Several days ago, our neighbors gave birth to a baby girl. My wife and I were discussing our newest and tiniest neighbor with our three year-old daughter, who suggested that we should bring a gift. “We could give her one of our books that we don’t like,” she suggested.
Her unguarded offer, at once both generous and selfish, made us laugh. But even as adults, aren’t we all inclined to act this way?
I think about times when I’ve had the urge to buy something new, maybe furniture or clothing, and I made the internal argument that if I buy something new, someone less fortunate will get something used. How generous and noble I am to upgrade my possessions and, at the same time, give a stir to the ol’ economy!
While it’s certainly preferable to give away unwanted things than to trash them, the question arises: What are we willing to give up that we like?
This question makes people uncomfortable. Some want to sell you the notion that, with a few—albeit significant—shifts, we can continue to have the society that we have. Solar panels, electric cars and better education for everyone will remake our lifestyle into something that won’t deplete our natural resources.
Scientists think otherwise. As you may have read (or perhaps you couldn’t bring yourself to click on the headline?) The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that if we don’t complete changes in the next 12 years—dramatic changes—we will have pumped so much carbon into the atmosphere that the consequences will be dire.
Paul Glover, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate, is a person who has been imagining what a society could look like that would not only be healing to the planet and its ecosystems, but also a more just, equitable and joyful place for its human inhabitants.
Glover’s accomplishments are many. In Ithaca, he started one of the most successful local currencies the country has seen, the Ithaca Hours. Here in Philadelphia he started the Philadelphia Orchard Project, which to date has planted hundreds of fruit trees around the city.
He has also developed a number of initiatives addressing some of our most intractable problems, including healthcare and waste management. His ideas are radical in the very best ways. They begin with the ideal that systems need to serve people and the environment and not the other way around.
Glover has written our back page essay this month about his candidacy for governor. Governor Tom Wolf, the presumptive winner of the election, has been a friend to the natural gas industry, despite his promises when he ran for office.
Several of the points Glover makes in his essay resonated with me. One was the fact that it will take us hundreds of years to undo what we have done to repair the world. There are no quick fixes.
Perhaps the most provocative thing that he says is that at the core of our problem is greed.
Finally, he argues, that where we are on the spectrum of material wealth and creature comforts strongly influences whether we are more interested in reform or revolution. If you have a lot, it’s certainly understandable that you would like to just improve the status quo.
But scientists tell us that how our economy works is dangerous. And if we look at how many people are suffering in our society, we know that that is perilous as well.
This November, I’m voting for Paul Glover for governor, because this crazy candidate is the only one who makes any sense.