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Paris Reflections

I had the privilege of going to Paris as part of the Sustaining All Life project.1 It was a moving, challenging, exciting experience. Big appreciations to all of us for how we stretched on each other’s behalf and reached for so many people. We worked hard. We got closer. It was a big contradiction.2 And many feelings came up for me afterward.

Repeatedly, as I have tried to write about my experience, I’ve been hit with feelings of having failed. This is even with the clear evidence that as a team we did good, important, effective work. My early material3 has not let me see that I was an integral part of what we were able to do.

I have had to work on early feelings of failure and insignificance. I have discharged on what I wasn’t able to do in my early childhood in the face of oppressive things happening to me and to others around me.

After much discharge and encouragement from others, I want to challenge the failure recordings.4 I want to share what I think about what we did in Paris and notice what I was a part of.


One part of our environmental goal5 is to become fully aware of the current situation in the world. We had the opportunity to do that in Paris. We got to hear directly from people from all over the world about the conditions under which they are living and how climate change is affecting them.

I learned that the situation for many people is worse than what most of us know. Climate change is not in the future; it is happening to millions of people right now. And the frontline communities are poor people and nations that have been targeted for centuries by sexism, racism, colonialism, attempted genocide, and other oppressions. These communities contribute the least to global warming, yet they are bearing the brunt of the impact, and the worst is yet to come. The difference between a global temperature rise of 2.0 degrees and 1.5 degrees Celsius is the difference between losing or not losing millions of lives and whole islands and other land masses.

The connection between ending oppression and ending environmental degradation is clear. It is important that this connection be talked about and that people get to heal from how the oppressive society has impacted them. Explicitly talking about racism, genocide, and other oppressions is key for moving the work forward in the environmental movement and key for the world as a whole. In our workshops, other events, and all our contact with people in Paris, we did that, and people were eager to engage with us.

Although the governments reached an agreement at COP21, we cannot expect that the solutions will lie with governments or elected officials. The difference will be made at the grassroots level, with us. We have to keep moving against the oppression and our distresses, and organize other people to do the same. We get to challenge and change the institutional policies that perpetuate oppression and environmental degradation. Governments and corporations, especially in the economic North, must acknowledge what’s happening and take responsibility for mitigating the effects of it on frontline communities and nations.

The big presence of Indigenous people at COP21 broadened my understanding of how much is at stake for Indigenous peoples worldwide. Their lands, ways of life, and very existence continue to be threatened, with very little acknowledgement from the oppressor nations that have set that up.

Indigenous groups from every corner of the world have been sustaining themselves and working to protect the environment for centuries. We all have much to learn from how they have lived and what they have done and are doing. They know a lot about building community and staying connected in the face of huge difficulties.


This is an exciting time to be alive. We are a part of the first few generations to be aware of and more intentionally use the discharge and re-evaluation process to free our intelligence. We understand the difference between distress and the human mind and have a growing understanding of the oppressive society and its massive effect on us and on the physical world. We have a picture of what all humans are like inherently: good, cooperative, loving, powerful, zestful, flexibly intelligent, creative, and more.

It is also exciting because we have an opportunity that we have never had before. We have a chance to finally end oppression, because it has to be ended in order to solve the environmental crisis. We have to build solidarity among all people against the distresses that have led us to this point.

This can feel like a scary time as well. As young people we were powerless, had little or no chance to discharge, and were hurt in ways that left us feeling isolated, hopeless, helpless, timid, or urgent. We were left discouraged in the face of repeated defeats. And now the undischarged patterns of greed that are driving advanced capitalism are careening us toward certain death for millions of people and many species of plants and animals. The distresses installed on humans and institutionalized in society have brought us to a world that is not good for any human or any life on our planet, and this is constantly restimulating our early distresses.


When we humans are listening to each other, at least two minds are in contact. We can open up, and our minds can function outside of distress. Our human caring can show through. This is a reliable way to build relationships. It is simple yet profoundly human. When our attention is turned toward each other and toward the challenges, we can solve problems. It is what we do. And even with our distresses, society has continued to evolve in good directions. Distresses have not deterred the upward trend of the universe.


One of the exciting things about being in Paris was the many people who had come there trying to make changes in the world. They are activists in their local communities. Activists are people who care—who want things to be different, who want to make permanent changes. To be with people like that was great.

I’ve been thinking about being an activist. Early on in our lives, we expected to be able to influence the world around us. We still can expect to influence and change what isn’t working. We can make certain that things go well, the best they can.

We in RC are always trying to be active against our distresses, to move against them in our minds and in our actions. I think we must do that in wider and wider arenas to fully contradict the powerlessness we carry. Tim Jackins has talked about moving against our timidities, against the distresses that keep us immobile. It’s occurred to me that we need to create activism at every level of our lives in order to contradict our deepest hurts from the oppressive society. We can influence the things around us. We can work to see that things are right for all humans, for all life. And when we do that, it puts our minds in a more connected, caring, and powerful place. 

Whether we see ourselves as “activists” or not, we get to move against our early distresses and figure out how to engage our minds in bigger and bigger circles of influence.


Community organizers in the wide world talk about “building power” amongst people in order to win campaigns. They talk about needing an effective core of people who make their thinking and wishes visible and don’t accept anything less than what is good for all.

Changing the institutionalized oppression and destructive policies in our society will require lots of people power. Larger and larger groups of people will need to move against their own distresses and move in sync with one another against the forces of the oppressive society.

Along with being “active” against our own distresses, we get to work with others against the “chronic distresses” of our oppressive society. The changes we want will not happen without this kind of concerted, coordinated movement. We need a powerful, united core of people, in many places throughout the world, to take on climate change.

And we want people moving against the forces of oppression not within their distresses but on the basis of their fresh and creative thinking. The more that people are listened to and can tell that they are cared about and respected, the more their minds will open up. The more they know they are not alone, are part of a community, and the more they understand the effects of oppression, the more they’ll be able to access their inherent human power and move with others against oppressive forces. They’ll be able to tell that their human interests align with one another. They’ll know that we can build an all-for-one-and-one-for-all world.

The better we can think about ourselves and about each other, the more good things will happen. We have inherent human power. We know about showing caring, getting closer, building connection, and creating community. 

Teresa Enrico

International Liberation Reference Person for Pacific Islander and Pilipino/a-Heritage People

Seattle, Washington, USA

(Present Time 183, April 2016)

1 Sustaining All Life is a project of the RC Communities. In late 2015, a Sustaining All Life delegation went to Paris, France, to share RC tools with the activists gathering there during the United Nations conference on climate change.
2 Contradiction to distress
3 “Material” means distress.
4 Distress recordings
5 A goal adopted by the 2013 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities:That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions. The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00