Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Finding Common Political Ground Through Shared Eco-Districts

The world over we see conflict between different cultural groups because of a belief that the land they inhabit is defined by the cultural values that one group or another holds, and the boundaries of these cultural units often overlap or conflict. The current "westernizing" of global locals via industrialization and "free" trade has been expedited through the application of grid-based location identification. Cultures have been sliced up and pieced together to suit the preferences of their exploiters. Their political realities have become the means through which the communities are destroyed and their ecosystems rampaged. In-fighting has become the norm for most of the world's countries.

And so, how to get over our political bickering? This, I am sure, is a question that will never be solved, excepting the disappearance of politics itself. But what really is the basis for our conflict? Though inflamed in many regions due to historical colonization, it surely stems mostly from differences in the values held by each and all of a political unit or geographic area. That leads one to ponder, what is the basis for such a value? How is it that people of a common population or place, can be of such differing opinions over how life should be approached? Is there anything that can unite us in our attempts to agree on the proper approaches to living life in a place? Should we even expect that all individuals in a place be of the same beliefs, perspectives, and values? I would think not, for surely this is muddling of our diversity and uniqueness both as individuals and as communities.

So to find common ground in a place, we literally must look to the ground. It is the reality of the place upon which our feet stand that will provide for us the clues to "proper" living in a place, and will provide for us a unity that can persist beyond our cultural and individual differences. Even though we currently do approach politics through systems based on units which have some geographic realities, what does this usually come to mean in our political processes? Mostly, a divvying up of "resources", and debating over how much we can realistically take without doing ourselves too much harm, or how much each one is entitled to. But is this a process for longevity and respect for the needs of future generations, let alone the non-human world? Allow me to propose a hypothetical scenario, in which we might view our "common ground" through a different perspective.

If we all awoke one day and found ourselves living within political units dictated by local ecology, we would be forced to acknowledge: a) the aspects of ecology that define the eco-units which we inhabit, b) that of whatever cultural belief we are, we do share an intact, coherent ecological system, c) we may still identify culturally with others from a different ecosystem unit, but we none-the-less inhabit different land bases and ecosystem types, d) even though we may still have conflicts with one another and attempt to control parts of neighboring eco-units, we would remain embedded in a reality that inherently makes us more aware of the environmental situation of our places.

This may be assuming a lot, but as far as political processes go, if one was forced to be elected within, represent constituents from, organize throughout, create policies around, and/or otherwise think about daily an ecosystem of one's place, our current environmental problems would be much more personal. Beyond the "environment", a place would be found for each of us within ecological niches. No longer constituents of a political "unit" based upon abstract lines and grids, we become constituents of a much greater and more vibrant community of place. Our purposes will become defined by the roles that we are called to play within ecosystems, and we shall find that an attitude of humility will go a long ways in our personal and interpersonal development.

How to undertake this momentous task is big question number two (number one being why - though we already understand this one, don't we?). As in all community undertakings, the specifics should be guided by the local. Local realities will demand different strategies. But education is probably a universal undertaking - relevant anywhere. We must educate others not only of the need to undertake these changes, but of the local realities of our places. One who understands one's place better will be naturally more inclined to act appropriately within it, and at a scale that one is able to act responsibly and skillfully in place. Incentives are also a good way to go, and any and all of the benefits of making these changes should not only be discussed, but put into practice through programs that benefit local community members. The traditional political process, though entrenched in its ways, still offers some opportunities to begin to implement various tactics of localization and the creation of eco-districts. The process of redistricting is a door, though not open to change, that may allow for some tweaking of current methodologies (see previous post on re-districting). Re-allocating our community funds (taxes) towards watershed and ecosystem based projects is another possibility.

Perhaps most importantly is our own frame of mind. How we think about and discuss our places with others has a big impact on how others are going to think about their own places. If we insist on defining the area of our operations as the watersheds and ecosystems that we inhabit, our supporters and members will be encouraged to do likewise and a trend will be started, an opportunity seized.

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