In the video, Leading in a Climate Changed World Episode 10, Dr. Jem Bendell said something that lifted my spirits. He stated, “No matter what happens to the human race, there will be beauty and meaning and love in it.” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DJRGNWI6Lg]
Beauty and meaning and love: these three things will remain, regardless. This is a very hopeful and optimistic perspective despite its undertones of a future without humanity in it; let’s not forget that hope and optimism are key elements in mental health, too. This perspective is USEFUL. We have learned throughout human history, that we generally rise to whatever challenges confront us. Between social media and various news sources, we sometimes forget this important characteristic of being a human on planet Earth. After 9/11, in a very imperfect way, the American people banded together in love for one another; some Americans were not included in that love, as we know.
Now, as we consider our resilience as it has to do with climate change, we have yet another opportunity to see the beauty of being human. There is a mutual vulnerability that we all share (even the ultra-wealthy one percent!!) as it has to do with our home planet. We need her. We cannot survive without her. There is no Planet B, nor is there a way for us to sustainably live in space now or in the foreseeable future. Without her bounty, we would starve. Without her water, we would die of thirst long before that. Without her protection, we would be burnt to a crisp. Let’s face it, we humans have a very small window of existence. Our actions (or lack thereof) are causing the earth’s temperatures to increase which will one day mean we can’t survive here anymore.
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, I was a family nutrition teacher. I always started my workshops with, “If you don’t take care of your body, where else are you going to live?” Today we know the answer to a similar question about Earth. If we don’t take care of our planet, we don’t have anywhere else to live.
Unfortunately, what we say we most value and want to preserve do not always match up with the appropriate actions; if we valued our lives and others, future generations’ lives and quality of life, would we not be more actively pursuing policy changes as it has to do with climate change? Would we not be out in the streets protesting our government’s lack of action as it has to do with sweeping changes that would make a positive impact on our climate? Some are certainly doing the hard work, but what about the rest? Are others in less danger of climate catastrophe or societal collapse than those participating in climate crisis activism? No, they’re not in less danger. So why isn’t everyone up in arms?
First of all, there’s apparently a significant portion of the population who are still in denial. Whether that’s a political stance, selective ignorance, or a survival mechanism, I don’t know. But it is prevalent, and it is disheartening. There are two dangerous positions to take in our world today as it has to do with climate change. The first is denial, the second is hopelessness. Both these stances negate personal responsibility; neither motivate nor promote positive change in order to improve the future for all beings. These groups continue with the status quo, adding to the problem rather than working towards lasting solutions.
For the second Deep Adaptation framework point of relinquishment, I think we could focus on our addiction to convenience, efficiency, and “stuff” in general. Our consumerism is at the heart of so much of the world’s problems and we could learn a lesson or two if we started repairing broken things, replacing buttons, patching our clothing and just BUYING LESS in general. We could relinquish our desire to fill emotional holes with things we can buy at the store or on Amazon. We could recognize that things cannot replace the hard work of healing and restoration. As an example, I used to purchase those plastic packages of facial cleansing wipes. They were so easy! They saved me time! And until I started reading how bad they were for our environment, I was clueless about the consequences of my addiction to convenience. (It takes most of them about one hundred years to break down.)
There are “old ways” that could (and should!) be restored. Those indigenous practices such as those discussed in “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer as an example. Commitment to community is another. Repairing things rather than buying a new thing and tossing the old. I’ve included a meme that floats around from time to time that pictures an older woman in her garden. While it is not 100% accurate, the point is valid. When you’re supply chain is local (especially for the foods you eat) you’re more resilient. If you know how to grow your own food, even more so.
I was talking to a client recently whose grandfather used to invent and build machines to improve his family’s quality of life. When he became wheelchair-bound, he replaced his front stairs with an elevator of sorts that he designed, built and installed himself. My dad and grandfathers did the same. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? We’d all do well to learn basic skills and gather basic tools that will help us survive.
Not everything “old fashioned” is irrelevant. We have much to learn from those who came before us, if only we pay attention.
What can we do, today, to make a difference?