Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:
This is intended for the “News” page, but I wanted all my readers and visitors to see this message. It’s an update on the project, but I find no way to disconnect that update from the urgency I feel – no, more than urgency, let’s be honest, more like fear – over how quickly this ecological crisis is grabbing hold our entire earth community.
In my regular blog posts, I often list articles that may seem disparate, but actually provide pieces of the puzzle of our predicament. As the pieces fall into place, the full picture comes into view. Today, for example: Why current population growth is costing us the earth, then Snapshots of Poverty’s Surge in the Suburbs, then Drilling in fast-growing areas ushers in new era of tensions, then Worst food additive ever? It’s in Half of All Foods We Eat and Its Production Destroys Rainforests and Enslaves Children. Some of my morning reading.
Part of what it means to commit to a project like this is to face the world as it is, to look at the big picture and try to describe our reality. We believe here that hope does not come from denial of reality or withdrawal from it, but from facing it full on, with courage and faith that we have what we need to find our way through the crisis to a better way of life than this one.
And I do want to make an appeal for donor support for this project. We can’t see a good income stream into 2012, and we need one to keep going. We are trying to do something different here – from activist groups, research sites, advocacy campaigns, e-publications, etc – all of which are crucial contributions to the work of necessary change.
What we are trying to do, well, is what I wrote – put the pieces of our scary predicament together, reflect on how that is shaking every paradigm on which my generation was raised, from the old American Dream to old religious frameworks, from our constitutional democracy to the survivability of the life and ecosystems from which the human emerged and on which we are dependent, a fabric of life now threatened and fraying with breathtaking speed.
We reflect on this ecological crisis in terms of meaning frameworks, of how we talk about meaning in the human journey, what we’re here for, how we experience, see, the reason for being alive at all. We want to get at the ‘spirituality’ that lies beneath that search for meaning, how the world we have created reflects that back to us. Because if we were honest, we would realize that the mirror reflection we are getting right now is one of increasing waste and want, brutal exploitation of the Earth and the human, incredible recklessness with the fabric that holds together our biosphere and atmosphere, a widening chasm between the financially powerful and everyone else, a concentration of global power in the hands of corporations that are wrecking the planet with mindnumbing speed.
And that mirror image reflects what we value, or rather, reflects our values, what we believe, how we understand the meaning of the human and the gift of the planet itself. More than any belief system, it’s the image, it’s what we create and how we live, that tells us where our true values and principles lie, what the content really is within our moral and meaning frameworks
So if our ecological predicament is not a crisis of values and meaning, I don’t know what is. And wherever I have had opportunity to speak with groups about that – the seriousness of the crisis, the narrative that created it (the various myths of industrial society), and how we need to come up with some new ways for humans to live that are commensurate with the crisis, and how we need to do that immediately, as in, right now – which means profound, radical change with no time to waste – when I speak with groups about this, I meet far less resistance than I expected when I first began this work a few years ago. Because deep inside, most of us know this – we know this if we are at all in touch with the world around us.
Mostly people get it, and the room becomes quiet at first, heavy, sober, fearful – until the conversation begins and then a burst of creativity begins to come through. We are not happy humans. We know we’re in trouble. Our families and communities are stressed. When you don’t understand the drivers and dynamics that are making that happen, you feel frustration, rage, fear, helplessness. When you do begin to see it, you begin to see what can and must be changed – another way of life begins to appear not only as necessary, but also possible. It becomes a cause that can give new meaning to this generation and those to come.
So what do we do beyond this website?
This past year, I have had opportunities to present to many groups, from middle and high school students in Green Lake WI to a chapter of the Capuchin friars to sustainability classes at Marquette University to leading a retreat at Springbank Retreat Center in SC to Earth Day events in Merrill and Wausau WI, and more. I have been able to collaborate with the Peace and International Issues Committee (PIIC) of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to bring more awareness of the intersection between our ecological crises and prospects for peace or conflict in the world. One reflection of this was a highly successful lecture series last March focused on corporate control of all the things we need for life, food, water, and energy, why this is happening and what we can do about it. We are already well into planning for the next March series, which will focus this time on threats to democratic governance.
This past summer I again participated as a ‘Wise Elder’ in the unconference of the Midwest Regional Collaborative on Sustainability Education (now undergoing a process of re-envisioning as well as a name change – whew!). This year the collaborative joined with the Alliance for Sustainability in the Ashland/Washburn WI area to create an “Abundance Learning Event,” rich with creative energy and mutual sharing of skills, knowledge, and culture. There is much potential here to be tapped, and next steps in that direction are coming.
I am also collaborating with the network, Sisters of Earth, to help plan their 2012 conference which will focus on ‘deep transition,’ both inner and outer, both necessary if we are to re-create or re-envision the human presence in the planet.
Your support makes possible my participation in these networks. It makes possible my nearly daily research and reading that forms the background for my presentations. It makes possible the time it takes to maintain this site and write at least two posts per week.
We would like to build this project and its sponsoring organization, the Center for New Creation, so that our contribution to this work can deepen not only here in Wisconsin but as part of a national conversation about the need to articulate the new way of life and the ‘spirituality’ that can support it. New projects are emerging from our work, and we will write more about that next month.
For now, I just want to thank all of you who pay attention to our work, read our posts, make comments, share links on Facebook and elsewhere. There are many ways you can help us out right now:
1) donations for sure, we need them;
2) more sharing of links on your Facebook pages and websites;
3) invitations to come speak or lead reflections in your community;
4) visiting the site, getting more of your friends to visit, so that we can increase our profile on google and in other search engines;
5) by subscribing on line to receive our posts and updates.
This is a long work but also an inspiring one. While it may seem doom-and-gloom at times, my experience is quite different. I know we are headed for difficult times; but what I also get to witness are the many communities already rising to the challenges, often in creative and courageous ways. What we hope we can do here is help bind some of these efforts together into a new narrative that gives adequate expression to the new way of life emerging out of the crisis itself.
I hope you will stay with us on this journey. The company is good, and the work deeply meaningful.
I end with one my my favorite quotes from the great cultural historian, Thomas Berry:
The Great Work before us, the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence, is not a role we have chosen. It is a role given to us, beyond any consultation with ourselves. We did not choose. We were chosen by some power beyond ourselves for this historical task…we are, as it were, thrown into existence with a challenge and a role that is beyond any personal choice. The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role
Yet we must believe that those powers that assign our role must in the same act bestow upon us the ability to fulfill that role. We must believe we are cared for and guided by these same powers that bring us into being.
from The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future, Thomas Berry, Bell Tower NY, 1999