Reacting to a Warming Planet: Staying Mindful

Arctic sea ice is disappearing. The temperature of the planet is rising at a rate never before witnessed in human history. Research has definitively linked these changes to human activity, specifically the activities that have taken place over the past 150 years.

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But beyond an immediate and natural sense of anxiety in the face of this information, what can be considered a healthy and meaningful response? How should we react? These facts challenge the limits of our imagination; the earth as it is represents the sum of all of our accumulated knowledge, and it’s the only home and the only reality that we and our ancestors have ever known. To accept that the planet itself is changing requires us to accept almost impossible truths and engage in thought exercises that exceed our mental capabilities.  

And WHY would we do this? Why would we choose to face these facts if our response starts with anxiety and ends with helpless despair? What enlightenment can we expect to gain from this painful process if we, as individuals, have no social influence and no ability to change the course of these upsetting trends? If we aren’t high profile politicians or oil company executives, why torment ourselves in this way?

Here at Just Atonement, we can’t provide a universally satisfying answer to this question, but we can offer a simple idea that can encourage regular people (like you, and like each one of us), to gather our courage and keep staring into this challenging void without rationalization, paralysis, or retreat: We recognize that we are links in a vital chain. We stand between the world that came before us, and the world that will continue on after we’re gone. It’s true that we—as individuals—don’t have the power to mandate change on a global scale, and few of us are likely to invent a device or solution in our basements that will bring instant and total transformation. (Though it’s possible!)

Instead, we recognize that every current of action, energy, ideas, beliefs, and lifestyle choices must move through us in order to reach those who come after us. The current flows through us in order to live on and travel from past to future. The dismal and destructive habits of the past must be actively taken up by us if they live on into the next generation and the next. Every time we reject them, or choose an alternative, or speak out against them, we break one link in the chain. Every time we decide to make a positive choice, even something as small as changing a personal habit, we block the current and refuse to serve as a conduit. And when we take a stand and speak out—even to a very small audience—we encourage others to do the same.

We are small, but without us, destructive currents of commerce and consumption-- the currents that perpetuate waste, toxicity and injustice—cannot pass on. Stand with us and help us to stem the flow and break the chain, even if we never live to see the long-term results of our efforts. We can’t fix broken systems all at once, but we CAN refuse to perpetuate actions and habits that we know are unsustainable.  Contact our office to learn more, become an intern, take on a leadership role in your community, or join our team.