I have written before about the climate crisis that humanity faces. The forces fighting for business as usual are so very powerful that I often despair our fate. Yet hope remains within my psyche and that hope lies with individual spiritual evolution. Climate activists tend to pooh-pooh such an approach as being a type of head-in-the-sand denial, but my deepest intuition is that spiritual evolution is the only possible path. Polarization of political approaches has led only to a mean-spirited shouting stalemate. To believe that “we” can successfully impose on “them” our solutions is to perpetuate the power game that has brought us to this point in the first place.
As a culture we have grown soft and deluded. On the other hand, we are a species that has historically rallied together to make courageous sacrifices when confronted with catastrophic times. During World War II, the population of Britain, the United States, and Canada willingly embraced strict rationing and gave up many conveniences in the face of a common threat. Between 1938 and 1944, the use of public transit increased by 87% in the United States and by 95% in Canada. By 1943 twenty million households in the United States were growing “Victory Gardens” which supplied a whopping 42% of all produce consumed.
I have said it before: the crisis we now face is every bit as real and imminent as was Fascism in WW II. The Earth as a human habitat is threatened as surely as England was threatened by the German military 30 miles across the channel. But we don’t believe it because everything in our economic system is geared to hide the truth from us. I won’t belabor the clear facts. Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, is the clearest presentation of the crisis that I have come across and I recommend it.
What, then, to do? First, we have to accept that governments are not going to act in any meaningful way to protect us or the Earth. They are not going to impose needed rationing or ask for any sacrifices (except the sacrifice of our pensions, health care, education, etc.) Then, we can begin to voluntarily take upon ourselves the rationing and sacrifice of convenience that is necessary, and to do so, not in a spirit of despair or gloom, but in a spirit of dedication and love for the planet and all of the life upon it.
During WW II, many things were just not available anytime we wanted them: sugar, gasoline, meat, butter, etc. These things were expensive and if you didn’t have the ration tickets, you didn’t get it. Self-imposed rationing is very difficult to maintain because we are so habituated to having what we want, when we want it. So, Nancy and I are using some simple techniques to help us ration. One is: “If it isn’t organic, it isn’t available!” What a blow to our conditioned minds this is! “But, but, but…” the mind stammers, “what about this or that? What about the cost? We can’t afford…”
Organic foods are not the panacea to the crisis, but for us they are a symbol of the direction in which culture needs to move. The self-imposition of a rationing approach gives us the necessary sense of sacrifice. We have a very limited food budget and to limit it to organic is a “sacrifice.” It is, however, very helpful. It limits the quantity of food we buy and enhances the quality. We also don’t eat any meat products, which eliminates a wide range of choices. We are also going to self-ration gasoline, but haven’t figured out the best approach to doing that yet. It is easy to dismiss such actions as wrong headed or inadequate, but we have to take some steps to, on a daily basis, remind ourselves of the magnitude of the crisis we face.
It’s another of the paradoxes Lao-Tzu loved so much: the more of these “sacrifices” Nancy and I make, the happier, freer, and more basically healthy and content we become.
Nancy’s blog has lots of insights from her shamanic perspective on all of these issues. Check it out: Earth Centered Living After 60