Climate Change and RC

A dialogue between Diane Shisk and Tim Jackins

Diane Shisk1: I’m trying to think about what else we can do to engage more Co-Counselors on the issue of climate change. Everywhere I lead on the topic, when I give a picture of the actual state of things, many RCers are shocked that we are in such a bad situation. People think it is much less serious than it already is and that we have a lot more time to figure out what to do than I think we actually have.

The mainstream media does not often present an accurate picture of the situation, but accurate information is easily available from many reputable sources. And in RC, we have had a goal on the environment since 2001 and quite a strong goal (calling for people to become aware of the actual situation) since 2013. Still, many RCers seem to not be aware of the situation, and most are not involved in working on it, either inside or outside of RC. I’m assuming that is because looking at it restimulates heavy distress, and they are not able to discharge it effectively. What do you think we can do to improve people’s awareness of and engagement on this issue?

Tim Jackins2: We’re numb about the ongoing destruction of the environment. Like with the beginning of our work as white people on racism, we’re detached because of the heaviness of our distress. It’s like working on our early hurts. When we start out, we make efforts with the best of intentions but numbly; we are not fully aware of the distresses that keep us from working on the hurts in an alive way and doing it as part of our lives.

To change this, we can show other people and ourselves the distresses that keep the destruction of the environment feeling remote. We can go back after [go back and feel] the heartbreak and the feelings of total defeat, as we challenge their hold on our minds in the present.

Diane: For the last sixteen years, it’s been our goal to discharge on the environment. We have a core of people who are engaged and doing a lot of great things. And more people are more aware. But what can we do differently to get more people taking up the issue in sessions and taking some action in the world? It seems that until people are engaged with it in the world, the issue doesn’t stay in their mind enough for them to remember to keep working on it.

Tim: People have to have a full picture of the struggle we are up against. Otherwise it seems hopeless. It’s not that we have to have answers, but we do need to lay out what we are going to do to find answers. That includes realizing the magnitude of what needs to be done: we’ll have to find solutions that haven’t existed before and organize and take action in ways that people have never done before, across the world. To do that we’ll have to use what has been learned from attempts to change society in the past but also fashion something new that fits this new and very different challenge.

Diane: I think we know some of the things we need to do. We need to get people talking about climate change and listening to others about it, joining with others in working on it; reclaiming their voices and standing up against irrational policies and putting forth a program of what is to be done. And I know that we have to do things we don’t know how to do, and that we don’t even know yet much of what has to be done. How do we think about that?

Tim: We can lay out what we are going to do to find answers. We can set up small groups of us that make efforts in that direction. Initially we need to get together to face and discharge on where our minds stop. Then we need to figure out what has to happen to change this course we are on.

Diane: Do you mean figure out new strategies for action and what specific steps are needed to end emissions?

Tim: There is a tendency to want to wait until we know a foolproof [infallible] way to go forward. We need to be able to put out our thinking as far as it has gone, share the steps we have figured out so far.

We can figure out the conditions that are needed for change, take steps in that direction, and figure out what stands in our way. What would it take to stop the irrational processes in our society that lead to climate change? Enough of us have to say no to them. But how do we say no? What are the effective ways to say no? There is also the need to write a clear enough policy and program that is understood to be in everyone’s interest.

Diane: Wytske Visser [the International Commonality Reference Person for the Care of the Environment] has started working with a team on a draft policy she hopes to have done by the World Conference. It seems to me that another thing we need to do is help people understand the connection between their liberation work and the work on climate change. We also need to be sure that in our work on climate change, we always remember that ending oppression, especially classism and racism, is a central part of the work.

Tim: Our work in the Community on climate change has to be steady. How large it should be is a question. It can’t become the center of the Community or it is too confusing for people. The center of the Community has to be the recovery of the discharge process, not the application of it to any one thing. Nothing can take precedence over the one-point program.

People can and will make care of the environment a part of their lives. It is still held separate from many of our lives. Once it is a part of our lives, it will stay in our minds. That probably will have a bigger effect than our taking action.

Diane: But action is needed now, and it would be good to have more RCers involved. It would be good both for us as RCers and for the climate movement. What would move people to more involvement?

Tim: It needs to contradict our distresses—feelings of helplessness, insignificance, isolation, ignorance, stupidity—and our having made previous efforts that failed or were unappreciated and our not having discharged enough on that. Our message has to include contradictions to these things or people can’t hear what we are saying.

We have to communicate our belief that human minds can resolve to do big things in spite of anything—distresses, current conditions, lack of ability to see allies. Nothing has to stop us, including the lack of contradiction. Someone demonstrating this is very powerful.

Diane: I could do that, but I am too grim. I have to be happy about playing such a significant role and hopeful about triumph at the end, and I’m not.

Tim: Until we can get a set of people who are sure we can win, and show that, it’s really hard to get people moving.

Diane: What does triumph look like?

Tim: Triumph is stopping climate change in time so that humanity and the world can recover and regain a non-destructive path.

Diane: Any other thoughts right now?

Tim: In the work on the environment, we need to focus more on class, and on race and class together. There is a way that racism has been used to install, perpetuate, and distract us from classism, and we need to understand and challenge that.

Note: Our current thinking about climate change is summarized in the article “Why We Prioritize Addressing Climate Change,” on the RC website.

Tim and Diane

(Present Time 187, April 2017)


1 Diane Shisk is the Alternate International Reference Person for the RC Communities.
2 Tim Jackins is the International Reference Person for the RC Communities.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00