[Note from Admin: This writing is from Dick Harmon, one of the facilitators for Organizing in the Biocommons Winter 2014 classes.
Organizing in the Biocommons is for clergy and lay leaders of spiritual communities, congregations and networks who are asking:
What is the nature of the clear, immediate and immense ecological crisis in our region and the biosphere? What are the impacts of this crisis on our families, congregations and communities? What are the sources of this crisis? What are the sources of spiritual wisdom and power we can draw on to creatively and powerfully engage this crisis, and create new possibilities within it?
Thanks for sharing this thought provoking writing Dick!]
Excerpt From: “The Burning Question: We can’t burn half the world’s oil, coal and gas. So how do we quit?”
by Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark. Foreword by Bill McKibben. (Greystone Books, 2013)
“The key question of our era is which complex system will tip first, the climate or the human response. It’s the ultimate high-stakes race. The climate has a big head start as it’s already built up enough momentum to make decades of further warming inevitable. It could easily tip, perhaps without us knowing it has done so, while we’re still debating the existence of a problem. But the human system has the potential to be more fleet-footed. If we can overcome the social inertia, political fear and economic vested interests, the potential is there for things to happen fast. The more of us who demand change, sound the alarm or seek to reduce fossil fuel use the more chance we’ll have of success. Deals and technologies that look many years away could happen almost overnight if enough of us decide to try and make them happen.” (page 199)
As for our response in our region, my view is that one strategic key lies in the potential capacity of our congregations, as they wake up and re-organize.
Accompanying this note is a short piece I wrote on this question.
I kid you not, and insult you not. It’s the children.
Our grandson Vaughn is now coming onto three years; our great-grandson Ian is now moving through three months. In our family living rooms, as these two children move from one beauty-filled learning task to the next, I am stunned, flooded with awe: Each is a unique expression of the process that fills the universe and our Earth creative evolution, centered in the deepest and most real dimension of compassion and fresh newness, present in every moment and location.
And at the same time, I am flooded with grief: We are, through our long sleepwalking, most likely presenting our own children, grandchildren and great grandchildren these living gifts of Creation with our Earth, in crisis, becoming an unfamiliar, radically different place, from species loss and climate chaos.
Bill McKibben has helped many thousands of people become aware of the mathematical reality which, for the sake of our own young, in each of our families, we cannot deny: We appear to have about fourteen years before our emissions drive global temperatures through the 2 degrees Celsius “cap.” Around that point our climate system’s feedback loops kick in, and disrupt the stable band of temperature that has supported the last 400 generations of human life.
In fourteen years, our grandson Vaughn will be nearing sixteen, getting ready to graduate high school; our great-grandson Ian will be early in high school. In fourteen years, how old will the young beloved ones of your family be? Can you imagine the conditions of their world?
Only through a long pilgrimage, and from the love given me along the way by family and congregation, have I come to a place where I can hold awe and grief simultaneously, in what I’m experiencing as a compelling tension.
This tension is a place of creativity, of what Walter Brueggemann has called outrageous hope, hope where there is no hope, brought into our present moment through the divine dimension within all creative evolution.
From that place, my colleagues and I in the teaching team for Organizing in Biocommons, have begun to articulate our situation as YES/NO/YES.
The first YES is Creation itself, all the gifts of nature.
The NO is the local, regional and global Threat from fossil emissions and runaway growth.
The second YES is what Thomas Berry and others call our Great Work, helping to create a new economy, starting locally, and from that a new culture and politics.
Our Great Work requires that we:
1) wake up and start paying attention to the real world in which we humans are embedded;
2) put on different glasses, peel back the veil of our current delusional system, and discover the emperor for what he really is an illusion, a Ponzi fraud;
3) learn how to build capacity for this YES-Work, through re-organizing our own congregations.
Our Earth crisis is no longer a problem, out there in the distant future, always somewhere else, too overwhelming, too abstract to deal with.
Extreme weather is here, now. Fourteen years is soon, unless we are indifferent to the young of each of our families. When we consider that timeframe for our own young, our Earth crisis becomes issue, moving us into focused action.
Waking up and getting real about both threat and opportunity in our Earth crisis lift us into capacity-building.
That work helps us to awaken more fully, shedding the dominant, delusional and destructive world-view, and discovering-recovering the emerging, life-giving story of the truly real. That new work and new world-view help us evolve into maturity, new consciousness, as persons, families, communities, species, finally moving beyond the petulant adolescence of a stuff-filled and uncentered “way of life” based on cheap fossil fuel, cheap credit, and compound interest.
We cannot mature as traditionally individualistic Americans. Regardless of how you see the near and medium-term future, we are all going to require community. That is, community where we know each other’s stories, respectfully and well; community with a wide variety of educational and survival skills, with an internal and external culture of radical relationality and power not power-over, but both power-among and power-within power with all our others, and power of soul, spirit, creativity; power of adaptability, resilience, and reverence.
Community above all, that with power-among and power-within, evokes in us the ability and courage to ask our young about how they see the Threat confronting us all, and to join with them in our great intergenerational work.
The Biocommons class challenges congregations to become some of those communities, to help build that capacity. The class is for teams of congregational leaders, both current and potential, both lay and clergy.
In the class we do exercises with both sides of the brain. To build capacity for living resiliently into the deeply uncertain future, we need both left and right sides; we need both “the facts” of our situation and the soul, spirit, and creativity of our deepest divinely-offered gifts.
In Biocommons work we dig deeply into the No and both Yeses. We work on a power analysis of what we are up against, for example, the institutions with $35 trillion tied up in proven reserves of coal, oil and natural gas. We move through the hard darkness of the Threat, into its practical Opportunities. We use the two-sided power analysis, holding both threat and opportunity, so we can be effective in building new capacity.
We see that the presence of our own children is calling us to new awareness and new community for effective YES-work in our crisis. We are asking: what is the legacy we are giving over, consciously or not, to our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? Are we recognizing their sacred birthright? What is our action to make our legacy and their birthright real? What is our capacity to make that action effective?
If you agree that our young are calling us, then we invite you: Speak with your congregation’s leaders about this invitation.
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