Blogs >> Is change finally coming? Jonathan Dawson feels a new mood of hope

Is change finally coming? Jonathan Dawson feels a new mood of hope

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In the first of a series of blogs from the Climate Change and Consciousness conference at Findhorn in Scotland, Jonathan Dawson, reports on a new sense of possibility of change.

My first experience of a Findhorn Easter conference was about 20 years ago.  I remember being a somewhat reluctant participant, the very word ‘conference’ alienating me with its resonances of grey, one-dimensional exercises in sitting mute and impassive while being talked at.  So blown away was I in fact that I stayed on after the conference as a member of the Findhorn community for eleven years!

This year, the experience is no different as Findhorn hosts a dazzling festival of music, dance, theatre, interspersed with talks and workshop break-outs in the company of some of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of climate change and consciousness.  So far, we have already heard from iconic international thought & action leaders Bill McKibben, Vandana Shina and Christiana Figueres, with a host of others to follow in the days to come. 

And yet this year, the mood of the conference, is unlike anything I have experienced in the many similar gatherings I have participated in over the last couple of decades.

The sense that such a moment is now finally with us is palpable in the atmosphere here as news pours in...

In the last twenty years we have received multiple warnings from scientists of the danger of tipping points in biophysical systems – self-reinforcing feedback loops that are characteristic of runaway climate change.  Over the years, the indications that we are close to - or in some cases perhaps even past - the point of no return in some of these systems have been growing in urgency.

In parallel, we have also known that there are tipping point in socio-cultural systems – moments when a fringe idea becomes irresistible and a new zeitgeist begins to emerge. 

The sense that such a moment is now finally with us is palpable in the atmosphere here as news pours in from parallel happenings at the heroic Extinction Rebellion occupations in London, from the weekly school strikes around the world, from Bill McKibben reporting from the conference podium that global disinvestment campaign has seen $6 trillion of investments withdrawn from the fossil fuel industry and a recent meeting of global coal industry CEOs reporting that they can no longer attract funding for their ecocidal projects.

This mood is captured most vividly and sensitively in a blog post last week from Justine Huxley, friend of the college and director of the wonderful St Ethelbugha’s Centre in the City of London:

"Yesterday I wasn't at the rebellion - I was working all day - in regular meetings with regular mainstream people. And every meeting I was in had such a noticeable atmosphere of freedom, joy and energised action, tipping over into slight hysteria and lack of the usual limitations of etiquette.

"Reflecting on it with a colleague, we wondered if this is the effect of the rebellion on the collective psyche? Have we broken through the inertia, the denial, the hopelessness? Are we in a place of slightly dangerous freedom and lack of inhibition, where new things can happen, consensus reality rules can be broken, and change is alive - but it is also unstable and in need of self-awareness?"

Nor is this mood merely a symptom of escapist denialism.  In his keynote address, Bill McKibben stated sternly that this is a fight that we may not win, but that it is one in which there is growing momentum and power in the social movements fighting for a revolution in our relationship to the Earth.  The week feels like a wide open field of potentiality, vibrantly pulsing with the energy of emergence.  Every conversation feels alive with possibility.

And last night we learned of the death of Polly Higgins, beloved Lawyer for the Earth, who was due to be a speaker at this event later in the week.  In his eulogy this morning, close friend of Polly’s Charles Eisenstein suggested that there are reasons to believe ‘her transition is into a greater service……..because I know that she would never give up half-way’. 

Thanks, Polly.  You remain an inspiration to us all.

Jonathan Dawson is a senior lecturer on the MA Economics for Transition programme.