Letter to the Facing Future Team
from Nathan Jackson
Hi Stuart and all team members,
I wanted to thank you for your consistent loyalty to speaking the truth. It’s been a huge help to those of us trying to follow the same path. I’m sorry it came at a cost to you, Stuart. I hope you don’t find it flippant if I tell you that I think it was worth it. You’re doing the right thing.
Scientific vs Spiritual
I wonder if many of the problems in our world are the result of the scientific rational side of our consciousness being let loose, whilst our spiritual side has been so neglected that we don’t know what to do with all the power our science and technology have afforded us. Our indigenous brothers and sisters understand this. They are on the front line of this crisis. They know that the only way in this world is to have balance between our rational mind, and our intrinsic self’s sense for truth. Perhaps this is what one could call our soul.
Maybe it is just neurons in our gut processing our thoughts as our scientific friends would have us believe. But it doesn’t matter — we have to listen to its’ truth. If we don’t, we pay a price worse than death. We lose ourselves, we lose our capacity to live in truth. As the wise man once told me, “The biggest confusion in the world is about death. We think Death is the opposite of Life. It isn’t. It’s the opposite of Birth. Life just Is”.
James H. Cohn, Theologian
There’s a great theologian, James H. Cohn, who speaks to some of this in his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. James lived most of his life as a Black man in the southern states of America. He died at 90-odd years old there a while ago. Living as he did and when he did, taught him things — truths that needed speaking. He reckoned we white men don’t know Christ. That we can’t because we haven’t suffered enough.
He found it shocking that white theologians for all their learning did not vociferously condemn their races’ treatment of their Black neighbours. And he found it deeply disturbing that they could not see the analogy between the suffering of the Christ on the Cross, and the suffering endured by his people on the lynching tree.
He told an interesting story, which I think has relevance to our planetary predicament with the climate and biodiversity crisis. He talked of a police report he read from sometime in the 1950s. A young Black man had been accused of raping a white lady. So he was dragged into the police station by the mob and beaten badly by the police, who then demanded of him a confession. But this young man had been raised well by his parents and knew that it was wrong to lie. He knew that not only was it wrong in a moral and social sense, but it was wrong for his own soul to tell a lie. He knew that it would eat away at him — that it would violate his capacity to know the truth.
Eventually, one of the cops turns to him and says “Come on now boy, confess and we’ll make it all go away. Confess and we can make life easy for you”, to which this young man replied, “Confess?! Confess?! How can I confess to something I did not do? All you can do to me is make me die!”
It takes some kind of soul to have that much truth. It takes a soul crafted in suffering, a soul set free by suffering. And not just individual suffering — centuries of collective suffering.
You must all be wondering why I am bringing this up in relation to the climate and biodiversity crisis. I suppose that’s because there’s another great truth teller on my mind; one that I suspect has influenced you and me both — that young Greta girl. She blew my mind when she first came along, as I think she did all of yours. I guess she’s on my mind because I’m a bit worried about her now. She’s been learning some harsh lessons about human nature. I can see her frustration growing as she watches we supposed adults mouth words of praise for her courage and idealism whilst we green light the destruction of her only planet.
Imagine how hurtful it must be to meet with European leaders like Merkel, who I’m sure showed concern and understanding towards her — only to walk away and be stabbed in the back a few months later when the same leaders sign into law policies which will condemn her to a future of runaway climate breakdown.
The awful lesson that Greta is learning is that human nature in its current condition is incapable of honest and courageous action. These leaders are all playing a game – well-intentioned or not – of keeping everyone happy, of keeping the ship of civilization afloat.
I have seen some of the root of this problem in my own local community. Many parents I met were also moved by Greta’s strike. We started talking and acting. We joined protests and held meetings. But we didn’t achieve much. Well, we achieved something, but we didn’t achieve as much as we could have. We made the mistake of thinking that putting pressure on our political system would somehow shift our dependency on fossil fuels, but it won’t.
To tackle this crisis we need to reduce our carbon emissions by as much as COVID-19 has, every year, for the next ten years. That’s the scale that is required. No amount of pressure on a political system built to serve a society which runs on fossil fuel extraction and industrialisation is going to allow them to shift gears quickly enough.
The politicians have built their carriers on acting like they know what they’re doing. Whether they do or not is irrelevant, when it comes to climate change they haven’t a clue what they’re doing. They’re just pretending like they care and hoping they manage to keep looking that way until the next election cycle. They are both afraid of losing the money they get from big business and the jobs those businesses create, the loss of which would cost them too many votes. Fear has them stuck in a box looking out from which they cannot see the truth. Climate breakdown will kill us before they see it for what it is.
Need for a New System
We need a completely new system, and the politicians are too entrenched in the old one to build it for us. We need to build it ourselves. We need to make it one based on our local communities, where we produce our own energy and food.
We need to put an end to our culture of consumption and destruction and instead become a culture of producers and creators — creating our own goods and services, instead of relying on our endless supplies of fossil fuel energy to do this work for us. This way of life has been modeled by so many peoples both now and in the past that it should not be hard for us to reimagine.
The only way to do it, I reckon, is if we parents who support young Greta’s movement were just to start building it. We can start by building community farms and energy cooperatives within our communities. These systems are well modeled, explored and created. So we won’t be starting from scratch.
To do it, we’d have to stop spending our money on a lot of things we currently take for granted. We’d need to divert every penny we have beyond the basics to fund these projects. That’s why I think we didn’t achieve what we could have, what we should have. That’s why I worry we won’t do what those kids striking need us to.
Personal Financial Concerns
Truth, I think, is what we parents are afraid of. We’re afraid of being poor, of making a financial mistake, which would cost us our homes or our children’s security. And we’re not doing anything wrong. We’re right to feel this way. As a parent, you are responsible for making sure your family is safe, and of making sure they have a good life — holidays, hobbies and trips out to interesting places.
You need to make sure you have a pension, so your kids aren’t tasked with the burden of looking after you in your old age. All these things are important. But as Greta knows, they are ultimately meaningless when those children live on a dying planet. We parents need to wake up, and we haven’t yet. We’re too busy worrying about our future financial security.
I suppose what I’m saying is that if we’re going to get anywhere with this thing and actually preserve a habitable planet for our grandchildren, we need to learn a few things:
Life Is. Life is not our job, our bank account, our social status, our pension fund, the clothes we wear or the political ideology we hold. Life is a real tangible thing that’s right in front of us all the time, that’s inside of us all the time and if we lose everything up to and including our own heart beat, Life still Is. We need to learn what that young man, James H. Cohn, knew. Life Is and we have to honour it, no matter what it costs us. We need to learn to not be afraid — to not hold on to our securities, because we’re losing them anyway.
We need to realise that if we want our kids to have a future, we have to stop worrying about their financial future. Instead, we need to do everything we can to build a real future on this Earth and in our own communities, which might survive what’s coming down the line. It’ll mean giving up a lot of things we take for granted — things we feel we have to have. But we have to do it. We have no choice. Mother Nature isn’t giving us another road. It’s just this one. To do it will require a fundamental shift in how we see the world.
Fundamental Shift Required
I honestly don’t know if we’re ready for that yet — our culture has not suffered like James H. Cohn’s. And it’s the suffering that teaches us. But maybe Mother Nature has a plan there, too. I can’t help wondering if this whole pandemic situation isn’t putting us on a road to learning the meaning in James’ story.
Anyway, that’s it from me, my brothers and sisters. I really just wanted to thank you all for the way in which you have honoured Life. You’ve done well — keep doing it for as long as you are given. That’s all we mortals can ever do. I have no idea how it’ll all pan out, but I definitely think we have much greater capacity than we think. People like you have shown us how.
Beir bua agus beannacht
Country Kildare, Ireland
Nathan Jackson is an organic farmer and farm advisor in the Republic of Ireland. He works with community groups to help develop their local food network via systems like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and the Open Food Network (OFN). From 2011 until 2017 he was the main grower and a steering committee organiser for Derrybeg Farm CSA in north Kildare, also serving as a member of the Community Supported Agriculture Network of Ireland.
Since then he has worked with Beechpark Eco Farm and Dublin CSA setting up that farm and the south side CSA group for Dublin CSA. He currently grows a half acre of nutrient dense vegetables for supply through the OFN and works as a consultant for community groups and farmers looking to develop their local food network.