C’mon People Now; Ev’rybody Get Together

Harambee is a Swahili word that means “all pull together”.   Many community organizations use it in their name.  I understand this concept very clearly, being the linear thinker that I am.  I visualize a load at the end of a rope.  The object is to move the load in one direction, so everyone grabs the rope and pulls together in that direction.  I would love to figure out how to jump onto that rope line and move the planet back from the brink of disaster.  Problem solved, “ta-dah”, now we party.  However, our interconnected web of global systems presents a more complicated “load”.  If you start pulling in one direction, something else will be effected and will move.  How will that effect everything else?  That’s something to take into consideration.  In fact, the whole thing has to be considered at the same time, holistically.  So how do you visualize that?  Steve was talking about a gyroscope-type model, with himself as the hub.  He mentioned staying balanced and grounded in that center.  I thought that sounded rather egocentric, but then he spoke about the Buddhist idea that “no one can be at peace until we’re all at peace”.  Then, I visualized a round tabletop that was balanced on top of a ball at the center.  With all of life on the tabletop, we would have to arrange ourselves simultaneously and evenly around the table so that it doesn’t tip in any one direction.  Nature sort of works like this.  Take populations: when one gets too large, the food web makes a sort of correction to bring it back in balance.  Human beings are way out of balance on that tabletop.  We have tipped everything in our direction; we are way too heavy in many different ways.  How do we pull back in toward the center and make room for all the rest of life to be in balance?  How do we look at the entire tabletop at once?

Steve has often pointed out to me that I am “not an athlete” (for example, when I’m getting in his way while he’s carrying a heavy box of books).  He talks about how really good athletes have a way of anticipating how and where to move in just the right way to be in the right place at the right time.  Think of soccer goalies or basketball rebounders.  They seem to have eyes in the back of their head or peripheral vision and electromagnetic sensors that enable them to assess the total situation far better than the average person.  There’s a grace and an instinct that gives them that special edge over the merely agile and strong. We need to have that kind of sense about our global situation.  How do we move to counteract the imbalances in our systems?

I wish I were more of a visionary and that I had an answer for you.  I am a freight train in many ways.  I pull slowly and persistently, but I’m not the leader you’re looking for.  I may be the droid, though. : )  But I believe that leadership is out there.  There must be athletes in global perspective somewhere on this planet.  Let’s start a forum.  Let’s get together to work on sustainability.  Let’s balance this tabletop before we all go crashing over the edge.

On track to sustainability

5 thoughts on “C’mon People Now; Ev’rybody Get Together

  1. I think that one thing we have to do to get everyone (or at least the majority of folks) to the center of the tabletop is to re-frame our concept of “rights.” That sounds scary in the wake of the PATRIOT Act, but bear with me. Americans in particular seem to have focused very heavily on our rights to perform actions: to own McMansions, to drive Humvees, to develop cities and subdivisions in the middle of deserts and divert food and water to articifically sustain them.

    In the meantime, we have placed little collective focus on our rights to be protected from others’ actions: to have our arable land kept safe from developers, to have our atmosphere and climate guarded from the CO2 of burnt fossil fuels, to have our rivers undiverted and ecosystems left intact. Attempts to legislate such protections are met with accusations of “ecofascism”; the fact that a candidate for the Presidency would commit to shutting down the EPA if elected to gain popularity speaks volumes.

    To use the table metaphor you’ve created, which I very much like, we’ve run out to the edge of the tabletop. And not only are we throwing off the collective balance, but we’re jumping up and down, yelling, “I have every right to be here!” Yeah, maybe, but that ain’t gonna matter when we flip the dang thing over.

    I don’t know what concrete actions to take to change the conversation about rights and our relationship with the natural world. I blather about it with friends whenever possible, and try to live close to my beliefs to lead by example, but I am flawed, my results are flawed, and it is a struggle. Like you, I’m looking for a leader, but I suspect that all of us who care are going to have to be our own leaders. At least we have each other. 🙂

    PS: Have you read “The Transition Handbook”? It discusses climate change, peak oil, how they’re related, and what we can do to build resilient communities to cope with them. I’ve read it, and haven’t taken as much action as I should have. Thanks for writing on this topic… for me, it’s a much-needed kick in the pants.

  2. I think that the insistence we have on “rights” is a glaring symptom of how we have isolated ourselves from relationships and interconnection. The “right” is always about an individual; the “responsibility” is always about community. Isolation and disharmony contribute to the overall sickness of the world. Health is about wholeness and unity. If more people could imagine that “responsibility” as something desirable, even to individuals, and not an obligation, then they might stop stamping their feet indignantly on the table edge!

  3. Pingback: O Hai « olyphant

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