Relentless Energies of Change

Breaking Point_Guardian_march242019
The Munch bunch Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images via The Guardian, March 24 2019

To borrow a phrase from the reporters at the New York Times, it’s been a busy couple of weeks–not only in politics, but in the world generally. The sound byte version: major floods of biblical proportions in Southeastern Africa that devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, taking hundreds, most likely thousands, of lives and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless; epic flooding in the United States’ Midwest as rains melted snow on top of frozen ground, causing rivers to swell and burst, and causing major highways in Nebraska to close; while major political upheaval continues with the UK’s Brexit impasse, prompting over a million protesters to march in London over the weekend demanding a new referendum vote.

Just before the close of business Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III delivered his report concerning the Trump administration’s alleged ties with Russian intelligence during the 2016 election campaign to Attorney General William Barr. On Sunday, Barr released his short synopsis of Mueller’s report to the American public. (NYTimes, March 24, 2019). His conclusion is that there is not sufficient evidence within the report to claim that Trump, or any of his aides, committed crimes. Barr wrote “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Barr continued his synopsis by explaining there were two parts of the investigation, and regarding the second part, he stated “The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”’ (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/24/us/politics/mueller-report-summary.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage)

Many readers of the New York Times commented on Sunday’s news, with the majority agreeing that while there seemed to not be enough evidence to begin impeachment proceedings, this debacle will continue under Congress in the months to come. Many commenters ended their words by exhorting readers to VOTE 2020.

The past two weeks have felt torrential—one tornado after hurricane after flood, both figuratively and literally. Part of me dreads next week’s news, and next month’s. Superlatives no longer hold much meaning, as the times we’re living through are a continuous stream of superstorms, supercorruption, superviolence, and generally a hyped-up version of everyday reality from what many of us were accustomed to for decades before this one. The relentless energies are exhausting and difficult to manage, prompting people to find any excuse to zone out, shut out, and get out of them in any way they can conceive to do it. Who can blame them? This level of reality is not for those who don’t have the mental and emotional endurance to withstand it.

I’ve been groping to find any shred of positivity within this hurricane of extremes. Toward that end, I pulled out my copy of Active Hope, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (New World Library, 2012). Joanna Macy is that rare writer who can acknowledge the pain and struggles we experience as beings in human form on this planet, while also reminding us of the absolute wonder and joy of embodiment. In the chapter entitled Honoring Our Pain for the World, she writes,

We can exist in both realities at the same time—going about our normal lives in the mode of Business as Usual while also remaining painfully aware of the multifaceted crises unfolding around us….one way of dealing with the confusion and agony of this splitting is to push the crisis out of view….but this way of living is difficult to sustain, particularly as the condition of our world continues to worsen.

It is difficult even to talk about this….when we feel dread about what may lie ahead, outrage at what is happening to our planet, or sadness about what has already been lost, it is likely we have nowhere to take these feelings.

We can be caught between two fears—the fear of what will happen if we, as a society, continue the way we’re going and the fear of acknowledging how bad things are because of the despair that doing so brings up. (pg. 65)

Macy and Johnstone go on to describe a method of working with these feelings of despair, that she coined The Work that Reconnects. They write that a “central principle is that pain for the world, a phrase that covers a range of feelings including outrage, alarm, grief, guilt, dread and despair, is a normal, healthy response to a world in trauma.” (p. 67)

Macy and Johnstone have been offering workshops and the template to create groups around The Work That Reconnects for many years. They argue that when we allow ourselves to admit our deepest feelings about what’s happening in our world within a safe group, a space is created where a shift can happen. They write,

When we touch into our depths, we find that the pit is not bottomless. When people are able to tell the truth about what they know, see and feel is happening to their world, a transformation occurs.

A range of factors acts together to bring about this shift. It is enlivening to go with, rather than against, the flow of our deep-felt responses to the world. Second, we feel tremendous relief on realizing our solidarity with others. (p. 70)

They describe the grief process developed y J. William Worden, including the stages of first accepting the loss and second, feeling the pain of grief. Macy writes, “each day we lose valuable parts of our biosphere as species become extinct and ecosystems destroyed—yet where is their funeral service? …we need to digest the bad news. That is what rouses us to respond.” (p. 71)

Right now it feels like more than a funeral service, but rather a global memorial is needed to honor all the sentient lives that are being lost with every passing week, month, and season. Our world is being swept away, destroyed and reformed into something different as we go about our lives, with one foot in each—the old world that’s dying, and the new one, forming under the very ground we are shakily standing on. Perhaps the best metaphor for our current state can be found in a remarkable story in this weekend’s Guardian. A Norwegian luxury liner found itself in big trouble as it ran into a section of very rough waters off the Norway coast. Huge waves rocked the ship, as its engines failed. The captain sent a mayday distress signal to the mainland, who responded by sending emergency rescue teams to take the guests off the ship to safety. This was a tricky and careful operation, involving smaller boats, several helicopters, and an entire team of rescuers. Eventually, the engines were restarted, and the luxury liner was escorted back out of the danger zone, and into a safe harbor farther south along the coast. The crew said that they were very close to a major disaster, had the liner run aground among rocks in the shallow coastal waters. Fortunately, the crew was able to prevent that from happening, and everyone got through the disaster alive, with few injuries. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/23/hundreds-evacuated-from-cruise-ship-off-norwegian-coast)

In a sea of dramatic and worse news stories, this story appears as a sign of hope. Yes, the people on board the ship were suddenly in a life-threatening situation. They, I assume, all experienced the profound fear of realizing their lives were at stake. They stared mortality in the face, in the middle of an otherwise lovely holiday on a cruise ship. By the end, they were saved from death and forever changed by the experience. And isn’t that what we are collectively experiencing together on our planet now? We are staring at the mortality, not only of uncountable numbers of species, but of coastlines, wetlands, forests, ice sheets, coral reefs, and myriad other natural formations that we’ve known for thousands of years. And we’re staring at our own possible mortality, if we can’t find the way to turn our ship around and get out of the danger zone we’ve created. We must all be willing to talk about it, as Joanna Macy points out. To talk and to acknowledge our fears, our grief, and our bafflement at our situation.

March’s Vortex

Sunrise_movement_protesters
image via https://allevents.in/california/sunrise-movement-october-training/20005440133178

Hello Interrelated Planet Readers! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but there has been no lack of impressive happenings in our world. Like some of you, I watched the Cohen testimony on February 27th with a mixture of fascination, revulsion, sorrow and resignation. As one commentator put it, I was shocked at how little I was shocked by his testimony. My favorite part was when Representative Cummings gave his heartfelt and poignant reply to Cohen at the end of the day, reminding us all that “we’re better than this” as a country and as humanity. His words, and sincere energy while speaking, resonated through many of us that day as a voice of our collective conscience. Surely we ARE better than the continuous display of inflated human egoism we’ve been subjected to for the past two years of this administration. My only caveat to Cumming’s rant is his plea to “get back to normal,” to which I reply there is no going backward; there is only moving forward into what many millions of us desperately wish will be a transparent, just and truthful future government.

The youth movement for climate action is continuing globally. Organizers are planning a global Student Strike day on March 15th, to protest their government leaders’ inaction and foot-dragging on reducing and eliminating fossil fuel emissions. Here’s a link to Guardian journalist George Monbiot’s editorial in support of the youth’s movement. https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-02-20/young-climate-strikers-can-win-their-fight-we-must-all-help/

March is generally a month of unpredictable weather, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. In Colorado where I live, the mountains experienced avalanches over the last weekend, closing I-70 in both directions for several hours. Thankfully, human life was not taken in that situation. Unfortunately, the tornados that tore through the South were not as forgiving, and some folks in Alabama did succumb to their destructive fury. Climate change is a process that’s forcing all of us to confront how we are living through a critical lens, and asking us to make real, sweeping and large scale changes. Resilience and sustainability are becoming terms du jour globally now. No longer can anyone who denies our need for changing how we live on Gaia be taken seriously. The Democrats’ call for a New Green Deal, still being bashed as socialist rubbish by Republicans in Congress, is a rallying cry for a new, and sorely needed national overhaul to how we have been living our collective lives. The time of reckoning is at hand, and it goes beyond any one ideology or political squabbling. Coastlines are being inundated, lands once frozen all winter are now exposed and above freezing, ocean levels are rising, ocean temperatures are rising faster than scientists can keep up, and the lists of environmental changes continue to grow daily. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/

Members of the Sunrise Movement met with Senator Diane Feinstein in San Francisco, asking her to support the New Green Deal. Here’s a link to their Facebook posted video of their meeting. https://www.facebook.com/story

The young climate activists are energized, loud, and getting in lawmakers’ faces for a very good reason—their future depends on what countries (and the citizens who comprise them) do to control fossil fuel use now. The Guardian ran an article https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/04/can-they-save-us-meet-the-climate-kids-fighting-to-fix-the-planet which highlighted several of these young (under 21 years) activists. They are smart, awake, and demanding lawmakers to stop their rhetoric and actually take action in the form of regulations and laws to reduce the amount of CO2 being released into Earth’s atmosphere—NOW. Meanwhile, fires, floods, melting, tornados, and all manner of extreme weather events continue unabated on the planet’s surface.

From The Revelator online magazine, comes a list of environmentally-themed books for March mayhem reading. (Spoiler alert: none of them seem especially uplifting.) https://therevelator.org/environmental-books-march-2019/

Perhaps the most heart-tugging article I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks comes via a dog lover’s blog I follow. It is a photo essay of the unlikely friendship between a young brown bear and a wolf in northern Finland. For me it makes the whole idea of a children’s story about animals come alive in a beautiful way!  https://learningfromdogs.com/2019/02/26/this-just-beautiful/

Please leave a comment if any of these links or subjects strike a chord with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts, reactions and feelings about what’s happening in our world now.

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg is a fearless, badass warrior working to save the Earth’s future

 

Greta the Great
image credit: Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“We need to focus every inch of our being on climate change. Because if we fail to do so, then all of our achievements and progress have been for nothing.” Greta Thunberg, speech to the EU leaders, February 2019

If you haven’t yet heard Greta Thunberg speak, now would be a good time to do it. She has suddenly gained the world’s attention as a mighty and fearless warrior for our planet Earth. And she is just getting started.

Greta is sixteen and tiny, with long mahogany braids, clear blue eyes, and a determined set to her jaw. She is Swedish, and for the past school year she’s been striking in front of the Swedish parliament house every Friday. Her demands are so very simple, and extremely clear: that the adults who run her country actually DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO REVERSE CLIMATE CHANGE AND HOLD TO THE PARIS AGREEMENT. Now she’s on tour, if you will, and has appeared at COP 24, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and most recently spoke before members of the EU on Thursday, February 21st. Whether alone or with schoolmates, Greta takes command of the room. Her message is utterly on point and without any sort of artifice. Her words cut through all the static and egoism present, and like an extraordinarily sharp blade, cut to the heart of our human-created, global situation. She is asking for the people who have the power to take responsibility for their decisions and to begin making better choices, now.

In her speech before a crowd at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Greta stated,

We know that most politicians don’t want to talk to us. Good, we don’t want to talk to them either. We want them to talk to the scientists instead. Listen to them because we are just repeating what they are saying and have been saying for decades– just unite behind the science–that is our demand.

I’m sorry but saying everything will be alright while continue doing nothing at all it’s just not hopeful to us. In fact, it’s the opposite of hope and yet this is exactly what you keep doing. You can’t just sit around waiting for hope to come, then you’re acting like spoiled, irresponsible children. You don’t seem to understand that hope is something you have to earn and if you still say that we are wasting valuable lesson time then let me remind you that our political leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction, and since our time is running out we have decided to take action. We have started to clean up your mess and we will not stop until we are done.  Watch her speech via The Guardian here

This young, fearless teenager has become, whether she intended to or not, the poster child for the climate crisis that is now in full swing on our home world. Most people will either continue to deny or else to cringe at these words, yet Greta, with her clear blue eyes and calm, measured demeanor, is calling it out for the rest of us. And she is absolutely right—the world’s leaders and CEOs ARE acting like spoiled, irresponsible children, as they continue to unabashedly allow the destruction of Earth in the name of profits. This is, as Greta pointedly states, destroying her generation’s chances at any kind of a healthy future life for all those being born and all those yet to come. She’s right again by stating that the Power Elite have known for decades that their decisions and actions (and inactions) would create the situation we are in now. And yet, they only cared about their bottom line, which grew increasingly engorged from oil profits as time passed.

Greta Thunberg is absolutely correct in her summation and demands of the adults in the world’s highest level meetings: Listen to the climate scientists. Stop pretending.
And above all, TAKE URGENT ACTION, NOW.

What she knows, and the scientists know, and what anyone who is not living in denial surely knows by now, is that human beings have already done irretrievable damage to Earth. We have instigated the Sixth Mass Extinction; our fossil fuel appetite has started the cycle of global warming that cannot be undone. The UN’s IPCC report states that we have roughly a decade to urgently change the way we’re using energy, or…. Let’s just say the world will soon be uninhabitable for many. Greta urged the world’s leaders to see our situation for what it is: a crisis. She wants them to panic, to realize that humanity MUST CHANGE THE WAY WE ARE LIVING EVERY DAY, AND CHANGE RIGHT NOW. Not next year, or by 2030, or any of that nonsense. NOW. Right now.

IPCC_cartoon _Kudelka
image credit: http://www.crowdsourcingsustainability.com/ipcc-report-global-warming-1-5/

What is, in my opinion, so remarkable about Greta Thunberg and her simple activism, is that she has completely empowered the youngest members of our societies to spring into action. Last week there were school children protesting all around the UK. There have been student protests in Germany, Switzerland, Australia and it is spreading. In March, organizers are planning a global school strike day for climate change. It’s no longer something that only some progressive adults are doing. Now that youth and children are getting involved and taking to the streets, the climate movement is gaining the kind of momentum that must lead to real change. Why? Because Greta is right: The world’s youth are inheriting the horrible mess that we adults have created over the past fifty years. They are the ones who must live in the future world. The Millennials and Generation Z (those born around the turn of the 21st century) comprise a large percentage of the world’s population. And more are coming every day. This is an unprecedented, world-wide crisis that has no national boundaries, nor specially preserved places that won’t be affected. Species are going extinct in all parts of the globe. The ice caps are melting on both poles. The coastlines will be inundated along all continents. Climate change is the great equalizer. It doesn’t care about race, gender or religion, material wealth or poverty, or any of the distinctions we humans are so fond of keeping in place.

The world’s children are waking up, standing up, and shouting. To ignore them any longer is not only foolish, but will soon be impossible. They will not be stopped. I, and many, many others like me, are standing behind them and cheering. The world’s leaders and their oil-soaked backers have done everything possible to ignore their citizens’ collective outcry. But they will not be allowed to ignore the children any longer.
Greta Thunberg and all those who will come after her will make sure of it.

To find out more about Greta Thunberg, read this article in Earth Island Journal here.