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Momentous times…so, now what?

Posted June 30th, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Zine Comments Off on Momentous times…so, now what?

Momentous. We can all feel it. The atmosphere is simmering with tensions, transitions, signs of tumultuous changes – in the culture, on the planet. There is not space to recount all that has happened in this country in just the time since we last posted here, events that have opened wide the simmering cultural tensions around race, gender and human sexuality, democracy v religious orthodoxy, corporate rights over the rights of humans and the planet, free trade for corporations at the cost of the ecosystems we need for life.

And then there’s the weather – one extreme after another.

video: global temperature anomalies

It’s all stunning stuff and for me highlights once again that we are living in extraordinary times. Nothing feels solid anymore and those trying to reassert solidity in culture, politics, and ecology are increasingly frustrated that a world of certainty they constructed around themselves is falling apart.

Chaos and flux rule now. And what we have to decide is how we want to live in that reality.

Big stuff is going on – really big stuff – and the way humans as individuals, cultures, religions, tribes, nations have been thinking of themselves for centuries now is no longer working. Meanwhile, something else is emerging all around the planet. Some of the most powerful expressions of this are within indigenous communities, and among the poor in places like Ecuador and Bolivia, India and El Salvador, Appalachia and northern Alberta, out of “spiritualities” or life experiences that most affluent, well-educated westerners cannot even imagine. We see the world through a cultural fog of our consumer items and technology, through screens that we think show us ‘reality’ more than our own eyes and ears and physical contact with Nature and one another, through a vast media cloud that holds our attention in a massive form of distraction from reality.

Source: NASA

Smoke from Canadian wildfires wafts over Central US. Source: NASA

And still Charleston and Obama’s eulogy and the California drought and the Greek default and the ISIS attack on tourists in Tunisia and marriage equality and the recent arson attacks on black churches and the Shell drilling rig on its way to explore for oil near a land burning from record warmth and drought…  Still smoke from hundreds of wildfires in western Canada wafts over the tar sands industrial region and down over the heart of our nation. Still fire storms explode in the forests of Washington State.

 Raw video footage of wildfire in central WA

Momentous times – huge, consequential, extraordinary. So, now what?

A lot of my time gets filled with reading what many of us used to call the “signs of the times,” news about the world and where things seem to be headed, what’s underneath the events, or what these events, these signs, are indicating about the reality in which we swim. Of course, I do this in part for the most practical reasons, because of the work we do here, the writing, workshops, and PP presentations, or to share important news on our Facebook page and among colleagues and friends. Which means, of course, that each day I have to look at a lot of depressing news, hard to take in, emotionally and psychologically draining.

Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

A few recent examples: NOAA’s research lab on Mauna Loa recorded an average May CO2 reading of 403.94 ppm. That’s up from 401.78 in May 2014. Remember that supposedly magic number 350, the one that James Hansen says is the safe level to avoid dangerous climate change, the number embraced by Bill McKibben, that was adopted as a national movement around global warming? Humans won’t see that CO2 level again for centuries, maybe longer. Carbon emissions keep rising, and will continue to rise through this century – maybe, if we’re lucky, to somewhere between 450-500 ppm; and, if we’re not, well, let’s not go there quite yet…

Oh, and by the way, NOAA has also recorded that the January-May 2015 period was by far the hottest such period ever recorded globally. We are definitely headed to a record-shattering year. One impact? Devastating heat waves in India and Pakistan, among other places, that have directly caused thousands of deaths. Alaska is sizzling not only with heat but with literally hundreds of wildfires. Recent studies show the fire season up there comes earlier, is stronger, and lasts longer with each passing year. Meanwhile, fires are burning forests in California, Oregon, and Washington State, also in Alberta and Saskatchewan, in what is turning out to be, as predicted, the worst wildfire season in the West ever – and it has barely gotten started.

Meanwhile, NASA has reported that more than half of the Earth’s 37 largest aquifers are being depleted by a combination of human overuse and climate change. And this story – the signs that the predicted Sixth Great Extinction has begun.

Momentous — all of this. So, now what? I mean, what is the point of sharing all this overwhelmingly sad news?

Well, here’s what I think – I think we have to get over our fear of seeing the big picture. We have to stop being so reluctant to tell the truth about our predicament. We have to stop being so afraid of grief and despair because these are completely appropriate and fully human responses to what is happening to the planet, and we can use these feelings, channel them in healthy ways. In reality, I keep running into people who know exactly how bad things are anyway, but who suffer because they feel so alone and so afraid for the future, especially if they have kids. The debilitating form of despair comes from the isolation and loneliness one feels when there is no way to connect with others, to have spaces where we can share the fear and despair and learn what to do with them. In reality, these kinds of intense feelings can be channeled into bursts of creative energy, into rethinking our lives and figuring out what we can contribute toward shifting this culture away from what is destroying us.

When we engage with others, when we create and act out of that engagement, suddenly we don’t feel so lonely and helpless. This is true ecological work because it is exactly how Nature works. What is needed to address the despair and fear is community.

What is not needed is to believe we can somehow remain within, or return to, some normal that is coming to a crashing end. What is not needed is more denialism – not just among climate change skeptics but among those who neglect to point out, or don’t want to believe, that our predicament is far larger and more comprehensive than what is happening to climate. In reality, we could begin to address climate by quickly reducing carbon emissions, but there would remain the biggest crisis of them all – that we have overshot the biological capacity of the planet. Warming climate or not, it cannot carry humans at these levels of extraction, production, consumption, and waste. Global warming is a symptom of the disease, it is not the illness itself.

peoples climate march crpdSo, we come back to that question of community! Now we’re getting to the point of this essay, the answer to the question, “now what?” Think about the People’s Climate March last year in New York. Think about the creativity and inspiration produced out of that event – not just in the march itself, but in all the preparations, the making of signs and banners, organizing buses and local fundraising events. Think about the response of Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. Church, the powerful community coming together out of stunning trauma and grief and witnessing to all of us another way of responding to a hate crime of this magnitude – taking some of the energy out of the intensity of the racism that still pervades our society.

It is amazing what we can do in community. We lose a lot of our fear. We find courage we never knew we had. We begin to discover that “things” have often replaced what we really want in life – connection, human connection, a common cause, shared meaning and struggle, a sense of purpose.

Community is ecological, it is how Nature works. The concept of the “individual,” or the autonomous actor, does not exist in Nature. No one is alone or isolated, no matter how much we feel that way in this consumer culture. Restoring that experience of profound connectedness is one of the things we need to do now – with a sense of urgency…

…with our human sisters and brothers in all their diversity, and with our fellow sentient and non-sentient beings that are all part of the eco-web that made us possible and within which we dwell in profound interdependence.

Really, I promise, it is a much more fulfilling, spiritually and emotionally satisfying, enriching, joyful way to live, no matter the conditions of the world around us. If we want to help “fix” that world, heal it for the sake of life, then this is one of the steps we need to take –

…develop diverse, inclusive, communities rooted in a profound sense of solidarity where issues of eco-social justice come together, where we listen to one another deeply and contemplatively, share insights into how we perceive this moment of transition and how to move forward into a new paradigm of co-creativity with Mother Earth – this Mother whom we have so abused despite her incredible generosity!

We need new kinds of relationships with one another and the planet. And this is something of enormous importance to the Center for New Creation. As we look ahead, part of our mission now is to help create and foster “spaces” where people can come together to read the “signs of the times,” develop relationships of solidarity, begin to articulate the new paradigms of transformation, what they would look like, and how we begin to live into them.

As time passes and the various crises of our times deepen, I find myself moving more and more away from the notion of activism and social change as issue-driven and tactics-focused. That feels more and more like an endless game of whack-a-mole when what the times require is a deep engagement in creating wholly new cultures and ways of life. The actions we take need to come out of shared reflection on the nature of the times in which we live and help build and nurture those new cultures. We need to build resilience and trust into our communities even as we work to address, or confront, the “issues” of the day.

Think Bree Newsome climbing the flagpole in Charleston and taking down the symbol of the Confederacy – and she a descendent of slaves that were sold on the auction block in that city. She didn’t do it alone, she did it with a community of friends surrounding her and at a time when her action would have maximum impact as a cultural expression.

Credit: Marcus Donner, Greenpeace

Credit: Marcus Donner, Greenpeace

Think the “kayactivists” in Puget Sound confronting the monstrous Shell oil drilling rig. Or think Obama rising to the occasion for his eulogy in Charleston. Or think school kids working on a project about saving the polar bears from extinction. Creative ways of expression that when done in conscious recognition of interconnectedness, when done ecologically, help create the new cultures we need to live through the painful transition time now underway.

For me, that’s the answer to the “now what?” That’s where we want to focus more of our attention in this little organization as we rethink the role we might play in the work of “new creation.”

~ Margaret Swedish

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Together, in community, or not at all

Posted May 20th, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Zine Comments Off on Together, in community, or not at all

That’s how “creation” does it. That’s how life unfolds – in community. The evolution of life on this planet, unique as far as we know in all the universe, happens only in the places of dynamic connection. Over hundreds of millions of years, living forms have come and gone as the process continued. And no living form is free of the process, or can rip itself free from all those connections – from community.TRAVEL

Not if it wants to live.

We are IN it. That is part of the fundamental truth of the evolution from which this human species emerged.

As we have said so many times in our work – if we do not care for the places of connection, the places where we interact with all that is around us and all that is around us interacts with us, our own lives begin to fall apart. We are completely dependent beings when it comes to water, air, soil, food, other creatures… Let the forests and the bees and the worms go extinct, we die off. Let the humans go extinct, the worms and the bees thrive. Who needs whom?

Yet we live in a culture fiercely bent on defending individual self-interest and that views development of the self as some singular entity as the goal in life. Capitalism loves this because the “individual” consumer is the most profitable kind of consumer. The culture and all its advertisers put the stress on using consumption of stuff and standards of living as ways to create that “self,” to express individuality, even as it puts at the service of that personal goal a monoculture in which true diversity and creative expression withers.

Put the common good and community sharing at the forefront of our economic lives, and that system collapses.

A worthy goal, methinks. Because, since the truth of life and evolution is in the dynamisms of our interconnections, any system that frays those connections – the myth that if I purchase a new thing, a smart phone, a weekend in Las Vegas, a fuel-efficient car, it has no impact on that common good, on the welfare of the community – is also breaking down the living systems that support our very existence.

Rare earth mineral mine, where computers and smart phones originate

Rare earth mineral mine, where computers and smart phones originate

And the evidence of that cultural lie is now all around us in the deterioration of virtually every aspect of those systems, within the atmosphere and biosphere. Imagine how we have made a world in which, instead of giving life, both the atmosphere and biosphere have been so degraded that they also threaten our health and well-being. They also make us sick – with cancer, respiratory diseases, and various neurological diseases, among other things.

We make the community of life lethally sick, yet we cannot live outside that community no matter how hard we try.

When material possessions or extravagant lifestyles become more important to us than the health of the atmosphere and biosphere, and our own bodies, then we have reached a point of true “disconnection from reality,” a pathological breakdown. We have been cut off from our source. And this cannot go well, right?

This is not the news most people want to hear, but the reality is that every object we buy, every commute, every fancy vacation, uses energy, water, and soil, involves metals, oil and gas, habitat destruction, and pollution, somewhere along the chain of life before our point of consumption. And when 7.3 billion humans are all headed in this same direction, with another 2-3 billion more to come by mid-century, the ecology of this becomes completely impossible if the point is to inhabit a planet that can support abundant biodiverse life.

We can get by as “consumers” (eating, drinking, having shelter, singing, dancing, reading books, etc.) as long as we are not using more than the Earth has to offer, more than can be healed, absorbed, replenished. But we are now so wildly beyond those limits that we have brought our own future as a species into question. The Earth is delivering that message in vast changes to climate systems, desertification of broad swaths of the planet, contamination and waste that permeates our land, air and water, that invades our bodies, and in wars and other forms of violent desperation – the list is long.

Pipeline protest at Burnaby Mountain, Canada

Pipeline protest at Burnaby Mountain, Canada

This is happening in community. This is occurring because the community of life is very, very sick.

This culture of individual gain and consumption, this economic model of gouging more and more from the planet for those purposes, and then whatever it is inside we humans that created this culture and keeps it in place no matter the evidence of the harm it’s doing – there, deep within us, is the underlying pathology of anti-creation that must be addressed, overcome, cured, if we are to become a healthy community of life again.

This is a deep spiritual, psychological work. It does not take place in a therapist’s office or a church focused on the isolated soul in personal, individual need of salvation. The healers of our time must be fully conscious of the webs in which we live and help the human community to become healers of those webs. This is the true healing work of our time.

This does not mean we don’t have deeply “individual” work to do, because all of us suffer trauma living in this kind of world, brutal as it is, brutal to self-esteem, to the spirit, to life. Inner work is very important for us to be able to identify the places of our own injury, to see through them to the real causes (not our parents, for example, because they were traumatized, too), and to free ourselves from the effects of those causes, to find release, or to allow ourselves to be released from that chain of suffering. Then we can be of real service in response to the ecological urgencies of this generation.

Banner from the August Community Days

At Villa Maria, PA, Sisters of the Humility of Mary

From this work and witness new healing cultures can emerge. New communities of life can come into being committed to living in the truth of creation, instead of living in ways that are shredding it. From that release comes a sense of deep, deep freedom. We find our own ecological wisdom, in body and spirit. We can begin to trust ourselves and life as we reconnect with the energy, the dynamism, that is at the heart of the evolutionary unfolding.

But we cannot do it alone, or in isolation. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to learn these things but stay in our old lives that fit into that culture of individualism, whether as persons, nuclear families, old ethnic, racist or nationalist identities within which we feel safe and enclosed. We are being deeply challenged by the ecological crises of our times to burst out of these small places and to fully identify as planetary beings – as we are now rapidly discovering ourselves to be.

This is a hard time, yes, but it is also an extraordinary time. In this larger context, what we begin to experience about ourselves is enormous, the gifts we have to give, each of us, no matter what they may be, potentially meaningful contributions to the whole of what is needed now. As we come to fully recognize our “place” within the whole, instead of measuring our worth and dignity by what we are winning or losing within the dominant economic system, what we have and possess, we begin to see the inherent richness and uniqueness of each of us where there is no measure of worth because we are all worthy, all part of this, all able to contribute to what holds us together rather than what drives us apart.

We do this together, or not at all – because that is the way it works, that is truth of Nature. And that’s why this theme has become central to the work we do in this project. It is why supporting “communities of new creation” has become a key aspect of our mission.

~ Margaret Swedish

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The Ecology of Interconnection

Posted February 23rd, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Zine 1 Comment

Theme #3 for 2015

We started the year with some thoughts on the Ecology of Fossil Fuels (#1). We then shared some thoughts on the Ecology of Racism (#2) as this impacts any hopes we have for transforming our world away from the destruction of the industrial age. Each of these themes is a way to highlight a fundamental fact or reality of Nature – that all things are interconnected, that there is nothing we can do to escape the interrelatedness of everything within the whole wild diversity of all that is. Because this is true, if those points of connection are damaged, or worse, destroyed, the impacts radiate out through the webs of all those interconnections. They begin to break down, and what holds the whole together starts to unravel.

March lecture series crude

Margaret Swedish pointing out some of the pathological interconnections.

We are as healthy or as sick as those connections are. Because this is true, a culture that focuses on the individual self, on self-interest, on selfish gain, on living in self-isolated enclaves, of psychologically and spiritually detaching the choices we make for our lives from the impacts each of those choices has on those connections, is, in reality, a lie, a deception – because it cannot be done no matter how hard we try to do it.

An economy focused on individual consumption, gain, and affluence, is unhealthy, destructive, and can easily become pathological. And since suicidal tendencies indicate pathology, since extreme violence and cruelty indicate pathology, since self-destructive behavior indicates pathology, since extreme forms of injustice indicate pathology, and since domestic abuse – that is, violence perpetrated on those with whom we live in intimacy or within families – indicates pathology…

Flaring in at the new fracking well pad in Western PA on the boundary of Villa Maria

Flaring in at the new fracking well pad in Western PA on the boundary of Villa Maria – a form of extreme ecological violence.

Well, let’s be clear about this – these are hallmarks of the industrial growth culture and clear evidence that our way of life is indeed pathological. We are headed towards species suicide. We are perpetrating extreme violence and cruelty not only among humans but against Nature (Life, Living Systems) of which we are expression and on which we are completely dependent. We are perpetrating extreme violence against the closely-knit ecological families of which we are a part and apart from which we are not at all.

And so the crucial importance of another kind of ecology – one that sees this with horror and shock, with grief that brings us to our knees, with fear and trembling over what we have done and the consequences of our behavior for all those around us (sentient and non-sentient beings). What we see brings us back to the origins of our loving relations with a sense of extreme regret and remorse and a passionate desire to heal what is broken, what is not yet beyond repair.

But as with AA – you cannot find the healing path by continuing to drink the poison – if I just drink a little less, or not as often, or just here and there. It is an addiction, the worst one of our lives, for even in our best days we cannot figure out a way to live without it.

Without what? Oil, gas, plastics, rare earth minerals, coal, uranium, toxic chemicals – because they are in everything, in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the buildings in which we live, the energy we burn to stay warm or cool. We built our entire lives on this stuff – not intentionally, not with any thought-out decision-making process, but just because it was what was and has been available to us to create the world of shopping malls and freeways and planes and airports and jobs and instant communication and faster processing of everything.

And so quickly have we grown this world – just 200 years to bring us to the brink – that we are at a point now of no escape – anywhere. This version of industrial humanity, this global economy, touches every part of our planet now and there is no place not impacted in some direct, damaging manner. We continue to suck dwindling resources out of the Earth. We continue to contaminate our air and water and soil, thereby also our very bodies. We continue to overwhelm the planet with our waste.

lac-megantic

Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster, July 6 2013

Standing on that brink now, we don’t have a clue how to get off this train wreck. Think exploding oil trains as an apt metaphor. Think of that runaway train in Quebec headed for the town of Lac-Mégantic and no way to stop it, yet seeing the disaster in front of us, that feeling of helplessness. There isn’t even time to warn those young people having a fine time in the bar that night…

What to do… What to do in this most desperate of times.

Well, me make a movement. That’s what we do. We make a movement that understands ecology, the importance of those points of connection. We make a movement that sees clearly the pathologies that have brought us to the brink and sees the need to cure them – quickly – to get this culture into some healing therapies, some radical awakening, some shock therapy, into safe rooms with padded walls where we can wrestle with the withdrawal symptoms, cry out our pain and grief, share what is hidden in our hearts about our fears and brokenness, our vulnerabilities, our admissions of our dependency on all the versions of drugs this culture has given us.

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Then we get off the stuff as much as we can (because we can’t do it completely yet), and get to work repairing the damage as fast as we can.

And here’s the beautiful thing about that – it is actually occurring – all over the place. New Creation is going on among this crazy species as more and more people are seeing the reality of our situation and creating movements of ecological hope and renewal, partnering with their living ecosystems in search of ways to heal and repair, turning their backs on an industrial culture that has so little regard for their “places” and communities, realizing as never before that we are far more dependent on Mother Earth than the economic culture that is consuming her gifts.

People are coming together more and more to witness, to denounce and announce, to declare clearly the “signs of the times,” to take a prophetic stance against the extreme forms of violence against the planet – from strip mining Mother Earth’s mountains and sandhills and boreal forests, to drilling and fracking, to vast open pit mines for extraction of iron ore, rare earth minerals, gold, and so much more, to covering over fertile farmlands and mountain valleys and ocean and lake shores for private development, to pouring pollutants and trash into our oceans….

How can we have so little regard?

peoples climate march crpdWell, more and more people have lots of regard, and the transition has clearly begun. You won’t see it on TV news yet or read about it much in the newspapers, but it is happening. We are part of the Earth. We are one of her living beings. And she is starting to move through us as part of the “correction,” to speak through us and work through us, as expression of a new ecological movement. More and more of us realize we’re in trouble. The biology stirs within us. And a new sense of our part within the whole is leading to new emergent spiritualities, cultures, and forms of activism that are in sync with the energies of the planet.

There is hope emerging as a biological, ecological, and spiritual force all around the world now. And we will write about that story in our next post.

Margaret Swedish

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On the Ecology of Racism

Posted February 4th, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Zine Comments Off on On the Ecology of Racism

It has one – racism has an ecology. As I wrote a few days ago about fossil fuels, so of racism. What we said about ecology is that it is about “a web of interconnection, intricate, complex, ubiquitous, supporting” – in this case, supporting what? A way of being, entitlement and privilege, attitudes, identities, and underneath it there is an energy, a force, a resonance that impacts everything around it, everything it touches, every part of the reality in which it is allowed to exist.

At first glance, it appears to be more an anti-ecology, an attempt to separate out, fragment, isolate. It is mechanistic in the extreme – pulling the “human machine” apart into isolated fragments, then thinking those fragments are or can be actually isolated in a world this crowded now, this overlapping, this tightly woven by economies, urbanization, transportation, breathing the same air, drinking from the same sources of water, walking down the same streets.

icantbreath

…without my sisters and brothers.

We don’t live in separate worlds anymore. Our tribes have moved, have reproduced, have intermarried, have migrated across borders over centuries of war and empire-building and the search for evermore resources to use up for human commerce, and sailing across oceans, conquering new lands, while growing population at ever-increasing rates until we have nowhere else for our tribes to run and hide, except to the exurbs or the gated-communities, and even those don’t work anymore, not really.

There is no way any longer for tribes of race, ethnic identity, and culture to live with no connection to one another, or worse, with one fragment of the human species dominant over all the others, those others kept at a safe distance – not if we want to restore balance to our lives on this planet.

If we understand ecology correctly, we know this kind of separation is impossible. It is a form of socio-cultural mechanistic thinking – a belief that we can break ecology, in this case human ecology, into separate parts, isolate ourselves into enclaves with little or no contact with the “other,” and create a stable, happy world for those isolated parts. Rather than create wholesome and peaceful communities, the attempt creates intense tensions, huge amounts of energy directed toward enforcing this unnatural form of human life. It breeds resentment, anger, fear. It makes it impossible to work for the common good because there is no sense that the “good” is held in common.

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Ecology means that we can never cut ourselves off from the reality of the whole. Even that attempt impacts the whole, and the reaction of the whole to our attempt at separation impacts everything around us. The attempt itself has enormous consequences for the ecological community made up of all sentient and non-sentient beings in any bioregion. It reveals an attitude toward Nature itself. What we do to one another we do to Nature. The connection between our ravaging of the Earth and our ravaging of one another has long been noted in the community of ecologists and poets, among others.

Racism and ethnic discrimination is not working anymore…it never really worked. It took thousands of years of an awful bloody tribal history marked by those empires, cultures, races that felt or feel superior to another, conquering and/or suppressing people of other cultures or races (or who worshiped other gods) and ruling over them with great cruelty, or engaging in ethnic wars that resulted in building yet more resentment leading to more ethnic conflict (think Ukraine right now, or Sunni v. Shiite, or how anti-immigrant zealots in Texas and Arizona responded to Central American children fleeing to the U.S. to escape gang violence) for us to finally begin to come to terms with the meaning and the reality of racism and ethnic oppression in our world, and here at home.

Or here in my hometown of Milwaukee and its surrounding suburbs, for example, where we are, sadly, one of the most racially segregated in all of the country. Has it helped create a healthy ecology in this bioregion? We can’t even create a light rail system in the Greater Milwaukee Area, or efficient bus lines to the suburbs where the jobs are, because so many who have fled “otherness,” what for decades has been called “white flight,” are afraid of who might get on those trains and buses and show up in the streets of their sprawling communities. So every day, the tens of thousands get in their cars and hit the highways, while demanding more and more highways to accommodate their desire to remain separate, burning more fossil fuels and spewing more carbon into the atmosphere, while paving over some of the state’s richest farmland.

blmWe see the racist tensions in our own streets, as in Ferguson, New York City, and Milwaukee, yet many refuse to see them in the same light as the ethnic conflicts in other parts of the world which we roundly condemn. This society is a long way from overcoming this cultural legacy. In fact, as the era of the civil rights struggle in the U.S. waned, those who felt displaced by the struggle for social justice and equal rights became a reactionary force that has reshaped the politics and culture of US America, a potent politics of resentment that reached a crescendo when the country put an African-American family in the White House. The nation has moved backwards. What so many call the red-and-blue divide, when you see the sea of deep red that blankets the south or the sea of red that now surrounds the city of Milwaukee, you see a picture of what is really going on, what most people are still afraid of saying out loud – about what the colors that divide us really are.

In order to understand that deep-seated cultural legacy, we would have to talk about that history; we would have to acknowledge that this country was built on slavery and the oppression of millions of people (not to mention the extermination of former inhabitants of this land) and that without that we would never have become the powerful nation we claim now to be. We want to believe this great nation was built upon principles of freedom and democracy, but the reality is that disenfranchised people have always had to struggle like hell to be included under the banner of those principles. If the European invaders had not enslaved Africans for two centuries, this great North American economy would never have come to be.

Earth from Galileo - NASA photo

Like it or not, we all share this one round world. NASA photo

That, too, is ecology, the interrelatedness of all things, all energies within which we live and move and have our being. Thich Nhat Hahn calls it “inter-being,” an ecology across both space and time. One thing leads to another. Because there is this, there is that. Suchness. The “who” that we really are.

Not saying this out loud, holding back from articulating clearly that this is a large part of what is at work in the nation’s political culture right now, is like pretending that the rise in CO2 and methane is not fundamental to the rise in global temperature leading to climate change, and certainly has nothing to do with all those cars we drive or tanks and fighters we build.

We are, all of us, profoundly interconnected. When we tear at the fabric of life, we weaken the web that holds us all. And that does not just mean the ravaging of Alberta’s boreal forest by the tar sands industry, or the raping of the Earth by fracking wells that drill deeply into shale rock, fracture it, break it open so that oil and gas can be released, or the fouling of our oceans by pollution on a scale beyond imagining – it also means what people do to the human community by way of racist exclusion, ethnic genocide, claims of racial superiority, or a thousand acts of environmental injustice thrust upon people who are poor and not-white.

Marktown, a community of working class African-Americans in the shadows of the BP refinery in Whiting IN. BP is slowly buying out and destroying the community as it expands its capacity. Photo: Margaret Swedish

Marktown, a community of working class African-Americans in the shadows of the BP refinery in Whiting IN. BP is slowly buying out and destroying the community as it expands its capacity. Photo: Margaret Swedish. See also: Historic town fears for its future

Here is one horrific example of what I mean: China Is Building a $1.85B Methanol Plant in ‘Cancer Alley’ Louisiana But No One Bothered To Inform Its Predominantly Black Community. The same mentality that is destroying the atmosphere and biosphere of the planet by way of industrialization is at work within the African-American community of Louisiana, one of thousands upon thousands of examples we could cite.

Too many people think they can work to preserve Nature apart from working for social and economic justice and for world peace (war being one of the greatest sources of destruction to humans and the Earth).

Racism is also an ecology. In this case, it is an all-too-human ecology. I quote again the definition of “human ecology” from Merriam-Webster that was in my last post: “a branch of sociology dealing especially with the spatial and temporal interrelationships between humans and their economic, social, and political organization.”

And the point I’m going to argue here is this: we cannot heal the ecology of the planet, we cannot salvage the “environment” for human survival, we cannot bring the human community back into a sustainable balance with the life-giving dynamisms of the Earth, if we do not address this essential aspect of our ecological reality.

Worshop on gender justice at the Body & Soul Healing Arts Center in Milwaukee on MLK holiday. Photo: Venice Williams

Worshop on gender justice at the Body & Soul Healing Arts Center in Milwaukee on MLK holiday. Photo: Venice Williams

White people are not going to save this planet from global warming and the sixth great extinction. The human community, mimicking Nature – diverse, plural, all mixed up with one another in a vibrant cross-cultural sharing of wisdom, expertise, real knowledge, life experience, ecological spiritualities, bonded together by a deep hope for survival and the dream of a different kind of world than this one – that human community, in deep relationship with other sentient and non-sentient beings, is the only kind of community that can save a human future, a human share of the story of Gaia.

Life exists and thrives in diversity. Cultural anthropologists have written with great concern about the loss of languages and cultures all around the world as the monoculture of industrial/consumer economies invades every nation, every corner of the planet where people live (i.e., where a market exists). Some say that the loss of each language is an extinction as devastating as extinctions of unique irreplaceable species, because each one holds a unique way of experiencing life and meaning, another way of seeing the world. That cultural diversity in sync with the biodiversity of specific bioregions is part of what keeps those eco-communities protected in their integrity. After all, the Earth evolved them for a reason, and they have survived for a reason. Extinguishing this wisdom for the sake of consumer products and market shares is reckless in the extreme. Humans destroy places and communities before we even know them, understand them, appreciate why they are there and the role they play in the bigger scheme of things.

Alice's Garden: growing food and community in the central city. Photo: Margaret Swedish

Alice’s Garden: growing food and community in the central city. Photo: Margaret Swedish

Think of the wild diversity of Nature! Why do we humans so fear this among ourselves? Do we not all need one another in order to flourish? As we consider the interlocking nature of this globalizing reality in which we are fully embedded in this era of dense population and ecological crises, can we begin to realize the treasures we hold among ourselves in that wild diversity that could help heal this planet – heal it not only biologically but from all these wounds of violence and separation and injustice?

Aren’t we all in this together? Isn’t that what we have learned – finally? Haven’t we finally learned from science and the world of Nature in which we are included that all boundaries are porous, from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the animals and plants we eat and the cells of our own bodies – nothing exists by itself. Different aspects of the ecological whole depend on one another in order to live at all.

And so of the human community. We live in an ecology of mutual need and support. It’s time, and past time, that we start living as if that is the case. Our future survival now depends on it.

~ by Margaret Swedish

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