Almost every morning I walk through some nearby trails in a beautiful forest. The trails are extensive, and I readily get “lost” - although “lost” isn’t quite the right word! I follow the guidance of Spirit, who tells me what way to go, through what feels like an instinctual pulse in my gut. The feeling says “Go this way”.
A couple of weeks ago, I came to a usual crossroads where four ways meet, and was about to go my preferred route which takes me deeper into the forest where more unknown choices emerge, when the voice was clear “No, go that way”.
“That way!?” I said. “But I know what is that way! That part of the trail has been all hacked up by quad bikes, I don’t want to go that way.”
So, I ignored the voice, and tried to go my usual way, but the voice got louder (the feeling in my gut stronger) until I had to turn around.
“Fine”. I said and headed down the quad bike trail.
As I approached where the trail started to get really messy I spotted a side trail I had not noticed before.
“That way”. The voice said.
That way I went, following the voice with every fork of the trail. I soon got quite “lost” in the woods, discovered all kinds of new pathways, enjoyed some beautiful connected moments with the trees, had wonderful conversations with Spirit, and about 90 minutes later emerged from a different trail at those exact same crossroads where I had begun. I laughed out loud of course, as the message was clear.
Without a doubt I know some of the possibilities of following a particular route, but I never know them all.
This is absolutely true for all aspects of life, but we so readily forget that. We decide we know the outcome of a particular action and so make our decision in the moment not on what our gut is urging us to do, but on what our head says makes the most sense. Both aspects have merit, and ideally we use both gut and head together (with a full healthy dose of heart that lets us know, amongst other things, if we are risking harm to others).
What troubles me right now is how much we humans are doing NONE of those things when it comes to the decisions that we are making around climate change (in)action – either the big systemic changes that are necessary or our own personal life choices. We aren’t using our gut instincts that can absolutely sense the danger of our extreme disconnection, nor are we using our intellectual understanding of the problem and the most likely outcome, and certainly we are not engaging our empathic and compassionate connection to our children’s futures either.
Science is telling us the most likely outcome considering the way that we are living and consuming right now would be catastrophic for life on earth (1). Yes, it is just one possibility, and yes, there are many more possibilities that we don’t know; however, that one possibility is getting more and more likely to be the ONLY POSSIBILITY all the time. If we were to listen to our instinctual urgings they would say TAKE ACTION, get off this course. If we were to listen to our intellectual understandings they would say TAKE ACTION, get off this course. But we do neither. Instead, we ignore our heads and our guts and hang the precious futures of our hearts and those of all future generations on the decreasing likelihood that one of the other possible scenarios will play out that will mean we don’t have to change course at all, because suddenly (magically?) the trail has been rerouted and we are on course for a different target.
Technology will save us.
The trees will save us.
Greta will save us.
And recently even…COVID will save us.
Yes, all of those options, and many others, could in theory be possible. Greta could singlehandedly prompt high level political action that would alter the course that we are on. (Sure, she must be…what… nearly 18 years old now. Practically an adult! Of course she can do it. Yes, let’s leave it all up to her.). Maybe we will plant a trillion trees and that will take all the carbon out of the atmosphere (and somehow we can just keep chopping and clearing and cutting to meet our insatiable hunger for development, meat, wood and paper products, mineral exploration, etc. FYI 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest are being lost EVERY DAY. (2)). Researchers and innovators might invent a carbon drawdown technology that could suck it all out of the atmosphere and capture it in some sort of building material. (This is out there by the way…but the social and financial barriers and legislative hoops to jump through to get these technologies into large-scale use means that technological interventions are not the full solution in the decade that we have left to turn things around).
So…COVID! Yes COVID. COVID is shutting down the world, stopping carbon emissions…right? WRONG. In April global carbon emissions were down by 17% from last April, but by now they are back up to within 5% of where they were this time last year (3). So…COVID isn’t going to save us. Oops.
With an average of 3 to 6 degrees of warming predicted by 2100, the truth of the most likely outcome for this path that we are walking is one of catastrophic loss of life on earth (including our own). The longer we take to alter our course the more we limit our possibility to start down other pathways. In fact, Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, recently stated that if we don’t make use of the window of opportunity that COVID has given us, and turn our energy supply and building practices around in the next 6 months, then sustainable climate targets will be completely out of reach. (3)
On this walk we have blindly passed by alternate trail after alternate trail. We might have one or two other options left. Does science know everything? No. And science doesn’t need to know it all to be able to provide us with a pretty good map. But if you aren’t willing to follow your head on this one, then fine. Listen to your gut, it will tell you. We are in extreme danger. This path does not end well, and we’ve got to alter our course, fast.
So as our economy opens up and you return to “normal” think about what that means, and what you can do to be a part of the change. We don’t need all 8 billion of us to engage in order to change the trajectory of our blind stumbling foray along this track, but we do need as many of us onboard as we can get. Just because there’s a lot of momentum going in the wrong direction doesn’t mean there is no hope left…or not yet anyway…but we need every little push towards the right direction we can get. This team needs you too.
On June 16th, 1944, 76 years ago today, 14-year old George Stinney was executed by the electric chair following a 2-hour trial that found him, an African American boy, guilty of murdering two young white girls in South Carolina. His court-assigned lawyer offered no defence, and the all-white jury pronounced him guilty after 10 minutes of deliberation. In 2014 a judicial review overturned his conviction when a court ruled that he had not received a fair trial.
This is a horrific and heartbreaking story, but it is just one of hundreds, no…thousands, of stories of the incredible injustice that people of colour have lived (and died) through in so-called “modern” history.
What the black community is showing us now is how much trauma they have built up inside of themselves, from their own lifetimes and that which they have inherited through the experiences of their ancestors. They were hurt, badly hurt, and now that hurt wants out. The ways that they are choosing to let it out through the loud and vocal expression of their pain are nowhere on scale to that of the violence and cruelty that most of them carry in their ancestral history.
As I witness the rightful unfolding of the rage, despair and frustration by people of colour all over the world, rising up to add their voices to the demand that BLACK LIVES MATTER, I say YES THEY DO, of course they do, they always have, how did we get it so wrong??
Then in myself I feel a whole myriad of things.
I feel extreme empathy towards my fellow human beings that that have experienced so much suffering and cruelty. I feel the deep sadness and disbelief of wanting so much better for our world and wondering how we are ever going to get there. I feel the shame of belonging to a society, and to a group of people, who let skin colour be an indication of “better than”, and who used this one defining feature to excuse the inexcusable.
The truth is a lot of my shame makes a lot of present day sense - I/we have a lot to do to clean up in regards to how we use our skin-color privilege. But some of the outrage being expressed is not about me directly, but about the acts of my ancestors and their cohort throughout history. This means that although some of what is being expressed may not be directly personal, it is my job as a living representative of those that perpetuated inexcusable violence in our history (and in many ways and still do) against people of colour, to hold space for the pain and the anger that is being released right now. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that I allow for my own shame to rise up and spur me on to take positive action in supporting great change, as opposed to letting this shame settle in so deep that I run and hide and turn away from the experience, continuing to contribute passively to the problem.
The suffering must stop. What if it stops here? What if this incredible expression of deeply held trauma, and the powerful rising of a global voice that says NO MORE marks the end of an era that must come to an end if we are to move to a future that includes a unified people, working for a better way for our children. A future that can include a whole lot less shame for the acts of their ancestors if we choose to do right by our children, right now.