Many, many bloggers and friends have mentioned it. There’s a storm brewing on the edges of our world. Honestly, it does not take a rocket scientist or a social genius to figure it out. Take a peek at Facebook – not that the social media giant is any primary indicator of what is truly going in the world – but it is a barometer of sorts. But it is not the only marker that bears the changing pace of the winds. Just spend a half hour watching or reading the news. That’s about all the time I can handle in such a pursuit.
Our modern society, particularly the western society, is reaching a point where we are going to have to make some decisions as to what kind of people we want to be. Problems with who uses what bathroom. Presidential candidates that are so flawed, that many voters are unsure of which one to place their trust into. Violence all across the globe. An environment that needs some assistance against harmful practices such as hydraulic fracturing, strip mining for certain metals, trash and waste that are piled up in certain corners or thrown into the oceans, chemical engineering of foods in manners that have the potential to be unsafe, the lack of respect for life (human, animal, otherwise)….it is enough for this single Pagan to turn his head away, close his eyes, and stick his fingers in his ears in the hopes that it all goes away.
But it is not going to go away. Not unless we, as a collective society, start to change our mindset. Yeah. That is one monumental task. And I am no fool. There is no way in the Nine Hells that I would be able to effect that kind of change. At least not by myself. This is where aligning yourself with like-minded peoples comes into play. And brings me to the point of why I am writing this blog post. We have to work towards making that mindset change. We have to align the way we live, with the way we think. And that is something that is not going to change overnight. Not in ourselves as individuals. Not in ourselves as a society. Not in ourselves as a species living on this planet.
My town recycles only one thing: cardboard and other paper products. We have two eighteen-wheeler trailers set out by the Post Office, where we can bring our paper products – separated by two types: one for corrugated cardboard; the other for everything else. We do not recycle aluminum, metal, glass or plastic. When I lived down in Denton – part of the ever-growing Dallas-Fort Worth metro-mess, I had a wheeled container where I could put recycled materials into. I then wheeled it out to the curb, along with my trash and waste, once a week. Up here, in a much smaller community, that type of recycling effort is too expensive to handle. Cost prohibitive. I can understand that. The average wage of folks living up here is far lower than the folks living nearly a full county away, in a larger metroplex environment, where wages are higher – as is the cost of living. So, I have to make the effort to recycle glass, plastic, and metal on my own. I have to gather the materials collectively, and deliver them to three different recycling centers (one for each type of material) – all on my own. Quite a time consuming, and somewhat costly effort on my own. In my opinion, well worth my effort, time, and cost.
In reality, it is just a drop in a vast ocean. All I can hope is that my effort gets noticed by others, and inspires them to do the same. In the meantime, I continue to lobby my local city council on the need to do a full recycling effort. I offered several solutions, including taking the opportunity to band together with some of the smaller communities around ours in order to alleviate some of the cost. And to spread some of the effort around a larger area. But i live in a fairly Religious-Conservative part of the country. Efforts like this are likened to the “myth of global warming, as perpetuated by ‘criminals’ such as Al Gore.” I do not share that sentiment though. Climate change is real, and our modern society has contributed to the quickening of its pace. No matter the push-back I get, or the ridicule, I will continue my own efforts, and continue to suggest efforts to my local city council.
The first few months I lived here, I just accepted that there was nothing I could do. I am just one person. What difference can I make? One day, I was listening to a pair of my fellow podcasters, Mojo and Sparrow of The Wigglian Way, and I listened to Sparrow talking about her efforts to protest drilling efforts by Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain. Here was someone that was doing something, even though she was a single individual. She linked into the protest movement there, and one individual become several individuals. And several individuals soon effected change. Several individuals became many individuals. Many individuals become a voice. and a voice begins to have power. And that power makes the changes happen.
Sparrow is not the only individual that is out there moving forward to help effect changes in the community. And honestly, there are people diametrically opposed to your point of view that are working just as hard to effect their idea of change on you. Doing nothing, eases their path to making their changes into reality. Even when that reality oppresses you. Even when it harms the environment around all of us. All in the name of corporate greed and profit. Personally, I want things to be difficult for someone trying to change rules, laws and society in ways that will negatively impact me, my family, my friends, or the environment.
John Beckett is correct: the Gods are warning us of the changing winds. There is a storm brewing. It is time to roll up the sleeves on our robes, and get our hands dirty. We need to start effecting change…we need to help change the mindset. We need to find peace and calm in our world. It will be hard work, it will be difficult. We all have roles to play. We all have talents that can be used in different ways. And personally, I think the Pagan community needs to be at the vanguard to bringing our modern society into the future…aligned with our environment, and understanding our connections to everything.
Yesterday, after a super-long work week, I had the chance to read the Encyclical issued by Pope Francis. Yes, I spent the time to read the nearly 190 page document – minus the notes, bibliography and title page. After that, I spent some time reading other opinions on what the Pope had written. In the end, I found the entire ordeal a little taxing, but interesting enough to write some of my own thoughts.
Now, there are folks – even within the Pagan blogosphere – that write far better on the topic than I will. Furthermore, they will discuss in-depth what the Pope had written, and what precisely he had said. I am going to deviate from that script – again, simply because others will write far more intelligently and eloquently than I will. Instead, I will touch on some of the concepts put forth by the Encyclical and how I think in those areas. Specifically, I am going to touch on consumerism, over-population, the digital age, and climate change itself. Each one could merit a long rantish post, so I will try to keep things short and sweet, Just remember, these are my own observations on the topics. Of the four, the digital age is probably the closest to my own wheel-house, but I am by no means an expert on any of the four.
Lets start here, because the topic tends to dove-tail – in my opinion – from this point. In any environment there’s a balance that has to be maintained for things to be “right”. For instance, an over-population of deer will destroy the ecosystem through over-feeding. The destruction of the environment by that over-feeding puts the well being of other animals that rely on that same environment for shelter and food, into jeopardy as well. What happened to make this change? Mountain Lions and other predators were hunted to near extinction. The same thing occurs when human beings over-populate an area.
I hate to pick on cities, but let’s take a look at my own metro area – Dallas/Fort Worth. If I turned the power off tomorrow, destroyed the ability to move freight by car, plane or rail from other areas, and forced the inhabitants to rely on crops and livestock they produce themselves — its likely they would die of starvation in very large numbers. And that’s after the inevitable munching on pets, and cannibalism that would happen. Let’s face it, people will do what is necessary to survive, even measures that are unthinkable at this moment. Once this happens, the population would eventually stabilize at a point where the environment was capable of supporting the survivors. Eventually, the population would grow, farming and livestock growth methods would get better through trial and error. The growth would be small, but it would be there.
Now, before you run out to buy a crossbow and prepare for the zombie alpaca-lips (misspelling intentional), let’s take a short measure of stock, shall we?? None of that is about to occur, the point is that we live in such large numbers in various areas which overtaxes the resources of that area to the point of not being able to sustain the inhabitants whatsoever. We then rely on the transportation capacity of our nation to bring food supplies in to make up for that issue. That’s just a matter of simple supply-and-demand economics. We do need to figure out a manner in which to keep our population at a level of sustainability…I’m merely unsure of how to accomplish this. In the last century, we had two major world conflicts that drove population numbers down. I’m not suggesting that this is the way to go about controlling the population – just pointing out two events that contributed to a lower population. Hopefully, there are some smarter people out there that can come up with an idea of how to manage this in a manner that doesn’t come down to a Heinlein-ish theory, such as his idea that federal service allows you citizenship which can help in an application towards becoming a parent. A bit draconian for my taste…
In case you were wondering, the Pope glossed over the concept of population issues in the Encyclical.
Ok, I am one to talk here. I own a massive computer system that cost me a very large amount of money to purchase. However, my intention is for this computer to last a very, very long time. But my purchase is a symptom of consumerism. And we humans do this to a very, very large degree. We purchase items that we want and/or covet, simply because our neighbors or friends have that item. We don’t have a major use for it – just a desire to have one too. And we buy the item, along with all the wrapping and packaging that goes with it. Which gets removed and discarded wherever. Typically, it goes into the garbage bin. Or if we are a little more conscious of what we do – into the recycling bin if its plastic or cardboard or aluminum. Every Tuesday, I set my garbage out on the curb. Typically, one garbage bag and a nearly full recycling bin. I can see seven houses down the street from my front door. The amount of waste that goes out is nearly nine times that which I put out — for each house. Only two of my neighbors have more than the two people that live here. Its understandable that they would generate a bit more waste than I do. But I sincerely doubt that any of my neighbors are aware of how wasteful their spending habits are. I really doubt that they take into consideration the packaging of the products that they purchase at the grocery store before they buy them. I used to not pay attention either. Now, I look for packaging that can be recycled, as a primary factor towards my purchase. Furthermore, I do my best to purchase items that are fresh, rather than pre-packaged. The fresh items get placed into a small plastic bag, which goes into my recycling bin when I unpack the groceries at home.
In truth, I agonized over the packaging that Apple put into my Mac Pro, and my two Thunderbolt monitors. The cardboard and plastic was at a minimum, while the styrofoam supports was a touch over the top. I understand where the need to package for protection was necessary, but cardboard struts could have been utilized to a similar effect. But the packaging with styrofoam “seems” to be safer to the consumer – and thus gets utilized. I only have one option with this stuff — to the garbage bin. Which then goes to the small mountain of trash that resides a few miles from my house. The Denton county landfill. Where items are sent to degrade over many years.
Climate Change Debate
That type of population does not even take into account the amount of pollutants we put into the air through the usage of our fossil fuel engines. And that’s only a small part of the pollution problem of the environment, but it is a contributing factor to the issue of climate change. Texas has already seen some majorly crazy weather in just this calendar year. We had a very heavy snowfall in the beginning of the year. Followed by a very unseasonable warm spat of weather right around the beginning of February which made for a nice time at the ADF Imbolc Retreat. This was followed by another very cold weather pattern, which was followed by the torrential flooding we have been going through for almost a month now. Typical weather pattern? Possibly. In fact, I would say “yes” it was. Except that it was made more extreme in its nature through the damage that we humans have done to our ecosphere over many decades of pollution.
Climate Change deniers will speak out against the concept time and time again. They even produce scientists that will say that the data does not support the conclusion. Of course, this is to balance out against the growing number of Climatologists and Meteorologists that have already started to discern a pattern of immense change. And to be clear, this is merely the Earth trying to balance the Ecosphere back to where it should be. The patterns and shifts in weather that we currently are experiencing would have happened eventually, in response to previous man-made issues that have effected the Ecosphere. But the continued abuse of our environment, and the continued disregard of the environment as something that we are a part of (instead choosing to view the environment as something for our exclusive use) is what is bringing more severe changes as the Earth attempts to achieve balance.
It continue to bring up the point: is there enough time to make the changes that we need in order to keep the Earth as an Ecosphere where we can survive? I sincerely doubt that there is enough time to debate whether its happening right now or not…and a bit foolish to do so, since its here already.
The Worth of the Digital Age
In my opinion, this is perhaps the most controversial topic within the Encyclical, and likely to be the most over-looked. But in a simple way, the Pope has pointed out something that older internet users have all started to notice. The internet has become something it was never meant to be – the checkout line at the grocery store. The original purposes of the internet was to “share information” between researchers. Sometime around the mid 1990s, it moved into the commercial vein it has become. Sometime around ten years later, its become the digital information cesspool it is today. We utilize it to sift through information exchanges to see how our family is doing, start digital debates and flamewars on Facebook feeds, keep up with how Bruce Jenner’s sex change operation is going (like its really ANY of our business), and ease the manner in which we feed our consumerism. Oh, we do use it for information exchange (blogs, podcasts, news reports, news feeds, etc etc), but that increasingly takes a backseat to other pursuits. On Facebook, we post our memes (I do that too), we cite our inflammatory commentary from our seats in our homes – comfortable in the knowledge that we can be rude and inflammatory to others, behind the anonymity of our digital location. We utilize the digital publishing paradigm to steal intellectual property from authors, musicians, movie companies…and declare the “rightness” of the action over the “high cost” of the product. Here’s a different thought: if the cost is too high, don’t buy it. That’s called the “marketplace” – if a consumer deems a product to be priced too high, then the demand will be driven lower, which will force the producer of the product to drive prices down to find a match with demand. Stealing product from a producer does nothing but make everything difficult for everyone – consumer and producer alike.
There are good parts to the Digital Age as well. We have speedier communications, which helps to make the world a smaller place. We can get news almost immediately from the time it happens. We can stop relying on trees to make products such as books (Yes, I do miss the feel of a good book in my hand over that of an iPad or Kindle) or album and compact-disc packaging. But we have to utilize such things as this before it makes any kind of sizable impact.
I sincerely doubt that the Pope’s statement will make that much of an impact anywhere in the world. I am already reading articles of people stating that Catholics are dismissing the Pope out of hand. Of course, even those articles have to be taken as a bit suspect – since the idea of digital media news can be manipulated in ways to mask the truth. Oddly enough, I find myself ending my own thoughts here not on climate change, consumerism, the merits of the digital age, or over-population. Rather, I am left with a bit of sadness that all four of these areas are met not with skeptical curiosity by most, but dismissed out of hand in the same manner in which Right-wing Conservatives and Left-wing Liberals treat the other’s perspective. As sad as my final thought is – its apparent that before we can even address the ideas of how to save our Ecosphere from ourselves, we have to dig through the muck of aggrandized propaganda to find the real merit of those ideas.
One manner of getting past that and finding the real truth is working across spiritual lines, which means that the air needs to be cleared of the propaganda. This is done quite well in the book “Celebrating Planet Earth” from Moon Books. I wrote a review of this book recently, and I would suggest that it is discussions such as this that will be the real measure of paving the way forward. As I stated before…there are people out there who are a lot more eloquent and concise on this topic within the Pagan blogosphere…and in the Pagan book-world as well.
Well, the Superbowl was last night. I think I watched about a quarter of the game. I have never been a big fan of American football. The most exciting parts for me is watching the kickers. The rest. Meh. Kind of glad that it is over now. That means that I will not have to listen to everyone blather on about this “tactical point” in strategy or that “strategic point” in how to handle the next play. Plus, in less than two weeks, Major League Baseball begins Spring Training (!!!!), and that is a sport I am truly fanatical over.
Yesterday, however, we got a reminder that it is still winter – at least down here in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess. We had some sleet for a short period of time, which left a minor coating of ice on the ground. It will all be gone by this afternoon, provided the weather folks have got the forecast right. However, the temps will be low enough that I will need to drag my big coat out of the closet when I go to class tonight. Read on the news yesterday that the groundhog up in Pennsylvania saw his shadow and bolted back into his home. The “prediction” of more winter. Now, everyone seems to be grumbling about the groundhog’s prediction – and blaming him (even jokingly) for the extended winter forecast. I do not need to blame the groundhog. In fact, I do not need to blame anyone. This is a cycle of Nature. Which takes me to where I am thinking this morning.
Just a few years back, I remember the winter months starting somewhere around the end of October. The temperature would drop considerably, and we would typically have a light dusting of snow in mid-to-late December here in Texas. After that, the temperature would hover somewhere between 30F and 40F until mid March. But these last few years, we seem to have had yo-yo weather here. For instance, last night, our temperatures dipped into the teens, and the day before, we had been in the 60s. Now, I consider myself to be a casual observer of the weather, but I seem to recall a lot of patterns like this in the last few years. And I can only conclude that the weather cycles on this planet are trying to adjust…and I can only further conclude that it is us – human beings – that is the cause of the adjustment. Yes, for those of you that are allergic to former Vice President Al Gore – I am talking Global Warming here.
I am not writing this to debate the entire perspective of Global Warming. In fact, if I receive a response from someone wanting to debate the issue – I am quite likely to let the comment stand, and flat out ignore it. You – the reader – can make up your own mind about the causes of Global Warming or even if it exists. To be completely frank, I am not even sure that Global Warming is the correct term to utilize for what I believe. But I do believe that the wide variances in weather patterns, the occurrences of stronger, more violent weather conditions….these are all parts of the adjustments that have to be made to achieve balance. Furthermore, I am not saying that mankind’s manner of polluting the environment, over-use of the natural resources, and inability/lack-of-desire to even care about the effects of those actions, are the cause of the current change in weather patterns. I do believe that the changes we see would have happened naturally, just not at the rate of speed that we currently are experiencing. I do not have scientific facts to back up what I am saying here – only my own intuition. So, if you are looking to use cherry-picked “scientific” facts to blow holes in my theory – you probably could easily do so. Just as I could do the same thing with cherry-picked “scientific” data to prove that the purple-striped, and pink-polka-dotted hippopotamus will be making a comeback in the near future.
My point is not that we need to make drastic changes to help combat the environmental damage that has been done. The damage is done, and an extreme change in behavior may only cause more drastic changes. Nor am I saying that we need to stay the course and continue with our current behaviors. Again, I am no scientist here – I am just a Pagan living my daily life the best way that I can. Much like pendulum will swing wildly in a large arch in one direction when pushed, the reaction – the return arch of the swing, will also be large, just nearly as much. If we caught the pendulum in the high-point of its arch, and flung it back the other direction – the arch would be just as great, and have another reaction in the opposite direction. The goal was not to make the pendulum vacillate wildly in action/reaction to our second action – taken to combat the action/reaction of our first action. The goal was to slow the rate of action/reaction from the first action. (Aside – I know that may not make too much sense…but its the best I can do with my attempt to communicate this here, so hopefully, you are tracking this line of thought) Thus, I think an immediate and drastic action to slow the reaction to our initial action may cause a secondary – and potentially more damaging – reaction. In other words, I think we need to make slower, more pronounced changes singular changes to our behaviors.
For instance, in our modern age of technology, our modern age of production – I refuse to believe that we cannot package products in more effective ways to reduce the amount of waste that we create. For instance, we create tons of packaging that is not recyclable – styrofoam. We have drinking cups made from it at the fast food joints. We have containers for food in those same locations, that are made from it. Nearly every item I have ever purchased from an online retail location has come with those styrofoam packing peanuts inside the box to protect the item from damage. Well, everywhere except Amazon, which uses an air-filled plastic pillow, which can be recycled. We scream and moan about these companies following practices that discriminate against LGBT couples, or whether they are using GMO foods in their product. Yet, I have never heard a single complaint from anyone over the wasteful way that these same companies package their products. And just to take it a step further, inside the locations of these companies, I have rarely seen a recycling bin. Typically, there is only a trash bin located there, where EVERYTHING is placed. And I have not even started to contemplate the idea of what these companies do with unsold food product at the end of the day – which should, in my not-so-humble opinion – be donated to a local homeless shelter to help feed the people located there. Yes, its not the greatest food in the world, but something is far better than nothing for people who have nothing.
We – and I mean the royal “we” here – we are such a wasteful society. We over-indulge on nearly everything that we do. Its a part of our consumer-driven mentality. We get money, we must spend it. We are taught that habit when we are young – by our parents, by the advertising we see on the television, by our peer pressure to have the latest, greatest gadget. We generate so much waste – waste that can be recycled and repurposed, which is sent to a landfill instead. The landfill in the city/suburb located directly south of me, is taller than the five-story apartment complex near it. The landfill for my county is nearly four stories in height. I shudder to think how much of that is food that has been thrown away. Food that could have been repurposed as compost for assisting in growing more food, or that could have fed the needy in their time of need.
This is a big problem – our wasteful usage as a consumer-driven society. And one that I believe should be addressed by the companies out there – as well as the government. I do not know where your heart is in all of this, but I want to leave a sustainable planet for the future. I recycle. I try my very best not to waste food. But I am just one guy. What about you? They say a journey starts with a single step…how about a revolution in the way we think, the way we consume, the way we live on this planet??