Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Madison, Climate

Posted February 20th, 2011 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Madison, Climate

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

So, what do all these things have in common?

Right, big disruptions, big upheavals, signs of the times expressed in the unpredictable and uncontrollable,  the angry, the responses of ‘natural forces’ (for we, too, are nature) to great stresses built over time.

Photo: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

The world is changing. We are moving from one era into another. How will we do? What will the world look like a generation from now? Are we creating something new, or merely destroying what has been? Is it only a time of great unraveling (it certainly is that), or is something emerging?

The world is changing all around us. How will we do? And will we understand the forces at work that are bringing about the change? Will we even try?  Or will fear overwhelm us? And which direction will the change go? Will it bring more oppression, even repression, or open space to new creative possibilities for dealing with the vast, complex challenges of this generation?

Will it be a time of every person for themselves as we attempt to ‘win the future’ (unfortunate phrase), or the beginning of a new solidarity among the human community, and the human with the all-enveloping earth community?

Times don’t get much more interesting than this, nor stakes any higher.

The age of US supremacy is ending. The age of a vibrant manufacturing base that could provide jobs and a middle-class lifestyle for the masses is ending, indeed has already collapsed. The age that followed the crafting of a post-colonial world divided up into artificial nations by former colonial empires in Western Europe is ending. The post-World War II order is ending, along with the belief systems at its foundations.

How will we do?

As they keep saying in regard to Egypt, the first wave of revolution that brings down the despot is exhilarating and infused with hope and even joy. Then comes the hard part.

Same thing in Madison. Same thing with climate.

Climate? Yes, because an old order is ending there too – in the atmosphere. A long era of stable climate (by earth’s standards) that gave humans a favorable context in which to evolve, learn agriculture, build cities and empires, and a now interlocked global economy, is ending, too, largely by our own hand – or hubris, or the same arrogance that built empires.

Planet has a fever. Credit: Grist

Same for the biosphere – reeling with change, the Sixth Great Extinction already underway at a dizzying pace. This the greatest unraveling of all taking place right now, unstoppable. How far will it go – and how will we do?

Here’s another – less than half of all 3-year-olds in the US are white. So also say good bye to our white majority. Lasted about, oh, maybe 150-200 years or so. In another generation, multiple cultures and ethnicities will form our majority.

Look around at how we are dealing with this now. So, how do you think we will do?

And this – 2011 is a threshold year, the year we pass the 7 billion mark in human population in the planet. You could count endlessly the added stresses this will bring to virtually every other change already underway. Prepare for another 2 billion or so in the next 4 decades.

Here’s one scenario currently underway for addressing these monumental changes – corporate takeover of the United States, of the public sector (see Madison) and the role elected representative government ought to play in a real democracy, of the precious remaining natural resources, what we need for life, of whether or not you and I have jobs, health insurance, uncontaminated food and water for our kids, or mountains in Appalachia…

Because that is what is really going on here. And as politicians, legislators, federal judges, state governors get bought by the likes of Koch Industries, as what we need for life is handed over to them, as artificial budget deficits are created by cutting taxes on wealth and on corporations so that government as a service to people and a defense of our rights can be gutted, we are finding ourselves with less and less leverage to address the serious crises unfolding in multiple and complex expressions all around the planet.

A fearful time, a time of vast potential for new creation. But for the latter to happen, we must conquer the fear. We must be willing to undergo great change in our lives. We must let go old expectations and understandings about our world.  And we must, must understand what is really going on – because much of our political, cultural, and economic upheavals are not accidents of our time but a result of all due deliberation on the part of those trying to use the fear and confusion and chaos to concentrate power and wealth more firmly in their hands.

Many cultures, many empires, many human  communities have gone through great disruptive, destructive upheavals before. Some disappeared altogether as a result of war, famine, ecological overshoot, or simply the passage of time, the entropy that eventually undoes every empire (what is happening here now), but never has the whole human race gone through a time like this altogether, never has the crisis of upheaval and potential collapse been a global phenomenon – not since Homo sapiens sapiens evolved.

How will we do?

Or, as I wrote in my book and have asked repeatedly, what kind of human beings will we be as we go through the crisis?

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