Two events marked the lives of a Palo Alto couple, Burt and Marjorie Liebert, who are familar faces at Transition meetings and film series. First, the Lieberts just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Secondly, they published a novel, Out of the Cage, which reflects their long-time interest in sustainability and social justice. Not by chance, it also expresses the values of the Transition Movement.
On Thursday, October 28, Burt and Marjorie hosted a discussion based on the book. The free event, sponsored by World Centric, The Humanist Community, and Transition Palo Alto, took place at World Centric in Palo Alto.
Burt dramatically presented the case for a new society, after explaining how our thinking can trap us in old ideas (using the metaphor of a “cage”). A little bit of awareness, and we can suddenly see new possibilities.
He described the current situation, in which, for example, we still rely on fossil fuels even though many understand the consequences. Energy use is still rising in the US and especially in developing countries.
Green technologies are touted by many but hold limited promise. They require a lot of materials and energy, and the big alternative sources of electricity are weather-dependent (varying with sun and wind). They are not a magic solution.
Burt argued that human culture no longer sustains us. Seemingly beyond our collective control, prosperity is depleting resources and changing the climate.
He presented four scenarios for our future:
- “Saved!” by a miraculous scientific breakthrough
- “Out with a whimper”: we continue to use up the earth’s resources, eventually dieing off from starvation or disease until the global population is much smaller
- “Out with a bang”: we suffer continual catastrophes, mass migrations, and wars over the remaining resources
- “Out of the cage”: we transform our society for sustainability, living lightly and requiring much less energy
In Out of the Cage, the population of the fictional nation of Civitas chose the fourth scenario. The novel describes in some detail how they remade their culture, and their political and economic system, for a sustainable (and definitely modern) existence. Their level of consumption is certainly different than ours; Civitans know that beyond a certain level of comfort, greater happiness does not come from more possessions. The solution involves changing the way we think, not sacrifice and suffering.
A key is to realize that we don’t own the earth, we only lease it from our children. Burt appealed to his audience, Let us put our human energies into the most constructive activities possible, not let the economy decide for us.
(For Transition, Burt compiled a list of a few interesting books.)
Out of the Cage: Cooling a Warming Planet
by Burt and Marjorie Liebert
Out of the Cage is a creative story of modern pioneers who set out to build a new society called Civitas, dedicated to establishing a more viable political, economic, and social system. Their goals are to eliminate global warming, relegate war to “a curious footnote in the history books,” and establish a new concept of human fellowship.
Through narrative, Out of the Cage suggests a pathway for you and me to build a more cooperative, ecologically sustainable world.
The book can be purchased from the Lieberts or from online bookstores. Contact Burt at burtmargie AT att DOT net