She Speaks: It’s going to get bad before it gets worse

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Two weeks ago, I shared with you a lament on the loss of the village, She Speaks: Where is the village?.  I wrote from the perspective of someone who, in her youth, felt failed by that purported village, and also on behalf of a girl whose death apparently inconvenienced people.

Today, I want to talk with you about the desperate need for this village once more.

Do you want to read a paper so disheartening and alarming that it could very well send you to therapy – or deeper into the countryside? I’m talking about The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It’s Sending People to Therapy. 

It’s a detailed analysis about how long we have left before the climate crisis obliterates what we know to be normal, although, I could argue that’s already happened. Make no mistake, it’s going to get so much worse. Here’s the quote that struck me: “When I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease, and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you won’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbors for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”

I admit that when I think about the worst impacts of climate change, I view them as somewhat removed. In Muskoka, we are surrounded by the largest collection of fresh water lakes on the planet. We’re landlocked and much higher than sea level. And yet there will be wars over water – there already are. Yes, climate change will increasingly impact us. Hottest summers on record. Colony collapse disorder taking out the bees, and countless other biosphere losses. The destabilization of the polar vortex means our winters will be more variable in temperature, causing more intense freeze/thaw cycles which will bring flooding, ice storms, white-outs, etc. More precipitation, causing more accidents, and more people being isolated because battling the snow is too risky or difficult. Those people are part of our village. How many disabled, elderly, or isolated neighbours and community members do you check on? How many do I check on?

The above quote brought me firmly back to the Now. The social systems we have in place are being eroded by a money-driven government – activists are exhausted by the efforts to make sure those most vulnerable among us are supported, and seeing that work undone is utterly stultifying. Yet, still we fight.

Currency – money – is a man-made system. It is not natural nor based in nature. I believe this system will collapse and I’m far from the only one. There’s a temptation to become insular when confronted with horrifying information like experts saying we have as little as one decade and possibly a century before the complete collapse of civilization as we know it. People become hyper-focused on their belongings, their personal safety and that of their family. The hoarding and prepping begins. Walls go up to keep those in need out. Every man for himself, or so goes the adage.

What if we tried a different way? An earth-based, woman-led revolution. The earth is telling us everything we need to know, if we would only listen. The medicine women, midwives, Indigenous women, and leaders have been ringing this bell for years. Could we listen and adapt? Could we examine the current exploitative patriarchal, capitalist, colonizing system that is hell-bent on wringing every last drop of treasure from our earth until it’s too late, and decide to try a biophilic (love of life) path?

When the economy collapses, what will your currency be?

The very first earth day I recall as a child taught me that something Bad was happening to our planet and it was the fault of the people. I made sure to take short showers, recycle, and carpool. As I aged, I realized that we the people can do our part, of course, but holding industry accountable should be a priority over our individual actions. You couldn’t create in a year the waste that restaurants make in a week. I’m not saying to give up on your individual actions – please, don’t. But recognize that these efforts give us the luxury of feeling like we’ve done our part, while industry dumps toxic waste into waterways, inundates us with single-use disposable plastic to a degree that it’s inside almost all of us, and indiscriminately snatches up our pristine water just to sell us the plastic that contains us. This is a radically unsustainable linear system. The earth’s systems are closed-loop and wasteless. We need to get real about the culprits of climate change and we need to get together and stand up because there are more of us – but the laws have stifled our voices and replaced them with dollar bills. How much is your voice worth, if money talks?

Let me tell you about my contingency plan, my renewable resource, my currency. It’s the village. It’s community. I invest in human beings, not stocks; I grow my tribe, not my arsenal; I believe in the people around me because I don’t believe a god will save us. I realized early on that I couldn’t learn everything. I didn’t have the time or the skill to memorize every poisonous and edible mushroom in the forest – but I know who does. I focused on other things instead of growing and canning my preserves, though I’m learning – but I know plenty of people with this skill. If I look at my community like a library, I can point to the shelves that contain the knowledge that I, and we all, will need, when this gets bad. And in turn, I have many things I offer; passions and skills that I can exchange for the goods and efforts offered by others. Even so, I believe that every community member is valuable simply because they are alive. I don’t believe in people left behind, regardless of what they offer or what they need.

I don’t want to scare you. I want to prepare you. Things will change, we will be confronted with decisions and losses that we can’t fathom now. But you have time; find your people, have the conversations, show up and make sure you are heard. We are all alive in this precarious time in order to meet these challenges and create something new from the ashes. Who will be by your side when the fires start?                 

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Kathleen May (Photo: Kai Rannik)

Kathleen May (Photo: Kai Rannik)

Kathleen May is a writer, speaker, and activist. Her work in our community includes co-founding the long-running Huntsville Women’s Group, being a Survivor Mentor in the pilot survivor-to-survivor program through MPSSAS, co-facilitating instinct-unlocking workshops for women through I Got This, working as a host and community producer of Herstories on YourTV, volunteering with Women’s March Muskoka, and her role as a front-line counsellor at a women’s shelter. Kathleen is a 2018 Woman of Distinction for Social Activism and Community Development and also received the Best Author award for her 2018 submission at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, a fundraiser for literacy services. Her dream is a sustainable women’s land co-operative in Muskoka.

8 Comments

  1. Jim Logagianes on

    I commend you for your insight into are ever changing environment. But I also have to caution you on the path you choose. For 15 years The Provincial Liberals forced their green agenda in Ontario.
    And now the Federal Liberals are attempting to force their green agenda on the whole country.
    Thanks to the Federal Liberals every Canadian now owes approx $40,000 because Ottawa has no concept of other people’s money. What kind of person would force people to incur debt needlessly? Leveraging people to pay a premium to heat their home in Canada (heartless).
    Why is it that there is not one level of Government in Canada running a balanced budget? How many Canadians suffer needlessly everyday waiting for surgery; waiting to start chemo; waiting for a transplant? The reason they are suffering is because we spend a significant amount of are tax dollars paying interest on debt at every level. Which means there is less money for the services we depend on for survival. The town of Huntsville and the District just hit Muskoka with another combined tax increase of 5%. When taxation strips one’s ability to provide food clothing and shelter it’s time to wake up Canada.
    Canada could embrace hemp, a renewable resource. It is easy to grow. We could eliminate oil dependency by making our paper and our textiles from this plant as they did in the past. We could produce biodiesel. We cold use Canadian technology to make coal burning cleaner. Sadly there are lots of ways to make our environment cleaner without excessive taxation. We need someone who puts the needs of all Canadians on a level playing field.
    In conclusion we need a balanced approach to become environmentally sustainable, not the charade that is unfolding currently at the Federal level.

    • The article is not about any one party’s agenda over another. It is about action. Do not point a finger because there are four pointing back at you or so my grandparents told me as a kid.
      The steps that Ms May writes about are the correct approach, the village will sustain life; not a bank account.
      If one wants to point to inadequacies look no further than the opposition to carbon tax/cap and trade. Not paying for a reduction will literally be the death of us all!

    • I think you missed the part where she said currency as we know it won’t even exist. So all of the talk about politics and currency will be dismantled anyway if we don’t hold industry accountable.

  2. Village is a concept few of us really understand. We stopped depending on our “village” because we didn’t have to depend on it. But as Kathleen says, that is changing.
    We lived in Sudan for a while and there was a young man who would come from a camp for people displaced by the war to work in our home every day. We really grew to like and respect him. My husband would slip him extra money every now and then, to “put away for a raining day”. He would come the next day and thank us and tell us how his whole village was able to eat the night before. You see it was already a rainy day for all of them. Their village burned to the ground, those that survived fled to the camps including this young man and his wife. And now they had a baby.
    Feeding his village was survival for him. Like an insurance policy for us. If his baby got sick, everyone in their village would give whatever little they had for medicine. It would take a village. The luxury of hoarding for oneself did not exist. Without the support of each other, none of these villagers could survive.
    And although we live in a different world, there are lessons here that can serve us well.
    Thank you for that reminder Kathleen!

  3. I read the same article, Kathleen, and your selected passage frankly terrified me. And this gentleman is both highly-qualified, and well-respected by his peers. The only item in which most differed was his Cassandra-like 10-year period; with a generation being the probable median. What really brought it home was his assertion that 17 of the warmest years, since record-keeping began, have occurred in the last 18 years.
    .
    In 2012, the UN passed a resolution (incumbent upon its member countries) which recognized the right to water and sanitation as a basic human right. Fantastic, i remember thinking at the time. I was so naive. The governments outsourced the water supply requirement to transnationals, who were only too happy to commodify it; availability subject to open-market prices. The poor show up at the pipe; they can’t afford the price; and turn around to fill their containers from cholera-infested rivers. Many villages sell their aquifers for a pittance, and sit by and watch all their precious underground resource be pumped out and bottled. They can’t grasp the lack of an “area village”, where they all helped each other.
    .
    Currency; you’re right again. More than likely, we’re headed toward a return to the barter system. The failure of Brexit, and no solution in sight by March 29; the printing of millions of Euros (un-backed by either $US or gold); are just 2 scary signs.
    .
    For another fascinating look into the future (the aboriginals this time), one should read “The Marrow Eaters”. Spoiler Alert: in a dystopian future, where Man has lost the ability to dream, natives are valued for their bone marrow (which allows dreams to revisit). It’s an excellent treatise on aboriginal values; and a cautionary tale for those who flaunt them.

  4. Hugh Holland on

    Excellent article Kathleen. It should serve as yet another wakeup call to all of us. We seem to have a battle going between the “No Change” side and the “Extreme Change” side that is delaying / preventing the “Possible Change” that we should all be focussed on. If we start early, we will have some time to correct the inevitable mistakes. If we drag our feet too long, there will be no time left for correction. Keep up your good work.

  5. John Crockett on

    I highly recommend reading The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It’s Sending People to Therapy. The link is in Kathleen’s article. As well I recommend reading The Uninhabitable Earth Annoted Version. The link is here http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans-annotated.html?gtm=top&gtm=bottom. Both paint a bleak picture of what might happen if we do nothing. Leadership needs to come from government. Individuals can and should take steps, but ultimately government needs to set policies and take action.

  6. I think our financial climate has forced many of the younger population into micro-villages where we depend on each other for survival because we can’t afford to exist on our own. It might be easier for us to adapt into the village idea than the “every-man for himself” mindset people. It’s scary how fear can create a deep and protective greed in people.

    I am terrified of existing through a war-torn world with no creature comforts. I’m fully aware of my heavy reliance on heat, and water, and food I did not have to forage or hunt for. Your village concept will be my only hope of survival. Now I just need to come up with what skills I have to offer in return that would be valuable during that time.

    Thank you for giving us solutions that are attainable 😊

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