What’s the problem?


Each of us has our own list of the world’s most urgent problems. For some, a Fukushima Nuclear Nightmare tops it, but Runaway Climate Chaos is a big contender. Toxic Pollution of Air, Water and Land is another favorite, and Ocean Acidification is often cited as Global Warming’s twin. Deforestation and Loss of Biological Diversity take away our evolutionary resilience; Species Extinction takes us well past the canary in the coal mine analogy and threatens humanity’s survival. 

Or maybe it’s runaway Corporate Power and the Greed of Bankers and Fossil Fuel Industry Entrepreneurs. Surely it’s also Consumerism and the Growth Paradigm resulting from the continued worship of capitalism and globalization. Then there are Plantation Athletes—our college slaves—and the Mountains of Debt burdening our youth. The National Debt and Increasing the Debt Limit are paramount to some; how we manage Monetary Policy, Lead the Fed and Avoid a Government Shutdown is of highest importance to others. 

Many see the Privatization of Profit from Public Resources as the critical trend, while for those in the Occupy movement it was the country’s Gross Disparity in Wealth. Others see our Government Dysfunction as the main problem, including a Polarized Congress and Obstructionist Republicans wanting to bring down the executive branch. We have a Politicized Judiciary topped by a Supreme Court that no longer defends common people against the Injustices of the Elite. 

In the midst of all this, few of the liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights still exist. The First Amendment came under attack with the Patriot Act, with a chilling effect in the name of the War on Terror. The Second Amendment is front and center as gun control and “stand your ground” laws are a top priority for many. The Fourth Amendment against unlawful search and seizure is under attack with drones, the National Security Administration and the Border Patrol spying on and criminalizing entire classes of people.  

With suspected terrorists subject to Surveillance and Indefinite Detention, our Fifth Amendment has also been shredded. And in its efforts to crush dissent and silence whistleblowers, our government uses secret evidence and witnesses, and even employs secret laws and assassination by drone, showing complete disregard for the Sixth Amendment.  

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, but tell that to Chelsea Manning and the Awlaki family. The Ninth Amendment provides that people have other rights not specifically listed in the Constitution; but by working hand-in-glove with Giant Corporations to defraud us into paying for a lower quality of life, promoting GMO’s and Factory Farming, our government is trampling our basic rights as human beings. Mass Incarcerations in the War on Drugs is an abuse of police powers that institutionalizes Racial and Cultural Discrimination.

“Military might makes right,” some say, as Syria’s Chemical Weapons, Israeli Apartheid, Egyptian Military Rule and the CIA’s Drug Dealing in Afghanistan and Columbia keep us in Perpetual War. Some see Europe’s Economic Austerity or the U.S. dollar Losing its World Currency Status as the big threats to both Americans and the global economy.  

Other are convinced that Fossil Fuel Mania, Fracking, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Koch brothers are the biggest problems we face. Although most people believe renewable energy will save the planet, others blame our lack of proper Cost Accounting or the lack of a Carbon Tax when it comes to energy policy. Others believe Water Wars over massive diversion rights to that life-giving resource will even eclipse our Peak Oil conundrum. 

Still unmentioned is our Violence-Obsessed Media and Cruelty to Minimum Wage and Non-Unionized Workers and Industrially Farmed Animals. Personal Gain, Conquest and Modern Development in the name of progress are hallmarks of our culture. With exponentially growing complexity that requires ever more energy, we may be certain that all this insanity will come to an end. 

Arundhati Roy wrote, “Trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.” 

I see it, and I readily acknowledge my complicity. My generation’s legacy is a world depleted of resources, ruined by empires and ruled by fascism masquerading as democracy. Big Energy poisons our water and air. Big Ag controls our seeds and food. Big Pharma controls our behavior. Wall Street controls the flow of money. Big Ad controls the messages we receive. The rich get richer through criminal acts. And through it all, we believe we’re free. 

What do you think is the core problem of our time? Carl Sagan said that it is “far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” For us, denial is no longer an option.


Bernie Stephan is an Inverness resident and the Broker of Eco Realty. He co-hosts KWMR’s Post Carbon Radio and blogs at MarinSonoma.com.