Edit (April 13) : obviously my ambivalence about Earth Day caused me to lose an entire month, dithering around whether or not I’d practice an hour of lightless protest… I kept trying to work out why my calendar said April 26 was a Tuesday not a Saturday and did I have the year wrong? No. Only the month. Hello April. How did you sneak up on us so fast? And what year is it again? PS Anyone looking for a gig as a fact-checker and editor?
Sit in the dark and dream
I’m not really a big fan of shallow performative stunts – of single days devoted to a cause (when for every deeply meaningful cause, there’s another day devoted to pets or donuts), or pretending that everyone changing our lightbulbs is going to heal our beloved marvel of a planet from generations of extraction and exploitation. So, I was humming and hawing about dedicating a post to Earth Hour, and to encouraging you all to turn off the lights as your big gesture this month.
In a recent take-no-prisoners, suffer-no-fools podcast interview, Tyson Yunkaporta spoke about the early days of the pandemic, when the whole world was in retreat, and we all rejoiced at the birdsong and the lack of traffic and the clean air and the dolphins returning to busy canals… but, says Yunkaporta, global climate emissions only decreased by 6% over the previous year, meaning that for all of our individual sacrifice and stillness, the global economy and the huge systems of extraction and exploitation, and the people powering those beasts, kept on extracting and exploiting, to the tune of 94% of the damage. So, instead of focussing all our energy exhausting ourselves altering our own behaviours, we should all gang up on those big players, if we really want to make a difference.
(Yunkaporta is an Apalech man, one of Australia’s First Peoples. He’s an academic, researcher arts critic & father, and the author of Sand Talk, which is a brilliant, brain-explosion of a book and highly recommended.)
So, why the urge towards setting aside one hour for the Earth?
Well, sitting alongside Tyson Yunkaporta on my Couch of Brilliant Minds, is adrienne maree brown, the author of Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism, and the other voice in my head from last month’s podcast play roll.
If you can imagine yourselves as a community, rather than a bunch of individuals trying to survive these conditions, that shift in identity can transform our idea of what’s possible.adrienne maree brown
She wrote a recent post about “deep practice” – I nudged it before you the other day... I push it forward again, because, it’s really really good. She says, at a time when all she could feel was despair, grief was her practice. Acknowledging the truth was her practice.
The IPCC’s third report dropped on Monday. It’s beyond grim. It’s hard to hold that huge hard truth of it, and also watch daffodils peeking up out of late spring snowstorms, and to pack your kid’s lunch with an equal balance of fruit and protein and carbs…
Alex Steffen, the futurist, has written that we are now in a time of discontinuity, in that, the lessons and patterns of the past, are not longer reliable guides. We can’t know what’s coming, because it’s so deeply unpredictable… but all our assurances are out the window.
How do we respond to this? Bayo Akomolafe says, “the times are urgent, we must slow down.”
I think it has to do with re-wilding our imaginations, so we re-learn how to think and dream in radical ways, outside the boxes and conventions of what we’ve been permitted… And where better to try and stretch our imaginations and minds in strange new poses and into wild new terrain, but in the dark, for just an hour, dedicated to the Earth.
That’s why I think it’s worth considering practicing Earth hour. Because, habit is more important than talent. Because we become what we practice. Because, when it all feels like way too much, we can find our way forward, with just one single practice (that perhaps we can commit to every day) – “one minute, one rep, one bow, one cycle, one lap, one stanza, one page. one cry. one moment of choice. do it deeply, with reverence. or quickly, haphazard…but do it.”
And because out of our collectively held dark, we might dream our way through.
Switch off, so we can drop down, tune in, dream up something new.