Three major hurricanes, Harvey, Irma, Jose, back to back, along with raging wildfires in the west and devastating earthquakes, storms and flooding internationally have been dominating the news and magnetizing viewers to the reports on their screens. Major social injustice, such as the apparent attempted genocide of the Rohingyas, the continuing plight of Syrian and other refugees flooding into Europe, and the fact that all these disasters affect mainly the innocent, those who have done little to precipitate them, add to the continuing drama of the news. Economic and political upheavals, most recently the hacking of the major credit reporting institution, Experian, and the grab by hackers of millions of people’s financial and personal information further swell the negative news. Even though most of us are aware of the fact that the media reports mostly the negative news, the sheer volume of recent reports can be overwhelming.
What are we being told? What are we to make of these patterns? These events are not random; they are interrelated, and although the causes are complex, some conclusions can be derived from observing them. That the phenomena of hurricanes, wildfires and floods are directly related to global warming is now accepted by most scientists. Earthquakes, as well as the less often reported sinkholes, have been linked by some to the changes created in the earth by fossil fuel extraction. The suffering of Rohingyas, refugees and other poor, the instances of overt racism, police profiling, massive deportations which often separate families, and ongoing terrorism are all examples of the rising fear, anger and mistrust worldwide. Economic and political injustice and disregard for law are fueled not only by greed, but also by a self-absorption that excludes concern for the well being of one’s fellow human. There is a common thread.
All these are perpetuated by humans. Human activity drives and hastens the effects of global warming. Human anger, fear, hatred and dehumanization of others precipitates genocidal activities, racism, terrorism and distancing from the plight of refugees. Human selfishness and an almost religious belief in separateness motivate a disavowal of responsibility for the well being of others. If the accelerating breakdowns on our planet and in our societies are brought about by malfunctions in the way we perceive and relate to each other and to the creation in which we live, then it follows that in order to heal the rifts between each other and our life support, we need to heal our perceptions, thoughts and actions. I don’t think any of this is news; I do think it is something that many would prefer to avoid facing. However, the time for us all to wake up is now.
We are social creatures; we need to live with, communicate with, work with and love each other. It is hard wired within us, a part of our human genome which has survived centuries of adaptation. People who have healthily functioning social groups live longer. People who separate themselves out from other people, seeing only division, end up in violence and war.
All religions give precedence to this. The core is this: love God (by whichever name you wish to use) first with all your being; then love your fellow humans and creation. We are stewards of life. To see ourselves as separate is to renounce our innate function, to allow life to disintegrate into varied forms of destruction. We end up destroying ourselves and the planet we share.
It is difficult to care for one another when we live in isolation or in small groups distanced from each other. It is difficult to care for the planet when the focus is on what we can get from her or make her do. It is difficult to care for the life with which we share the Earth when we see only competition, perceive only that there is not enough to go around, and so must eliminate what is not us or press it into servitude. We need a new paradigm.
That paradigm is beginning to emerge. Again, it is not new. We have simply been ignoring its examples, because it has not been what we wish to see. It has not supported our aggrandizement. It is the idea of community, of groups of people, genetically related or not, who live together in groups large enough to be effective at sharing work, helping each other grow and generating support for all members of the group and the environment of which it is a part. These groups are also small enough so each member knows the other and self government is possible. It is a growing movement, with roots in indigenous tribal structure, extended family, small town community, and various monastic and spiritual traditions. It is not yet perfect; it is still growing and evolving, as are the humans who compose and practice it. Can it succeed? Can it become what is needed for us to be true stewards of life on Earth? That depends. It depends on us, the humans who must either become or perish. However, it provides the best medium currently available to facilitate our growth. Can we make the change? Can we learn to see our interconnectedness and to love and support each other, all of us here on Earth? I hope so. I have faith we can. And, I sense an urgency to do that now.
Let us then reach out to each other, especially to those we perceive as not “same”. Let us open to the idea that we are all of the same origin, appointed to care for each other. Let us feel and rejoice in the connections to our planet and to other than human expression of life. (Hug a tree – it’s a start.) Let us research and study community, practice it ourselves and help it grow. Let us ditch the fear, anger, violence, in favor of our true heritage. And, let us do that now.