Re-engaging to Save the Civil in Civilization
Carbon dioxide levels continue to rise according to the International Panel on Climate Change. The number of oak trees and pines dying of fungal and bark beetle infestations bring home the reality of climate change on Californian ecosystems in my beautiful state. Added to the unusually big winter last year, and the extremely dry winter this year. Rapid, extreme fluctuations often herald a system on the edge of a large change. It’s called ‘squealing’ by meteorologists and ecologists.
Are you depressed yet? I am, and so are several of my most educated, engaged and action-oriented friends. We are dis-engaging. I mean, really, what can one person do? In any case, we may well be past some vital tipping points. We’ll just have to hang on for the ride and hope to survive, right?
And yet, what about the young faces in front of me this new year?
Indulging myself with cynicism and darkness will stain my student’s efficacy and engagement. I’m not going to be an annoying Pollyanna – the reality really is pretty scary. Instead I’m going to let them find out much of it for themselves in the upcoming ‘Problems with Oil Project’ (see the tab at the top for deets.) We are going to study the causes and effects of the problems with oil, and consider what we can do (and WANT to do) about it.
In the big picture, I think that maintaining a civil society will be key – we are an immensely adaptable species and can survive a warmer world. What kind of world with that down-sized and different world be? Dog-eat-dog? Nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw? Famine, war and plague? Walled compounds and roving gangs? Or a well-managed, civil and technologically advanced society? One that’s worth living in and working for. It has to be a bright vision to aim for. Let’s imagine what a sustainable society could look like. In detail and often.
Managing the transition will take the soft skills of working together, learning from failure, critical thinking and empathy – perhaps the most valuable things I’ll teach my students, along with staying engaged. And that goes for me and my friends too.
Negative campaign ads are specifically designed to disgust voters and reduce voter turn out. It benefits the right wing. If we withdraw from the awfully un-civil political scene, who will be left making decisions for our future? Giving up because it’s frustrating and painful to engage, plays right into the hands of the deniers, the cynics and the rapacious, almost guaranteeing an apocalyptic future.
I’m inspired and urged on by Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Let’s get re-engaged together and make SOMETHING happen, doing the best we can with what we’ve got right now. Not perfect, but let’s get started anyway. A small thing today – for me it’s deciding to co-chair the justice and mercy committee at my church, turning down the heat a little bit and to eat less meat (even bacon, the ultimate sacrifice.)
Happy New Year everyone on a sunny January afternoon that’s filled with grace and second chances.