How do we find meaning when the world is on the verge of collapse from forces that seem to be beyond our control?
I’m writing this to begin to synthesize my own thoughts, feelings and study regarding the reality of climate change and the impact on our lives and choices, in service to supporting more collective sense-making around a topic that it seems we (or perhaps it’s just me) have mostly wanted to avoid.
First, a small bit of background …
In case you haven’t heard yet, the US Government released a report this holiday weekend that lets us all in on the reality of climate change, and its likely impacts over the next twenty years. It’s not pretty. You can read an accessible summary of the climate change impact report on CNN.com, or at the Guardian, or at the New York Times.
Some have said that the government chose to release this report mid-day on Black Friday, when most people in the United States are focused on shopping, not the news, so as to bury the results as much as possible. Thus, if you are reading this, please spread the word (and ideally outside of your regular bubbles and echo chambers and into communities and places that may not have yet gotten the data).
While I have been aware of and deeply considering this reality for some time, I have not yet written about my considerations or conclusions, mostly because I have been afraid of the implications of doing so and also because I have been unwilling to face the stark reality fully.
Today that changes because I do believe and have concluded that the greater call of this crisis is to turn directly towards our fears and face them, overcome our own insecurities, and come into a collective sense-making that could be the only path toward solution.
We no longer have time to waste on a desire for perfection. I will post this article with awareness of my own limitations, and also a desire to educate, inform and empower all those who read it into a next level of personal awareness and awakening that could actually result in collective change.
Even as I write those words, I am aware of the part of me that says I am crazy to think that anything I write could make any sort of a significant difference, and that I should just keep my head down, stay focused on earning a living and paying the bills, and make my own personal plans for weathering the proverbial and literal storm in as much comfort as possible.
And yet, it is exactly this thinking that we must overcome, both personally and collectively. I surface my own shadow thoughts around it all here in support of perhaps helping you see these thoughts in yourself, and perhaps become willing to make choices that may confront your own sense of meaning.
I am willing to go out on a limb and share my views and the choices I am making because, I believe, as many of us as possible must, if we have any hope for the future of humanity.
Over the past several years, I have had the immense honor to be learning directly from some of the great thinkers and sense-makers of our time:
- Barbara Marx Hubbard (Futurist and Author of MANY books on conscious evolution and the new species we are becoming),
- Daniel Schmachtenberger (find his writings on the blog, Civilization Emerging),
- Jordan Greenhall and Forrest Landry (along with Daniel Schmacthenberger), you can watch or read a transcript of their take on the period of Transition that we are in now here (this is really worth the watch/read!).
- Daniel Pinchbeck (author of How Soon is Now: From Personal Initiation to Global Transformation), and
- Charles Eisenstein (author of many books, including The Ascent of Humanity, Sacred Economics, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible and most recently, Climate — a New Story).
What I have learned in relationship with each of these people is that I must not give up hope. And I hope you don’t either.
Instead, we must first face the reality, then feel the despair fully and finally, on the other side, continue to dream and live into a new future.
After a long conversation with Daniel Schmachtenberger a few years back about the reality of existential risk and the real possibility of the extinction of the human race, I was feeling pretty hopeless and I said:
“Daniel, maybe I should just give up and live a hedonistic lifestyle that sucks as much marrow out of this short time we have left here.”
Daniel paused for a moment, considered my comment, and then said something like:
“No, Ali, that is exactly the wrong way to think.”
He’s direct like that.
In that moment Daniel reminded me that it is up to me to not give up hope.
What I received from our conversation is that Life is beautiful, and I am here for a purpose, and that purpose is to impact the future of humanity, and not just to live a comfortable (or even beyond comfortable) life.
It is up to me to hold the vision of something greater for all of humanity.
In Daniel’s reflection, I got that if I give up, then there truly is no hope.
How can I possibly expect anyone else to create a new reality, if I am not willing to feel all the feelings, hold a vision of something greater, and then do the work necessary to grow up and show up?
I see this as an invitation for all of us. And I hope what you receive from investing your time, energy and attention in reading what I’ve written here is a transmission similar to what I received from Daniel.
We MUST move forward even though we do not know what to do, or how to do it, with love in our hearts and our best thinking in service to becoming a new humanity that can survive this race to extinction we are all part of right now.
This path is validated by many, many, many examples in nature, including the story of the caterpillar becoming the butterfly (watch the telling of the story of the imaginal cells by Alesha Carlander at Burning Man here), and the Great Flower Radiation.
We are at a moment in time that is just prior to every breakthrough (the moment before the caterpillar emerges from the goo and becomes a butterfly, the moment before the flowers took over the landscape, the moment before the baby emerges from the birth canal) that can feel quite hopeless.
And, yet, of course, as we can see from the butterfly and birth and the explosion of flowers on a prior landscape of only rocks and trees, it’s not hopeless at all.
It’s not the moment to give up.
It’s the moment of greatest possibility and what will emerge from this moment is beyond what we can see, so please keep going.
So, with this background, I’d love to share some of what I am reading right now to support my own sense-making and some of what I am receiving from these readings:
Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise: We do not yet have an economic system to support us in the new era, while at the same time we cannot sustain current levels of economic growth.
My take on this is that we will need to come together to create something new, and it’s happening, and it likely will happen as a result of “force” not “choice” because we are all so addicted to the current capitalistic structures in which we live.
Those of us who are wise will get ahead of the coming “force” by converting our current business and personal structures into “share the wealth” paradigms, which we have not learned or been taught, and which it’s time for us to invent, anew.
This will require us to, first and foremost, learn how to share and collaborate. You may think you already learned how to share, but if you really look at your life and the lives of those around you, you’ll likely see that’s not actually the case.
Maybe you’ve learned to become great at creating your own wealth, but how are you sharing it? And I don’t mean just by paying people to work for you. But, truly, how are you sharing what you are creating?
Or, perhaps you’re just now on the path of learning to create your own self-sufficiency, and you think you don’t have anything to share. And that’s the foundation from which you get to build a new understanding of wealth creation.
In order to “share the wealth” we must begin to recognize that wealth comes in many, many, many forms. And not everyone needs to (or even should) earn money, but everyone does need to (and should) be well-compensated for their contributions to the collective.
Forms of compensation will need to shift from our traditional models just based in money to more belonging based collective models that result in each person’s needs being met through the collective, and as a result of full giving to the collective.
To make this shift, we will need to get a lot better at knowing what we need, and what we have to give, and being able to ask for what we have in exchange for what we have to give, regardless of the medium of exchange.
And, we also have to start to get really clear about our own roles in a world that truly works for everyone. Here’s a guided visualization that will help you begin to envision yourself in a world that works for everyone.
Next, we need to understand where we are generationally and what’s ours to do within the tides of history. In service to that, I am reading …
The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History America’s Next Rendezvous With Destiny by William Strauss and Neil Howe (published in 1997, Strauss and Howe prophecy the current now reality we are facing with both insight and ideas that we must now, finally, heed).
While Strauss and Howe’s predictions of total collapse have not yet occurred, their prediction of financial crisis (2008), a terrorist attack (2001), and federal budget impasses (2013) have happened.
Fortunately, these events did not result in the breakout of state secession, military violence, the end of social security payments, or martial law, yet.
We are in the midst of a natural cycle of the generations that has happened again and again and again throughout the ages. As Strauss and Howe so eloquently say “History is seasonal, and winter is coming.”
How we handle this winter is up to us.
Throughout the book, Strauss and Howe guide us to see that we have weathered such storms time and again, in the not so distant past: the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War II, each a Fourth Turning.
So, here we are again.
This time with the reality that the combination of existential risk and our underlying generator functions could very well lead to our collective extinction.
And, so it seems the predictions and prophecies from 1997 are now upon us.
Strauss and Howe wrote that “provoked by real or imagined outside provocations, the society will turn newly martial. America will become more isolationist than today in its unwillingness to coordinate its affairs with other countries but less isolationist in its insistence that vital national interests not be compromised.”
Building upon the now coming true predictions of Strauss and Howe, what comes next isn’t something I personally want to experience and I’m in deep inquiry around whether now is the time to leave the United States. And, if so, where to go. Costa Rica? New Zealand? Somewhere else?
And what about those who cannot leave? I don’t have answers to these questions. I am sitting in the inquiry, feeling the pain of it all, and also the hope and possibility, and investing my time, energy, attention and money (what I call TEAM resources) in learning the skills I know I will need in order to do my part in creating a world that truly works.
You can read a fictional telling of what we may be able to expect here in the United States in Starhawk’s classic book The Fifth Sacred Thing. Reading this book shaped a large part of my perspective, and the investments I have made over the past many years in growing my own abilities in learning to become adaptable, resourceful, and to resolve conflict in community.
Regardless of where we are, it seems clear that with the climate change that is happening and the prophesied future that is not only coming, but in many ways already knocking at the door, we will need to call on all of our skills of collaboration, co-operation, connection, community, adaptability, resourcefulness, and creativity
I can’t say yet where we will use them, or how. But I know that whatever is coming will require them. And I want to be as ready as possible.
I strongly recommend that if you are not already investing in your own personal sovereignty while at the same time learning how to live in unity, this is where you start.
Sovereign unity seems to me to be the only sustainable possibility for our future.
Sovereignty meaning we CAN stand independently. And, of course, unity meaning that we link up together from the place of our independence.
Food sovereignty, water sovereignty, power sovereignty. These are collective sovereignty systems we can all begin to invest in from a place of unity. And, it will take something for us to get there.
I’m just starting to read this work around Deep Adaptation, requiring Resilience, Relinquishment and ultimately, Restoration. I encourage you to take a look and start considering what that might look like in your own life and for your own family.
All of this will require us to know ourselves more fully, while also understanding how to truly be with others from a place of compassion and care, rather than make wrong. Not an easy path, but the only one (in my book) worth living.
While I hope that solutions such as Drawdown will be the answer for us to turn around the climate change shifts that are very quickly on their way (here’s where you can get a poster that shows you all 100 solutions in one place), I don’t actually believe we get out of here alive.
Of course we don’t.
In the end, we all die.
The planet lives on.
And something else emerges through all of it.
So, what is in the emergent field and what is each of our individual role within it? Or, as I am asking myself, what can I do?
To begin with, I can share what I am doing.
And, much more importantly (I think), I can share how I am being. Ultimately, I believe how we choose to BE through all of this is far more important than the doing itself. It is our choice of being that will make all the difference.
As I’ve come to learn in my own life, every conflict (or challenge) is our greatest opportunity to be more of who we really are. So, in this time of great change and challenge, we each get to choose who we are through how we BE.
So, with all that in heart and mind, what can we actually do about the reality that we’re likely to have 5–20 years (maximum) before the impact of climate change is so significant that our lives will have no choice but to change?
These are the 7 most important things I’ve identified in my own life, so far. If you have any more to add, please share them with me. I’ll come back at a future time and write up a whole article on what I’ve discovered about each of these 7 at a later date, and then link them when done.
- Find Your Tribe
- Heal Your Core Wounds and Traumas
- Learn How to Become Personally (and Collectively) Sovereign
- Heal Your Relationship With Your Parents and Start Co-Creating With Them Now
- Get Your Assets (and Your Parents Assets) Out of Investments in Fossil Fuels, Big Pharma, Factory Farming and the Like
- Learn to Live in Close Quarters and With Less Stuff
- Listen to Nature and Follow Her Direction and Guidance
More soon … in the meantime, if you’d like to envision yourself in a world that works for everyone and continue to explore these topics with me, please watch this guided visualization to envision yourself in a world that works for everyone and then join the free Eyes Wide Open Tribe group, where we can connect more deeply.