Weeknotes 19: a shift in consciousness

  1. I recently heard about what Joanna Macy calls the “Great Turning” – the shift from an industrial growth society which is gobbling up and killing the earth, to a life-sustaining one.

    She describes 3 dimensions of the transition, which I immediately found to be a very helpful way of thinking about it. They are:

    1. Holding Actions: work to prevent or limit the damage taking place. These are things like activism, direct action and legal work.
    2. Structural Change: work to create new models for society, to replace the old and destructive ones. These are things like regenerative agriculture, alternative economics and ecosystem restoration.
    3. Shift in Consciousness: work to change our inner values which inform how we relate to the world around us. This can encompass a wide range of spiritual or philosophical practises.

    I think it’s really useful to recognise these three abstract categories, as it’s so much more common to encounter people operating within a single area, convinced that their thing is the “one true way” of achieving change.

    Joanna Macy’s insight is that all three dimensions are essential. Holding actions limit the damage being done, but can’t create something new on their own. Structural change generates the new ideas we need to make the transition, but those ideas “cannot take root and survive without deeply ingrained values to sustain them” (source).

  2. I read an article by Jem Bendall which lists different types of responses from those who have accepted that some form of societal collapse is likely based on the reality of current climate science.

    I found it a useful lens to understand on a theoretical level the different responses that one might have. It’s striking how many of them I identify with personally, or have identified with previously in my life.

    By listing the range of responses, I have begun to see some of the weaknesses in my own responses. I have begun to wonder if what I think is an informed “response” is actually just another form of denial. I am left wondering what my response might become. And what kind of response from other people do I welcome and want to associate with. And what responses I think we should actively help people to avoid.

  3. Check out Fools & Dreamers, a beautiful 30 minute documentary about regenerating native forest at Hinewai Nature Reserve in Aotearoa New Zealand. The reserve manager Hugh Wilson is a wonderfully positive character and has a fascinating story to tell.

    He took a very unorthodox approach, which had plenty of detractors at the beginning. This was to allow the introduced “weed” gorse to grow rather than removing it and planting trees. Over time, the shade-tolerant native trees germinated under the capony of gorse, and as they eventually grew bigger, they started to break through and shade the gorse. Since gorse is not shade-tolerant, it would then die and be replaced by native forest. Amazing!