This weekend, I went to a visioning retreat with one of my favorite teachers, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, a doctor and native teacher who teaches narrative medicine. On the way here, I listened to a podcast by one of my favorite podcasts, Outrage and Optimism: Climate Change Podcast.
In the podcast, Cristiana Figueres talks about this being a time of implementation. The most recent IPCC report, a final synthesis report, gives a very clear warning and timeline: this is our last chance to avert catastrophic, escalating change; we have, at most, seven years. That doesn't mean that the world will end in seven years, but it means we will enter a climate spiral that will change many things as we know them and throw our balance even farther out of whack.
In the spirit of sharing my voice–and encouraging you to share yours–I hope you don’t mind my sharing some of my thoughts and visions from the weekend (which also happened to coincide with Earth Day):
I took that word, "implementation," as my primary vision for the weekend, and I want to share some thoughts and some resources.
From the IPCC report: “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.”
How do we respond to this report? Do we pay attention? There is so much news around us, how do we take it in? And after all, it is not the job of any one of us to “save the world”!
When I read the news, I often am so disturbed by the doom and polarization, anger and hyperbole, that I can feel my job is to tend to and cultivate inner peace and healing, safe havens of sanity.
But when I do that work at the expense of also taking larger systemic action, then I have let go of my true purpose. If I only turn inward or work only on the local level, I allow the powers that be to get what they want–which is to go unchecked. We need both / and.
So my hope is to find ways to loop from the personal through the social and political, that allow us to do our part to tackle this enormous problem head-on.
We need both/and. It is my hope to find systems that allow us to tend to ourselves, to cultivate our peace and joy and also take direct action and face the problems head on.
And it is my hope that we find systems that allow us to do this NOW, because this is a time of implementation.
Imagine having a cancer diagnosis and not doing anything at all about it. Our timeline and our priorities would change.
Our earth’s changing temperature is unprecedented in the life of our species. What do we do about it?
Forgive me, you probably know this, but let me go on just a bit more:
A few degrees of the earth’s temperature changing might not seem like not much–after all, imagine moving from Boston to the Carolinas–that would be more than a few degrees of temperature change and both places are perfectly fine places to live. But that is not what we’re talking about. The amazing thing is that our earth, with all its incredible diversity, has maintained a relatively stable temperature for thousands of years. Yes, there was temperature change millions of years ago, but the earth of millions of years ago didn’t support human life. For the past ten thousand years, the climate was pretty constant until the start of the industrial revolution; the rate of change has only accelerated in the past decades.
There are so many issues to attend to: racism, poverty, inequality, sexual violence, threats to democracy, education, kindness, healing. Every single one of these issues is related to the climate crisis in which we find ourselves: the systems that brought us racism, for example, brought us climate change. But addressing just some of these inequities at a time will not necessarily be enough to stop that accelerating temperature graph.
We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to restore our oceans and wetlands, our forests and grasslands in order to have a world in which we can have the stability we need to continue to work on all the other issues that matter to us.
I don’t want to be a voice of doom or panic. I want to be a voice of collection action.
So my vision and my hope is that I can fold, when appropriate, direct climate work into the rest of my life; my writing, my teaching, my meditation practices, my practices of peace and my daily practices. After all, everything is interconnected.
When I distill many of my teachings they come to this:
- Pay attention to what’s important. The world is full of lots of noise. Especially in our distracting, productized, polarized world, our attention is pulled in a thousand directions. This is not a coincidence. It is our work to guard our attention and develop it, and to create, write, live and act from that insight and vision with our full hearts, minds, emotional range, creativity, and spirit.
I am trying to practice what I preach here and do that.
I put together a list of 50 Ways to Reduce Climate Change–and they are not what you normally think. Personal sustainability is not enough (though the oil companies would like us to think it is). We also need to work to put pressure on government, industry, and create webs of action so that we can compound our power and multiply it. It’s about using our voice–individually and collectively.
I hope you enjoy the list. And please, let me know what you are doing.
Here is some of what I am doing:
- I am writing about climate and encouraging others to do the same.
- I am committing to making at least five calls a week to businesses and government officials telling them about my concerns about their policies.
- I am committing to learning more about and supporting large scale regenerative practices for an hour each week.
- I am donating money monthly to organizations that I believe are doing good work.
Just the way I tell students to budget their writing time on the calendar, I am going to set aside specific time each week for climate action. When I am doing that work, I will be doing that work. And when I am not doing that work, I will not allow myself to fall into anxiety and distress about not doing “enough.” If I want to do more, I will make a clear, realistic plan about what that will be. And I will appreciate the wonder and beauty and potential for resilience and healing of this world.
I hope you’ll explore my 50 Ways to Reduce Climate Change, use it as a resource, and share it with any friends who might be interested. And I hope that you’ll leave a comment; let me know what you’re doing and how you manage this unusual time we’re living in.