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Posts Tagged ‘Culture of Care’

Understanding climate:

“It’s either the whole or it’s nothing…”

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/gavin_schmidt_the_emergent_patterns_of_climate_change?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_content=image__2014-05-01

 

Gavin Schmidt said this at the Ted conferences in early May. I feel it is the easiest way to sum up  what is in front of us:

 

It’s either the whole or it’s nothing…

 

Either we embrace that our Earth must be cared for as a whole rather than a whole lot of separate island nations, or we humans all sink together into a kind of desperate living only Hollywood can adequately portray. And with a lot of pain and suffering for so much we love along the way, animal, plant and human alike, in this miraculous, Eden-like habitat we call home.

 

This wholeness can be really positive if embraced as a reason to care now — for each other, for the animal and plant life that is the miracle of our world, for the shreds of wilderness left intact that we protect, and for the areas of Nature now rehabilitating with or without our notice — with as much determination as we can find within ourselves.

 

Yes, let’s respond to the whole as a whole; we have the technology, and the heart and art to do so.

 

Is there any among you who can put a webcam of melting ice and stranded polar bear and cubs on the Megatron in Times Square where we city dwellers can stand, rapt with concern, and root for their survival? That might occupy attention to our wholeness. How about another webcam 24/7 on the screen at the airports, documenting not just the latest extreme weather event we watch in awe anyway, opening our hearts and wallets for those people displaced, but also one which provides a glimpse of mammals seeking water during the newest drought or fire, wherever it may be? Live, as it happens…

 

Too tough to watch, I hear many protesting. Yes, but it is real-time reality TV that simply underscores our connection to each other, our care piqued as we are a species that does have a good heart when seeing pain, and we do respond to help.

 

If we can see and experience the whole, with our eyes and hearts engaged, we can create a culture of care for the whole.

 

Really, we can.

 

 

 

 

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It’s often noted that the many who support abstract concepts, like ‘protected wilderness’ and “Nature” as being separate from human life, actually live far away from either protected wilderness or Nature. The many who see Nature as a value often live in places where wilderness or Nature is not, as in large urban corridors and concrete valleys of city and building, surrounded by human construct. Or it is not thought of at all, as inconsequential and exotic as the animals housed in zoos.

Those who are fortunate enough to live, whether by choice or fate, in the midst of Nature have a different relationship to it: For one thing, Nature is not abstract.  For some, it is living in Eden or paradise. But for others, familiarity can breed contempt:  living amid Nature is living in a daily reminder of all that must be done to “survive against the elements”.

So we are left with Nature in the abstract, valued or seemingly inconsequential, or Nature as neighbor, appreciated or something to be battled vaingloriously, proving we are up to the age-old match.

So how, in these possibilities does consumption or care of Nature come in to our human experience? Each are auto-behaviors, auto- in that we often don’t think about how we choose to interact with Nature, local or wilds. Either we see and care, or feel something for the habitat supporting us, or we see and consume., ignoring or even just not even feeling or thinking about what we are doing.

We thrive in community and our survival has taught us how to survive in community and in commune with our habitat, in a perhaps today unnoticed rhythm and pattern of call and response. Nature calls — we see storm clouds or notice the weather — and we respond, knowingly or not. For some of us, we respond with a willingness of heart and exhilaration of being at one with our natural habitat: we enjoy the relationship of the call and feel our way to our response. For many others, we react in age-old ways I doubt such are aware of; I’ve long marveled at the ‘instinct for survival’ I see in my local supermarket, when folk told of snow clouds on the horizon by the weather service and a bite to the air sends people in for piles of toilet paper rolls. Honestly, it’s the one aisle immediately sold out when snow of any depth is forecast in my city.

What we are talking about is, simply, caring. Caring to be in relationship of call and response rather than in our current Culture of Consumption of our natural habitat, whether near or far away and abstract in our thinking from moment to moment.

But I believe care starts wherever we are, and creating a Culture of Care, moving us away from our Culture of Consumption, is what we do best and is when we are at our best as part of the mammal species.

I know, this isn’t anything new.

The most simple and profound changes rarely are lightening-strike new, or a giant leap. They are steps, small and while securely holding onto handrails, whether in space or in the universe of our hearts and psyches.

Humans are good at taking these steps; I wonder if step-taking are what we do best, using our instinct and intuition to lead us, step-by-step to understanding of that which we didn’t a moment before.

The steps to a Culture of Care, using heart and instinct to care in a responsive relationship for that which we may not experience each day — like wild areas, or wildlife, grand vistas and yet unknown species cute or not, and like the imperceptible web that holds our life and lives together in a thriving habitat— begin with the smallest of steps:

Wonder.

In both senses of the word.

I wonder how that pigeon survives here.

I wonder at the realization it survived the storm and finds any food  to eat at all, much less a place to nest  . . .

I wonder how that polar bear will make it to shore, through thousands of miles of water, as the ice melts?

I wonder at the amazing fact she leads her young to the very same spot for food each year.

I wonder how that tree survives in the grate in the sidewalk.

I wonder that, surrounded by cement, it finds enough nutrients and water to grow so tall.

I wonder how the elephant is able to find water in a drought, or senses when danger is near?

I wonder, I marvel, that such an animal finds a way to survive at all . . .

I wonder why the air is so sweet and fresh today?

I wonder that air is breathable at all. . .

If we live in the midst of wonder, in any given moment, we are not in a moment of consumption, of taking for once and for all time for our own gain.

Yes, consumption can suggest taking for nourishment, but there’s a sense of limit and desperation to the whole of the word, whether as an individual consuming what s/he feels is needed (so others don’t get it) or as a society consuming without awareness — or wonder — where it’s all coming from. As in ‘it’s all for me’; just even the thought of consumption suggests “better grab it while you can,” even though we know from all of our childhood fairy tales and teaching stories that those who share end up receiving more.

Interestingly the word consumption, at its root, means ‘taking, e.g. for granted,’ according to my delightful book Partridge’s Origins. The root of sumption, in all its Latin forms, means: to take, and to take by choice.

Add the ‘con’ prefix and, Mr. Partridge explains, the word consumption means “to take completely, to devour, to destroy.”

Used as a name for a disease from which humans frequently died in earlier years, consumption, this makes sense. And it was always tragic.

When we apply it to the Culture of Consumption of the last  two centuries and especially the one in which we live, it’s a chilling, if accurate, revelation. We take, we devour, we destroy Nature.

I don’t know how we ended up in a Culture of Consumption, but I know it was no doubt the result of small steps taken without wonder, and added to with exponential growth in population and possibility for ‘new and improved’ product to consume.

I also know that the steps to a Culture of Care are equally small, immediate, and begin with something we each can do, and do well: The steps are engaging in a response to a call, taking in a moment of wonder by you, and you, and you, and we’ve begun. A Culture of Care is underway, little step by little step.

Try it. Turn away from your reading and look at something given to you by Nature, whether apple, cat, dog, beloved friend, or tree, insect, flower, or even for the deeply Nature deprived, look at the sky. Or even just try to see the air which envelopes you or marvel at the water in a glass on your table,

What do you wonder about right now? What small observation can you take, in wonder and wondering, that Nature continues to enfold you in all that is needed for life and living? Can you marvel and feel the wonder at what you see or at that which calls you and gives to you from Nature, whether a change in the wind, or a brilliant drop of rain? Or even the knowing that somewhere far away perhaps, a wild habitat simply is, breathing, living, in cacophony and an intricate web of relationship, perhaps sending the cool change of breeze to you where you are now?

The steps to care — and to creating a Culture of Care — are ours to take.

There: if you wondered even for a moment how beautiful is this bit of Nature, abstract, isolated, or abundantly around you, you’ve just begun.

© 2013 elizabeth darby

Wonder

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“(Tu) as courage . . .”

 

As I write in my other blog, Here you Begin, I was blessed with these departing words a little under a decade ago by a lovely older woman, a beloved mom of my friend.  She knew a bit about what she spoke to me in French: As courage:  Have courage. She’d done work with the French Resistance as a teen in her native France and she’d raised two girls on her own as a mother who’d been left by a husband and father when her children were still young. She knew what it was to have courage and she said this to me as I was facing the beginning of some challenging times in my own life-time here.

 

I took the words to heart; the encouragement gave to me a model of grace and fortitude I would attempt as I faced the coming storms buffeting my own home and family at the time. And I knew the phrase to mean both to “take heart” and “to have courage”, especially when used as a phrase when departing, as she intended.

 

What I didn’t know till this week was how the now-superstar “researcher-storyteller Brené Brown described courage. (TED talk here from a year ago; (yes, I’m behind cultural times still):

In one of its earliest forms, the word courage literally had a very different definition than it does today.

 

Courage originally meant

“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” . . .

 

That is what we do, we who write about the Earth, Nature, the wilds, the wildlife, the environment, the places we love that are larger than our ourselves and our constructed homes, the places we can neither construct nor re-fabricate: the Wilderness of our Earth-home.

We speak our minds by telling all our heart – and we do it because we ourselves are moved at that which we experience in our hearts as being achingly beautiful and achingly forgotten in this busy world. We do so because we can’t keep quiet.

And we do it to move you . . .

 and you and you and you . . .

 

. . . to care about that which is largely unseen but is the habitat and source of our sustenance: Nature. The Earth, our home and habitat, whether wild or struggling under pavement.  We do it to make the unseen wild Nature of our home visible, potent to the senses, brought to mind and perhaps even share our sense of how vital these places are to our lives and to Life for all of us. We do it to nudge ever so slightly this tumbling world toward a Culture of Care rather than the current Culture of Consumption we have created this last 100 + years.

 

I have done so for my whole career of — yipes, 35 years — as an environmental journalist and writer about Nature, but also as a teacher and mother.

I do so in the hope that by being moved, finding a place in your heart and soul to see a world of more than humans, to see a world of Nature, you too will be caring enough to participate in caring for Nature. You’ll be moved in your heart, and perhaps even moved to take action, whether in terms of conservation, stewardship, of giving voice and notice to the invisible Natural world through art, protection, engagement, or introduction of your heart’s engagement with Nature to others.

 

The work of writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers — as conservationists — takes courage to express against the cultural ‘norm’ of the language of economic value, use, utility, consuming, and willful destruction of our Home and Habitat that is Nature.

So thank you for making the connection. Thank you for reading, for considering, for creating the connection between Nature and human life, however you do it.

To those who do this work, thanks for having the courage to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart about our beautiful, and in my way of seeing it, sacred Earth.

In a couple week’s time, the  Tenth World Wilderness Congress will be assembled in Spain. There will be a lot of voices there, all having courage to speak out for Nature. I hope you’ll follow along and take heart if not courage to open yours to the Work we can do together.

 

 

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Image

© elizabethdarby 2012

Each morning, in my middle-of-city existence, I hear blue jays coming to check out my back-yard banquet (to them) table where nuts and fruits and seed are placed throughout the year. It is a daily ritual and they often arrive, blue-white sirens which awaken the world, at the banquet table,

um, before I do.  

 

I hear them.

They arrive at first with excited calls — the day is dawning, I muse — and they’re heading over from wherever they nest at night to a feast.

 

Then, upon arrival, the pitched cry goes a bit shrill when there is no seed waiting, and the calling grows louder and faster and a bit sharp and edgy. It feels a bit pushy, but truly I have no idea why; it’s just the frequency of the sound of the call and the rest is imagination. Nonetheless, I feel I understand them as I listen, for the call changes with my arrival with seed. Then there is a bit of silence and after a few moments, the excited call, again, as they head off to the next feeding station on the other side of a street somewhere beyond. If there is seed, then the excited call continues for a bit before they wander off to the other potential somewhere nearby regardless of my offerings. The jays always circle back around to my table throughout the day; if it was empty earlier, they’re back in a couple hours, with the same calls, the same pattern, and the same excitement. 

When I hear them on their way, I often find myself saying quietly, “Yes, yes I’m coming. Hang on. . . .” whether willing exhausted eyes to open or stopping in daily work to make sure I respond — bringing seed out and aware of the flicker of wing and blue as the jays hide briefly while I come out the door.

 

Respond.

It is a conversation.

 

At least it feels so to me, for they don’t ‘hear’ me respond, but I know the calls so well, I can hear the changes in sound based on my opening the door. I can feel their darted-looks as they sense or hear (not sure which) my digging at the seed on my back porch to bring it out, as they wait with all the other birds and squirrels assembling for the banquet to appear. And I can hear the calls change when I don’t respond, when I don’t take action with seed in hand.

 

It is a conversation, whether of sound or sense or dance of movement between us.

It is a “conversation” because we are aware of each other, and one of us (at least) I know is listening and responding to the other, for it is me who is responding — usually with joy, delight, and care and wonder — to the call.

 

It’s an ancient one, this call and response, and like any sacred ceremony based on call and response in any culture; it’s a call to connection with each other and with that unseen but tangible to the feel web that connects us. 

 

As I begin the work of imagining what a paradigm shift to a Culture of Care for Nature looks like and feels like — and how to nurture it —  I’ve wondered where such a Culture of Care begins. Maybe even — no, especially — I’ve wondered how it begins.

 

And then I heard my “response” to a conversation from Nature.

 

If we are actively caring for someone, whether someone we love or someone with whom we care enough to be in relation, we listen to him/her/them, don’t we?

 

We witness his/her/their lives and their perceptions of reality; we make ourselves aware of their habits and challenges, joys and urgencies.

 

We create a connection of care by responding to what we hear and see from them and in them.

 

We are actively connecting in conversation and it is experienced, by at least one of us, as care.

In active connection we respond, “I care what is happening; I care what you say; I care what you think and feel, if not also care about what you yearn for and for your health and well-being.”

 

If you listen to Nature as a conversation, wherever you are in this moment, what would you hear?

 

Is there a pattern you’ve noticed but disregarded?

 

Is there an urging to action that you’ve felt, but set aside to later?

 

Have you responded to the conversation calling to you from all around, whatever beloved you are hearing at this moment, whether Spirit, beloved Companion, or a fellow in Nature?

 

By entering into conversation, we witness, we connect, and thus we begin to care.

 

What do you hear?

 

Do you respond?

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