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welcome to blue world
this could be the place we must be
“The world was born yearning to be a home for everyone.” -Eduardo Galeano
Another world is possible, this I know is true. It could be a peaceful world, if only there were justice. And it would be a just world if only people could live, with agency and dignity: free of violence and dominion, free to move or stay, free to determine, organize, and actualize. No one will be treated as expendable. All life is essential.
We’ll sing WATER IS LIFE, knowing it is alive and makes life possible.People have always known this. We would not have survived for tens of thousands of years if we did not. By valuing life over profits—as we always had—we make peace possible again.
The logic settler colonialism imposes callously perverts the balance of relations between humans, life, lands, and futures. It is a degenerative machine: maximizing and accumulating profits by externalizing social and ecological costs onto the public, leaving a trail of toxic messes and unmarked graves for future generations to bear and repair. The effects of this short-sighted narcissism compound, posing urgent, existential threats to planetary health and human survival.
Axiomatically: as earth dies, so do we. The lifeway is narrowing, but there remains “a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) informs in a February 2022 report. It warns:
…increased heatwaves, droughts, and floods are already exceeding plants and animals’ tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands and in the Artic….
A livable future, thus, necessarily requires decolonizing the world. That means returning stolen lands and restoring symbiotic relationships of and among the living—humans and beyond. It means rebalancing and repairing existing global power asymmetries forced and sustained through plunder. And it means moving from the illusion of individualism to the truth of interconnection, and from extractivism to regeneration. In this light, we could imagine solidarity beyond borders, nationalisms, and negative identities; and we could create safety beyond policing, prisons, wars, and guns. We could render them all obsolete, building a new world around what is truly essential: food and farming, public health, mutual care—which is to say: life.
In these ways, we could generate coherence through codependence; both in each other and in clean and healthful earth systems.This is the new world—the blue world—I believe we can be, and indeed, must be. We begin making this place possible by relating honestly, honorably, and accountably, which is to say: democratically.
We make it possible by critically deconstructing and democratically repairing the damage of old world, feudal race myths. These myths hide in plain sight, coloring individual and structural perceptions of who belongs and who does not; who will live with dignity and who will be treated as essentially expendable. They mask the profits of plunder and genocide as natural orders, and brand any meaningful reparation as the real discrimination.In so doing, these myths achieve their most essential purpose: dislocating reality and undermining solidarity, thereby conserving the existing hierarchy of human value. Asymmetrical and unaccountable power lies comfortably in these myths.
Angela Davis illustrates the cruel, intersectional essence of these asymmetries in Abolition Democracy. “In the Global North,” she writes, “we purchase the pain and exploitation of girls in the Global South, which we wear every day on our bodies.” We call it the supply chain. Davis wonders why our society is so unable to acknowledge the humanity and suffering of others? She imagines what our world might look like if we invested in life needs—health, housing, education—rather than punitive institutions with deeply racist roots, like prisons. Abolition democracy, she concludes, is both abolishing these old institutions of dominion and then creating new genuinely democratic institutions that secure the agency and dignity of all people.
Wealth—and therefore power—are presently far too concentrated for agency or dignity to exist in any honest, international sense. Does it make any sense, for example, that 26 men control roughly the same amount of wealth as half of humanity (3.8 billion people)? Does it make sense that the 10 richest men doubled their wealth during a pandemic killing 15 million people and pushing over 160 million more into poverty? Did they just work harder than all those people? Of course not.
These deprivations are structural. And as Oxfam confirms in a January 2022 report: this inequality contributes to the deaths of 21,300 people each day—one person every four seconds—due primarily to lack of healthcare, gendered violence, climate change, and hunger.
Hunger alone kills over 2.1 million people each year. In total, an estimated 870 million people do not have enough to eat, though we as a global community waste a third of the food produced. And crises converge as an estimated 1.6 billion people sleep in inadequate housing, while 100 million of our human relatives do not have any housing at all, and about 15 million are forcefully evicted every year. This worsens as rents and property values continue to rise for everyone, everywhere. Harsha Walia describes these structural deprivations in her essential work Border and Rule: “While the poor are thrust into slums, the global real estate market sits at $217 trillion, constituting 60 percent of global assets and catering a life of luxury to the middle and ruling classes.”
We know a safe and nourishing home is the foundation to a safe and fulfilling world. We know “the right to sustenance is a natural right because it is the right to life,” as Vandana Shiva writes in Earth Democracy. We could build around these rights to life, forming communities where “satisfying basic needs and ensuring long-term sustainability are [our] organizing principles,” rather than “the exploitation of resources for profits and capital accumulation.” We must know by now: to commodify life is, in essence and effect, to finance death.
In other words, Money is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns. As a February 2022 study concludes, the world spends at least $1.8 trillion annually on subsidies “contributing to air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, and global inequality.” These public funds finance private fossil fuel extraction, hard-rock mines, factory farms, and deforestation projects, among others.Moreover, The Guardian reports “the public is providing more than $1 million per minute in global farm subsidies, much of which is driving the climate crisis.” The issue is not, and has never been, lack of resources. Rather, it is their hyper-accumulation and, consequently destructive misallocation.
These transfers of public funds to private entities also represent the continuity of colonial violence and dispossession. By displacing local, biodiverse food economies with heavily subsidized, monocultural, export-based commodities, these capital flows deprive communities of their political self-determination and socioeconomic freedom, which is to say: their agency and dignity. This has been done for five centuries in the name of progress, because “[t]he free flow of capital requires precarious labor, which is shaped by borders through immobility,” writes Harsha Walia. “We know that if the environment were a bank,” she quips, “the elite would have saved it.”
Of course, the environment is the bank of all life. This is not news to the vultures of global energy and finance, they knew too. But as a 2020 report confirms, over half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), $44 trillion, is moderately or highly dependent on nature. That’s a rather silly way to say “everything we’ve ever known and loved depends on nature.” Truly though—this is the only home we have, what would it mean to act like it? What would it mean to organize, imagine, plan, and invest like it?
Life is a collective endeavor by nature. Nothing survives without care and support. No one is self-made. To all freedoms correspond responsibilities because our health and well-being are intimately interwoven, as this pandemic clearly demonstrates. Indeed, as Naomi Klein adds, “community is our best technology” — a truth rage-profit algorithms can obscure but never change.
This is why I am so heartened with the resurgence of labor, debt, and tenants’ unions. Harnessing our collective power, we can transform this world from one dominated by unaccountable elites, to one that is truly democratic and, therefore, secures the agency and dignity of all.
The converging moral and existential crises we face make clear we can’t keep fiddling with old, degenerative systems. We have to build anew.
Mariame Kaba suggests we begin again by shifting away from the question “what do we have now and how can we make it better?” toward the more transformative inquiry: “What can we imagine for ourselves and the world?”
blue world is but a future that could be. It is that home where everyone belongs, “filled with love, laughter, food, rest, and joy.”I do not write for anything more than that.
In dreaming of futures that could be, Robin D.G. Kelley reminds “the definition of utopia is nowhere.” He then edifies the continuity of liberation struggles:
We have to keep remaking our vision over and over again and remind us what we’re doing is only struggle, this [is] only struggle. No promise of liberation, you know, only the promise of struggle. And what that means is that we have to consciously rethink where we are. And if we see that the systems that we’re creating are actually in the hands of a few people who make a determination for us, that’s not good. And I’m not saying that we need to go back to some, you know, romantic notion of what socialism was supposed to be, but whatever we need to do, we need to do it fast and we need to do it in a way that we put at the center—life needs—life needs, human needs, and that is all of life needs, to reproduce ourselves, to be good people. And at the center of all that, of course, is love—agape, as Dr. King would say, the constant struggle to make community. Because the deeper our communities, the harder it is to break us apart, you know? And it means being in the community of people you may not like, but that’s how we move forward. With all of our mistakes and errors and all of our misjudgments, we move forward together. And that’s without the expectation that there’s going to be some kind of rainbow at the end and which we’re all going to be happy.
In this infinite struggle, Mariame Kaba adds that hope is a discipline. It is a practice, something we create and must continuously generate. And as we make hope, we make home—we make real the possibility of a just, peaceful world. One where all are free to be their most genuine, creative, and ingenious selves. I know we can make this place real. And for the love of all life—past, present, and future—we absolutely must. Peace.
This is only the beginning. These essays will be thorough, comprehensive analyses and reflections of between two and three thousand words. Embedded in each, as is the case here, will be a plethora of links to articles, books, videos, and music. With time, the connections I draw will deepen and broaden. With practice, they might actually make sense.
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In Our History is the Future, Nick Estes describes the scene at Standing Rock and the underlying history that brought it to be. Mni Sose (the Missouri River), he explains, is a name expressing “not merely static, inanimate form, but also action.” That’s because, “water is animated and has agency; it streams as liquid, forms clouds as gas, and even moves earth as solid ice—because it is alive and gives life. If He Sapa [the Black Hills] is the heart of the world, then Mni Sose is its aorta.”
As Leanne Betasimosake Simpson enlightens in her incisive work As We Have Always Done: “Intelligence flows through relationships between living entities.” This process enables the creation of meaning “through a compassionate web of interdependent relationships that are different and valuable because of difference… Individuals…carry the responsibility for engaging their minds, bodies, and spirits in a practice of generating meaning.”
In a June 1993 law review article, Whiteness As Property, Cheryl I. Harris explained: “The law masks what is chosen as natural; it obscures the consequences of social selection as inevitable. The result is that the distortions in social relations are immunized from truly effective intervention, because the existing inequities are obscured and rendered nearly invisible.” Full text available here: https://harvardlawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/1993/06/1707-1791_Online.pdf
“If one is to rule, and to continue ruling,” Orwell forewarns in 1984, “one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality.” This is precisely what the fiction of race offers: permanent rule (until, of course, this system degenerates to death—which it very much is).
The report notes “Widespread illegal gold mines cause billions of dollars in environmental damage each year.” Adding that “Lost ecosystem values, including sequestration, from illegal cutting estimated at $840-$1,730 billion annually.” Doug Koplow and Ronald Steenblik, The Role of Business, pg. 6-7.
How we measure success matters. The GDP measures economic success based purely on production of stuff without regard to the social and ecological effects of that production. It does not consider the well-being of the people actually doing the producing, nor the environmental impact of the production, for example. Nor does it value caretaking work, which is the foundation of life. As Robert Kennedy said, the GDP measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.” We need a metric of success that values life. Amit Kapoor and Bibek Debroy, GDP is Not a Measure of Human Well-Being, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2019/10/gdp-is-not-a-measure-of-human-well-being.
Please watch: A Message from the Future II: The Years of Repair, a beautiful short film full of imagination by Naomi Klein, Molly Crabapple, Opal Tometi, Avi Lewis, and more.
The Red Nation, Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth, Part II: Heal Our Bodies: Reinvest in Our Humanity: https://therednation.org/about-maisha/.