01.10.2009 Environment

Hearts of Change

Adrian Glamorgan says with so much at stake for the environment, our hearts will make all the difference

According to the Indian study of energy centres, the heart chakra is coloured green. It is the perfect blend of expansive yellow and the inwardness of blue. It brings together high ideal and willing warmth. The green of the heart is also the chosen colour of the environmental movement.

Why does this environment movement need heart? Because what lies ahead of us is more than a series of cold technological fixes. Yes, technical change will come: the solar panels on everyone's roof, connected to citywide networks of electricity. There will be wind and tidal power on hillside and bay. There will be packaging that is reduced and recycled; diets that mostly include foods grown within a hundred kilometres. There will be safe, regular and frequent public transport, sensible and reliable light rail and very fast trains. We will get about in cars, but they will be less likely to kill people on collision and they will be less likely to suffocate a planet. There will be rules for fair trade and transparency in government, corporation and workplace. We'll find out ways to make fibres as strong as spider threads, but as thick as girders, without blast furnaces. We will understand the science of biodiversity and habitat, and bring salt-sick farms back to life and the oceans will be teeming again. All of these things will be done by science, and intellect.

But cold logic will not be enough for us to build the bridge across fear into the hope for an Earth Century. Logic has its serious limits. Short term, it may seem logical to invade other people's countries for oil. Science is logically cold enough to say that we can reduce biodiversity and extinguish species, if we can only patent the genes and sell the proceeds to generate more science of that same kind. Economics can decree that the haves will have to have more. It is logical to make a bomb that kills people, and leaves the buildings standing. There may be some solutions to the dilemmas we find ourselves in, that are logical but worse cures than the ill they seek to remedy.

To make the change from alienated consumer, shopping endlessly, and passive worker, generating goods that may have no utility, and beneficiary of imperial adventure, the path to enlightened lover of the planet will need more than this logic-for-hire. The journey to environmental freedom will be traced with love, and pain, and loss, and grief, and joy. It will be a travail of the heart. As we grieve for the glaciers, receding and baring mountains; as we grieve for the polar bears, who swim to a shoreline that is no longer there; as we know but cannot hear the extinction of a species in Sarawak, and Mali, and Thailand, and some permanently dried up creek bed in Australia; as we despair and become angry and feel overwhelmed, only with the techniques of loving well can we hope to carry us into a life-giving future.

We will have to be environmental hospice worker to the species that cannot be saved, because we have run out of time. We will have to be chief mourner of mammals that have already slipped away, like the thylacine. We will have to be the passionate defender, protecting the heritage buildings from demolition, and the nature parks that would be mined for uranium. We will have to fight the bushfires that break out closer to our cities, and more often. We will have to sandbag the coast. But apart from repairing the damage, we will need to be the courageous who create new kinds of agriculture, schools and hospitals and workplaces that will grow ecological futures for all of us.

Our willingness to sacrifice needs our kindness, too. The corporations we decry for misusing genetic or nanotechnology or plant varieties trade marking or relentless militarism or senseless profiteering of less defended people overseas in the Third World, or exploiting our children domestically - these corporations are staffed by people, with beating hearts, and hopes and wishes for their families, too. They may have split off their values when they walked through the company sliding doors, but they hear a whispering disquiet in their own hearts. To reach them we also need to whisper, not stridently yell or denounce. We are like them. They are like us.

In the uncertainties ahead, it will be too easy for the unscrupulous to use fear as a motivator. Either calling us to be afraid of the change ahead, decrying the loss of our shopaholic freedoms; or untempered fear overwhelming us with the raw danger of climate change. From either direction, fear shuts the heart down. But only the heart can keep the heart open. That is why the great religions and faiths of the world, along with the newest insights of the spiritual seeker, humanist social movements, and practical ethics of the ecological entrepreneur, will be part of the ecological change. Cold facts will not change the fearful denier, but warm hearts and kind words and willing hands will. The inspiration of a courageous woman or man, singing into life a hopeful world, might have more power than any cold statistics to make the change.

A warm heart may come from any quarter. The green revolution does not belong to any political party. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been rallying California with calls to turn the golden state into a green state; Democrat former VP Al Gore has changed world consciousness, not through politicking, but through art and culture, an award winning PowerPoint presentation no less - and both Arnie and Al have touched the hearts, as well as the minds of people, to make the change seem more real, more worthwhile. Locally. it was a builders' labourer, Jack Mundey, who helped save The Rocks with the Green Bans; and a successful entrepreneur, Dick Smith, who called for the Franklin River to be saved, and all across Australia, business people who called for action on Kyoto while our national government ignored the daily realities of global warming.

Back in the early 1990s, it was conservative John Hewson calling for a 20 per cent cap on carbon emissions; now it is a green party calling for comprehensive action on climate change. Across the spectrum this new global heart means not accepting the common sense of what has been around for us for decades. The misleading promise that greed serves some public good; that selfishness has a virtue about itself; that others in poorer countries automatically benefit from our good luck at their lower prices.

Which brings me to you, and your part. Only you can know. It may be a small part. It might be a big role. Only you, and your inner dwelling within the matter, and the way things turn out, will help you grasp your individual responsibility for the Great Turning ahead. We can guess it needs your and my love, truth, courage, hope, steadfastness and daring to make this world into what it can be. We are stepping into a change that none of us can guess, with willing hands and clear minds. But it is our hearts, the courage to hope and work for a future worth living, at a time when so much is at stake that is an essential part of making all the difference.


Adrian Glamorgan

Adrian Glamorgan is a passionate advocate of social change and environmentalism