The More Beautiful World

I’ve been savoring Charles Eisenstein’s book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. It’s affirming, challenging, stimulating, surprising—and filled with wisdom for this age of crisis. Nature in my hands Shared cultural myths make up the “Story of the People,” the beliefs we all hold about the way the world works. Eisenstein notes that the old story is beginning to crumble as we see institution after institution unveiled as unworkable, untenable. He shows how this old Story of Separation—based on control, force, domination, competition, and scarcity—informs everything we see: the prison system, food system, educational system, money system—not to mention religious institutions, childrearing practices, and even activist organizations.

Even the medical establishment’s treatment of illness is based on this model, where bacteria is the enemy we need to conquer to save our own skin. (Never mind that 90 percent of the cells that make up a human are actually bacteria and fungi!)

This overarching cultural myth—that we are separate from each other and the rest of nature, inhabiting a hostile universe built on random accident and competition—is the source of much pain, violence, despair, and exploitation.

But the old story is beginning to fall away as a new Story of Connection takes its place. This transition is far from complete, Eisenstein says. And the time between stories is fraught. Many of the institutions are revealing their true natures in horrifying ways, and our usual tactics seem useless in the face of the horror. That’s because the tactics are also made of that old story. Compelling people to change by force or ridicule, demonizing institutions and leaders as evil, even rushing to action or response before the best path is clear—these are all born from a model that won’t work anymore.

Meditation

“The situation on Earth today is too dire for us to act from habit—to reenact again and again the same kinds of solutions that brought us to our present extremity. Where does the wisdom to act in entirely new ways come from? It comes from nowhere, from the void; it comes from inaction.”

That passage is one of many that resonate with me, especially since I’ve been spending so much time in that void he mentions. Sometimes I worry that by the time I emerge from this cocoon the world will have been fracked to death. That urgency to stop such horrors is real, but we need to reach deeper than action. Our task is to create something new that leaves these old systems and tactics in the dust. We need to make a whole new world, based on the vision of connectedness. NJ - Montclair: Montclair Art Museum - Earth Mother Eisenstein brings up the ebb and flow of the birth process. Much of the time the mother is not pushing, but resting. When the time to push comes, the urge is unstoppable. But the push comes in its time, and not before.

“Can you imagine saying to her, ‘Don’t stop now! You have to make an effort. What happens if the urge doesn’t arise again? You can’t just push when you feel like it!'”

The question is, what are we gestating? What kind of world wants to be born?

Before It’s Too Late

Guest Post by Rosemary Spalding, Earth Charter Indiana board president. (Part 2 of 2 of a firsthand report on the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March).

My husband Mark and I stayed  in Newark, NJ the night before the People’s Climate March. Early Sunday morning we began to make our way to 66th and Central Park West to meet a new contact from Earth Charter International. As we rode the train from Newark to NYC and then the subway to Central Park, our excitement built as we joined with dozens of others making their way to the march. Smiling people in T-shirts with names of organizations from all over the country packed subway cars that were standing room only.

Photo by Rosemary Spalding

Photo by Rosemary Spalding

When Mark and I emerged from the subway station at 66th Street, several volunteers welcomed us, directing us to our spot in the march. About 30 minutes before the march was to begin, people flowed into the wide street that borders Central Park on the west, filling it from curb to curb. While we stood in the street waiting, I just looked around, taking it all in. People were lined up behind us all the way to 86th St. and in front of us all the way to Columbus Circle.

Photo of Columbus Circle by Rosemary Spalding

Photo of Columbus Circle by Rosemary Spalding

It was crowded, and we learned later that many marchers couldn’t even fit in the street until the march had progressed several blocks. Many people carried homemade signs and some wore costumes. But most were simply there—joining in solidarity with others to demonstrate before our government and other world leaders gathering for the United Nations summit, that we demand action to address this urgent global crisis.

Communities displaced by climate change marched  in the demonstration. Photo by Christine Irvine.

Communities displaced by climate change marched in the demonstration. Photo by Christine Irvine.

And then the most exciting thing happened! I saw someone making his way through the crowd, like a salmon swimming upstream, coming towards me. As he drew closer I realized I recognized him. Like a teenaged groupie at a rock concert, I yelled, “LOOK, IT’S BILL McKIBBEN!”

I immediately felt foolish, but he looked over at me and smiled as he passed, never missing a step. I think I said “thank you” as he walked by. By the time I could get my iPhone out, he had been swallowed up by the upstream crowd that parted to let him pass.

Photo by Emma Cassidy

Photo by Emma Cassidy

As we walked the two miles past famous landmarks and through Times Square, hundreds of supporters on the sidewalks waved us by. We never saw a single person who challenged our message. Every so often throughout the march, a thunderous “sound wave” would come from in front of or behind us, and we would raise our voices and play musical instruments as the wave passed through on its way to the beginning or end of the march. Goosebumps!

At the end of the march people gathered for entertainment at several stages. I watched the Raging Grannies as they sang their versions of “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Roll Back the Barrels,” and “The Climate—It is A-Changin’.” Music and humor—welcome relief for such a serious subject.

Over 400,000 people marched in New York City that Sunday. Add to that the thousands attending local climate marches all over the country and the world, and you know that we cannot be dismissed as radical tree-huggers.

To the contrary—the People’s Climate March was mainstream. We witnessed an incredibly diverse collection of people of all ages and from all walks of life; people from every state and many nations; people of every color and culture; labor unions and healthcare workers; youth groups, college students and professors, parents and grandparents. All marching, singing and chanting for a common purpose—to say that we, the citizens of the world, recognize the direness of our situation and unite to convince our leaders to change course before it’s too late.

Photo by Amy Dewan

Photo by Amy Dewan

As Mark and I traveled back to Newark, exhausted but exhilarated from the day’s experience, I wondered—did we make a difference? I said a silent prayer: This time let those in power take notice; let meaningful change finally occur.

Rosemary Spalding is board president of Earth Charter Indiana and a founding member of the Irvington Green Initiative. She is an attorney with Spalding & Hilmes, PC, which is located in Irvington and concentrates its practice in environmental law.

Why I Marched in the People’s Climate March

Guest Post by Rosemary Spalding, Earth Charter Indiana board president. (Part 1 of 2).

Like most folks, I am concerned about a number of serious issues, but when it comes to climate change, my passion has turned into a kind of internal panic. My panic builds when I read reports that it is happening much faster than scientists were predicting less than 10 years ago.

Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have increased so much that we’re no longer talking about avoiding tipping points or reversing global warming. We’re now talking about slowing the process as much as possible and adapting to the inevitable.

I think about the beautiful, bright children of my nieces and nephews and about the grandchildren I hope to have someday, and I am terrified for them. To what kind of existence are we condemning them and their children?

Photo of young NYC activists by Rosemary Spalding.

Photo of young NYC activists by Rosemary Spalding

Most of my votes, letters, and phone calls to government leaders at all levels have been completely ineffective. Earth Charter Indiana recently petitioned the Indiana Environmental Rules Board (ERB) to adopt a rule to develop a climate action plan for Indiana.

Despite the fact that over a thousand Hoosiers have signed the petition, the board dismissed it at their last meeting. Board members thought a climate action plan was someone else’s job—certainly not their job.

The ERB would not even grant a public hearing on the petition (which Earth Charter Indiana believes it is required to do under Indiana’s law permitting citizen rulemaking petitions).

Photo By Shadia Fayne Wood

Photo By Shadia Fayne Wood

That citizen petition (with extensive supporting documents) took months to prepare. The articulate and passionate young people of Youth Power Indiana respectfully submitted the petition to the ERB. But board members were unmoved.

I must confess that the ERB’s casual dismissal has shaken my fundamental belief in the integrity of our democracy. We are disheartened—but we are not done advocating for change. See the note at the end of this post to lend your support.

In the meantime, I had hoped to go to New York City to participate in the People’s Climate March—but the ERB’s cavalier rejection of a citizen petition cemented my resolve. I wanted to join with others to tell our government and world leaders gathering for the United Nations summit that we demand action—NOW.

Photo By: Emma Cassidy

Photo By Emma Cassidy

I have participated in lots of climate change rallies in Indianapolis as well as the march in Washington, DC last February, when 40,000 people turned out in the frigid cold to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But those experiences did not prepare me for what we experienced at the People’s Climate March last Sunday…

(To be continued in Part 2).

Note: If you are an Indiana resident dismayed by the Environmental Rules Board’s lack of attention to a citizen petition, please consider attending the next ERB meeting in support of a climate action plan.

When: Wednesday, November 12, 1:30-4:00 p.m.
Where: Indiana Government Center South – Conference Room A (check for meeting or room changes here.)
RSVP: julielrhodesconsulting@gmail.com or 317.371.2788

Want to do more? Contact Indiana Environmental Rules Board Members today to urge them to hold a hearing on the Petition for a Climate Action Plan for Indiana! Find contact information for board members here.

Rosemary Spalding is board president of Earth Charter Indiana and a founding member of the Irvington Green Initiative. She is an attorney with Spalding & Hilmes, PC, which is located in Irvington and concentrates its practice in environmental law.

A Sacred Act

“Healing the wounds of the earth and its people does not require saintliness or a political party, only gumption and persistence. it is not a liberal or a conservative activity; it is a sacred act. It is a massive enterprise undertaken by ordinary citizens everywhere…”

—Paul Hawken, in Blessed Unrest

People's Climate March 2014 NYC
Some 400,000 people demonstrated for climate action in New York City last weekend. (A friend and I went to the youth-led Bloomington rally to help “raise the alarm” about climate change; the best part after the hooting and hollering was singing “We’ve got the whole world in our hands.”)

Stay tuned for a guest post from someone who joined the NYC demonstration.

To Look Up

It hit me hard last week when the Audubon Society reported that half of North American birds’ migratory routes are threatened by climate change.

If loons find it too hot to summer in Minnesota, then what? You’d think they should just aim farther north, but will they find the food and cover that matches their needs? Are they supposed to migrate higher and higher till they fly right off the planet’s roof?

By Pete Markham, via Wikimedia Commons

By Pete Markham, via Wikimedia Commons

The scenario is not confined to some far-off future. It’s now. Southern California saw 90 to 95 percent of raptor nests failing because of drought. No nests, no procreation. How long can a species survive climate disruption?

I find I can’t stay with this topic; it’s too painful.

I felt the same last month, learning about a gigantic crater that opened in the Siberian permafrost. Scientists link the melting to warmer-than-normal summers the last two years, and say such sinkholes release vast amounts of methane.

Methane gas is more efficient at trapping radiation than carbon dioxide, with 20 times the impact on climate change, according to the EPA.

In Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Bill McKibben describes a number of self-reinforcing feedback loops that lead to a faster and faster rate of climate change. The crater is just one example. He explains the feedback loops in this video.

Here we are, immersed in our lives, going around feeling one minute one way, the next another. I feel despondent. I cheer up. My writing goes well. My writing goes poorly. I help someone. I say something dumb. I worry over my sick cat. I celebrate her recovery. I walk around my neighborhood and love the trees. I come home and feel lonely, pleased, scared, self-satisfied, hopeless, and on and on.

I’m a dizzying universe. As are we all. Most of us barely keep it together, doing what needs to be done to meet the day-to-day demands of life.

And all the while, this other thing is winging above us. This bigger picture of demise.

Rise up...

And to look up invites so much pain, which we already have aplenty.

Two things help me face the times we live in. One is external, the other internal.

On the external side, I reach out, take action, make something, do something. I connect with neighbors who care as deeply as I do. Or join a demonstration, like this Sunday’s People’s Climate March in New York City. (I will join a crowd closer to home, at the People’s Climate Gathering in Bloomington.)

I plant a seed. I get moving.

On the internal side, I stay still and connect with what endures. I remind myself that matter is just slow energy, and energy can’t be destroyed. Feeling into my energy body takes me to a place beyond fear. Whatever the future brings, it will be better if I stay in this moment.

“Look up and see the light from the sun. And now see everything beneath it, everything around you. You are in the garden.”

—Karen Maezen Miller, Paradise in Plain Sight

Note: If you’re on the fence about joining this weekend’s events, read Rebecca Solnit’s new essay. “Only great movements, only collective action can save us now,” she writes.

Good to Grow

Guest post by Luke Taylor, who started a business called Good to Grow with his wife, Emily

Luke and Emily Taylor

Luke and Emily Taylor

Based out of Irvington, on the east side of Indianapolis, Good to Grow aims to harness the power of community to revolutionize the way we interact with overlooked natural resources.

What does it look like to “harness the power of community?” And what are these overlooked natural resources?

The power of community is a shared vision, and many hands. Our vision is one that makes it easy for neighbors to make choices that not only benefit their community, but also themselves. Choices like saving their food waste to create compost—and collecting rainwater to reduce water bills and strain on municipal utilities.

Good to Grow's custom-built water barrel towers enable urban gardeners to save large amounts of rainwater.

Good to Grow’s custom-built water barrel towers enable urban gardeners to save large amounts of rainwater.

Some might call this “being green,” or recycling. I am happy thinking of it as purely selfish.

If you have altruistic notions of saving the world one recycled cardboard box at a time, great! Continue seeking out ways to heal your part of the world through changes large and small. Your community needs more people like you.

Many in your community, however, need a layup. (Editor’s note: a layup, for the basketball-uninitiated, is the easiest of shots, more difficult to miss than make.) These folks will only choose to recycle if they are standing next to a bin or a forest ranger is looking in their direction.

Or if they receive something free as a reward. In short, they need incentive.

Developing an incentive framework to support behavior change is our goal at Irvington’s Good to Grow.

A bucket ready to receive a neighbor's vegetable scraps.

A bucket ready to receive a neighbor’s vegetable scraps.

One such framework is Irvington’s composting program. Already being championed by 16 households, this initiative’s ultimate goal is to collect compostable food waste and distribute finished compost (a valuable organic fertilizer) at the very same time. The idea is to connect beneficial behavior as seamlessly as possible with valuable incentive and convenience.

It is my hope that this idea encourages communities to create incentive frameworks of their own!

Luke Taylor moved to Irvington, Indianapolis with his wife Emily in early 2013. They chose this neighborhood mostly because of its strong sense of community. The Taylors wanted to be a part of it, and to encourage its growth. With Good to Grow as the vessel for delivery, they have a vision for Irvington that will amplify and enrich our local resources, bringing together an already blossoming Indianapolis community. One day, they dream to be able to enrich other Indianapolis communities in the same way by sharing the Good to Grow framework.

All I Cannot Save

Monarch sipping on liatris, by Gene Wilburn, via Flickr Commons.

Monarch sipping on liatris, by Gene Wilburn, via Flickr Commons.

My heart is moved by all I cannot save

So much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those who, age after age,

Perversely, with no extraordinary

Power, reconstitute the world.

—Feminist poet Adrienne Rich