The beauty of the morning was all around me. I was looking as usual for the raptors that hang out in the bare trees by the flooded fields and river this time of year. As many as 12 at a time. The fog was once again thick, lingering, soft tendrils wisping away as warmth and light settled in. So it was a rude awakening to see a flying object head my way from the large truck in front of me and the trailer it was pulling. At first I thought it had been thrown. Then I realized it must have worked its way out of the front loader that was on the trailer. The object was a plastic water bottle. I sighed. Yet another one thrown to the earth to hold interminably.
When we had our high winds and heavy rains earlier, I had seen the aftermath as I drove this route: long pieces of black plastic used to generate additional heat for plants were strewn along fences. It seemed as if the new vista would be plastic. It reminded me of a kids’ book Lori has that illustrates with photographs where all of our stuff ends up. The picture I remembered was a landfill full of plastic.
This morning NPR has a story about a French swimmer who having swum across the Atlantic will now try to be the first person to swim across the Pacific. Among the obstacles he might face in addition to 20’ waves and sharks was the floating garbage patch mostly consisting of the world’s plastic.
Naomi Klein, most recently author of This Changes Everything :Capitalism vs. the Climate gave a speech to a graduating college class this past spring. One of the things she said was, don’t focus on individual changes one can make such as recycling and trying to stay away from plastic in any form. Fight, demonstrate against, challenge, take on the corporations whose actions- remember the Supreme Court granted them personhood- are really destroying our climate, our environment, our earth, our lives. So getting all upset as I had about the one plastic bottle flying out of the front loader and the plastic lined fence was really just an exercise in futility if I care about change.
This past week I had the first of my 9-month once a month online class about UU Theology and Social Change. In preparation for the first class we were asked to answer this question: “What time is it on the world clock?” Now, I knew about the atomic clock. I was unaware of the world clock. It is a creation of the late activist, Grace Lee Boggs and her husband. They visualized the last 3000 years of human history where every minute represented 50 years. Their point in developing this clock and question was to say that revolutions and massive social change constitute only 4 or 5 minutes out of our entire history. They argued that, activists should turn our backs on protest organizing because it “leads you more and more to defensive operations” and “Do visionary organizing” because it “gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and it’s very fulfilling.”
Which brings me to the realization that if we are to increase the minutes of social change and justice, we will need to do so with the tools not of my petty irritation but by creativity and imagination. And use those two skills to do in essence what Naomi Klein told the students to do: speak truth to power. This is not to say that any of us should give up our individual efforts to live more consciously of our daily impact on the world climate. Doing so allows many of us to live authentically and in allegiance with our values. But we cannot stop there. We have to do something to increase the movements for justice and change so that on the world clock, they occupy more and more of human time. The time? It is now.