PART III – New Creation: It’s happening everywhere, and we want to tell that story

Posted October 2nd, 2014 in Blog, Featured, New Creation News Comments Off on PART III – New Creation: It’s happening everywhere, and we want to tell that story

Some weeks we find news that adds urgency to the work we do. Some weeks are harder than others in that regard. When that happens, we try to keep things in balance; we go out and look for more stories of New Creation.

Because increasingly we feel the tension of these two opposing directions barreling into the future – the one that is deconstructing Nature and the Web of Life, and the other that is trying so hard to keep it knit, and to re-knit what is already so terribly broken.FAMILY

This project exists right smack in the middle of that tension. Let me offer a few examples of what I mean…

On a variety of fronts, it seems things could hardly  be more dire. Here is the short list of some of the worst indicators about our near-future, one that is coming faster than even many researchers ever predicted.

World wildlife populations halved in [A MERE] 40 years

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.
Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.

Reports on what’s happening to Nature because of humans cannot get much more dire than this. We are shredding the Web that holds us. We are shredding the complex biodiversity that gives evolution its vibrancy and creativity, that keeps Nature healthy and alive. At this rate – my goodness, what happens in the next 40 years if we continue on like this?!

The full WWF report is available as a PDF for reading or download at this link. I recommend downloading it and using it for study, group discussion, consciousness-raising wherever you are. The key here is this:

The report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by what WWF calls unsustainable human consumption.

We cannot get around this. It is what it is. It is Nature, it is reality, it is inescapable. Unless we address the core foundation of the crisis we’re in – HUMAN CONSUMPTION – we are doomed, and doomed by our own behavior.

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Photo: Margaret Swedish

Tough stuff, right? Can get you down when you see the predictions for the steep RISE in human consumption over the next few decades.

Then this one came along ’bout the same time. It’s updated from an earlier release in May and came into my email queue on Wednesday:

NASA-UCI Study Indicates Loss of West Antarctic Glaciers Appears Unstoppable

This is a critical tipping point thought to be decades away, and therefore one we could still prevent by reversing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade or two. Now we are clearly committed to a vast rise in sea levels that will make the map of the world look very different within a mere century or two.

These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected. Rignot said these findings will require an upward revision to current predictions of sea level rise.

You see what I mean about an elevated sense of urgency.

This one came a few weeks ago, though I didn’t have the courage to open it until a couple of weeks later:

U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks – from Justin Gillis at the NY Times

Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report.

The U.N. report will be out next year and is likely to cause quite a stir. These releases of drafts tell you that the urgency we feel is also felt at the U.N. and among the hundreds of scientists involved in putting it together.

Fracking well under construction in Western PA

Fracking well under construction in Western PA

Add this, about the booming frac sand mining industry, already destroying thousands upon thousands of acres of land and water in the Upper Midwest. Or this, about the looming water crisis out west. Or this, about how the use of insecticides is now so pervasive that they have contaminated the planet everywhere threatening future food supplies.

“Stop! Stop! We can’t stand if anymore!” You feel like that, right? It’s one of the psychological conditions of our times – the desperate need to avoid the full implications of this news and what it means for us. It’s our latest form of a burgeoning PTSD. But don’t drug it. Don’t calm it down. USE it! Make it into a force or a commitment, one that clears the mind and heart and helps us to see how easy it is to make the right decisions now when we put our lives and our consumer lifestyles into perspective. Suddenly all that stuff and privilege we’re hoarding doesn’t seem so important.

Many of us have been very good at telling this bleak side of our crisis. We can even forget sometimes that we came into this work with an awareness rooted in the prophetic work of scientists and advocates going all the back to the 60s – those who predicted all this. The culture did not embrace their message fully then – including many environmental advocates now who continue to live wildly out of proportion with the planet’s limits, still reluctant to absorb the full gravity of our predicament – but we have their research and their wisdom to give profound credibility to the multiple crises and collapses we face now. Many didn’t listen back then; we all must now.

Fracking wells in Colorado - Source: Ecoflight & Greenpeace USA

Fracking wells in Colorado – Source: Ecoflight & Greenpeace USA

The world we live in right now is wildly different than the one of a decade ago – think Hurricane Sandy and the mega-drought out west and the superfires rampaging through the forests and the polar vortex of last winter and the ebola outbreak and how Miami floods at every high tide now and how the Louisiana coast is melting away into the Gulf, to appreciate just how different it is.

And a decade from now?

Telling those stories of these vast changes brought about by humans, and telling them from the vantage point of the most local communities where the impacts are playing out, what it means to people and other sentient beings – those stories remain crucial for the work we do – because we need to SEE this, to KNOW this, to understand that this is not something that will just go away one day. The ecological crises of our times will be our context for the next centuries, the reality that will define who we are now as a human species. Nothing we do or decide will take place outside that context and everything we do or decide will have an impact on how it unfolds.

Feels kinda momentous, no?

But think about what I just wrote – everything we do or decide will have an impact on how it unfolds!

That certainly doesn’t make our lives unimportant or lacking meaning – in fact, it fills our lives with meaning, significance, consequence.

But we have to get our own lives in perspective. As individuals, each of us seemingly has little impact on the big picture, for good or ill. As a species, the impacts are enormous. But sitting here in this room today, I cannot stop the world from warming or the ice sheets from melting. I cannot grab hold of the crisis at that scale. But what I CAN do is add my contribution to how this is going to unfold. I can choose to go to the shopping mall or go online and buy the thing I don’t absolutely need, or I can decide right now today to get out of the consumer market as much as possible. Right now I can refuse to participate in what is destroying the Web of Life and contribute my part in strengthening it, especially its resilience to withstand the crises that are currently shredding it.

Alice's Garden, in the heart of urban Milwaukee

Alice’s Garden, in the heart of urban Milwaukee, a place where hope is a verb

Then I can look around me at the ecological community of which I am a part, see where the stresses are, the advocacy possibilities, the threats from industries, and start working where I am to create new ecological communities, to be part of the resistance to the destruction, to be part of the witness to radically new ways of life that can move us through and beyond the crisis to the potential for Nature’s healing and regeneration.

This, too, does not mean reinventing the wheel. This, too, has been going on for a long time from Rachel Carson to now. What is happening at the grassroots is inspiring, a human awakening to the “places” where we are and what corporate rule is doing to them, a human awakening to who we are as beings on a planet with lots of other beings all interconnected, making our lives possible.peoples climate march

Here’s the thing, though: you see how easy it is to find egregious examples of the crisis – big headlines, big stories, international attention, global alarm!!! But what is harder to see is the incipient, burgeoning awakening happening in local communities around the world, including in this most consumer-saturated culture of ours. And you know what? They are everywhere. I get to be in contact with some of them because of the work I do – the writing and speaking, the workshops and PP presentations. And because of that, and having a little non-profit from which to work, and a book on the whole mess (see sidebar), I have had reason and opportunity to get out and find these “places,” these “spaces,” where pipelines and frac sand mines and tar sands mines and pollution and loss of habitat are threatening the places people love and hold sacred. The resistance to the destruction is growing, and it is often very personal, which adds an element of passion and fierce love.

I’m not talking here about the big climate march, either. There are plenty of groups telling that story. I’m talking about Trempealeau County WI and my state’s Central Sands region and East Chicago and along the Kalamazoo River and the Penokee Hills and eastern Minnesota and the Alabama tar sands region and the UT tar sands region and Villa Maria in Western PA and the Loretto Community in KY and the mountain communities of Appalachia

If you start putting all those stories together, lifting them out of the fog of the culture into the light of day, it begins to look like something really important is going on. And THAT is what we want to start doing here as we dissolve this project into a revitalized, re-missioned, Center for New Creation.

To brighten your day, let me just list a few of these “places.”

enbridge action july 22 2013Heartland Prairies Tar Sands ResistanceFrackfree America National Coalition based in Youngstown OH, Great Plains Tar Sands ResistancePenokee Hills Education Project, Crawford Stewardship ProjectSave Our Shoals working to stop Alabama tar sand mining, Save Marktown, a community under threat from the BP refinery in Indiana…

I could spend the rest of this day listing hundreds of groups like these – and so could many of you.

We want to tell these stories. We want to get out and do what we did last year in Alberta – sit with those who are involved with these groups, with those who have begun in earnest to push back on this frenzied assault on our communities from fossil fuel, mining, chemical, developer, agro-industrial, and other bad corporate actors who are bringing us to the brink of catastrophe. In these incipient movements there is space opening for a real learning process about how we live, why it is no longer working, and what it means to learn once again how to live appropriately, respectfully, even lovingly within Gaia.

There is opportunity to begin to work as Nature does, through the smallest most local roots, from even the smallest seeds, and then weaving the interconnections together of soil and water and air and the intertwining of roots and plants and animals, the multiple and diverse life forms that together, rather than torn apart, become resilient, appropriate, sustainable, life-supporting – and beautiful.

Telling these stories means bringing our cameras and voice recorders and notebooks, bearing witness to what they are seeing and experiencing, and then sharing those stories in one internet Hub of New Creation – a website dedicated to that purpose, i.e., to promote the work of these many groups and to open a space to share insights, wisdom, experiences, strategies, successes and failures – and what a rewoven Web of Life might look like.

logo tiny without wordsThis will take time and resources. In this 3-part series, we wanted to share out into the world where we see this project going because we will need your support. This is a small non-profit with almost no overhead. What we have are a lot of connections and some great resources. We have a niche now in how we talk about this watershed moment in our evolutionary history and in what we think most significant about where real change will be emerging, where it is really coming from – from the roots, from ordinary real people working to defend their places, people who already show us a way of being in relationship with the planet that is now urgently needed.

And we need their inspiration. This is where hope can find us again. We keep chasing it in these grim times, but maybe hope-as-verb rather than noun, maybe hope-as-action, as what we do and who we do it with and with what motivation and with what intention – maybe it can catch up with us and reorient everything we do around what really matters.

So, here again is the link to this project’s donation page, which is therefore the link to funding this work we want so much to do. Remember that contributions are tax-deductible. And then we hope we can get out to some of your communities and have you share your stories with us. And if we can find the right genius website artist we have in mind, a few months from now we will have the new “space” where the stories can be shared.

Thanks for your interest, your work for New Creation, your love for this generous planet and all of your beautiful places.

Margaret Swedish


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