21 September 2014
“We have to be able to work together in profound ways,” Bill McKibben said.
McKibben, one of the chief architects of the global climate change movement, once noted that clean energy by itself isn’t enough to stop the unraveling of the earth’s living systems.
To actually execute the changes needed – changes that scientists the
world over agree upon – we need to also turn back to “that forgotten technology of building community.”
I thought of this as I watched hundreds of thousands of people pour onto
the streets of New York and other cities around the world on the 21st
September to make their demands for change visible.
People turned out to hold U.N. member nations accountable as they again
confront the complexities of making viable international agreements on
emissions. The window of time to effectively address climate change is
closing rapidly. Though clean energy is essential, as McKibben reminded
us, we are social creatures, our nature is communal. We have to use the
older technology of weaving community along with anything new.
Paradoxically, we’re challenged to rekindle a sense of the communal at the
very moment many are just waking up to find ourselves living in one of the
most re-segregated, incarcerated, indebted, addicted, and economically
unequal eras in the short history of our country.
The New York protest shows us the riches of diversity in the human family,
the astonishing numbers of people who felt passionately enough to get
themselves to New York to work for the greater good and the generations
to come. New coalitions have been made, the environmental movement
more inclusive and varied. Justice was the word of the day. Imagination
In contrast, the eruption of racial conflict on the streets of Ferguson, MO,
in August, showed the level of racism that still exists across our country.
Though our founding commitment was to be one nation “with liberty and
justice for all,” that declaration suddenly seemed very fragile. Michael
Brown was on his way to college, an achievement in itself, a door to
opportunities and possibilities not available in times past. Yet the injustice
of Michael Brown’s death and the way his family and the African American
community continue to be treated is obvious, open, and ugly. This is not
justice for all. And Ferguson isn’t over.
Healing after great harm is the heart of the story of Resurrecting Love,
the documentary film we’re completing. Love isn’t only a feeling, it’s a
Sam Adkins, a man formerly enslaved in East Texas, became the tutelary
spirit of my book, Love Cemetery, Unburying the Secret History of Slaves
out of which the story of Resurrecting Love grew. Sam Adkins told his
granddaughter, Mabel Rivers, that we always have a choice about love.
He counseled Mabel and through Mabel, me. I’m grateful that his words
haunt me to this day, hard as they are to live by. I can’t escape the
knowledge of who they came from or the hard-won truth they express.
“You have to choose love when there’s reason to hate. You got to
choose it. Choose love, Mabel. Hate dries you up, makes your heart
bitter, turns it to dust. Choose love.”
May Sam Adkins inspire those young people with his wise counsel, “to
choose love when there’s reason to hate.” There’s a lifetime of learning in
that phrase. If Love is the true north on your compass, you’re never lost.
You know where you need to go. You’ve got direction.