Thursday, December 20, 2007

We are not helpless...

Events this week left me remembering the column my mentor Dana Meadows wrote about the depressing signs from the Arctic. (This from 2001, when the forecasts were that it might take fifty years before the Arctic was free of sea ice in the summer, a prediction that some reports are now saying was too optimistic.) The way Dana ended the column then rings true for me today.

"Is there any way to end this column other than in gloom? Can I give my friend, you, myself any honest hope that our world will not fall apart? Does our only possible future consist of watching the disappearance of the polar bear, the whale, the tiger, the elephant, the redwood tree, the coral reef, while fearing for the three-year-old?

Heck, I don't know. There's only one thing I do know. If we believe that it's effectively over, that we are fatally flawed, that the most greedy and short-sighted among us will always be permitted to rule, that we can never constrain our consumption and destruction, that each of us is too small and helpless to do anything, that we should just give up and enjoy our SUVs while they last, well, then yes, it's over. That's the one way of believing and behaving that gives us a guaranteed outcome.

Personally I don't believe that stuff at all. I don't see myself or the people around me as fatally flawed. Everyone I know wants polar bears and three-year-olds in our world. We are not helpless and there is nothing wrong with us except the strange belief that we are helpless and there's something wrong with us. All we need to do, for the bear and ourselves, is to stop letting that belief paralyze our minds, hearts, and souls."

Re-reading this, I have decided, again, six years later, to believe that these words are true. There is nothing wrong with me. I have decided (again) to believe that the way I feel is the way any sane person would on a rapidly sickening planet. I have decided (again) to believe that millions of people feel the same way, even if they don't wear those feelings on their public faces.

And I see the possibility -available to us as soon as we stop assuming there is something wrong with us – that we could decide together that we are not helpless, either. That, too, would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Laura said...

Beth -- Macy is great on this -- that we are not insufficient or inadequate. The potential impact of is obvious, even in the briefest conversation...but there is a paralysis that I suspect can be "cured" by community.

Angeline Cione said...

I couldn't resist but to cross post this on our blog at

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