Sharing (to replace lives steeped in a culture rooted in individualism)
Compassion (which also includes patience with one another as we learn)
Creativity (bringing out the best from each of us)
A Sense of Humor (you know why)
Most every example of a story involving new creation, meaning new ways of being, involve these five elements. Of course there are others, but these seem essential.
|My garden plot in August|
|Important garden guest|
We are growing more than food.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania a group of sisters, Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a congregation I knew from my 24 years in Washington DC with the Religious Task Force on Central America, learned that their property in Lancaster County was about to be violated by a natural gas pipeline, called Atlantic Sunrise (a wee bit blasphemous, if you ask me). It's a project of Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (Transco) and has been the focus of considerable local opposition. The plan is to build 183 miles of new pipeline from north to south across the state to connect with a network of other pipelines to transport gas to their customers.
|Pic: Jamie Beth Schindler, Andrea Ferich; Sam Schindler shown|
But the company had its friends in the state government and the nuns were soon threatened with an eminent domain order - a taking of their property. Faced with this challenge, they sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, arguing that placing the pipeline would be a violation of their belief in the sacredness of Creation. A Sept 30 statement on their website reads:
At issue in this case is the Adorers’ deeply held religious belief that the Earth is God’s creation. The Sisters believe that God calls humans to treasure land as a gift of beauty and sustenance that should not be used in an excessive or harmful way.
As a matter of deeply held religious convictions and beliefs, the Adorers cannot use their land, or allow others to use their land, to participate in or facilitate activities that would harm the Earth and its life. The Earth and its inhabitants, particularly the poor, are under serious threat due to climate change caused by the trapping of greenhouse gases from the use of fossil fuels.They lost in their first test before U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, but have decided to appeal the ruling.
While they may ultimately lose in court, they are "winning" in terms of local community-building, in raising awareness about the sacredness of the land, in challenging the overwhelming power of the fossil fuel corporate culture, in what it means to be faithful to the living communities of sentient and non-sentient beings among whom we live.
I urge you to their website to read more about this impressive witness.
Meanwhile, in the northwest corner of Indiana, one of the most toxic areas in the country sits right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Sources of industrial contamination include the massive BP refinery in Whiting, being expanded for the increase in tar sands bitumen coming across the region via pipelines from Alberta, old steel and chemical factories, and lead and copper smelting companies. Communities of former workers who have seen their economic lives devastated by years of declining wages, disappearing jobs, and health issues that have resulted from all those toxins have banded together with community organizers to fight for some pretty basic rights, like living free of the poisons in the soil, water, and air.
|Million-gallon oil spill near E. Chicago, leaking for years.|
People get organized. Meetings and pot lucks are held (sharing food being essential to any effective community organizing). Speakers come. Advocacy campaigns, some quite vocal and fierce, are organized. Protests are planned and culture workers get busy creating banners and signs, writing poetry and making music. People begin to feel empowered. They begin to see clearly that the poverty and neglect that impact their lives are created from injustice and racism. Once that is seen, soon the reality of what needs to be changed comes into focus. Nothing like clarity of sight to ignite grassroots activism - and community.
For more info on the E. Chicago area:
It's about the interconnections between corporations and people, among humans and the natural environments in which they live, among corporations and public officials, too often wrapped in secretive veils of collusion and corruption. We begin to see how distorted and broken these connections are, and for whose benefit. This is the beginning of empowerment, because the road to real social change becomes clear.
It is at the place of those interconnections that the healing work needs to be done, where people begin to see what must be opposed, what connections must be broken, the ones that are doing so much harm to their families, to the places where they live. It's also where they can come to see the places where the repair work needs to begin, what connections need to be restored. It is how a new way of life can begin to be envisioned, not in a distant future, but in the very way the new work of community building is being carried out.How can an economy be created to serve the health and well-being of our living communities? What does it look like? What needs to be changed (overthrown, done away with) in order for that new economy to come into being? How can government be put at the service of this work, instead of in league with those who have profited off the destruction of those living communities?
People come together. From the bottom up. People begin to get a grasp of our predicament and start getting organized, because the organized power of people is the real ignitor of social change. And to get beyond issue groups and movements that come and go, when community gets built around these things, we change more than the issues that might have first brought us together. We change ourselves. We change the local cultures. Something new begins to be born.
We learn how to live together. Anathema to a consumer culture built on destructive values of individualism and aggressive competition.
It's easy to see from just these few examples the importance of those five elements that we consider essential for real social change, for the necessary upending of an economic system that is shredding ecosystems all around the planet and ripping apart the threads of community that bind us together. We need those threads in order to survive. We need them if we are to live through the collapses coming so that, however those collapses occur, new ways of life will already exist, showing that, indeed, another world is possible. Look! We are already creating it!
In this world, now digitally linked together via the internet and so many global communications networks that make story-sharing, culture work (art, poetry, music, dance, and more) and inspirational examples of bottom-up organizing so available to us, we have possibilities for sharing models for social change as never before. These stories, and our intermingling with them, can ignite the creativity within each of us that this mono-culture of consumer capitalism has done everything in its power to destroy. We can look around the very places where we live with new vision, new energy, to see how we can work together within our own local communities and bioregions to do some serious healing of the damage that has been done to them, including to us. At that point, it becomes a whole lot easier to see what must be changed in order for that healing to come about.
We see what has done the harm. We see what holds the harm in place. We resolve together, in community, to undo and reverse that harm. We decide to take action. We decide to bear witness. We decide to live radically differently, to let go as much as possible our dependence on the systems that brought about the harm while we create the new systems, the new eco-communities, that will ultimately replace the old destructive ones.
Resilience, Sharing, Compassion, Creativity, a Sense of Humor - yes, all of these things and more. Leave your ego at the door.
Finally, we do not forget to have a whole lot of fun as we do this work, to celebrate on a regular basis, to create the new cultures in our songs and poems, our art work and our stories, in dance and ritual.
Because, ultimately, if this is to "succeed," to get us through this challenging time to that other world that is possible, we have to go about this with visible, tangible joy.
~ Margaret Swedish
Related: Regeneration: The Next Stage of Organic Food and Farming—and Civilization
|CENTER FOR NEW CREATION|