Tuesday, December 22, 2009



Saturday, December 19

That was how I entitled a discussion group post the eve of the climate summit in Copenhagen. The next day, I broke six weeks' silence at Meeting with ministry on a haunting Gaelic carol, Christ often comes in the stranger's guise, reminding Friends that, in the climate emergency, it is the poor and island countries who are the stranger at the table. They were indeed present at the table in Copenhagen, but were lucky to get even crumbs from the repast. If Copenhagen has proved the impotence of our international political system, what are we to make of Solstice 2009, and the hope of Advent?

Yesterday, as the COP-15 talks concluded in a whirlwind of desperate diplomacy, I went for a walk with my wife Geeta in the fresh deep snow of our drive. Hemlocks, pines, and rhodos hung low, heavy with snow. Mirroring Copenhagen coming up with so little, the forest seemed to bow, draped in sympathy with the colossal failure of the international political system. It reinforced my deep sadness.

I mentioned this to Geeta, and she laughed, recognizing the pathetic fallacy. But I went deeper than sympathetic magic, recognizing that they are bowing to the Earth. The earth and all her myriad creation, yes, but also honoring her as natura naturans, the infinitely creative matrix of life. Gaia may well be in mourning as the deepest of Solstice nights approached, but she still retains the miraculous power to produce new life-forms.

Then, last night, as I played a variety of seasonal music, marking the whole scope of the seaon, I felt a deep sweetness, surrounded by darkness marked by white tree-sentinels. This was indeed a pivotal Solstice for humanity, and we may now be heading towards climate disaster. If so, I remind readers that emotionally, it is the same as facing personal death within a web of family. Experiencing the “last time” with our loved ones is both immensely sad, and for some, fearful, but at the same time it can be sweet, harvesting the richness and depth we have created through faithful relationships.

So I cherish each little bird I hear singing, rather than remembering when there were more. I admire the grace and beauty of the deer who eat my garden. I delight in the constant number of chattering, busy squirrels, still fed by our stand of hickories in a Southern Appalachian forest that remains, for a while longer, oak-hickory.

If you know your family well, but not the earth-place that gives you a home, then by all means, get to know that place while it still has some integrity. Even if we are headed into a downward spiral, there is so much to cherish.

And as the brave folks at 350.org remind us all today, through we lost a big battle yesterday, the war for climate justice goes on, and the cadre of climate warriors could welcome a boost. But first, gather 'round with those you love, get outside despite the weather and greet your earth-place and its denizens. Enjoy a sabbath. Then, with the New Year, be ready to bring it on again, and that's going to mean holding Congress to the task of passing climate and energy legislation worthy of the science and faithful to the cause of climate justice.

This is obviously no mean task, but when you come to the end of the road, will you look back and see that you were too preoccupied with your own comfort to join the biggest moral campaign in history? Weakened by a rebellious Congress, our political savior had no prophetic rallying cry, only scrappy diplomacy to round up some key developing nations, promising to do more next time. The real heroes at Copenhagen were the little countires who wouldn't fold on the rack of pressure, and the people in the streets, including all the NGO's progressively ousted from the negotiating hall, massing outside as the summit headed into virtual deadlock. Our leaders have failed us; now leadership needs to come from the people.

It's our turn to lead, friends, each in ways that we never dreamed we could. The courage and creativity are all there, if only we have the faith to dig for it.

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