Looking Back to Move Forward

The first of many blogs and articles that I’ll be writing from here in Paris at COP21!

Cross posted from the SustainUS blog

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Today, Heads of States delivered their opening remarks as COP21 launched in Paris. I sat in a room of eager listeners as President Obama spoke about the urgency of the climate crisis, the need for collective action, and the kind of world that we leave to today’s youth. Overall, I was impressed with his strength and commitment. His eyebrows were furrowed, almost as if he was exhausted of having this conversation over and over again.

One phrase that he used stood out to me. He called for COP21 to produce an “enduring framework for human progress.”  I suddenly saw humanity continuing its evolution at warp speed, as if addressing climate change is a natural part of our growth as civilization. This struck as me odd. Is a climate treaty “human progress?” It represents progress for our work on the climate issue. But I think of it more as surgery for humanity, healing the hurt of unintended consequences, intervening, fixing mistakes.

Wouldn’t the real progress be to understand the roots of the climate crisis and ensure that humanity never repeats a ravaging of the Earth and its people? I had a visceral reaction to Obama’s phrase because it frightened me that society will march forward without reflecting on the systems and behaviors that created the climate crisis. If we do not reflect, then we are prone to create destructive industries that take advantage of life and love. Instead of Big Oil, what if we have Big Solar? What if renewable energy companies repeat patterns of the fossil fuel economy and disregard the well-being of communities for the sake of energy and profit?

This moment in history provides us with the opportunity to understand the past and become aware in the present and the future. We have a chance to think about our behavior as human beings and the structures that we create as result of our nature.  Progressive movements often talk about this kind of awareness and sense of human justice in a better future. But if we relegate these values to the future, then they will never exist in the present. Today, in this moment, we can create change. I call this the ‘radical now.’

The possibility of reflection and intentionality lies in each and every one of us. It’s about waving to the person who lets you cross the street. It’s about empathy in our campaigning. It’s about awareness of our being. That is the real framework of human progress.

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3 Comments

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  1. Good perspective Chloe. But the impediment to REAL human progress ( and achieving a deep respect for the inter-relatedness of life and its life support system) is the class of power hungry people in control–political,economic, energy, health, legal profession, educational institutions . . .. Like a child having a tantrum, this class of people must be removed from power and replaced by those of us who are sane. We must find a way to give them a long “time-out,” after which the can be given real work like remediating the damage they have caused, e.g reforestation, river restorations, organic farming etc. under our close supervision.

  2. William Raptor Loveridge Dickie December 3, 2015 — 12:03 am

    Human progress is that sexual buzzword we use as a given reason for action in repetitive, cliché political speech. Bio-organisms require propagation. Human progress, ego-progress can’t be made unless we are reproducing beautiful children well into the future. Beautiful children who will make us proud! Beautiful! Beautiful. Just beautiful! It is like a surgery, you’re right. The real progress would be getting a doctor who can convince our parents that their homeopathic remedies are endangering the other children. We need immunizations, unless we want to reduce our population? But really why aren’t intelligent, kind people breeding like crazy right now? Children that have kind hearts who can fend together, this is what we need to convince mom & dad to listen to the doctor about our swirling abscess.

    Games, films and such still have much chance of giving us a platform to reflect in an embracing way, and even to pass on habits and experiences that show people for themselves the value of these ideas.

    > it frightened me that society will march forward without reflecting on the systems and behaviors that created the climate crisis. >

    This also frightens me. The idea of progress has long needed lancing. It has been lanced. But the thing is it’s also connected to the idea of pastoralism. Trains and beautiful meadows still fill our minds. There is no actual move to balance these “dragons” of force, apart from climate movements and the slow plodding populism of political systems. But at the same time what other way do we have to change these things? How to go over the heads of the damn folks who can’t see the tidal wave?

    >

    • M. Dickie, you have this exactly backward and upside down! You say:

      “The real progress would be getting a doctor who can convince our parents that their homeopathic remedies are endangering the other children. We need immunizations, unless we want to reduce our population?”

      The mercury and formaldehyde in some vaccines is like GMOs and pesticides in our foods! Big Pharma doesn’t care about your (or my) health. They care about profits. You ought to know that! What you have said is equivalent to saying “organic food endangers children. Be sure your food has a good supply of pesticides.”

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