Hope and Climate Justice

Sep 23, 2014 | Field Notes

The weather is beginning to change. Today it is raining and the forecast is for rain all week. And the days are getting shorter. While I am hoping that October will be unseasonably sunny for Vancouver, I am preparing myself for the inevitable arrival of the rainy season. The seasons do not change, although the weather can and so I continue to hope for sunny days.

We cannot change the seasons. But, we can change the climate and the weather. Indeed, the scientific evidence appears to be irrefutable that the level human impact upon the environment, an impact that has escalated since the Industrial Revolution, has been predominantly negative, although not necessarily irreparable. What is required to heal the wounds we’ve inflicted upon our good earth is human action.

But such action needs to be much more than personal. There is only so much one person or one household can do. Here in our small corner of the world we have gone car free, use low flush toilettes, use a push mover to cut the grass, recycle, invest our meager savings in an environmentally responsible way, try to ‘eat local’, and so on. I tell myself that these actions make a difference and I believe they do. Yet addressing climate change will likely require much more substantial lifestyle changes than these small personal steps.

Moreover, I know that the problems are beyond the personal and need to be addressed in a more systemic fashion. This requires political and systemic leadership. There is a need for politicians and corporate leaders to make decisions that honour our environment, that move rural, urban and national economies into a sustainable direction, and embrace an ethics that places the earth at the centre of economic and political decisions.

None of this is new. We all know the personal and the political intersect and that effective change only comes when both align. But it seems that the human family is at an impasse when it comes to climate change and unable or unwilling to make the necessary choices for a sustainable future. Into this impasse marched the hundreds of thousands in New York City last weekend and thousands of others in cities across North America. Perhaps these climate justice marches will help break the impasse.

In my view, the darkness of this time of impasse hides the deeper conflict between hope and despair. Will the human community make it? Will our earthly home survive? The future is unknown, but the past is not. In light of this, I take solace in our collective history as a species, a history in which hope trumps despair, in which spiritual conversion leads to outward change, and in which humans have lived in harmony with their surrounding world.

These days, it is this particular interpretation of history that sustains me. It helps me to hold a perspective of hope rather than despair. It helps to inform my judgments and actions as I continue to live upon this good earth of ours. And it helps me to prepare for the good rains that must come so that life may continue.



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