Posted March 1st, 2010 in Blog, Featured 2 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Sorry if you’ve been waiting for the latest post. Last week got out of hand.  I will continue to attempt to post twice per week, but now and then, things come up.

Gave a talk yesterday for the Sunday Forum at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, a wonderful, active, welcoming, inclusive congregation on Milwaukee’s east side. I told them at the beginning that I’m getting this reputation of being a purveyor of bad news. They laugh kindly, but we always share a certain anxiety in these moments when we are about to ponder together the true nature of our human predicament, and the indictment it is of our way of life on this planet.

World map of countries by ecological footprint - Wikimedia

Anxiety because we know, we all really know, that life on this planet as we know it cannot be salvaged, healed, regenerated, and renewed unless we are willing to give up much that we have enjoyed of privilege, affluence, and even comfort here in the U.S.  We are not the only ones living lavish lifestyles, but we cannot keep waiting for some other society of rich people to figure this out and start doing the thing that needs to be done – scaling back the human presence on this planet by a lot and in a hurry (see, for example, this article by Jared Diamond, or this thoughtful essay, US Consumption Deserves Reappraisal).

God, folks, leadership has to come from somewhere.

And I always share the thought that we cannot get to authentic hope unless we are rooted in reality – otherwise the hope we offer is false.  We either find hope within the crisis, or there isn’t any. And both the crisis and the authentic hope must become spurs to action.

Perspective – I hadn’t intended to write all that, but out it came.  What I did intend to write, and briefly, or to share, really, is this image that came into my email queue last week. NASA itself chose the title – The Possibility of a Brand New World. The image comes from the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of the instruments by which we humans are exploring our universe right now.

Possibility of a Brand New World - NASA Spitzer Space Telescope

The text reads:

“The pictured galaxies of Hickson Compact Group 31 will pass through and destroy each other, millions of stars will form and explode, and thousands of nebula will form and dissipate before the dust settles and the final galaxy emerges about one billion years from now.”

Right?  Got that? Over the next one billion years or so, this violent crash of energies beyond our imagining, of galaxies and gases, will continue to explode, form stars, and explode again, until at last a final galaxy is formed from all that. Perhaps with a gabillion suns.  Perhaps with a gabillion planets. Perhaps with life forms one day, billions of years later. Perhaps even conscious life forms.

Kind of de-centers us, doesn’t it?  Do we really believe that all this was created just for the human life forms on this planet, a mere cosmic moment in the grand act of Creation that goes on and on as the forces unleashed by the Big Bang continue to create and re-create our universe?

So, then, how we do want to spend our time? Wrecking the only planet we humans have? Shopping for disposable objects? Doing work we hate for reasons we cannot even articulate anymore other than paying the rent or the mortgage? Emptying our lives more and more of meaning?

Unless we really do believe that all of this was created only for the salvation of individual souls attached to individual and separate human bodies on this one planet in this brief moment of time in all the universe…

Or, did we evolve exactly for this – to be an expression of awe within the universe, a wellspring of wonder, to learn and explore, to expand and be at the service of whatever is at work within us as in all Creation, including the billion year long birth of this brand new world – the beginnings of which we are privileged to view through this aide to the human eye which is Spitzer?

Can we finally leave this industrial, technological, unjust, cruel (to the majority of human beings, other life forms, and the eco-communities that hold us), empty, superficial wreckage of an economic life behind as this search, this reach deep into the spiritual meaning of the human, empties that world of meaning?

By the way, the group at the forum received the news (many of them of course knew this stuff already) and the hope we articulated together with enormous sincerity and generosity of spirit – which just keeps on adding to the hope part.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses

  1. hombredelatierra

    Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute (associate of Transition Towns) regarding the possibility of “economic recovery”, return to the status quo ante:

    “What if that is not possible? What if the goalposts have been moved, the rules rewritten, the game changed? What if the decades-long era of economic growth based on ever-increasing rates of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption is over, finished, and done? What if the economic conditions that all of us grew up expecting to continue practically forever were merely a blip on history’s timeline?”

    READ IT! This article is a sort of primer of the emerging New Economy (Post Peak Oil). Now is the time learn the new fundamentals, the “new rules” of the economic game. If the readers of this article are not profoundly affected by the Post Peak Oil transition, their children certainly will be. It’s that close; we simply cannot see the forest for the trees.

    But change we must, change we will, whether it be willfully, with acceptance and joy or kickin’ ‘n screamin’. Heinberg notes succinctly:

    “But it is now too late to avert a collapse of the existing system. The collapse has begun.

    It is time for a different strategy.”

  2. Margaret

    Okay, I have barely skimmed this essay, but a few thoughts: the old economy is not coming back. There is a permanent restructuring of global capitalism going on, one which is shedding masses of unneeded workers who are being replaced by machines and robotics. Consumption was 2/3 of US GDP before the economic crash. Even Obama has said that this will not come back – ever.

    Life can be better in a no-growth economy, for sure. But that is not what the culture wants, not the thought that will sustain high levels of unemployment. And it is certainly not the plan of those doing the shedding, detaching financial investments and profit from the real economy that makes things and employs people.

    Meanwhile, energy prices are on the rise. Access to water and arable land are being privatized. As these become increasingly profitable commodities due to increasing scarcity, the profit motive will take on a greater and greater role in the delivery of water and food.

    This future is not far away. We have no plans for the transition. Life could be better, but that is not the narrative of the moment. We need a new narrative, one that can speak to the collapsing expectations of humans within the global economy and provide a new framework of meaning. And we need examples of the new way of life that are actually appealing.