Howard Switzer: Caterpillars & social transformation


Richard Moore

From: “Howard Switzer” <•••@••.•••>
Date: March 8, 2009 10:00:05 PM GMT
To: “Richard Moore” <•••@••.•••>

… It seems humans as a species are just about to leave their adolescence behind.  As a green activist I am of course often appalled at how green has been defined and used by corporations but its real meaning is sustainability which is what a mature rainforest is, for instance. As Elisabet Sahtouris wrote, “there is no better governmental model or educational model or even spiritual/ethical model than the rainforest or any other mature, healthy ecosystem in which every species is fully employed, all work cooperatively while recycling all of their resources, and all products and services are distributed in such a way that every species remains healthy.”
She further writes about how human civilization is coming to the end of its caterpillar stage as it begins to harden its position.

“Caterpillars chew their way through ecosystems leaving a path of destruction as they get fatter and fatter. When they finally fall asleep and a chrysalis forms around them, tiny new imaginal cells, as biologists call them, begin to take form within their bodies. The caterpillar’s immune system fights these new cells as though they were foreign intruders, and only when they crop up in greater numbers and link themselves together are they strong enough to survive. Then the caterpillar’s immune system fails and its body dissolves into a nutritive soup which the new cells recycle into their developing butterfly.

The caterpillar is a necessary stage but becomes unsustainable once its job is done. There is no point in being angry with it and there is no need to worry about defeating it. The task is to focus on building the butterfly, the success of which depends on powerful positive and creative efforts in all aspects of society and alliances built among those engaged in them.”
So I tell people to turn their back on government and do what needs to be done as we cannot depend on anything much from our government and that in our county growing food locally should become a high priority then move down the list that Wendell Berry wrote about how to conserve a community.

“How can a sustainable local community (which is to say a sustainable local economy) function? I am going to suggest a set of rules that I think such a community would have to follow. I hasten to say that I do not understand these rules as predictions; I am not interested in foretelling the future. If these rules have any validity, it is because they apply now.

Supposing that the members of a local community wanted their community to cohere, to flourish, and to last, they would:

(1) Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?

(2) Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.

(3) Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

(4) Always supply local needs first. (And only then think of exporting their products, first to nearby cities, and then to others.)

(5) The community must understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labor saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

(6) If it is not to be merely a colony of the national or the global economy, the community must develop appropriately scaled value-adding industries for local products.

(7) It must also develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm or forest economy.

(8) It must strive to produce as much of its own energy as possible.

(9) It must strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community, and decrease expenditures outside the community.

(10) Money paid into the local economy should circulate within the community for as long as possible before it is paid out.

(11) If it is to last, a community must be able to afford to invest in itself: it must maintain its properties, keep itself clean (without dirtying some other place), care for its old people, teach its children.

(12) The old and the young must take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily and not always in school. There must be no institutionalized ‘child care’ and ‘homes for the aged’. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

(13) Costs now conventionally hidden or ‘externalized must be accounted for. Whenever possible they must be debited against monetary income.

(14) Community members must look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programmes, systems of barter, and the like.

(15) They should always be aware of the economic value of neighborliness – as help, insurance, and so on. They must realize that in our time the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, leaving people to face their calamities alone.

(16) A rural community should always be acquainted with, and complexly connected with, community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

(17) A sustainable rural economy will be dependent on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more co-operative than competitive.

These rules are derived from Western political and religious traditions, from the promptings of ecologists and certain agriculturalists and from common sense. They may seem radical, but only because the modern national and global economies have been formed in almost perfect disregard of community and ecological interests.”

Are we the imaginal cells who have a positive vision of the future to pursue?
Howard Switzer, Architect
668 Hurricane Creek Road
Linden, TN 37096