Sunday, October 1, 2017

Who Will We Be?

My friends Carolyn Baker and Dean Spillane-Walker have begun teaching a three-day workshop called Resilience Bridge. I attended the very first one a couple of weeks ago in Ashland, Oregon. Another will be offered in Boulder, Colorado, Oct. 13-15. An on-line version is also in the works.

A few who came to Ashland wanted to talk about scenarios. What would we be faced with as the environment degrades, as political unrest increases, as economies grow shaky? And we did spend a little time discussing the "sober facts" of collapse--the numbers, the science--although most of us already knew a lot about that.

What we didn't and don't know is how these facts will play out where we live, what particular obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness we'll face.

Some of my own fears include going without the medication I depend on, not knowing what to do for my children and grandchildren when they are sick and no doctors are available, not having enough food in the house, not being able to raise vegetables because the growing season in Bellingham, already short, becomes too hot as well, having to defend from intruders those supplies I've managed to stockpile, and violence, violence, violence.

We live in radically uncertain times, perhaps the most uncertain in human history. And what we are facing are predicaments rather than problems. I believe this distinction originated with John Michael Greer. (I recommend his books The Long Descent and Dark Age America.) Problems can be solved whereas predicaments are messes that resist cleaning up--like Superfund sites, my family of origin after the 2016 election, Florida. Predicaments like water shortages, soil degradation, and ocean acidification require "solutions" that seem either politically impossible in the time we have left (like taxing the rich to fund green energy), or mostly theoretical and likely to remain so (like carbon sequestration). We do our best to respond to predicaments but they remain stubbornly insoluble.

Carolyn and Dean suggested that a more pointed and useful question might be who will we be when these things happen, how will we live in the world. What, for example, will we say and do when a flood comes to our town and a fellow human we don't recognize washes up on our doorstep?

That's what the workshop was really about, how to keep living as living gets harder, and even--this is the best part--how to grow.

Carolyn and Dean's definition of resilience: The life-giving ability to shift from a reaction of denial or despair to learning, growing, and thriving in the midst of challenge.

More to come.
An urban garden in Havana following trade sanctions in 1989. 

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