The Climate Movement and the Great Turning

This article is based on my ideas about the Great Turning Movement. If you aren’t familiar with them, click here.

Some of you may say: “This Great Turning is all well and good, but it will take too long. We must throw all our energy into solving climate change before it triggers irreversible changes that will lead to the end of civilization as we know it. We have only a decade or so before it will be too late.”

I am very concerned, too, and I strongly support all the current activism around the climate emergency. However, dropping everything else may not be smart. In his brilliant book, Climate: A New Story, Charles Eisenstein suggests that our current exclusive focus on greenhouse gas emissions is missing a lot about both the causes of climate change and the solutions. This comes from seeing the earth as a geo-mechanical machine rather than a living organism.

From Eisenstein’s living earth perspective, you can see that part of the reason for climate dysregulation is our degraded ecosystems, and if they were healthy, they would permit much greater sequestration of carbon and a much greater capacity for mitigating climate change. Therefore, it makes sense to focus on creating healthy soil, water cycles, regenerative agriculture, and similar things, as well as lowering emissions of greenhouse gases. This is being promoted by the EcoHealth Network and the Regenerative Communities Network. Joe Brewer has gathered wisdom about how communities in bioregions can succeed in this process. This will require that most of us learn how to regenerate land and develop regenerative local economies.

Then there is Paul Hawken’s Drawdown Project, which delineates many practical actions that can be taken to sequester carbon and cut emissions beyond pressuring our governments. I think that we need to include all these approaches to the climate crisis, and I think there needs to be more emphasis on capturing carbon in the earth. If this were publicized more fully, there could be a whole new cadre of climate activists focusing on this.

I believe that there is too much emphasis in the current climate movement on pressuring national governments to wake up and deal with the climate crisis. While it would be great if they did, it doesn’t seem very likely that enough national governments will take the drastic steps that are needed. They are too much in the pockets of big corporations. Therefore, I think that the climate movement needs to focus more on drawdown and ecosystem health, and also on working with state and local governments to make the changes needed for us to survive this crisis.

Most important, I believe that the climate emergency can’t really be solved without the Great Turning. Our industrial growth society is too entrenched to allow the radical changes that are required to solve the climate emergency. We must transform it. This view is also espoused by Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything, Charles Eisenstein in Climate: A New Story, and Bill McKibben and many of the other participants in a recent online discussion about the state of the climate movement.

One strangely hopeful possibility is that there may be an economic crash, perhaps another great depression as in 1929. The world economy is showing some signs that this may be imminent. If this happens, as difficult as it would be, it could be a blessing in disguise. It would result in a great deal less economic activity for a long time, and this means a lot less CO2 emissions, also for a long time. This could buy us the extra time to enable the Great Turning before we are hit with a climate disaster, so we might even be able to transform society fully enough to avoid the worst of the climate catastrophe.

So, even though it would cause great harm, this kind of economic breakdown might be hopeful because it would cause far less harm than the climate breakdown would. The Social Movement for the Great Turning would need to learn how to operate in this very different economic situation, but this is something we could do.