I step out the front door of our building. It is a warm, late-summer day, the grass is thick and green and the flowers are in full bloom — pinks, purples, yellows. Our daughter takes off, yelling, “Dad, race me!” and I run after her, holding back a little so that she reaches our front gate first. She swings it open, steps onto the sidewalk, and we turn right. We pass the church next door, the grand early-20th-century post office, restaurants, shops, and other apartments. “I’m hot,” she complains. “It’s too sunny!” We cross the street to find some cool shade under the trees, pass the high school, and arrive at the farmers’ market. The stalls are filled with the produce of a Midwestern September — corn, blueberries, cauliflower, apples — so much to choose from. This is our Saturday ritual from May to October, this walk, this food, this time together.
People have always feared for their children — what might happen to them as they grow, as they separate from their parents. As they grow, we have less and less ability to shape their world and to provide for them. In the past, people feared famine, rival communities, disease. As the modern, Western world developed, we thought we could hold all those problems at bay…that our industrial agriculture, our sophistication, and our modern medicine could protect us and, if not stop death for us and our children, at least keep it at bay to ensure long, peaceful lives. Was that vision always corrupt, an attempt to unreasonably control a planet and a natural world that cannot be controlled? Or did it start from reasonable impulses, and go crooked somewhere?
Because now we are starting to see how our modern ways have come back to bite us…how the capitalist system that we have asked to keep the demons at bay has actually welcomed them into our homes by the back door. For the last century and a half of industrialization, we have been separating from one another, focused only on our own nuclear families or, often, only on ourselves — what we can get, what we can achieve. And we have been pumping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, dumping refuse into our soil, and discarding plastic into our waters at increasing rates, leading to a multitude of accelerating problems, of which climate change is only the most widely-discussed. And I truly wonder — will my daughter be able to enjoy a walk with her children, if she chooses to have them? Or are we in the process of so altering our planet that some of the basic aspects of life will be transformed — or destroyed?
Others’ lives have already been altered and even overturned. Wildfires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes have all been amplified. Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas is only the most recent example, forcing its residents to flee into a world that seems every less hospitable to those who are fleeing. Their lives will never be the same. Changes in the climate of Central America and North Africa are forcing migrants to travel from their homes to the United States and Europe, separating then from their families and encountering racist rhetoric and violence from us wealthy nations who are actually primarily responsible for these climatic changes.
Once we admit our complicity in the industrial system that has created this crisis, what can we do? I don’t see how I, as a resident of the modern United States, can extract myself from this system. Is this an admission of despair? I don’t think so. I believe it is an invitation to step away from the mindsets that brought us into this crisis in the first place. We must admit that we are not in control of this planet and our destiny. And we must admit that our salvation lies in our connection with one another.
This coming Friday begins a worldwide opportunity for connection — the Global Climate Strike. People all across the world will step back from their school and work to demonstrate that we will no longer put our individual concerns over the needs of community, and that we will hold our governments to account for our will that we must fundamentally shift our economic system. Others of us who can not step away from school and work will dedicate a portion of our day to supporting the strike in whatever way we can — learning from one another, discussing our feelings connected to climate change, and amplifying our support. This is a moment to connect, to learn, to feel, to love, to rage, to grieve. This is a moment to act. This Friday, September 20th, please step back from your money, your job, and your possessions, and your preoccupations so that we can step toward one another.
For more information about the Global Climate Strike: http://www.globalclimatestrike.net/
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