In this political year… is woe us?

Posted April 8th, 2016 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on In this political year… is woe us?

Contrast the latest news of the planet – not just climate change but every other indicator of deteriorating ecological health – with this remarkably un-insightful, wisdom-lacking, corporate money-driven political year, and it’s hard to resist that urge to bang one’s head against the wall.

But I guess all that would do is replace one kind of headache with another…

logo at 235x259Since we began this project – first as Spirituality and Ecological Hope sponsored by the CNC, until now when that work IS the work of the CNC – we have been joining our voice and unique vantage point to that of so many others trying to tell the honest news of the deteriorating conditions of the planet, the root causes of the deterioration (not symptoms like climate change but what is causing the symptoms), what this says about our broken relationship with the living communities in which we are embedded, how to begin the work of healing – radically, profoundly, and from within that relationship – and where some of this work is emerging.

It has been a remarkable journey in many ways. Since 2007, I have had the privilege of speaking or conducting workshops in dozens and dozens of communities of all kinds – faith groups, universities, student groups from middle school to graduate students, before environmental organizations, community and activist groups, eco-spirituality centers, and more. From laying out the facts of our predicament in PowerPoint presentations, to leading groups through deep meditations and conversations about our spiritual, psychological, emotional, and bodily connections within Nature, to inviting participants to action and advocacy – it has all been an inspiration for me, often exhilarating, as we wrestle with the challenges of our times in ways that are honest, sometimes terrifying, but always infused with positive energy and enthusiasm.

peoples climate march crpdAbout what? Well, there is an energy that comes from sharing awareness, fear, vulnerable questions, uncertainties and anxiety, with others. There is energy in finding those connections that show us we are not alone in dealing with our rapidly changing world. And there is energy in talking about how we begin the journey of finding another way to live, or other ways (it will be plural and multicultural, diverse, just like Nature itself) that can get us through the crunch time coming for us on the planet, to talk about how to create a better life than the one dominated by a voracious consumer-driven global economy, even as that economy faces collapse because it cannot be sustained much longer.

When we say that our work is in transition, or that we are moving in a new direction, I want to be clear that it is not away from all that, or different from it, but rather emergent, evolving out of it. It is a next step.

To what? To that second part of the work we do – fostering ecological hope by fostering the work through which “new” creation is happening. And how do we do that? By telling the stories, by sharing the wisdom, by showing how many communities and movements, those emergent “from below,” are beginning to create the path to that other world that is possible. These movements are beginning to show us the answer to the question of how to proceed.

This didn’t just show up as our idea. For the past year or more, this has become the most-oft asked question when we do programs. How do we begin? What do we do? How do we change this economic regimen and this culture quickly enough to match the scale and immediacy of the crises we face? It all feels so enormous, so overwhelming, how do we not despair? Where is the hope?

And I often say, I can’t give you hope. Hope for me is a verb, or an attitude, or a state of being. It’s what we do together. It’s what we dream together. Alone with our fear, living isolated from one another as we face more floods and wildfires and drought and insane turbulent weather and melting ice sheets and glaciers and rising seas and mass extinctions and ruined habitats, there really is no hope. Nature doesn’t work that way in any case, in isolated lonely fragments, and neither does hope. Life happens in deep interconnection. And deep interconnection happens right where we are.Anti-Fracking Protest

And so that’s where we begin. We don’t have to start from scratch, because movements and new ways of life rooted in that truth of Nature have emerged, and are emerging, all across the planet. It’s just a matter of getting ourselves connected.

In these past ten years or so of engaging this work of ecology and spirituality, and also now of ecological and social justice, I have seen two particularly powerful “locations” for where this work emerges. It comes from connections with “place,” and it comes from a sense of urgency.

The urgency comes from communities that are directly impacted by environmental disasters. Examples might include the communities in Appalachia ruined by mountaintop coal mining, or New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, or communities in Japan impacted by the Fukishima nuclear disaster, or the areas of extreme drought in northern Africa or the U.S. Southwest – or Flint - speaking at UW-Whitewater 4-20-15

The motivation around “place” has to do with communities that find that land and waters that they love are being threatened by oil pipelines, mining of all kinds, pollution from local industries, woods being cut down for a shopping mall, and on and on through the long list.

Urgency and love of place are profound motivators, and more and more millions of us are experiencing them directly. We are beginning to appreciate what is being lost, who is bearing the cost, and what the planetary trends mean for this world if we can’t stop this economic/industrial/technological trend toward the shredding and/or poisoning of all the basic elements of life.

Not least among those elements being the very beauty of this world that is part of what makes it good to be alive.

1 - CNC logo smallerOur intention now, with our plan for a new website, is to bring these stories of life, of new creation, of creative activism, into a gathering place, a “community of stories.” If we are going to keep sharing the most vital information about the harm being done to the planet, who is doing it, and why – and we will keep doing that – we want to have the capacity to share more of that other vital side of the coin.

It is not only collapse and ruination that is happening by way of the human economy. There is all kinds of new creation going on, all kinds of activism, holding actions, witness-bearing, and community-building also going on – a response of the Earth through those who are engaging this new work.

More and more people are prepared to reject, to renounce, the ways of life that are destroying our possibility to continue being a part of the Earth’s evolution. More and more people want to learn how to live differently. We can all learn from one another, be inspired by one another.

So, we hope to have a new website up in the next few months. We look forward to being one of many connecting points in the ever-growing network of communities making new creation. We won’t go away in the meantime. I will continue posting here at least once a week until then.

Then maybe woe will not be us. Maybe we will be able to take woe out of the narrative of our human future.

~ Margaret Swedish






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