After writing my last post, I spent a long time on the roof looking out at the ocean.
We live close enough to the coast that I could actually see the vast expanse of ocean that lies beyond the shining steel towers of the city. Given how late at night it was, there wasn’t much to see. It was a dark, churning expanse of water, tossing and turning with the wind and tide, filling the air with a distinctive salty mist that always reminds me that the ocean is near.
Since we live so close to the coast, I could also turn in the other direction and see the vast expanse of the city stretching as far as the eye could see. It, too, was mostly dark, dotted with countless small points of light that only seemed to highlight the shadows that now engulfed the once-brilliant skyline. The sight of it all reminded me that this is a part of the ocean now too. It just happens to be a part of the ocean that has a lot of formerly-dry buildings in it.
As I looked back and forth between the east and west horizons, I had a realization. I can’t really put it into words, but I’ll try.
I tend to be an upbeat and positive person, finding the bright side of everything. But sometimes, just like anybody else, I need a good cry. As I looked out on the ocean — the old and the new — I cried for a while. I cried for all the people in New York who had died in Hurricane Michael, and the people in Miami who had died in Hurricane Florence, and all of the people in places I’ve never been who were suffering flood, droughts, wars, famines, and other consequences of global warming.
After crying for a few minutes, a great peace came over me. Jess came out to stand with me, resting her head on my shoulder quietly and looking out across the waves. Eventually, Ermete joined us too. We stood together in silence, looking at the ocean for a while before talking about what had happened and what it meant.
I eventually realized that “the new normal” wasn’t just something that described the shift in climate patterns. More and more, with each passing day, it also describes the shift in human patterns.
Global warming isn’t some type of accident of nature, like an earthquake or lightning or meteor strike. It’s the result of human activities — our way of thinking, our way of living, certain systems of economic and political power that drive us to keep seeking endless profit, endless power, endless consumption, no matter the cost to humans and our planet’s life support systems.
Our attitudes and our systems of power have created this “new normal”, this climate that is much less conducive to human life than the old one. But as more and more people start to understand and accept what’s happening, there’s another type of “new normal” emerging. It’s the “new normal” of resilience and resistance.
As I stood out on the roof with Jess and Ermete, talking philosophy and politics until the first hints of dawn, this was mostly just an idea. I looked out on the ocean to the east and the Ocean City to the west, and I realized that what we’re doing in Miami is really just the start of “the new normal” for humans — a new way of living, a new way of resilience and resistance, a new way of social change that is just as disruptive to our social and economic infrastructure as the storms are to our physical infrastructure.
As we change the climate, the climate changes us. Every person displaced by climate change can become an agent of social change. And together, we will establish a “new normal” that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago. We will stop using fossil fuels; we will have a carbon negative economy; we will prepare for the changes in the climate that are already locked in; and we will work together to make it all happen. All nine billion of us.
I was finally able to get to sleep in the early morning hours with that comforting thought on my mind. I didn’t get a chance to post about it yesterday because we were busy working and watching the latest updates from New York City — much of the city underwater, in some places up to the second or third floor, many hundreds lost, many thousands displaced, streets and subways flooded, all Northeastern states in a declared state of emergency. You’ve seen the news, you know what’s happening.
But today, during and after a good day’s work, there was also some very encouraging news.
People are finally getting it. After spending my whole life learning about global warming, and watching corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen push ahead full speed with fossil fuels, I saw something amazing. Spontaneous demonstrations in just about every major city in the U.S. and many others around the world. Millions of people suddenly in the streets with no planning or organizing. And they’re not just protesting. They’re asking what they can do. They’re holding neighborhood meetings in the parks, streets, parking lots, malls, schools, abandoned buildings, any place they can. They’re making plans for relief projects in New York, relief projects in other countries, resilience projects in their own communities, resistance campaigns in their own regions. Global warming is shifting from being a vague political idea to being their top concern. And they’re raising hell about it.
Honestly, part of the reason I didn’t post yesterday and barely posted today is because it’s happening here too. Here in Miami, a city freshly swept beneath the waves, where many people still have no electricity, little food, and are going to the bathroom in buckets, there was an outpouring of support in response to Michael. A large group of people who have heard about the work that we’re doing gathered right at the edge of Brickell, as far as Bastion would let them go. There were hundreds of them, some in small inflatable rafts, some in small boats, some in inner tubes, many just wading through the floodwaters. They all wanted to come to Synergy Central and do what they can to help, both here in Miami and off in New York if they can find a way there.
I rode out in our speedboat with Harold and Tenalach to meet them. We formed a three-person executive committee for the Synergists recently, and we decided it was best to have the whole committee present for something as big as this.
The first thing we had to do was lead the crowd away from the growing number of Bastion troops amassing at the edge of Brickell. A very uptight group of forty or fifty young men in black body armor was getting ready to disperse the crowd with guns and gas. Once we were a safe distance from the Bastion troops, we talked for a few hours with the people in the crowd. Some of them were lifelong community organizers, but most were just people who were eager for change and ready to do whatever they could to make it happen.
We weren’t really ready to absorb so many new people so quickly. So we eventually came to a compromise.
We decided to take in a few dozen new people at Synergy Central. But we would also help set up two smaller Synergy centers in two other parts of the city. Some people talked about a long-term goal of setting up a Synergy center in every neighborhood. I really like that idea. But that’s a lofty long-term goal. In the meantime, we’ll work with what we’ve got. One location at Synergy Central, and hopefully two new locations in other neighborhoods within the next week or two.
There was also a small group of people who were adamant about going to New York City to help with the relief effort. We tried to explain that getting a couple dozen low-income people that far away and giving them enough supplies to make a difference is pretty much impossible given the current circumstances in Miami. But they insisted. So I called the Liminals and asked if these volunteers could use the big old electric bus that we drove here from Southern Illinois. After some negotiating, they said that the relief team could take the bus as far as Atlanta if they were willing to have a few people take supplies from Atlanta back to Miami while the rest made their way to New York City by other means.
And so, less than forty-eight hours after Hurricane Michael made landfall, the sunken city of Miami organized two new resilience and resistance centers and made plans to send a relief team up to New York City. The new Synergy centers will probably just start out as empty rooms or buildings, and the relief team will probably just have a small amount of non-perishable food and some water purifiers and tools and a couple of inflatable rafts. But given the circumstances, that’s pretty amazing.
This is the new normal. Yes, the new normal for the climate is very bad. It’s going to displace billions of people within my lifetime. It’s a global catastrophe, and even if we make really good choices from this point forward, we can’t avoid it entirely. But the new normal for humanity is starting to look good. More and more people are deciding to work together to make things better.
If we keep this up, maybe we won’t even need the old systems anymore. We can just create new systems from the ground up. I just met in a general assembly with a few hundred people, people from all types of different beliefs and backgrounds, and it only took us a few hours to figure out dozens of complex and difficult problems. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than leaving everything up to the rich people who hired Bastion, or the city and state politicians who are just guarding their own buildings right now, or the gangs who are taking advantage of the situation. And the more people who get involved, the more it seems like we really can make the needed changes together.
I’ve got a very busy few days ahead of me. It’s going to take time and energy to train all of these new people, especially the ones who will be starting the two new Synergies. A lot of that training will be done by other people, but I need to get it started since it involves creating new centers and coordinating communication and travel between them. Busy, busy, busy. It’s a good type of busy, though. I may not post again for a few days while we work on all of this, but I’ll post again as soon as I get the chance. I’m sure there will be plenty of news to share.