Year of Living the Community: Week 17

Is it Mourning or Morning?

Climate protest blocking entrance to inauguration 

Climate protest blocking entrance to inauguration 

This post's title is borrowed from a very thoughtful email editorial by Herman Greene at the Center for Ecozoic Studies on the occasion of the inauguration. 

"Ecozoans who consider themselves progressives have a special responsibility. No political party had a plan for how to live within planetary boundaries." Another way to put the question of Ecozoic Living: how to live within planetary boundaries.

Here is Greene's CES Musings on the topic as we enter together into this new day in our brave new world.*

Today, the unthinkable happens. Donald J. Trump will become (or if you are reading this later in the day, has become) the President of the United States. Is this a day of mourning, or is it the hopeful dawning of a new day?

My worst fears have not been realized since Trump was elected. I do not yet see signs that the United States is moving into a period of tyranny, one of despotic control. If Trump’s nominees are rich, and perhaps out of touch with the common person and the needs of this world, they are also very capable and are proving to be independent. 

The Democratic Party appears to be moving capably into its role of watchdog. Important questions are being raised in the Congressional hearings on the president’s cabinet nominees, and blind resistance to climate change by some Republicans is not the case with Trump’s nominees. They have left positions of power, wealth, and privilege, and seem earnest in educating themselves on the roles of their respective departments and positions. I have not seen the narcissism in the nominees that is so evident in Trump. I have, however, seen rudeness in some of the Republican members of Congress as they relish the opportunity to push through a flood of conservative legislation.

Trump himself is troubling to me. He worries me greatly. The power of the President is not unlimited as Obama learned, yet in some areas it is nearly so. Trump’s power, given that he will be supported by a Republican Congress and probably a conservative Supreme Court, is likely to be greater than Obama’s.

I once heard someone give this explanation of the difference between a liberal and a conservative. 

    A liberal is someone who, when divorce rates are rising, puts together classes for divorcées on how to adapt to their new lives.

    A conservative is one who, in this situation, arranges classes for married people on how to stay married.

In other words a liberal works to adapt to the new even if the new seems undesirable. A conservative works to preserve stability and resist harmful change.

At this time it could, however, be that it is the self-identified liberals who are resisting change, and the self-identified conservatives are those who are adapting to it. The tides we are seeing in the United States did not originate here. They are evident in what is loosely called the “global populist wave.” The strains in the European Union did not originate with Trump. To be sure, in my opinion, Trump does seem to be exacerbating them without a clear idea of the consequences of his actions. The strains of racism and the realities of immigration and the global issues connected with migrations did not originate with Trump. Though Trump, so far, on these issues seems to be the one resisting change rather than adapting to it with understanding and foresight.

This is a time to watch and pray. I watched a four-hour special on “The Divided States of America,” by Frontline on PBS. You may stream it at this link and I highly recommend it.  Progressives have limited ability to persuade conservatives that either the positions of Hillary or Bernie were right. So, along with resisting, it’s time for progressives to take stock. As the old joke goes, it’s not time for ready, fire, aim. It’s time to get ready first, and this begins with awareness. What has changed? What did we not see? Where are we holding on to that which we need to let go of? What goals of ours were unrealistic or limited? Then aim: engage in a conversation on what to do next. Plan carefully. 

Watch and pray.

Then fire: take action.

Ecozoans who consider themselves progressives have a special responsibility. No political party had a plan for how to live within planetary boundaries. Some of us ecozoans thought we could model this in ecovillages or other enclaves of like-minded people. This is very important, but insufficient in itself. The world is complex and it won’t stop to meet our expectations. Technology, globalization, civilizational disruption rush on without our permission. 

CES will be a forum for a long conversation on how to apply the principles of Thomas Berry to the global realities we are facing so that humans and nature may truly have a viable future, one of living within planetary boundaries, sufficiency for all, justice and equity for all, especially the poor, and peace. 

I can’t help remembering hymns that I grew up with. The hymn I remember at this moment says “teach us how to watch and pray,” and then it continues, “and live rejoicing every day.”

Rejoice, it’s a new day.


Margaret Wheatley writes about the emergence of the global reality: "The global culture, with all its tragedies and injustices, is an emergent phenomenon. We have to accept this terrifying fact. It came to be from the convergence of many forces and now possesses characteristics that weren't there until it emerged." And about our part in this emergent reality: "We will not change what has emerged. We are starting over, basing our work on values and practices that are distinctively countercultural, so outside the norm that most people can't understand what we're doing. We need to continue to persevere in our radical work, experimenting with how we can work and live together to evoke human creativity and caring. Only time will tell whether our efforts contribute to a better future. We can't know this, and we can't base our work or find motivation from expecting to change the world." (So Far From Home: Lost and Found in our Brave New World, p 34)