I want to write something about this day of action against the climate disaster, but more than anything I want to approach it from a positive point of view. It’s oh so tempting to reach for the standard ‘end of everything‘ metaphors like Arnold’s “melancholy , soft, withdrawing roar”, and tides certainly come into it – the rising sea levels that can make tides lethal; the storm surges to which the UK is no stranger already. We have a battle on our hands if we’re going to avoid being the last generation to know our wildflowers beyond pictures; the last generation before the extinctions begin, the last generation who – like the Easter Islanders – disappear without trace.
Let’s be clear, the earth can get along very well (probably better) without us. The natural world doesn’t exist for our benefit – either as raw material or cultural asset. The best we can aspire to is to live in harmony with it as good house guests, clearing up after ourselves and not stealing the silver.
The rewards of living peaceably are less tangible than the latest lump of plastic, and the plastic is always going to be easier to sell because you can’t sell peace at all. It’s pointless trying to tell the owner of the 5L diesel pickup who’s just blocked the entrance that they’re ‘not really happy’, because they never felt happier than the day they picked up the £40,000 lump of sparkling junk from the dealer – never happier until the next must-have object came along. The rewards of living peaceably are free but not cheap. Allotments, farms, gardens and relationships need a lot of time and commitment. There’s a lot of make-do-and-mend about it, a lot of stepping back, not taking the last biscuit, a lot of celebrating the gifts of others, a lot of learning, a lot of unexpected joy.
Our politics is broken, our culture is broken, our education, social services and health services are broken too but out of crisis comes the opportunity. Our enemies see it as an opportunity as well, chaos is good for business and there’s nothing healthier than shortages for making a quick profit. Today is an opportunity for peaceable people all over the world to sieze the initiative. The word crisis derives from the Greek ‘crino’ – to choose. When we come to a fork in the footpath we have to choose which direction to take and today we’re standing at the fork, and the signpost suggests that one path simply leads to more of the same. The other path might look scary but it’s the way home.
What we’re looking for is hope. Hope for the environment, hope for the climate, hope for our children and their children, hope for rewarding and productive work, hope for the sense of belonging to something worth believing in.
We will not kneel at the feet of the economy or kiss the hand of the powerful but we will share in the cause of the millions who want nothing but to live peaceably and to flourish.
It’s the Potwell Inn manifesto