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 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.