Diagrams of social systems

One of my goals as a photographer is to tell stories, as in photojournalism. I actually wrote a few blog posts about a photo and 1,000 words 1 photo : 1,000 words I’ve found it helpful to ask myself what story I am trying to tell when taking certain photos.

But it is actually some diagrams I’ve been working on that I hope might be worth 1,000 words. Or at least help explain things visually that are difficult to express in words.

Quakers, including myself, often feel led to do various types of peace or justice work. The reason “led” is commonly used is because Quakers try to discern what the Spirit or God is asking them to do during our silent meetings for worship.

Over the course of my life I have felt the Spirit was asking me to do a series of things. Although I didn’t always realize it at the time, each step was built on the preceding steps. Growing up on a farm made me appreciate nature. Family camping trips did, too. Being required to register for the draft at 18 years of age made me search deeply into the conflict between church and state, as well as the idea of killing another person in any circumstance, leading me to be a draft resister. Moving to Indianapolis at 20 years of age, prior to catalytic converters, the clouds of noxious smog and the vision of that obscuring my beloved Rocky Mountains, led me to live without a car.

Thus I was sensitized to our evolving environmental disaster. My work as a research scientist meant I could visualize the damage greenhouse gas emissions were causing. I saw many ways the extractive, capitalistic system was dramatically accelerating damage to our environment. This was obviously an unsustainable situation.

I was alarmed, and knew we had to curb the use of fossil fuels. This became a life long contention with Quakers most of whom I felt were not making necessary changes in their lives.

This led me to look for people and cultures that did live sustainably, which led to indigenous cultures. It took seeking out opportunities to learn about and get to know some native peoples, but I was blessed to have found, to have been led to, opportunities to do so. I believe it is essential to spend significant amounts of time, to develop friendships with those who are in need or oppressed. That is necessary because such communities must first get to know and trust you before you can work together.

The most significant experience I had along these lines was walking with around thirty native and non-native people on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. In that small group four of us were Quakers or connected with Quakers. As the name implies, the idea was for people of these two cultures to spend enough time together to get to know each other, so we could work together on things of common interest and concern. Walking, eating and camping together for 8 days as we walked 94 miles along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline in central Iowa, sharing the physical strains and joys, good friendships were made. Many blog posts and photos from that experience can be found here: https://firstnationfarmer.com/ I appreciated it when I heard someone express it as our sacred journey. Since that March in September, 2018, friendships have deepened and work together has indeed happened and continues.

There was one thing I was led to do during the March that was very uncomfortable. I needed to tell my new friends I was aware of the tragic history of Quakers and the Indian Boarding Schools. Some of what I wrote about that is on the March website https://firstnationfarmer.com/ We could not have developed honest relationships if a history of this magnitude was not dealt with. As I try to show in these diagrams we are finally getting to, spirituality is an important part.

It looks like I’ve used 1,000 words already. But I hope this background will help explain these diagrams. Or rather, hope the diagrams help explain the preceding better.

I hope this is mainly self explanatory. I’ve been learning more about the Doctrine of Discovery, that White people used to take native lands. As I mentioned above, I’ve been learning more about the awful history of the Indian boarding schools that attempted to forcibly assimilate native children into White culture. What I hadn’t known was how this deep trauma was passed from generation to generation and has been described as an open wound today.

The other thing I was ignorant about was the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW). That is directly related to the man camps of those working on fossil fuel pipelines.

Capitalism is, of course, the engine driving the fossil fuel industry.

It seems to me the path to dealing with our accelerating environmental chaos is to find ways to move toward indigenous environmental and spiritual ways.

Capitalism as the root cause of so much of this led me to work on another diagram.

Capitalism is the process by which those fortunate enough to have work are paid money for their financial needs, or partly meeting those needs. Others rely on social safety nets like Medicare, food stamps, etc. The pandemic has created major problems with this system. As is environmental chaos, which will only worsen.

I realized the CAPITALISM in the first graph is expressed in the second graph. Combining those resulted in this diagram. This diagram is hard to read. You can download a better version of it here: https://1drv.ms/u/s!Avb9bFhezZpPipwzk2g47jaB9Z8goA


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