Many of us live with a sort of schizophrenia as we try to reconcile our lives with what may lie ahead.
I sit behind my cabin and look up at sun filtering through the massive cedar trees and hear the same wind rustling the tree needles as has been heard for thousands of years. I have food to eat, a place to lay my head, and my family is safe.
But I know many others are not so lucky, and not a day goes by when I’m not aware of the crises we all confront as natural and social systems fall apart.
I’ll confess that while YES! and others have warned about the crises for years, I didn’t think they would converge so soon. We know the U.S. way of life is unsustainable. But many of us thought we still had time to move back from the cliff edge of ecological and social disaster.
I remember whispered conversations beginning some years ago among those who feared that we would do too little and act too late to stop runaway climate change. What would happen to coastal cities, food supplies, and fresh water resources on an over-heated planet?
Others weren’t whispering—they were sounding the alarm. Twenty years ago, World Watch President Lester Brown, Al Gore, NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen, and others warned that the 1990s would be the decade to turn things around or face dire consequences.
More recently, it’s become clear that there is another way our dependence on fossil fuels could lead to our undoing. The availability of easy-to-reach oil is on the decline. With increasing competition for what’s left, this may mean the end of cheap oil, making it even less likely that we can go back to an over-consumptive economy.
We should be able to rally ourselves as a society to take on climate change, peak oil, and a stalled economy, and make the transition to a sustainable society. But much of the media and government has been captured by powerful corporate interests whose influence hinders needed action.
So what are we to do in the face of these threats to our planet and to our lives?
This issue of YES! is about ways people are buffering themselves from the uncertainties of the times by creating more resilient ways of life. These people are starting urban farms, solar energy co-ops, DIY skill sharing, land trusts, and other projects. They’re turning to each other for the sort of security they didn’t find in over-leveraged homes and a speculative stock market.
While many of these efforts are still on the fringes, they are gaining support, even from those not normally interested in green living.
For a while yet, we may be living in a dual world. In one, business as usual continues, punctuated by increasingly turbulent weather and social breakdowns. In the other, we rebuild our communities and begin to build the foundations of a new world.
In the business-as-usual world, reactions to these changes may get increasingly bizarre as people blame everything from gay marriage to immigration for their insecurity.
But there are responses far better than blame. We can ground ourselves in the hands-on work of growing food, becoming energy efficient, generating green energy, and fostering relationships of respect and appreciation.
We don’t have to wait for an election or a petition to sign. We can just get on with the community work that will allow us to live better, whether or not a systemic collapse happens in our lifetime.
Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for , the Fall 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is YES! Magazine's executive editor.
- Take a peek at our Fall 2010 issue,
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