Opening to the energy that can change the world

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.

Still image from "Welcome to the Anthropocene"

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.

Leave a comment


  1. This gave me the chills. The more I hear you speak, the more I know that you ARE doing what you should be doing.

    I think you’re right that part of the problem is the different “we”s out there. Also, I think many of us (the aware, kind, connected “us”) have run through exactly the lists you enumerate here and end up throwing our hands in the air in despair and going back to our lattes and iPods.

    Perhaps I come from bleaker, more pessimistic stock. A hundred thousand years from now, no matter what small choices we make or how soon the world explodes, everything we know and love at this moment will be just so much cosmic dust. Does that mean we should abandon all attempts to stop the ravages we have wrought? Of course not. But it comforts me in some weird way, when I experience those swings into despair.

  2. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  March 28, 2012

    Yes, I agree, taking the long view can be comforting in a bleak sort of way. The Earth has survived similar extinction events, similar drastic swings in temperature, and come back more beautiful than ever. I just can’t help mourning the loss of all the lovely living beings I have come to know and adore and respect, even while I know that “from dust we came and to dust we will return,” in the cosmic or even earthly scheme of things.


     /  March 28, 2012

    My Celtic ancestors were “earthbound” creatures. Hebrew Bible speaks to a people’s relationship with the earth. Jesus uses grain and vine metaphors in His Teachings. The Native Americans lived in great harmony with their nation until the white man appeared, to despoil it for them. Scripture can be blamed for the destruction of earth when interpreted to one’s specific agenda: “subdue”, or take over. Yet there also is “replenish”, return to the soil that which you took from it. Perhaps I have a relational advantage and understanding, having grown up on a small farm in rural Maryland. Home-grown produce, orchards with fresh fruit in their time, livestock and laying hens were part of my childhood melieu. I was taught to love and appreciate the soil and those things that grow from it, whether it was produce for eating or trees, flowers and plants for beauty. I also was taught to respect and love God’s other creatures.

    I become deeply saddened when I think about how we humans continue to be so destructive to this magnificent yet somewhat fragile planet; our “gift” from God. We are the robber barons of Mother Earth. Those who raise up in her defense often are chided, including those opposedto climate change. There is among us a population of “non-believers” who think that “God will provide” no matter how destructive and disruptive our behavior. For more than three decades our scientists have been warning us, like prophets in all lands but their very own. Our insufferable tuning-out is killing our planet and limiting what will be available to our future generations.

  4. You are my lost sister (presuming too much? ) But honestly Jen, thankyou.

    Things are bleak. Some of us get it. Some can’t.

    Every indication now is that we’re not a viable species, after all.

    Just wish that in the history of the Universe, the account of the relatively brief ascendency of Homo sapiens could be somehow redeemed, before the final recording. I don’t want us remembered as a species that failed to appreciate the privelege it was that our highly evolved brains gave rise to a truly remarkable and uniquely creative, empathetic “mind”.

    Hate to sound Sci-fi, but the metaphorical equivalent of a future museum curator and her history students would look with dismay at all the circulating short films, doccos and evocative piano-solo accompanied image montages – clearly presenting the hurt inflicted on other people and on the biosphere. Those historians with compassion will be troubled, trying to make sense of why we just went on ahead, taking, taking, while the suffering was huge, but easily reversed; just a tweaking of our sense of entitlement – just enough to even out the skewing of resources to rich countries, just enough to be content with our own relative ease in life, and to ease up on the poor planet and let it recover.

    I feel as despondent as you did a few post back. Why do we continue with our Nero fiddles, our words, not actions? As far as we know, ours is the premier brain/mind of the whole cosmos. We think it’s so exceptional to be human that we demarcate and eat lesser animals. Yet we can’t get it together and keep our Earth habitable.

    Keep teaching, Jen. While some of it falls on deaf ears, others of us are helped by your online humanity.

    And do bees!! I’m hoping to get beehives soon. Love to correspond on their mysterious communication etc. (But would you reconsider pigs? It turns out they easily demostrate the IQ and emotional intelligence of human children, using our testing instruments. Eating them doesn’t help our health,,,and they cry lining up for execution.)


    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  March 28, 2012

      Hey Angie, it’s great to discover a soul-sister halfway around the world! Thanks for calling me on the pigs, those were actually rhetorical pigs–I could never raise them for slaughter and I don’t eat meat anymore anyway! I am much more likely to try to raise goats for milk and cheese, and chickens for eggs, which I do eat….

      Thanks for the encouragement as always, I will keep on keeping on….

      • Goats are divine!. So wicked. They wake up each morning and think, YAY what naughtiness will we get up to today?!!?? The West African Pygmy’s on my wishlist.

        How liberating is vegetarianism?! Been at it two years now, and it’s so easy and one of the simplest things you can do to lower your footprint and be kind. Spread the word, Jen!

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