The semester is over and the winter solstice is upon us. It is time for a look back at this extraordinary, awesome and hopeful year that has been 2011. Yes, I'm talking about the year after the largest annual jump in carbon emissions on the planet. I'm talking about the year humankind grew to seven billion people. I am talking about the year that caps the hottest decade ever, that has seen monster tornadoes in the United States, mega-floods in Thailand, murderous drought in the Sudan, and yet another record melt in the Arctic.
And no, I am not being sarcastic. This has been a beautiful, inspiring twelve months. The last time I felt such hope was in middle school in Bavaria, when the first demonstrations for emissions control drew not only us hippie kids, but also foresters, farmers, and other upstanding folks. That was the moment I knew we were winning. From then on, things in Germany were moving in but one direction, and eventually the Greens were voted into the government coalition.
Global capitalism is now so ugly and ruinous, elected leaders in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are now such shameless servants to the oligarchy, that regular people are being pushed out of their comfort zone. For the first time in a generation, a new protest movement has emerged, and it brings everyone together: old and young, radical and normal, poor and middle-class. Hippies, stoners, ravers, and normal people are closing ranks now. Even better are the news from the dark side: Unable to come to terms with social and climatic realities, the conservatives lurch into ever more lunatic positions, prompting an emerging consensus that the Republican Party is run by Wall Street Gekkos and the clueless (as the New York Times puts it); that its agenda is crackpot--to trash the environment, shred the safety net, and aid the rich (as Rolling Stones puts it); and that the right has stopped trying to pretend to be something that they're not (as Alternet puts it).
This is the first step in the right direction: a collective recognition that the system is broken, that its old guardians are not getting it, and there is no alternative to fundamental change. And the funny thing is, what is driving this change is so trivial. Michael Moore's Occupy demands may be communist, but they also serve as reminder that Americans are not inferior to the French, the Swedes, the Japanese; that they do not deserve to be treated worse, that they, too, have a right to health care, education, housing, jobs, and a clean environment.
And so, as the weather gets erratic, food insecurity spreads, and capitalism digs in its fossil heels, people around the world are rising up, make their voices heard, topple tyrants, and are creating change.
2011 is the year civil evolution began.
Happy holidays--see you in spring!
Sixty months left.