Finding Peace in Troubled Times

On Monday night I went out with my in-laws to a Christmas Eve service in upstate New York. The big crowd gathered in the chapel on the campus of Cornell University, and the minister hit all the right notes for this presumably liberal crowd: alluding to the occupant of the White House, pleading the cause of the immigrant, and giving voice to the yearning for peace and calm.

But something felt deeply off for me. In the midst of the carols and candlelight, the minister expressed a longing for silence, calm, stability and peace in this time of upheaval. She claimed that the time is coming where the strong and gentle people will win.

Honestly I don’t think it’s going to work that way.

What can winning mean when we are exceeding multiple tipping points of irreversible cataclysm? What can winning mean when untold millions are doomed to suffer? What can winning mean when right now millions suffer the injustice of poisoned water, toxic land and unbreathable air, often because of the color of their skin or the poverty they were born into?

Here is where this message hits me and my work with all of you and the Climate Disobedience Center at the close of the year:

While injustices, grinding poverty and oppression continued unabated, much of the liberal US, and much of the so-called climate movement, hungers for a particular peace and calm enabled by an escapist life of privilege. This definition of peace flows from a position of privilege in which those realities don’t disturb the lives of many white liberals when there isn’t daily outrage spewing from the White House. It’s out of sight and out of mind.

We are entering an age of increasing conflict. If the movement for climate justice is going to make the future better, reduce emissions and reduce the harm, we are going to have to put aside any hopes for that sort of ‘peace’. I believe we are going to have to cultivate an inward calm and clarity that is infectious, and invite others who hunger for justice into bold action in a world that rages further into disaster. We are going to have to nurture an inward peace that carries us into direct action confronting the juggernaut of the carbon industrial machine.

This year at the Climate Disobedience Center we have created structures for activists to build up that personal and interpersonal resilience in praxis groups. We’ve helped bring together new networks to take action from that deeper place. And we have grown our team and our footprint, ready to help a growing community of climate dissidents who are prepared to take the risk of action, grounded in love, that is commensurate with the scale and urgency of the crisis.

In 2019, I’m excited for us to build on this groundwork. Thank you for all that you have done to take necessary action in these troubled times. We’re grateful to stand with you, and excited for our continued journey together.

-Jay O’Hara
with Marla, Emma and Tim

PS. Starting 2019 strong will allow us to support and to show up for and with more and more folks. Your donation of $25, $50 or $100 would be a huge help. Can you pitch in today as the year winds down? Click here.


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