Climate - To Do or Die
by Paul Chaffee
A strong case can be made that humankind is approaching a tipping point, a time and place where we fall off the edge of the cliff, victims of our own greed and need to exploit a weary, wounded, and depleted Earth.
A strong case can also be made that the pendulum of history is swinging back towards a global civilization which honors and cares for the Earth adequately for it to continue caring for us, as it has for our forebears for tens of thousands of years. Which way will the 21st century go?
This month’s TIO explores both scenarios, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Climate disaster these days is more than a prediction, is a daily reality – the issue becomes how much longer we, the human family, will tolerate the continuing degradation. The first article this month, “Faith and Water: Thinking, Acting and Living for a Healthy Future” by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saaswati, addresses the precarious condition of our water. After reading it I’ll never look at water or drink water again without a deeper understanding of its value and vulnerability.
Water, of course, is connected to almost everything in life, is taken for granted by most of us, and is becoming scarcer. Extended droughts are decimating the economies and populations of dozens of countries and enlarging the burgeoning global refugee community. Hurricanes and massive fires are becoming more frequent. Eight Pacific islands have been swallowed whole by rising seas, and many more see a similar catastrophe coming. Ninety-five percent of the Arctic’s “hard ice” has melted, accelerating global warming.
These disheartening developments have been magnified mercilessly by the attitude and behavior of the powerful US administration, whose denials of the disaster beggar imagination. President Trump seems to have not an iota of care for his grandchildren nor their children nor the whole human family in the long run. Last month he casually dismissed a landmark, non-partisan climate report by more than 300 climate scientists and 13 federal agencies because “I just don’t believe it.”
The Silver Lining
The silver lining in this beyond-belief situation is that it has helped generate the fury, defiance, and imagination of a growing global community of hundreds of millions who are determined to turn things around, to transform our relationship with energy, to reexamine our consumption habits and economies and educational systems to see how they either promote or compromise a sustainable, healthy planet. Currently the most organized effort to champion a turn-around is COP24, the short name for the 24th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It has been meeting in Katowice, Poland for the past two weeks to coordinate the effort most nations of the world committed to at the Paris Accords. Visit their website for a jolt of optimism about what is possible in this time of disaster.
Most of this issue of TIO is about women and men who, taking disaster in hand, seek to mitigate the damage and provide the context for a less competitive, more collaborative and sustainable way of life for us all. Contributions from indigenous leaders are particularly important. “Talanoa: Dialogue for Action” by Bee Moorhead is one of the most important articles TIO has ever published. It is a resource goldmine for transforming disagreements and conflict into solidarity and community. It provides tools not just for climate activists but for everyone pursuing social justice.
As several articles suggest, the religions of the world, including Humanism, Indigenous traditions, and spiritual traditions, share a deep, enduring commitment to caring for the Earth and all living beings. Spiritual resources from this heritage are not separate or closeted from the rest of life but something that influences and shapes who we are. They also ground our assumptions about social justice. One of the themes that emerges in article after article about climate this month is the importance of a personal transformation that includes adjusting our lifestyles and habits to support rather than diminish the Earth and its peoples. Spiritual resources are also noted for making the journey easier.
As climate activists, we are not alone. Hundreds of faith and interfaith organizations the world over are deeply dedicated to mitigating climate warming and preserving a healthy planet. TIO’s articles barely represent the tip of the iceberg. To learn much more about climate, become a faithful reader of Inside Climate News, a quick way to keep up with what is happening. 35o.org is a multinational grassroots coalition of more than 300 organizations that oppose fossil fuels and promote clean energy. GreenSpirit in the UK has a number of ways to get involved and excellent web resources.
Take advantage of this wide horizon of enterprises dedicated to a vital, workable world. Climate activists need to connect and collaborate with each other, across the street, across the country, around the world. The road ahead for our growing army of climate activists is about learning to relate and work with each other. We don’t need a thousand groups each trying to invent the wheel: instead we need each other in a cause that is much larger than what we each bring to the table. Strong relationships and a swelling tide of resistance to the financial barons who control so much in this world is the road that will lead us to ecological sustainability.
This can be, should be a joyful vocation. Kyle Lemle’s “Where is the Heart in the Climate Justice Movement? Where is the Music?” is an illuminating window into how much deep personal satisfaction is available in the work we share.