So, Where To, Now?

July 17, 2010

Well, it looks like the new cap on the gusher in the Gulf has stopped the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, for now, anyway.  In another week, or two or three, the relief well will begin to seal off the well permanently if all goes according to plan – a big If, to be sure.  There are, I suppose, a million ways this could still go even more horribly wrong.  Nevertheless, assuming that the bulk of the oil spill is over, where do we go from here?

In spite of signs that Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce and the politicians that serve them are gearing up for a return to business as usual, we all sense, deep down where we put things we don’t want to face, that we can’t go back to BAU, again.   We haven’t begun, for example, to face the facts of, let alone the consequences of the dead wildlife, the dead ecosystems, the dead zones and the dead small businesses this disaster will continue to wreak on our still-teetering economic, ecological and social structures.

It’s not that we – or they, if you prefer – won’t keep trying to return to BAU, it’s just that, in the light of peaking resources, environmental and climate damage, doing so will only precipitate a new round of environmental, economic and social disasters that push us ever nearer to, or perhaps, next time, over the cliff’s edge.  I loved Sharon Astyk’s Winnie the Pooh metaphor on our situation this week in her column, “Our Tails Get In the Way”,

So, where to, now?   We do have plenty of alternatives to BAU.  The old souls of the environmental movements, the peak oil movements, even, various non-BAU economic movements have been offering up well thought out plans for change for the better part of four decades.  (I’ll put links to some of them at the bottom of this article, for those who are interested.)  John Michael Greer, of the Archdruid Report, is even offering a teaching series on his blog, on how to return to the Appropriate Technologies movements of the 1970s. It’s just that none of these alternatives offers a way to continue our infinite growth, grab it while we can, non-negotiable life styles.  They all involve us making choices – individually and as nations – that mean a certain amount of sacrifice.  Moreover, the longer we put those choices off, the harder those sacrifices will be.

Carolyn Baker, over at her Speaking Truth to Power blog, wrote an article this week on Revolution: The Wrong Kind and The Right Kind, and called for the right kind :

“In order for these indicators of an appropriate revolution to be actualized, a new kind of human must emerge-a new species with conscious self-awareness that knows-not thinks or feels-that it is not “in harmony” with the earth, but that it is the earth. This knowledge can only be acquired if our species is willing to experience, not theorize, that it originated from something greater and emerged on this planet for the purpose of serving something greater in order to perpetuate its values throughout the earth community and for countless generations in the future.

This revolution has already begun and manifests itself in the mission and work of organizations like Transition, Business Alliance of Local Economies (BALLE), and the permaculture movement. These organizations are about much more than growing organic gardens. One of their principal functions is the revolutionizing of how money works-a revolution without which fundamental change is impossible. They are creating self-sufficiency and resilience in neighborhoods and local communities, both of which may serve as mainstays in the event of infrastructure collapse, food and water shortages, natural disasters, economic devastation, and loss of essential services.

The localization efforts of organizations such as these have far more implications than mere “emergency response” preparation. They will eventually become the new normal as the collapse of industrial civilization exacerbates. The sooner these systems become firmly in place, the more resilient their citizens will be in navigating a world that in a couple of decades may be unrecognizable by current standards. They have evolved not merely out of vision and ingenuity but out of a palpable sense that a new humanity is in the process of emerging-a humanity that functions optimally not in a global economy or through mass consciousness raising, but through networking and smallness of scale.”

How do we get there from here?  How do we go from our fractured, individualized species to “a new species with conscious self-awareness that knows-not thinks or feels-that it is not ‘in harmony’ with the earth, but that it is the earth”?  How do we get from being me-ist to we-ist, as I put it last week?

My best guess, and the one I offer today, is that it comes with recognition of the nature of the universe, Itself, and our place in it.  If the universe began with a singularity of the energy we call consciousness as some scientists are now beginning to suspect, if the universe evolved as an irreducible “oneness” as most prophets have tried to tell us for millennia, it is not true that our individual consciousnesses are embedded in us, so much as it is true that “we” – all, everything – are embedded in that Consciousness.  Everything is irreducibly one.

I am the universe, the galaxy, the solar system, the earth, the environment, the wildlife suffocating in oil in the Gulf, the soil that’s eroding, the climate that’s changing, the sick, the destitute, the malnourished and starving.

I am the builders and healers of the earth and each other – both the giving wealthy and the widow with her mite, both the thoughtful steward of the land and the careful user of its bounty.

But, I am also the destroyers – the CEO, politician, religious leader afraid of losing his or her power if BAU disappears, the oil worker afraid of losing his livelihood if we stop drilling in the ocean.  I am the twenty-five percent of the earth’s population living in the developed world who fears that sharing the eighty percent of resources I carelessly consume with the other seventy-five percent of the world who struggles to live on the twenty percent of resources left, means giving up the conveniences of my non-negotiable lifestyle.  I am, in other words, all the deliberate or careless murderers of earth and one another.  I am irreducibly all of these, too.  It’s why I am so willing to crucify those prophets who speak for the Universe when It says, “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you also do to me,” rather than face that truth.

I/We must welcome that truth in our very core and let it act from within us outward, if we are to move beyond this fractured perception of  individual consciousness (and individualized conscience) and the damage it is doing to the earth and one another.  It’s the only way I see, that we can move together into what Baker called, in her article, a “new emergence of humanity”.

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