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Joseph Seti

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Are we prepared if the more ambitious initiatives of activist organizations succeed?

For example, there are many activist organizations lobbying for an end to Monsanto and industrial farming; especially the use of GMOs. If, in a perfect world, they succeeded, the demand for Organic produce and products would increase exponentially. In this instance, are there producers (organic farms), outlets (organic grocers and farmers markets), & organic waste management organizations (a specialized type of waste management), in place or readily made available to support said demand? How ready are we for change on such a massive scale?

Should such an ambitious cause succeed, are the activist organizations, or their benefactors ensuring the necessary substructures and resources are developed to support and sustain the resulting construct? Or will we rely on them to develop organically?

I am certain there are many other ambitious causes being lobbied for that this same question applies to. Can you name any? And are they prepared for success?

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  • Dec 12 2011: Most activist organizations are not able to prepare society for their success. It is not their job nor their mission. What is best for people and society is what occurs when there are opposing forces pulling in opposite directions to create something that looks like sanity and stability. Societies are not stagnant or static. They never ever remain still. If the activist organizations that exist within a society help maintain the societies' balance then they will have succeeded.

    Industrial agriculture has gotten too big. It has become too powerful and has introduced genetic materials into the food supply that are of dubious value if not potentially overtly bad for us. The push back could allow us to regain more local production, smaller scale and allow for more diversity in our food supply and less dependance on petrochemicals for production and distribution. This does not mean an overnight removal of agribusiness or an overnight halt to this type of food production. It is a necessary and somewhat "natural" pushback.
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      Dec 12 2011: Hi Sharon, and thank you for chiming in on this TED Conversation. I hope my tone is not defensive or offensive. The last thing I want to do is offend you for providing your input. I will have to post this as two replies:
      (Part 1) In response, my thoughts are that “opposing forces pulling in opposite directions to create something that looks like sanity and stability” is what happens organically and evolves over time. I believe there is immediate (overnight) fallout when a far-reaching initiative succeeds, which requires large scale preparation, in advance.
      I agree that it may not be the ‘mission’ of an activist organization to effort preparing society for their success; but I believe it is their duty. We are talking about ambitious activist initiatives, like OWS and the Agri-war. The most appropriate analogy would be: if a person lights a fire in the forest, though they cannot ‘prevent’ the fire from spreading into and consuming the forest, they have a duty to make an effort of clearing flammable material to a reasonably safe distance from the fire, and being as prepared as possible if the fire gets out of hand. The truly ambitious activist organizations are trying to light very big fires. Though they cannot fully prepare society, I believe they have a duty to take measures to prepare society for the brunt of the fallout.
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      Dec 12 2011: (Part 2) Since it is paramount to me, I will use the Agri-war as my analogy.
      For your consideration: if the war on GMOs was won tomorrow, the public would become aware of the potential dangers of GMOs and insist on labeling, which would lead to the public discovering that GMOs, via Corn and High Fructose Corn Syrup is in virtually all processed foods, and is fed to cattle thereby making its way into the general food supply. This could, and I believe would, lead to a national demand for certified organic foods (virtually overnight). Are we prepared?
      Another potential effect would be that since the entire US Canola crop is contaminated by GMOs, it would be necessary to import non-GMO Canola. Importing would be necessary until the entire US Canola crop has been harvested. The GMO Canola could not be phased out over a period of time. It would have to be destroyed in a single season to prevent cross-pollination with any non-GMO Canola being planted the next season. This would drive up the price of Canola which would have an impact across the entire food industry. Also, US Canola Farmers would need to be subsidized for slashing and burning the entire season’s crop. The same would be true for the four major US crops: Canola, Corn, Soy Beans and Cotton; along with other smaller crops.
      Applicable to both OWS and the Agri-war, I believe it is the duty of the activist organizations to have at least drafted policies, regulations and strategies in the event of their success.
      This is my belief. Thank you for sharing yours.
      • Dec 13 2011: Joel
        I think I have to agree with you in the sense that they "ought to know where they going with all this." The key here I believe is that a society or culture has to be energized about the idea. Whatever the group feels really deeply about has to capture the imagination of the culture. If that doesn't happen, then structures will not change. Structure follows values and mental models of the world. It takes a true shift in values for structural changes to take place. Most of the time in history those kinds of shifts have taken time. Let me say though they do happen.
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          Dec 14 2011: I agree fully with you point that society has to be energized about the idea. “Culture” is what forms a society; like a corporation’s success or failure is necessarily based on the culture it creates OR allows to be created. A corporate culture is always being created and changing, but the question is, is the corporation driving it, or is it driving the corporation. I guess that is some of my point. Is the OWS movement’s culture being driven by a clear message and solid leadership (polarizing and galvanizing society), or is the movement driving itself, with informal leaders on multiple fronts? I would be very interested in your opinions on the culture OWS is creating, or allowing to be created; who is in the driver’s seat? And how is it “energizing” society?
      • Dec 13 2011: R. Joel, I respect your beleif as I try to respect all beliefs. And I would hope that people involved in activist groups would think through the potential fall outs both good and bad of their actions. I would love to address OWS, but I will stick to your topic. yes, the groups should indeed think through ALL of the what ifs. Including the potential impact of failure, as sometimes overreach can be as damaging to a movement as the opposition.

        In the arena of GMOs I don't think anything would happen nearly as rapidly as you intimate. Other countries have a much larger awareness of GMOs. I suspect the awareness to action would be much much slower as people do not shift paradigms on such issues easily or readily. I think it will be a slow movement from awareness to them demanding levels of action such as labeling to removal. Please understand I am a heritage seed saver and trader. This is an area that I am probably more informed than your average consumer and I still think the change would be slow no matter how successful the activists were. There need to be those who demand much for even a little progress to be made. Having farmers slash and burn food crops is simply not going to happen no matter what. You would have to prove inctrontrovertibly that eating the crop would lead to instant death. Anything longer term would not convince people to do anything so drastic.

        The current state of law regarding cross-pollination is a horror and needs to be addressed rapidly. But, even that would not goad slash and burn responses. I do wish you success.
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          Dec 14 2011: Sharon. You make a great point about the potential impact of failure; overreaching and its consequences. This also makes me think of how society may be affected by the failure on the activist’s side, which necessarily means a victory for the corporation. How will the victor use their victory? And are we prepared for that; does the corporation have plans in place? Great point.
          I fully respect and applaud you for being a seed saver. And thank you for wishing success in this TED conversation. I am learning a lot.
          As far as a ban on GMO seed and a possible nationwide slash and burn response, I did see something in the news about this approach in Hungary at http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_23658.cfm.
      • Dec 15 2011: We are constantly creating and recreating culture. One of the things I am saying is that to be successful, movements have to change or use the larger cultural stories that capture the imagination of people. We use stories, rituals, and practice to keep the culture together. The answers to the questions Who are we", Where are we? What is the problem? And What is the solution, have to always be answered and re-answered.

        OWS has to this point, found many sympathizers, but has not captured the imagination of people to make them really see that our national and even internationally shared stories about who we are are being hijacked by others. As to who is in the driver's seat, and who is "running the movement" I am not sure. Is it being driven at this point by just a frustration with what they see as injustice? I think it is.

        I noticed in the news today that several prominent black clergy have identified themselves with the movement and are saying look, this economic injustice is hurting blacks. Rather than think of a pre-emption of the movement here, think of this. Many people can understand THAT story. They can also identify clearly with the problem. Now, it is going to take many events, some like the UC incident with the pepper spray, the violent removal of people from peaceful protests, to really make some people see, wait, that could be me. Then they might be able to say wait that is me. If we get to that point. If any movement gets to that point, there is a chance for true cultural change.

        You don't change societies, by changing structures, but by changing worldviews: stories, practices, rituals, and answers to "what is the problem?" (Edit) There is mostly agreement on what the problem is here and in the movement. I would only say mostly. There is little agreement at this point on the solutions. (For example, closing all the banks is not really a solution.) That is where we have to dig deep into cultural stories and practices.
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          Dec 15 2011: Hi Michael. Thanks for the reply and the Thumbs Up.

          I think what you have to say goes back to the original question, which could be put “is resolving the problem the same as having solutions.”

          I agree that OWS has not captured the imagination of the people. And I see you agree that there is still no clear leadership or clear message (mandate). Many causes seem to be piggy-backing on OWS with their own agenda, further adding to the quagmire.

          You’re right, it is more a feeling of injustice and inequity driving the movement. Unfortunately we can’t change policies and regulations with just the feeling they should change. We need to put pressure on our congressmen and the president, but again, we are fighting on too many fronts to send a clear message other than “we want change!” They are too caught up with their top 3% donators’ agendas to take “the RIGHT actions” out of a sense of ethics (the right thing to do). And without a clear message from OWS, change will happen, but will it be the change we feel we want.

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