I am writing this from the snowy hills and moors of Wales, where I am with my family for the anniversary of my father's death. Every evening, Sadananda and I have been getting together with Mum to read poetry. In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by S.T. Coleridge, the mariner callously kills the albatross, the bird of hope.
And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
As a result of this cruelty, the ship and all on it face environmental catastrophe.
All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon...
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.
For many of us, the climate conference at Copenhagen may have seemed to kill or at least cripple our bird of hope, leaving us to face consequences every bit as severe as those described by Coleridge. We longed for, yet did not accomplish, an ambitious, fair and binding treaty. Where now? Perhaps the most important lesson from Copenhagen is that change comes from people, not from politicians. This New Year's letter comes to bring renewed hope in the form of an action plan going forward.
There are actions for us to take in each of the Four Worlds described in Kabbalah. In assiyah, the world of action, we can act individually and as communities to take our own carbon inventory and reduce our own emissions. There are many possible reductions in emissions that will benefit not only the planet but also our family budget, by lowering our utility bills. We can also limit our consumption of cheap plastic goods from China and plan our shopping to support local farmers and artisans as well as local businesses. We can walk, bus, bike or carpool to work. We can reduce our meat consumption or embrace a vegetarian lifestyle. And we can gain greater connection with the earth by growing our own vegetables. To estimate your emissions visit and find ways to reduce them visit http://www.carbonfootprint
The most ambitious version of this plan would be voluntary carbon rationing, which would enable us to demonstrate the feasibility of mandatory carbon rationing. If millions of us got together in a concerted effort, we could put this type of pilot project in place.
And there really are millions of us and we have shown our capacity for concerted action. This brings us to yetzirah, the world of feelings and connection. While the climate conference may have been a disappointment, the way the ordinary citizens of the world have come together to speak with one voice has been anything but disappointing--in fact it has been incredibly inspiring. I would like to commend to you two organizations, 350.org http://www.350.org , which organized a massive day of protest around the world on 24 October, bringing the world together to speak with one voice, as well as its partner organization, Avaaz http://www.avaaz.org/en/ , which organized a petition signed by 14 million people .The two organizations collaborated to create candlelight vigils around the world on 12 December as well as floods of phone calls, emails, fasts and rallies. If you care about the issue of climate change and haven't yet joined both these organizations, I encourage you to do so. Together, we can make a difference.
Also in yetzirah, the feeling world, we can connect with others through sharing our resources. None of us would sit down to a full dinner knowing that next door, our neighbour's children were starving...yet on a global level, that's what we do every day. To help redress the balance and provide climate change mitigation for the world's poorest, visit http://www.oxfam.org/ and pledge a monthly contribution. Oxfam is involved both in social justice and food security and also in climate advocacy, and is a strong voice for the environment as well as for those who suffer most from drought and floods.
Now we come to beriah, the conceptual world. Information is power, and where climate change is concerned, disinformation is rife. While here in the UK, Sadananda and I watched a fantastic three part BBC series, Climate Wars, by Dr. Iain Stewart, a geology professor at Plymouth University in the UK. I recommend this series for its support in untangling scientific information from polluter propaganda. Here's a You Tube link for watching the whole series in 18 ten minute segments. http://www.youtube.com/vie
Most important of all, now is the time for powerful and effective action in atziluth, the spiritual world. Greed and fear marred the Copenhagen talks. Are we really going to go down squabbling and take most other species with us in a 4-6'C temperature rise? The time has come for a global loving-kindness initiative on a massive scale. In tandem with the actions we have discussed in the other three worlds, this is a vital way to prepare for the next round of climate talks. We must match rising levels of greenhouse gases with rising levels of loving-kindness and compassion. Through a planet-wide initiative of this kind, we can activate the most positive aspects of our human potential. I am pleading for millions around the world to spend some time each day breathing in the phrase 'May I be happy' and breathing out 'May all beings be happy' or whatever is the equivalent wording within each person's faith view. In Sanskrit it is Lokah samasthah sukhino bhavantu. Only a treaty based on love and care for all Earth's inhabitants will meet the need for action that is truly just. In the Ancient Mariner's moment of spiritual awakening he declares,
O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare :
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware :
And this can't come from our leaders; it comes from us, from the love that millions of us generate in our hearts. In the concluding verses of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner:
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
Wishing you a joyous New Year and a time of new beginnings,
With my love and blessings always,
PS, please feel free to forward this!