Climate Change, and Who We Are

The following is from a talk I gave to my RC class:

In Re-evaluation Counseling we have a one-point program that we ask every Co-Counselor to agree to, and it’s to reclaim our intelligence and assist others to do the same. This means discharging and finding our thinking. When we have feelings, we get to discharge and think rather than just feel and react. Many people don’t have our understanding and can’t decide to notice emotions and release them in sessions by crying, laughing, shaking, and so on.

We re-evaluate when we get to discharge. That’s an important thing to know as we think about climate change.

Because of oppression, the groups most affected by the damage to the environment are groups that have been targeted with racism and genocide, usually people of color. It’s been that way for a long time. It’s not new. But the situation is getting pretty [quite] dire. It is also hopeful, because we can keep thinking freshly about solutions.

The climate emergency is out there not because “it just so happens” to be out there. It is out there because humans have not been able to think well because they have been hurt. Due to their hurts, many humans have lost a sense of connection to themselves and to the environment. They have targeted other humans and been thoughtless and uncaring toward groups of people. They have stolen land, mistreated and killed the people, and taken over—the opposite of caring about humans. Because of their hurts and lack of human connection, they have moved their personal agenda forward and wreaked havoc, regardless of how it has affected others.

This is where we are. If we had all cared about each other and about everyone in the world, things would be different. There wouldn’t be the amassing of wealth, and a small group of millionaires and billionaires. Everyone would be trying to help other people. If they saw a homeless person on the street holding a sign saying, “I’ve got four children, I have no job, and we need some food,” they wouldn’t just walk by. Today I saw a little child, sitting with her mom on the sidewalk, holding a sign saying, “We need to stay in a motel. Can you help us please?” People hurried by without looking at them.

Some groups do think well about the people around them. They take them in; they figure things out. But by and large [mostly], that isn’t true in the larger society, particularly in the societies that call themselves “developed.” Racism, attempted genocide, and classism are also worse in these societies. There is a lack of caring about other humans.

I think the basic work we can do is to notice who our neighbors are—and also who is out there beyond our backyard, who’s out in the world—and look at what is really happening, not just at what we see on the popular news channels. It’s a lot to think about, but it’s not hopeless.

We can also notice what our ancestors did on behalf of themselves, others, and the environment. I grew up in a Black community established by a group of formerly enslaved Africans in rural Georgia (USA), and our people understood something about the environment (as do Indigenous peoples). Our community helped each other. There was a way that people thought about each other and the environment in which we lived.

Our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents knew something and did wonders [did very good things], and our people often thrived. I want us to think about that. For example, when I was a child, I got a three-inch cut on my hand, and it healed without ever going to a doctor. My grandmother applied snuff and spider webs, and it knitted together without a stitch in it. Another time she ground nettles and applied them to a big burn on my other hand.

When you grow up poor, you don’t have the luxury of discarding stuff. We reused things. We would wash aluminum foil and reuse it until it was done. We were the original savers or recyclers.

I want us to remember who we are—a people connected to other humans and the environment in which we live. I want us to approach what we do from a sense of being in charge. Our ancestors knew something, and we do too.

Marion Ouphouet

Seattle, Washington, USA

Last modified: 2021-01-27 00:10:28+00