Yes, it’s been a bit of a long silence on this site. As we rethink things for the Center for New Creation, as work ramps up in the wake of the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home, as we engage in a few other planning sessions for coming collaborative programs – well, life, work become more intense, which is not the way I remember August…
For one thing, the planetary news this summer has gone from sobering in the beginning to downright scary at this point. Wildfires, deadly heat waves all across the northern hemisphere, the fast spread of extreme to exceptional drought across most of the North American West, from Mexico to Alaska, have stunned us, frankly. I mean, we knew things were getting bad, but this?
I mean, let’s just cite one example of the unprecedented extremes, because sometimes one detail of the reality brings the whole thing into view: On July 31, the heat index in the Iranian coastal city of Bandar Mahshahr reached 165 degrees. The actual temperature was 115 degrees, but the dew point reached 90.
90!!! How was anyone able to breathe, to move? New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called this “unfathomable,” because it is.
For more on this story, read his Aug. 19 column, “The World’s Hot Spot.” Extreme summer heat, part of the “new normal” for our planet, is contributing to immense human suffering, and to wars, political instability, ecological breakdowns, and severe economic challenges.
And then there’s the news that, despite those extreme climate events, business-as-usual in this country proceeds apace: President Obama decides on one side to regulate coal emissions and on the other to give Dutch Shell a permit to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. He says he wants to regulate methane emissions from natural gas wells, but continues to support the spread of fracking and natural gas production as a replacement for coal-burning in U.S. power plants. The nation, meanwhile, can’t get enough of these cheap gas prices and giant gas-guzzling vehicles, which are being purchased at a record pace. Consumers are shopping and traveling more. It seems no disaster or series of disasters or combinations of disasters are enough to convince us that we cannot live like this anymore.
Corporate executives and politicians tell us a growing economy is good news, generating employment for more people after the punishing recession that followed the financial collapse in 2008. But most of those jobs have no future because they are part of an economy we will either decide to end by deliberate life-saving decisions, or (more likely) be forced to end in a very short time because the Earth is announcing in no uncertain terms that the industrial era is over. The longer we keep it on life support, the harsher the transition is going to be. Why? Because the longer we keep it on life support, the more climate is changing in ways that will make more of the planet uninhabitable (including some of our most populated places), will increase the numbers of environmental refugees from the current tens of millions to hundreds of millions, and will destroy a lot of the “resources” we will need to survive through the transition – like water and land to grow food locally (which will be the only way we will eat and drink in coming decades, by living within the limits of our bioregions).
In other words, the longer we wait, the less resilience we will have, and the Earth will have, for us to get through the crisis time.
And if we are concerned about jobs that pay livable wages, we ought to be making the transition right now away from those that depend on fossil-fueled industrial growth to those that will depend on the creation of the new ecological economies – transitions in energy, re-purposing and reusing everything, environmental clean-up projects on a massive scale, mass transit, local small businesses providing vital services, small farmers (mostly organic), popular health programs and a single-payer health system to replace mega-medical delivery systems and the private insurance industry, along with re-creating urban areas to make them wonderful, healthy, community-oriented places to live.
There’s plenty of work to do, plenty of jobs that could be created to get them done – but not within the paradigm of capitalist industrial/technological/economic/consumer growth. Not if we insist that we ought to be able to live where we want, however we want, travel around the world as we want, consume whatever we want, buy whatever we want, abuse the planet in whatever way necessary to live as we want, and on and on. We can’t make the transition if we continue to equate freedom of consumption with democracy, with the principle of freedom itself – as we have in this nation.
Creating a culture of “new creation” to erode the foundations of this destructive industrial growth culture is an essential part of the conversations we are having this summer as we ponder how to “locate” this project in the context of the work to nurture, help bring about, contribute to “The Great Turning.” That Turning, long known as a necessary requirement for our long term survival, has become urgent at this point in time because the cultural changes are way too slow for the pace of the ecological changes now underway. We have to catch up to those changes, and fast, if humans are to have a decent future life on this planet, or perhaps any future at all.
We have to not only catch up to the changes, we have to live in a way that halts them before it is too late for the ecosystems of the planet – the Web of Life that holds us and all our fellow creatures – to heal, regenerate, and renew themselves.
I mean, these extremes of heat and drought and fires and floods are not the planet’s only news. So is looming water scarcity, ruined soil that can no longer support food production, industrial contamination of everything (the Animas River disaster being one recent example), and positive feedback loops in the climate system that are already irreversible, such as the death of coral reefs and a huge percentage of aquatic life, the melting of most of the world’s glaciers, the melting of massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and rising sea levels, already flooding the streets of Miami Beach and Charleston SC at high tide, and drowning islands in Chesapeake Bay.
Oh, and 2015 is going to shatter previous global heat temperature records, and 2016 is almost certain to surpass those records.
It’s no longer a question of how to avoid disastrous climate change, resource depletion, and the sixth great extinction. Now it’s a question of how bad it’s going to get, and whether or not we will kill the generations to come before they are ever born.
Hard truths, but they need to be told. I sometimes want to throw bricks at my TV when I see what is reported as news these days – from Donald Trump to Scott Walker to Hillary Clinton’s email – none of this is news, none of this tells us anything we need to know about the planet, the trouble we’re in, and what we need to do about it. Friedman’s column did. The Durango Herald did. The heat waves that killed thousands in India and Pakistan were chock full of news. Those roaring fires out West? They have some news for us!
All summer, a couple of broadcast stations have tried. NBC Nightly News has had near-daily reports lately about the fires, often as the lead story. The Animas River disaster received plenty of coverage. But unless cultural leaders, religious leaders, community leaders at every level make news of the planet a focal point of their agendas, educating and organizing from the bottom up, the “turning” will not happen.
And part of that work is letting egos go, especially those organizational and ideological egos, so that millions more of us enter with humility into solidarity with those on the ground, especially frontline communities, who are already doing this work, often invisible to the larger culture because they are just not taken seriously.
We want to be one of those groups – offering our solidarity, offering visibility, offering our efforts to educate, consciousness-raise, incite, excite, point people to the places on the ground where they can make a big difference.
So, what are we doing this summer? A few things:
* presentations, workshops, book groups, reflection groups on the ecological crisis and the work of new creation;
* interpreting Pope Francis’ encyclical in a variety of communities where we have been invited to do this;
* going to all sorts of meetings to work with other groups to create collaborative programs in their communities;
* using this site and our Center for New Creation Facebook page to promote the new ecological vision and link to some of the best groups and resources we know about;
* meeting, proposing, discussing with colleagues and friends the fundamental questions about where and how to “locate” this work, where we can have impact, make a difference.
What do we need most?
Funds to create a “space” where people can come together around this theme of “new”creation, to share skills, experience, wisdom, insights, visions, spiritualities that can be shared out to the wider world. And we need a new website that can service that work, this WordPress blog platform no longer being adequate for the dream we have.
I think a lot of us are feeling the urgency now. This is critical work. We want to be one locus for it, and as much as possible link with others around the country that have a similar vision. We will need the help and support of a lot of people to make that happen. We know this is not the kind of work that goes easily into a grant proposal form or fundraising pitch. That’s why we come over and over again to those who have the vision, the urgency, the heart, and the commitment to face this crisis full on and see what we can create out of it – something new, something never seen before, a turning, a great turning toward a future we cannot yet see, but that has our children in it, and their children, and their children’s children, living in abundance amid a grateful planet.
We can use your support right now as funds usually diminish during the summer. They have, and we need to rebuild the bank account in order to move ahead. You can help us get started on this post-summer push. We would be extremely grateful for any contribution you can make now. To DONATE…
But we also need and want to build this community of collaborators, colleagues in the work, fonts of a more collective wisdom especially needed right now.
We will start posting again on a more regular basis. Please tell others about us. Post this link on your own website and blogs. Share the link on social media. And share your thoughts about this work, what you’re doing and what we’re doing, in the comment section of our posts. One day we will have that new website where other examples and voices of new creation can be found, where a larger community can participate in the conversation.
Enjoy these late summer days. The hints of change are in the air – seasonal, planetary, and also the turning.