Sunday, January 13, 2013

From Hope and Stephen Lewis, to Bill McKibben, to Willing Things to Not Happen

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all well.

Last week I listened to Michael Enright in conversation with Stephen Lewis.  They talked about a lot of things. After all, it was not long after Lewis' 75th birthday and the two men have known each other for over forty years.  Stephen Lewis' main work these days is with his foundation, which, since 2003, has funded over 700 mostly women-run initiatives to support women and children living with the effects of HIV/AIDS in African countries.  Here in Canada, an incredible Grandmothers to Grandmothers network has developed, in support of these projects.

The conversation turned to environment issues and climate change.  Lewis said that he does expect that the world will have an environmental crisis sometime between 2030 and 2050. He also talked about the difference between optimism and hope.  He said he is not optimistic.  However, he said he maintains hope. 

I've heard this sort of comment before, and I always have trouble wrapping my mind around the difference between optimism and hope. 

"Optimism" seems to be the word used when people are talking about making predictions based on the concrete information available. In the case of climate change and the possibility of major environment collapse, if we start looking at the climate science, CO2 and methane levels, lack of environmental action at national and international levels ... well, there's not a lot to be optimistic about.

"Hope" seems to be a word that refers more to our internal, feeling mind.  We see good people around us trying to make the world a better place, and we have hope, because there are communities of people in one area - and worldwide - who are trying.  Hope is the spark that keeps us going.  Hope is a word of personal connection.

Hope might just have a meaning that takes it side by side to "Faith" which, leaving aside any specifically religious meaning, I like to use as "believing in something when common sense tells you not to" .  This meaning is spoken by Fred Gailey in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street,  written by Valentine Davies. (and if you ever want to read the book version, I hope you find the 1984 version with Tomie de Paola's perfect illustrations!)

Over the last week I was thinking a lot about this hope-optimism-faith and today I listened to Bill McKibben's talk to the October 2012 Council of Canadians annual general meeting (there are about 8 talks on-line from this).  McKibben showed slides of people from all around the world who've done something to bring awareness about the dangers of climate change - about levels of CO2 above 350 parts per million - to their community and country.  The website apparently has something like 40,000 pictures from around the world on its Flicker account!  Even the two dozen he showed - caring and concerned faces from all 'round the world - were enough to have me in tears.  Sometimes there seems to be such a chasm between what people want for themselves and their families, and the relentless destructive march of the corporate. 

And that's were my husband came in, and I told him all the stuff I've written above.  He said that he lives and thinks in two versions of the world.  There's a science version, which fits with the gadget, fix-it, how-does-that-work guy he is.  Then there's the magic realm, the Terry Pratchett side.  This is the side that should be reality ... and oftentimes we just have to go ahead and do things as if that's the one side there is.

It's on this magic side that comes the willing things to not happen. 

Not wishing that something will happen. Willing things to not happen.  There is a stronger personal and collaborative act involved in this willing things to not happen.  And will in this sense includes both the thinking about things and the doing.  Setting mind and attention to all the ways in which something destructive can be stopped, and setting physical self to making sure something destructive is stopped.  Using will so something does not happen.

This is as far as I've managed to get with this train of thought today.

I'll leave you with best wishes, as always, and some websites to explore.

Why's Woman

Council of Canadians. Speech to Annual General Meeting by Bill McKibben. October 2012.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

Stephen Lewis Foundation. 

The Sunday Edition. Stephen Lewis interviewed by Michael Enright. The Sunday Edition. January 6, 2013.   Building a global movement to solve the climate crisis.

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