As climate change becomes more of a lived reality it can feel increasingly meaningless to come together and talk about how it feels to be seeing or experiencing extreme weather events at home or far away – so I was surprised to feel exactly the opposite at this event. This is a write up of a public event hosted by the Inner Transition group of Transition Town Totnes in December 2013.
In December a small group gathered to reflect together on the impact of Climate Change – in the world and how we live in it. At a time when it might seem pointless to come together and talk about our inner responses to these times, the evening was a beautiful and for me a moving reminder of how important it is to do exactly that. And that in giving space to really notice how it is to be living with ever more extreme weather events and other depressing news stories we create precisely the opposite response to a system that goes on denying, distracting from or devaluing the significance of what is happening in our world.
The focus of the evening was on the super-typhoon Haiyan which ripped through the Phillipines in November, devastating or damaging two thirds of the country. We had particularly noticed the potentially crazy-making combination of seeing images of the devastation alongside the “good” news that Britain’s economy is growing again – as a result of increased consumer spending made possible by ever more debt.
The evening started with gratitude and appreciation, moving to a space to honour what’s difficult or painful about being alive and aware of our shared situation. This was followed by coming back to a sense of our interconnectedness which can be seen as the source both of our sadness at the suffering of others and our strength and potential to create change. The final round was to share something of what we were taking away from the evening.
To help connect with the Phillipines disaster Suzanne read some of the speech of Yeb Sano, the Phillipine delegate to the UN conference on Climate Change that took place in Warsaw as the typhoon tore through his country. He spoke with tears of the dead, the orphaned and those working without food or rest to save others or retrieve bodies. At the end of his speech he announced he was starting a hunger strike in solidarity with those at home living without food, and in protest at the resistance of the meeting to create meaningful measures to address carbon emissions.
After hearing his words we shared the sense of challenge of staying open to information like that of Haiyan, and some of what we do to manage the feelings of powerlessness and overwhelm at such a disaster happening so far away. For some it was made meaningful through personal connections with people from the Phillipines. For others the experience of changing and more extreme patterns of weather close to home makes it a reality.
We spoke of the intensifying of the destructive behaviour of the fossil fuel industry as accessible oil depletes and they attempt to keep business going with tar sands, fracking, and drilling in new, hard to reach and environmentally sensitive areas. We noticed that this time is so unique and historic – that we are living through the end-game of our current system- not just the past 50 years of oil based life, or few hundred years of industrialised society, but the whole material growth trajectory that we have been on, variably, for millennia. We spoke about the amount of suffering that this process is already causing – for climate refugees for whom there may be no liveable home to return to, for those affected by wars over resources, for the increasing numbers needing to access food banks in the UK as the rich hoover up more and more of the wealth.
We revealed our need to distract ourselves, to limit how much we listen to “news” of what’s happening in the world with its constant feed of negativity. We talked about how rarely we talk about these things in this way, with a space of compassion and shared intention to bring awareness to the inner process of staying open and alive. We acknowledged that it felt good to honour these times, the dangers, the suffering and the difficulty for ourselves by taking this time together. We acknowledged our own feelings of numbness, of not knowing, of fear for the future. We spoke some of our anger at the injustices and lies that are being perpetrated by those in power.
And we noticed that what each person said could have been said by any of us – bringing the sense of a common humanity, our connection with each other.
For me it was peaceful, rich and deep, different to other Inner Transition meetings we have held recently. We will be creating more spaces for this kind of sharing in 2014. If you would like to hear about these or other events from the Inner Transition group please email us.
An event of the Inner Transition group of Transition Town Totnes
Facilitated by Sophy Banks and Suzanne Dennis
This evening followed the spiral format of the Work that Reconnects from Joanna Macy. We used four objects to support us to speak for feelings of fear (a stone) sadness (shell beads), anger (a stick), emptiness or numbness (an empty bowl).