About 70 people gathered on Thursday evening December 7 to view “The Wisdom to Survive,” the final film of the fall in the West Chester University Environmental Sustainability Film Series in memory of Graham Hudgings.
The hour-long documentary at WCU’s new LEED gold-certified Business and Public Management Center was sponsored by Don’t Spray Me!, Sierra Club of Chester County, West Chester Food Co-op, WCU’s Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Advisory Council, the WCU Geography Club, and Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP).
After snacks from the Food Co-op, a tour of the new LEED-certified building, and conversation over environmental exhibits, MC Sheila Burke introduced featured speaker Elizabeth Moro, Pennsbury resident and co-founder of Neighbors For Crebilly, which is striving to preserve the large farm south of West Chester as open space. A long-time supporter of environmental actions, Elizabeth was energized by the current political morass to the extent that she is running for the PA 7th U.S. Congressional seat.
Elizabeth explained that she grew up near Lake Huron, where she learned that “Mother Nature doesn’t negotiate – she’s in charge.” Humans used to work in harmony with nature, but now we need to get back to seeing the big picture that we are part of. Money is not a good way to evaluate importance. Try holding your breath, she told the group, and see at what point you’d rather draw a breath than collect money. She has helped raise funds to preserve part of the headwaters of the Brandywine near Honey Brook, Barnard’s Orchard in Pocopson, and now Crebilly Farm in Westtown.
She quoted Margaret Meade: ”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Thus, we need to stand together and be vocal. We also need to connect our actions to wisdom. In an ancient saying, “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we are borrowing it from our children.” We need to stay vigilant; money to protect the Great Lakes has been taken away; EPA reports have disappeared from online.
The movie, she said, is about our very survival, which depends on connecting with our surroundings. We need to look at earth as a human being and take care of it to preserve our common home.
To quote a non-profit where she worked in Michigan, “The Fetzer Institute is a growing community of people who see we’re part of something more. We believe the connection between the inner life of spirit and outer life of service and action holds the key to lasting change.” That is certainly a refreshing view as many today strive to practice the waning art of political service!
After Moderator Sheila Burke mentioned the upcoming talk on “Managing the Electric Grid” (Wed. Dec. 13 at Sykes Student Union, WCU) organized by this evening’s co-sponsor 4CP, the film rolled. It presented many thoughtful points in just under an hour.
“Beauty will save the world,” as one of Dostoevsky’s characters says. “We didn’t create species and we have no right to destroy them.” Fossil fuels made the West rich and are now killing us. Getting off fossil fuels will be the most difficult thing that humans have done. But we must: human-induced climate change is “a crime against humanity.” Even a tiny change in climate can wipe out marginal populations, and desperation leads to violence.
Los Angeles is utterly dependent on glaciers, which are disappearing. Oceans are becoming too acidic to support shell-making by many species, including plankton, on which many others depend.
Bill McKibben (350.org) says that economic equality is disabling us from dealing with fossil fuels. “We’re effectively killing ourselves.” The young get it, unlike the Exxon-Mobil CEO, who said: “My philosophy is to make money.” We are failing either to steward the earth (per the Old Testament) or love our neighbors (per the New Testament). Farmers (and women grow more than half the food but constitute 70% of the poor) are being colonized by corporate seeds and other products. The capitalist mentality is never satisfied. The cost of expanding at all costs will be our destruction.
We need to build a new economy and fight for public space. “Who owns the water when it reaches the land is the frog.” Whether we realize it or not, our actions are always in a web of interactions.
One hour of sunlight could fuel the world for a year… if we could capture the energy. We need a tough citizen movement, like the civil rights movement. This will be a painful transition. This is not a time to sleep!
Here are some points made in the discussion led by Professor Joan Welch of WCU. We live in a time of abundance and monoculture—and it’s not working. The price of carbon should build in secondary costs. We can’t put costs on the poor that they can’t bear. Some want to raise all to our economic level but we will need to go down some as well. Take down barriers to get to the source of wholeness. We can choose moral integrity or disaster.
Overall, it was a thoughtful community experience bringing together members of several activist groups. As the film mentioned, the human presence could be beneficial. At least, what can we lose from trying?