Summer still has not quite ended in Laurel Grove or Valley Glen or Valley Village or whatever my neighborhood is now known as. 9:00 am is still too late to walk the dog because the sun hits with ferocity, even in the morning . There is not a cloud in the sky. While we were still on our Utah/Arizona journey, at home it was as hot as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. When we returned after being gone for 10 days, the garden was shriveled and looked like it was in pain.
Last month, as we traveled, the evidence of environmental degradation was apparent. We saw lakes barely filled, dry river beds, forests decimated by bark beetle, haze in the air covering hundreds and hundreds of miles. We also saw abundant new growth, and aspen leaves turning to gold coins that glittered in the sunlight, moving like sequins through the breeze. We saw wildlife, and waterfalls. We saw infinite earth and endless skies.
While climate change causality and outcome continues to be debated in forums and around coffee tables, the empirical evidence is irrefutable. After the briefest of respites, the forecast is for triple digit days as the Santa Ana winds appear again.
Recently, reports tell us that we have reached the point of no return in terms of the level of co2 in earth’s atmosphere. At the time of this writing, the level of co2 is reported to be 400 parts-per-million, and the last time earth experienced co2 levels this high was four million years ago. This level of co2 is responsible for the devastating climate events that we are witnessing with increased frequency: floods, heat waves, drought, fire, melt, ocean acidification, etc.
Researchers tell us the damage is irrevocable.
The implication of this news is unbearable.
After sharing this information on FB, friends expressed alarm, fear and a sense of helplessness. “How do we deal with this?” they asked. Amy said, “I don't know what the solution is other than prepare the family, neighborhood and community to live with less, share more, become resilient.”
I agree with Amy, and in particular, the idea of becoming resilient resonates. I believe finding resilience, requires strength -- strength of both the body and heart. Not only does it feel particularly critical to be aware of the body, and to make efforts to increase overall physical health and well being, but it feels equally critical to develop internal strength and resilience in order to emotionally face the changes, the turmoil, and the seeming unrelenting stimulation of the world. In my life as an urban working woman, I am hit with the deleterious effect of humanity every day as I commute in stagnant traffic on a freeway toward smog-colored haze listening to news of war, racial tension, violence. It can be numbing.
I feel a mandate to embody my beliefs now more than ever. The practice of doing so is empowering in a unique way, and is critical to the development of internal strength and resilience. Part of this includes ceasing self-talk regarding the difficulty of taking action, and simply doing it -- however and whenever I can, within the current structures of my life. I feel a sense of urgency that is hard to ignore. Now is the time. The more I am able to quiet the naysaying internal voice that wants to limit my expression in the world, the more I am able take action.
I typically would not make a list of what I do, but one of my friends asked me to share what I have done to help me deal with what I see happening globally and locally. Below are things that I do:
- Adopt a plant based diet. I recently adopted a vegan diet. I had been a pescatarian, and then a vegetarian for quite some time, but after learning more about the degree to which agri-business utilizes water and land resources, and contributes to greenhouse gas, I felt I could no longer consume animal products.
- Efforts to reduce vehicle emissions. Until I can get into a zero-emission vehicle, I am committed to not using my car at all one to three days a week. (I am telecommute twice a week. I also observe a weekly sabbath and do not use the car on that day.) When I can, I walk to the market to buy groceries. When walking the dog, I walk more often in the neighborhood versus driving someplace else to walk. I also keep my car well maintained, including ensuring tire pressure is good, as that helps reduce emissions.
- Efforts to reduce energy consumption at home. I don’t keep lights on around the house. If the room is not occupied, the light is off. I plug electronics into a power strip that can be turned off to reduce passive energy. We use energy efficient light bulbs. (Thanks DWP for the last two!) I am researching other ways to be more energy efficient, including solar
- Efforts to conserve water. Reduced landscape area in garden that requires water, and in planning stages to further reduce water needs in the garden. Water garden judiciously. Recycle water (ie kitchen water, shower bucket used to collect water while heating up are used for garden). Installed rain barrel. Short showers and turning off water when soaping and shaving. Turn off the water while brushing teeth. Flush less (“if it’s yellow, it’s mellow. . .”) Only run full loads in dish or clothes washers. We use refillable water bottles. To the extent single-use bottles make their way into the house, I reuse them in a variety of ways, including refilling them and freezing them to be used as ice packs and as an emergency water stash.
- Efforts to generally consume less, recycle more and to support local producers. I spend hardly any time shopping any more. When I shop, I try to purchase products that were produced as close to me as possible. Certain foods and products I would have glibly purchased a year ago, do not make it in my shopping cart -- avocados or peppers from Mexico, for example. I avoid products manufactured in China. I attempt to grow fruits and vegetables.
In addition, I have been reducing my use of single use plastic. When out, I try to remember to tell waiters and bartenders that I do not want a straw. When taking food home from a restaurant, I ask for foil instead of plastic packaging. I no longer buy ziploc or other plastic bags; instead I re-use plastic bags that make their way into the house. I do not use plastic bags at the grocery store when I buy produce (this drives the checkers nuts). For parties, I started using compostable paper plates, cutlery,cups, etc.
- Efforts to be a good citizen. I began the practice of participating in a community-oriented event on a regular basis (beach clean up, care packages for homeless, etc.). I speak to my neighbors. I pick up trash once a week at the Sepulveda Dam where I regularly go to have an experience of the wildlife that lives there and to walk the dog. I organized a group clean up at the dam, and intend to that again in November. I grow plants in the garden that support pollinators. I make financial donations to organizations whose work I support as much as I can. On occasion, I attend community and neighborhood council meetings, particularly when an issue is on the table that I feel strongly about. I vote. I just registered with Citizens Climate Lobby. I connect with my neighborhood via NextDoor.com, which has been illuminating.
- Efforts to take care of the body. This seems like a no-brainer. But I suffer from a chronic mind/body split that historically has interfered with how I treat my body. The adage “you don't have anything unless you have your health” has never felt more true, particularly as we face increasingly frequent outbreaks of infectious disease, higher levels of toxins in our food sources, polluted water and polluted air. I traveled out of state recently on a couple of different trips. Each time my sinuses which give me chronic problems in LA cleared up and stayed clear. As soon as I returned to LA, I noticed an immediate respiratory response to the air. In practical terms what this means is allowing for a greater sensitivity to what is happening in my body and responding respectfully. Now, instead of pushing when I am tired, I rest. I have been trying to eat more moderately, and with awareness about how the foods I eat make my body feel. I walk the dog every day. I have started (and am hoping to deepen) a yoga practice. I also observe a weekly sabbath -- a day of rest that often includes a nap, visiting, doing something creative, or otherwise not doing much of anything. These practices also seem to help me manage the depression and anxiety that can hit hard, especially when I am feeling particularly sensitive.
- Efforts to take care of the heart and spirit. In some ways, for me this is the most important action, as this is where inner strength and perspective is nurtured. I have an eclectic, esoteric and non-denominational spiritual practice that is individualized and organic in nature. I rely heavily on teachings from the IChing (in particular the teachings of The Cosmic Way) for guidance and understanding. I do dream work as I believe there is energy and information to be mined from dream imagery. I make time every morning to ground myself through meditation and journaling. I am observant and mindful when walking or commuting or just generally out and about as I believe the world around us speaks to us. I ask myself “why am I seeing this now”. By exploring the symbolic or archetypal meaning of something I observe, I often find a resonate message. This practice has fostered a deeper connection to my experience, and opened up my heart in a particular way. (I share links to various teachers and practitioners here.)
I have been making efforts to spend more time with people in meaningful ways. When I am with people, I am trying to be more present with them. I try to be more loving and to let love touch me more deeply.
I host a group that meets once a month to discuss how we can respond consciously and conscientiously to the multiple crises that we face right now. We have brunch in the garden where we discuss the ills of the world and the beauty of the world. We support each others’ efforts to take action.
- Efforts to be in a creative process. Being in a creative process is an incredibly effective psycho-spiritual salve. For me this can mean making music, writing, working on an art project, cooking, gardening...
- Efforts to learn more. I follow certain speakers, writers, and teachers who have helped me negotiate the range of responses I have to what I see and feel happening in today’s world. Carolyn Baker’s The New Lifeboat Radio Hour podcast features speakers on a variety of topics directly related to how to cope with the global crisis we find ourselves in. I follow Jennifer Hynes on Facebook. I subscribe to Robert Scribbler’s climate disaster blog. I have read Deb Ozarko’s work. I am a member of a couple of NTHE support groups on FB. I get daily “climate change” updates from Google that includes a variety of articles and posts on the topic. I follow Greenpeace, NASA, NOAA etc. I have explored the work of evolutionary biologist Elisabeth Sahrtouris who speaks of the evolutionary mandate for transformation. I have explored the work of Andrew Harvey who speaks about the urgency of practicing sacred action. (Links to these sources are available here.) I have been watching documentaries and Ted Talks about climate change and sustainability. I read news and try to visit a variety of sources.
I also give myself breaks from research.
There is more that I could do. I struggle with that every day as I continue my business-as-usual life. I try to remember that going on with one’s life is what makes the growth and evolution of personal awareness possible. I fantasize about giving it all up -- the job, the house, the comfort -- to be of service in big dramatic ways that I admire. But I am also aware that the calling is not to merely make superficial changes, but to actually transform the way I am in the world. This is a different edict that requires fundamental shifts in belief and practice. Doubt and fear are frequent visitors that can sabotage focus and energy, but I keep going with the belief that each act taken in furtherance of this process, no matter how small it seems, is progress. I also find it helpful to remind myself that I am not alone in this.
ALL THE TIME (The Hayburner Mix)
Lyrics by SackJo22
Music by Blue Wave Theory
We're lost in denial so we can't see
Our intentions are tired
Misunderstanding what we need
We're just so comfortable compromising
We say give me some time to remember my dreams
All the time in the world is now
We dropped our ideals as too heavy to bear
We married a life that we live without care
We're being reminded we breathe the same air
It's not ours alone
It's a burden we share
We say give me some time to remember my dreams
What will it take?
How will we sustain?
There's a choice to me made.
What will it take?
What will we endure?
There's a choice to be made.
Give me some time to remember my dreams
All the time in the world is now
All the Time (The Hayburner Mix) available for downloading or remixing
Featuring instrumental stems shared by Blue Wave Theory
by SackJo22/Susan Joseph shared cc-by