If you agree with the title of this article you know in your heart things have to change. You fight for your values. You believe in a sustainable world, radical simplicity, powering down from petroleum and renewable green energy. Global warming and global climate change have you worried. Washington’s intransigent GOP conservative denial of global warming has you worried. You know business as usual in our world has to change. We are at war with Nature. You know we have to create a more sustainable economy and way of life.
I agree. We are at war with Nature, and things do have to change. For me, denial is a form of ignorance. And intransigent ignorance is not smarter than 97% of world’s environmental scientists who are warning us that we’re running out of time to end business as usual. But on the other hand, it’s hard to talk about the threats to our planet and the changes we need to embrace because they all sound so dark and negative. We don’t want to be labeled a doomsday apocalyptic prophet. We want to stay positive and hopeful. We want to have faith that things will work out. We want to believe that we will somehow muddle through the problems and come out the
other side to a new and healthier world. In the meantime, we will continue to fight for our values against the deniers of the world. We will fight to create a more sustainable world. We will fight to embrace a radical simplicity that believes that less is better.
I would love to believe this wait and see kind of thinking will work out. But when I am honest and real with myself, I know that when we are talking about global climate change, wait and see thinking is nothing more than TinkerBell thinking. The future isn’t what it used to be. Global warming and global climate intensification are real. Big changes are coming, and when they arrive, they will radically impact our day-to-day lives. Our world and human civilization will not survive unless we are willing to stop business as usual and begin embracing those life-altering changes.
The belief that we can somehow solve the problems of global warming and global climate change without radical changes to life as we know it is dangerous TinkerBell thinking at its worst. Like denial, believing that something is true just because we really, really, really, really want it to be true is simply another form of ignorance that we can’t afford to embrace. In other words, simply fighting against intransigent conservative deniers with words alone is not going to be helpful. Nature always gets the last word…..and She will win the war we are waging on her if we don’t change our ways……soon.
Words Alone May Reflect Our Beliefs, But They Do Not Reflect Our Values
Like so many in today’s world, I’m willing to use words to fight against those who deny global warming and global storm intensification. But I also know that much of my psychological need in these conversational battles over global warming is my childhood primitive ego’s need to be right! I may not convince others to change their values as a result of these conversations, but it helps me feel like I’m living my values. That I walk my talk. That I live with integrity. Unfortunately, no matter how intensely or passionately I argue with others, I know my rationalization is nothing but more TinkerBell thinking. We are in a war of survival, and I know my words alone are not going to save us. I know I’ve only journeyed a short distance down the path to sustainability.
The Steps We Have Taken Toward Greater Sustainability
We grow much of our food in raised beds in our backyard. We recycle. We compost. We have solar panels on the roof. We have four apple trees and a pear tree. Our house is all led lighting. We have a small gas stove that heats the main room so we can keep the rest of the house at a low temperature. We’ve removed most of the grass in our yards and use a drip system in the gardens to conserve water. We’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go. Because our goal is to authentically live our values, we have more work to do. More “less” to embrace.
The Steps We Need To Take
We’re still addicted to petroleum. We still have a small camper and a diesel truck to pull it. We still have a gasoline car. We still travel a lot of miles in both of those vehicles each year, even though the miles are significantly less than they were in the past. And much of the food we enjoy eating is flown in from South America by plane and trucked halfway across the country to reach the stores we shop in. When things wear out, we tend to replace them rather than repairing them. Or doing without.
Fighting For Sustainability and Saving The World Requires More Than Words Alone
Our values, our beliefs, our opinions, and even our faith are worthless unless we are willing to back them with an unwavering commitment to take action to solve the many problems that are threatening our planet and human civilization. Most of us are eager to use words to passionately argue and defend our values, beliefs, and opinions. Unfortunately, too often we are simply fighting a conversational battle of words. Two egos, both fighting for the right to be “right”. But in that passionate fight to be “right”, the commitment to actually change our lifestyle and take action to manifest our values and beliefs in the real world…..are too often missing in action.
No matter how passionately we believe our beliefs and values represent absolute truth…..they are meaningless unless we back them up with deep commitment and a willingness to take action on those values and beliefs.
Conservatives may continue to believe the party line that global warming is simply an excuse to increase government, but our Nation’s awareness that climate change and global warming are real is growing. However, the level of concern and willingness to get involved and take action in our Nation is still frighteningly low. Very few voters rank climate change as a major concern or one of their top priorities.
The changes we need to embrace to achieve sustainability will have to come from the bottom up, not the top down. Waiting for a bipartisan agreement to deal with global climate change is not going happen soon enough to avoid the environmental crises that is rapidly heading our way. The only way we can avoid the coming environmental crises is through an intentional commitment to increase the localization of food and energy through local community action. And one of the most important actions we take need to take is manifesting compassion and a deep respect for the beliefs and opinions of those who are not as convinced that global warming represents a crisis for our world. We need them on our side. We need to change their minds. Not aggressively defending their beliefs because we’ve alienated or demonized them by our ego’s need to be “right”.
Changing Minds Is A Process That Requires Deep Listening, Respect, and Compassion
Our beliefs, ideas and opinions are certainly important. They are the rudder that determines the overall direction of our life. They determine how we will act in the world. They define who we are and where we stand on the issues that give meaning to our lives. But others will know us not by the passion of our words alone, but rather by our passion for sustainability and our commitment to take decisive action on our beliefs and values.
In our “need to be right” conversational battles, we need to remind ourselves that the beliefs, opinions, and ideas of the person we are attempting to passionately convert to our cause…are their rudders….their values. And like us, their values and beliefs define who “they” are. They provide meaning to “their” lives. And we need to respect them and their values. We need to be careful not to dominate the conversation or intimidate with negative energy. Or demonize them. If we want to enlist their help in the environmental war to create a sustainable world, we have to begin by first respecting them…..and what they currently believe.
If we want to be successful in recruiting others to join us in the work of sustainability….we need to learn to be a better listener than talker. Listen for the person’s values. Don’t speak until you are certain you fully understand how the other person came to their beliefs and values….and how their beliefs and values came to give meaning to their life. Don’t speak until you fully understand how their beliefs and values came to define who they are.
When you have done that kind of careful listening and asking questions; when you are certain you truly understand them, you can gently offer them your beliefs and ideas on the concepts of environmental sustainability. If they can’t hear you, simply smile and change the subject. All they are doing, like you, is protecting their sense of self-identity. If you push your ideas too hard, it will only cause the other person to more aggressively defend their position. And it will no longer be a conversation about their beliefs….it will be about them aggressively defending their sense of self-identity. And that’s a battle you cannot win. Just smile and gently change the subject. Many families and friendships have been destroyed by the inability to embrace these ideas.
Remember, the path to transition and transformation from an old way of being to a new way of being will happen only when the other person experiences your respect for them as a person.
We need all the help we can get if we are to be successful in creating a more simple and environmentally sustainable world. But changing the mindset of conservatives, deniers, or the indecisive minds of those who are torn between their values and their unwillingness to get involved, will never happen using words alone. In fact, our need to be right in our conversations with them will not only harm our relationships with them…..it will only harden their position and create more division and conflict in the world.
A Final Thought On Changing Minds
When talking with deniers, try to embrace two concepts. The first, as I mentioned above, is be a good listener that respects what the other is saying. And the second is to always remind ourselves that no one is smart enough to be right or wrong all of the time. And that includes us. Become a better listener and actively search for the truths on their side of the issue……before we begin to speak. Searching for the truths on both sides of an issue is what I call “middlepath” thinking. And when I am wise enough to honor their truths before I offer what I consider to be my truths I may not be successful in changing how the other person thinks. But middlepath thinking is a practice that almost always changes me.
We need more peace in the world…not more conflict and division. Our world is divided and negative enough. It doesn’t need us making it more divided. The more we can value differences as strength, the more it will help us embrace the middlepath kind of thinking I mentioned above. It will encourage us to listen more carefully for the truths in the other person’s position… and avoid sending the emotional message that we are demonizing them. They are not evil, they simply have different beliefs.
When I encounter resistance in the other person, I know I’m proselytizing my beliefs. I’m trying too hard to change their minds. When that happens, I refocus the conversation onto my commitment to create a more simple and sustainable world. I share with them some of the things I am doing to try to make a difference in the world. And why I am doing them.
Our values, beliefs, opinions, and ethics are worthless without a deep commitment to actions that manifest those values, and ethics in the world.
- Beliefs without action = meaningless
- Values without action = meaningless
- Faith = when your beliefs, opinions, values, and ethics hold firm even when you are not certain that your actions are actually making a difference in the world.
- Faith does not depend on outcomes, it depends on the difference you would like your life to make in the world.
“We need to embrace the side of religion that maintains faith and beliefs regardless of the consequences. A faith in sustainability and a radically simple way of life…….regardless of our broken, uneven, and probably terrifying path towards that sort of world. Whether or not it “works” has to become “beside the point”. We need to congregate with other believers, clarify our story, sharpen our hopes, broaden our vision, reflect upon our interconnection, and survive the future….drill deeper into the heart of inner change.” Transitions Movement Erik Lindberg
I believe the inner change Lindberg is talking about will come about only when we learn to tame the unconscious conditioning of our childhood primitive ego and become intentionally more awakened and self-aware of the kind of energy we are sending into the world. I believe taming our childhood primitive ego is the only viable path toward the sustainable world we want to create…..the radical simplicity of the sustainable world we to need to create, live in, and pass on to our children. A faith in a future that is far deeper than we are yet embracing!!!!
We are still attempting to live in a world where very little is sacred….where everything is there for the taking. A world based on greed and “what’s in it for me”. Taming our childhood primitive ego from this kind of thinking is the only path that I see as capable of supporting the creation of a truly sustainable world…..a world of radical simplicity, and deeper meaning…..a world that gives new meaning to the concept of the “human family”.
Whatever you believe, whatever the ground you “stand” on, let your commitment to powering down from petroleum and increasing radical simplicity in the world be like a giant Ponderosa or a mighty Redwood. Let your beliefs and values be the soul of the ground that your commitment to action draws its strength from. Embrace your beliefs about simplicity and sustainability with compassion, empathy, and hope but let your words reflect the compassion that will be required to reverse the growing divisive negativity that is rapidly turning our world into a battleground between us vs. them. Model a more gentle way of being in the world; the heart of simplicity.
And finally, always keep in mind the reality that whatever the outcome of our differences……we are all on this journey together. Whatever world we create…. we will thrive or die together. It’s our call. Our future will call us to embrace radical change, and that change will include our current lifestyle.
Our world needs all of our dreams and goals. Our world needs you to be successful!
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