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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