Turning our sights to where change really happens

Posted December 18th, 2009 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Turning our sights to where change really happens

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Well, friends, thousands and thousands of folks are preparing themselves for “The Great Disappointment” in Copenhagen. In the end, world leaders may make some substantive pledges, and we emphasize the word pledges, to begin, that is, begin, making reductions in CO2 emissions — not much to start with, but more serious as we approach mid-century.

CO2 emissions 800,000 yr record - US Global Change Research Program

CO2 emissions 800,000 yr record - US Global Change Research Program

Obama’s initial offering was uninspiring – 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. We’re already headed in that direction by virtue of our perfectly awful economy, according to Bloomberg.  We can do better. Sadly, this is a decision to play our part in climate catastrophes already unfolding in our world.

Then there’s the money fight – who should pay so-called ‘developing’ countries  to salvage forests, develop clean energy technologies, etc. [woeful term, developing countries – must they be like us in order to be ‘developed?’ But this is not only  ecologically impossible, it is also tragic to think they would follow our example of wastefulness or trivializing of human meaning]. We don’t want to pay for the damage our western economies have done. Just think about how hard it is to get corporations to clean up their toxic waste right here at home, or to get the feds to enforce our own environmental laws in that regard. Clean up the mess we’ve created in Latin America?  Africa? Our lifestyles are ours by right of our superiority and we have no responsibility towards those harmed in their creation.

Oh, how we need a different world!

Here’s something of the truth of what’s really going on in Copenhagen. A leaked UN document shows that current commitments would bring CO2 emissions to levels that would commit our poor planet to 3C of warming. Reports the Guardian of London:

A rise of 3C would mean up to 170 million more people suffering severe coastal floods and 550 million more at risk of hunger, according to the Stern economic review of climate change for the UK government – as well as leaving up to 50% of species facing extinction. Even a rise of 2C would lead to a sharp decline in tropical crop yields, more flooding and droughts.

One must hope that the conference comes up with something more substantial as it comes to its merciful end. But don’t count on it. And if it gets better commitments, don’t count on that either. We don’t have much encouraging precedent here, not when world leaders worry about uprisings from their corporate sponsors or populations if told that we must completely revamp human economies in order to salvage the atmosphere for humans.

Which is what is really required.

I shouldn’t even say this, but we do need to remember that CO2 is only one of our greenhouse gases. Nothing here addresses the sharp rises in methane (from things like industrial livestock agriculture and melting permafrost) and nitrous oxide (largely from coal), which aren’t being considered at all.

Remember those global warming skeptics? We are about to close out the warmest decade ever recorded.

Andes Mountains glacier melt - A Vicious Cycle - source: Climate Progress

Andes Mountains glacier melt - A Vicious Cycle - source: Climate Progress

How too late are we? In Bolivia and Peru, folks are watching their only fresh water source swiftly disappear – the glaciers of the Andes Mountains. Some 100 million people could be without this source within a decade or so.  Guess what? They have contributed a minute amount of GHGs compared to us.  Now what?

What is wrong with us? A local psychotherapist here, Philip Chard, attempted to provide an answer to this, and probably hit a few nails on their proverbial heads. He asks, why do people think they know more than the experts? He gives 3 reasons:

Three factors make this possible: (1) lack of social proximity, (2) diminished scientific literacy and (3) direct personal experience.

I’ll let you read the rest. But I do think there is another factor – some changes are so huge, of such monumental significance, so alter our sense of reality, that we cannot get them to fit into our world view, our frameworks of meaning, the way we construct our realities, without also altering those. They are simply too disorienting. So we insist on our ‘reality’ rather than the change whirling all around us.

Okay, back to the title of this post. If you were looking for adequate change to come out of Copenhagen, remember who is there and what power bases and constituencies they represent.

Where does change really happen? I think, given the urgency, we need to move quickly towards movements of non-participation in the global economy, in this western ‘way of life,’ in this faith in technology that has replaced faith in human wisdom and our sensitivity to our own biology and the nature of which we are a part.

Change will not come from within the systems and dynamisms which have brought the crisis about.  Something much more fundamental is called for. Non-participation, and then building communities of resilience and simplicity, local systems organically and ecologically connected, communities of reliance on one another, relearning of basic skills of farming and singing and fixing things and not-needing-very-much.

Pleaides - (c) 2006 Dave Miller - courtesy of SkyChasers.net

Pleaides - (c) 2006 Dave Miller - courtesy of SkyChasers.net

This for me is not only becoming the change we seek, but it is learning how to enjoy life again, life in itself – friends having long conversations together, sharing thoughts and books and poetry and music, long walks in the woods with the kids, getting our feet wet in the lakes and rivers and ocean shores, rediscovering the night sky, being able to see our home galaxy again so that we can be reminded of our true home.

I would like to have this life. Best of all, I don’t even need to wait to have it. I can begin right now.

I think this is also what will get us through the long work of trying to bring about change at the top – by removing its supports from below.

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