Into the wilderness…

Posted June 19th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 2 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Recently I launched a conversation with colleagues in the Milwaukee area about my work, about this project, about new searches, about trying to chart a path for work like this in a world reeling with change, transitioning into something we can’t know or see, the fear that the path is bound now to become increasingly difficult and painful, about how little of the old paradigms of social change efforts seem to work anymore or be relevant to the world we live in now.

It is good to find folks with whom this conversation resonates – it’s not just me, right? it really is the times and it is the signs of the times.

This conversation is especially relevant in my state where corporate interests represented by a far right state Republican Party (obviously reflecting a trend in the national GOP) has taken over our entire state government and, using the power of one-party rule, is gutting our tradition of democratic governance, dismantling the social safety net, and handing more of our economy, our taxes, and our natural wonders to corporations.

People are moving passed “stunned” now straight to demoralization. The magnitude of the damage is beginning to set in. Trying to keep spirits up, many are busy working on recall campaigns hoping to change the majority in the State Senate this summer.

It feels so late to me. It feels like folks should have seen this coming long before last year’s election. When the left talks about corporate power grabs, many people roll their eyes – and then it occurs and folks are stunned. Half the eligible voters can’t muster up the time and energy to take five minutes to vote, and we end up with one-party rule that represents a minority of the state – a minority with majority political power at their service.

Like climate change or ecological overshoot or depletion of aquifers, etc., we don’t want to believe how bad things are or the messengers telling us how bad things are – until the bad things have already happened and we go, ‘Huh?!”

One reason this blog topic came to me is because of a Common Dreams article that a colleague just emailed to me, Are Progressives in Denial About Climate Change? Even before reading it, I wanted to shout, “YES! Absolutely!” Leadership among progressives on not only climate change, but the magnitude of our ecological crisis, is less than inspiring. Like most of the culture, there is a sense of disbelief not only that things could be this bad, but that our lives must go into real upheaval in order to truly address the crisis.

Source: Global Footprint Network

If you are trying to win a political argument or regain some power balance with the right, this is hardly the thing you want to talk about. If you want to wait until you win back the House of Reps or get more progressives elected into office, you won’t put this on your platform. You will keep coming up with reasons why it is not yet the right time, why so many other things must come first. I don’t look there for much leadership anymore.  Addressing this crisis is not going to come out of politics, not for a long time. Politics will not lead the way.

But if it doesn’t come out of somewhere, we will be addressing it only as the evidence becomes incontrovertible by the collapses and catastrophes themselves.  This seems insane. The fear of talking honestly and straightforwardly about our predicament only keeps us from responding at the scale of the predicament itself – which means not addressing it adequately.

There is a psychological element, the difficulty of fulling appreciating the scale of the changes humans have made to the planet and the unpredictability of the earth’s response to those changes. Alongside that is the difficulty of accepting the scale of the changes we need to make to our lives in order to reduce our impact quickly, and to do that with justice and compassion, with greatest concern for how the most vulnerable people and ecosystems on our planet will be affected as we scale down the human presence.

So, you know, it’s up to us, right? Someone has to tell this story. And more of us need to start living as if something else is possible. There will be much to give up, much to let go, and this will be hard. But I think that this global economy of extraction, consumption, and waste, this culture horribly distorted by a consumer economy as if that is the purpose of our lives – to fit into that economy – has impoverished the human spirit and diminished our sense of meaning for our lives.

Incredible mission for the human, should we choose to accept it (as the old TV show used to say) – to reinvent the human presence on the planet and infuse it with meaning and a sense of purpose and mission like nothing we have ever known before.

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2 Responses

  1. Dave Gardner

    “to reinvent the human presence on the planet and infuse it with meaning and a sense of purpose and mission like nothing we have ever known before.”

    Absolutely awesome description of our mission, Margaret. I think I’ll quote you widely about it. Have not been able to find a way to say it better!

    Dave Gardner
    Producing the upcoming documentary
    GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth

  2. Margaret

    Thanks, Dave. Too often we present only the grim news of the changes coming and the impacts they will have on us; we speak of the need to adjust, let go, adapt, scale down. We sometimes neglect the message that this is not just a negative exercise, but a reclaiming of the depth and breadth of the human journey – demeaned by capitalist economies of extraction, consumption, and waste.

    We are meant for more than this. I find people resonate with the sense of mission and meaning.

    Need to get ‘hooked’ again on life itself and the beauty of this planet.

    Thanks for your work.