“Absolutely it’s reversible. There’s no question about it.
… but hope has to pass the sobriety test
and walk a pretty straight line to reality.
Otherwise, it’s delusion.”
Paul Hawken, author and founder at Project Drawdown, Interview
In 2014, Glaciologist Eric Rignot suggested that there may yet be a chance to slow down the West Antarctic Ice Sheet’s rapid irreversible decline and “a different level of communication” is required to translate the gravity of what he and his peers see. The VOW 2 ACT, written by Extinction Witness founder and creative director Megan Hollingsworth as a practice response to Eric Rignot’s call, emphasizes that role modeling helpful action is the primary different level of communication needed.
The results of brutal competition complicated by materialism are in. Whether or not we personally experience scarcity, this is a globally scarce moment that calls for compassionate intention, frugality, efficiency, and ingenuity. Someone living in New York, where over 11,000 children under the age of 6 live in the shelter system, need not visit Yemen or Ghana to see the child’s deprivation brought by cruel generations-old socioeconomic practices that truly serve the financially wealthy child no better than the financially poor child.
“Hope is a verb
with its sleeves rolled up …
Hope is a sober quality.”
David Orr in The TH Interview (Part Three): Where Hope and Optimism Split
Grounded in the philosophy of mutual aid, the VOW 2 ACT is written and affirmed with understanding that the ecological health crisis is driven by a human health crisis. And the roots of the human health crisis are the spiritual crises of materialism, entitlement (ownership), and punitive judgment that harm everyone. Vow 2 Act signatories vow to be a different level of communication by thought, word, and all other actions.
This “being the change”, a true transformation of the individual toward truly radical solutions to collective ills—rebellion in the purest sense. Rebellion as honesty, compassion, and kindness. Rebellion as the ability to see one’s own propensity for ignorance and refrain from ignorance. To see one’s own propensity for greed and refrain from greed. To see one’s own propensity for hatred and refrain from hatred. Rebellion as the ability to practice compassion toward oneself and all others by thought, word, and hand that every expression and exchange display and promote compassion with kindness.
Please read on for more of the reasoning for and philosophy of the VOW 2 ACT. The Vow itself can be read and affirmed at ExtinctionWitness.org This revised introduction was originally published along with the VOW 2 ACT in the ‘What can be done?’ section of Unpsychology Magazine’s Climate Minds Anthology, available free for download.
“Now, the sea is lifting above its shore, the harvest is faltering,
and the seasons arrive and depart in disorder.”
Robinson Meyer in A Grave Climate Warning, Buried on Black Friday via The Atlantic
“We’ll also need to accept some good news—
the pace of change is not even.
Predictions of doom usually assume a steady pace,
but in fact there is often acceleration
when masses go into motion.”
George Lakey, Beyond Paris via Waging NonViolence
There are many reasons why humans with enough information about the greenhouse effect have not changed their personal behavior and/or their business activity in response. Socioeconomic pressures that perpetuate harms can be extreme at every level of engagement.
So, like humans, the solutions to personal and ecological imbalance are not black and white. Some steps must be taken simultaneously to avoid greater harm than good as a result. The same solutions vary according to the individual and community. Compassion, understanding, cooperation, and patience are integral to the sound, successful implementation of every solution.
“We don't have a right to ask whether we're going to succeed or not.
The only question we have a right to ask is what's the right thing to do?”
Wendell Berry in a 2013 interview with Bill Moyers
Setting aside controversy and judgment of inaction, vow signatories embrace the uncertainty of whether it’s possible to help facilitate the drawdown of greenhouse gasses in time to ease the balance and commit themselves to act with kindness and compassion toward self and other in peace toward common vitality.
Given what and who has been long valued, money is no longer near a true measure of wealth. Just because an individual can afford to purchase a service or an item, does not mean that the community can afford the exchange. This is true whether shopping at a dollar store or yacht dealer. When it comes to associated harms, the lowest priced items can be among the greatest culprits.
“There is a lot of goodwill ... but the window for action is narrowing.
We need higher levels of political and citizen will”
Cristiana Pasca P, Executive Secretary of the UN Biodiversity Convention
While the present moment is incredibly bleak for multitudes and no one can forecast the future today's child may know, regenerative socioeconomic practices and helpful technologies are on the rise like the ocean. Because, in fact, those with ability and agency have no choice but to try and drawdown current levels of greenhouse gasses if the intention is survival.
“…the last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it increased Earth’s temperature to a point 7°C higher than it is today, and increased sea levels 23 meters above current level.
Hence, we are now only waiting for the planet to catch up to what we’ve done…”
Dahr Jamail in AS THE BIOSPHERE DIES, SO DO WE via Buckminster Fuller Institute
How this drawdown is accomplished will not only determine who and how many survive, but whether that survival is a continuation of present-day inequalities and abuses—degenerative—or a return to compassionate socioeconomic policies and practices—generative. The difference determined by a willingness to share if that means sacrifice and whether or not the emphasis is on reviving biodiversity as emissions are reduced.
Many of the solutions for reversing global warming and reviving biodiversity are already in play and simply require scaling up.
Efficiency and voluntary simplicity - avoiding waste and reducing overall energy and material consumption – go further and faster toward the goal of reversing global warming and reviving biodiversity than does a shift to 'alternative' energy sources and materials. Particularly if that shift to alternatives involves continued extreme inequality, forced productivity, and extravagant conveniences that encourage indulgence and ill health.
Many are the simple solutions, such as stopping the production of absolutely unnecessary stuff and sharing common ground and tools, including vehicles. Solutions that save money and means and/or require little to zero financial investment while reducing waste and fostering social cohesion.
Many are the solutions that provide healthy (meaningful) work, such as traditional highly-skilled trades and regenerative agriculture—land and sea. Many are the solutions already in play and ‘in the wings’ that simply require investment for large scale, decentralized, locally appropriate implementation.
First of all these solutions is women’s (and girl’s) control over their own bodies, education, and other means, and their inclusion in decision making for their children and communities.
“Are we [children] even on your list of priorities?”
Greta Thunberg, 15 year old climate activist with Asperger’s
STATS and YEARS
The 2018 World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report shows that populations of undomesticated species declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014. Human population more than doubled during that time - some 7.7 billion humans live in 2018.
Earth Overshoot Day - the day when human consumption of common means in a given year exceeds what can regenerate in that year happened August 1 in 2018, two months earlier than in 2006. Overshoot Day varies by country according to what land area would be required for the entire human population to live the lifestyle of the average human in that country.
The air has changed dramatically since the greenhouse effect was first hypothesized in 1896. “Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide (prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution) were about 280 parts per million by volume (ppm)” (UCR) … “Carbon dioxide levels reached 405 parts per million (ppm) in 2017, a level not seen in 3-5 million years.” (BBC News)
“Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from human activities have come from deforestation.” (Phys.org)
Seventeen of the 18 hottest years in 136 years recorded have occurred since 2001. 2016, the hottest of all. (stats via NASA – Earth’s vital signs)
“The poorest half of the world’s population - 3.5 billion people - is responsible for just 10% of carbon emissions, despite being the most threatened by the catastrophic storms, droughts, and other severe weather shocks linked to climate change.” (OXFAM International, 2015)
The VOW 2 ACT is a commitment to do what we can do because and while we can.
Plenty, when it exists, is derived from a common plenty.
Sharing in scarce times yields peace of mind - the one thing worth striving for.
MODELING HELPFUL BEHAVIOR
One can and ought to model the honesty, fairness, unconditional love, and compassion that help children thrive in bleak hours as in hours of plenty.
One can and ought to learn and show others how to process challenging emotions and resolve conflicts of interest peacefully. Rather than pointing fingers at others, one ought to model compassion, honesty, understanding, and accountability.
Adults can and ought to show CHILDREN that they ALL are now and will always be as they ought to have always been the answer to WHY?
With thanks for all, please read and affirm the VOW 2 ACT.
“Power is like an egg: if you hold it too tightly, it will break in your hand; if you do not hold it firmly enough, it will slip out of your hand and, again, break.
Power needs to be exercised with neither too much severity nor too much laxness. It is a profound image that compares power to something as precious as an egg, which carries the germ of life.
For it is true: those who are in power hold the lives of people in their grasp.”