Well, I hope you are sitting really comfortably now, because the story we are living out on planet Earth has taken a dark turn. The they-all-lived-happily-ever-after future is now on hold, it can no longer be seen as the inevitable conclusion emboldening us on the journey, no longer even probable, it has been relegated to a mere possibility, of diminishing likelihood. Maybe we’re in for the not-so-happy ending . . .
If we truly do listen with mother, Mother Earth in this instance, we will hear some worrying tales; cataclysmic weather patterns, polluted seas, choking skies, depleted forests, all are clear signs of environmental distress. If we listen to our fellow citizens the news is no better; huge disparities in wealth, violence pursued throughout the world by terrorists and by governments, a breakdown in the rule of law and corruption embedded in the countries that purport to champion democracy, worrying indicators of social distress. And thirdly, if we listen to our hearts, and I mean listen deeply, we know something is wrong, we can feel the disconnection between what we know is true and the world we experience every day, a spiritual distress.
None of this is “news”, we have been aware of these factors for years, but what is new is that the time for action has not only arrived, but nearly passed us by. If we are going to transit as 7 billion people into a happy ending future we need to start moving away from our probable fate (environmental collapse, social mayhem) toward the still possible future (environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling) and we need to begin that journey in earnest, immediately.
There is also one often factor that may occur as “news” to some of us. Our current social, political and economic systems stand in the way of the happy ending. Based on exploitation, which is the antithesis of sustainability and justice, they guarantee that, for as long as these systems stay in place, the happy ending is not possible. That’s right, while we continue to dig up, or chop down, the natural capital of our planet to convert it into consumer stuff, and while we continue to abuse our poorest and least educated brothers and sisters as cheap labor to reduce the price of that stuff, we will be unable to find the future we desire. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but swallow it we must; our happy ending requires a radical shift, the replacement of some or all of these systems of power with new systems that are based on inter-dependence, collaboration, non-violence and renewable practices.
A radical shift; this may seem improbable given the current attempts by both government and capital to restart the global progress project, that unlikely tale that we can infinitely grow our economies on a finite planet. Around the globe, with only few exceptions, it seems as if those in power are more firmly wedded than ever to the flawed policies in which 99% suffer for the enrichment of the 1%.
But perhaps we can also see the signs of chaos and breakdown, ferment and rebellion, in active politics and intellectually. Visible in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, the worldwide climate action movement, and in the emerging fields of earth jurisprudence and alternative economics, here is fertile ground for the birth of new ideas and, in time, new systems.
What options will it take to produce radical change? How can we affect that change? Will our collective future cost us our personal well-being? These are all unanswered questions we will be exploring in future writings. But maybe, just maybe, the happy ending can still be reached when enough of the human family take the radical options to love in the face of adversity, to collaborate in a world that requires completion, to affirm and protect life in a culture that prefers to conquer it, to walk in peace amidst the violence. And maybe, just maybe, we will find the humility required to admit our mistakes and change course, and in that, find the wisdom we need to all live happily ever after.