If you are as wonky as I am about climate change your Facebook news feed is already humming with all the bloggers talking about the new multi-government report on Climate Change. In case you have been in hibernation National Geographic summed it up nicely:
“The 772 scientists who wrote and edited the report argue that world leaders have only a few years left to reduce carbon emissions enough to avoid catastrophic warming, which would produce significant sea level rise and large-scale shifts in temperatures that would dramatically disrupt human life and natural ecosystems.”
As I look beyond the latest scientific report I continue to ask myself “will this change anyone’s behavior?” Will one more study on top of over 130,000 studies convince anyone to change their daily habits? If the past is a predictor of the future the answer is that a few will change, but many more consumers will be produced in the race for prosperity both in the U.S. and in developing countries. There are positive changes happening in our country. Gas milage is improving, we are burning more natural gas and less coal, we are recycling more, even public transportation use is increasing, local food and urban farming are producing healthier produce. The sobering fact is that we are exporting the consumptive lifestyle at an incredible rate. The good intentions of a small minority of americans can not compete with the Every developing country wants the same opulence that the perceive all americans enjoying.
Can we curb our gluttonous hunger for more stuff and more individualism or are we ready to move to a new consciousness that celebrates community and sustainability?
The noted psychologist Carl Jung believed that the alienation, anxiety and depression many people contend with everyday is connected to a deeper pain related to the destruction of planet earth. I found this to be a profound message. I finally felt justified for some reason. When a famous scholar puts into words the exact emotions you have been feeling, somehow you feel vindicated.
Carl Jung did not deal with climate change. He lived in the later part of the 19th and early 20th century. It is said that he had a dream that predicted the destruction and death of World War I. Up until that time war was a regional problem, somewhat contained in it’s destruction. The 620,000 lost in the American Civil War could not compare to the 37,500,000 that would die in WW I or the 48,000,000 that perished in WW II, both within Jung’s lifetime.
Maybe some of us are aware of the coming catastrophes of climate change on the collective unconscious level that Jung experienced. We hardly need to tap into such a mystical state when studies like DARA
state that up to 100 million people may die as a direct result of climate change by the year 2030. Or perhaps grim projections such as these simple give academic justification for what we feel in our souls.
The biggest challenges facing the American West is climate change. Integral to that challenge is food. Where and how we get our food has tremendous implications for how we care for God’s creation. Over the last several years there has been more discussion about food and faith. Every time we take a bite of food we are casting a vote about what kind of world we want. Do we want a world where local farmers can earn a livable wage growing healthy food for their community? Or do we want to support a misdirected, government subsidized agricultural system that degrades the environment and makes only large corporations healthier?
There are many candidates for which to cast your “edible vote”. The most basic is growing your own garden. In his new book Soil and Sacrament, Fred Brahnson speaks of the undeniable connection between faith and farming. I have been deeply moved by his artful combination of both scientific, and theological knowledge.
Shopping at farmers markets are another great way to cast your vote. Studies show that 10 times more conversations occur at a farmers market than at a grocery store. Farmers markets create community. People get to know their farmer.
Joining a community supported agriculture farm is another way to improve both the quality of your food and the quality of your community. CSA’a provide fresh produce and sometimes meat throughout the growing season for a subscription fee paid to the farmer at the beginning of the growing season. This subscription helps to cover the farmers operating expenses and ensures him/her a livable wage even if one variety of crop fails to produce. This way the risk (yes farming is risky) is spread between the farmer and the consumer.
Church Gardens are another way many people are finding fresh, healthy food. Many churches own land and have a leadership structure that enables community gardens to flourish. Many of these gardens are run by church members and are open to the broader community. The abundance of produce is often donated to the local food bank to feed the marginalized. Could there be a better way to internalize one’s faith than working with Creation to feed those most in need? Church gardens represent the perfect means to put one’s faith into action.
Next time you sit down to a meal remember that you are casting a vote for the world you would like to create. Vote wisely!
The last post dealt with the first question people ask, often unconsciously, “can he do it?” With the same honesty I will address the second unasked question “how can he leave everything behind ” and just go?
This question gets to the root of so many of our fears and values. It is a question that digs the deepest into our souls. There has been a lot to leave behind. The attachment we have to people, places and mostly things can get in the way of pursuing our deepest desires. Leaving everything sounds irresponsible to many people, while at the same time igniting a bit of envy. They see the life they have created and can’t imagine sacrificing any of it to pursue what they perceive as their true calling.
I personally dealt with this issue this morning. In order to lighten our economic, spiritual and financial load my family of 4 has decided to move into a smaller house, closer to town. We currently inhabit a 1,600 square foot house, though considered small by U.S. standards it is palatial next to the 1,200 square foot house we will be occupying in a few weeks. It’s amazing how attached I get to “things”. When I think about it the things are not as sticky as the memories and hopes that we attach to the things. As I work my way through our storage shed, sorting through what I will give away or sell, I come across children’s books that I hope to share with my grandchildren, hunting clothes that hold special memories. Outdoor gear that was purchased for a special trip that never happened. A 3/4 length duck hunting parka that once gave shelter to young lover. All precious hopes and memories. The goal is to cherish the memories and let the objects go.
There is also the common issue of finances. “How will he support himself?” This is not a simple issue. I envy some of my younger friends without spouses, children, houses and businesses. They seem to be able to go and do what they wish with nary a care. My strategy is more complex because my life is more complex. I plan on doing on-line health consulting through a holistic care website. I have not been hired as of today, but I hold out great hope. I also own and operate a chiropractic clinic in Bozeman. I have made arrangements for a very good doctor to cover the practice whilst I am away. There are no financial guarantees with any of this. It is still a leap of faith. “Leap and the net will appear”, I read somewhere.
The personal side of “leaving everything behind” is my family. My wife, Karen is very supportive of my need for adventure. She knows that important journeys must be made. I am not implying that she is crazy about the idea of spending the summer alone and worrying about my safety. She will be seeking her own adventure working in a Ugandan orphanage with my daughter Madeline through the month of June.
Before you consider heading out on an adventure be warned that you will not be leaving it all behind. Likely you will carry much of the responsibilities with you, they will simply change forms slightly.
When I share the Trek with the public they invariably listen with interest and I can see the gears turning in their heads. They are asking themselves some common questions.
1.Can he really do this?
2.How can he just leave everything behind?
3.Could I do something like this?
So far most of my blog posts have been written about why I am taking the Trek from an external perspective. Yes there needs to be rapid action to deal with climate change in the American West, but that is not what draws people to be interested in the Trek. What attracts each person’s attention is the thought of dropping everything and standing for a cause.
I thought I should document some of the “behind the scenes” processes, both practical and spiritual, that are taking place so that others who feel so inclined to make a dramatic change in their lives can find comfort in reading the trials and victories of a fellow pilgrim.
Let’s focus on the first question. “Can he really do this?” No one has said that it could not be done. No one has told me that riding 1,300 miles by horse in our industrialized civilization is impossible. Yet I see it in their eyes. The truth is I ask myself this question dozens of times everyday. Do I have the physical strength? I am past 50 years old and lifting heavy saddles and packs is a fair amount more difficult than it was when I was 40. My lower back is much more temperamental and requires regular maintenance in the form of chiropractic, massage and yoga to stay functional. My diet is much more restrictive (I am both gluten and dairy sensitive) so preparing food on the trail becomes quite laborious. Sleeping in a tent is not as comfortable as my king size bed at home.
The biggest challenges are mental questions. Can I handle the loneliness? There are hundreds of miles where I may be alone for days. Days and weeks of hot windy travel with little protection from the elements. The bigger question that has required the deepest introspection is “what if nobody cares?” What if I commit my life to this cause and nobody even notices? We all want to make a difference in the world, but the fact is most of us have a legacy that barely out lives the flowers at our funeral. Mostly our lives are but a breath of God’s creation. I usually comfort myself with the knowledge that I am inexorably called to do this. I pay attention to the supernatural, primal instincts that if not acted upon will surely lead to a complacent life. I listen to my thoughts and daydreams. I focus on what’s possible. I focus on potential. I believe God has a unique plan for each of us; that each of us feels a certain resonance when we are living that plan.
I don’t know EXACTLY what I am doing. I just know I will never be the same.
How about you? What life changing adventure is calling you? If you are SURE you can accomplish it perhaps you need a bigger dream.
The old saying goes “he sold his saddle”. The implication is that when everything else is gone the last thing to go is a horseman’s saddle. I’ve sold my share of saddles over the years and yes it has always been as a last resort. When you have a $3,000 saddle sitting in the barn and some bills that need to be paid the temptation and call of responsibility can be too much to bear.
This saddle was almost sold also. During the winter of 1999 I did not have a horse to ride. I had been admiring all the beautiful saddles in Western Horseman Magazine, and in a fit of cabin fever I decided that I could build a saddle. I ordered the kit and waited on the UPS delivery man. I spent many long nights in the basement cutting patterns, building and rebuilding different parts of the saddle. The seat was especially challenging. The seat of a good saddle uses the best cut of a hide. There are some intricate fitting and measurements that have to be “just right”. I remade the seat of that saddle three times. Each time I had to special order a $200 piece of leather to start over again. Late into the cold dark nights of February I was using a smooth mayonnaise jar to rub the wet leather into a comfortable seat.
That saddle sat on many horses over the next year. Some it fit quite well and others it was too narrow. I seemed to go through periods when I was sure that I should leave horses behind and focus on my career. This picture is one of those times. I advertised the saddle of E-bay. I thought I should sell it and be done with horses. My wife talked me out of selling it.
Over the last 10 years that saddle has sat on a lot of colts. It has endured numerous wrecks, been chewed on, stomped on and soaked in rivers. After purchasing Gus, the Montana Travler, I discovered that the saddle fit him perfectly. I installed new saddle strings last year to replace the ones that were chewed off. Also new is the D-ring behind the cantle to accommodate a crouper for those long downhill rides.
It’s not as fancy as some of my other saddles. It reminds me of an old pickup, it just works.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I disagree. It may be more challenging to teach an old dog new tricks,but not impossible. Such is the case with an old horse. Let’s just say Gus, my horse has some baggage. I know where he was raised and I know who started him. I know he was not given a whole lot of nice easy lessons. His past experienced have a lot to do with how he reacts today as a 10 year old horse. He is nervous, “pacy”, easily frightened and at times distrustful.
During these early season rides he seems to rush through any ride so that he can get back to the safety and comfort of his herd in the paddock. It seems to take many miles for him to settle into a relaxed walk in which Lucy the mule is not constantly yo-yoing from a walk to a trot and back again. I always try to follow the sage advice of Ray Hunt and make the thing I want them to do easy and make the unwanted behavior difficult. I always found that wisdom easy to follow in the arena and the barn. Riding down the shoulder of a busy road, pulling a mule is a difficult place to adhere to that advice. Then I quit fighting the horse and just thought about the problem and studied my horse. Every time he would lurch forward in a anxious manner his head would come up ever so slightly. On many horses this is easy to notice, but Gus is just 14.2 hands (small for a horse) and move pretty collected. Once a horse lifts his head and walks quickly he hollows out his back and moves his weight more to his front end. In other words he moves “all strung out”. It’s ugly, uncomfortable to ride and taxing on the horse. Since I could not move the horse sideways or bend him into a corner I had to figure out a way to keep his head in a relaxed, low position. Since I was using a mile curb bit I simply lifted up on the reins and held his head up until he pulled it down. After about 3 miles it was like magic, as soon as I gently lifted the reins he would drop his head. That simple movement allowed him to engage his hindquarter more efficiently and kept a lid on his anxiety. I did not fix the entire problem on one ride, but he did become more relaxed.
How about you? Do you have any secret training tips that produce a straight, relaxed horse?
The science of climate change is well established at this time. It is so well established that I mistakenly assumed that I did not need to review the evidence on this website. Recent conversations led me to believe that some people may not be aware of the scientific consensus on climate change. One needs to look no farther than their computer to harvest reams of studies confirming that the global temperature is rising and that humans are the primary cause. I chose not to replicate the thousands of research summaries that are available elsewhere on the internet. There are many websites that can do a much better job than I can explaining all of the intricacies of climate change. Some of the better ones are:
Skepticalscience.com : Gives the scientific rebuttal to many of the most common arguments used by climate change deniers. I like the fact you can read the “basic”, “intermediate” or “advanced” level of explanation. They even have a smartphone app so that you can have access to the science wherever a conversation may present itself.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change : Scientists from around the world are working together to learn from one another how to mitigate or reduce climate change and how to adapt to the inevitability of climate change.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: This organization is working to take the raw scientific data on climate change and distill the data down to usable information for local, state and national agencies to better prepare for the effects of climate change.
Union of Concerned Scientists : Statements from a number of scientific groups regarding climate change.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality : Get information about how climate change may impact Montana and what government agencies are doing to adapt.
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management : Learn what is being done to protect federally owned lands throughout the country.
There is a large and growing body of faith-based organizations that have taken steps to address the theological issues of climate change
Religions for Peace: ”Action and Advocacy for Climate Change — A Resource Guide for Religious Communities”
Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change
Climate Change-An Evangelical Call to Action
Evangelical Environmental Network
People of all Faiths and their respective statements on climate change
Witnessing is the act of observing without the intention of changing. Some spiritual teachers claim that the ecological and environmental devastation we are currently experiencing need to be first witnessed. Too often our minds and hearts encourage us to take action, change the world, fix something, fix anything! The problem with all that Yankee ingenuity is that we attempt to fix the problem with the same consciousness that created the problem.
Recycling, driving hybrid cars, pushing for renewable energy are all admirable efforts to conserve resources. Resources that are needed to maintain the current lifestyle and emotional, spiritual framework of our society. The dilemma is that none of these efforts alone or in combination can offset the damage already done. The only real solution is to create and embrace a new consciousness. Realize that our lifestyle, our society, our basic underlying assumptions about life need to change. Only then can we begin to make the changes necessary to overcome the global challenges we face. Our assumptions about economic growth, happiness, and community will be challenged in the next few decades. The harder we fight to maintain the status quo the more painful the transition to a new paradigm will become.
Before we leap to take action to save the planet, let us take the time to witness the damage, mourn the loss, then from that place of darkness begin to rebuild.
The first ride of the year, after 4 month off usually reveals just where your horse heart is at. I would love to tell you that Gus and Lucy came off their furlough happy and ready to work. The truth is they were both content to spend their lives lolling around the paddock.
Gus wanted nothing more than to be in the safety of his small herd. While making a sortie out to a nearby pasture he raced and paced nervously to get back to the barn. Meanwhile at the end of her lead rope Lucy kicked, bucked and writhed her neck expressing her deep displeasure at the quick pace that Gus was pursuing. As for me my body feels slightly beat up. Hips and shoulders are stiff and sore. It’s a good thing we all have 8 weeks to get back into form.