The Ground Is Shifting Beneath Our Feet.
Can you feel it?
The ground is shifting beneath our feet. Our planet is no longer able to support the kind of life we are used to living. Our planet, Mother to us all, is telling us in no uncertain terms that status quo is unsustainable. With or without our cooperation, our current situation is coming to an end.
If we can trust the 15000+ scientists from 184 countries who issued a warning this past November, then we must face that we are in the throes of a human-created mass extinction event and that status quo is ruinous.
Yet, true to status quo, most of us are expecting leaders to sort this all out while we stay embroiled in our denial, cynicism, criticism, divisiveness, correct opinions, personal trauma, and quest for comfort.
Maybe some of us simply don’t care. We see ourselves as specks in an infinite universe and know the Earth will regenerate herself. I get that perspective. But, if we don’t care about our relationship to Life, why care about anything at all? Why get out of bed?
From a purely scientific view, climate change wasn’t caused because our leaders suck, it is a result of the growing number of middle-class people who drive cars, fly, and consume meat. People just like me and you, who live in comfort while turning a blind eye to the cost to the rest of world.
I am absolutely complicit in climate change, and so are you.
“But, but, but,” I hear us all say, “an individual can only do so much. The government, the businesses, they are the ones who are making the decisions to do the fracking, to build the pipelines, to factory-farm, to burn the coal. They are the real criminals.”
If middle school has taught us anything, it’s that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. If we have something to gain by the immoral and stupid actions of our leaders, then we are complicit. If we know better and don’t raise our voice in opposition, we are complicit. Silence is complicity.
Also, elected democracy doesn’t work, so maybe we should stop pretending that it should. We don’t elect great leaders, because great leaders would tell us the truth about personal responsibility and the collective change that needs to happen, and we don’t want to hear it. If we did, Al Gore would have been president.
It’s like we want our government to set up the parameters and systems to fix the problem, as long as they don’t make us have to pay for change or require us to be uncomfortable. We just want a more sustainable version of status quo.
Great leaders are like good mothers — they teach us about manners, personal responsibility, and caring for one another, and it’s obvious our culture has tuned out what the Great Mother has to say.
She is telling us now that she has a limit in what she can give. She is teaching us about reciprocity, and we might be learning the lesson too late. Whether it’s too late or not, it seems like we’re going to learn this one the hard way.
No, the issue isn’t leadership. We have great leaders everywhere — from David Suzuki to Jane Goodall to the Dalai Lama, and everyone in between. The problem is our silent complicity and our unwillingness to take personal leadership and responsibility for our own footprint on this planet. We are forever the children blaming our parents for not raising us right.
We are the child engaged in magical thinking that the room will clean itself. And now that we have a child in the White House, are we ready to see that we collectively put him there? Can we see ourselves in him?
When my children were young and they’d go to a friend’s house, we taught them to clean up after themselves and to ask politely if they wanted something given. When we go to a campground, we take everything home, yet we think nothing of leaving all our useless shit behind when we die without ever having given back to the planet who provided us everything.
I don’t know one person who has said that they will take responsibility for their carbon footprint. Not one. Okay, maybe one.
If I sound mad, it’s because I am. And I am also full of shit. I heat my house. I drive a car. I travel. I consume. I have bought stuff I don’t need without a second thought.
I contribute to this problem, yet I want to face my kids and tell them that once I realized the extent of damage I helped create, I did everything I could to reverse it. Including admitting that I was wrong. Including writing about it and having my friends call me a doomsayer. Even if it’s too late. But, right now, I don’t know if it is.
I am a messy, flawed, hypocritical human being with lifetimes of ancestral pain and wisdom running through my DNA. I am a white woman born into a patriarchy that has treated women horribly for millennia, and my treatment wasn’t nearly as bad as many of my sisters and brothers. I have been complicit and I am ashamed, but I will not let my fragility stop me anymore.
Not in the face of this level of destruction. Not when the stakes are this high.
What we are doing is wrong, and we need to snap out of it. Wouldn’t it be nice to hold hands while we try to make it right?
I don’t know if it’s futile. I don’t know if this planet can handle all of us. While I sit in the not-knowing, I will take the money I could give to Starbucks and Costco and have trees planted on behalf of my ancestors and me. Even if it’s too late, in the hope that it’s not, but mostly because I care. I’ll turn down my heat. I’ll drive less. I’ll travel less.
I’ll stop celebrating my own consumption, and turn my attention to restoring this shattered world.
The bill for our consumption is past due, and it’s ours and our children’s to pay. The kind of change we need has to happen collectively, yet on an individual basis. Each one of us affects society. Governments and businesses are composed of individuals, and we are all connected via this magnificent forest floor. We can normalize giving back to the planet. We can make restoration the new status quo.
Once we know, isn’t it our responsibility to take ownership for the chaos we have created and stand up in our own messy, little, trauma-filled imperfect lives? Can we make room for our paradoxes and still do whatever we can without blaming, polarizing or waiting for someone else to take charge while we sit back and criticize?
Once we know, isn’t it time to let to go of status quo and lead ourselves towards what we know is right? Can’t we at least give it a real try?
It’s not just our planet who’s weeping. Our souls are crying out for change. So many of us are anxious, overworked, stressed out, consumer robots trying to prove our worth. Think about how nice it would be to let that shit go. To work less. Consume less. Want less. Share more. Give more. Cry more. Cuddle more. Laugh more. To shift our industrial nature towards restoring ourselves and our planet.
Living an authentic, connected, responsible life could be really fun. At the very least, it’d be meaningful. It could be what Life had in mind when she dreamed this all up.
Sandy Ibrahim is a Canadian of Egyptian and German descent. She does not know if her grandmothers are cheering her on or rolling over in their graves. After leaving her childhood home at 17, she has been pursuing sovereignty while maintaining a state of reverent bewilderment. She’s spent the last two decades raising two sons, and has worked as a systems analyst, a boxing coach, and a book-marketer. You can currently find her practicing Yoga, freaking out, writing, and volunteering for TreeSisters. You could contact her via her website.