So that’s it then. The Rio+20 Earth Summit is already a week into our past and, for all the good that has come from it, our glorious world leaders may as well have written a few scrappy pledges on the back of some postage stamps. At least with the 1992 Summit, there was the semblance of change, and we were able, for a short time at least, to fool ourselves into believing that a paradigm shift in thinking was possible. Twenty years on, it is quite clear that the dominant 1% are not about to give up business as usual any time soon.
The issues that were tipped for a potentially positive result at Rio+20, such as ending subsidies to global oil companies or establishing ecocide as a formally recognised crime, have been swatted away like irritating flies. Are we surprised? No, of course not. Humanity’s train might be heading for the buffers with no brakes, but the first class passengers are still jostling for the best seats. Is there any hope for us? Well, not from those passengers – they are concerned only with getting the best view from the window. Yet there is hope.
If you look carefully, the seeds of hope are sprouting all around you. Tiny shoots of green are probing through the blackened terrain of our scorched earth. Shoots of common sense, coaxed into being by those who are prepared to stop and think, “What are we doing?”
The American writer, Derrick Jensen, is one of the new breed of thinkers. Though he paints an unflinching and uncompromising picture of our shared madness, he is simply acting with the frankness of a family doctor who knows the truth about the terminal condition of the patient. Faced with the cold truth of our reality, but knowing that the situation might be remedied through some radical lifestyle changes, Jensen’s challenge to us is to ask us what each of us is prepared to do.
He tells the story of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, Indian braves in the truest sense. These dog soldiers would pledge to defend their villages against attack by creating an immovable front line of resistance. They would form their defensive barrier on the outskirts of the village by tethering themselves to a ‘picket pin’ hammered into the ground. They would stand and fight from there, release coming only through victory, death or being relieved by another dog soldier. Derrick Jensen suggests that those of us who believe in defending what is precious to us should adopt the courage of the Cheyenne, and he asks, “Where will you put your picket pin?” It’s a good question. One that each of us must answer individually.