Greta in America & Global Climate Strikes

Greta Thunberg has been in the United States for only a short time, but she has wasted no time at getting straight to work. On Friday the 13th of September, she joined other youth who gathered near the White House lawn for a Friday School Strike for Climate. Everywhere this young person goes, she is greeted with warmth, cheers and love. In just over a year of being a climate activist, Greta has gone from a lone teenager with a sign in front of the Swedish government in Stockholm, to a globally known celebrity and poster child for saving Earth.

In today’s Intercept news site, Naomi Klein interviews Greta with a few questions about her impressions of America so far, how she deals with internet trolls, her thoughts about being a high-profile Autism-spectrum person, and the expense of dealing with climate change. Klein’s article is here.

Next Friday, September 20th,  youth and adults around the world will hold Global Climate Strikes to protest the inaction of governments and multinational corporations to take drastic actions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are rapidly warming our planet. The Union of Concerned Scientists put together this guide for anyone wanting to know more and how to get involved in their community.  So make a sign, grab some friends, and Strike for the Climate on September 20th!

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Confusion, contradiction and turmoil

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image via https://askaboutworkerscompgravytrains.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/cognitive-dissonance.jpg

Have you been hyper aware of the continuing split between your inner and the outer world lately? I know I sure have. We are at the tail end (I hope) of the hottest summer ever experienced by humans on Earth. For me personally it was perhaps the most uncomfortable and often miserable summer of my life. I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone, in fact, that at this point I no longer really know where my comfort zone even is or how to find it. These are the times we are living in.

As many of you probably did, I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as the news media showed daily and hourly updates of Hurricane Dorian’s path through the southern Atlantic, culminating in its plowing through the Bahamas as a category 5 storm. The whole scenario had an eerily familiar ring to it, being so similar to last year’s Hurricane Maria that wiped out most of Puerto Rico. These extreme weather events have become a kind of dystopian reality show for millions of watchers around the globe. I watched a short video from a reporter who spoke with a man who watched his “little wife” get hypothermia and then drown in their home as the water rose all around them. He was able to swim out and to his crabbing boat, thus saving his own life. One story of thousands showing human misery amidst our current world conditions.

Scanning through news articles from the New York Times, The Guardian and now CNN (I succumbed to their phone app this week so I could watch the Live Town Hall on Climate Change with the Democratic candidates), I hardly have words to describe what is being reported. Mostly it can be summed up with these three: confusion, contradiction and turmoil. It’s pretty hard to argue the fact that our world is in chaos on most fronts: the natural world, society, economics, health, education, agriculture and land management, and of course, politics. In a word: dissonance.

What’s really happening here?, a thinking person will ask. Many of my blog posts are in some way attempting to find answers to this question. I would say that humanity is currently undergoing the biggest test of our existence and we are in the eye of the needle, or hurricane, or pick your own metaphor. Both personally and collectively we are being stretched to the limits of our endurance on all levels—mental, emotional, physical and etheric. Some with strong traditional Christian beliefs could argue it’s Armageddon time, folks. Others explain it in more neutral terms, such as the scientific community acknowledging we are reaching Earth’s planetary boundaries for life’s carrying capacity. Some are fast asleep through all the changes, and hardly even notice all the chaos around them. Others prefer to stay in denial, wanting their world to simply continue as it has been during their lifetimes with no real changes to their lifestyle.

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via https://www.t-online.de

Then there are the activists, who are growing in numbers and strength all around the world. They are the ones who are standing up through their speech and direct actions to hold those responsible for bringing humanity and Earth to the brink of destruction, accountable for their actions. The tension between those who are holding onto their power at all costs and those who are shouting, staging die-ins (Extinction Rebellion), marching in the streets and in front of the world’s government centers has become extreme. Look at Hong Kong during the past months as one prime example.

Charles Eisenstein, whom I love, released a short YouTube video today, in which he tells of his six month media fast. He said that when he finally resumed catching up on the news media, he was struck by the constant spin of war mentality with Us vs. Them implied in nearly all of it. He commented that for someone like him, living outside of the matrix of mainstream culture and refusing to take sides, it is even more dangerous than if he were the enemy of someone or something. This is so because those of us who refuse to engage in the Us vs. Them game aren’t easy to understand or peg in a definite way. The world of duality despises those who refuse to see the world as either/or. This also reminds me of Marianne Williamson, the self-help guru cum Democratic presidential candidate who briefly rose to media prominence this summer, then just as quickly was squelched. There is a fascinating long read on her campaign in the New York Times magazine. Williamson is in the same camp as Eisenstein, that of refusing to engage in Us vs. Them; instead she built her platform around the idea that Love is stronger than hate and warmongering, and she would win the presidency from the current POTUS via a David and Goliath strategy, hitting the American goliath in his third eye! Although clearly America is nowhere near ready to embrace the idea of Love being the foundation for a new kind of political leadership, I give her kudos for being so audacious and brave as to suggest that it’s what is needed and possible.

Like many, I laughed at Williamson’s campaign. But then there was the debate: “If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.” This one quote was breathtaking in its simple recognition of what Trump actually is, and how he has destroyed all he can of what we believed our country was, or might be. And it addresses the fact that standard political strategizing is not going to win this election. This insight alone validates her campaign. I am very glad she is running. But we really need someone with political experience in the White House.

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from Readers’ comments on the Williamson article, Sept. 3, 2019

This was a bit of a rambling tonight, dear readers. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my observations and thoughts. I am admittedly at a low ebb at the moment. Perhaps, like some of you, I’m hoping for some glimmer of any good news to appear. We humans have an amazing capacity for resilience and compassion when up against the wall. In the meantime, my prayers and love extend to those in the Bahamas who are in such great need right now.

Deep Adaptation and Near Term Societal Collapse

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Image via https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-26/new-climate-debate-how-to-adapt-to-the-end-of-the-world

In the past week, I have been introduced to Professor Jem Bendell and his ground-breaking research paper on Deep Adaptation. Bendell is a professor at the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) at the University of Cumbria in the UK. In July of 2018, he published the paper, called an occasional paper, through IFLAS on the internet. As he explains on his blogsite (https://jembendell.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/the-study-on-collapse-they-thought-you-should-not-read-yet/), his paper was rejected by the peer-review committee for the scholarly journal he submitted it to, so he decided to simply publish it regardless, in the interests of urgency for public reading. He notes on his blog that by now the paper, entitled Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, has been downloaded over 300,000 times.

The degree of interest that Bendell’s paper has generated came as a surprise to him, as he explains in his blog. He has been a professor of leadership and sustainable management for over two decades and is widely respected for his work on sustainable development in the west. However, with the Deep Adaptation paper, he explains how he finally realized that the odds are very great that we have reached the point globally where there is no “fixing” or solving the vast problems of man-made climate change, before it’s too late. In fact, he writes, “The approach of the paper is to analyse recent studies on climate change and its implications for our ecosystems, economies and societies, as provided by academic journals and publications direct from research institutes. That synthesis leads to a conclusion there will be a near-term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers” Bendell, p. 2).

I admit that I first read his words with a mixture of horror and fascination. Having been obsessed with this subject for the past four years, reading everything I could on the subject of climate change and how humans must work to mitigate, adapt and become resilient in the face of it, I found it increasingly difficult to hold onto hope that humanity will, in fact, turn our global society around in time to avert collapse. Watching the news cycle day after day and month after month, it seemed to me that a pattern of extreme weather events had begun that has no foreseeable end in sight (in fact, many climate scientists have done research that proves this out). I followed closely the high-level meetings of the United Nations during 2018 and wanted, more than anything, to believe that the world’s governments are taking these talks seriously and doing everything in their power to hold to commitments they made for reducing pollution and CO2 emissions. Yet, I also watched with dismay as agreements continue to be broken, fragile peace talks break down, wars continue, and corporations continue to pollute, plunder and destroy our earth unabated.

As readers of my blog know, I became very interested in Greta Thunberg and her climate activism, including inspiring tens of thousands of school kids and teens to school strike for climate change this year. She only began striking in August of 2018, yet the movement quickly grew in momentum, as did her speech-making opportunities with high-level heads of state in Europe and the UK.  Recently, Greta gave a powerful and heart-wrenching speech before the leaders of the European Union, which you can watch here (https://youtu.be/dKd1V2NgAi4)

In her speech, as she reiterates in all her speeches, Greta tells the EU’s leaders that “our house is on fire” and yet nothing is being done to change it. She tells them the world’s children (the ones who are too young to vote) have decided to take matters into their own hands, since the adults are doing virtually nothing to avert climate catastrophe. She implores them to “get behind the science.” Such a reasonable request, and yet, so seemingly impossible to do in actuality.

Why is it so difficult, if not impossible, for the world’s leaders to “get behind the science?” Myriad books, articles, blogs, podcasts, news stories and more have been written to try to explain our current predicament. It’s easy to simply point the finger at the large, multi-national corporations and say it’s all their fault, call them evil, and be done with it. But the truth is much more complex than that, once you start digging down into the muck. It goes very, very deep, and there is an extraordinary amount of personal, as well as corporate and political, denial involved.

Finding Jem Bendell’s paper was a kind of revelation for me last week. I won’t go into the details of his paper in this blog post; however I want to share a couple of quotes by him to give you, dear readers, a taste of how he views our situation. From Deep Adaptation’s introduction, he writes,

The result of these five questions is an article that does not contribute to one specific set of literature or practice in the broad field of sustainability management and policy. Rather, it questions the basis for all the work in this field. It does not seek to add to the existing research, policy and practice on climate adaptation, as I found that to be framed by the view that we can manage the impacts of a changing climate on our physical, economic, social, political and psychological situations. Instead, this article may contribute to future work on sustainable management and policy as much by subtraction as by addition. By that I mean the implication is for you to take a time to step back, to consider “what if” the analysis in these pages is true, to allow yourself to grieve, and to overcome enough of the typical fears we all have, to find meaning in new ways of being and acting. That may be in the fields of academia or management – or could be in some other field that this realisation leads you to. (Bendell, p. 3)

In a blog post on his site, he shares his rationale for releasing the Deep Adaptation paper to the public without having it published in a scholarly journal first. He writes,

“The trauma from assessing our situation with climate change has led me to become aware of and drop some of my past preoccupations and tactics. I realise it is time to fully accept my truth as I see it, even if partially formed and not polished yet for wider articulation. I know that academia involves as much a process of wrapping up truth as unfolding it. We wrap truth in disciplines, discrete methodologies, away from the body, away from intuition, away from the collective, away from the everyday. So as that is my truth then I wish to act on it as well, and not keep this analysis hidden in the pursuit of academic respect. Instead, I want to share it now as a tool for shifting the quality of conversations that I need to have.” (from Jem Bendell’s blog, https://jembendell.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/the-study-on-collapse-they-thought-you-should-not-read-yet/

What strikes me the most about Bendell’s paper is its absolute honesty. He drops any pretense or arrogance he may have once assumed as a renowned academic at a prestigious English research university, in favor of writing from his gut and heart of the tragic conclusion that we have collectively gone beyond being able to come up with fixing what we’ve clearly broken—our atmosphere and natural environment. He asks the reader to seriously consider the “what if” scenario that we have, in fact, reached a point when Near-Term Societal Collapse is a likely probability, if not a near-certainty. These are hard words for anyone to take, and coming from a sustainable leadership scholar, harder still. He put his entire reputation and future on the line by publishing the paper. Yet, it has struck a nerve with many both in and outside of academia. It’s as if Bendell has uttered the words that the rest of us have been too terrified to say: there’s no turning back. The damage is too far gone, we cannot reverse it, so now we must find the courage and compassion to manage what is to visit us all in the very near future.

Deep Adaptation is not a doomsday scenario, as are the multitudes of popular films, books, videos, and other creative works out in the world now. It’s precisely because it’s written by a respected thought leader, academic, and scholar that, for me and thousands of others, it rings true. None of us want to admit that civilization, as we have known it, will be ending sooner than anyone could have imagined. And reading over these words, they indeed sound horrendous. Yet, isn’t it what we are most afraid of facing as a coming reality, not simply a science fiction film?

As Greta Thunberg and Jem Bendell so eloquently remind us all, NOW is the time to become mature humans and face up to our common situation. We are literally all on this spinning ball called Earth together, and what happens next will affect us all, as recent events over the past few years has so clearly shown us. I keep coming back to the old story of Noah building his ark, even as the others around him ignored or insulted him, and went on with their business-as-usual. They chose not to believe the warnings that there would soon be a catastrophic flood that would wash everyone and everything living away. Here in 2019, we are facing similar times—the signs are all around us that we must change the ways we’ve been living and respect Earth, stop destroying and polluting our only home. Not in five, ten, or thirty years from now. NOW.

For a wealth of information, support and encouragement from Jem Bendell, please visit his blog at https://jembendell.wordpress.com. Here too, you will find links to his paper on Deep Adaptation.

Reference:

Bendell, Jem. Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. IFLAS Occasional Paper 2, July 27, 2018. Accessed from https: jembendell.wordpress.com, May 1, 2019.

Another article on this subject in Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-26/new-climate-debate-how-to-adapt-to-the-end-of-the-world