Friday, November 29, 2019

An Incomplete Reflection on Climate Change

I've been attending a general sociology class at the University.  And I tell you, nothing is more depressing than taking a microscopic view at all of our social, political, economical and environmental issues. But we cannot change that which we can't see. So here I am taking a good look.

I am fascinated by humans, and our behavior.  And I am increasingly curious to understand how we got to where we are now.

To say the least, we (and I mean mostly we the people of the U.S.) are out of balance from gender issues, to politics, education, prisons, healthcare and the environment in which our life depends on. This week in class we took a look at climate change. I say "take a look" because to call it anything more would be a stretch. The professor tries his best to engage the class in discussion - but he is easily defeated by students, 18-20 year olds, unabashedly engaged with their phones, still with the request to put all screens away. Is this not another reflection of the loss of attention, respect and discipline that is being asked of us? Distraction is at our fingertips. It is now even easier to avoid the pain and discomfort of difficult times, and to our demise, the urgency of it.

The issue of climate change depresses me not just because of how real it is today, and because of the inevitable catastrophes that are already happening and are sure to come in my lifetime.  It depresses me on a soul level because what is happening to planet Earth - whatever fate that might be, whether it's another episode of extinction of all life and eventual regeneration of life due to extreme temperatures, or if she'll allow us to stay and survive technologically dependent, who knows - it is a direct reflection of the cumulation of the underbelly and shadow of humanity. If I choose not to look away - from the protected cushion of privilege - it darkens my soul, and leaves me hopeless.

This video brings tears to my eyes. Sure, there is ebb and flow, and the Earth has her rhythm and cycles that persist regardless of human (and other animal) life. And perhaps we who are alive on the planet are perfectly positioned along Earth's timeline in a rapid transition, a global shift of counterbalance. And, it is clear that we humans have done some serious damage. If we were to have to pay the debt that we owe, we'd pay for eternity. But the Earth, like a forgiving mother, continues to give and give unconditionally; and at times pushed to her edge by her unruly children has no choice but to raise her voice. 

The shrinking of arctic ice aside, this video brings tears to my eyes, as it simulates a pulse and rhythm of breath, no different than our own. Reminding me of how inseparable we are from each other and the planet. As ethereal and utopian it might sound, it is true that we all share the same breath, we are all breathing the same air. Every individual action and thought has consequence whether good or bad.

Which begs the question, how can we believe that our actions are insignificant and inconsequential? How can we not see that excessive pumping of blood from the Earth and burning it wildly does not create heat? How can we not see that cutting and clearing the Amazon rainforest (20% of Earth's oxygen supply) only to be replaced with methane producing livestock does not have a detrimental affect regardless if science can show us how or why? And so much more. The environmental damage done only scratches the surface of our problems.

Perhaps we know this, but are so deeply embedded in a different rhythm, a chaotic free-for-all kind of rhythm, dissonant from the Earth's and destined for destruction that there it is nearly impossible to realign.

However, there is a different story being written and narrated by those who understand and believe that their choices are significant and when added up, can create systemic change. This is known as the the 'butterfly effect'; that a "very small change in initial conditions can create a significantly different outcome". And by those who are bringing forth the science and information, and pushing through resistance. And by those who commune with nature, giving back to the Earth in ways that show honor and reverence. And by those who are elevating consciousness to the degree that choosing another way, beyond the self-interest, and in the interest of sustaining life and living in harmony with each other and the Earth, is but the only choice.

More and more people are waking up and making small yet significant changes. The more that we can do individually, the more collective change can occur.

I know, it seems unfathomable and quite utopian. If you are skeptical that there is even a small chance that we can turn the sinking ship around, think about this. The 'tipping point' is a sociological theory which says that the tipping point is "a point in time when a group - or many group members - rapidly and dramatically changes its behavior by widely adopting a previously rare practice".  Researchers on the subject, say that "just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society".   You may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceHe goes on to explain some of the key roles that certain people play in setting in motion a tipping point situation.  There are a million examples of how this has already played out, in political campaigns, in advertising and especially social movements, like the 60's liberation, and more the recent MeToo movement.

So why not now with climate change?  Surely at least 10% of U.S. population believe that climate change is real.  Notice the word, unshakable, in the above tipping point definition. I wonder if every action, every choice and thought must reflect that unshakable belief in order for a tipping point to occur.  If so, we as individuals need to make some difficult decisions. Which might mean trading convenience for integrity; comfort for moral; cravings for satisfaction; and most of all money and profit and cheap goods for basic human needs and simplicity.