Ancestor, What Did YOU Do at the Time of the Great Transition?

By, Pamela Boyce Simms

Cross-posted from Resilience.org @ The Postcarbon Institute

Ancestor, …What Did YOU Do at the Time of the Great Transition?

Dear Descendant,

Once upon a time, as climate change accelerated in the 21st century, the recognition that everyone was in the same boat with a hole at the bottom jolted some of your ancestors awake. It dawned on people that American hamlets, towns, cities, and megacities had just three (3) days of food to sustain local populations in the event of climate change disruption. Yet, even as they faced that stark reality, your ancestors never lost sight of the fact Confused weatherthat they always had choices. Fortunately, enough people chose to:

  1. leave behind the 18th century mechanistic thinking that had gotten them into a 21st century existential mess,
  2. unite to design a new culture,
  3. build a critical mass that would lead to a transformational cultural tipping point, and,
  4. develop enough self-awareness to successfully navigate the gauntlet of the Great Transition* into simpler, carbon-constrained, yet superb-quality life circumstances.

A Threat to the Basics: Food, Clean Air, and Water

It was an era of tremendous uncertainty, —even about the preservation of the core elements which are basic to human existence! Old, outworn, divisive systems that were no match for the level of complexity manifest in 21st century challenges had begun to crumble. Unhinged leadership exacerbated and hastened the disintegration.

The new kakistocratic administration in Washington DC had begun to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A 31%, budget cut was on the horizon as regulations which had kept toxins out of the people’s food, water, and the air were rolled back. The EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, protector of marginalized populations which historically bore the brunt of environmental degradation, evaporated early in that process.

At the time, 7.5 billion people needed food globally. The population was depleting resources 50% faster than the planet could renew them. And the new American president was proposing to slash the US contribution to the United Nations by 50% as the UN struggled to stave off imminent starvation among 20 million people across four nations.

A Response: In a Small, Powerful Package

The people resisted mightily. However in any contest, the only move that really matters is the one that an opponent doesn’t see coming. A small but growing group of networked activists with no time for either megaphones or the politics of “silos,” and an evolutionary vision, locked arms and pledged to serve the most vulnerable populations. Soberly, they understood that climate disruptions, whether due to prolonged power grid outages, floods, drought, or extreme weather incidents would become more frequent and intense. They wanted to ensure that people who had become completely dependent on industrial agriculture’s distribution systems created alternatives for themselves and had local access to food and water as climate change dialed up. Fortunately, the embattled titans didn’t see them coming.

Specifically, Quaker, Buddhist, and Unitarian Universalist environmental activists quietly africandiasporaand methodically gathered an eclectic group of allies into an intentional circle that embraced marginalized populations, and scores of grassroots organizations throughout the African Diaspora who:

  1. lived in areas regarded as “sacrifice zones” by the corporate world, and/or,
  2. were extremely vulnerable to climate-change induced displacement, AND,
  3. were determined to defy centuries of historical fragmentation to chose a future which although transformed, would be one of joy, community, and wellbeing!

The UN International Decade for People of African Descent provided a global platform and a nexus rallying point —a 10-year launching pad, for these overlapping communities of vulnerable populations and spiritual warriors. “The UN Decade” was an incubation period for grounding an egalitarian movement to reunify [and feed] all points of the African Diaspora which had been forcibly scattered across the globe for centuries.

The allies focused on the bedrock basics: relocalization and ownership of the means of food production, and access to clean water. They networked, identified, shared and implemented land retention and sustainable agricultural models throughout the African Diaspora. They laid the groundwork for a future that reflected an evolution in awareness and human interaction beyond corporate capitalist atomization and exploitation.

Meetinghouse2Quakers and Buddhist already had longstanding, undisputed social transformation track records. While the impact of many social movements waxed and waned, Quakers and Buddhists had consistently emerged from silent contemplation emboldened to effectively shake the pillars of entrenched cultural norms at pivotal points in history. They had demonstratively achieved enduring results.

Quakers had been at the epicenter of every major American cultural transformation for centuries. The disproportionately powerful influence of this relatively tiny group of social transformers who were the drivers of the Abolitionist and Women’s Suffrage movements, and catalyzed, peace and Civil Rights gains was stunning.

Buddhist monastics had historically kept the pilot light of human potential for “evolutionary-basic goodness” burning throughout cyclical dark ages and renaissance periods that spanned 2,600 years. In more recent times Buddhists had gotten up off of their cushions, most notably in peace movements, to transform the consciousness of hundreds of millions of people. This included 1.2 million American practitioners by the early 21st century. The work of the Dalai Lama, the young environmentally engaged

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
H H The Dalai Lama and Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa

Karmapa, and Thich Nhat Hahn’s Order of Interbeing offered pathways toward personal and societal transformation for millions in the west.

While Quakers and Buddhists “go quiet” for transformational inspiration, they are joined at the hip with their Unitarian Universalists (UU’s) cousins who take to the streets and “go loud.” Like their Quaker and Buddhist counterparts, UUs eschew any doctrine which doesn’t proceed from direct experience, and all three groups, actively live into their witness and testimony to the world. And they did just that in the mid-21st century when a critical mass of aware, awake, people acculturated to living consciously, formed a tipping point that turned the tide of the Great Transition.

Together, village by village, community garden by community garden, field by field, the champions mitigated climate change vulnerability for as many as could hear their message. In so doing with the most disadvantaged of the disadvantaged, they served their own, and a broad spectrum of other communities as well.

In an “America First” world of intertwined existential crises, they consciously and strategically chose a simplified, post-carbon future of joy, unity and wellbeing! This is the story that they pledged their descendants would one day recount.

Information on evolutionary culture design for a post-carbon future: transition.midatlantic.hub@gmail.com.

*The Great Transition is a systemic framework for understanding how we might hospice outworn ways of living that no longer serve us and the Earth, and give birth to an emergent, more compassionate and resilient future. A broad spectrum of grassroots, citizen-led, community initiatives sustain the movement toward the Great Transition against the backdrop of climate change, resource depletion, and economic instability. Purposeful groups of friends and neighbors mitigate these converging global crises by engaging their communities in environmental education and actions that increase local self-reliance and resilience. They catalyze relocalization of economies and low carbon lifestyles by innovating, networking, collaborating, and replicating proven strategies, respecting the deep, fractal patterns of nature, and diverse cultures in their localities. “Transitioners” work with deliberation to create a fulfilling and inspiring local way of life that can withstand the shocks of rapidly shifting global systems.
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