I had the privilege of participating recently in the 2022 Conference on Intergenerational Climate Justice. This is the third such conference. The theme of this year’s gathering was “Enough is Enough! And it Needn’t Cost the Earth”.*
We know that climate change raises issues of justice, and that the poorest people everywhere suffer first and most. Intergenerational injustice acknowledges that our historically unsustainable way of life is leaving an impoverished world to those coming after us! But together across the generations we can and must act together to say categorically through our advocacy, and conversion to a more sustainable way of life, that ‘enough is indeed enough’.
Listening to the information shared: the facts, the wisdom and the passion of the speakers affirmed one wonderful fact that together we can make that difference by striving to make our lifestyles sustainable and by harnessing the passion and skills across the generations who want to act for change. We are both the problem and the solution. ‘To know enough is enough, is enough to know’. (Lao Tzu translation)
Participating in this event also reminded me of the need ‘to turn’, in the sense of ‘the Great Turning’ that Joanne Macy (environmental activist, author, and scholar) spoke and wrote about 13 years ago now. Such informed wisdom is ageless and generation-less and can continue to be our inspiration when we take the urgent impetus now, to move forward with action.
Making the ‘Turn’
Joanna Macy wrote the following in 2009:
The Great Turning is a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization.
The ecological and social crises we face are caused by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits—in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.
A revolution is under way because people are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a livable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now. (the emphasis my own)
She mentioned at this time that there were three dimensions of ‘the Great Turning’:
- The insights and experiences that enable us to make this shift are accelerating, and they take many forms. They arise as grief for our world, giving the lie to old paradigm notions of rugged individualism, the essential separateness of the self.
- They arise as glad response to breakthroughs in scientific thought, as reductionism and materialism give way to evidence of a living universe.
- And they arise in the resurgence of wisdom traditions, reminding us again that our world is a sacred whole, worthy of adoration and service.
These realisations, and a profound sense of community, sharing a ‘Common Home’, can make us ‘act on the Great Turning’. Such action can save us from succumbing to either panic or paralysis. We can help each other to resist the temptation to stick our heads in the sand, or to turn on each other, for scapegoats on whom to vent our fear and rage.
“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth,” says Joanna, “Is not that we are on the way to destroying the world — we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.”
When we support and participate in these emerging strands of a life-sustaining culture, we become part of the Great Turning. Through our choices about how to travel, where to shop, what to buy and how to save, we shape the development of this new economy. Social enterprises, micro-energy projects, community teach-ins, sustainable agriculture, and ethical financial systems all contribute to the rich patchwork quilt of a life-sustaining society. But by themselves they are not enough. These new structures won’t take root and survive without deeply ingrained values to sustain them.
What inspires people to embark on projects or support campaigns that are not of immediate personal benefit? At the core of our consciousness is a wellspring of caring and compassion that deepens our sense of belonging in the world, ‘Our Common Home’. Pope Francis lays out this landscape and the dimensions of our care and compassion for the Earth, and our moral obligation to act, in the encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’.
Like trees extending their root systems, we can grow in connection together. Indeed we must! We need to draw from a deeper pool of strength, accessing the courage and intelligence we so greatly need right now. This arises from shifts taking place in our hearts, our minds, and our views of reality. It involves insights and practices that resonate with so many spiritual traditions, while in alignment with revolutionary new understandings from science.
“By strengthening our compassion, we give fuel to our courage and determination. By refreshing our sense of belonging in the world, we widen the web of relationships that nourishes us and protects us from burnout. In the past, changing the self and changing the world were often regarded as separate endeavours and viewed in either-or terms. But in the story of the Great Turning, they are recognized as mutually reinforcing and essential to one another”. (Joanna Macy)
Our understanding, acknowledgement and thanksgiving for the inter-relatedness of all things, confirms that one of the greatest things we can do is to have the courage not to look away, but rather choose to #walklightlyontheearth together!
Prayer for the Great Turning (an extract)
May the turnings of all Beings great and small
move us to find wisdom in our own turnings.
May we be saved by our waking and sleeping,
by the rhythms of our blood and our appetites,
by the cycles of birthing and nurturing,
injury and healing,
mating and nesting,
loss and discovery,
joy and mourning.
May we find in time the grace to turn to one another,
and may this turning
also become our salvation.
May we learn to benefit the life of Earth with peace,
humble in our needs,
and generous in our giving.
May we learn to celebrate the abundance of life with gratitude,
and to embrace the Earth with our bodies in return.
— Joanne Sunshower
The content of this post has been informed by all that was heard at the Intergenerational Climate Change Conference 2022 as well as by the writings of Joanna Macy. This year’s Conference was *organised by The Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles (OLA), the Society of African Missions (SMA), the Social and Health Education Project (SHEP), Elders of the Earth, the North Cathedral and Blackpool Parish Climate Justice Group, St. Anne’s Shandon Justice Group, and Eco-UNESCO. See HERE