A Paradigm Shift is Needed

The Land Stewardship Project board of directors has recently adopted a statement on climate change to help guide the organization as we move forward. As a member of LSP’s board, I am glad we have developed this statement, which can be seen here. This work and some changes in my family’s life—we recently moved to rural Panama, Central America, where we have started a very small farm—have prompted me to think about how consumerism and our individual actions effect climate change and consequently, people around the world.

Here in Panama, for example, the effects of climate change are already impacting the lives of the indigenous Guna of San Blas, who have traditionally lived on the islands off the northern coast of Panama—more accurately they were pushed from the forests near Colombia to the northern coast of Panama after resisting the Spanish conquest. Some of the lowest-lying islands they have inhabited have seen raising seas and tides that have caused frequent flooding, forcing them to move from their islands to the mainland. While most of us may not see tides lapping at our doorsteps as some of the Guna have, we all need to start to rethink our relationship with consumerism and the natural world.

We need, in my opinion, a paradigm shift from consumption and competition to one of stewardship and cooperation. Articles and studies have shown that the things we consume are currently providing up to 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Chances are also high that the products that contribute most to climate change are also contributing to other negative outcomes like excessive corporate power, poor labor conditions and many other injustices.

But how do we break free from a such a strong consumer culture and work to change the paradigm? Certainly supporting LSP and paying your dues is a good start, but where do we go from here? In a culture entrenched in the values of consumerism, it is hard to connect the impact daily activities like online shopping can have on the planet—but we must begin to question our each and every action, because all actions leave a footprint somewhere.

I raise this question because I believe it is people like us, LSPers, who need to be leaders on this front if we hope to have clean air and water, as well as healthy soil and a climate that resembles what we have come to know as “normal.” We as individuals (and organizations like LSP) need to rethink our consumption patterns and use of fossil fuels. We need to realize all of our actions have a global impact, and learn how to become global stewards.

LSP board member Charlie Kersey lives and farms in Panama with his family. You can read the "LSP Board of Directors Policy Statement on Climate Change, Agriculture & Energy" here.