightline Institute just released a new report on the shaky finances of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The report, “The High-Risk Financing Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline: A Stranded Asset in the Making in the Bakken Region of North Dakota,” delves into “the project’s financial weaknesses, and the fact the pipeline may represent a substantial overbuilding of the Bakken’s oil-transport infrastructure.”

The report notes that the pipeline’s principal backer, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), has conceded in court proceedings that it is contractually obligated to complete the project by January 1. ETP will most likely miss this deadline, if for no other reason than lack of clearance.

The company recently informed investors that it would take from 90 to 120 days to complete the pipeline after it receives an easement from the Army Corps of Engineers to cross the Missouri River. The Corps has yet to give that permission and last week recommended further study on the question.

If the deadline is missed, companies that have committed long-term to ship oil through the pipeline at 2014 prices will have the right to rescind those commitments. “In the interest of protecting their investors and shareholders, these companies may well renegotiate terms, seeking concessions on contracted volumes, prices, or contract duration.

The impetus for striking new deals on Dakota Access Pipeline contracts is rooted in radical changes in the broader economic context in which the project was proposed in 2014 and in which the majority of the contracts were signed.

Global oil prices began to collapse just a few months after shippers committed to using DAPL, and consensus market forecasts see no recovery for at least a decade….”

In short, greed is expensive, and if Energy Transfer Partners does not meet that deadline, many prudent shippers may want to renegotiate or withdraw their contracts. In other words, the pipeline could become a pumpkin, in the terms of Cinderella, and there are a lot of people who would not be sorry about that.

So, let’s be honest, all of the aggression is to see if North Dakota can make sure that Energy Transfer Partners can make a deadline and not lose money and continue to bilk potential shippers.

Evicting Native People
On the day after Thanksgiving, the Army Corps of Engineers issued an eviction notice to the thousands of people camped on the banks of the river. Creating the legal fiction of a “free speech zone”, in no relationship to anything significant. District Commander John W. Henderson sent an email to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stating that on December 5, the Oceti Sakowin camp would need to evacuate Army Corps land.

The letter claims that evacuation “is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.

The necessary emergency, medical, and fire response services, law enforcement, or sustainable facilities to protect people from these conditions on this property cannot be provided.” At no point did the Army Corps point out that Highway 1806 was closed by Morton County and that all the sustained injuries were from Morton County.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault responded to the Army Corps: “Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever. The best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing, and deny it now.

We ask that everyone who can appeal to President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the future of our people and rescind all permits, and deny the easement to cross the Missouri River just north of our Reservation and straight through our treaty lands.

When the Dakota Access Pipeline chose this route, they did not consider our strong opposition.

Our concerns were clearly articulated directly to them in a tribal council meeting held on Sept. 30, 2014, where DAPL and the ND Public Service Commission came to us with this route. We have released the audio recording from that meeting.”

The fact is that the Dakota Access Pipeline is not complete because of the people camped on that land- whether in the Oceti Sakowin, Sacred Stone, or Red Warrior Camps. The arrests of 550 people have been at a high cost to people, but also at a high cost to Energy Transfer Partners, because they are unlikely to meet their deadline.

None of us know how this moment in history is going to work out. On December 4, thousands of military veterans are coming to support the people and the river – veterans of Iraq, Vietnam, and every war in between.

I am interested how the Army Corps will speak with the veterans.

The veterans join the thousands of elected officials, religious and cultural leaders who have come to stand with the river and the people. In the end, that’s what will remain, long after Energy Transfer is bankrupt and the state of North Dakota has come to reckoning. The river will remain.

I am reminded of a quote originating from Thunder Valley. “ How long are you going to let others determine the future for your children? Are we not warriors? When our ancestors went to battle they did not know what the consequences would be, all they knew is that, without action, things would not go well for their children .

Don’t operate out of a place of fear, operate from hope. With hope everything is possible. The time is now. That is this time.

• Winona LaDuke is a Native American environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development. She ran for US President in the 1996 and 2000 race for the Green Party.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Feds to shutdown NoDAPL Camp 11/25/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL people are going to die 11/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Hundreds of vets to join NoDAPL 11/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama must support Standing Rock 11/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump's pro oil stance vs NoDaPL 11/15/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai NoDAPL Demonstration 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama to Betray Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Trump impact on Standing Rock 11/12/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Ann Wright on Standing Rock 11/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Turning Point at Standing Rock 11/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jackson Browne vs DAPL owner 11/5/16
Democracy Now: Boycott of DAPL Owner's Music Festival
Ea O Ka Aina: World responds to NoDAPL protests 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL victory that was missed 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: DAPL hid discovery of Sioux artifacts 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Dakota Access Pipeline will leak 11/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Route of the Dakota Access Pipeline 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sanders calls for stopping DAPL 11/4/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Obama hints at DAPL rerouting 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: New military attack on NODAPL 11/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How to Support NoDAPL 11/3/16
Unicorn Riot: Tweets from NoDAPL 11/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Rock & the Ballot Box 10/31/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL reclaim new frontline 10/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: How far will North Dakota go? 10/23/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodman "riot" charge dropped 10/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Amy Goodwin to face "Riot Charge" 10/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Shutdown of all tar sand pipelines 10/11/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why Standing Rock is test for Oabama 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Why we are Singing for Water 10/8/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Labor's Dakota Access Pipeline Crisis 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Standing Firm for Standing Rock 10/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Contact bankers behind DAPL 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: NoDAPL demo at Enbridge Inc 9/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Militarized Police raid NoDAPL 9/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop funding of Dakota Access Pipeline 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: UN experts to US, "Stop DAPL Now!" 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: No DAPL solidarity grows 9/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: This is how we should be living 9/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: 'Natural Capital' replacing 'Nature' 9/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Big Difference at Standing Rock 9/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein joins Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Pipeline temporarily halted 9/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Native Americans attacked with dogs 9/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Mni Wiconi! Water is Life! 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sioux can stop the Pipeline 8/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Officials cut water to Sioux 8/23/16   
 

.

The End of the American Century

SUBHEAD: It can end with the US recognizing that it’s a nation among nations, not an overlord among vassals.

By John Michael Greer on 30 November 2016 for Archdruid Report
(thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-end-of-american-century.html)


Image above: Illustration by Matt Wueker "We Come as Liberators". From (http://livingtheimpossibledream.com/2012/01/the-american-empire/).

I have a bone to pick with the Washington Post.

A few days back, as some of my readers may be aware, it published a list of some two hundred blogs that it claimed were circulating Russian propaganda, and I was disappointed to find that The Archdruid Report didn’t make the cut.

Oh, granted, I don’t wait each week for secret orders from Boris Badenov, the mock-iconic Russian spy from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show of my youth, but that shouldn’t disqualify me. I’ve seen no evidence that any of the blogs on the list take orders from Moscow, either; certainly the Post offered none worth mentioning.

Rather, what seems to have brought down the wrath of “Pravda on the Potomac,” as the Post is unfondly called by many DC locals, is that none of these blogs have been willing to buy into the failed neoconservative consensus that’s guided American foreign policy for the last sixteen years.

Of that latter offense, in turn, The Archdruid Report is certainly guilty.

There are at least two significant factors behind the Post’s adoption of the tactics of the late Senator Joe McCarthy, dubious lists and all.

The first is that the failure of Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions has thrown into stark relief an existential crisis that has the American news media by the throat. The media sell their services to their sponsors on the assumption that they can then sell products and ideas manufactured by those sponsors to the American people.

The Clinton campaign accordingly outspent Trump’s people by a factor of two to one, sinking impressive amounts of the cash she raised from millionaire donors into television advertising and other media buys.

Clinton got the coverage she paid for, too. Nearly every newspaper in the United States endorsed her; pundits from one end of the media to the other solemnly insisted that everyone ought to vote for her; equivocal polls were systematically spun in her favor by a galaxy of talking heads.

Pretty much everyone who thought they mattered was on board the bandwagon.

The only difficulty, really was that the people who actually mattered—in particular, voters in half a dozen crucial swing states—responded to all this by telling their soi-disant betters, “Thanks, but one turkey this November is enough.”

It turned out that Clinton was playing by a rulebook that was long past its sell-by date, while Trump had gauged the shift in popular opinion and directed his resources accordingly.

While she sank her money into television ads on prime time, he concentrated on social media and barnstorming speaking tours through regions that rarely see a presidential candidate.

He also figured out early on that the mainstream media was a limitless source of free publicity, and the best way to make use of it was to outrage the tender sensibilities of the media itself and get denounced by media talking heads.

That worked because a very large number of people here in the United States no longer trust the news media to tell them anything remotely resembling the truth. That’s why so many of them have turned to blogs for the services that newspapers and broadcast media used to provide: accurate reporting and thoughtful analysis of the events that affect their lives.

Nor is this an unreasonable choice.

The issue’s not just that the mainstream news media is biased; it’s not just that it never gets around to mentioning many issues that affect people’s lives in today’s America; it’s not even that it only airs a suffocatingly narrow range of viewpoints, running the gamut of opinion from A to A minus—though of course all these are true. It’s also that so much of it is so smug, so shallow, and so dull.

The predicament the mainstream media now face is as simple as it is inescapable. After taking billions of dollars from their sponsors, they’ve failed to deliver the goods.

Every source of advertising revenue in the United States has got to be looking at the outcome of the election, thinking, “Fat lot of good all those TV buys did her,” and then pondering their own advertising budgets and wondering how much of that money might as well be poured down a rathole.

Presumably the mainstream news media could earn the trust of the public again by breaking out of the echo chamber that defines the narrow range of acceptable opinions about the equally narrow range of issues open to discussion, but this would offend their sponsors.

Worse, it would offend the social strata that play so large a role in defining and enforcing that echo chamber; most mainstream news media employees who have a role in deciding what does and does not appear in print or on the air belong to these same social strata, and are thus powerfully influenced by peer pressure.

Talking about supposed Russian plots to try to convince people not to get their news from blogs, though it’s unlikely to work, doesn’t risk trouble from either of those sources.

Why, though, blame it on the Russians? That’s where we move from the first to the second of the factors I want to discuss this week.

A bit of history may be useful here. During the 1990s, the attitude of the American political class toward the rest of the world rarely strayed far from the notions expressed by Francis Fukuyama in his famous and fatuous essay proclaiming the end of history.

The fall of the Soviet Union, according to this line of thought, proved that democracy and capitalism were the best political and economic systems humanity would ever come up with, and the rest of the world would therefore inevitably embrace them in due time.

All that was left for the United States and its allies to do was to enforce certain standards of global order on the not-yet-democratic and not-yet-capitalist nations of the world, until they grew up and got with the program.

That same decade, though, saw the emergence of the neoconservative movement. The neoconservaties were as convinced of the impending triumph of capitalism and democracy as their rivals, but they opposed the serene absurdities of Fukuyama’s thesis with a set of more muscular absurdities of their own.

Intoxicated with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its allies, they convinced themselves that identical scenes could be enacted in Baghdad, Tehran, Beijing, and the rest of the world, if only the United States would seize the moment and exploit its global dominance.

During Clinton’s presidency, the neoconservatives formed a pressure group on the fringes of official Washington, setting up lobbying groups such as the Project for a New American Century and bombarding the media with position papers.

The presidency of George W. Bush gave them their chance, and they ran with it. Where the first Iraq war ended with Saddam Hussein beaten but still in power—the appropriate reponse according to the older ideology—the second ended with the US occupying Iraq and a manufactured “democratic” regime installed under its aegis.

In the afterglow of victory, neoconservatives talked eagerly about the conquest of Iran and the remaking of the Middle East along the same lines as post-Soviet eastern Europe.

Unfortunately for these fond daydreams, what happened instead was a vortex of sectarian warfare and anti-American insurgency.

You might think, dear reader, that the cascading failures of US policy in Iraq might have caused second thoughts in the US political and military elites whose uncritical embrace of neoconservative rhetoric let that happen.

You might be forgiven, for that matter, for thinking that the results of US intervention in Afghanistan, where the same assumptions had met with the same disappointment, might have given those second thoughts even more urgency. If so, you’d be quite mistaken.

According to the conventional wisdom in today’s America, the only conceivable response to failure is doubling down.

“If at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again” thus seems to be the motto of the US political class these days, and rarely has that been so evident as in the conduct of US foreign policy.

The Obama administration embraced the same policies as its feckless predecessor, and the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon went their merry way, overthrowing governments right and left, and tossing gasoline onto the flames of ethnic and sectarian strife in various corners of the world, under the serene conviction that the blowback from these actions could never inconvenience the United States.

That would be bad enough. Far worse was the effect of neoconservative policies on certain other nations: Russia, China, and Iran.

In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia was a basket case, Iran was a pariah nation isolated from the rest of the world, and China had apparently made its peace with an era of American global dominance, and was concentrating on building up its economy instead of its military.

It would have been child’s play for the United States to maintain that state of affairs indefinitely.

Russia could have been helped to recover and then integrated economically into Europe; China could have been allowed the same sort of regional primacy the US allows as a matter of course to its former enemies Germany and Japan; and without US intervention in the Middle East to hand it a bumper crop of opening wedges, Iran could have been left to stew in its own juices until it imploded.

That’s not what happened, though. Instead, two US adminstrations went out of their way to convince Russia and China they had nothing to gain and everything to lose by accepting their assigned places in a US-centric international order.

Russia and China have few interests in common and many reasons for conflict; they’ve spent much of their modern history glaring at each other across a long and contentious mutual border; they had no reason to ally with each other, until the United States gave them one.

Nor did either nation have any reason to reach out to the Muslim theocracy in Iran—quite the contrary—until they began looking for additional allies to strengthen their hand against the United States.

One of the basic goals of effective foreign policy is to divide your potential enemies against each other, so that they’re so busy worrying about one another that they don’t have the time or resources to bother you.

It’s one thing, though, to violate that rule when the enemies you’re driving together lack the power to threaten your interests, and quite another when the resource base, population, and industrial capacity of the nations you’re driving together exceeds your own.

The US government’s harebrained pursuit of neoconservative policies has succeeded, against the odds, in creating a sprawling Eurasian alliance with an economic and military potential significantly greater than that of the US.

There have probably been worse foreign policy blunders in the history of the world, but I can’t think of one off hand.

You won’t read about that in the mainstream news media in the United States. At most, you’ll get canned tirades about how Russian president Vladimir Putin is a “brutal tyrant” who is blowing up children in Aleppo or what have you. “Brutal tyrant,” by the way, is a code phrase of the sort you normally get in managed media.

 In the US news, it simply means “a head of state who’s insufficiently submissive to the United States.” Putin certainly qualifies as the latter; first in the Caucasus, then in the Ukraine, and now in Syria, he’s deployed military force to advance his country’s interests against those of the United States and its allies.

I quite understand that the US political class isn’t pleased by this, but it might be helpful for them to reflect on their own role in making it happen.

The Russian initiative isn’t limited to Syria, though. Those of my readers who only pay attention to US news media probably don’t know yet that Egypt has now joined Russia’s side.

Egyptian and Russian troops are carrying out joint military drills, and reports in Middle Eastern news media have it that Egyptian troops will soon join the war in Syria on the side of the Syrian government.

If so, that’s a game-changing move, and probably means game over for the murky dealings the United States and its allies have been pursuing in that end of the Middle East.

China and Russia have very different cultural styles when it comes to exerting power. Russian culture celebrates the bold stroke; Chinese culture finds subtle pressure more admirable. Thus the Chinese have been advancing their country’s interests against those of the United States and its allies in a less dramatic but equally effective way.

While distracting Washington’s attention with a precisely measured game of “chicken” in the South China Sea, the Chinese have established a line of naval bases along the northern shores of the Indian Ocean from Myanmar to Djibouti, and contracted alliances in East Africa and South Asia.

Those of my readers who’ve read Alfred Thayer Mahan and thus know their way around classic maritime strategy will recognize exactly what’s going on here.

Most recently, China has scored two dramatic shifts in the balance of power in the western Pacific.

My American readers may have heard of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillippines; he’s the one who got his fifteen minutes of fame in the mainstream media here when he called Barack Obama a son of a whore. The broader context, of course, got left out.

Duterte, like the heads of state of many nominal US allies, resents US interference in his country’s affairs, and at this point he has other options. His outburst was followed in short order by a trip to Beijing, where he and China’s President Xi signed multibillion-dollar aid agreements and talked openly about the end of a US-dominated world order.

A great many Americans seem to think of the Phillippines as a forgettable little country off somewhere unimportant in the Third World. That’s a massive if typical misjudgment. It’s a nation of 100 million people on a sprawling archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, commanding the entire southern end of the South China Sea and a vast swath of the western Pacific, including crucial maritime trade routes.

As a US ally, it was a core component of the ring of encirclement holding Chinese maritime forces inside the island ring that walls China’s coastal waters from rest of the Pacific basin. As a Chinese ally, it holds open that southern gate to China’s rapidly expanding navy and air force.

Duterte wasn’t the only Asian head of state to head for Beijing in recent months.

Malaysia’s prime minister was there a few weeks later, to sign up for another multibillion-dollar aid package, buy Chinese vessels for the Malaysian navy, and make acid comments about the way that, ahem, former colonial powers keep trying to interfere in Malaysian affairs.

Malaysia’s a smaller nation than the Phillippines, but even more strategically placed. Its territory runs alongside the northern shore of the Malacca Strait: the most important sea lane in the world, the gateway connecting the Indian Ocean with the Pacific, through which much of the world’s seaborne crude oil transport passes.

All these are opening moves. Those who are familiar with the rise and fall of global powers know what the next moves are; those who don’t might want to consider reading my book Declineand Fall, or my novel Twilight’s Last Gleaming, which makes the same points in narrative form.

Had Hillary Clinton won this month’s election, we might have moved into the endgame much sooner.

Her enthusiasm for overthrowing governments during her stint as Secretary of State, and her insistence that the US should impose a no-fly zone over Syria in the teeth of Russian fighters and state-of-the-art antiaircraft defenses, suggests that she could have filled the role of my fictional president Jameson Weed, and sent US military forces into a shooting war they were not realistically prepared to win.

We seem to have dodged that bullet. Even so, the United States remains drastically overextended, with military bases in more than a hundred countries around the world and a military budget nearly equal to all other countries’ put together.

Meanwhile, back here at home, our country is falling apart.

Leave the bicoastal bubble where the political class and their hangers-on spend their time, and the United States resembles nothing so much as the Soviet Union in its last days: a bleak and dilapidated landscape of economic and social dysfunction, where the enforced cheerfulness of the mainstream media contrasts intolerably with the accelerating disintegration visible all around.

That could have been prevented. If the United States had responded to the end of the Cold War by redirecting the so-called “peace dividend” toward the rebuilding of our national infrastructure and our domestic economy, we wouldn’t be facing the hard choices before us right now—and in all probability, by the way, Donald Trump wouldn’t just have been elected president.

Instead, the US political class let itself be caught up in neoconservative fantasies of global dominion, and threw away that opportunity. The one bright spot in that dismal picture is that we have another chance.

History shows that there are two ways that empires end. Their most common fate involves clinging like grim death to their imperial status until it drags them down.

Spain’s great age of overseas empire ended that way, with Spain plunging into a long era of economic disarray and civil war.

At least it maintained its national unity; the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires both finished their imperial trajectories by being partitioned, as of course did the Soviet Union. There are worse examples; I’m thinking here of the Assyrian Empire of the ancient Middle East, which ceased to exist completely—its nationhood, ethnicity, and language dissolving into those of its neighbors—once it fell.

Then there’s the other option, the one chosen by the Chinese in the fifteenth century and Great Britain in the twentieth.

Both nations had extensive overseas empires, and both walked away from them, carrying out a staged withdrawal from imperial overreach.

Both nations not only survived the process but came through with their political and cultural institutions remarkably intact.

This latter option, with all its benefits, is still available to the United States.

A staged withdrawal of the sort just described would of course be done step by step, giving our allies ample time to step up to the plate and carry the costs of their own defense.

Those regions that have little relevance to US national interests, such as the Indian Ocean basin, would see the first round of withdrawals, while more important regions such as Europe and the northwest Pacific would be later on the list.

The withdrawal wouldn’t go all the way back to our borders by any means; a strong presence in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific basins and a pivot to our own “near abroad” would be needed, but those would also be more than adequate to maintain our national security.

Meanwhile, the billions upon billions of dollars a year that would be saved could be put to work rebuilding our national infrastructure and economy, with enough left over for a Marshall Plan for Mexico—the most effective way to reduce illegal immigration to the United States, after all, is to help make sure that citizens of the countries near us have plenty of jobs at good wages where they already live.

Finally, since the only glue holding the Russo-Chinese alliance together is their mutual opposition to US hegemony, winding up our term as global policeman will let Russia, China and Iran get back to contending with each other rather than with us.

Such projects, on the rare occasions they’re made, get shouted down by today’s US political class as “isolationism.” There’s a huge middle ground between isolationism and empire, though, and that middle ground is where most of the world’s nations stand as they face their neighbors.

One way or another, the so-called “American century” is ending; it can end the hard way, the way so many other eras of global hegemony have ended—or it can end with the United States recognizing that it’s a nation among nations, not an overlord among vassals, and acting accordingly.

The mainstream news media here in the United States, if they actually provided the public service they claim, might reasonably be expected to discuss the pros and cons of such a proposal, and of the many other options that face this nation at the end of its era of global hegemony.

I can’t say I expect that to happen, though. It’s got to be far more comfortable for them to blame the consequences of their own failure on the supposed Boris Badenovs of the blogosphere, and cling to the rags of their fading role as purveyors of a failed conventional wisdom, until the last of their audience wanders away for good.

.