How to be Part of the Earth’s Immune System

Hopefully you read  Use Your Powers For Good, and identified your strengths to help you discover where you can be most effective in protecting the earth and her inhabitants from the challenges that we face. The next step is to figure out where to apply your talents.

In Coming Back to Life, Joanna Macy and Molly Brown write about the need to move beyond our current Industrial Growth Society and choose to move towards a Life-Sustaining Society, were we can meet our needs without destroying our life-support system. They call this shift The Great Turning.

The appointments of the incoming administration have given many people a sense of urgency as they try to steer the U.S. away from dire environmental, social, and economic threats which are the antithesis of a Life-Sustaining Society.

The three dimensions of The Great Turning, which are mutually reinforcing are:greatturning

  1. Holding actions which slow the damage of Earth and its beings.
  2. Analyzing our current structures and creating more sustainable alternatives.
  3. Shift in consciousness which is a change in perception, thinking, and values.

Many people participate in all three of these dimensions, but may prefer to spend most of their time in a particular area. If you took the Changemaker Personality Quiz, and are a Resister, Investigator or Communicator, you may want to devote the most time to Holding Actions.

When people picture activists, they most likely envision people marching with signs at a protest. This would be the most obvious example of a holding action. Other holding actions occur at the legislative, legal, and political levels, and are basically any actions which are taken to slow the process down long enough until the second and third dimensions of The Great Turning are realized.

Here are some ideas for this area of activism:

  1. Download Call the Halls Guide. Written by Emily Ellsworth, who worked for Congress for six years in constituent services. She is now using the tools she learned to teach others how to have their voices heard by their representatives. The booklet contains actionable steps you can take to research, organize, and contact your representative.
  2. Support a Social Justice Movement. See this guide for some great suggestions on how to get started.
  3. Join the Sierra Club or one of the many other environmental organizations that use legal avenues and divestment campaigns to protect the land.
  4. 350.org coordinates days of action that link activists and organizations around the world.
  5. Document and share the disasters and injustices occurring under our current system and/or support fact-based news organizations, films, books and other publications that raise awareness of these important issues that not covered by the mainstream media.

If you are a Builder or Networker, you may find yourself drawn to the second dimension of the Great Turning: Analyze Current Structures and Create More Sustainable  Alternatives

Holding actions are important because they slow down the damage, but this dimension is where we study the structural causes of the global crisis and then take action to create new systems, without waiting for national or local policies to catch up. This approach is akin to R. Bukminster Fuller’s assertion, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Suggestions for how to participate in this dimension are:

1. Create or join an activist book group or a movie discussion group which looks at issues like institutional and structural racism, environmental degradation, and the corporatocracy.  Films for Action selected 100 of the top documentaries we can use to change the world, based on their quality, insight and potential to inspire positive change.

2. Support renewable energy. Install it, invest in it, and/or advocate for it. Near where I live in the Atlanta area, there are solar PV bulk-purchasing programs that help homeowners, businesses and nonprofits save on the cost of solar — the more that participate, the greater the savings! The organizers of the campaign include leaders from the Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board, Environment Georgia, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light (GIPL), the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Solar CrowdSource, and community activists. Here are six places where renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels.

3. Support your local food movement. Whether it’s planting a garden in your yard or community garden, taking a permaculture course, joining a CSA, shopping at Farmers’ Markets, or frequenting a farm-to-table restaurant, these are fun and rewarding ways of moving away from the toxic and unsustainable practices of Big-Agriculture.

4. Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL) trains and supports volunteers to build relationships with elected officials, the media and their local community. While some of the tactics are similar to holding actions, CCL has a new structure carbon fee and dividend policy which if enacted, could be a game changer!

5. The Transition Towns Movement is “a vibrant, grassroots movement that seeks to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. It represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people in strengthening their communities against the effects of these challenges, resulting in a life that is more abundant, fulfilling, equitable and socially connected.”

These are just a few of the many organizations which are working to creating new structures in our society.

The third dimension of The Great Turning is the Shift in Perception and Values. If you are a Nurturer, this may be where you are called to serve in The Great Turning.

Without seeing interdependence and sacredness of all life, it is difficult to sustain the first two dimensions of the Great Turning.

A powerful example of this change in perception is in the story of when Joanna Macy met forest activist and deep ecologist, John Seed. She writes in Pass It On:

Standing there facing bulldozers, what he sensed above all was the forest rising behind him. As he described it to me, he felt himself rooted in the immensely larger being that had brought him forth. That primordial cradle of life now claimed him…”I was no longer John Seed protecting the rainforest. I was the rainforest protecting herself though this little piece of the humanity I cradled into existence.”

Examples of movements in this area which you may want to join are:

1.Van Jones, the Dream Corps and thousands of others are helping build a #LoveArmy which is “an alternative to the hate and divisiveness gaining momentum in our communities and in our country. Despite our differences, our common pain should give us a common purpose.”

2.The #BlackLivesMatter movement engages in holding actions and works on analyzing and creating new structures, but I think that they have also challenged many people to examine their perceptions. Personally, I have Unpacked my Invisible Knapsack and  examined my white privilege, thanks in part to the #BlackLivesMatter movement raising my consciousness around the issues of race.

3. #StandWithStandingRock won a brief reprieve from having the pipeline built through their sacred lands and waters, but the fight is not over. It is a historic gathering of Indigenous Nations whose peaceful and prayerful opposition to the DAPL drew the support of thousands, including veterans who took part in a very moving and powerful restorative justice circle. The Shift Network’s CEO, Stephen Dinan writes, “Let us offer them our deepest gratitude, our most generous support, and our most heartfelt praise for reminding us what truly matters and how to summon the courage necessary to protect our future.”

4. With roots deep in the Amazon rainforest, the Pachamama Alliance is a global community that offers programs which integrate indigenous wisdom with modern knowledge to support personal, and collective, transformation that is the catalyst to bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet.

5. Interfaith Power & Light works with various faith communities to educate people in the pews about their important role in addressing climate change and inspire care for creation. In addition to practicing energy stewardship in congregations, IPL brings the voice of the faith community into the policy-making arena to support policy change at the local, state, and national levels.

More important than any test or assessment of your strengths, take time to sit in meditation, prayer, or however you choose to be still and listen to your heart. What is it telling you? Did any of these ideas or dimensions resonate with you? How are you being called to take part in The Great Turning?

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