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Listening beyond fear into a space of creativity, opportunity and abundance

PART 2 – Applying the “art of possibility” to the climate crisis

By Charlotte Dufour

In the first part of this article, I reflected upon how fear about climate change may have as devastating consequences on our lives as climate change itself. I argued fear can also paralyse our capacity and will to act if we feel overwhelmed and disempowered by the scale of the challenge.

I have been wondering for some time now about what we can do to alchemize our fear about climate change into positive energy that can drive us – humanity - to rise through this crisis, rather than merely survive it. What could inspire hope, enthusiasm, motivation, joy, curiosity and a sense of adventure in facing the challenge?

Roz and Ben Stone Zander’s book The Art of Possibility sparked many inspirations within me. They share some practices (c.f. part 1 of this article) for opening spaces of possibility. I explore here how these practices could be applied to the climate crisis…

Being with the way things are

An essential practice for opening spaces for possibility is “being with the way things are”. This echoes Jung’s wise words: “we cannot change anything unless we accept it.”

So, what is it we need to accept and “be with” if we are to go beyond our fear and address climate change from a more fulfilling space? Here are some considerations that come to my mind:

  • Climate change is real and we need to deal with it. We can look back at what brought us here (considering both the positive aspects the industrial revolution provided in terms of human welfare and cross-cultural exchange over the past centuries, and the negative consequences of persisting in excessive fossil fuel use decades after warnings were raised) and consider the possible scenarios that lie ahead. But it is important to focus our energy and creativity in the present, to be with what is and be constructive about it.

  • Climate change may be unfolding with destructive consequences but many, many aspects of life on earth are still beautiful: stunning landscapes, the biodiversity that is still abundant despite mass extinctions, Nature’s capacity for regeneration, loving relationships whether they be amongst human beings or between humans and other living species... Music is still being played, art is being created, innovations in all fields are opening unforeseen opportunities… Let’s not lose sight of what we can be grateful for and en-joy it!

  • Life on Earth is a story of challenges to be overcome: war, conflict, natural disasters, disease have always been part of the story and will most probably stay part of the story. They provide the context within which we can learn, grow and unleash our full potential, individually and collectively. They provide the context where we can exercise shining light into the darkness, bringing love and hope where there is conflict and despair. In the 20th century, our grandparents went through two world wars and many peoples experienced tyrant regimes and famines. Out of these tragedies came admirable outcomes such as the recognition of universal human rights and condemnation of crimes against humanity[1], the construction of a world community through the United Nations architecture, the end of colonialism and apartheid, and the establishment of mechanisms for humanitarian solidarity within and across borders. These certainly have their limitations and need to be reinvigorated or transformed. The challenges they seek to address have far from disappeared. But these achievements were a step forward compared to previous centuries. So, what breakthroughs can we collectively achieve as we face today’s challenge and join forces to restore harmony with Nature?

  • The existence of challenges is connected to the fact that the world is made of duality and is in constant evolution and transformation. Something is always dying and something is always being born in every instant, be it our body cells, plants that thrive and withdraw with the seasons, or our bodies which eventually die. It’s a cliché to say one cannot have life without death, day without night, ups without downs, but it’s true. While everything is impermanent, the underlying life current that pulsates throughout creation goes on. What is it like to live in connection with that creative flow?

  • Recognise fear for what it is: an emotion. Sometimes (and even often) the fear of a possible event is worse than the event itself. Once you are confronted with the event, you just deal with it and start finding solutions. I find it interesting, for example, that eco-anxiety is talked about primarily in abundant societies whose living standards are not yet, or barely, affected by climate change compared to peoples whose lives are already destroyed by recurrent climate-related disasters or conflict, or who never achieved similar living standards (and who, by the way, had very little to do creating the climate crisis in the first place). One can also notice the common mechanisms by which an atmosphere of fear is generated and sustained: a fear-nourishing theme is selected and then fed into the media and public discourse. Examples include the fear of the cold war and nuclear conflict that was prevalent from the 60s to the 80’s and fear of terrorism in the 2000’s. The seed of the threat is real, but it is expanded until it colors our entire perception of the world, blinding us to other elements of “what is”. We can choose to change the focus and take a broader perspective.

  • Part of the mystery is beyond our grasp. We are just one part of creation and so much lies beyond what our minds can grasp and our science can explain. Maybe we can embrace the underlying mystery that puts the universe in motion – from the movement of the galaxies to the division of cells in a growing embryo - and recognize that we don’t really know what lies ahead and are not the ones who will solve things alone. We are merely participants in a co-creative process. It can be helpful to “apply rule number 6”, as Roz and Ben Zander advise, and “not take ourselves so g**damn seriously”…

Frameworks for possibility: a story of creativity, opportunity and abundance

Being with the way things are is the first step to seeing how things can become. Challenges can be seen as gift Life puts in our way for us to evolve – they are an “opportunity for further growth”[2].

So, what opportunities for growth may the climate crisis bring? Here are some considerations:

  • Exploring and tapping into a whole new realm of creativity, where we learn to make more with less, and where humans reconnect with the wisdom and creative power of Nature. So much is already being done around the world by hyper-committed individuals and communities, much of which doesn’t hit the headlines. New ways of thinking about "development" are coming forth such as that proposed in Thomas Legrand's Politics of Being: Wisdom and Science for a New Development Paradigm. Also, I can’t wait to see what the younger generations bring to this wave of creativity… If my nephew and niece’s brightness, curiosity and creativity are anything to go by, I can tell you I have faith in the future!

  • A rediscovered and renewed relationship with the natural world, where we remember our place as children of our “Mother Earth”, recognize our role as custodians and care-takers of landscapes and watersheds, and cherish the power and inspiration that comes from cooperating with other species – from minerals to plants and animals. We see this movement of reconnection to Nature being manifested in many ways – from the interest in biomimicry as a source of inspiration and the revived respect for indigenous knowledge, to the growing invitation to honour the sacredness of life in all its forms, as embodied in the recognition of Earth Rights that is slowly taking root. One of the gifts of reconnecting with Nature is the profound nourishment and well-being it provides.

  • A new quality of relationship between humans, within and across communities: I am enthused by all the innovation that is emerging and energy being invested in bringing individuals together in new creative spaces: generative dialogues, facilitation of emergence and co-creation, building of alliances, spaces for reconciliation... Work places and spaces are being transformed by explorations of how to work together in more fulfilling ways; online gatherings are offering new spaces for inter-cultural exchanges. The global scale of climate change and environmental destruction is calling for the mobilization of a global community. It’s still fragile and the foundations of 20th century multi-lateralism are seriously shaken, but I sense other forms of global cooperation are emerging, more deeply rooted at community level.

  • Experiencing abundance in whole new ways, that transcend the material sphere. People argue about the necessity of degrowth to survive the climate crisis. Indeed, we will probably have to decrease our consumption of material goods, or they will simply become unavailable. What if a whole other form of growth and abundance were wanting to take shape? Abundance made of relationships, knowledge, experiences, art, beauty… It’s well proven that material wealth is no guarantee for happiness. Can we invent economies that thrive on the exchange of services and the unleashing of individual and collective creativity that meets our basic physical needs as well as our emotional and spiritual aspirations? Could it be that we are given an opportunity to seek fulfillment in unexplored or neglected spaces, to value what brings genuine meaning to life, to explore the joy within?

The crisis we are facing touches every corner of the earth and every human being. It is arriving at a time when we have an unprecedented ability to share and communicate beyond borders. It feels like we have an amazing opportunity to invent, tell and live a new “WE story” on an unprecedented scale. A “we story” that weaves together a myriad of threads made of cultures, friendships, landscapes, rivers, animals, art forms, light, songs and so much more…

The song of Life will keep on flowing. Now is the time to listen and let ourselves be guided into the dance she is inviting us to embrace…

So, how can you be a contribution to this dance of Life?

Notes: [1] “It took the holocaust to drive in the new way of thinking that gassing humans was a crime.” writes Polly Higgins in Earth is our Business (for more on this, see the following blog article) [2] In the practice of Ananda Yoga – the “Yoga of Joy”, a practice that has transformed my life - affirmations are suggested in each posture. My favourite is the one associated with upavistha kunasana (the open legged forward bend): “I welcome every opportunity for further growth”.

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