COMMUNITY VOICES | Finding hope in a time of apocalypse

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Attending a movie recently, my husband and I noted that most of the previews for upcoming films featured dystopian movies – stories where the planet or the human race is threatened with annihilation and a few brave heroes are charged with saving the day. On TV, it isn’t much better, what with zombies on “The Walking Dead,” or the militia taking over a darkened planet on “Revolution.”  What’s with the apocalypse showing up everywhere these days?

Maybe it’s just a hangover from the 2012 Mayan calendar predictions. Then again, maybe you saw the movie Chasing Ice about the disappearing polar ice cap?  Or, perhaps you’ve listened to MPR’s Climate Cast where they provide, “…the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences we’re seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.”  Maybe you read Bill McKibbon’s Rolling Stone article last summer, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe.”

Truth be told, I was feeling pretty apocalyptic myself this past winter when I ran across an article by Chris Hedges entitled, “Stand Still for the Apocalypse.” According to a report commissioned by the World Bank, if we don’t respond aggressively to climate change, we can look forward to widespread hunger and starvation; an explosion of diseases such as malaria, cholera and dengue fever; devastating heat waves, droughts, and floods; disappearing forests and coral reefs, mass plant and animal extinctions; and the overall widespread collapse of human institutions and systems of law and order.

What scares me most is the growing consensus of how little time we have to turn things around. Paul Guilding in his article, “Victory at Hand for the Climate Movement” writes, “This is no longer about the future, it’s about now. We don’t have 20 years to decide to act; we have 20 years to complete the task. If we follow the science, then in 20 years we must have removed the coal, oil and gas industries from the economy and replaced them.”

This suddenly made climate change deeply personal. In 20 years, I’ll be 65. I’d really like to be enjoying the prospects of a comfortable retirement instead of trying to prepare for a coming apocalypse!

Thankfully, I had the opportunity last spring to spend some time with my brother, Tim Eberhart, a professor of theology at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, IL.  He was teaching a class called, “Ethics of Hope in a Time of Crisis,” and our conversations over those few days were rich and transformative. A book by Jurgen Moltmann from his class reading list was particularly inspiring, summed up by the following: “We become active in so far as we hope. We hope in so far as we can see into the sphere of future possibilities. We undertake what we think is possible.”

I got to thinking it might be time to turn away from apocalyptic thinking – and the zombies – and look for a more positive vision of possibilities. Once I started looking, I found an abundance of transformations happening all over the planet. People near and far are transforming our food, energy and money systems – making them more resilient, more sustainable, more local. But since this is so urgent and the task is so big, we all need to be asking ourselves, “What more can I do, here and now?”

One of the ways I decided to answer that question for myself was to help organize a Timely Topics Series about Climate Change at my church, Prospect Park United Methodist in Minneapolis. Over the next 7 months, we will be meeting monthly to explore all aspects of transitioning to a post-carbon world – everything from empowerment politics and Transition Towns, to renewable energy, local sustainable foods and alternative local economies. We’ll share our challenges with each other, and hopefully give each other courage to make the changes that are needed as individuals and as a community.

We invite you to join us. Beginning Sunday, September 15, we’ll be meeting the 3rd Sunday of each month, September through March, from 6:30 – 8:00 pm in the Community Room at Prospect Park United Methodist Church, 22 Orlin Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN  55414.  Call 612-378-2380, or visit prospectparkchurch.org for directions and more information about the series. All sessions are free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Cathy Velasquez Eberhart