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The Next Train

Old(er). Nonessential. Hunkered down. In what is supposed to be the worst week in the Coronavirus pandemic for Americans, that pretty much captures our daily life. As instructed, Ann and I are sheltering in place, doing our part to flatten the curve, as instructed. When we go out (“out” typically means a daily walk), we keep our six-foot distance from our fellow travelers. Models vary as to how long this will last.

Otherwise, we are at home, our “work” as it were. We are not equipped for the front lines in the hospitals. We do not race into collapsing lives as first responders. We perform no essential service that requires putting ourselves in harm’s way, like the people who stock the shelves and check us out at the grocery stores.

(Surely this highlights the coming conversation we need to have about the nature of work and those who will do it? Surely. Andrew Yang, anyone?)

What to do hunkered down at home, old(er) and nonessential? Perhaps using the present crisis as a training ground for the next train. That’s what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called it: in the midst of the pandemic, he took pains to remind us of the next train coming our way: climate change.

If the pandemic is the warm-up, climate change is the main event, the substance of which is meeting the needs of what I like to call the wider community within the limits of the planet to supply them. Ambitious is an understatement, for it requires rethinking the primary assumptions guiding social, political, economic, educational, and governmental policies simultaneously.

Treating not symptoms but the underlying systems is now the task before the global village. Not just that there are, say, hungry people, but how do we feed the world’s people without sacrificing a living planet upon which the world’s people depend.

Since the planet can no longer support an extractive, exploitative economic and industrial economy geared to ever-expanding consumerism, can we pursue the happiness promised in our constitution in less material, more relational experiences?

Here’s the real challenge: can we even dare to consider economic models that set aside an ever-expanding GDP and other measures of economic growth? Has anyone ever even heard of such a thing? Has any politician ever dared breath such heresy?

A mere sampling of the next train, all the above—and more—simultaneously.

Hang on!

1 thought on “The Next Train”

  1. There are many economists and others that have pointed out alternatives to our present addiction to an ever expanding GDP based on extraction. One of my favorite books about a possible transformation is “For the Common Good: redirecting the economy toward community, environment and a sustainable future” by John B. Cobb, Jr., a theologian well versed in economics and Herman E. Daly, a former IMF economist. There are many insights and groundwork in the book to help us understand the assumptions in our economic systems. It turns out that many of these assumptions are just that, assumptions. We could make others that would be much more humane and stable.
    This book helped me to understand it doesn’t have to be this way. There are templates and tools out there to build a different world.

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