Saving the Wolves, Saving Ourselves
A week ago, I responded to an online appeal from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to help save gray wolves from a current threat of removing them from the endangered species list, leaving this seriously threatened species vulnerable to mass killing. Then I perused my contact list and forwarded the appeal to many friends for whom I felt this would be of concern. Shortly thereafter, my inbox produced a brief message from someone near and dear to me: “Sorry, I can’t go there. Due to drought and wildfires, wolves are coming down from the mountains into urban areas and are becoming a threat to children.”
Though not a person prone to depression, the impact of this brief message pulled me into a day of darkness and despair. All day, various thoughts and questions circled through my mind: How have we come to the place where we have to choose between wolves and children? Don’t we realize that saving wolves or the spotted owl or polar bears or rainforests is about saving the ecosystem of the entire planet including the fish and fowl, plants and animals and ourselves in the process? Is it already too late?
When will we humans wake up to the reality that we are not better than — or superior to — the rest of the natural world, but only one part of it? Look where our mistaken belief that we should have “dominion over” everything else in nature has gotten us.
The big talk about reducing carbon emissions by 15% (or whatever) by 2050 (or whenever) is ludicrous; we are on the brink of annihilation NOW. How can it be that we are not clamoring for the speed limits to be reduced? What about the millions of megawatts of electricity that are burned daily (and nightly) for huge displays of advertising, which do nothing but promote our unsustainable lifestyle? Is it possible that we ever managed to live without burying ourselves in plastic? (The same plastic that will literally never disintegrate and is filling our landfills, our landscape, and our oceans.)
The huge laundry list of global environmental problems swam around in my head all that day, pulling me down deeper and deeper with each passing hour. I even wondered at one point whether this deep hopelessness and despair ever happens to other people, or if I am the only one who: a) pays attention; b) cares; c) can’t handle it; d) all of the above.
As someone who has been paying attention to the global environmental crisis for 40 years, I have learned that it isn’t considered cool to be a prophet of doom or a pessimist or a naysayer. I’m told that we have to inspire, rather than scare, people into making lifestyle changes. I can see that. It is more pleasant that way. But I’m not sure it is working.
Even with the best of intentions, habits are hard to change — mine included. We have to want something different more than we want what we are used to and comfortable with. How many times do we need to be faced with this “Inconvenient Truth” before we make radical personal changes and demand the same from our government? While I am thrilled with President Obama’s wise and insistent movement toward sustainable energy development, there are many powerful, self-serving voices saying, “It’s too costly.” I wonder what the price tag is on the Garden of Eden! We have to be willing to examine and eliminate our sense of entitlement – especially in our privileged “First World.” How many worlds do we think there are?
If everyone changed their light bulbs, used cloth bags rather than plastic, became a vegetarian and ate organic food, drove a smaller car, and recycled responsibly, would we save our planet? Of course, these actions are important; but, no, they will not save our planet. Until we stop the uncontrolled proliferation of our own species (which no one seems to be talking much about), dramatically reduce our personal and collective, unquenchable thirst for energy, alter the ways we acquire it, and stop poisoning ourselves and the earth, we haven’t a prayer.
There it is. I’ve said it. And on that painful day last week, as I was faced with the “them or us” mentality about wolves, I felt deeply hopeless. Sometimes I try to console myself with the knowledge that we can’t destroy the entire creative, evolutionary process, and that several million years without us on our planet will undo and heal what we are destroying. I wonder what kind of world will evolve next time. But for now, at least, life goes on.
The following day, I was less stuck in the despair. As the darkness softened, I could also see how the whole environmental/green movement is mushrooming daily. Many of my friends and acquaintances are becoming green activists. We’re much less likely to be ridiculed as “tree huggers,” now that the evidence is incontrovertible. The despair is always lurking about on the back burner, though. How can any thinking, feeling, conscious person not be holding, somewhere within their hearts and minds, the awful reality of what we are doing to our planet home? Is the problem that there are not yet enough thinking, feeling, conscious people?
Switch to Monday. I attended a regular meeting of a group of women who have met twice monthly for 18 years to share our lives and plumb our spiritual depths together. This particular evening was transformative for me. We watched Barbara Marx Hubbard, a remarkable thinker, researcher and futurist, as she outlined the cyclic evolutionary history of the earth, and described our current evolutionary leap in an extraordinary DVD entitled Humanity Ascending.
I will watch it again, or better yet, I will buy it and share it with others. You can see it online for less than the price of a movie, or purchase it from Hubbard’s website, where you can also look around at her other activities and projects.
There is no possible way to describe the scientific, philosophical, and spiritual magnificence of this work, but I shall try to present at least a glimpse. From the Big Bang to the present moment, creation has evolved through numerous evolutionary cycles. In each, there was some gigantic stimulus — most often a crisis of survival — which catapulted life into the next developmental stage. We are shown that life emerged and developed from the chaos that preceded it into a new, “higher” form. Through it all, there is a constant thread of Universal Creative Consciousness (call it whatever you like), that is palpably present throughout. We are normally only capable or willing to see snapshots of this moment in time, but Hubbard gives us an extraordinary overview of this cyclical path with a clarity and calm bordering on optimistic joy. Imagine tapping into optimistic joy at this juncture!
Thirty years ago, I heard Barbara Marx Hubbard speak about paradigm shifts and how the old paradigm has to go through a process of disintegration, chaos and collapse before it reorganizes and reemerges as something better – the ancient metaphor of the phoenix rising from the ashes. Her message today is fundamentally the same, but beautifully expressed, both visually and verbally, as the cyclic evolution of creation and consciousness. Hubbard is gloriously hopeful in her observation that the development of higher human consciousness is both the impetus of our current evolutionary leap and its outcome.
The tragedy of the human condition at this moment in history is that we find ourselves on the confusing and chaotic brink of self-created annihilation. The good news is that what we have created and what we are going through are very possibly the annihilation of a way of living which must collapse before we can emerge as fuller, more conscious, more whole — or in Hubbard’s terminology — more “Universal Humans.” Whether we make it or not is up to us.
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