This is the final posting in the series on ecology
We’ve reviewed the climate change situation from a whole-systems perspective observing that the key to managing complex living systems is to manage the parts in right functional relationship with the whole. With regard to climate, Earth is the whole and individual humans are the parts—“members” actually. The proper function of members in a living system is to maintain their integrity—health, ability to communicate and collaborate with others, and make their unique contribution.
We noted that individuals and select groups, mainly the worldwide network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are effectively responding to change appropriately despite the failure of political leaders to lead. For every human problem, there’s an organization we can turn to for assistance. One of the things to do is to support the particular NGO that is working to resolve or effectively manage the challenge at the top of our concern list.
What’s important to do
For me, the highest priority need are shifts in perception. First and foremost, who am I? By virtue of being aware of ourselves, there’s a spark that makes us more than our bodies and thoughts. It’s been observed that within each of us are the archetypes of both devil and angel. Right there is a choice. Am I in tune with “The Force” or attuned to “The Dark Side?” Is my being in the world making it better? Is what I do an asset or liability for people and planet? Do my sharings of opinion and information uplift and empower myself and others? Or do they make people feel bad about humanity, helpless or less optimistic about the future? Am I choosing information and entertainment sources that uplift or confuse and depress?
Another, critical shift in perception relates to how we view ourselves in relation to the planet—if we think of it at all. Am I simply a decades-long passenger, here for the ride wherever it takes me? Am I just playing the hand I was dealt at birth? Or am I an engaged member of a living system, doing what I can to take only what I need, clean up after myself and keep the house in good repair for others. These are the “Earth House Rules” articulated by Sallie McFague who says the Earth is a house, not a hotel. Am I doing what I can to take care of it, especially the spaces entrusted to me? Scientist James Lovelock has demonstrated that the planet is a living system, an entity that possesses all the qualities that define life. Am I treating her—Earth Mother in Native American parlance—as the source and sustainer of my life? All life?
The paradigm of separation, fear, domination and competition have resulted in the blossoming of the human species—for many, but not the majority. That manner of thinking and action has been so successful in creating wealth for the few in the “developed” world, it’s nearly impossible for financial and political interests to release their grip. It’s even hard for us to imagine a world no longer dependent on fossil fuel, coal and nuclear energy, strip-mining, deforestation, ocean pollution and meat production. Yet that’s on the horizon, and it needs to happen fast—“it” meaning a 180º shift to the paradigm of unity, love and respect for each other, nature and the Earth and collaboration. Like it or not, we are the generation of the shift. We will succeed together or our children and grandchildren will suffer the consequences, which in the near term (scientists predict two decades) is a systemic crisis that affects survival for many and a serious reduction in the quality of life for everyone. Sixteen-year-old Greta Lungren said “We need to act as if our house is on fire—because it is!”
When asked what she considered the core of her message, Greta said it’s for all people everywhere to engage in conversations about climate change. That’s key. We have to acknowledge that there is a problem, that it’s critical to whole systems survival and that something can be done about it.
For me, another top priority toward becoming part of the solution, is to listen carefully to the priorities of political candidates of every persuasion. What do they talk about most? The economy, jobs, energy, education, health care, military, space, abortion, reforms, threats from other nations, personalities? All of these have one thing in common—money. Of course, it’s important to talk about money; it’s one of the primary functions of governing at all levels. But none of these issues are going to matter if we don’t first attend to the survival threat that is real and bearing down on us.
Understandably, many of our political and business leaders have their heads in the sand. If they admit that climate change presents a real threat to survival and diminished quality of life for everyone, the economy and profit margins would suffer due to public restraint on purchasing. But that’s precisely what needs to happen if we’re to come back from the brink of widespread disaster. Crisis precedes and is often necessary for positive transformation. At a certain level of the frequency and severity of environmental calamities, the Federal government, insurance companies and banks will reach a ceiling, unable to rescue or even come to the aid of states and cities. The whole system could collapse. We could loose electricity, fuel for vehicles and grocery shelves would be empty.
However, the window of opportunity is not yet closed. There is still time to affect substantive change. What it requires is electing individuals of integrity—intelligent and wise, truth-tellers who understand the seriousness of climate change, make it a top priority, commit to taking responsible action in response to it and LEAD Congress and the American people in the difficult initiatives needed to reverse the damage that’s been done. Never before has so much been at stake when we vote.
Sallie McFague (Ecologian): She suggests a fourfold practice. I summarize from her book, A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming.
1. Voluntary simplicity
2. Focus on the needs of others
3. Cultivate the inclusive Self—expand the circle of caring to the world and everyone in it
4. Apply the above at all levels of activity, personal and public
Charles Eisenstein (Ecologist): Climate: A New Story. “Climate change is inviting us to forge a different kind of relationship, one that holds the planet and all of its places, ecosystems, and species sacred—not only in our conception and philosophy, but in our material relationship. Nothing less will deliver us from the environmental crisis that we face. Specifically, we need to turn our primary attention toward healing soil, water, and biodiversity, region by region and place by place… We must enact a civilization-wide unifying purpose: to restore beauty, health and life to all that has suffered during the Ascent of Humanity… If I were pressed to offer a universal solution, it would be to see and treat the world as sacred again. As my friend Orland Bishop says, the sacred is something that requires sacrifice; that is, it is something we value—and would sacrifice to protect—beyond its use-value to ourselves.”
His Holiness The Dalai Lama: The Universe In A Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality. “Because of the profoundly interconnected reality of today’s world, we need to relate to the challenges we face as a single human family rather than as members of specific nationalities, ethnicities, or religions. In other words, a necessary principle is a spirit of oneness of the entire human species. Some might object to this as unrealistic. But what other options do we have?”
Brian Swimme (Cosmologist): “The solution to our crises: Reinvent ourselves, at the species level, in a way that enables us to live… not just with humans but with all beings—so that our activities actually enhance the world.”
Sarah VanGelder (Editor, YES! Magazine): “Small actions and choices can have major, although unpredictable, effects in determining what comes next. Among the possibilities is that the thousands of experiments and millions of choices to live more consciously will coalesce into a new civilization that fosters community, provides possibilities for meaning, and sustains life for the planet.”
“Small Actions” (Little Things Add Up)
The following is a sampling derived from an internet search among people who are committed to amending their lives in response to climate change. I offer it as “food for thought.”
- Take shorter showers.
- Fly less. Use video or phone conferencing for work meetings and gatherings instead.
- Travel by train or bus. On long distances, cars pollute more than airplanes.
- Turn lights off, except when necessary.
- Turn down the thermostat & wear sweaters in the winter time.
- Set the summer time air conditioner a little less cooler.
- Shop close to home; ride a bike.
- Car pool or use public transportation.
- Deciding where to live, what vehicles you buy is a 10-15 year commitment to energy.
- Improve the energy efficiency of the house
- Turning off the hot water heater while on vacation.
- Satisfy wants less frequently than needs.
- Not buying or replacing a vehicle that burns fossil fuel until or unless it’s necessary.
- Not buying shoes, clothes or other wearing apparel that’s not necessary.
- Using existing materials of any kind before buying new.
- Borrowing books and videos from the library rather than purchasing them.
- Never litter and picking up litter.
- Wrap sandwiches and other short-use foods in recyclable paper rather than plastic.
- Offering charitable contributions to NGO’s.
- Driving the shortest distance between two points.
- Turning off electronic devices when not needed for long periods.
- Cutting back on meat.
- No longer subscribing to a lawn care service because it kills insects and worms.
- Buying organic foods as much as possible.
- Switching to pencils, so not to use ballpoint pens.
- Never throw waste into a pond, stream, river, lake or any other body of water.
- Using fewer devices that require disposable batteries.
- When searching for a job, look into alternative energy companies.
- Using cloth rather than paper towels.
- Using natural cleaning products; ammonia rather than Clorox.
- Stopped buying anything with real fur or leather.
- Using washable cloth rather than commercial diapers.
- Using existing office supplies before buying more.
- Mulching leaves in the Fall, don’t just throw them away.
- Use a printer and copier only when necessary and recycle the cartridges.
- Reading more; watching television less.
- Don’t buy the next generation smartphones—or anything—until it’s necessary.
- Recycling everything possible, and in appropriate ways.
- Recycling metals that are no longer needed; don’t let weeds grow over them.
- Using hand rather than power tools, especially not those that burn fossil fuel.
- Asking for paper rather than plastic cups and straws in restaurants.
- Borrow or rent tools rather than purchase them; sharing tools.
- Reusing binders, folders and mailers as much as possible.
- Reduce, ideally eliminate, single-use plastic bottles and other containers.
- Taking my own cloth bags to the grocery store.
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw
The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.
Pope John Paul II
You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.
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