This past weekend I (Hannah) was invited to give a brief talk at Landcare Tasmania’s conference – an exploratory chat on land and life in the face of the climate crisis. I thought a lot about what to say and even put words on paper (a rare occurrence) – here are those words…
I get a lot of people asking me what do we need to do to respond to the climate crisis? I have two responses. The first is my practical action-based answer which is full of critical initiatives we need to crack on with right now. These include establishing local food systems, stopping mass deforestation, adopting permaculture and regenerative agriculture to manage land holistically. Embracing perennial cropping and not just annual cropping, eating less meat, practicing urban agriculture, advocating for sustainable transport solutions, not flying so much, having less kids, riding a bike, divesting our super out of funds that invest in fossil fuel, resolving inequality, protecting biodiversity, composting everything you can possibly compost, advocating for good governance from our politicians, planting trees, working with First Nation Australians towards healing, supporting renewable energy and not buying so much stuff all the time… These are just a few of the many, many things that we, as a culture, need to crack on with.
My second response is more concise, yet just as critical – and could actually solve all of the issues I just rattled off above. I believe two of the most important things we can do in the face of the climate crisis is build community and foster an enthusiastic imagination.
- I’m going to spend my time with you today exploring these two things, starting with building community…
US congress woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says… “Some of best work we can do right now is building and deepening our sense of community.
….It’s how we create bonds that add meaning to our lives, how we educate one other compassionately, and how we create real, sustainable power that serves the people, the environment, and our future…”
So what does this look like in the face of the climate crisis? It involves a million different approaches to creating and organising community where people are engaged, empowered, and ultimately mobilised into effective, meaningful action… Some examples include…
- In South Australia, the Red Cross are rolling out a program called Climate Ready Communities to mobilise people in making changes right now to adapt to the climate crisis. This is based on a peer-to-peer approach of residents talking to other residents to build relationships across whole regions to support each other to create resilience for their land and lives with both environmental and social solutions. They’re tackling big things like how to adapt to the increasing threat of fire, drought, social isolation, mental health, food security and more. And they’re doing this over resident’s kitchen tables and in local community halls.
- A second example is Farmers for Climate Action. This is a national movement of farmers, agricultural leaders and rural Australians working to ensure farmers are a key part of the solution to the climate crisis. Because, did you know that agriculture accounts for 13% of Australia’s emissions – so while they could be seen as part of the problem, they can actually an enormous part of the solution – if they’re supported to be.
Farmers for Climate Action work directly with farmers to recruit other farmers. Together they’re building and strengthening regional communities to be more connected, educated and activated. And importantly, they’re supporting climate solutions being implemented on farms and advocating together to influence the whole sector and the government to implement climate policies that reduce pollutions and benefit rural communities.
- A third example is a wonderful organisation you might know of called Landcare. For over 30 years people like you have been working across agricultural and environmental initiatives that restore health to the land, water ways and to whole communities. The work that Landcare has already done in responding, and adapting to the climate crisis is extensive – however the opportunities to do more is also extensive and needed more than ever. Landcare is beautifully positioned and networked to make an increasingly deep impact – politically, socially and environmentally. I specifically believe continuing your work with communities in particular is a key way to help uplift one another so we can transform lives and landscapes to be more resilient in the face of the climate crisis.
These few examples have community at the heart of what they do, because while there can be value in a top down approach to initiating change. Bottom up, grass roots movements have proven again and again throughout history that they can be the most effective method to inspire mass change when it’s needed the most. And we need it the most right now.
- The second thing I’d like to flesh out with you today is the important task of fostering enthusiastic imaginations…
A fellow called John Dewey who’s a social reformer defines imagination as the ability to look at things as if they could be otherwise.
Because the fact is we need active imaginations to dream up a future that’s different to the one we’re currently on track to creating. We need innovative, creative and different thinking to the “business as usual” thinking that currently dominates our collective brain.
Because…. We can’t create what we can’t dream of. Ancient Hawaiian wisdom (Huna) said “Energy flows where attention goes”. And I can see truth in that.
In recent times, when I have conversations about the climate crisis – some environmental activists I’ve known for many years are now talking the doom and gloom talk – the “we’re all gonna die” talk. While this attitude is a valid response based on facts provided by numerous climate scientists and our current political trajectory, it is not the stuff of great imagination. It is not the attitude that will help us change this trajectory into one of hope and a thriving life for all. I for one, do not want to spend any time putting my attention into thinking we’re all going to die. Saying that, we can’t ignore the facts and pretend there’s nothing concerning happening. But I’d much prefer to use those facts to inform solution-based thinking and acting for a hopeful future and let the energy flow into helping make that happen. But we can’t do this without dreaming big.
As author, Rob Hopkins says, “…Imagination is central to empathy, to creating better lives, to envisioning and then enacting a positive future…
He goes on to say that
…When we reclaim and unleash our collective imagination, we can create often rapid and dramatic change for the better…”
So basically, the future is a vast land of opportunity that our imaginations can help dream into existence.
Some of my hot tips that can help foster enthusiastic imaginations include:
- Stop staring at the TV so much and start staring more at trees, soil, the ocean, rocks and the sky. I have found that this has a miraculous effect of providing perspective and reminding us of our delightfully small place in the universe.
- Where possible, carve out time in your busy life to daydream. For me this is often at 4am when my house and the world is quiet. With a cup of tea in my hand I watch the sun rise and let the thoughts roll through my brain. Sometimes I latch on to the ones that bring interest and hope and sometimes I just try to empty my brain and let them all wash over me. When my brain is empty, I’ve found that that’s when clarity and good thinking arrives. And,
- My third tip for fostering imagination is – Love. Practice loving people. This includes yourself, your immediate family, friends and community. But it also includes the strangers you pass in the street each day and the person who serves you at your corner shop. We are all in this climate crisis together – love will help keep us together as we navigate our way through it.
In summary – our future is one big, fat great unknown. There’s no way of really knowing what will happen tomorrow, next week or in 2040. Despite this, we have enormous potential to create an amazing future if we fully embrace the importance of right now – which is the only thing we actually have control over. If we live our lives meaningfully and perhaps a bit radically we can ensure that everything we do today, can help create a tomorrow that’s the product of our brilliant, hopeful imaginations and brought to life with our resilient, glorious communities. So that while we’re stepping into a future that is largely unknown, it’s one that we can all look forward to.