In the course of any given day, I swing from hope to despair and back again at least three or four times.
On the one hand, it’s such an amazingly hopeful and alive time in terms of communication and discovery. We are constantly learning so much more about our relationship with the natural world and with each other. Every day brings fresh evidence of the myriad ways in which we are deeply interconnected with all Earth systems and with other Earth-based creatures.
On the other hand, that knowledge does not seem to be adding up to practical change in the real world. Every day thousands of acres of virgin forests are cut and bulldozed. Every day drills open up new spigots for deeply buried oil and gas deposits, which can only be extracted at great risk to the surrounding environment. Every day more chemicals are wantonly spread over the landscape and taken up in the bodies of mammals like us, as well as birds, fish and all the other creatures of the land and sea. Every day hundreds of species, including us humans, move inexorably closer to extinction.
Why is it that despite all we know about the crucial importance of protecting our planetary home, we continue to desecrate and destroy it at ever-increasing speed?
Maybe the answer has something to do with that “we.” Maybe the “we” who know that our survival as a species depends entirely on our responsible stewardship of the environment just isn’t the same “we” that is out there with the chain saws and the bulldozers.
Maybe the great challenge of our time is getting through to those other people, the destructive ones, the violent ones, the ones who do not seem to be able to perceive the bigger picture and how urgent it is now that we—as a global human civilization, united in our desire to survive and thrive on our finite planet—begin to practice radical sustainability at an accelerated pace.
The stakes are huge. At this week’s international “Planet Under Pressure” conference in London, the stark statistics were rehearsed yet again. They’ve gotten so familiar to me that I probably mumble them in my sleep every night. The new video “Welcome to the Anthropocene” does an excellent 3-minute job at summarizing what we’re up against.
But knowing the statistics and seeing what’s wrong is not at all the same as knowing what to do to make things right.
It’s so hard to know where to put one’s energies.
Do I go full-bore at the sustainable energy issue, following Bill McKibben? Maybe a hunger strike in front of the White House would be an effective protest against the Keystone XL pipeline?
Do I go chain myself to a tree in the Amazon or in the rainforest of Indonesia, to protest the deforestation that is depriving us of the vital lungs of our planet?
Should I use my skills as a teacher to try to rouse the young people from their media stupor, using whatever scare tactics are necessary to get their attention and galvanize them to action?
Should I just be out there practicing “re-skilling,” in the Transition Town vernacular: relearning the old skills of surviving off the grid, living leaner and closer to the land that sustains us? Is it time to learn to keep chickens and pigs in my backyard, and finally set up the bee hives I’ve always wanted?
Or maybe I should be up on a mountaintop meditating and communing with the natural world, seeking the vision that will eventually show me the light?
What is it that I should be doing with this one wild and precious life I’ve been granted, in this fast-moving, tumultuous, unpredictable time in our planetary history?
Asking these questions is all I can do right now, just keep asking them and pondering and feeling my way towards my role in what lies ahead of us all.
I want to make an offering of my life. I want to be a channel through which the positive, loving energy of the universe can flow out and make things right again with our world.