Contemplating an Uncertain Future: The Ranch and Climate Change
by Tim O'Hara
Climate change, after decades of lulling at the bottom of the news cycle, has belatedly made it into the headlines as increasing numbers of people become aware, convinced and concerned about the environmental and social impacts of the Earth’s evolving atmospheric conditions. I frequently think about disrupted weather patterns and what my role in this unfolding story should be.
Many climate experts argue that we have surpassed the carrying capacity of our planet and that our natural resource base cannot support our modern lifestyles at our current population numbers. I find this argument believable given the observable degradation of our natural systems everywhere I go. Modern technology might for a time delay the worst impacts of our behavior, but soon we will stare more squarely in the face the consequences of the environmental alterations that we’ve set in motion. Indications of a more brittle world are clear to me.
Humans are descending to systematically destruct our limited natural resource base and in turn one another. I am discouraged thinking about the future that my daughter is inheriting and struggle to decide how to divide my time between work, personal care and engagement in efforts that help mitigate some of our biggest societal challenges, especially climate change. I’m not optimistic, but I cherish life, my family and my friends and strive to do my part in figuring out how we can usher in a more just world.
I was recently asked how Rancho Mastatal is responding to climate change and whether we feel as if we are helping to create an alternative future for those becoming heir to the approaching changes. In large part Robin and I started the Ranch to address and answer this question. Widespread social and environmental injustice partly inspired us to leave the United States and a more common life path to set up an “alternative” project that we hoped would contribute to a brighter future. We are dedicated to learning and teaching more environmentally appropriate ways to grow food in poor soils, build structures that are kinder on Mother Earth, and implement practices that allow us to meet our basic needs without destroying the elements that make it possible for the soil and atmosphere to sustain us. We are helping to teach future generations that there is indeed a better way to live; a way that is not dominated by an addiction to consumer purchases and modern conveniences or reliant on oppressive economic systems. We are experimenting with community structures that rely on cooperation and regeneration and have made efforts to conserve a relatively large and intact tract of rainforest.
A loss of corporate and governmental confidence in dealing with our warming climate has prompted us to start to execute strategies that make us less reliant on traditional businesses and executive bodies. We’re working towards attaining personal and communal well-being with our everyday activities and are compelled to look for ways to avoid our compromised medical care systems by looking at food as medicine. We’re looking for ways to engage in the process of designing and building our own homes with the help of friends and learning techniques to grow food for our family and community as global food supplies become more susceptible to unsteady financial systems and weather patterns. Communities are being torn apart by pollution, sickness, flagging economies and racism. To address this we want to learn and practice other forms of governance and community structure that we believe can serve us and the world more equitably.
Our modest efforts won’t be enough to stem the suffering for everyone. In fact the sad truth is that it might not even prevent future hardships for myself and family. Nevertheless, we’ve chosen to focus on this work with the hope that profound change might come from the accumulation of millions of small acts, projects and movements that when influential enough will begin to shift the human perspective to a more caring one. It’s also a way for us to prepare for changes ahead.
Future challenges will in part be most successfully met by strong networks of compassionate people dedicating their lives to the local problems that most impact them. As our daughter gets older we’ll encourage her to explore avenues that will simultaneously challenge her intellectually while leading to improvements in our world. Some of the areas that I encourage Ranch students to explore include energy conservation and renewable energy, education, responsible food production, social and environmental activism, politics, medicine, and counseling. A warming climate will require bold and courageous engineers, teachers, farmers, activists, health care professionals, mentors, and politicians. I encourage each of you today to take one small step to become a more engaged steward of our planet. If not now, then when?