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Responding Personally And Powerfully To The Climate Catastrophe

By Robert J. Burrowes

10 December, 2012

Amid the ongoing sequence of horrendous news articles reporting one
environmental disaster after another, with dire consequences for the
planet and all its species (see, for example, 'Global Extinction within
one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane
Heat Wave and Surface Firestorm' -
I can now read accounts of the recent and predicable catastrophe that took
place in Doha, where the 18th UN Climate Summit was held (see, for
example, 'A Carbon Tsunami in Doha' -
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/06-0). I can also read many
articles by people who respond to the ongoing climate catastrophe by
urging us to lobby governments, UN organisations or others to change their
policies and practices in one way or another.

In my experience, organisations such as the United Nations and governments
cannot respond meaningfully to any of the major crises we face as a
species for the simple reason that they are controlled by elite interests,
including those multinational corporations that profit from wars, the use
of fossil and nuclear fuels, the destruction of ecosystems and the
exploitation of indigenous peoples (see, for example, 'The Global 1%:
Exposing the Transnational Ruling Class'
- http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=32356). Consequently,
lobbying these organisations is more than a waste of time; it is an act of
disempowerment (because you have submitted to 'participation' in a process
that they already control). Of course, these institutions are also the
ones that tell us that lobbying is 'your democratic right' and thus they
encourage us to lobby them as the most effective way of absorbing and
dissipating our dissent. They also have many agents, including some that
are called 'activists' and 'activist groups' that encourage us to lobby as

But if lobbying to change the behaviour of the elite and its agents is
ineffective, what can I do instead? Well, I devote considerable time to
changing myself and, in doing so, give others the opportunity to consider
my example. In addition to this, I take principled and strategic
nonviolent action to directly confront those elites who are harming
constituencies, including nonhuman species, which I love. This means that
I cop a lot of criticism, some prison time and other forms of violence.
But I am far more powerful and effective than I would be if I spent my
time lobbying someone who is paid well to ignore me.

One way in which I take action is by participating in 'The Flame Tree
Project to Save Life on Earth' - http://tinyurl.com/flametree. The Flame
Tree Project outlines a fifteen year strategy during which participating
individuals are encouraged to reduce their consumption in each of seven
vital resource areas by 10% per year for each of 15 successive years while
increasing their self-reliance in sixteen key areas by 10% per year for 15
successive years. By doing this, participants automatically noncooperate,
in a strategic manner, with elite-controlled structures and processes
while simultaneously creating alternative, local structures that allow
them to self-reliantly meet their own needs, at a much lower level of
consumption. This provides a basis for sharing the world's resources
equitably with the peoples of Africa, Asia and Central/South America while
living in an ecologically sustainable manner. Moreover, individuals can
participate as part of their household, street, neighbourhood or community
but powerful individuals also have the option of setting an example when
others they know are not yet ready to respond.

The Flame Tree Project also identifies action that can be taken by
businesses, community groups, farmers, scientists and governments but it
does not depend on the participation of any of these for the scheme to
succeed. The scheme depends on powerful individuals. And because it
depends on powerful individuals, participants are given the option of
ignoring any aspect of the project with which they do not agree.

A second feature of The Flame Tree Project is that it offers the option
for individuals and groups to participate in the planning and
implementation of sophisticated campaigns of nonviolent resistance to
prevent/end wars, end economic exploitation and save threatened
ecosystems, as well as strategies of nonviolent defense to liberate
Palestinians, Tibetans and other oppressed populations in those
circumstances in which elite violence must be directly confronted (see
Robert J. Burrowes 'The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian
Approach', Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996 and Gene Sharp
'The Politics of Nonviolent Action', Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973). Not
everyone will choose to participate in this way but, again, this is a
choice for powerful individuals to make.

A third feature of The Flame Tree Project is that it challenges
participants to ask searching questions about the nature of human society:
for example, why are human beings violent? If we do not understand, and
address, the fundamental cause of violence, then all of our efforts to
survive by tackling the symptoms of our violence - including those that
impact on our planetary environment - will ultimately fail. Understanding
the cause of violence has profound implications for the nature of the
institutions we must create if violence, including ecological violence, is
to be eliminated. How do we raise our children? How is their education
undertaken? How do we respond to dysfunctional (including violent)
behaviours? Do police, legal and prison systems have any role to play in
creating and developing cultures in which violence simply has no part? How
do we defend ourselves without using military violence (which kills
people, consumes vast quantities of natural resources and generates vast
quantities of radioactive and other toxic wastes)? And what of structural
violence? What organisations and institutions, of what size, are best able
to meet the biologically inherent needs of humans?

Fundamentally, The Flame Tree Project is an invitation to ask the deep
questions about how we go about creating a new and higher phase of life on
Earth: a shift from violent civilization to nonviolent planetization. You
are welcome to consider joining.

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending
human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to
understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist
since 1981. He is the author of 'Why Violence?' -
http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence. His email address is flametree@riseup.net
and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com




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