Systems Change

Posted by on Nov 14, 2019

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Credit: Tzu Chi International Medical Association

I leave for one week in Mexico City next week.  After having been licensed as an acupuncturist for 22 years,  the opportunity to serve so many and help them heal in body, mind and spirit, is an incredible honor and a sacred trust that is never easy to step away from. (Please see my previous blog post to read about My Nhung Kolb, LAC, who will be offering acupuncture at CommuniChi in my absence).

Since 2005, I’ve been involved in global health volunteer work, responding to natural disasters and finding ways to build bridges that span the chasms of nation, race, religion, economics, and any other human social constructs which separate one heart from another.

We live in a time of great change. The climate emergency magnifies exponentially and is interwoven with every other challenge our world faces – the expanding wealth divide, the swelling global refugee crisis, homelessness, hunger, war,  religious intolerance, systematic racial oppression – the list goes on.

And if you are wondering how I can justify flying to Mexico City and back and still claim to be concerned about the climate – believe me I thought about my decision carefully. While it is absolutely essential that we de-carbonize our lives in every aspect, considering the carbon footprint of non-essential travel, buying and consuming less stuff (boycott Black Friday?), eating less meat, we also need to build a world based on love, kindness, community, without borders.

We are conditioned to think that change only occurs through individual initiative. There’s truth to that, but also a dangerous lie. Yes, if you have the resources to put solar panels on your home, to drive an electric vehicle (or maybe you live in a place with excellent, well funded public transportation and can go car-less?), those choices are positive for the long term health of our planet. If you don’t live in a food desert, and have easy access to healthy organic vegetarian food, please take advantage of that and experiment with a more climate friendly diet. However, many people do not have a roof, let alone the means to put up solar panels.  Eating a balanced and nutritious organic vegan diet is expensive compared to the standard American diet (SAD). Calories matter. Individual initiative by the privileged (including flying less) is important, but it’s not going to stop the climate emergency or create social, racial, and gender equity without radical system change.

A few days ago, I attended a public meeting and gave testimony before the Port of Seattle Commissioners.  (My comments begin at ~ 7:30 in the linked video above). We live in a participatory democracy, which despite its shortcomings (corporate money, widespread voter disenfranchisement, the archaic electoral college, etc.), it remains our best hope for healing our world.  Unless we are committed to equity for every living being, our days as a species are definitely numbered. Humankind is not separate from this earth. We do not have dominion over it. The earth and nature IS us. We ARE that. Read that slowly, then walk over to a window, and look at the trees and the sky in the distance and just feel your breath for a moment. Where does the oxygen that you breathe come from? Where does it go when you inhale? How can we pretend for a second to be separate from nature?

The chemistry of 408 parts per million carbon molecules in the atmosphere can’t be bribed, cheated, or invaded by a corrupt President. Nature (Karma? God?) takes no bribes.  When we pretend that we can live separately in our ego-centered bubble, consumed by materialism, nationalism, political factionalism, religious sectarianism, we live in ignorance. And I’ll be the first to admit, my conditioning lands me there much of the time.

Nonetheless, we have this amazing thing called “mind” which is capable of change. It is possible to develop infinite compassion and wisdom, enabling us to see beyond the egoistic filters obscuring the possibilities for a better world.  See you out there on that dawning horizon.

One Comment

  1. Travel on brother. I pray for the day when air-travel will be of less value than human to human healing across borders, but we aren’t there yet. If we all gave up our non-beneficial-to-others travel we wouldn’t have to talk about eliminating air travel all together. I understand this evaluation is a moving target…

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