The following Draft Policy for Care of the Environment builds on the work we have done in the RC Communities since the World Conference adopted the first care of the environment goal in 2001. Since then, we have published the pamphlet Sustaining All Life, the journal also called Sustaining All Life, and the article “Why We Prioritize Addressing Climate Change,” as well as other articles. We now also have the collective experience and thinking from many listening projects and other events focused on climate change.

The situation with climate change is developing rapidly. Therefore this draft policy will be an ever-changing document. We welcome your comments; please send them to Wytske Visser, at <wytskevisser.coe@gmail.com>.

A Draft Policy on Care of the Environment

Four-and-a-half billion years ago, the earth formed from a condensing cloud of dust. Within the first billion years, life forms appeared. Early on photosynthetic organisms captured the sun’s energy and eventually transformed the atmosphere by releasing large amounts of oxygen. Half a billion years ago, a diversity of multicellular life forms exploded. An interconnected web of life became larger and larger, as more life forms came into existence and became more complex. Descendants of these life forms include all the many-celled plants, animals, and fungi alive today.

All present life forms appear to share a common ancestor, and we humans share significant amounts of DNA with other species (about twenty-four percent with grapes, fifty percent with bananas and fruit flies, and ninety percent with chimpanzees).

HOMO SAPIENS SAPIENS

About 250,000 years ago in Africa, modern humans evolved from earlier species of primates. When the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) became extinct about forty thousand years ago, we Homo sapiens sapiens were the only humans remaining. (All of us humans today share ninety-nine percent of our DNA.)

Our species developed a large forebrain, which gave us a great capacity for intelligent thinking. We also developed the physical equipment for complex verbal communication. And we retained, in common with all forms of life, an instinct to survive, reproduce, and expand our numbers—to seek the survival of our species.

HUMAN NATURE AND THE EFFECT OF DISTRESS RECORDINGS

All life is miraculous, gorgeous, and perfectly right in a brilliantly complex way. The basic nature of every living species, including human beings, is benign. This is obvious when we see any new life. The first flowers coming out of the soil in the spring, a jumping lamb, a newborn baby—all touch our human hearts.

As humans we inherently love, protect, and nourish life. We naturally do all in our power to support the flourishing of future generations, to maintain the continuity of life.

We are also uniquely imaginative and creative. For example, we can create art, computers, and fast transport, and endlessly improve them. We find joy in engaging our minds with one another, in creating new ideas.

We are inherently intelligent, creative, cooperative, loving, caring, powerful, and deeply connected with all of life. However, our human intelligence is also vulnerable to distress recordings that suspend our flexible, intelligent functioning. The accumulation of these recordings is the source of all human irrationality, including oppression, exploitation, and war. Growing up, many of us lose connection with the people around us, and this affects our relationships with everybody and with the earth. Until we can remember that we are connected to each other and to all forms of life, our efforts to make things better will be limited.

DAMAGE CAUSED BY OUR FEAR OF SCARCITY

For much of our time on earth, we humans struggled to survive. Before we developed permanent settlements and agriculture ten thousand years ago, perhaps eight million of us lived on the earth, as hunter-gatherers. Those of us who survived necessarily lived in a sustainable balance with the environment or in small enough groupings not to cause much lasting damage to it.

We lived with danger and insufficient resources, and our fears of scarcity kept us from thinking well about other people and the world around us. As we grew in numbers and learned to adapt to the environment, or modify it to meet our needs (instead of always moving to new places), our impact on the environment grew. The damage we did to the earth exceeded its capacity to recover quickly. We contaminated the land, air, and water. Feelings of needing more resource to ensure our survival led to patterns of exploitation and domination, to class societies, and to more widespread environmental degradation.

Industrial consumption-based societies, only a few hundred years old, have caused an enormous increase in population, massive destruction of habitats, and over-use of the resources that support human survival. The resulting damage includes, for example, air and water pollution; toxic waste; oil and chemical spills; environmental illnesses, like cancer and chemical poisoning; overfishing; and loss of bee colonies.

The period during which our species struggled for survival ended centuries ago, but it persists in the form of distress recordings passed down the generations and institutionalized in our societies. Our modern societies are based on exploitation, oppression, and division; if a short-range profit can be made, humans and resources are exploited.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The earth is warming, because of the accumulation in the atmosphere of greenhouse gasses—primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) but also methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon, and other gasses. Scientific measurements show that eighty percent of human-caused CO2 emissions are from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas). Carbon dioxide from deforestation and industrial agriculture makes up most of the other twenty percent. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (when humans started using fossil fuels in large quantities), atmospheric CO2 has risen from 278 to 406 ppm (parts per million). In the same period, the planet has warmed by more than one degree Celsius. Half of that temperature increase has occurred in the past thirty-five years, and sixteen of the seventeen hottest years on record have been since 2000.

Conditions on earth, since the beginning, have been ever changing. About ninety-nine percent of the species that have ever existed are now extinct. Their surviving descendants are among the many-celled plants, animals, and fungi that make up the estimated 870,000,000 species alive today. Many of the extinctions occurred during five mass extinctions, which are thought to have been caused by volcanic eruptions, asteroids, or changes in the climate or sea level. Now is the first time that equally extreme changes have been caused by human beings.

Human-caused climate change and other environmental destruction disproportionately affect People of the Global Majority, Indigenous people, poor and working-class people, women, and disabled people. They also disproportionately affect those nations (primarily populated by People of the Global Majority) that have long been targeted by colonialism, genocide, and imperialism. In those parts of the world especially, the results are as follows:

  • Droughts and crop loss, due to fewer rains or rains coming at the wrong time of year
  • Habitat damage and flooding, caused by severe weather (the warmer atmosphere holds more water, resulting in bigger storms)
  • Habitat destruction and cropland salinization (destruction from salt), caused by a rising sea level
  • Damage to marine ecosystems, caused by the acidification and warming of the oceans
  • Destructive wildfires
  • An increase in diseases affecting many species, due to how warming increases disease vectors (like mosquitos and tree-boring beetles) and expands their habitat

Effects of climate change, such as starvation, forced migration, and loss of life, are no longer uncommon and are projected to increase dramatically if the global temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Every indication is that we must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the next five to fifteen years if we are to have a fifty percent chance of keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees. This will require net zero emissions (any remaining greenhouse gas emissions will need to be “drawn down” by carbon-absorbing “sinks”) by mid-century.

We must also address a significant amount of environmental damage that is not caused by climate change. However, at this point we must focus on climate change, as we must slow, halt, and begin to reverse it in a short period of time.

For more details about the causes of climate change and steps being taken around the world to address it, see Why We Prioritize Addressing Climate Change.

WHAT WE CAN DO

Below are some actions we can take.

We can work on climate change in our Co-Counseling sessions:

  • We can identify and discharge the early distresses that keep us from facing the present situation and working toward a solution.
  • We can take the RC care of the environment goal* into sessions and make it a personal goal.
  • We can stay connected to others and the environment as we do this work.
  • We can reclaim our connection with and love for the earth.
  • We can discharge on the connection between climate change and racism, classism, genocide, sexism, and other oppressions.
  • We can discharge regularly on feelings of discouragement, fear, powerlessness, and helplessness.

We can address climate change in our RC Communities:

  • We can work in our classes and workshops on the RC care of the environment goal and this draft policy and help people make them their own.
  • We can hold support groups, classes, and workshops on climate change and the connection between climate change and oppression.
  • We can support RCers—especially People of the Global Majority, Indigenous people, working-class people, and young people—who are taking leadership on climate change.
  • We can go public (with the necessary approval) with listening projects and other efforts to take RC into the world.
  • We can bring together groups of RCers who are thinking and acting toward solutions and strategize about next steps and a long-term plan.
  • We can talk to, listen to, and counsel RCers who are not yet looking at climate change.
  • We can support the projects of Sustaining All Life.
  • We can unite across all constituencies in support of the work on climate change.
  • We can build the RC Community.

We can also take action out in the world. Here are some actions with a short-term effect:

  • We can ensure that People of the Global Majority, Indigenous people, young people, working-class people, disabled people, and women are listened to and respected and that members of these groups are supported as leaders.
  • We can support excellent leadership on climate change.
  • We can reduce consumption, especially in the countries contributing the most greenhouse gas emissions.
  • We can model diversity and unity in our activism.
  • We can act locally.
  • We can donate funds.
  • We can voice our thoughts on climate change to our political leaders.
  • We can take work on the climate into all the organizations we are part of.
  • We can build a broad-based coalition of groups, across race and class lines, that will make ending climate change one of its platforms.

Here are some actions with a long-term effect:

  • We can change educational systems to prepare all young people to actively participate in building a sustainable, just society.
  • We can work to end war.
  • We can work to end all oppression.
  • We can build unity.
  • We can replace capitalism with a rational system that is in everyone’s interest.

For thoughts about this draft policy, see “Thoughts in Support of the Draft Policy on Care of the Environment.” (available soon)

* A goal adopted by the 2017 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities:

That members of the RC Community become knowledgeable of the clear evidence of the continually growing damage to the environment and all life forms, especially the climate change resulting from the ever-rising temperatures caused by human activity.

That we face and discharge any distress that interferes with our finding sustainable solutions, including the ending of the oppressive and exploitive nature of our societies. That we decide, discharge, and act against any distress that inhibits us from determining immediate steps, as large and radical as necessary, to end this damage, and from organizing and agitating for their adoption by governments and industries.

That we do this work together with everyone, especially oppressed communities which are currently experiencing the most damage from climate change.

 


Last modified: 2017-10-11 10:14:12-07