I left off in part 2 by imagining what might be on the other side of the ‘bridge’ after we get past the two trolls of colonial christianity and environmental dualism. My hope is that there is a different way to be in the world.
I admit that we can’t go back. We can’t undo Colonization. We aren’t going back to family farms. We can’t refreeze the polar ice caps or re-create the Glaciers in Glacier National Park. As they say ‘we shall not pass this way again’.
My hope is not to reclaim some previous ideal of human community. My desire is to explore a realistic assessment of what is possible (and preferable) given the past developments and as-is structures of existence.
Here are three groups/conversations that give me a little hope:
The Environmental-Philosophical crowd. People like Bill McKibben have been sounding the alarm for quite a while and have since moved to talking about a radically different planet termed “Eaarth” in which we will need to go small and local.
On a larger scale, our whole civilization stands on the edge of collapse because the data inputted into our risk management models come from the last couple of hundred years, a very atypical time. A giddy time, high on oil… Our time, on every front, has been marked by the dizzying Alice-on-her-first-pill explosion in the size of the human enterprise. For almost all of human history, our society was small and nature was large; in a few brief decades that key ratio has reversed. – p. 105
Native Communities: Three years ago I got to take part in two conferences that altered the way I see the world and think about the future. The first was the Theology of the Land conference at George Fox Seminary. The second was a NAIITS gathering at the George Fox undergrad campus. Randy Woodley continues to be a voice of reason and reconciliation in an increasingly complex environment. I am anxiously anticipating the release of his newest book this year that deals with the concept of Shalom and Creation.
Process and Eco-Feminist Theology: Last month I helped organize an event that brought together the Emergent church and Process theology. One of the key folks in that conversation is John Cobb, author of Spiritual Bankruptcy. Cobb’s and others in the conversation are deeply involved in both ecology and economy from a theological perspective. I was greatly encouraged to hear about projects from around the country of communities taking seriously the reality we find ourselves in. From small neo-monastic communities to universities to political & civil engagements, there is a growing awareness that something has got to change.
- The way that we have lived
- the rate at which we have used resources
- the expectations for perpetual growth
- and economic prosperity
have exhausted creation and bankrupted modern human civilization.
This is not a ‘the sky is falling’ mentality. This is a ‘new reality’ perspective that the damage is done and we can not go back or turn back the clock. This just is the way it is now. But if global capitalism, and its mutant offspring – consumerism, continue to go unchecked … let me say it a different way: the church has a message and a historic practice that can engage voices of health and community. Unfortunately, the church herself has been seduced and gone into the business of supply and demand. Those days need to come to an end. It betrays her calling and compromises her message.
The first step is to repent of the Cartesian dualism and the second is to resign from the colonial impulse. After that we can embrace the truth that we are both a product of and a participant in nature and that mutually edifying, inter-connected, trans-national, multi-racial community is our hope for the future.
The expectation of one big global community is ruining us. The future is small, diverse, multiple, and interdependent.
originally posted at Ethnic Space
March 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm
I’m still trying to figure out what I want to say in regard to this post, but I definitely agree with you. The conversations you mention are ones I’ve been seeing as well, perhaps with a bunch of crossover.
During my high school years I lived in the north, in Yellowknife, and there is definitely a strong presence of indigenous groups there fighting for the environment, and better economies (in their control- devolution and such). Alongside that, while we were there, my father was working for DFO (still is, but in Ontario) and was involved in hearings for the diamond mines, devolution talks, etc. But it was a neat place where, well, a representative of the government, was mostly on the same side (that is, protecting the environment- not everyone was necessarily for that).
Likewise, I spent some time in Ecuador a couple years ago, and keep my eye out for news there, and have done some reading on indigenous groups there, and its amazing the power they have wielded. Getting governments to back off on developments, etc. And, its been written into the constitution that the environment must be protected. Enforcing this is a bit tougher, but its a step in the right direction and the indigenous groups have been a major driving factor. That’s super encouraging to me.
Because one of my majors was in economics, it baffles me the expectation for perpetual growth. One of the first things that seems to ever be mentioned in an econ class is the problem of scarcity and how to deal with it. It seems that we forget that quickly, or apply it selectively- there is only so much money to be found to pay for health care, or road upkeep, or environmental programs, but GM and Chrysler need to be bailed out! And we have to keep producing, keep growing the economy, use more more more; cannot have scarcity there. Its a bad feedback loop. Unsustainable, and we have done the damage. In that way, we could almost say that the sky has fallen, we’ve done the damage. But its not as immediate an effect, it’ll take time for us to really see it. That’s the tough part. To get to the point where we know that we know. But the conversations you’ve mentioned are working towards that, I think.
I work at L’Arche, and this too, seems to be a place that is proclaiming the message of health and community, a testament to a different way. Its a worldwide network of communities: full of different cultures, peoples, faiths, abilities, etc. It is interesting how much less concern for consuming (besides the daily needs of food) there is. Instead the food of community nourishes the need that we have. Not totally, not perfectly, but significantly.
April 3, 2012 at 10:43 pm
Jordan, thank you for that response. It is really helpful to hear those details and I am inspired to get more examples for my future presentations…. in your examples I see both the challenges and the opportunities. Thanks for that. -Bo