How is localization the same and different in the United States, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Armenia and El Salvador?
In all these places we breathe the same air, drink the same water, stand on the same soil and are sustained by the same Sun, their natural endowments varying according to their respective geographic locations. The climate crisis is a painful reminder of this natural interdependence—both of its liabilities as well as potentials. If we become conscious of this interdependence, and of the crisis due to a failure of evolving with and through this holistic and ecological worldview, congruent with Nature, it’s also a call for action—individually and collaboratively, and with the utmost urgency.
There are natural differences that are due to the diversity that’s in Nature, and the subsequent environmental and cultural diversity that’s rooted in Nature’s diversity. It’s like the seven colors that radiate as sunlight. Or in the same garden, plants and flowers that blossom to their diverse uniqueness. Then there are also humanly and politically caused/imposed differences both between and within these locations—exploitation, inequity, compartmentalization, alienation from Nature, on the one hand. On the other, myriads of ways in which people, organizations, institutions, businesses and governments are working toward a more just, equitable, holistic and sustainable future, congruent with Nature.
What are your top three green online community portals? Why?
I prefer not to create such a category, since such an attempt tends to attribute a competitive rating to them. By doing that I don’t want to undermine the significance of some other ones which may not be in the top three but I access them either frequently or occasionally, and which can be just as useful—sometimes even more useful—for my purposes.
Are you using alchemy in business? Academia?
I was delighted to read the answer by Craig Mackintosh of Worldwide Permaculture Network (www.permaculture.org.au) to your question, “Are you an alchemist?” With thanks, let me quote his answer:
“I’ve never been described thus before, and don’t lay claim to the title now. Besides, you can’t eat gold.
In my work, however, I have met a few who can turn sand and rocks into fruit and forests, so perhaps some permaculturists could be described as alchemists of sorts.”
In my work, within and outside academia—joining many others in my own community and around the globe—I try to turn crisis into opportunity, problem into solution, despair into hope, war into peace, hubris into humility, powerlessness into creative power, nonrenewable path into renewable path, dead-end into sustainability. I suppose you could attribute the “alchemy” metaphor to that work.
As a creative force, are you writing poems for the new mythology?
Yes. Let me elaborate, though, especially because the word “mythology” conveys multiple meanings. Traditionally, it’s been about the lives of gods and goddesses—like in Greek Mythology, the Myth of Sisyphus—which became an integral part and an influential factor of cultural evolutions around the world. Belief in them, as well as their symbolic significance, became more important than validation through truth and reality. It’s also been about the telling and retelling of stories, folklores and historical events, fused with interpretations—even fabrications—which became an accepted practice in myth making. Myths have served all kinds of purposes—good or bad, right or wrong—depending on where one stands or what one is looking for.
Today, there’s a critical need for a mythology of hope, intuition, vision, transformation, and sustainability. Not that these elements have been missing from all traditional myths, but we need an urgent renewal of these with a new vigor that is synergized through a holistic fusion of realism and idealism, earthiness and divine, actual and potential, and a will to confront the crisis—however challenging that can be—and remain committed to solutions—however much courage and persistence it may require. That’s the path of new mythology I try to follow, and add a little light to it when I can. My poetry offers me a channel to express that. More than thirty years ago I wrote a poem that defined what poetry means to me and why I write it to this day. Here it is:
There Is No Absentee Poetry
There Is no Absentee Poet
There is no absentee poetry
There is no absentee poet
What comes after the Age of Sustainability? Who goes there?
To me, it isn’t just what comes after the Age of Sustainability; rather, what universal values and conditions are at the foundation of sustainability, such as equity, justice, freedom, responsibility, interdependence, caring, simplicity, harmony with Nature. It‘ll be an Age when we will finally learn (or re-learn) that the essential condition of sustainability lies with living within the limits and renewability of our natural resources. If we make it to that Age, these will be among Nature’s principles, conditions and criteria, conjoint with human moral choices, for determining who goes there.
What comes after the Age of Sustainability? If we can get to the Age of Sustainability, founded on such principles, conditions and criteria listed above, physically we may have a chance of evolutionary survival for as long as the life of the Sun, estimated to be somewhere between five to ten billion years. Beyond that, the answer lies with Nature.
How do you combat corporate greenwashing? Give us two examples please.
I define greenwashing to be deliberately deceptive PR through a superficial impression of “going green” to divert attention from identifying and addressing (through action) the source of the problem. Putting up a few solar panels or supporting or investing in some renewable energy projects, the costs of which are miniscule compared to the huge and highly profitable but environmentally destructive investments in nonrenewables, are some examples. Greenwashing is rampant, but not limited to corporations only. Look at most governmental environmental policies; treaties, accords and proclamations of high profile environmental conferences; and even personal lifestyles with a few feel-good “green” spots, but otherwise laden with over-consumption and wastefulness.
However, changes can begin with small steps. And small steps are not greenwashing if they are sincere first steps to open mindedly build upon as best as one can.
A multifaceted problem requires multifaceted action toward a solution. Massive public awareness/education and will for sustainability, equipped with political, technological and legal tools, are essential for combating greenwashing.
Is permaculture the current revolution? Are you in the dirt or in the tower?
It is a revolution, as is the renewable energy revolution, both integral partners of a more broad-based revolution toward sustainability. The answer lies in doing what we can in our own diverse contexts and ways and in the solidarity of unity through diversity toward a global revolution for sustainability.
Am I in the dirt or in the tower? We live in a fifth-floor apartment of a five-story urban building/tower. We don’t grow our own food (we have some herbal plants we use in our cooking) but buy organic food from a store that supports sustainable agriculture. On energy use, we try to combine conservation, efficiency and renewables. We have some solar cookers which we use fairly regularly. We have a small PV system which generates some of our electricity. We try to take Reduce-Reuse-Recycle seriously. As best as possible, we educate and support others in these and other sustainable practices. So, am I in the dirt or in the tower? We’re trying to resolve the dichotomy as best as we can. Ultimately, resolution of the dichotomy—both metaphorically and practically—will be one of the essential conditions of sustainability.
We are in a crisis of consciousness, yes? How do you re-train an American public hell-bent on falling off the cliff of self-centeredness, eco-apathy and suicidal capitalism?
I strive to live by Gandhi’s advice: “Be the example you want others to be.”
Indeed, there is a crisis of consciousness. But there is also another simultaneous crisis—a crisis of power among those who have the consciousness about the suicidal and unsustainable path we are on. Nothing is more frustrating than being aware of a problem but not being able to do something about it.
Powerlessness breeds denial, in turn, fueling self-centeredness, eco-apathy, and the need for pseudo-security by blind allegiance to the Powerful—no matter how exploitative, oppressive and eventually self-destructive that Power is. In my work, including my book, The Renewable Revolution (Earthscan 2011), therefore, I emphasize the critical importance of education for sustainability through learning about the many inspiring examples of applications of renewable energy technologies, while explaining a range of renewable energy technologies—with incredible diversity of types, range and scales—which have the revolutionary potential as the “Power to the People.”
Compare and contrast: George W. and Obama.
They speak for themselves.
Do you have a solution to the soon to abandoned cars and trucks as peak oil crumbles and burns our gasaholic freeway?
Your question is a timely warning about an impending crisis—which is also a symptom of an even greater crisis—with no freeway to drive away from it. Besides, we can go only so far running on empty. A solution in the foreseeable future borders on the impossible and time is of the essence. Yet, grounded in my awareness and appreciation for the multitude of actions—varying in contexts, designs and scales—that people are taking to make a transition to a sustainable path—and the practically untapped revolutionary potential of such actions to inspire more actions, I am still hopeful about the human innovative and creative ability to “turn swords into ploughshares” and wastelands into fertile lands. I emphasize, time is of the essence. Another reason for me to be hopeful is that our principal ally will be Nature, fueling the revolution!
Please share a poem with us!
I’m happy to share this poem I wrote in 2004. It’s in the same spirit of PlanetShifter Magazine and this interview (for which I thank you):
I predict there will be world peace
I predict every war monger of the past and present
will be tried for crimes against humanity and brought to justice
I predict truthfulness will replace lying as a moral value
I predict the world will be one and trying to sell passports and visas
will be considered illegal and anyone trying to sell one
will be subject to a free tour of the world for rehabilitation
I predict sunshine will be radiant and air will be cleaner
and water will be purer and rain will be fresher
and soil will be nontoxic and fertile
I predict there will be more slow food
I predict children will know their parents
and parents will know their children
I predict moonlight and romance will reunite and instigate love
I predict there’ll be rose bushes in the front yard and the backyard
and in the marshes and by the roadside
I predict weapons will be banned
I predict Native Americans will no longer live on Reservations or on occupied land
and all occupied lands anywhere will sing the song of liberation
I predict slavery will be abolished in all forms and everywhere—domestic or corporate
I predict conflicts will be resolved with the power of understanding, equality,
fairness and compassion
I predict some people will still pull punches
I predict all religions will be many paths home
I predict all colors will be cherished as the colors of the rainbow
I predict we’ll know our neighbors
I predict the Earth will be our shared home to care for together
I predict we’ll regain our sanity of wholeness
I predict humans will be humans and birds will be birds
and elephants will be elephants and ants will be ants
and earthworms will be earthworms and fish will be fish
and we’ll be all God’s creatures big and small
I predict there’ll still be some monkey business
I predict God will remain the essence of creation
I predict we’ll find God within each of our souls
I predict mutated grown-ups will relearn
the childlike wonder and delight at the mystery and marvel of the universe
I predict in our human hearts we’ll dance to the divine music of the stars
I predict our dreams will live on for a million years
I predict all this will come true—all we have to do
is to make it happen—
you and me!
— Sajed Kamal
Sajed Kamal, EdD Bio –
Sajed is an Adjunct Lecturer, teaches a weekend intensive workshop, “Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development,” during the fall. With more than thirty years of experience in the renewable energy field, he has been a lecturer and consultant internationally, setting up projects in the United States, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Armenia and El Salvador. His work has also provided the basis for projects in Latin America, Europe and Africa. He is also an award-winning poet, artist, educational consultant, psychotherapist, translator and published author of a dozen books and many articles in a wide range of areas.
In 2007, he was awarded Boston “Mayor’s First Annual Green Award for Community Leadership in Energy and Climate Protection” and in 2008, a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, New England Region. The “Greener Issue” of The Boston Sunday Globe Magazine on September 28, 2008, featured him as one of the “Six local heroes whose work is having rippling effects—at home and far away—in making the world a better place.” His most recent books are The Untapped Energy Mine: The Revolutionary Scope of Renewable Energy to Fight Climate Change, Revitalize the Economy and Gain Energy Independence for Bangladesh (Scholars Publishers, Bangladesh, July 2010) and The Renewable Revolution: How We Can Fight Climate Change, Prevent Energy Wars, Revitalize the Economy and Transition to a Sustainable Future (Earthscan, UK & USA, fall 2010).
Skamal at brandeis.edu