These are strange and desperate days in North America. The U.S. Congress has been bought off. The big corporations are "too big to fail." The rich are getting much richer, while middle income earners, seeing their jobs outsourced or automated, are taking service work at poverty wages. All the while, the oceans - the lungs of the Earth with their vital blue-green algae - are dying and everything is heating up. As North American prisons fill up, nuclear arsenals remain intact. There are about 16,000 worldwide.
Yogi Bhajan was a master of consciousness and usually an astute diplomat, seeing the unseen, but saying little. Then sometimes he would go below the surface and, in a flash of brilliance, poke, provoke, confront and elevate those in need. In 1982, America was in a situation of political gridlock with an impending disaster in the wings. At that time, the danger was nuclear Armageddon. Today the catastrophe Americans - and the world with them - face is climate change.
At the Summer Solstice gathering that summer in New Mexico, Yogi Bhajan gave an inspired call to action, calling on his students and guests to take small, but effective measures to influence public opinion and to pressure their elected representatives to stop the nuclear arms race. In the course of his talk, he spoke of how corporations ruled the United States (an observation recently corroborated by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page at Princeton University) and that people no longer mattered in American democracy. Yogi Bhajan also described some of the tactics used in the Indian struggle for independence and his own part in that fight.
This talk, of course, is the copyright material of the estate of Yogi Bhajan. It is shared freely here for your inspiration and engagement. We don't want global warming and our grandchildren do not deserve to die of asphyxiation because we killed the oceans. The time to take action is now. Please share this message widely. Sat Nam.
You can listen to the talk here. (45 minutes)
Basically in a majority we are committed spiritual people. When we are committed spiritual people, we are equally fortunate and equally unfortunate. We are fortunate that we are very spiritually committed, that we are trying to be healthy, happy, and holy. And we are very unfortunate that we cannot tolerate the bizarre situation what is happening to our country, what will happen to our people, and what will happen to us.
You must understand it is not the popularity of people which matters. Hundred percent of people do not want to pay income tax. And we never did the blockade (about this). And we never protested (about it). Try to understand that. Nobody wants to pay income tax, not at all. I know that. I pay it because if I won't pay it, you won't pay it. (laughter) I know the problem, so I pay it and you pay it and we all pay it and we are not going to protest against that.
We are protesting against the nuclear war. We have a faith to be warriors. We are known as martial people. We are not saying we are not. We are not hiding our spirit and situation. We are fighters, but we fight for a cause. That's why we are martial. That's why we are warrior. And the cause is that we have to declare war on General Death. This is not going to be any kind of human war or it is going to observe any rule or any law. Period.
They are lying to us. They are telling us there is a possibility that we can go on the hills (to escape). We are on the hill! They are building fifteen miles from here the atom war.
Somebody asked the question, “Where are the atom bombs?” When you come to Albuquerque airport you see that mountain. It has gates in it. Sometime look around the window. That is where they are.
We have reached a point of destruction. I said to you yesterday that those who will die in the atomic blast will be very fortunate and beloved of God, and those who won't must be the sinners. That is what is going to happen. You just imagine from that point of view and from my expression what this war will mean to us.
It will mean only this way: Neither there will be United States, nor there will be Soviet Union of Russia, and neither there will be anybody on the planet. There will be no more Rome, and there will be no more Golden Temple, and there will be no more Makka (Mecca), and there will be no more Gaya, there will be no more you, and there will be no more me, there will be no more us, and there will be no more we.
Now Ronald Reagan will fly in the special plane up there (laughter) and he will have no more place to land. (laughter) And this is a fact.
Did you read that joke? It was not a joke. It was a reality in People Magazine. Did you see that? A general came to this President Carter and he (the president) told him (the general) to give him a training what will having in an atomic war and he told the president it will take five minutes. The president said, “Alright.” The president started working. After five minutes, the president said, “How many five minutes more?” He said, “It is just a matter of five minutes and already forty-five minutes has passed.” So what they are telling you is, “It is going to be alright.”
As Americans, you are very unfortunate. You are fortunate because you are all aliens. Became nationals. In two hundred years, you have seen every pleasantness of the world. You are very sexy. You are very obnoxious. You run around. You screw everything that comes in your way. You don't care. You have no responsibility. Everybody is pregnant. Nobody is a virgin. Everybody is this. Everybody is married. Everybody is divorced. You have made the biggest mess of your life. You are going to pay back for it. But all we are trying to ask is one thing. We don't want to pay back in a furnace. And that is what Earth will be.
In a simple description if you want to know what will happen to this planet Earth, if the war completes itself and all the switches are pressed and war takes place, it doesn't matter who strikes first, who strikes later, this planet Earth will become a furnace because it will take exactly thirty-six hours, and seventeen minutes by time that the ozone layer of the Earth will give up and after that, “Adios!” There is no more bomb required, first of all, no more death required. No more defense mechanism required. You are not trying to understand the basic fact. Once the atomic energy eats up the ozone layer, Earth will not be a habitable planet. Period.
Do you understand what I am saying? Did it hit you right somewhere? Can you imagine this? There will be absolutely no defense mechanism required, no more war required. I asked this question to one of the biggest men in the army. I said, “Well, the president will go in the command plane and when the ozone layer will be gone, what will happen to him?” He said, “He will melt in the space.” They know about it.
I told you what is going to happen. The death around us is so heavy and we are so aware of it that our generations are not going to come out to work at all. Work for what? To make an atom bomb? Make eighty megaton hydrogen bomb? You must be kidding? That is what is happening. That is what we have brought ourself up to. There is a way out. Blockades and publicity and everything is alright.
You are talking whether the Congressmen are with us or the Senators are with us. I'll tell you something. Everybody is with us, but there is one job in this United States which is very sickening. Americans have no religion and they are not conscious.
You can mess up an American by only giving him or her a better job. It is the job, it is the lobby pressure, it is the job pressure, it is the money pressure which is going on and according to that, everything is going on according to the plan, but people are getting slowly aware that the day is not going to be far away when there will be no jobs, no lobbying, no children, no family. What for?
That is what is waking up Americans, not that we have become religious and pious overnight. Still you taking a booking to Las Vegas. We don't (even need to) have a reservation. Don't misunderstand. Our national character has not changed. We are still temperamental, sexual and sensual people. We have not become very religious overnight because eighty megaton hydrogen bomb has been built. That is not true. We are still gambling. We are still drinking. We are still enjoying. We are still seeing the dances. You know, still Mickey Mouse is our Shiva. We don't have Lord Shiva to worship. Don't misunderstand who we are. But the problem is there is a concurrent consciousness awakening in all of us that this planet Earth is not going to be there. That is what “No Nukes” is about.
There is an acknowledged understanding that if atomic war between, uh... Trinidad, between, uh... any country, breaks out. On the Falkland Islands, “Malvinas,” whatever you want to call it, or some island you have not heard, known, or you are not going to hear about it, anywhere where the national or international war will break out with the atomic bomb or the kind of hydrogen bomb we have got now, you better forget it. There is no chance.
So what is the policy now? Alright, the policy is: Make yourself so strong the other party won't attack us because of the dread of the fear. Now is that a guarantee there will be no war? It is not, “Let us sit heart to heart and get even and forget about it.” It is not that something should happen and something is happening. That is not true. And you must understand how impotent we are.
On the Falkland Islands, the (British) empire struck back and Argentina struck. Those are little islands (about) which nobody ever heard. Neither the United Nations nor the Security Council, nor America, nor Russia, nobody could do a thing. There was a war. It was fought. For six hundred and some people, (and) for sixteen hundred thousand sheep, one thousand people died. War is never a sane process. War is the outcome of total human insanity.
Don't forget about it. When the first war, Mahabharata was fought, Lord Krishna, the godhead was in the centre of it. He couldn't stop it. All he told them (was), “Fight well!”
What is a Gita? Gita is nothing, but (it) explains to you when the evil strikes the goodness, goodness has to fight back. But the question is, war was fought. And is you read those contents, you will be surprised fire bombs were used, atom bomb was used, napalm bomb was used, the missiles were used. Thousands of people in one sector were totally burned to ashes just by the strike of one aganshastar. Aganshastar is what? Kind of a thing coming down from the sky which spreads fire to the entire area. And everybody was burned to ashes. So they used some kind of power and the after effect was that three thousand years ago, you find all these Red Indians here. If you see their food, their colour, their genes, you will be surprised, they have all habits of India because at that time all around the area about three to five million people walked away from the war zone and they took their small boats, came through Alaska. Via Alaska they all came to what you call the United States, South America, and all that area. This area was not inhabited at that time.
So we have been fighting cruel wars and destroying ourselves many times and this is the time that we are trying to appeal to ourself. There is nothing more you can do. You will be surprised that 75% of people in America don't want war, okay, especially nuclear war. Do you agree? Then 75% of people are not being heard and we have to do blockades and all that protest. Why? Do you understand?
(Audience member speaks: inaudible)
No, that is not true. This is corruptest democracy in the world. We are always very proud we are democracy in the world, but we don't say certain things. We are the corruptest democracy in the world. You have not read political science. When democracy is channelized, it becomes corrupt. It becomes power blocks, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And it is an absolute power block democracy, therefore it is the corruptest democracy on the planet Earth!
Everybody in the Congress, you call and say, “What about your nuclear power policy?” (They say,) “Who wants it?” “Well, why you are voting for this budget?” (They say,) “What else we can do?” They have passed a budget right before your eyes which is the biggest military expending budget and absolutely everything they could cut for civilians and people has been cut out and it is right before you. And these are all people we voted for. You talk to them and they will tell you, “What I can do?”
So I am trying to tell you that this country is run by eighteen corporations and by their multinational interests. You don't count. They put before you one donkey and one elephant, and you have a choice to vote for any one. One is a war monkey and one is a mad elephant. I do not know what the hell you can do. I mean, you must be crazy. Donkey is insane. Elephant is mad. Choose between the two evils. That is your choice. And you think, “I have voted. Democracy.” Forget it! There is no choice. There is no chance. $60,000 salary of a Congressman plus under the table. God bless him! If he doesn't take under the table, I don't know what he takes. The situation is very tight and very bad and very unfortunate. But there are a lot of things which can be or really should be done. Let us be practical about it.
First of all, we have weighed the situation, we have studied the situation, and we have avoided the situation, and it has taken us ten years to decide to come out openly. We never talked about it, but we know when we start talking, forget it! We are the biggest ducks in the United States. When we start quacking... because we stand out (in our white clothes and turbans). That is the only advantage we have over others. We stand out and we know how to talk. And we do want to talk now and we want to tell (everyone) that this is our first fundamental right that this country and people in this country came here to live and not to die.
Don't misunderstand me. Don't believe the Russian myth of peace either. The difference is we have a free society and we can talk very freely and they are a regimented society and they are (governed by an) oriental brain. They are the connest and the cleverest peace sellers, and they are trying their best for the first (nuclear) superiority and first (nuclear) strike.
The most dishonest, godless society that exists on this planet is Russians and I agree with (General Douglas) MacArthur when he said, “Don't stop. Let us go all the way.” And I think our president at that time pooped. I think we should have finished (it) then. It would have been much better than it is today. Actually, to be honest, they are trying to prove the point that we are the war mongers, but the fact is they have never slept from the last twenty years, day and night, to create anything they can create, steal anything they can steal (to) make themselves a first (nuclear) striking nation.
So don't misunderstand that they are beautiful and we are ugly. That is not possible. What I am mad about is a very simple fact, that where is our propaganda machine? We have Europe One, Europe Two, the two strongest radio systems. We do not do anything. And in spite of the fact we don't do any propaganda against this which can be totally heard all over Russia, right from Vladivostok to any town you can believe in, and Russians jam it, we know it, and we know we can break that jam, and still communicate, nothing much is being done.
We have to understand that we have to create a public opinion. I don't care if (President) Ronny (Reagan) says we have to spend $200 billion on the atomic war. Alright, you get even. It is your problem. He was saying on the television, “If by walking in the street and doing the blockades, war can be avoided, I would have been the first!” Well, he may not be first. Let him send (his wife) Nancy for it, at least. (laughter) Let him cooperate so we must understand that there is a right division in the first family, some for the war, some against the war. But, you know, he is saying it because it is good to say. He is a very good actor. You must understand, his all old movies are running now. So he is trying to prove his point that, you know, there is a very serious situation and we've got to meet it.
We say, “Fine. If there would have been in this budget at least $3 billion to make a propaganda against nukes, No Nuke propaganda for that, and there must be $1 billion to propagate (nuclear) freeze, I think it is worthwhile.” What is there? (President Reagan says,) “I veto this bill because it carries one billion more, because employment will be there, housing will be there.” Reagan is right. There is no need of housing because he knows there are not going to be any houses. (laughter) Why we are spending money on it?
Don't you understand what he is saying to you? He is a very one-tracked old fellow. He is saying no employment is required. Have vacation as much as you want because there is no more chance of life. To him, he wants to be the last President of the United States. (laughter) Believe me, you can see under his skin this sign. He will be very shaken if somebody else will move into that White House when he will be going after four years. I think that (John) Hinkley should have been a little sane to do the right job. He didn't do it correct.
We are as people, we are in trouble. You can recognize it. You can't recognize it. And I tell you one thing more. The President of the United States is a different person, but as Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, they are in trouble too. I saw her daughter, their daughter speaking on that Peace Sunday and she was pretty strong and pretty clear. But I say to that, there is no difference between the president and you. All of us are tied in, in one thing and that one thing is: “What will happen to my job?” Congress is tied in. Senate is tied in. President is tied in. Everything is tied in to one thing: “What will happen to my job?” Believe me or not. There is nothing else to it. People do not matter at all. That is why we all have to work hard and we all have to work very politely, very pleasantly.
And I will close myself by telling you one story. India wanted freedom. Britain knew that if they give freedom to India the empire where the sun never sets will never see the sun. They knew it. There was no two opinions about it. British empire never got established without or before India, so they knew it, they cannot afford to give freedom. Unfortunately, a hundred years before, the Lahore Darbar, the Sikh empire was free and independent. Out of treachery and manipulation, we lost our freedom, but we were the last to fall in the subcontinent.
After a hundred years, we are the originators of civil disobedience. Mahatma Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became only the champion of it later. He studied it the first time in Amritsar and the war started on a very small issue. The Goldent Temple does feed about 8-10,000 people a day. Free kitchen is the process of our religious service. And by right of decree, we had the right to bring wood from Guru-ka-Bagh, which was a kind of forest a few miles away from Amritsar.
Somehow the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar ordered that Sikhs are not entitled without paying toll to bring wood from Guru-ka-Bagh and Sikhs protested, and they started agitation, peaceful agitiation. It is called “Guru-ka-Bagh morcha.” Morcha means peaceful agititation. What will happen? In batches of five, because more than four people if you go, then you break the law of assembly. They can arrest you. So they will go, one by one, from all sides, make a batch of five and proceed to the garden (Guru-ka-Bagh) to fetch the wood. And police will lathi-charge, tear gas, and fight them, and break their bones and run horses on them. This painful situation started and continues a couple of months. After that, it became so national and so big that even at that time Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and every other leader known and unknown, Babu Mohan Rai and all those people, they came to watch and they were shocked and surprised that hundreds of Sikhs, educated (and) uneducated, poor (and) rich, children (and) ladies, will keep on walking day in and day out and night. And they were so brutally and so treacherously beaten that it even brought tears to the eyes of those who were beating them. So if she was handcuffed and later on released, it is a common thing. After all, how stone-hearted a duty may be, a man is a man in general. After a couple of months, the government of India gave in. Guru-ka-Bagh was again released to the Sikhs and wood could be taken from there for the free kitchen of the Golden Temple. That was the start of peaceful movement, agitation in the world and after that, it never stopped till in 1947 the British government was compelled to give us the independence and we walked away with it.
That country has a history written and recorded 5,000 years old. You Americans are only two hundred years old. (A) two hundred year old nation in the history of the planet is called “two days baby,” therefore you are very young, very emotional, very temperamental, and you do have a taste of wall to wall carpet and you have a credit economy. We had a cash economy. In cash economy I know I own my house. I own my tools. I own my cars. I own what I own. Here nobody owns anything. Bank owns everything and they can ruin your credit, they can spoil you this way, they can spoil you that way, they can do character assassination and a lot of things. Thanks to FBI and right of freedom (of information) about you. You check it out what they have been doing, what black market jobs they have done on people.
So basically, the government is not very kosher and government is never kosher everywhere. They just do things what they do, but I tell you one thing. You can do a lot too and very peacefully. And my experiment which I have done from the last six months is whenever you call somebody on the phone, talk to somebody, write a letter, just add one or two lines: “Do you want to live in the future? Do something about the nuclear war.” Alright. “If you love me, call me about nuclear war.”
Proselytize, advocate, or make another person to be agitated. Let them have their view. I tell you, if the atomic war will happen, neither there will be Democrats left here, nor Republicans. They all will evaporate at the same time. So misunderstand not what the holocaust will be. Only it is a question the people can define to you.
One man was telling me, “Sir, your information is wrong.” I said, “What is my information?” “The bomb will only take twenty-five miles area.” Now just understand the joke. In one warhead there are eight warheads. In one missile, eight warheads in each one, there are big eight warheads. “Alright,” I said, “According to your figure, twenty-five miles one warhead...” Multiply folks, twenty-five (by) eight. Come on! Eh? Two hundred square miles? Then multiply that by eight! If one missile hits, that will be totally gone.
They don't understand what war is going to be. They think they just put a one ostrich egg on Hiroshima and that's it. That was their first bomb. They tested here in White Sands. They dropped it there. Matter ended. They dropped two. Japan was totally in a vaporous condition. They surrendered. Matter ended. We celebrated. And I told you yesterday we were the first to make the atom bomb. We were the first to use the atom bomb on the civilian population. We were the first to make the hydrogen bomb. And, God forbid, we may become perhaps the first to start the war. That is why we are all waking up and we are trying to control our own house, control our own scene.
I am not asking you to start any agitation at all. I am asking you to start creating the public opinion. This is how I feel. You are about a thousand people who visited here. Fine. At least each one of you has one relative that you can write to. Right? That means a thousand people can write to a thousand people. And you can have such a relative whom you can urge to write one of such relatives. Start a chain action. Calm, quiet, peaceful, nice, but start saying things and don't stop until we stop it all. And then once the movement starts growing, life starts happening, things start gathering, everything will appear.
When we started in India, the independence movement, I was a teenager. In my district town I read a poem that without independence life is worse than death. It was a young man's poem. It was very emotional. I read it with a very loud and clear voice. It was very much appreciated. I left.
I came back to my hostel and I was very tired. I slept through that evening and that night. Next morning I read the newspaper. Half of the town was burnt and I was being accused (of) starting the whole thing. Before I was even ready, police were sitting around my bed, pointing guns at me as (if) I am sleeping with the bombs around my waist. I got up. I said, “What is the matter?” “You have started a riot yesterday.” I said, “I didn't start a thing. What happened?” They told me what happened. I said, “I just came here.” “Where were you?” I said, “Sleeping here where I am.” So they asked me the question, “You read a poem?” I said, “There were thirty people who read poems. I read a poem too. That is my feelings.” “That is why war has started. That is why people have burned the town. That is why police got this...da, da, da.” I said, “What do you want? Do you want to take me?” They said, “Yes.” I said, “Show me the warrant.” They didn't have it. I said, “Why you entered the hostel?” “Well, we walked in.” I said, “Please walk out. You don't have the warrant and the hostel is a protected territory. You go to the warden, serve him with a notice or with the warrant, and then come.” They have not come yet. (laughter) It is a long, old story.
So try to understand (a) lot of sacrifice has to be made, but what I am asking today is not for a huge exercise of sacrifice. It is small, but very precious. I think (the) press was here. (The) press was very kind to come all the way here and I think the speaker before me (the wife of Daniel Ellsberg), she has come all the way in spite of the fact that her husband is not feeling well and we wanted her to come definitely so that (with) all the PR we have sent out to the press we never wanted it to be felt that we just said it to bring the press over here. We were very sincere in effort. That's why she came out of sincerity, love, and effort to just prove the point.
And we find this is a coincidence. Here they made the bomb. Here we are sitting and saying we don't want it. And we keep just one attitude. All it requires is one attitude: We don't want the atomic war. That is the basic (thing).
Anyway, we are very fortunate. If you are a Sikh, you need not even register (for military service). They don't want you. Thanks to Ronald Reagan. He has done us one favour that, according to him, we are so martial that we don't need to go for a war. There is no place for us in any service in the army. They think they have done very good for us. We are very grateful for that too. But basically if all the people who want to dodge (the) draft have absolutely nothing to say, say “I am a Sikh.” You are out. (laughter and applause) And if twenty million young people write down tomorrow, “Religion: Sikh” there is no case against you because according to them, (a) Sikh is not entitled to join any force of (the) United States, whether it is navy, air force or land army. So, God bless us, at least we have brought one very good service. If you are a conscientious objector, then you have to prove it and (a) hassle. In this, you have to prove nothing. Simple write down, take a registration draft card (and) just write: “S-I-K-H” and send it with your address. They will never call you. (laughter)
I think (the) wind is in our favour and it is behind us and God is making the destiny of the United States at his wishes. This country was started with the slogan “In God We Trust.” Sacrifice has to be made, but the best of all is: Start talking. Start talking and start writing and start also making up your mind that you don't believe what is being told or said. You do believe in one thing: We don't want a nuclear war. (applause) And I hope you will create an atmosphere to promote that idea. And when you will go back home, you belong to (a) vast area. You have all the congregation. The second part is, wherever you are, whatever your town is, make a huge contribution. Call all the religious groups and give them a talk.
If you are a doctor or a professional, in your reception office put a board, “We don't want a nuclear war” as you say, “Thanks for not smoking.” Do you understand that? Just put up a little thing, “We don't want a nuclear war. It will kill and melt our children like ice cream.” Everybody knows ice cream melts. Something like that. Come out with funny slogans which can appeal to the grassroots of human consciousness. If you are writing a letter to a friend, on the envelope make a stamp: “Nuclear war will kill our children tomorrow” and put a little baby. A rubber stamp will cost about five, six, seven dollars. Keep it in the home. Every letter which goes from you, just stamp it. These little, funny things may look very little to you, but they are very effective. They are very good.
I ran the agitation of India freedom as a teenager and I ran it very successfully. I was not arrested even a single time. I worked in the Indian (civil) service absolutely with a clean record, but still in the history of India, I have a place, and I made it very intelligently, and so I can tell you today, you can do the same. Simple things, simple methods, and simple gestures can bring a flood of people on your side.
Do whatever you can do if you love the planet Earth. Trust in God and start doing something from this minute.
Thank you very much and have the best of the Solstice! We had one of the funniest times. It was very well organized. Touch wood, this year there was absolutely no problem. Everything was most smooth. I am not thanking the organizers and the workers. I am this time thanking the people. You all came with love, devotion, and a lot of consciousness, and you will be going back with a lot of richness, a lot of elevation, you will experience... Remember, when we finish (White) tantric (Yoga), it starts showing up in our personality within the range of forty days. I think you will be very well blessed and you will be happy, but also there is a responsibility which we undertook to talk to all of you today, and we must talk about it wherever we are and whatever we are. Thank you once again. Adios! Sayanara! ...whatever you want to call it. And good luck!
Tomorrow there will be marriages, happy marriages, and people are going to grow. We are going to have and believe in relationship. It is very holy and very divine. And I think, somewhere along the line, put up some kind of sign, “No nuclear war.” Start with that feeling. Otherwise, “Be blessed and multiply” and be evaporated by a nuclear war is no fun. So, try to understand, we are not in a very kosher situation. It is no good.
And it is a responsibility for each one of you, not only me. Do your best and don't rest till you achieve a common public opinion that each Congressman may feel if he will not talk about (nuclear) freeze and no nuclear war, he is going to surely get defeated. That much capacity you can create. Register everyone. There is an election coming. Register your vote. Register your relatives' vote. Register your friends' vote. Excite and incite people to see that you have the right to vote, and then line up and vote! And you will get this chance two years later in Congress and six years later in the Senate, and four years later, with the President of the United States. So if this chance comes once in a while, avail it. God bless you and be with you! Thank you. Sat Nam.
Our changing climate has taken up a fair bit of the oxygen in the public media and we all talk about it. Here in Toronto, while much of the world experienced record warmth, we just survived our coldest winter in forty years. The last two summers we had torrential downpours that knocked out the subway and flooded streets, freeways and homes, causing $100s of millions in damage.
This is all the outcome of climate change: While some of us freeze, others among us bake. While some experience terrible drought, others see terrible flooding. And on low-lying islands, everyone looks out to the rising tides with increasing nervousness.
As humans, we are cooperative, social creatures. For millennia we lived together in tightly-knit tribes and clans. In villages and towns, people still relied on their neighbors for their safety and security. Even in today's growing, impersonal cities, during times of crisis, the citizens band together to help the weak and vulnerable.
We have always been good at reaching out and helping those we see in need. It is part of our nature. What we are not so good at is reaching out to those unseen and personally unknown to us in their hour of need.
This is not to say that the United Nations, the Red Cross, and various national governments have not stepped in when large-scale calamities have struck - the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the 2010 flooding in Pakistan, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in west Africa, and so on. These organizations are dedicated to disaster relief and the people who work for them are especially attuned to the needs of the afflicted. Moreover, we support the work done by these organizations indirectly through our taxes, our donations, and our overall recognition of the value of what they do.
Climate change today however presents a new challenge for all of us: the challenge of learning and developing new attitudes and behaviours helpful to our fellow human beings spread far across this planet, mostly in places we are unlikely to ever see or inhabit. Not only are most of our fellow humans mostly strangers to us, but the help they (and we) so desperately need is not a matter of a week or a month of assistance: the calamity posed by man-made climate change will likely require all of us to change our habits of living for the rest of our lives.
Moreover, if we are to be successful at our mission, we had better cultivate a whole new attitude of helping because a campaign of this magnitude and seriousness is liable to make all of us a little anxious and depressed unless we learn to accent the positives and celebrate our daily victories, large and small.
Where do we begin? Let's just grant that the best way to start is simply to start - anywhere. Any beginning is a good beginning because at least it means you are going someplace rather than standing still, or more likely a case like climate change, going backwards from your inactivity.
That being said, let me propose three simple ways forward. Doubtless, there are hundreds.
1) Do not let your elected representatives - local, regional, or national - run for office without telling you their plan for fighting climate change. And if it is not a focused and reasonably ambitious plan, don't vote for them.
2) Help create linkages across the planet. Make a Facebook friend in a place with a threatened environment like the Seychelles, the Philippines, California, Mali or Nunavut (in Canada's Arctic). Granted, some of these places are not well linked with the internet and will be challenging to connect with. You can also press your city representatives to twin your city with an afflicted city like Tacloban (Philippines), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Dhakka (Bangladesh), Yuba City (California), or Iqaluit (Nunavut). Encourage cultural and scientific exchanges between your cities.
3) Research and put into practice the many Earth-positive practices you can find - and tell your friends about them. Don't forget to include stress management as a helpful practice. As the sun beats down or the waters rise or they dry up altogether, there is sure to be a lot of stress and anxiety worldwide. Now is the time to learn (and teach) yoga or meditation or t'ai chi to keep yourself and others cool and focused in the times ahead.
Climate change presents us all with a vital challenge and a terrible opportunity. It is terrible because if we miss it, there is a probability of large-scale loss of lives, human and otherwise, from disastrous changes in the water, on the earth, and in the air. War over scarce water and arable soil is a looming possibility. It is also vital because goodwill, networking, and coordination at unprecedented levels hold the key to our entering a new era where humanity really means humanity.
Love to all! Peace to all! Life to all!