Paris: Read Between the Lines

Climate change, though real, is so big and so abstract and so deeply frightening when fully considered that it lends itself easily to denial and to disconnection.image

Even when a typhoon destroys your village and kills your family, it was the storm that caused the damage not some clearly identifiable entity called “climate change.” Climate change is a collective global problem generated by a complex web of habits, beliefs, values, institutions, infrastructure, industry, economics, politics and war.

The solution to this is not a set of international agreements limiting CO2 emissions. I think most people know this and that is why I experience so much cynicism when I share about our Maui delegation traveling to Paris for COP21. What most people are not aware of is the convergence of activated youth, indigenous leaders and cultural creatives in a genuine movement for change that is surrounding the official negotiations by heads of state.image

One of the threads emerging from consideration of our current plight on the planet is to look to nature for solutions. The cause of global warming is waste. When an organism produces more waste than its host habitat or organism can absorb and process back into a healthy balance then it weakens and ultimately kills its host and itself. Either that or the host habitat’s defense systems contain and weaken the overly wasteful organism to the point that it is no longer a threat to the host. In the context of global warming, neither scenario bodes well for human kind.

A third solution is that the aggressive, waste producing organism adapts to the limitations of its host before it is eliminated and in so doing becomes either a symbiont or an actual part of the host. All three of these processes are a part of natural biological evolution. And, in fact, we humans and all other complex organisms alive on earth today are a direct result of this third solution. Viral DNA was incorporated into our DNA millions of years ago. In the most simple terms biology’s message is adapt or die.image

Adapt or die. The stakes are high. One would think that a self-conscious being possessing the capacity for extremely clever problem solving and mass organization and communication would have a good shot at adaptation when the biological push came to shove on its out of balance planet. But so far, this does not seem to be the case.

Apparently, the collective inertia of the habits, values and beliefs of our current civilization is overwhelming our collective capacity to adapt. The logical conclusion one would draw from this scenario is that every single habit, belief and value needs to be examined and quite possibly either transformed or discarded, along with the cultural, social, economic and physical infrastructures that form the basis of our current trajectory.

The bad news is that this will not be happening inside the COP21 negotiating rooms. The best we can hope for from status quo thinkers and power brokers is a token adjustment, not a trajectory change.

The good news is that there is a global venue for for the deeply transformational work that is needed at every level of society. It has preceded the COP21 negotiations at the Conference of Youth (COY11) and it continues on in numerous venues all over Paris in places where indigenous leaders, youth, poets, musicians, artists and cultural creatives of all kinds are gathering to strategize, build bridges and mobilize for the deep changes that are required for true human adaptation.


In these venues, everything is on the table for participatory discussion from technological solutions to agricultural best practices to methodology of democratic participation and new economic models. Educational pedagogy, entrenched racism and sexism, consumer habits and first world entitlements are all being examined. Earth centered ceremony and indigenous cultural practices, perspectives and stories of struggle are being shared. And those that have come here to share, learn, explore and take action represent only a small fraction of a long simmering global mass movement that is quickly coming to a boil. Climate change is the issue that ties all issues of environment and justice together and calls us to an entirely new kind of unity. That unity is being forged and its messages and strategies continue to emerge at both the subtle and dramatic levels.

So pay attention to the news, but please, please read between the lines. Yes, Paris is a global focal point but what really matters is happening in our families and neighborhoods and communities back home where we are changing our habits, building unity and political will, stopping the destruction of our land and water, restoring our forests and agricultural soils and applying solutions in our own back yards.

This movement is akin to the immune system of the planet. Where destruction is occurring there is a local movement to stop it. Another group is working on repairing damage through ecological restoration. Another group is staging dramatic actions to alert the larger body to the problem. Some people are in ceremony to purify and strengthen the systems of health. Others are working toward greater communication, unity and common resolve amongst all parts of the system.

So read between the lines. Most of the immune system flys below the radar of the infection. This is hopeful, if you think about it, because in the case of global warming “the infection” controls the conventional media. Most of what is truly happening on the ground is invisible. Only the dramatic actions get attention, as they are intended to do. Read between the lines.

(One of the best English speaking news sources from Paris is Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! She is here on the ground reporting on the entire summit and side events.)

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