So I’ve said that I am looking for lessons in climate change, and maybe you are wondering what I mean by that.
I’m not looking for ‘lessons’ in the way this word is sometimes meant. I’m not looking for a list of what we did wrong, or were we could do better. Without doubt climate change has plenty of those, and, thankfully, many hardworking, smart people are searching them out. We should be more efficient. Waste less. Design our cities and our agriculture differently. More and more lessons like those are coming, which is good, which is welcome, but I think there must be something more, something else to find.
Here we sit, so far beyond the limits of the planet to support us that the climatologists say we may have as little as ten years to prevent runaway climate change. How could billions of people, each wanting to live, each wanting a good future, have gotten into this situation, how could we have walked together into such danger?
There must be things we’ve learned and taught that are not true, and things that are true that we’ve yet to learn.
We can’t be who we thought we were. Or the Earth can’t be what we’ve been taught it is. A people who understood themselves and their place wouldn't have so overstepped it.
And so, I have been holding this one small hope about climate change. Could it be that all the pain and loss and waste that climate change has already brought, and all the more that is yet to come, might carry along with it also a small set of gifts? Insights. Lessons about how the Earth works, about how we fit into it. Lessons about how we can make our way through our lives with out doing so much harm, and perhaps even insights that show us to live in a way that gives back to that which gives us life.
I believe we’ve stumbled into climate change by not knowing – or not believing – who we are and what we are a part of. And so I wonder: can we look climate change straight in the face, without flinching, can we see what it is that we’ve misunderstood, or forgotten, or been blind to? Can we find some bits of meaning out the fact that in trying to be happy and prosperous and make a future for ourselves we’ve stressed and strained the very things that future depends upon?
I don’t have much hope for solutions – from corporate responsibility to high-speed rail – that don’t include some element of this sort self-reflection.
So, how does one find the lessons that climate change has to teach?
Humbly I am sure of that. With the clear understanding that this is the work of all, and that we can each only find climate change’s lessons for ourselves. With the realization that climate change is one way into these lessons, but not the only way, realizing that these lessons have been known for millennia, by mystics, by thinkers, by anyone able to open themselves to them.
I would guess that the same lessons could be found by asking what we had misunderstood that we allowed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to happen, or by asking how it is that slavery happened or that poverty continues. All of these unacceptable things that persist, don’t they each point the way to something untrue, something we believe or cling to, that is not right?
And so there is the hope I have, this wild, almost unexplainable hope.
It is that that Earth, our reality, may finally be speaking to us with such strength and vigor that we won’t be able to ignore Her. And in her actions, floods, storms, extinctions, and also in her resiliency, and bounty, we will find a way to see ourselves that makes more sense and leads to wiser choices than the way we’ve traveled so far along.