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Bill Moyers on the Evils of Hyenas and Consumerism

Byline: Marcie Hale

Marcie Hale, who works in support of Liberty Hill’s environmental justice efforts, is our newest blogger.

On Monday, June 14th, the Environmental Grantmakers Association along with other funders hosted a webinar with Bill Moyers, Annie Leonard and James Gus Speth, titled “Reform, Reframe, and Revive”.  These three scholars brought back to funders the message that after 40 years, the Environmental Movement has failed to save the planet. We have failed because the Movement seeks to make changes within an inherently flawed system instead of creating a whole new system.

Gus Speth framed this discussion within the political economy, whose markets, technology and corporations contribute to rampant consumerism and economic growth beyond the bounds of planetary limits. Any changes made to this system, whether higher industry pollution standards or more stringent regulations, will be undermined by the system itself that prioritizes production and consumption above all else.

Annie Leonard of Story of Stuff-fame casts economic growth as a poor measurement of human progress and noted that growth in GDP can actually undermine quality of life. Annie called on funders to support activism around using less stuff versus better stuff. In other words, fair trade, recyclable goods are less socially and ecologically harmful than their traditional counterparts, but they still leave a footprint that can be reduced by simply buying less stuff. In addition, funders can create the emergence of a new system by supporting groups that talk about the environment and consumerism in a culturally-relevant manner. In educating and empowering people, Annie hopes that the consumer identity that has taken over the United States can be replaced with a civic identity that supports people and ecosystems over stuff.

Award winning journalist Bill Moyers shared his personal thoughts on the matter with us. Moyers lamented that based on the current state of things he doubts the impact of his life’s work.  Moyers sees a society being led by Social Darwinians that inherently cripples systemic change. To illustrate this point, Moyers talked about the Principles of Ray Dalio founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. Among Dalio’s principles for success is accepting that some people are hyenas and others are wildebeest. Hyenas should not feel guilty about feeding on wildebeest as it is the nature of life. Through this story, Moyers exemplified the meme that supports the system in which the environment and human quality of life is waning – the meme that usurps people and the environment from the heart of existence and puts in their place power through production and consumption. 

For almost 40 years, Liberty Hill has been working on the frontlines of change, supporting the emergence of a new meme that has at its center the inherent value of people. Liberty Hill has long been a funder of organizations that Annie would be proud of, groups that educate and empower communities to move into their civic identities. We are all part of this shift but it is the generosity of our donors that make the work possible. Thank you for being a part of Liberty Hill

To read more about the great work of these scholars and activists, see the links below:

Bill Moyer: http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/M/htmlM/moyersbill/moyersbill.htm

James Gustav (Gus) Speth: http://www.thebridgeattheedgeoftheworld.com/

Annie Leonard: www.storyofstuff.com/

And for more on Ray Dalio and Bridgewater Associates:

http://dealbreaker.com/2010/05/bridgewater-associates-be-the-hyena-attack-the-wildebeest/

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