You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, and if you do not shut down the war machine, you will not do any of it.
I thought about what to say, and could easily give you a stump speech, but instead today I want to challenge you to think about something not really on the radar … the End of Economic Growth.
Ecosystems are in collapse, primarily to feed the ever-expanding maw of consumerism. We must have MORE. And without MORE civilization will end. Excuse me, but what planet are they living on?
Here on Earth, we need to use less, and considering how many people really do NEED more, then the one percent and the middle class in the industrial world are going to have to use less.
Some people think that is impossible or it would be horrible. But we have to think about prosperity rather than growth. We have to reduce inequality, heal ecosystems, close the war machine, create zero carbon emissions, reforest and farm our sprawl. Not build shopping centers or the next big thing.
There is much spending we could easily eliminate in ways that mean a happier, healthier, and more vibrant community while spending less money and refusing to exploit workers around the world.
For Providence’s prosperity start with food security and turn the I-195 land into farms, not biomedical labs or baseball stadiums. If we keep thinking economic development starts with real estate speculation and subsidies for the rich, we shall be stuck forever. If we think we need to relax environmental protections to grow the economy faster, remind yourself that for 99 percent of us growth left town years ago, and ecosystem health underlies our prosperity.
The I-195 land is a brownfield, and I agree that brownfields are among the keys to the future of the RI economy, but not how the clowns on Smith Hill think about it, where giving subsidies and tax breaks to the rich is the only thing on the table.
I want you to think about the connection between brownfields and tropical forests. The 195 land destroyed neighborhoods 50 years ago, so it is hard to think about the people who lived there, but think about a place like Olneyville where the brownfields still are embedded in a neighborhood. Who lives there, and who will benefit from Brownfield redevelopment?
Now think about forests. Forest health may be the most important indicator of ecosystem health on Earth, and no one has ever figured out how to build cities without a new supply of wood. Now think about the people who live in forests, who are often the most marginalized and disenfranchised people in a country, just like those who live near brownfields. Usually the wood supply was obtained by genocide.
With the forest more than half gone and our ever growing understanding of how important forest are to our communities people are wondering how to keep the forests healthy. The World Bank did a study and figured out that the best way to preserve forests and help forest communities escape poverty is to give the forest dwellers secure tenure, and then make sure that any economic development projects keep the benefits in the hands of the poorest people in the community, usually women.
Brought to Providence it is clear that as long as the benefits from the development of brownfields is directed towards the speculators and the inside dealers (the same people who steal forests from the people who live there) instead of the benefits staying in the hands of the people in the community, our wealth gap will get worse, our economy and ecosystems will crumble and the world will be a more violent place.
Keep the Pawsox in Pawtucket and make sure the benefits of redevelopment flow to the poor, not the rich. This is how you heal ecosystems and create prosperous communities. And one day I hope the clowns of Smith Hill will begin to comprehend.