Making Our Contribution

By Victoria Zelin & Jonathan Cloud

DuaneElginIt seems appropriate, in the context of this project, to state that much of what we are talking about is “already out there” in one form or another; part of our goal is simply to bring it together in a way that we and others can work together effectively to build a new future for ourselves and the rest of the world.

I’m reminded of this specifically by picking up Duane Elgin’s The Living Universe (2009), in which he reminds us of the “Warning to Humanity” issued by 1600 of the world’s top scientists — including a majority of the Nobel laureates in the sciences at the time — in 1992:

“A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

Today, 22 years later, we know that we have not made this “great change”— and that catastrophe is looming ever closer. We know, for example, that we have already locked in a greater than 2°C temperature increase in the global climate; that we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction of species on the planet; and that we are not likely to solve these problems until poverty, war, and oppression have been banished from the earth. Despite the “mainstream media’s” efforts to keep alive a wholly-obsolete “debate,” almost everyone we know now understands and accepts this reality.

So what are we to add? Certainly there are a few things that we think are useful contributions; but before we get to them, I want to speak a little more about our personal role in all of this. The “I” in this sentence is Jonathan: I do the writing, the research, and the integration. Victoria’s role is different; she is an original thinker in her own right, but primarily interested in people rather than ideas. She is committed to people having their lives work, and spends a great deal of time in service to others; which is in turn a practice that helps our lives to work as well.

But what I mainly want to say is that we’re not that different from, quite literally, millions of other people. We’re not celebrities or academic authorities; we’re not poor, but we’re certainly not wealthy; we’re not young any more, but we don’t have a string of accomplishments that we can point to. We’re not writing about things that are only good for some people but not for others. In short, we think we’re pretty much like you (only probably more average). But nevertheless we think we have a unique contribution to make (and believe that you do as well). So our goal, in everything that we write or speak or do, is to reach out to others and collaborate in making the “great change” that we need in the world today. Only a few of our ideas are new, and all of them are derived from our learning and examination of the ideas of others. But what we need now is not so much originality as it is practicality. In short, this means talking about mechanisms, systems, practices, and processes that will help us move from “awareness” into practice.

The awareness is, of course, essential; but it’s not sufficient. We also need to put our shoulder to the wheel, and seek along with others to turn aside the world’s trajectory toward disaster. But we can’t do this alone. It needs all, or at least a majority of us, choosing a different path. And this means communicating with one another, aligning on our goals, and working things out so that we can move forward.

This is, in my view, what we are “up to” in this work: coming from a world that works in order to create a new future for ourselves and for the rest of humanity. So we’re happy to appropriate what we can from others, integrate it for ourselves, and share our insights, our possibilities, and our commitments with others.


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