December 12, 2012

The Beginning of Well-Being—for Yourself or Your Planet.

You can sum up the first step towards well-being in two words: get real.

This isn’t a new concept, of course. In the language of recovery, it’s admitting that you have a problem.

In my language, you have to be in touch with or feel what is standing between you and your well-being in order to dismantle that wall.

Reaching this initial step usually involves pain of some sort. In training for my first career as a violinist, this often came from the stark reality created by recording myself as I was in the stages of learning new music. For me and my Quanta Change clients in our transformational paths, it involves hitting some kind of wall that informs us that our survival mechanisms are no longer working. Often, we get glimpses of this pain long before we’re really ready to act on it. The pain is a two on a scale of one to ten, and it will take an eight to make us really feel that change is the only option.

Last weekend, I saw a film called Chasing Ice that seeks to trigger the first step towards well-being for our planet’s climate. It documents James Balog’s Extreme Ice Project, which uses multi-year, time-lapse photographs of glaciers to show the effects of climate change. I’ve read a lot about climate change, but nothing clarified the devastating effects of our fossil fuel intensive habits more than seeing glaciers retreating up their valleys at a pace much faster than we would consider “glacial.”


The next night, I attended a presentation by Bill McKibben of 350.org, an organization he created to raise awareness about climate change and work towards solutions. (The organization’s name refers to the highest safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million.) His concise presentation showed exactly why the glaciers—which scientists think of as climate “canaries in the coal mine”—are retreating so quickly and why we’re heading for global catastrophe unless we change how we generate energy, namely by quickly and severely reducing our use of fossil fuels and switching to renewable sources like solar and wind.

One of the big obstacles to getting real about our problems is the fear that there’s no solution to them or that we’re not capable of following through on possible solutions.

As a violinist, I was grateful to brilliant teachers along the way who helped me fix my intonation, rhythm and sound. When it comes to personal well-being, I’m grateful for the process that has helped me unlearn the blocks to my well-being and that I get to guide others through. And, after last weekend, I’m beyond grateful to the scientists and organizations that show us that our climate problems, while urgent and severe, are also solvable.

James Hansen of NASA, the first scientist to warn about global warming more than two decades ago, wrote:

“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.”

“That will be a hard task, but not impossible. We need to stop taking carbon out of the ground and putting it into the air. Above all, that means we need to stop burning so much coal—and start using solar and wind energy and other such sources of renewable energy –while ensuring the Global South a fair chance to develop. If we do, then the earth’s soils and forests will slowly cycle some of that extra carbon out of the atmosphere, and eventually CO2 concentrations will return to a safe level. By decreasing use of other fossil fuels, and improving agricultural and forestry practices around the world, scientists believe we could get back below 350 by mid-century. But the longer we remain in the danger zone—above 350—the more likely that we will see disastrous and irreversible climate impacts.”

Of course, we actually have to act on those solutions. My understanding is that we have the technology and means to solve the climate crisis, but until now, have lacked the political and societal will to do so.

My first step in helping us develop this vital political and societal will is urging you to:

  1. See “Chasing Ice” (currently showing in theaters) and encourage everyone you know to see it.
  2. Take every possible step to reduce your own carbon footprint.
  3. Get involved with organizations like 350.org who are advocating a carbon tax and divestment from fossil fuel companies.

If you’re feeling resistant to these steps, please share your experience in the comments below. I would love to address your questions and concerns in future blog posts.

Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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