Saturday, August 2, 2014

To fix our environment we are going to have to change our people, places, and things

The UU A Way Of Life book of the month for August, 2014, is Mary Pipher's, The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves In Our Capsized Culture.

In the introduction, Mary Pipher describes her anguish at what appears to be a collapsing society and world. She writes: "But when I turned on the news or read about the environment, war, and daily global injustices, I felt like jumping out of my skin.
     I sensed that many people felt this way. For example, most of my news-junkie friends no longer read the news. And people who had once loved intense political conversations avoided any talk about national and international affairs. People were rushed, stressed, and edgy. Everyone looked tired. We were all confused about what was going on and about how to fix it." p.1

And so Pipher tries to describe the problem. She is depressed and because of her depression she is perceiving depression all around her. You might say that with the collapse of the climate, the whole world, Mother Nature, is depressed. And what are we, any of us, to do about it?

As I read Pipher, and I think we are about the same age in our late 60s, I mutter to myself, "Been there, done that." I went though my depression about 5 years ago, and climate change was one of the top items I perseverated about with my sense of impending doom.

Pipher writes that there are great changes which we are experiencing at this time in the world that scientist, Will Steffen, calls the "Great Acceleration" which is a tsunami of urgent and life-threatening planetary changes that can be traumatic to experience and become aware of. Pipher writes further that this trauma can best be managed with transcendence which allows us  to " present and focused, to stay calm and balanced, and to attend to the world around us with great love." p.3

Pipher writes:

In his book, Steps to an Ecology Of Mind, Gregory Bateson writes, 'The unit of survival is the organism and its environment.' We cannot protect our inner life unless we protect our outer life. The external is not so external after all. the only way we can be healthy as individuals is to create healthy environments around us. We are all mixed up together; our survival is contingent on the survival of other living things." p.5

What Pipher is describing what we Unitarian Universalists already covenant to affirm and promote in our seventh principle, the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part.

As people in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction are taught, the success of their continued recovery may require that they change their people, places, and things. If you are in recovery you can't hang around with the same old people, in the same old places, doing the same old stuff because that's where your triggers are. Once we realize that the "unit of survival" as Gregory Bateson defines it is the organism and its environment, then we realize, to return to a healthier balance of interdependence on a road of recovery, we are going to have to change some of our people, places, and things. In order to do this we need to develop a sober support group, a  group of like minded people who will support our recovery. Do you know such people?


  1. I'd like to say I know people who are committed to changing there people places and things but then again I'm not sure. UUs are more worried about gay rights than they are the environment. So gay people can get married. What good is it, as so many species are going extinct and Staten Island, NYC is destroyed by hurricane Sandy and New Orleans by Katrina and the water is disappearing in the Southwest? It is like we are celebrating trivial stuff while Rome is burning. UUs pay lip service to the seventh principle but lip service isn't going to save life on the planet. Real change is needed, and I don't see substantial effort to change our practices which are necessary to stop the high rise in carbon output bringing about the planetary climate changes. If any religious denomination can make a difference in the US it is the UUs but I don't see any focus yet on the well being of planet.

  2. May God have mercy on us all.