We need a vision to navigate the changes that are being forced upon us by rapidly evolving environmental, economic and political chaos and a global pandemic. I’ve gone back through the many blog posts I’ve written about change and my vision of the future and try to blend them together here. We need a vision to guide us through the ongoing chaos. I hope parts of the following might help.
It is undeniable that we are experiencing environmental catastrophe, the effects of which will be increasingly destructive. Continuously climbing carbon dioxide levels are alarming. Much of the increasing heat from increasing greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the oceans. But they are basically heat saturated, so air temperatures will begin to increase more rapidly. The warming waters fuel more powerful hurricanes. Rising temperatures also cause the release of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, as permafrost melts in the artic regions. And glaciers are rapidly melting, raising sea levels. As the ice melts, rather than their white surface reflecting the sunlight, the dark water absorbs it. These feedback loops will accelerate climate changes.
This deepening environmental chaos is causing failures of our social, economic, energy, health, education, safety, production and distribution systems. This already has, and will continue to result in millions of climate refugees. People without stable sources of food, water, shelter, healthcare, education, power, spiritual community, or security. Just this summer we have seen thousand within this country become climate refugees overnight as their communities were destroyed by wildfires.
Many don’t realize capitalism is one of the main factors responsible for our current conditions. Capitalism has not only been responsible for the unconscionable consumption of fossil fuels, but also artificially created classes based on wealth. The immoral accumulation of unbelievable wealth of just a few people and the worsening economic situation of the the rest of us.
This time of crisis is an opportunity to “do something drastic that has never been done before.” as my friend Ronnie James writes.
I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”Ronnie James
We should not try to prop up this capitalist system. We need a radical revolution of values based upon caring for each other as Martin Luther King, Jr. told us. We need to build beloved communities. Recently I’ve been learning about Mutual Aid as one model that demonstrates how to do some of this now.
It (Des Moines Mutual Aid) started as group of my friends working with the houseless camps some years back. It has now grown into a solid crew that runs a free food store started by the Black Panthers, still work with the camps, we organized a bail fund that has gotten every protester out of jail the last few months, and we just started an eviction relief fund to try to get a head of the coming crisis, in cooperation with Des Moines BLM. We have raised $13,000 since Wednesday and the application to apply for the grants goes live this week.Ronnie James
In an article in Friends Journal, Donald McCormick asks “why is there no vision for the future of Quakerism?” That, and Ronnie’s question, and the increasing threats from environmental destruction lead me to share my vision, which has been evolving over the past several decades.
Besides environmental disasters, there are other compelling reasons to design and build new communities. Our economic system has not adapted to the loss of jobs overseas and automation. Has not adapted to the change to a service economy. There are simply not enough paying jobs for millions of people. Many of those who do have work are paid at poverty levels. Many of us are forced to depend upon increasingly diminishing social safety nets.
To build a system that requires money to pay for everything, and then take away the ability to earn that money is immoral.
Building small communities in rural areas, or around urban farming, will give people fulfilling work to do, food to eat, shelter, and a caring community to belong to, restoring their dignity. These communities can work without requiring money in exchange for these things.
Following is a draft of how I see us creating such communities, with the intention of creating a model that can be rapidly replicated all over our country. So the flood of climate refugees have a template to build their own self sufficient communities when they are forced to migrate.
How do we speak to our current and approaching challenges?
People of faith try to pay attention to the Spirit at all times, so we don’t miss messages being given to us, telling us what we need to do next. Although we try to be attentive, we are often distracted by the demands of everyday life.
For those who have faith in a greater power, spirit, God, or however you express your spirituality, this moment is an opportunity to delve more deeply into your faith. This is also an opportunity to share your spirituality with those who don’t have faith or hope, as long as they are open to what you have to offer.
The way that has worked, in my experience, is to first offer the space for others to express their doubts, fears, or concerns to you. And really listen to what they are saying. Have the attitude that you can learn from this listening, because you can. Once someone else finds you are really listening, they often eventually reach the point where they begin to ask questions of you and to listen to your responses.
I wrote a post titled “Spiritual Depth” that tells a story about an indigenous man who changed the weather. That story made me realize my faith is sometimes too constrained, and I have work to do to deepen my own faith.
In this time of increasing chaos Mother Earth needs us to have the wisdom and courage to implement visions arising from our spiritual leadings.
Do not be afraid.
As an example, one recent vision led me to ride in a van full of people I didn’t know to Minneapolis to protect the water. When I heard of the opportunity, the Inner Light said, “do this.” That vision then led me to participate in the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. The experiences on that March, and the friendships I made have brought me much closer to putting my visions into action.
- Environmental disasters
- Weather extremes
- Widespread and persistent drought, rising seas and more intense storms and fires
- Destroyed homes, cities, land
- Destroyed infrastructure
- Water, food and energy scarcity
- Resource wars
- Collapsing social/political order
- Climate refugees
- Widespread and persistent drought, rising seas and more intense storms and fires
- Militarism and police states
- Decreasing availability of complex health care and medications
- Spiritual poverty
- Weather extremes
This year we have seen devastating wildfires, powerful tornados and hurricanes, derechos, flooding, draught, shrinking glaciers and rising, extreme temperatures. Thousands of people have become instant climate refugees when their homes were destroyed by fire or flooding. Climate changes continue to occur much more rapidly than predicted. Feedback mechanisms are accelerating changes.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that by 2050, up to 250 million people will be displaced by climate change.
Here in the Midwest we are faced with two broad problems. How to adapt our own lives to deal with these changes, and what to do about the flood of people who will be migrating to the Midwest.
“Along America’s most fragile shorelines, [thousands] will embark on a great migration inland as their homes disappear beneath the water’s surface.” LA Times, Victoria Herrmann Jan 25, 2016
Since we will soon not be able to depend on municipal water and power, transport of food from distances, schools and hospitals, many will be forced to move to rural areas or create urban gardens and farms, where they can live and grow their own food.
I think we have two choices.
- One is to narrowly focus on the best we can do to prepare ourselves and immediate community to adapt to the coming changes.
- The other is to also work on ways we can help the many climate refugees who will likely be migrating to the Midwest. Help them learn to adapt and thrive.
Many of us will make the second choice, to care for those who will be displaced. This will be like disaster relief work, only on a scale never seen before.
We first need to learn how to adapt to this uncertain future ourselves. Part of that will be to network with others, both to learn from, and to build a network to coordinate the response to the needs of the climate refugees.
We clearly need to find ways to learn from native peoples, who lived for thousands of years with respect for Mother Earth and all our relations. Need to find ways to show non native people why we need indigenous people’s leadership.
Building Communities-The Vision
We need to model how to build sustainable communities. There have been numerous such experiments in intentional community. But the model needed now must be created with the intention of being replicated many times over with minimal complexity, using locally available materials—a pre-fab community.
- Community hub with housing and other structures
- Simple housing
- Straw bale houses
- Passive solar and solar panels
- No kitchens, bathrooms or showers (community ones instead)
- Stores, school, meetinghouse
- Central kitchen, bathrooms and showers
- Simple housing
- Surrounding fields for food and straw
- Water supply
- Wells, cisterns and/or rain barrels
- Solar, wind, hydro, horse
- 3 D printing
- Radio, local networks
- Pedal powered vehicles
- Stockpile common medications
- Essential diagnostic and treatment equipment
- Medical personnel adapt to work in community
- Meeting for worship
- Meeting for business
- Religious education
What follows are ideas I had written some time ago (2015) of how our communities of the future might begin to be built now. Reviewing this now, it is encouraging to see that many of these ideas are being put into practice.
I believe we are called to be out in the communities, in the streets, actually working side by side with those suffering. Or as we are suffering ourselves. That involves accepting others and their differences. We have a debt to pay for the privileges we have been given, and the only way to begin to pay that off is by actually working side by side. We need to do this for our own spiritual health. We need to turn away from focusing on ourselves, and work to build the beloved community that Martin Luther King envisioned. From <https://jeffkisling.com/2015/10/03/vision-and-the-future/>
What if we had photographers, musicians, poets and other writers, podcasters, painters, sculptors, dancers, faith leaders, politicians, children, students, teachers, retirees, business owners, police and firemen, etc. all create how they see the same subject, in their own medium?
And then all the various works that were produced were exhibited all together in the same place, to the extent possible.
Taking this idea further, I was thinking the focus of the work described above could be symbolic of our present situation, maybe a run-down neighborhood. A combined vision like that above of a specific block of the city might show how various people see that. This could show what the present looks like, and provide the starting point from which to begin to build the future we would like to see.
That could then be followed by having the same artists and people repeat the exercise, only this time producing their vision of how they would like to see this city block transformed in the near future.
Maybe a store owner would work with an artist to paint a mural on the wall of the store. Maybe a local business would sell the music or other artwork of local artists. Maybe a community space for telling stories, playing chess, creating artwork could be created. A community garden would be a great part of the new neighborhood.
An array of solar panels could provide basically free electricity to residents and businesses.
Rain barrels for every home in the neighborhood could help water a garden in every yard.
A 3D printer could produce needed products.
Local internet service could be created.
Computer/cell phone applications could be created to address community issues.
Emergency medical technicians and other health care providers could have a space in the neighborhood to provide basic medical care.
Policemen could have a community space and presence, for community policing, getting to know the neighbors.
Retirees and those unemployed could provide child care and education. Community schools and classes would provide an opportunity to provide quality education, including spending much time in the community, learning about, and providing leadership opportunities.
So here’s to expanding beyond our initial beliefs. To opening our minds to higher reasoning, to fields of toroidal blossoms where we can lay in stacks of dimensional light and turn off the oppressive broadcasting station of the patriarch and tune our dials to the matriarchal podcast within nature, human and non-human. Here’s to taking our power back.In love and service, Bear (Nahko Bear)
We are asking you:“An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans” by K. Flyntz.
To travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
“Throughout my life, it has been an honor to watch my elders make medicine in their mouths and feed the world with their tender sacred speech. Following their example, I want to share the words that make waterfalls, lakes and rivers, and offer some medicine to those who are wondering how we will continue living when the Earth that sustains our lives is so damaged. What I share here, far from being my own creation, is ancient memory that belongs to all of us.Deer and Thunder; Indigenous Ways of Restoring the World, Arkan Lushwala
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real but fear is a choice.”from the movie After Life
People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn. Like any such discipline, it’s work that takes time, which you fail at, succeed, improve, fail at again, and build over years inside yourself.
Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life.IT IS BITTER TEA THAT INVOLVES YOU SO: A SERMON ON HOPE
To practice hope is to face hard truths, harder truths than you can face without the practice of hope. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places.
Hope lets you study environmental destruction, war, genocide, exploitative relations between peoples. It lets you look into the darkest parts of human history, and even the callous entropy of a universe hell bent on heat death no matter what we do. When you are disciplined in hope, you can face these things because you have learned to put them in context, you have learned to swallow joy and grief together, and wait for peace.
April 30, 2018 by Quinn Norton
Most of us lack the stories that help imagine a future where we thrive in the midst of unstoppable ecological catastrophe. We have been propelled to this point by the myths of progress, limitless growth, our separateness from nature and god-like dominion over it.
If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being. This will not be easy. The myths of this age are deeply rooted in our culture.
My young children need me to be an adult. They are the reason I feel despair so profoundly. Yet they are also the reason I cannot wallow in it, acquiesce to it, or turn away from the horror. This is the reason I have sought to imagine another way, and to find and focus on that which I might do to usher that vision into existence, and to behave as if what I do really matters for their future. They are the reason I have directed my imagination to the multitude of paths only visible once I looked beyond the myths that have clouded much of my thinking. It is up to me show them a way beyond grief to a way of life truly worth living for, even if it isn’t the path I had expected to be showing them.Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium
All that is needed is to cross the threshold with ready hands and a sense, even a vague one, of what might be yours to do.
June 18, 2019
We gain a vision of what our potential is from our elders and from the Teachings of the Sacred Tree. By trying to live up to that vision and by trying to live like the people we admire, we grow and develop. Our vision of what we can become is like a strong magnet pulling us toward it.Bopp, Judie. Sacred Tree: Reflections on Native American Spirituality (Kindle Locations 150-151). National Book Network – A. Kindle Edition.
Each Warrior of the Light contains within him the spark of God. His destiny is to be with other Warriors , but sometimes he will need to practice the art of the sword alone; this is why, when he is apart from his companions, he behaves like a star. He lights up his allotted part of the Universe and tries to point out galaxies and worlds to all those who gaze up at the sky. The Warrior’s persistence will soon be rewarded. Gradually, other Warriors approach , and they join together to form constellations, each with their own symbols and mysteries.Coelho, Paulo. Warrior of the Light: A Manual (p. 89). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
For us, warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another’s life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves and above all, the children, the future of humanity.Sitting Bull