Monday, September 18, 2017

Living within reality v living outside of it - as if this is a choice

That was the thought that popped into my brain after I read this AP story this morning:

US coastal growth continues despite lessons of past storms 

GOES-East image of Maria
Here comes Maria - NASA satellite image

This is denialism in the extreme - and I don't just mean the climate science deniers. I mean all of us who continue to live outside the reality of it, which is most of us in this capitalist consumer world of ours.

Everyone who believes that they can live beyond the biocapacity of the Earth and still have a habitable planet, everyone who resists seeing clearly that those who live outside the margins of what is sustainable in a regenerative sense for the ecosystems of the Earth is in denial.

The economic system, the institutions that are co-dependent with it (including cultural, religious, academic, political, financial, social, etc.), the lifestyles we live that support it, the aspirations we have that can only be reached within that system - all of that is cloaked in the mantel of denial, denial that the Earth itself cannot support it any longer and is already in the process of numerous manifestations of collapse.

The choice is inescapable, and so the resistance (especially among the supposedly knowledge-based economic and scientific cultures) is fairly stupefying the more obvious the crisis becomes:
We will either live within the limits of reality, or we will crash our world and reality will force what remains back inside those limits.
That's it. That's where we are. And the more it is said out loud, the more we squirm and wish the planet would stop insisting on this truth.

I read this stuff all the time - the studies, the reports, the data that show how impossible this has all become. We need 1.6 planets to continue as we are - but we aren't continuing "as we are." We are going to add 2-3 billion more humans to the planet by 2050, a planet that is seeing rapid depletion in all the most basic things we need for life, especially arable land and water.

However, we are not just talking about the most basic things of life. We are talking about high-rise buildings and industry and housing developments and air conditioning on an increasingly hotter planet and smart phones and SUVs and pickup trucks and giant sports stadiums and arenas and mining for the planet's last remaining minerals and metals and pipelines for oil, gas, water, and sewage and more concrete to twice the amount of concrete used over the past two centuries and on and on. How?!

Reality, my friends, not fantasy. We don't get to live in a fantasy world. No matter how hard we try, reality smacks us in the face - in Southeast Texas and Florida, and in the burning forests of the northwest and around Los Angeles, in the 106 degrees in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago and temperatures in the 70s in Milwaukee last February and Chicago's snowless winter. Millions of ticks are spreading throughout the nation carrying deadly or crippling diseases, a tiny insect raging through all those comforting fantasies.

From Forbes: "The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050... How do we expect to feed that many people while we exhaust the resources that remain?"
"...large corporations are able to continue engaging in increasingly environmentally exploitative behaviour by obscuring the link between endless economic growth and worsening environmental destruction." ~ Professors Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, in their book,  Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations, as quoted in the Forbes article.
And that, my friends, is a terrific summary statement of the foundational fantasy of our time.

By the way, this is the Forbes article, Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050. It's from Feb 2016. Didn't have much impact, did it...

Now here's the thing - my own thing. I actually do not want to depress you or anyone else. Instead, I would like to see humans dig deep to find out some deeper meaning in life than this economic world that has created this false reality, the one that has separated us from what Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ, liberation theologian from El Salvador, used to call "real reality."

Complexity of life - Lake Michigan shore
Real reality - that we can't keep extracting from the Earth more than it can replenish with the abundance and complexity of living forms that hold the Web of Life together, that we can't keep spewing more waste into her atmosphere and biosphere than she can absorb, that we can't keep shredding natural habitats and think life will somehow survive.

From Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute:
Downsizing the world’s energy supplies would, effectively, also downsize industrial processes of resource extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and waste management. That’s a systemic intervention, of exactly the kind called for by the ecologists of the 1970s who coined the mantra, “Reduce, reuse, and recycle.” It gets to the heart of the overshoot dilemma—as does population stabilization and reduction, another necessary strategy. But it’s also a notion to which technocrats, industrialists, and investors are virulently allergic...

Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior. Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well. We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment. We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.

~ Museletter #303: Climate Change Isn't our Biggest Environmental Problem, and Why Technology Won't Save Us
Honesty and soul-searching.

You see, our situation is not hopeless, even if we are headed for a very painful transition. It is only hopeless if we cling to what is breaking down our world. It is only hopeless if we try to preserve the fantasy. Once we let that go, things become clear, what we have to do, and even more, who we have to become.

If the fantasy had brought happiness and joy for everyone, seeing this would be difficult. But when we look at the world and see the pain, the suffering, the anger and depression, the violence in our streets, our homes, our world, the hunger, the hatred, the resurgent tribalism, the inequality, the loss of soul - you have to wonder why it is so hard to rid ourselves of this economic paradigm and reach into something deeper, more meaningful, more worthy of the dignity of the human spirit.

This work, this project to wrest ourselves from the crisis of inevitable collapse - now that is a journey more worthy of us. And that is the challenge we face now - to claim lives of far deeper meaning than the one that has consumed our world, being at the service of global corporate powers that are the real energy behind the loss of hope.

Photo: M Swedish
Living in reality rather than trying to continually prop up a fantasy world will release a tremendous amount of creative energy. Rather than trying to fit into the world constructed for us by western capitalism, waiting for them to create the jobs they need and then playing our roles as consumers of their profit-making goods, we use our best gifts and talents to live in the real world itself, to create new ways of life out of the economies of the local communities where we live, communities that include the other sentient and non-sentient beings that make up the habitats in which we dwell. The point of these economies then becomes no longer profits for corporations and investors, but rich and abundant life for all.

Yes, it will be shattering to many of the myths and fantasies that have supported our sense of self and purpose. But they are collapsing in any case, so it's time to find a new vision for the human journey. This one hasn't worked out very well. It's time to have the courage to face the emptiness of this economic path, to release ourselves from its addictive powers, to journey back into relationship with the planet, into its reality, the one from which we emerged and on which we are completely dependent. Maybe by doing that we can begin to discover (or rediscover) the sense of a deeper meaning and purpose in our lives, and thereby bring about a rebirth of the human species.

We have to. We have no other choice - if we want to keep living here.

~ Margaret Swedish 

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Monday, September 4, 2017

We need some real moral courage now

Where will it come from?

Let's spend a little time assessing the situation. I know this can often amount to overload, but at some point we have to be willing to receive into our heads and hearts the full scope of the turbulent changes underway in order to appreciate the scope of the changes required of us now, with urgency. After all, we are already feeling them in our bodies and psyches, which react to all sorts of trauma with stress, anxiety, fear, and profound disorientation as our familiar world becomes increasingly unfamiliar.

I will do this by way of a couple of overarching themes that point to the gravity of the moment, the larger picture that we could fill in with any number of other crises - war and threats of war, racism and segregation, retreat into tribalism and religious fundamentalism, and other social realities - like addiction, gun violence, the rise of armed, organized militias - exacerbating that crisis. The list is long, and much of this is symptom, not cause, of our predicament. We are a population operating under extreme stress (as is much of the world), but largely unable to articulate the true causes of that stress. "Blame the other" has become the convenient way of coping in a culture that has never understood well the dynamics of the global economy, the breakdown of ecosystems or how they work, and how religion is often a force of social control rather than insight, wisdom, and liberation.

Friday, August 25, 2017

35 inches of rain - and an eclipse

Having trouble taking that in - 35 inches of rain? I am. Hard to comprehend. Hard to comprehend what it means to major population areas. Add to that high winds and a 12-ft storm surge. Add to that the possibility that barrier islands may be inundated. And then that the rain will go on for days.

I'm watching the Weather Channel this early morning. I know they tend to over-dramatize weather, but they are reading statements from the National Weather Service that are about as dire as anything I've ever heard.

Hurricane Katrina struck land as a category 1 storm. This will hit the Texas coast as a category 3.

A disaster like this does not end when the winds calm and the sun returns. A disaster like this destroys in ways that take years for communities to recover. Some of the outcomes will be permanent. Millions of lives could be upended.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The summer of our discontent, and the coming eclipse

Discontent abounds now in our fragmenting culture. I'm going in to a bit of a quiet mode for a week or two, reassessing what we're doing under the umbrella of this little non-profit. How to focus in the time of "the Great Unraveling" when our non-profit's financial resources are scarce, and when many people are bewildered, anxious, fearful, most of us having no clue about that comes next.

We are in crisis. Some media people are trying to tell us that. This isn't "chicken little" time. The sky really is falling.

Good time for a total eclipse.

Monday, August 7, 2017

We are water - which is good news and bad news

On Sunday (Aug 6th) I attended the annual "We Are Water" event on a Lake Michigan beach just north of downtown Milwaukee, hosted by the Milwaukee Water Commons. There are many things I love about this event. It is a beautiful combination of inspiration, education, spirituality, ecology, and ritual. It is centered on our relationship with the Great Lakes - not theoretically or romantically, but deeply, materially, in the sense that we share a common fate.

Humans have not taken very good care of this lake, or most of the others. Only Lake Superior remains fairly pristine, but it is also threatened with more coastal development, oil pipelines, and huge tanker ships carrying dangerous materials.

The world's largest fresh water "resource," as some think of them, it is a water system unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

So it is sometimes hard to believe that humans could mess them up so, threaten their future. Well, if we can do it to the oceans - and we are - we can certainly do it to the inland freshwater lakes.

Friday, July 28, 2017

We are unraveling... so now what?

It's hard to know what to write after a political week like this one. I write on ecology and spirituality. I write about the nexus between culture and ecology, how the health of the latter depends on the health of the former - and the former seems pathologically ill. I offer workshops on environmental justice, on the "new" story presented to us by scientific discovery, on the importance of humans re-finding their connections with the eco-communities that give us life and maintain them, before we shred them to pieces.

I speak and write on the role of beauty and awe in the human psyche, threatened now by small screens and endless internet connectivity and a consumer culture that has us saturated with things and pleasures and conveniences, all brought to us by massive destruction of forests, waters, farmland, and more.

And then we have a political week like this one and I know some of us think, why bother? Collapse of this culture, this western way of life, this economic system, is well underway with a seemingly unstoppable and accelerating momentum.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"the ending of the old and the beginning of the new"

The reality of the present moment contains both of these aspects: the ending of the old and the beginning of the new. What's challenging is that the beginning of the new is not that loud, it's not that manifest, it's not as tangible as what we already know. So what is required of us is a deeper quality of listening, of paying attention to the more subtle aspects of our experience, and of connecting with the sources of stillness. This is an experience that must happen not only on the individual level, but also on the collective level.

~ Dr. C. Otto Scharmer, from an interview with Annmarie Sanders, IHM, communications director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religous (LCWR)*

Crumbling of the old...
Shhhh, can you hear it? The big sound, the enormous noise, is that of the old world ending, the old paradigm of western culture going back a few centuries. It's the sound of a collapsing industrial society, its structures so frayed and stressed now that they can no longer hold it up.

But that's not the sound I mean here. That's the noise we need to silence in order to hear the other sound that is emerging - the sound of the beginning of the new.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Paying attention to the shift...

What shift? Well, there's the shift we see on the surface of things - the tumultuous politics of our time; the existential threats to our democratic form of governance; the corruption of our political system now so deeply rooted in it, so intertwined at every level of it, that it's hard to see what could free it at this point; the national fragmentation; the imploding of the global economic system; the threats of more and more international conflict; melting polar ice sheets...

All that, yes, and more, requires a stepping back, some serious reflection, on what we think is really going on, and why now, and how come so fast. Otherwise we may find ourselves feeding the systems that have created the crises, that have brought us to this point of tremendous upheaval, where our nation's politics is in shambles.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

It won't work unless we begin to think and work within the truth of interconnection, the healing of broken relationships

It was 47 years ago that the first "Earth Day" was marked in this country. It emerged out of a deep sense that our planet was moving into a crisis mode, that population growth and unlimited consumerism was not sustainable, that lethal smog in our cities, contamination of fresh water sources by dirty industries, toxic waste, and more were making people sick, shortening the lives of our children, posing long-term health threats.

John McConnell's Earth Day flag

We started to care about the quality of the food we ate, how it was raised, how it was sourced.

47 years! It seems that as a species, as supposedly smart educated westerners, as a culture here in this country, we have failed miserably at avoiding environmental catastrophe. One chief reason that remains almost impossible to talk about (even in a workshop with loads of graphs and scientific info and dramatic photos): we refuse to give up the economic aspirations of our capitalist consumer culture.

Monday, May 8, 2017

THE REAL CULTURE SHOCK OF OUR TIME: the realization that we cannot save our western affluence and power, and a human future on this planet

So, meanwhile, despite all the noise in the political culture around Michael Flynn, and DT's tweets, the election in France, the corruption of an administration whose family is freely enriching themselves by taking the notion of "conflicts of interests" to a whole new level - while all this continues and escalates, the dismantling of science and research in critical government agencies that impact our future on this planet also continues. The war on facts regarding climate change and our national parks continues. The war on nature being perpetrated by the fossil fuel corporations, now emboldened and further enabled by the GOP regime in Washington DC, proceeds.

In the morning's Washington Post, this article: EPA dismisses half of key board’s scientific advisers, Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels. Get those truth-tellers out of the way. Get those people showing us that the world we insist on is no longer possible out of the way. Replace them with those who can reassure us, as we look backward not forward, that we can still have that old world back and everything will be okay.  "Make America Great Again" means returning us not to the days of union factory work, good wages and benefits, high taxes on wealth to support public education, highways, and parks - but rather to the days of the old robber barons, the ones that "settled" the West with their railroads, gold rushes, land grabs, and genocidal ways.

And so that's where we feel need to focus this week, to remind us once again that it is up to us to partner with Nature, with the Water Protectors, with the National Parks defenders, with the anti-pipeline protestors, with local environmental justice groups, with our best scientific researchers and agencies like NOAA and NASA/Global Climate Change, in a broad, powerful unstoppable movement to impede, and ultimately halt, these grave threats to our future on this planet.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

How's 'the great unraveling' going for you so far?

Are you enjoying the ride?

Seriously, though, how is it going for you? Panic, rage, fear, terror in the night, nightmares, cold sweats, insomnia? Hard on relationships, too. We are bearing a lot these days - those tuned in to the rapid acceleration of every destructive aspect of western economic domination of planet, cultures, and peoples. Of course those not tuned in are feeling it, too, with all sorts of anxieties, prescription drugs, lashing out, demonizing "the other," and just wondering why they are so out of sorts all the time now.

I could post every day about the unraveling, and probably need to start posting more often in any case, just to keep us all up with the major trends.

Bleaching/dead coral: The Ocean Agency
So, each day I check in with the planet to see how it's doing - and it ain't doing so great anymore. The unraveling of deeply intertwined ecosystems is apparent now - from the bleaching and death of huge portions of the Great Barrier Reef, to the drowning of coastlines in Tasmania (herald for many parts of the world), to the record warmth in the Arctic causing cascades of waterfalls off melting ice sheets, to coming to terms with the reality that most of our water sources on Turtle Island are contaminated with the leaching of toxins and the waste of our industrial society while also diminishing from overuse (e.g., from fracking and unsustainable human development), to surpassing 410 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere for the first time since before the evolution of hominids (in other words, the conditions which gave rise to our evolutionary era) - 412.63 ppm on April 26, to be exact (NOAA-ESRL).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Urgency of change

Where to start... A couple of weeks go by between posts, and the news feels overwhelming. When we say that we are living in momentous times, it's because we are. When we speak of the Great Unraveling, what that metaphor is showing us is that, if you keep pulling at the threads, the fabric weakens. It can hang on for a while, but then it reaches a point where it can no longer hold together and it all falls apart rather quickly.

The U.S. culture is more siloed than ever before, people tucked away in so many bubbles of like-mindedness, of fear, of resistance to change, the blinders pulled in more tightly to keep the view narrow and comforting - and yet the reality is that we are never siloed, we are always interconnected, and these attempts have impacts far beyond us. The more we narrow, the more the world unravels. The more we silo, the more we lose resilience, which is necessary for life. The more we silo, the less prepared we are to deal with change.

Even that the word "silo" is being used as a verb tells you something about the cultural moment.

Yesterday AG Sessions lauded the proposed wall for the southern border and his determination to keep the "filth" from entering our country. Walls. Border enforcement. Strict separations. Enforced silos. Nature doesn't work that way. The attempt, down through the millennia, to keep populations separate and one dominant over all the others, or one species dominant over all other species - well, when I ponder the cost in bloodshed and planetary destruction of these attempts, that we are facing collapse should not surprise us. At some point, a history like this crosses a threshold.

So, how do we enter in to this great moment of human struggle when we will determine whether or not we can create the conditions for survival - but not mere survival, rather rich and abundant life and well-being for future generations? Whether or not we can do this will be determined now, by this generation, or mix of generations, living on the planet right at this very moment. Breathtaking, isn't it?

Crossroads: even the Trump administration could not withdraw outright from the Paris climate agreements, even though it has no intention of fulfilling the U.S. commitments made by President Obama. That at least tells you something about the pushback from a world that is seeing island nations or coastal cities drowning, record heat/floods/drought/wildfires all across the planet, expanding aridification zones (like in our desert Southwest), ocean acidification that is killing off the primary food source for marine life, the sixth great extinction (well underway now), and looming threats of water and food scarcity, facing hundreds of millions of people with starvation.

Yes, the counter-currents to this administration's climate change denialism and lack of concern over destruction of ecosystems in order to free up corporations to extract and poison as they please are pretty strong. The silo says we can do this, and that we have a right to do it. The global community and the reality of the planet says that if we destroy the eco-communities of this nation, we also destroy ourselves.

So here's one thing we all must do: weak and insufficient as it is, we must defend the Paris climate agreement and we must raise holy hell in our legislators' states and districts in this cause.

Here is something else we must do. Wherever we live, Nature is under threat - from bad agricultural practices (industrial agriculture is one of those industries that does not need saving, it needs dismantling as quickly as possible, for the sake of water and soil and our future ability to eat), to extreme extraction for fossil fuels or metals and minerals for consumer products or industrial production, to pollution of our streams, rivers, lakes, aquifers, and groundwater, to suburban and exurban sprawl, and more - wherever you live, these issues are present and urgent. We must partner with the living systems in which we are embedded, with our larger ecological/biological communities,  to work with them to restore, replenish, allow to heal, and end any corporate practice that threatens them.

And we need to do this no matter the cost - because, if nothing else, the cost of not paying this price now is greater than any cost we really want to know, experience, or endure later on. Look into the eyes of the little ones around you if you fear the economic hit, the hit to your lifestyle aspirations, that will likely accompany this ecological mission. Ask yourself what matters more.

I am an avid vegetable gardener, and I have learned in the most visceral way possible that my life depends on the life of my soil, on the worms, the bees, the microorganisms, the water - and that none of those living beings depend on me, on my existence (except that I not destroy them). Such an insight ought to humble us all. Who needs taking care of first and foremost?

I don't say that as the kind of "deep ecologist" who sees humans only as pestilence and threat. I say that because it is true, and if we see the human as also sacred and precious and part of the evolutionary unfolding that makes this Earth unique in all the universe, then we best get into deep relationship with all that makes us possible and take damn good care of those relationships.

Here's some news for you: 
From the Guardian, April 5:  Climate change impacting ‘most’ species on Earth, even down to their genome 

It reads under the headline: "Three recent studies point to just how broad, bizarre, and potentially devastating climate change is to life on Earth. And we’ve only seen one degree Celsius of warming so far."  

First sentence of the article: "Climate change is rapidly becoming a crisis that defies hyperbole."
Urgency...
"Continuing to burn fossil fuels at the current rate could bring atmospheric carbon dioxide to its highest concentration in 50 million years, jumping from about 400 parts per million now to more than 900 parts per million by the end of this century, a new study warns.
"And if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated beyond that point, the climate could reach a warming state that hasn’t been seen in the past 420 million years."
These levels are not locked in. They are what happens if we continue business-as-usual - which the world rejects, but not yet this nation. And we have to change that in a hurry.  

Urgency...
From the Chicago Council on Global Affairs: Why is water scarcity a global security concern?

"By 2025, the UN predicts that 1.8 billion people - 22% of the global population - will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity." Last time I checked, that was less than 8 years from now. If ever there was a statistic that showed starkly the unsustainabillity of our human way of living on this planet... Remember, it is water that made the Earth blue and green and teeming with life. What in the world are we doing?!
Urgency...

We have to step it up now.

So next weekend, scientists will march in Washington DC in defense of knowledge and truth (my mechanical engineer professor brother, who is an energy expert, will be there, marching and lobbying our state legislators). And the following week is the huge climate march in DC and elsewhere - or let's hope they are huge. Even though I think marching will not do it, showing the breadth of the movement is important right now. But if we don't do the hands-on grueling work of organizing and education, speaking and writing, making legislators really uncomfortable, creating movements that do actually threaten the global economic order, we will not have done enough in time.

So, protest, march, lobby, advocate, yes, but remember that equally crucial is the work of "new creation." We only send people to anger, frustration, and despair if we tell them we can't live like this anymore and have nothing to point to in order to show what other ways of life might look like, and how we can begin to live them right now.

Here's some more news for you:
This area in Detroit is now America's first 100% organic, self-sustainable neighborhood
Yes, in Detroit. When you don't have the luxuries and pleasantries of the consumer culture to lose anymore, it's amazing what creativity gets freed up to create cultures not only of survival, but of goodness, health, resilience, and well-being, along with friendship and community.
Yes, we must create with urgency...
Alice's Garden Urban Farm - this is where I have my garden plot. I can't even begin to describe all the ways new creation is going on now in this neighborhood.
And this:
Ho-Chunk Nation General Council Approves Rights of Nature Constitutional Amendment

We need a whole movement around those rights, even if it means accepting that we must relinquish some of our economic "rights" to wealth and consumption, to consuming more than we need.
How about this?
"Calling all Water protectors" - Water Is Life
It's not that nothing is going on. All sorts of things are going on, and they are mostly invisible to the mainstream culture. The Dakota Access Pipeline is still being fought - in Iowa, North Dakota, in Louisiana. The Keystone XL is being fought all over again in Nebraska and elsewhere. Other pipeline battles are underway in New Mexico and Texas. Fierce resistance is emerging to plans by the Trump admin to open public lands to more drilling and fracking. In parts of Appalachia, communities are not waiting for the coal industry to be revived, but are moving on to create new economies that can thrive without destroying their precious mountains and streams [see, for example: Appalachia's New Trail: finding life after coal - CS Monitor].

All around us, we see the threats, the dangers unfolding. All around us, if we look beyond the dominant economic/political world, we see the acts of new creation. Trust me, this is where you want to be when things fall apart.
There is a transition that must be made now - yes, with urgency - from one way of life to another. We don't have to wait for someone else to do it for us, or save us somehow. We just need to begin right where we are. The Earth isn't waiting for our politics to change. She is not a product of an economic culture. It is not for her to bend to us to save that culture, it is for us to bend to her so that we may learn again how to live here.
~ Margaret Swedish

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fast backward of the old, and the new passageway we must construct

In Germany, they are working on a potentially breakthrough technology using heat from lamps that, when concentrated in one spot, reach temperatures of 3,500 Celsius, or what this article calls "the world's largest artificial sun," and then to use this heat to create hydrogen fuel for energy.

Meanwhile, in France, a huge project is underway, called International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), to develop nuclear fusion as a source of unlimited clean energy for the future. What they are attempting is to find a way to control atomic reactions and harness them for energy. International partners include the U.S., Russia, and China, an initiative first negotiated by Pres. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev - yes, that long ago. It is still unproven and it may never work, but it is cutting edge technology in any case. Also hugely expensive.

In China, the government is moving toward huge wind farms and solar arrays, aware that choking on coal in cities where breathing is deadly does not bode well for the nation's economic future.

MTR coal-mining - Vivian Stockman
Meanwhile, in the Trump White House, they are trying to revive the coal industry.

Talk about dinosaurs. That's what I see every time I look at a room full of white men standing ceremoniously around the fearless (also corrupt and incompetent) leader as he signs some other document intended to harm humans and the planet out of motivations of revenge and resentment. I see dinosaurs. I see remnants of a species after the asteroid has hit, and the fast-rolling responses of a planet's climate systems as the living beings of an old era slowly succumb, disappear, left to future generations only as fossil imprints buried under layers of new eras of the evolution of life.

This new era - already emergent. But not in the giant fusion experiment. That feels a lot like geoengineering - throwing even bigger industrial projects at the planet to try to salvage an aging industrial civilization. Rather, this new era is emergent in the resilient communities rising up all around the planet, reconnecting with the Earth's living systems instead of trying to "harness" them, raising food and new small industries to support neighborhoods and cultures, cleaning up the contamination that marks the character of the old economic model, developing "sharing economies" and eschewing "industrial grandiosity" for the sake of simpler, richer, more tender and loving lives.

Photo: M Swedish
One era is dying, has entered its thrilling and destructive last death throes. The other is creating paths to get us through this difficult passageway to the new evolutionary era, and to the new humans we still might become if given time to heal from the damage this industrial age has done to us. And I ask which road we would rather all be on? And what can we do with our lives to be decisive about the direction we choose?

This poignant article from the NY Times: Hope Springs Early, but Not Eternal, for the Deadnettle - or for Us. While I appreciate the gorgeous writing, poetry, and art emerging from this tragic time of ecological demise, how many more more deeply touching lamentations and expressions of deep grief and fear must we read before they tip the balance away from our collective cultural embrace of industrial society?

So, before cheering on an example of breathtaking arrogant human grandiosity like ITER, which, even if it worked, would come too late and require enormous amounts of mostly mined resources to pull off, can we begin to imagine the simple, the scaled-down, the reduction in energy use rather than finding bigger and better ways to produce more of it? Do we get so focused on reducing CO2 emissions at the point of emitting them, and miss the depletion and destruction of living systems required to address that one end-stage piece of our planetary crisis?

I read this morning (March 28) that Energy Partners is beginning to put oil into the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota this week. I also read that Bold Louisiana has pledged to put their bodies on the line to stop completion of that pipeline in their state. I also read that the legislature in Maryland has voted to ban fracking in that state, the third to do so. Trump has granted the presidential permit for construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. Bold Nebraska is prepared to go back to court over issues of eminent domain in order to try yet again to stop it.

Alice's Garden - M Swedish
In Milwaukee, we gear up at Alice's Garden for the next growing season at what we consider our sacred inner city urban farm, April being the month when our labor gets serious. The Garden is part of a growing new food "economy" here in Milwaukee where urban farming combined with neighborhood markets and skills development in growing businesses related to that economy is taking root - by the sheer will and determination of people in some of our most challenged neighborhoods.

Hope comes from there. Hope comes from all those engaged in one way or another in opening that passageway from an old destructive way of life to the new one emergent everywhere.

That asteroid hit our planet decades ago, when our industrial/consumer economy drove us past the tipping point, beyond the carrying capacity of Mother Earth. That was back in the 1980s. We have been tearing at the threads that hold the web of life together for a long time now. It has shown its resilience to abuse for a long time. But it cannot hold together much longer. Indeed, the signs of the unraveling are already with us. That deadnettle - that deadnettle is announcing the times.

Photo: M Swedish
Some people are listening. Some people are taking action. Some people are dreaming new cultures and new ways of life and actually birthing them. We don't give up. We know we are seeing the death throes of a dying civilization. We know we are about the work of new creation. We are working to open that narrow passageway.

~ Margaret Swedish



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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Didn't We Say This Time Was Coming?


            Many are shocked that it’s this bad, but do we deserve to be surprised? Haven’t we been saying for a long while now that we’ve been moving toward collapse? The culture, full of unresolved tensions and strains it could no longer hold, has been so clearly unsustainable for a long, long time. Those tensions and strains have been bred into the very nature of the society since its founding days, fed on a steady diet of western economic thought, the kind that wasted Europe before Europeans came to North America to begin wasting this continent as well. And in the last two centuries of industrialization and exponential population growth, those tensions were bound to implode.

            We have said this. Many have seen it coming for decades – all through my adult life, actually, because it was the projections of collapse from way back in the 1970s that were part of what propelled me into the work of social justice and from there to the work on eco-justice and the connections among ecology, spirituality, and culture that is the orientation and content of the work I have been doing since leaving Washington DC in 2006.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Necessity of Deep Truth

There are facts, and there is truth. And then there is deep truth.

What do I mean by that?

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We already know that the regime trying to gain control over all aspects of government and the economy is trying to create a fact-denying culture. Or I should say, they are trying to expand the power of a fact-denying culture that has been rising for decades in reaction to tumultuous change brought about by last century's world wars, including that Cold one, exponential population growth, collapse of old empires leaving chaos and violent power struggles in the former colonies, mass industrialization that has wreaked havoc on ecosystems, the rise of technologies that have separated us from knowledge of the natural world, the decline of White Western Domination as population diversity spills into every corner of the planet, transformational changes to the notion of work and labor as computers and robots replace people...

Monday, February 6, 2017

Don't let them steal your joy


It’s bad. Okay, it’s bad. It’s as bad as we thought it would be, perhaps worse than many thought it would be. And it’s going to be bad for a while, probably a long while.

So this is crucial. Do not let them steal your joy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s warning to the churches

Over this past weekend, in anticipation of the Dr. King holiday, I pulled out my aging copy of the collection of his writings, entitled, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (ed., James M. Washington, 1986). I wanted to read again the entire "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," written in April 1963. It had been a couple of decades, actually, since I had read the whole amazing document all the way through. As I had anticipated, I was struck by its fierce relevance to this moment when we face what feels at times like an existential crisis in this country, a watershed moment, a time of truly consequential moral, social, personal, and political decisions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What to do in the midst of the unraveling

I started watching some of the Rex Tillerson hearings this morning, but didn't last long. Then I started watching the president-elect's press conference, for which he brought an entire entourage and piles of binders (great photo op), but after realizing he had nothing substantive to say, I turned that off, too. I went back online, and to all these tabs with articles that I had marked to be read - and there is so much to read these days.

This was the one I chose to start this post:
What will mysticism in the 21st century look like?
...by Diarmuid O'Murchu, a writer and speaker who has had some influence on my spiritual approach to the ecological crisis and with whom I seem to be on a parallel path. It's one that involves endless expansion of view and paradigm-shattering approaches, with a certain kind of fearlessness now because old paradigms, clung to, are attempting to block the transformation under way within the culture, indeed globally, whether we like that transformation or not.

Old ways of thinking, old belief frameworks, old cosmologies and spiritualities that no longer reflect the world we know - a lot of that is unraveling now. Old certainties, old ways of looking at things, old ways of viewing the meaning of the human on this planet - it's all kind of breaking down. One reason for the breakdown, besides the obvious ecological one, is that they are part of the energy that is bringing about the unraveling.