The urgency rises…

Posted December 7th, 2012 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on The urgency rises…

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning

by Margaret Swedish

Many heartrending realities across our planet this week. Sometimes I think building our psychological and spiritual resilience is among our most important tasks – not to help us avoid what’s occurring, or even to buffer the impacts of it, but rather to help us engage it fully and truthfully without being crushed by it.

Al Gore said something like this last month, rendered marvelously in this video:

See: Symphony of Science – Climate Reality Project

Ecological Hope rests in many things – including an acceptance of what can no longer be changed.

Like the fact of climate change.

Here in the Upper Midwest, despite drought and steadily warming temperatures heralding the changes already upon us, we can pretty much get up every day and go about our business without feeling direct impacts (right now, our political business in my state seems to be about how to keep opening Wisconsin to the dirtiest most destructive industries on the planet, both parties acting as cheerleaders). Our lives kind of go on, unless you are engaged in one of the businesses that really did get hurt this past year – like the sugar maple or cherry industries. They got clobbered and could face another very bad year in 2013.

Water levels in our magnificent lakes are declining with the combination of drought and evaporation due to the dryness and the increased warmth, aquifers and groundwater levels are also declining in many areas because of drought, destruction of wetlands, and too much demand from too much suburban and exurban sprawl. Lake Michigan’s once magnificent ecosystem has been ruined forever and its future is uncertain, while the big debate these days is whether or not an old ferry ship will be allowed to continue dumping tons and tons of coal ash directly into the lake to keep its engines churning (hopefully the feds will save us).

But, you know, you can still park your car at the shore at sunrise and enjoy the view, oblivious to what is occurring under the water’s surface.

But then there’s the NJ beach towns, or Breezy Point, or neighborhoods in lower Manhattan along the East River, or Staten Island.There you watch the sunrise over the ocean amidst vast destruction, death, filth, and rising hopelessness for the displaced.

File:Bopha Dec 7 2012.jpg

Typhoon Bopha – NASA image

Or the Phillipines, just clobbered by one of the worst typhoons ever to strike that coast. It is barely making headlines, and I’ve seen almost nothing on TV news shows. Typhoon Bopha was a rare event, one of the worst storms to ever strike Mindanao.

See: Death toll over 500 in the Philippines following typhoon

Meanwhile, in Doha, industrial nations, and the big industrializing nations, led by the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Russia, and more are doing everything they can – once again – to make sure no meaningful, binding agreement on greenhouse gases emerges from the latest of the futile UN-sponsored climate change conferences.

Have a look at what this means to one diplomat from the devastated Philippines:

 Youtube link

Earlier this week I posted about the need to create new ways of life if the hope so many profess is to be authentic, sincere – a commitment, not a meaningless sentiment. Active hope (stealing the term from Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone) is a moral and ethical imperative. It implies that we are not helpless but are willing to do something about this, to show hope is real by living as if it is.

We need to get much more serious about our work, our commitments to the health of the planet, and the health and well-being of the sentient and non-sentient beings living within it. Things are unraveling quickly. I understand that we may have a hard time taking in changes of this magnitude, but we must do it in any case.

Climate change is not a future threat anymore, but a rapidly unfolding reality. We are living in that new reality, like it or not. Deep conversation, a deep spirituality, and deep and radical change in how we live is now required. We need new creation now, because, as the Philippine diplomat said, if not now, when, indeed. If we go on like this much longer, the answer could well be – never.

Here in Milwaukee, a small but vibrant group of people are bent on deepening the work here and around Wisconsin (and beyond), to engage communities of faith and spirit (meant broadly) in the deep reflection, consciousness-raising, and active commitment necessary to figure out how to proceed amidst the unfolding crisis, to base this effort on a firm commitment to justice and global solidarity expressed in our willingness to look deeply at what is happening in places like the Philippines, Breezy Point, and South Pacific island nations, and realize these are our brothers and sisters, that what is happening to them is also happening to us.

Until we fully appreciate that global climate change means that these kinds of disasters have global dimensions and dynamics in which we all participate, we will be missing one of the major aspects of ecological hope. I can’t just fix my “environment” here locally and think the problem is fixed. Unless we engage even this fiercely local work with action and advocacy for an entirely different way of being human on this planet, our local efforts are likely to be overwhelmed by future disasters driven by these larger climate influences, along with our unsustainable demands on the planet to support a way of life that simply cannot be supported – not ethically, morally, or even physically – it is not possible.

Coming to terms with that is what it means now to become a fully mature, conscious human being.

Does that feel overwhelming? Perhaps. But this does not mean taking on the whole world. It means doing our active part right where we are while being willing to bear witness from that vantage point to the world that is coming to an end and why it is coming to an end. The global industrial economic growth paradigm is bringing about a great catastrophe. Ultimately, and swiftly, that is the paradigm that must end, that must not be allowed to form the framework and context for human existence any longer.

As we move to deepen our work here, we hope you and other friends and communities might help out with an end-of-the year donation. Contributions are tax deductible, and they are needed. As you can imagine, getting financial support for this kind of work is not easy. We depend upon the people and communities of like spirit and commitment to keep us going.

Help us create a prophetic, cutting edge space for ecological hope in southeastern Wisconsin, a hope we can then connect beyond this region to other ‘spaces’ where this hope is being realized.

Also, help spread the word by adding a link to this website on your own sites and in your publications, and by inviting us to do programs in your community. Donations and stipends are the heart of our life support for this project.

And thank you.


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