” I have marched, petitioned, written letters to the editor, made phone calls and donated, but despite all I can do, nothing seems to have changed. I feel I cannot make a difference.” The words refer to the current crisis of climate change, uttered during a conversation about that topic. The words are poignant, but the speaker is not the only one who feels that way. At some time or another, each of us experiences frustration at not being able to inspire the changes we want to see, and many also experience a strong desire to give up and stop working. Paradoxically, while we experience that desire, we also know that actually doing that will not bring lasting happiness.
I, too, experience such discouragement. At times, it seems that no matter what words I use, they will simply echo back from the void of inertia, slip into the antithesis of what I am trying to challenge, and perish unread and unconsidered. At such times, it is hard to continue. Yet, giving up would simply create more hopelessness, and negate the essence of who I am, re-incorporating it into a standard status-quo. No wealth or luxury (or the “righteousness” of its opposite) can soothe the injection of pain resulting from giving up.
I would that it were easier for us to continue. I would that we were not surrounded by the integrated tangle we have made for ourselves by assuming that we can create better than the wisdom of nature, or the tenets of Wisdom. However, wishing does not make it so. We are indeed all linked, whether in chaos or creation, or both at the same time. This connection, while it may seem at times to present an insurmountable obstacle, is in fact an innate strength upon which we all may draw as we continue living and doing our parts to nurture each other and our planet. Understanding this can lift us up; acting on the understanding can help us perceive often imperceptibly slow forward movement.
We need community; we need others with whom to work, strive and share. We need those whose efforts commingle with ours to heal ourselves and our planet. We need to act on the knowledge that we are all linked, and that each of us does make a difference to the nature and quality of the whole. Our connection is creative – even if we are joined in creating destruction – and allowing ourselves to be separated each from the other, perceiving the separation rather than the link, inhibits our creative manifestation. Many ways exist to connect. Some are those of technology (not the same as physical proximity, but yes, a kind of connection), discussion groups, action/service groups, economic cooperatives, extended family, neighborhoods and co-housing, monastic groups, intentional communities, to name a few. These groups, each in its own way, support their members (and sometimes others, too) and devote their pooled energy into influencing the creation of the as-yet-unformed that is to come.
Another obstacle many of us experience is the perceived lack of time. Often our experience is that when all the work done to support ourselves is finished, there remains the maintenance work at home to sustain us, and some time spent to connect with family and friends. That done, perhaps we can eke out a little time to read, exercise or learn and grow in one way or another. When all that is accomplished, there remains little time to sleep, even if we have been operating with the stress of full speed ahead. Community is helpful in this way as well. Work shared (remunerative or for maintenance) means less time each individual needs to spend on tasks. Shared effort means support for each other. Shared knowledge means learning and growing in the course of being. Time saved means less time spent rushing and more time available for sleep and healing, and more time in which to pursue those efforts about which one is passionate.
“It is all so complex,” one might protest. “We are becoming more fully aware of the consequences of climate change, yet it seems that averting the full effects of climate change cannot be addressed without also engaging the issues with which it is linked.” It is as if the totality of mistakes made in human society are the drivers of the changes on the planet as a whole. Yes, fossil fuels are certainly a large part. But what about people trapped residing in marginalized areas or substandard housing, an agricultural system seemingly bent on destroying the life of the soil as it goes about chemically killing everything it cannot sell, factory farms selling meat from abused animals while polluting ecosystems, a political and economic system structured to exclude or minimize minorities, escalating wars, and technology fever, which separates us from the earth and gives us the illusion that it will protect us from change? These are a few of today’s issues; they are related to climate change. Cause for hopelessness? Not when we realize that each little bit helps; when enough drops have fallen into the bucket, the bucket will overflow.
Let us hold on to hope, learn to feel the interconnectedness of all things, gather into community, and be aware that we do, indeed, matter. Anything, small or large, that we do counts. Let us “hold the vision and keep the faith” and continue to contribute from the time we manage to devote and the talents we have been given. In this way, we continue to grow, helping the earth and others in the process.