This is a story of a personal journey from despair at what we have done to the world we borrowed from our grandchildren and theirs, to the smallest glimmer of hope that we might yet learn to live differently, more justly and sustainably, and save the world.
In the fall of 2007, I was in London on what now seems a frivolous vacation to celebrate my 65th birthday (for which a retrospective mea culpa). Somehow, a new book by Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, called Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning had come to my attention and I purchased and avidly read it. I can’t really say it was a wakeup call (and not only because I hate that cliche), but the book certainly turned what was to be a light-hearted trip into a series of sleepless nights.
The book reminded me of what I already knew from a much earlier work called Limits to Growth (Donella Meadows, Denis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, 1972) that essentially predicted societal collapse in the 21st Century if humanity continued on its current path. I read that book. I thought about it for awhile, and then, like most reasonably comfortable suburbanites in the 1970s, I put it aside and got on with my own business as usual: raising children, volunteer gigs, an active social life. But the message, that growth — population, economic, resource use — would one day ‘overshoot’ the Earth’s carrying capacity, haunted me. Even through the oil shocks of the 70’s, no one outside the scientific community — or Jimmy Carter — seemed to be taking any of this seriously, let alone suggesting a change in business as usual. And then Carter and his cardigan and solar panels were out, and the party began in earnest.
The inscription to George Monbiot’s book reads: To Hanna. May this be a fit world for you to inhabit. This is what motivates my joining the Transition Movement though I have no clear idea whether it will be enough or where my efforts will lead. I have to, as Emily Dickinson put it, dwell in possibilities.