In the midst of our global ecological crisis, many persons seem to be continuing as if it were business as usual. Many do not want to believe that human beings can have such a devastating impact on the planet, and a common response is to deny the reality of the crisis and say it isn’t so. This is the stance of denial. Others seem to know that it is so, but in the pursuit for economic gain they act as if it is not so in order to gain more profit and live their vision of the comfortable life. This is the stance of greed. Others know that it is so, but they are so overwhelmed by their seeming lack of ability to facilitate change that they continue to live as they have always lived, believing that changing their behavior really won’t make a dent in all of the problems we are currently facing. This is the stance of apathy, and it is often coupled with despair. Others know that the crisis is real, and they want to do something positive to change it, and they are willing to make a commitment to change both their views and their habits to live more sustainable lives for the sake of present and future generations of life. There are many persons who care about the planet, and they are doing something positive to live in a sustainable relationship within their ecological communities. This is the stance of responsibility.
When we hear the many daunting realities of our ecological crisis, it is easy to become discouraged, it is easy to come to the conclusion that things are too far gone, that there are too many people in the world who do not care, or even if they do care, that they do not have the ability to bring about significant change in creating a more sustainable world. There are days when it all seems to be too much for us to handle, The overwhelming complexity and magnitude of our social and ecological problems can lead even the most committed persons to apathy based on a sense of the impossibility of making a difference. There are also times when we see all of these problems and the feeling we have is one of despair, or at the very least a deep sorrow for what future generations of life will have to bear because of our actions, or in some cases our inaction, in relation to the environment.
When the temptation of apathy or the feelings of despair are strong, we must draw deeply from the well of love that we have for one another and all life. Even though the best or ideal future may not be attainable, it is always possible to create a better future than would exist if we were to act out of denial, greed, or apathy. It is our sacred responsibility to take care of the community of life, to cultivate empathy for all living things, to live in ways that are sustainable, and to live as if the future matters so that future generations of life might experience our ecological community in all of its beauty and diversity. Fulfilling this sacred responsibility is going to take more than just switching out light bulbs and driving more fuel efficient cars. It is going to take a radical shift in our consciousness and a radical shift in the way that we relate to each other. It will require systemic change. Even if our efforts are ultimately unsuccessful in avoiding an eventual ecological collapse, we will at the very least contribute to communities where deep and meaningful relationships are fostered with other persons and with all of life. In the midst of so much denial, greed, apathy, and despair, perhaps we can live the responsible life and engage in a process of radical and loving transformation of our world.