Wake Up! Our World Is Dying and We're All in Denial
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Social and environmental studies professor Kari Norgaard writes, "The denial of global warming is socially constructed. In America it is almost as if relevant information about our climate crisis is classified. Our national policy towards the devastation we face is, 'Don't ask. Don't tell.'"
We all have a healthy and understandable desire to avoid feeling pain. We want to savor the occasional shrimp cocktail without thinking about the ruined mangroves or read a book about lions to children without wondering how many are left in the wild. Yet we cannot solve a problem we will not face.
Once we face the hard truths about our environmental collapse, we can begin a process of transformation that I call the "alchemy of healing." Despair is often a crucible for growth. As we expand ourselves to deal with our new normal, we can feel more vibrant and engaged with the world as it is.
We can be intentional when we're shopping, planning a trip, or working in our communities. We can be citizens of the world, rather than consumers, and we can vote every time we hand over our debit card.
We're all community educators whether we know it or not. Everything we say and do is potentially a teachable moment for someone. So appoint yourself a change agent, engage in participatory democracy, and help yourself, your country, and your world. Belief often follows action. The harder we work, the likelier we are to experience hope and to improve our situation.
Amazement is another antidote to despair. Author Hannah Tennant-Moore wrote, "It took me a long time to learn that being miserable does not alleviate the world's misery."
After a rough week, I felt compelled to drive to Spring Creek Prairie, about 30 minutes from my home. I joined a group of birders doing a winter bird count. It was a grand experience, with long lines of snow geese overhead, woodpeckers in the burr oaks, and a mink ice-skating in the little pond. However, at some point, I wanted to be away from people, even the birders I normally enjoy.
I walked alone to a sunny patch of prairie, lay on the ground, and looked at the sky through the waving big bluestem. I imbibed the prairie. I felt the warm earth beneath me. I smelled the moisture, the dirt, and the cereal-like aroma of the tall grasses. I looked up through the golden seed heads at the blue sky and the geese. I heard their calls and the wind rustling in the grasses. As I lay there, I thought, "I'm getting what I most needed today."
I'm lucky to have a prairie nearby, but we all have green space available to us. We all can look at the sky. As my friend Sherri said, "I've never seen an ugly sky."
Another day, Margie brought her dog over for a walk around the lake. When we returned to my house, Leo began rolling around in the grass. First, he rolled on his back; then he lolled about on his stomach, trying to have every possible inch of skin touching the grass. Margie said, "If you want to know the time, ask a dog. They always know, and they'll tell you the correct time, which is now, now, now."
Transcendence can come from work, bliss, or an expanding moral imagination. I define the moral imagination as the ability to understand how the world looks and feels to another person. It involves motivation, heart, and imagination. My respect for the moral imagination leads to a simple value system--good is that which increases it and evil is that which decreases it.