“New track from @the1975 out today and I’m in it! So happy to collaborate with these great people. All our income from this track titled The 1975 – which will be the opening track on their upcoming album – will go to #ExtinctionRebellion Time to rebel!” ~ Greta Thunberg, 25 July
Photo: Greta Thunberg and The 1975’s Matty Healy. Credit: Jordan Hughes
“We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis, and we need to call it what it is—an emergency. We must acknowledge that we do not have the situation under control, and that we don’t have all the solutions yet; unless those solutions mean that we simply stop doing certain things. We must admit that we are losing this battle. We have to acknowledge that the older generations have failed. All political movements in their present form have failed, but Homo sapiens have not yet failed. Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands, but unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.
“We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people, and now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly. Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it: we have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases, and either we do that, or we don’t. You say that nothing in life is black or white, but that is a lie—a very dangerous lie—either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we don’t; either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, or we don’t; either we choose to go on as a civilisation, or we don’t—that is as black or white as it gets; because there are no grey areas when it comes to survival.
“Now we all have a choice: we can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations, or we can continue with our business as usual and fail. That is up to you and me. And yes, we need a system change rather than individual change, but you cannot have one without the other. If you look through history, all the big changes in society have been started by people at the grassroots level—people like you and me. So, I ask you to please wake up and make the changes required possible. To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible. Today, we use about 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that; there are no rules to keep that oil in the ground. So, we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed—everything needs to change, and it has to start today. So, everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience. It is time to rebel.”
Listen to the track….
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Featuring Vandana Shiva, Charles Eisenstein, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Christian Felber, Hazel Henderson and Nipun Mehta with host Mattie Porte.
July 23rd 2019: Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg urges French Parliament to “unite behind the science.”
“Some people have chosen not to come here today, some have chosen not to listen to us. And that is fine. We are, after all, just children.
“You don’t have to listen to us. But you do have to listen to the science … and that is all we ask, to unite behind the science.
“We become the bad guys who have to tell people these uncomfortable things because no one else wants to, or dares to.
“The science is clear and all we children are doing is communicating and acting on that united science.
“Declaring a climate emergency is good…. The biggest danger is not our inaction. The real danger is when companies and politicians are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”
Climate emergency is confronting us with the accelerating effects of our materialistic culture: extreme droughts, storms, and fires, and not just oceans filling with plastic, but micro-plastics polluting the air. And the voices of young people are demanding action, as Greta Thunberg’s school strike goes global, and Extinction Rebellion tells the truth of life on Earth in crisis as, “we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.” Young people see their future and the future of the Earth being destroyed by profit-hungry corporations and the dark side of capitalism. Humanity has only a dozen years to the take the actions necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5C), or face catastrophic impacts.
But facing this catastrophe, what is the future we are imagining? And although there is an ever-increasing emergency—as Greta says, “our house is on fire”—is there the danger that we are avoiding the real consequences of our collective behavior, and are in fact trying to address this crisis with the same attitude, the same consciousness, that created it? Yes, we need to reduce carbon emissions and plant trees.1 But if we continue to see the Earth, its climate, or the environment, as something separate from us—a problem requiring a solution—we are just continuing the same story, placing a band-aid over the festering wound our present civilization has created.
We have to accept that our civilization, with its materialistic values, its addictions to consumerism, is past its sell-by date. Its values and patterns of behavior have become so self-destructive, even psychotic,2 that it is coming to an end—to quote Paul Kingsnorth: “brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world.”3
A grounded response requires us to acknowledge that while governments or corporations may offer short-term fixes for reducing carbon emissions and encouraging renewable energy sources, their model of our civilization with its ideology of progress and images of continued economic growth, is not only unsustainable, but pathological.4 Instead we need to confront “the end of the world as we know it.”5 Taking real responsibility means that we cannot avoid the consequences of our actions. Even if we do not know the future that is waiting, we need to recognize what is happening.
Historically we can look back at the dying days of the Roman Empire, a time before the Dark Ages swallowed Europe for centuries. When the last Roman legions left Britain at the end of the fourth century—as the buildings crumbled, or were left abandoned—what were the feelings, the attitude of those left behind, knowing their world, their civilization was ending?6 While it took decades, even centuries for the Roman era to end, Baghdad, then the largest city in the world, was destroyed in less than two weeks by a siege of Mongol hoards in 1258, when every building of note, every mosque and market, was demolished. The Islamic Golden Age ended, and the irrigation system that had supported Mesopotamia for millennia was destroyed and never repaired.
Is our arrogance similar to the rulers of the Baghdad, thinking their civilization would outlast the Mongol force of nature? We do not know the timeline of how climate change will end our era, and most imagine we will adapt and continue.7 Are we really prepared to confront the forces of nature that our own arrogance and ignorance have unleashed?
What does it mean to live at the end of an era? What does it require individually and collectively? We are present in a moment of profound transition, one that requires our full awareness and participation. And for this work we need resilience, the tools to face our insecurities, our fears as things fall apart, the possibility of social collapse and the patterns of denial that accompany these forebodings.8 As we accept our grief, the deep sadness at the natural beauty and wonder that is passing, and also confront our own impermanence and even mortality, we need to enquire what are the spiritual roots that can sustain us, the ethical values that are essential to this time of transition? And how can we put these values into action, both individually and as a community?
We also need to learn how to be present at the place where the worlds come together, where the old dies and the new can be born. This is not a place of comfort, and anger or blame at those whose apparent blindness and greed has caused this crisis will not help—all of us who participate in this civilization, drive a car, sit in a bus, eat food not locally grown, have contributed. What is required is a radical shift of consciousness. Instead of our Western focus on individualism and its recent neoliberal ideology,9 we need to value cooperation rather than competition, and relearn how to live from a place of connection—connection to each other and to the Earth as a living presence. Of necessity we need to embrace a life of simplicity, supported by community rather than consumerism. And, if possible, an awareness of the sacred that permeates all of creation, the suffering Earth as well as our hopes and dreams. These are some of the basic tools of transformation.
And as we take responsibility for a possible climate catastrophe, it is essential our responses are rooted in a justice model and demonstrate solidarity with people of color and those in places where people are already suffering from climate collapse. As we are already witnessing in the prolonged drought in Somalia, those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are living in the poorest countries, and the world’s 2.5 billion smallholder farmers, herders and fisheries who depend on the climate and natural resources for food and income. Climate justice and social justice must walk hand in hand if we are to transition into a future that moves beyond our present divisiveness to support the diversity of humanity and the living Earth.
Collapse and transition can co-exist, especially if we can embrace a future that looks forward to the next seven generations, as in the Native American tradition.10 Yes, we need the tools for this transition, the resilience to take us through a possible social collapse, but also the vision of a future that is deeply sustainable for all forms of life, which for indigenous peoples has always been founded upon an awareness and relationship to the sacred nature of creation—combined with consciousness of the Earth as a living unity. I am not suggesting that reconnection with nature, or the sacred within creation, will save us from climate catastrophe or social collapse. But that these qualities of interconnectedness are necessary to sustain us during a time of possible collapse and transition, as well as belonging to a shared future with the Earth—a future that can only come from such a radical shift in our collective consciousness.
Turning towards a living future means not just fewer carbon emissions but a profound revolution of consciousness.11 A shift from seeing the Earth as something separate—whether as a resource to be exploited or a problem to be solved—to a living being to which we belong, who is in distress and needs our love, care and attention. We do not know how our civilization will end, or how long it will take—we are living in a time of radical uncertainty. But we can recognize that it is over, and that the seeds of a new era are already present, even if mostly unrecognized. If our shared future is to be sustainable in any real sense we need to return to a living relationship with the Earth, a state of “interbeing.”12 Only then can we turn our awareness to how to give birth to a new civilization that can exist in balance, in harmony with the Earth and Her living systems. There is an immediacy to this work even if it may take centuries for it to unfold—and it is where our hearts and hands are needed.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is the author of many books including Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, and forthcoming title, Including the Earth in Our Prayers: A Global Dimension to Spiritual Practice. The focus of his writing and teaching is on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition.
1 A new study found reforestation could be a far more important tool against climate change than previously believed. “This new quantitative evaluation shows [forest] restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof Tom Crowther at the Swiss University ETH Zürich.
2 Any species that consciously destroys its own ecosystem can be considered as psychotic.
3 “Hope in the Age of Collapse,” an interview with Paul Kingsnorth, Thoreau Farm.
4 Again, to quote Greta Thunberg, “This ongoing inaction of people in power and the companies responsible will, in the future, no doubt be remembered as a crime against humanity.”
5 Ibid., Kingsnorth.
6 By the late fifth century the Roman town of Londinium, which had many large buildings, piped water, and a drainage system, was an uninhabited ruin. Two centuries later the Saxons built another town nearby.
7 Many believe that renewable energy sources, “sustainable development,” or a “green economy” (“Green New Deal” in the USA) will allow us to continue our energy-intensive way of life. It is even seen as a boost to economic growth, making money in green tech and the transition to a low carbon economy. This is in contrast to the no-growth advocates who contend that green capitalism can’t stem climate change or the general, ongoing degradation of the planet. “What goods or services are such that their production, use, and disposal do not consume land, energy, or other resources? Passive houses, electric vehicles, eco-textiles, photovoltaic systems, organic food, power lines, combined heat and power plants, solar thermal heaters, cradle-to-cradle beverage packaging, car sharing or Internet services: none of them fulfill this condition.” (Niko Paech, Liberation from Excess: The Road to a Post-Growth Economy.)
8 The blind spot of any culture is “the inability to conceive of its own destruction and possible extinction.” From “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” by Jem Bendell.
9 Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling. In his seminal paper, “Deep Adaptation,” Jem Bendell suggests that, “The West’s response to environmental issues has been restricted by the dominance of neoliberal economics since the 1970s.”
10 An ancient Iroquois philosophy states that the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future…
11 The ecologist John Milton, speaking of well-intentioned efforts to reform institutions, writes: “By themselves [these efforts] won’t bring about the penetrating changes in human culture that we need for people to live in true harmony and balance with one another and the earth. The next great opening of an ecological worldview will have to be an internal one.” Over the past two decades (since writing Working with Oneness) I have argued that the necessary shift in consciousness is an awakening to oneness, an awareness of the interconnectivity and living unity of all of creation—and that rather than separate individuals we are an integral part of this living whole.
12 “Interbeing” is a term coined by Thich Nhat Hanh to describe our deep interconnection with one another and with all life.
“Estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) suggest that, if emissions remain unchanged, by 2100 sea levels could rise by more than eight feet. This would irreversibly affect many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Do you think there’s a chance we may avoid this?
“…the calamity will be on a scale that is almost imponderable, most severe as you say for the poorest and most vulnerable, but awful enough for the rest of society as well. Is there a chance to avoid such catastrophes? No doubt. There are well-worked out and sound proposals; economist Robert Pollin’s work on a Green New Deal is the best I know. But the task ahead is enormous, and there is not much time.” ~ Noam Chomsky
“From the onslaught of climate change, to the spread of far-right movements around the globe, to the increased proliferation of nuclear weapons, threats to the natural environment and democratic institutions are increasingly unmistakable, and the sense of crisis palpable. Yet amid such rapid changes, the work of Noam Chomsky remains indispensable for understanding global politics and the nuances so often missed by corporate media.”
Read the full interview by Harrison Samphir….
At the heart of things is a secret law of balance and when our approach is respectful, sensitive and worthy, gifts of healing, challenge and creativity open to us.
A gracious approach is the key that unlocks the treasure of encounter.
The way we are present to each other is frequently superficial. We become more interested in ‘connection’ rather than communion.
In many areas of our lives the rich potential of friendship and love remains out of our reach because we push towards ‘connection.’
When we deaden our own depths, we cannot strike a resonance in those we meet or in the work we do.
A reverence of approach awakens depth and enables us to be truly present where we are.
When we approach with reverence great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty of things.
When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us.
The rushed heart and the arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.
Beauty is mysterious, a slow presence who waits for the ready, expectant heart.
John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher
Excerpt from BEAUTY
Photo: Malham © Ann Cahill
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“As both a mythologist and wilderness rites-of-passage guide I am frequently asked to comment on climate change, collapsing stories, and what on earth to say to our kids about the future. I am no kind of pundit, so choose my words sparingly and carefully. What follows is a few thoughts.
“I think we are in the Underworld and haven’t figured it out yet. Both inside and outside us.
“The Underworld is a place where we admit our red right hand. We give up the apotropaic.
“….Dancing on the very same spear tip, we accept our very human response to things ending. We don’t like it. We loathe it. The good stuff at least. Though it is a historical inevitability, a biological place-holder, could we start to explore the thought that earth may appropriately proceed without us? Without our frantically curated shape? Could our footprints become pollen that swirl up for a moment and then are gone? I’m not suggesting we are anything but pulverised with sorrow with the realisation, and our part in its hastening, but I persist.
“I’m offering no spiritual platitudes, no lofty overview, but for once we stop our wrestle with god and feel deeply into the wreckage of appropriate endings.
“That even, or especially such catastrophic loss requires the most exquisite display for the love we did not know how deeply we loved till we knew it was leaving.
“I think even to operate for a second in the Underworld without being annihilated we have to operate from both wonder and grief, at absolutely the same time. One does not cancel the other out, it is the very tension of the love-tangle that makes us, possibly, a true human being.
“Notice I said approaching, not accepting the truth that things end. That’s too swift a move, too fraudulent, too counterfeit, too plastic. Approaching is devastation enough.
“This terrible, noble counterweight is what we are getting taught. But it doesn’t end there.
“There in that very contrariness something gets forged: something that is neither-this-nor-that, a deepening, the blue feather in the magpie’s tale, the Hermian move to excruciating brilliance through the torment of paradox, the leap of dark consciousness that we, in the name of culture, are being asked to make. The thunderbolt that simultaneously destroys and creates.”
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