“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

So OK, having slept fitfully and woken up resigned to accepting the basic premise that it is unlikely that the world as I have always known it will continue into the foreseeable future…what then?

How do I spend my one wild and precious life on the planet?

I am quite clear that I want to put my time, talents and energies into doing my best to head off catastrophe for the natural world.

But this often feels like trying to stick my finger in a huge roaring dyke of bad news—how can I, a small and ordinary person, make a difference for the trees and animals and birds and bees that I so want to protect?

All I can say is that making the attempt is better than giving up.

My gift has always been writing, and so I am using that gift to try to reach out to others, in the hope that if many of us, in our small, ordinary lives, can join our voices together, the resulting chorus could indeed change the world.

I am continually amazed at how the technological innovation of the World Wide Web has facilitated the meeting of minds and the catalyzing of movements.  There has never been a better moment for human progress and connected intellectual growth.

I wake up with a new thought, write it down and send it out into the gushing waters of the internet, where, within the hour, it will be read by someone living on the other side of the planet, who will bat it back to me with comments that will cause me to see the idea from a whole new perspective.  All within the space of an hour! How remarkable is that?

But sadly, it is precisely our reliance on and success with technology that is causing our demise, from simple overpopulation to the poisoning of our environment.

This is the challenge of our time: to very quickly learn to adapt to our rapidly changing climate, and to find environmentally sustainable ways to hang on to our positive technological inventions.

I believe it can be done, which is why I am totally invested in the challenge of waking people up and getting them engaged in fighting the good fight to make our epoch, which many call the Anthropocene, a positive transition to a better human relationship with the Earth, rather than a nightmare ending in the dark night of extinction.

If we were to shift our resources from weapons of destruction–guns, bombs and missiles, chemical poisons, and ever-bigger drills, earth-movers and chain saws—to implements of cultivation and the harmless harvesting of the bounty of our natural world, what a huge difference that would make!

People say that over-population will continue no matter what, but I know from years of studying women’s issues worldwide that when women are educated and respected in a society, they have fewer children.

Between fewer children in the developing world, a lower rate of consumption in the developed world, and the invention of new technologies that act in harmony with nature rather than against her, we could transform our planet within a generation or two.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy The Lord of the Rings is looking more and more prophetic, and it’s surely no accident that the films have come out now, to appeal to the current generation of young people.

We are the ones who must enter the fight to hold off the dark forces of Mordor, in order to preserve the happy, healthy lives in the Shire that all humans are meant to live.

tumblr_m9hm5vDG2h1qzhkvho1_500Today is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and I invoke his memory to remind us that although it is true that by ourselves each one of us is puny and limited, it is also true that if we pool our resources and act together we have tremendous power.

We must each start by determining what gifts we can bring to the table of this new movement, and then start where we are, doing what we can, and sharing our insights and passions by all the channels of communication that are open to us, from talking face to face with friends and neighbors to sending our ideas out into the World Wide Web.

Now is the time, and we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

I will close with two quotes from Dr. King:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Amen, brother.

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  1. Jennifer, I think I know just how you feel.
    I wrote a poem for my 5 grown sons recently, It reflects how I feel about our personal responsibility as inhabitants of this planet and as people who live in the most powerful country in the world ( a power that we often do not use well or responsibly). Here;s an excerpt:
    “I would tell them that they are the stuff of stars….
    That the very atoms that pulse and vibrate inside us come from the stars!
    We are in the universe and the universe is in us; in all of us, no matter when or where we lived.
    I would tell them that they are connected to every being who has ever lived or ever will live.
    That long after they have died, the atoms that were part of them will be somewhere in the universe, part of some other life…recycled in the air, the soil, a beautiful flower, a tree, or even another person.
    And because of this, we will never be separate from the rest of the world; from the earth that we live on, from the people we call enemies and those we call friends.
    I would tell them, because I do know it now…
    that everything they do really does make a difference.
    Our actions have an impact far beyond our ability to know.
    The choices we make about what we eat and how we live affect people everywhere….not just metaphorically or spiritually, but really.
    We share the earth with billions of people and there will be billions more after we die.
    What we use and what we conserve affect them all.
    Wars we wage and wars we avert affect them all.
    Discoveries we make and how we use them affect them all.
    They are us and we are them, only luckier.
    I would tell them that we were chosen to be that accumulation of atoms that won the birth lottery; that we were born to a life of relative plenty.
    That we have responsibility because of this.
    And I would tell them this too.
    None of us will ever make the whole difference; none of us can truly change the world,
    Because each and every one of us is needed.
    I would tell them “the power of one” really means the power of EACH one combined with the power of many other ones.
    And, although, they share the atoms from the same stars as the rest of us,
    Each of us is a totally unique, unduplicatable individual person.
    Within each unique individual lies the future of the world.
    We are all chosen to use what is in us-
    that stuff that makes me, me and you, you –
    No one else has that to offer to the world.
    So, shine like the stars that are within you!
    Love so much that your heart expands until it can hold the whole world in its care.”

    None of us can afford not to try!

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  April 5, 2013

      What a beautiful poem, Jan! Thanks for sharing it here on Transition Times. I love the idea that we are not just stardust, but starlight too, if only we could recognize this potential within each of us!

  2. Gerry

     /  April 4, 2013

    I may not have it word for word, but my favorite MLK quote is “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

    According to Bill McKibben’s “Eaarth”, the world has already changed, and we are not going back any time soon. And the various weather disasters confirms it in my mind.

    One person alone will not make much difference to the planet as a whole, But people combined have put men on the moon, conquered diseases, and a lot more. The mess we are in was created by homo sapiens. If homo sapiens can’t make a positive difference here, well then, we have to ask why not.

    The world will be pretty grim if we continue burning fossil fuels as we are for much longer. I think that if we care about future generations, we really should try to minimize the changes to the planet.

    According to those who have written about the “Great Turning” or the “Great Disruption” we have two choices, one much worst than the past, one much better than the past.

    Regarding overpopulation, much progress has been made around the world. Thailand reduced its fertility rate by half. Mexico reduced its fertility rate significantly (10%? 30%) by putting family planning messages in soap operas. Europe’s population would be shrinking if not for immigration.

  3. Having reached the ripe old age of 92 I am definitely at the “can’t run, crawl” stage
    so here I go. I have been concentrating all my efforts on trying to alert people to the
    danger but it is increasingly obvious that everyone is already well aware of the danger< they just don't know what to do about it. I can see now that I was swimming in the same sea as everyone else, thinking I was all alone! We are all asking the same questions and, I'm sure, coming up with different answers.
    The answer for me is to work within my own very small circle to be loving and kind to ALL;
    to make personal connections with all who come my way and make those connections affirming ones, never judgmental, always positive, loving and kind. My hope is that I will find
    that I will find I am swimming in another sea with lots of company. A sea that has always been there ready for me as soon as I chose to take that path.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  April 4, 2013

      This is a beautiful way to put it–swimming in a sea with kindred spirits. I am beginning to wonder if the spiritual connections and intentions are at least as important as the physical? Bravo to you for staying engaged even as you move up in age! That is rare, I find….

  4. leavergirl

     /  April 5, 2013

    People are mostly awake, Jennifer. Those that care enuff, anyways. The challenge is to figure out what to DO, now that we are awake.

    I am reminded of the old tale, the Gate to Women’s Country, where the women aim each to have an art, a craft, and a science. It stresses the need to get one’s hand dirty… as the heroine does whose “craft” is food gardening and whose “science” is healing. Darn it, I can’t remember her art. It coulda been writing.

    Too much handwringing, too little doing in our awake circles, don’t you think? I should make a blog post about it (ha, there I go too).

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  April 5, 2013

      Maybe where you are people are mostly awake, but not in my circles. Or if they are, a lot of the awareness is dissipated through avoidance or a kind of paralyzed depression. I agree with you, we must figure out not just how to get people to focus on the challenges of our immediate future, but also to start working constructively to prepare. For me, a lot of that work seems to be “merely” in community-building–scare quotes because that sometimes feels like the hardest thing of all to accomplish. Taking the past month “off” to focus on the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers has reminded me how nourishing it is, spiritually and practically speaking, to focus on local, grassroots efforts involving your friends and neighbors and other kindred spirits. My work seems to involve building communities of women, in particular, though kind, gentle, compassionate men are always welcome as well. That and using writing to right the world. More anon….

      • leavergirl

         /  April 5, 2013

        Heh… I did not mean to say that my neighbors are awake. I think they are fully prepared, those who think about it, to go down with the boat while the band plays on. 😀

        What I meant is… that those who respond to written exhortations and argumentations are already either awake or not (and we all hang out at the Energy Bulletin). There is not a whole lot of fish left in that stream, and too many fisherfolk standing on the banks casting lures.

        There are some people still who can be awakened by personal example. And a whole bunch who will wake up when some big disaster hits home; nothing else will jolt them.

        Making community is a crucial skill. I am keeping my fingers crossed for your dreams of that “nunnery” of cool green women. It will take time to build it…

        As the Sufis say, “do not waste your time in grief or regret; opportunity is precious and time is a sword.”

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