One can quibble with this thing or that in the essay, but its general thrust is in the right direction, indeed a necessary direction for our country and world. Reading it reminded me of a conversation I had in the early 1970s with Peter Berg, a founder of the Diggers in San Francisco, larger than life character, and early ecological visionary.
I was living in a commune in Portland, Maine at the time and Peter and his family were traveling the country in a makeshift truck across the country and Portland was a stop – a few months stop – on their journey. It wasn’t long before nor surprising that I and other communards in the High Street commune met him and his family soon after they arrived. In addition to sharing vegetarian dishes, home made beer, and pot, we had long conversations about the world. In one, he said to me, something like, “Webb, you Marxists speak of only class consciousness (and my concept was very narrowly constructed at the time). But that’s only one level of understanding. If we hope to create a better world, what is absolutely necessary is planetary consciousness (that is, ecological consciousness in today’s language).”
Even though it sounded a little cosmic to me at the time, I didn’t dismiss Peter’s remark out of hand. How could I? I was a novice to the world and politics in many ways. He on the other hand was older and seemed (and was) much wiser than me. So I took his observation more as advice than criticism. Moreover, I filed it in my memory and carried it with me over the years and decades.
Not long after that exchange, Peter and his family trucked out of town, I believe to Nova Scotia. Eventually, he returned to the Bay Area where he become a pioneer proponent of bio-regionalism and planetary sustainability. One of my great regrets is that I never saw Peter later on, even though I traveled to California frequently. Thus I never had the opportunity to tell Peter that he got the best of me in that conversation back in the 1970s.
It was only after I stepped down as the chair of the Communist Party in 2014 that I googled his name and I found out to my great regret that he died, but by some good fortune, while visiting Juan and Cassie Lopez in Oakland a little later, I came upon an announcement that an exhibition commemorating Peter and his ecological vision was on display at the San Francisco Library. I mentioned it to Juan and off we went to the exhibit of Peter’s life work and legacy. We had a well spent afternoon, to say the least. But I still kick myself (but not too hard for what purpose will that serve) for not contacting Peter while he was still living.