So now what?

Posted July 20th, 2016 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on So now what?

Like most of you, I have spent these past couple of weeks reeling from shock to shock, grief to grief, one act of violence followed by another, and wondered if it is possible at all for humans in this culture to change this devastating course we are on…

What is wrong with us? And why are we so impermeable to the changes roiling our planet? It ought to be obvious by now that resistance to those changes isn’t preventing them from coming about, only making them harder to address, while tensions among the recalcitrant and the fearful steadily intensify.

We hate violence, but we perpetrate violence and allow anyone with violent tendencies to arm themselves. We hear NRA mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre repeat that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun – and we see good guys with guns being shot in our streets. We watch video after video of unarmed or completely subdued African-American men being shot to death by police officers, and then another, and another, and even seeing it on TV by millions doesn’t stop it from happening again.

We know what is happening in this election year reveals a deep sickness – or more than one – in the culture, and yet we allow the disease to go untreated. We even treat the pathologies as TV entertainment, good for the advertising revenues of cable channels.

[See the latest dire news on the heating of the planet at this link: U.S. Faces Dramatic Rise in Extreme Heat, Humidity, and this interactive tool below to see what’s coming where you live.]

The world is being burned, flooded, dried out, baked, the poles are melting, temperatures are soaring (new records now on a monthly basis), living beings are going extinct at a record pace, forests and ocean life are dying, our water, soil, and air are becoming increasingly toxic – and millions are out playing Pokemon Go. And even more millions are out shopping, or sitting home at their computers or with smart phones and doing the same thing.

I read this morning that U.S. automakers will not meet the fuel efficiency targets set by the Obama administration of 53 mpg by 2025. Why?

“Since oil is relatively cheap, people are paying less at the pump, and that means that they are having an increased preference for buying vehicles which are less fuel efficient.“ [see: Auto Manufacturers May Not Meet Fuel Economy Standards by 2025]

Yup, that’s on us. That’s who we are. This is what we want. It’s not about a baking planet, it’s about low gas prices. That’s exactly how deep consumer culture is.

So I reach for words of encouragement. I look for signs of hope. Of course, there are so many, but will it be enough?

You can look wherever you are for these signs. They are every place a community is struggling to stop toxic mining, to protect their waters, to heal violence in their neighborhoods, to plant community gardens and urban farms, to get together only for the sake of being together to share life and hopes, to dream, to encourage one another for the challenges ahead – and we have a lot of them.

Teens Grow Greens, Milwaukee WI

Teens Grow Greens, Milwaukee WI

We can feel overwhelmed or defeated by those challenges, or we can engage. When we engage with others, we build community. And when we build community, we build resilience to face those challenges.

The crises of our times can defeat us, or they can offer us opportunities to come together to create the new ways of life that will get us through.

We have to believe this for it to be true, and we need one another in order to have what we need to believe it.

Here’s one of the things that most of you visiting this page already know – it’s not like the world is going to become less tumultuous any time soon, that there is some old version of “stable” to which we will return after this wave of craziness. If you have been following the basic narrative of this generation, you know what drives the instability – a planet that 60 years ago had a population of 2.5 billion now at 7.4 billion, an industrial growth economy that is destroying the web of life across the planet, a voracious consumer/ownership culture that does not know how to stop itself even at the cost of that web, intensifying “tribalism” and identity politics that has us at each other’s throats, fiercely defensive rather than softly open to one another, extreme xenophobia and nationalism that guarantees more war – the list is long.

The planet is heating up in more ways than one, our future access to food and water is, to say the least, troubled, and we are locked into a wave of violent conflict with no end yet in sight. In the wake of these troubles – all coming about together at the same time for a reason, since it is one crisis with many facets and manifestations – it is no wonder that we often feel like deer in the headlights, blinded and frozen in place because we don’t know what to do or where to turn to get out of danger.

And it is then so easy to turn on one another.

So, what now? Where do we even begin to soften these times? First, it may help to identify the crisis. And so I want to share with you what I think it is – I think we are seeing the end, the breakdown, the collapse of “western civilization,” that it is reaching its end in ways we ought to have been able to predict. What do I mean by that?

micats bannerThis wave of European mechanistic, capitalistic domination of this hemisphere, of the Americas, and eventually the global economy itself, was built on principles that were bound to bring us to collapse eventually. We live on a sphere, within a closed system. Everything we need to live is contained within the biosphere and atmosphere, that thin layer of life on top of the crust of the planet. And we humans have been tearing into that thin layer now for a long, long time, manipulating it, altering the way it works, knocking ecosystems out of balance, shredding it with great savagery to build this civilization of which we are so proud.

And within that human economy, we have constructed as well a profoundly socially and economically unjust world. Those – mostly white Anglo-European powers – who had the most muscle, the biggest weapons and armies, the most efficient use of lethal violence, have been able to crush most resistance to this economic system, defended as it has been by a bloated and mighty military-industrial complex.

And this mighty force that has run over and through the world for centuries now is coming to its end, whether we realize that or not. The Earth is in major transition – even rebellion – against the destruction that has been done. Global baking, species extinctions, the death of ocean life and forests, the melting of glaciers, sea ice, and permafrost, the rising seas – all of this is sign of the collapse, the end. Not the apocalypse. Not the end times. Just the end of centuries of capitalist industrial growth, mechanistic, profoundly alienating economic systems that have broken apart life-bearing eco-communities, including the human community.

Here’s the thing: we humans get to decide what comes next. How are we doing so far?

For those who may think this a bleak assessment, I want to put that decision, that challenge facing us now, into perspective – we get to decide what comes next.

Did those words terrify you, feel overwhelming – or did you get a burst of energy, a hint of exhilaration that feels like, feels like…oh, let’s say – hope?


Rezpect Our Water – Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline
Children defending creation

Has it been good to harm the world this way, to find meaning and spiritual journeying and faith and community and common purpose and love of Nature replaced with consumer stuff and shopping malls and poisoned water, land, and air, and cancer epidemics and the fragmentation of family, community, and village life?

Do we like this world as it is? And if not, why do we insist on believing that it must be like this, or that we can’t change it?

We can change it. But to do that, we have to understand where this violence and chaos originate. In order to stop this devastating trajectory for life on this planet, we have to SEE that trajectory and choose not to follow, encourage, or support it anymore. And that means big, big changes in every aspect of our lives.

And as I have said and written many times, if we think we can meet the challenges without those changes, we are not understanding them. If we are not willing to take on the big adventure of reinventing how humans live on the planet, the trajectory cannot be changed. And if that feels way too big a project, remember that it starts in the same places all great movements start – right where we are. We don’t reinvent the human community at the global level; we reinvent it in the cities and towns, in the rural communities and the neighborhoods where we live. It is from those places that the movement becomes global.

That’s now Nature works. That is the wisdom of Gaia.

And this work is happening all over the planet. I think one of the best things we can do when feeling overwhelmed is to use the internet as a tool to discover just how much this is true.

Some of the most significant work of re-creation of a human community that is rediscovering its intimate relations with the rest of nature goes on in the places of greatest threat. Some of the strongest bonds being developed between humans and all the sentient and non-sentient beings among whom they live are in the places where those humans are partnering with rivers, forests, wildlife, and more to defend the “places” where they live. We are beginning to “get it,” to understand on a very deep level that our very human existence and meaning itself depend upon the health of those relationships.

We Are Water from Overpass Light Brigade on Vimeo.

So now what – for this project? Well, as you know, we are developing a new more powerful website, and what I am writing about here is what the focus of the website is going to be. We will be sharing news of the “big” picture, the big trends, the troubling changes, the dangers and threats to the future, as well as where those threats are being countered. And we will be lifting up the stories of new creation, stories from the roots where people are beginning to build the new eco-community in the places where they live.

I had hoped to have the site up and running by the end of the month, but sometimes life takes a turn. Three weeks ago this writer managed to crack three ribs and I have been dealing with the repercussions of that. The pain did not allow me to sit long at the computer to work with the person who is designing the site. But, as you can see, I’m much better and we are getting back on it.

If not the end of the month, we should have it up in early August. Watch for it. We will want lots of participation!

Until then, you can follow us on Facebook. “Like” our page and then invite friends and colleagues to do the same. We welcome thoughtful comments and responses to what we post there.

And of course, we can really use your financial support as we move this project into its new phase. Summer is a tough fundraising time, so if you can donate right now, that would be hugely helpful. We have almost no overhead or institutional infrastructure for the work we do, so your contributions go directly to the work itself.

We’ll be in touch again soon. Thanks for all you contribute to the making of new creation in a world that badly needs it.

~ Margaret Swedish
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