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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 89 of the human immune system provides him with an analogy for the rise of these groups. He describes the way that our bodies use a web of connections across many systems to fend off virus, bacteria, fungi, parasite. “Just as the immune system recognizes self and non-self, the movement identifies what is humane and not humane,” he writes. Us- ing technologies like the Internet and the cell phone, with billions of links magnify- ing the miniscule power of each particular group, the “shared activity” of all these actors “can be seen as humanity’s response to toxins like political corruption, economic disease, and ecological degradation.” If the troubled state of the world seems to be falling behind in the task, he adds, we shouldn’t be discouraged, because “global- ization’s depredations have nearly a five- hundred-year head start on humanity’s immune system.” In the same way that it takes your body a few days to rally against a cold, he insists, our defenses against the excesses of corporate globalism have begun to kick in. “I believe this movement will prevail,” he writes. The “infinite game” of life will go on, thanks to “activists, conser- vations, biophiles, nuns, immigrants, out- siders, puppeteers, protesters, Christians, biologists, permaculturists, refugees, green architects, doctors without borders, engi- neers without borders, reformers, healers, poets, environmental educators, organic farmers, Buddhists, rainwater harvesters, meddlers, meditators, mediators, agitators, schoolchildren, ecofeminists, biomimics, Muslims, and social entrepreneurs.” I think he’s right. Or rather, I’m almost convinced. But there are, sometimes, diseas- es that defeat our immune system, intruders like AIDS so powerful and so cascading in their complexity that the body can’t fight them off before time runs out. If there’s one problem like that on earth right now— one game-stopper, deal-breaker, pinball- tilter—it’s climate change. In the last few years we’ve learned just how quickly and massively this wave is starting to break above our heads. Our most important climatologist, James Hansen, warned last year that unless we are able to reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere in the next decade we will soon find ourselves liv- ing on a “totally different planet,” one in which, among other things, the great ice sheets above Greenland and the West Ant- arctic will have begun an irreversible melt. In that kind of world, our civil society would be spending all its time and energy doing nothing but trying to help victims cope; we’d be living in a perennial emer- gency, like the aftermath of Katrina, which might well overwhelm and use up all the resources of goodwill and fellow-feeling that Hawken describes so well. It’s like a lot of problems—if you leave it alone, it gets geometrically worse. But even against this most extreme of problems, Hawken’s metaphor seems to be coming to life. In the last year, finally, we’ve seen the rise of a real consciousness about climate change. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth helped open many minds, and so did the startling commitment of groups like the leaders of the country’s main evangeli- cal denominations. In January of this year, seven of us—me and six brand-new grad- uates from Middlebury College—started a website called stepitup07.org asking people to organize rallies on April 14 to demand from Congress ambitious cuts in carbon emissions. It was like a test of Hawken’s hypothesis: we had no money, we had no mailing lists to work from. We just started sending e-mails to the people we knew, and they started forwarding them, and on and on. Within eleven weeks we’d organized 1,400 protests in all fifty states, one of the largest days of grassroots environmental activism since Earth Day in 1970. It worked because we connected with myriad little groups and with people who’d never organized anything before but simply wanted to contribute in a fight against a foe that was haunting them, but that seemed too big to engage. We were all, I suppose, antibodies of a kind, and within a few weeks of our protests all the major Democratic candidates for president had endorsed our quite radical goal of eighty percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2050. What’s more, so many of the groups and i“ cl y fl n in w sh a 335 Meads Mt. Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498 845.679.5906 x 10 email@example.com for full schedule: www.kagyu.org KARMA TRIYANA DHARMACHAKRA Tibetan Buddhist Teaching and Meditation Center OCT 6-7 Tibetan Sacred Music TOM SCHMIDT OCT 20-21, NOV 17-18 Dharma Class NOV 23-DEC 9 Eight-Nyungne Retreat GELONGMA LODRO DRONMA LAMA KARMA SAMTEN OCT 12-14 Chod LAMA DUDJOM DORJEE NOV 9-11 Signs of Death and the Bardo NOV 78-103.indd 89 NOV 78-103.indd 89 8/31/07 10:45:18 AM 8/31/07 10:45:18 AM