Beyond Gloom and Doom

April 1, 2023 | Ronnie Cummins

Organic Consumers Association

Click here for an audio version of this article on Substack.

Like most of you, we at OCA and Regeneration International are sick and tired of gloom and doom, false promises, and authoritarian/technocratic schemes. We’ve had enough of the mad science, genetic engineering, war-mongering, fear-mongering, political corruption, corporate greed, cancel culture, and media censorship. We’re tired of political posturing and sectarianism (“my issue or my constituency is more important than your issue or your constituency”). We’re done with name-calling and yelling at one another instead of sitting down and figuring out how we, the 99%, can move forward on real solutions for the U.S. and the world’s most pressing and dangerous crises—while agreeing to disagree on many of the secondary issues that will likely still divide us for the foreseeable future.

I like to call this ecumenical approach ’21st Century Populism,’ even though the liberal and conservative Establishment want us to believe that grassroots populism is a dirty word, a synonym for intolerance and unlettered ignorance. But as Thomas Frank points out in his 2020 book, The People No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, nearly everything we hear about populism in the mass media is wrong. For many, “populism” is seen as a frightening thing, a term pundits use to describe the racist statements of politicians such as Donald Trump and European extremists.

But Populism, historically as a 19th and 20th Century pro-democracy and class-conscious Movement of farmers and workers, and currently as a guide for grassroots organizing and Movement building, actually involves starting from where ordinary people are at, instead of where they wish they were at. True populism means building up trust and achieving consensus, starting at the personal, community, and grassroots level. Populism means focusing in on the crucial economic and survival issues that must be dealt with now.

In America we’re not going to survive, much less thrive, unless we start to bring together our diverse, and currently divided communities, urban and rural, minority and white, working class and middle-class, young and old alike. You don’t have to love everyone in the new coalition we need, you just need to cultivate multi-cultural, multi-class tolerance and respect, common sense, and an essential belief in free speech and constitutional free choice and liberty. We don’t have to agree on everything, we just need to break down the walls and issue silos that divide us and focus our efforts on popularizing and implementing the essential solutions that we all, the diverse 99%, need to survive and thrive.

For the next few months, while still exposing the evildoers, we’re going to try to focus more on positive solutions, a sort of Populist Roadmap for our ailing body politic and our shattered democracy. Instead of endlessly reporting on the bad news, we’ll focus more on the best practices of natural health, food as medicine, climate solutions, environmental restoration, peace, disarmament, and justice. We’ll point to current Regenerative best practices that need to be scaled up, and highlight policies that can potentially unite a critical mass of the body politic: liberals and conservatives, libertarians and radicals, independents, and yes, populists.

A Populist Cure for the Climate Crisis: Regeneration

For a start let’s stop pontificating and arguing in the abstract about our current environmental and climate crisis. We’re not going to completely abolish fossil fuel use in the time frame we have left to avoid runaway global warming. However, there is a practical, shovel-ready way to not only mitigate the climate crisis, and restore our polluted environment, but also to improve most working class and rural people’s livelihoods and actually reverse global warming.

Our prescribed cure for the climate crisis is to combine organic and regenerative food, farming, and land-use with a gradual but steady movement toward alternative sources of energy and energy conservation. According to the real world data and real world best practices which inspire OCA and Regeneration International, fossil fuel emissions can be (and likely will be) reduced by 50% over the next 10 years, while enhanced plant and forest photosynthesis and natural carbon drawdown and sequestration in soils and biota, have the potential to cancel out the remaining 50%. We don’t need fossil fuels and atomic energy in the long run, but it’s going to take us a while (10-20 years) to phase them out.

Regenerative and organic food, farming, and land use, as we’ve seen from our organizing over the past decade, have a very broad appeal. Regenerative practices, properly framed, can appeal to both cowboys and Indians; farmers, ranchers, and consumers; (most) Republicans, Democrats, Greens, and Independents; urban and rural conservationists; young climate and food activists; and even ethically-minded businesses and investors.

Here’s the last chapter in my recent book, Grassroots Rising, where I offer up a populist roadmap for 2020-2030, designed to reverse the climate crisis and revitalize American democracy.

Here’s a recent essay where I talk about how we can fund this Regeneration Revolution.