Guest editorial: Breathing with the climate crisis, and the opportunity in it


My brother has always been a climate skeptic as far as human influence on the climate goes.  However, it never stopped him from considering the opportunity that lives in assuming we do have a negative influence.  That is, by assuming we do have a significant influence, we can create some good and potentially lots of savings in the process.

In Bend, Oregon about 10 plus years ago, he was among the very first to build net-zero homes.  I say “homes” in the plural, because he found they saved enough that he developed about a half dozen for sale and did very well as a developer in his retirement.  In fact, during this period he found that the cost to build net-zero came in line with traditional construction.  

And on top of that, he pays nothing for heat, lights, cooling, fuel for his cars, and more.  Virtually no utility or energy bills in his retirement years.  And his house is comparable to or above the market value of similar homes.

The beauty is that new technologies that rely on renewable energy sources are often more affordable and cheaper to install and operate then traditional fossil-fuel-based technologies.  What is required is a change of perspective to considering the lifetime cost of both acquisition and operating costs, as well as longevity of the options. 

For example, when we bought our Chevy Bolt in 2017, we estimate we spent at most an extra 10%, or about $3,000, plus about $7,500 towards the increased solar generation on our roof needed to power the car.  But we have saved over $11,000 in fuel, oil changes, and maintenance costs over the past six years.  During this time, we have taken our car to the garage for tire rotations 10 times and once for a brake job.  For the next six-plus years (or quite likely 10 years with the durability of electric motors), we drive for free from my perspective!

From another perspective, the climate crisis is a relationship crisis.  A relationship crisis between ourselves and our mother earth.  I say “mother earth” as most all ancient native traditions instinctively understood the earth to be a living being.  This perspective got lost as man developed a more analytical and mechanistic head set toward the earth.  In the 70s, we saw the rebirth of Gaia, a recognition of mother earth as a living entity, the source of all life on the planet.  There are some who now who speak of her rain forests as her lungs, surface soils as her skin that bears the foundation for all of life, the waters as her life blood.  Her rivers, seas, fields, mountains, glaciers, minerals, and all serve as her organs: serve to bring her health, just as animals and humans can experience their organs.

In this vein, we all have an instinct to not harm other beings, particularly our animal friends and fellow humans.  That is our higher nature.  We all tend to wish to assist any being that is hurting, to not ignore its ailing, to bring healing if we can.  Some see the earth as suffering from a fever, just as we do when our organs are compromised.

We even have inclinations to fix broken machinery, even if we see the earth as simply a machine to serve us.  

For decades we have been injuring the earth with tons and tons of thousands of different manmade, untested chemicals.  We have assumed we can live in a ‘more, more, more’ culture indefinitely.  The earth now needs to be treated with a sensitivity to her vulnerabilities and attention to what will heal her fever. 

The point is that relating to the earth as a mass of random atoms that clustered together to generate life and serve as humankind’s resource to spoil is perhaps the heart of the problem.  As humankind ‘advanced’ from a more instinctual (and some might say “alive relationship”) with nature and the earth, this experiment of a mechanistic approach took greater and greater hold in the past several hundred years.  As humankind “evolved” from perhaps its childlike stage millennia ago, through its teenage years of the past centuries, we have broken into our heady youthful twenties: an untested age of spreading our wings, relying on our rational mind to the exclusion of the instinctual heritage of our ancestors.  We have lost sight of respecting Mother Earth.  

I recently heard about a study that found about 3% of Americans surveyed were so stressed and overwhelmed by “climate change” that they were dysfunctional and could not act to take meaningful steps to address the problem.  Another 8% were distressed, but in a way that motivated them to take actions in their personal lives.  The rest were somewhere between “aware of the concern, but not distressed enough to act” and “denying climate change is something we have significantly influenced.” The reporter announcing this study was advocating we empower more of our friends to take the “recognize the distress and take action” posture.

In pondering this, I conclude that what we really need is to turn to another whole perspective.  That is, finding the joy of entering into a partnership with mother earth.  A partnership based on recognizing our ways have hurt her.  And turning toward attending to her needs for healing, becoming attentive to her wounds, being willing to change our point of view from anthropocentricity to a humbler view. Much like little children, whom we are to aspire to emulate, it is time to embody a reverence for our Mother Earth and take delight in her life-giving capacities.  It is time to grow out of our heady twenty-something stage into one that balances youthful delight and awe with our pragmatic capacity to heal.

Many may see this suggestion as malarky, which I understand.  It is a very different perspective than most of us encounter.  However, as my brother would say, why not try this point of view on for a few years and see what opportunity lies within it?

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