In a discussion with friends, this suggestion came up: "we need more voluntary peasants in the country." It was a suggestion meant to address the looming problems of climate change, wealth inequality, and poverty worldwide. I get the premise. If more people lowered their standard of living in this nation, there might be more resources to go around. It wasn't meant as an imperative, but it struck me that this was precisely the wrong way to bring women, or ethnic and racial minorities into political or environmental movements. All I could imagine were the people who had voluntarily chosen to live without electricity, technology, or permanent property. The women, often, wear bonnets and ankle-length dresses.
"Hey, this is what we've just gotten free from," I think. Those divisions of labor that insist women churn the butter. It's not that the men in some of these communities have a wealth of opportunity, either—and I also know that participation in lots of these communities is voluntary, not coerced. And yet it rankles me.
I consider climate a pretty serious issue, despite the fact that we here in North America have yet to feel many of the coming problems. But I do believe they are coming, somewhere down the line. And as a long-term thinker, I want to know what I can do as an individual and as a part of a larger group. But I did notice the absence of non-whites at the DC rally against Keystone XL pipeline, and that's with the Hip Hop Caucus emceeing the event.
Part of the problem with convincing people to make significant changes in their lifestyles is this fantasy that some of my friends have: a sort of Huckleberry Finn existence of rafting up and down rivers, living off the land. These are folks who saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild," and weren't a little troubled by its message. The fantasy is a nice fantasy, but not a very workable reality for me. I have a sinking suspicion that if our infrastructure (plumbing, electricity, etc.) suddenly disappeared, all the old oppressions would come right back, in all the same patterns and permutations of the past. I wonder if that obscures the benefit that many communities could get from cleaner energies, better public transportation, or national policies that protect all citizens and not just the monied. It all seems like too much backtracking, too much romanticization of a rural, agricultural past.
The movement to address climate change has been moving glacially, by my standards. I suppose I understand why. It's too easy to think that there are more pressing concerns... that addressing this problem could wait just a little longer. But there also seems to be a pretty serious problem with asking people to make sacrifices and to give up gains (material or otherwise) when everyone knows that the folks with the most advantages will never let go of what they've got.
What are your thoughts about making these movements more palatable, or giving them more teeth... and also about the romanticization of off-the-grid living? I'm not sure if that romanticization is everywhere, or just popular here where I live. [Sorry if TL;DR! And FYI the photo is a small part of an art installation in Boston. I liked the statement!]