Monday, 21 January 2013

The Shapeshifter

          Yesterday I counted five snowmen in my square; the children are having great fun. But over 30cm of snow brought parts of the UK to a grinding halt this past few days, it is chaotic and just a little absurd. There were power cuts, cancellations of routine operations, supermarket shelves were emptied, stretches of motorways blocked, schools closed and transportation disrupted; and its only the conditions that many other countries would consider ‘normal’ for mid winter. 
     But all over the world different communities are having to adjust to a very pronounced shift in seasonal conditions.  Mother Nature needs to both protect herself from the increasing heat at her core (and ours) while purging and cleansing our human habitat as she breaks free of the constraints constructed by human excesses. Unfortunately during a time when temperatures reached -13 degrees in the UK, three people died, including a postman on his delivery rounds.
     Not only are we currently experiencing the impact of extreme weather conditions, but many of us are also going though major life changes, whether through illness, loss of relationships, status, money and home; even nation states are confronting the challenge of change.  The symbolic messages are clear; they are  signalling that the earth, like the human body, will do everything possible to maintain balance and equilibrium.
                 If I was telling a story about it all I would begin: once upon a time the elements, Mother Nature’s helpers, began to push human beings who lived on the Planet to shift shape, re-order and rethink their relationship with the earth.  To achieve her aims the forces of nature assumed the shape of a wicked old witch. 
              On a regular basis, the witch left her arid barren earthbound coven and travelled abroad flying on a broomstick. In some places she generated howling, twisting winds; at times she spewed either fire or ice across the face of the planet. On other occasions her melting icy fingers threatened the very fabric of the people's well-being and livelihood.  Mother Nature was propelling both humanity and the planet through a process of death and transformation.
                 The death and transformation of civilizations is not new, we know about that from history. The demise of Sumerian and Mayan civilizations came about because of unsustainable agricultural systems and practices, and over-population. That mythic and symbolic island of Atlantis, as described by Plato, was said to be a conquering and colonizing naval power that sank into a ‘sea’ of greed, deceit and competiveness. 
          Today, we face an ecological revolution, a redefinition of our understanding of life on the planet. We can view the current state of the world and the seismic shifts taking place on the environmental, political and economic front, like the recent malfunction in the global architecture of capitalism, as a calamity or as an opportunity.  We always have choice.
At this moment in time we are choosing to avoid taking personal and collective responsibility when the disasters we have recently witnessed and experienced seem not to abate but occur with greater frequency. The most urgent question we face today is not will the planet survive, but how long will global leaders - governments and big business - continue to either deny or ignore the planetary stress indicators, and the impact this is having on people's lives.
      That illustrious group of world leaders who term themselves the World Economic Forum now meeting in Davos, Switzerland this week will, according to news reports, consider every possible topic you can think of in their stated aim of 'creating a better world'. Top of the agenda though will be the so called crisis of the Euro-zone and the massive shadow cast by America's debt ceiling.
        If my favourite development specialist and environmental activist was there (unfortunately Wangari Maathai* died in 2011) she would remind them that the economy cannot and will not flourish in a decimated and decaying environment; and that should above all else be their first priority. Maathai said:
     “Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own - indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come”.
            The time has come to promote an optimal way on being on the planet in order to support human life; to shift our way thinking, and work with the forces of change by re-engineering and restructuring the way we live away from ‘business as usual’.       

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 *The Kenyan environmentalist was the first African woman to win the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Sometimes described as the "Tree Lady," the 71-year-old was at the forefront in empowering rural women through her Green Belt Movement to plant trees to save the planet.    

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