We can no longer use more and more of the earth’s resources. We live on a finite planet and endless growth is not a formula for economic success, but a cancer.
The Northern California fires have hit close to home. One of the employees of our local hospital lost his house and all the family’s possessions on Sunday. Other friends are taking in families who have lost everything. Every one of these statistics has a personal story attached:
Valley fire (as of September 16, 7:00 a.m.)
- 70,000 acres burned
- 30% contained
- 13,000 people displaced
- 7,650 structures threatened
- 585 homes, hundreds of other buildings destroyed
- 2,793 fire workers
- 4 injured firefighters
- 1 confirmed death
Butte fire (as of September 16, 3:00 p.m.)
- 71,780 acres burned
- 45% contained
- 10,000 people displaced
- 6,400 structures threatened
- 233 homes, 175 outbuildings destroyed
- 4,865 fire workers
- 6,000 homes evacuated
- 1 confirmed death
But these personal tragedies are part of a much larger story that impacts everyone on the face of the planet. The truth is we are living in ways that are unsustainable and the human species is at risk. If we don’t make major changes in our lifestyles more land will burn, more structures will be destroyed, more people will be displaced. These fires can be a wake-up call to action. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, many still don’t want to believe that these are not “natural” disasters, but human-made ones that we can do something about.
John L. Petersen, President and Founder of the prestigious Arlington Institute, is considered by many to be one of the most informed futurists in the world. Three years ago he warned,
“Converging trends strongly suggest that the world–and our country–are about to experience the greatest change and disruption known in our history. The next half dozen years will likely see rapid, global climate change coupled with the beginning of the end of the petroleum era and a reorganization of the planetary energy regime, a major shock to the global financial system, unprecedented food prices and the growing possibility of wild card events.”
[These are events like the fires that could not be specifically predicted, but are the likely result of these trends].
The reality of this massive shift in the world was first brought home to me during a sweat lodge ceremony at a men’s conference in 1995. The sweat lodge is an ancient ceremony present in cultures throughout the world, and is often used as a time for cleansing, prayer, and for asking for guidance or visions about the future. In the fourth round of the sweat lodge ceremony, the lodge became so hot that many of the men were forced to crawl out. I was sitting at the very back in the hottest spot. I wasn’t aware of the heat because I was transported by a vision where I saw the sinking of the Ship of Civilization. Most died on the ship, but some escaped in lifeboats and began to new civilization that was truly sustainable.
For the last twenty years I’ve been exploring what it means to get off the old Ship of Civilization and find a new, more sustainable way to live. Many others have had similar visions and are developing new ways to enjoy life on planet Earth. Others are reluctant to leave the security of the familiar.
“People don’t seem to realize that it is not like we’re on the Titanic and we have to avoid the iceberg,” says Rob Watson, CEO and Chief Scientist of The EcoTech International Group. “We’ve already hit the iceberg. The water is rushing in down below. But some people just don’t want to leave the dance floor; others don’t want to give up on the buffet. But if we don’t make the hard choices, nature will make them for us.”
The Emergence of Civilization 2
In my own community of Willits, California, we are working to create a new civilization. In 2004, we created the WELL (Willits Economic LocaLization) to foster the creation of a local, sustainable economy in the Willits area by helping residents learn valuable skills and take action. We also partner with other organizations to share knowledge and support projects that build a thriving community. It’s clear to us that we can no longer use more and more of the earth’s resources. We live on a finite planet and endless growth is not a formula for economic success, but a cancer which will lead to increasing depression and suicide.
One of the local organizations we work with is John Jeavons’ Ecology Action program. Says Jeavons,
“Aware of intensifying world challenges and the basic need of people to feed themselves, we have been working for 40 years to develop an elegant, small-scale agricultural system—GROW BIOINTENSIVE® Sustainable Mini-Farming—that when practiced correctly, nurtures healthy soil fertility, produces high yields, conserves resources and can be used successfully by almost everyone. Our goal is to help this system be known and used locally…on a worldwide basis.”
Another organization we have partnered with is the Post Carbon Institute where my colleagues Richard Heinberg, Rob Hopkins, Bill McKibben and Chris Martenson, are fellows. Founded in 2003, Post Carbon Institute’s mission is to lead the transition to a more resilient, equitable and sustainable world by providing individuals and communities with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy and ecological crises of the 21st century.
I recently heard from my friend Mark Feensta about another organization forming called Civ2: Co-create the New. Says Feenstra,
“More and more of us are developing and accessing innovative ways to contribute to a civilization that works for all—in ourselves, our communities, our work and our lifestyles. We call it Civ2.”
Feenstra notes that thousands of social and cultural movements bear witness to our efforts to make a better world for all. But as a sub-culture we’re still fundamentally fragmented and therefore more vulnerable than we could be to ingrained Civ1 tendencies, such as prioritizing economic growth above all else, promoting images of success that discount true well-being, externalizing social and environmental costs and under-investing in cultivating deeper awareness.
“Our big idea is that we unite around holding space for one another to discover, co-create and share our best contributions to a civilization that works for all.”
If you’re interested in hearing more about Mark’s big idea he can be contacted at [email protected].
If you’re ready to get off the sinking ship of Civ1 and get onboard Civ2, I encourage you to check out these organizations. As always I appreciate your comments. It’s a good way to share the wealth of information, hope, and vision that will be needed to move from Civ1 to Civ2.
Originally posted on MenAlive. Reprinted with permission.
Photo credit: Getty Images