Loving Humanity, or, How We Win

It’s weird reading this now. I wrote it around 17-9-2011 (although I’ve revised it for re-posting; my expression is now much better!). Since finishing employment with the AYCC in February of this year, I’ve been much less involved in the climate scene, and, for a time, I thought it could be a long-term separation. I was wrong. Each of us, even the most dedicated, need moments that remind us why we do what we do. I’ve been reminded time and again since February – and this piece reminds me again.

In July of 2011 I took a job with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition as “Online Grassroots Coordinator”. Prior, I had a conversation with my future manager. She gave me a pretty clear sense of what I could expect, telling me something along the lines of “there are times when it’s all too much and I’m stressed and busy and don’t know what to do. But at the same time I’m aware that I have the best job in the world.” Now that I’ve been in my role for something approaching six weeks, I have a far richer sense of what that means. I think what makes a job with the AYCC one of the best jobs in the world is simply the people with whom one comes in to contact. In this piece, I hope to pay privilege to a scattered few of them.

I’m confident history will come to recognise its debt to a few stand-out individuals who have played a deep part in making the AYCC what it is today. I suspect that Anna Rose’s appearance on Q&A will be pinpointed, in future years, as the first moment that fading generations had a glimpse of what was succeeding them. Then, Anna appeared to me as the vanguard of a generation that wasn’t just composed and competent, but utterly compassionate. This is a generation that Anna has also had a hand in creating.

However, this post isn’t intended to be about Anna, or the staff members who, too, are incredible individuals taking on huge responsibility in the service of my generation, billions of disadvantaged people the world over, and generations to come. The best way to describe the commitment of these people is simply to say: they do what is necessary. This can mean flying across the country at the drop of a hat to help people learn how they can effect change. It can mean being available at any hour of the 24-hour-day to be part of an emotional support network that stretches across Australia. It can mean lives put on hold, long-term dreams put to the side, so that one day we’ll be able to breathe easy in the surety that our children could swim amongst the corals of the Great Barrier Reef.  But this post isn’t about such people.

Rather, I am writing about people like Ahri. People who unceasingly live a life in pursuit of justice, who will time and time again rise to the challenge and give more and more because that is what is asked of them. Many of these people have hardly come of age in the eyes of our society, and, naturally, they still are learning and making mistakes. But, unquestionably, they haven’t made the worst mistake of all, which would be to do nothing in the face of the climate crisis. They are living lives of purpose and contributing in infinitesimal and yet crucial ways to the formation of a more just and more sustainable society.

I am writing about people like India. People whom you could meet and, depending how the conversation unfolded, not even realise what amazing things they have helped to create. People who are patiently going about life, edging closer to securing degrees, or financial independence, or acceptance. These people somehow find time, in the midst of it all, to contribute to the building of a generation-wide movement to solve the climate crisis.

I heard a wise man speak at Copenhagen and again this year in Canberra and he said then that social change doesn’t ask of us our lives, but the rest of our lives. The ‘Ahris’ of this movement are doubtless willing to give the rest of their lives, until we have dealt with the climate emergency. Equally valuable are the ‘Indias’, who, gently, dedicatedly, are making this movement happen.

I left behind me in South Australia an awe-inspiring group of volunteers with whose help I was so privileged as to begin building a movement in that state. Since my departure, this group has, under new direction, continued to do awesome things. Walking in the footprints of past heroes, in the footprints of figures whose vision and sacrifice have added to what it means to be human, the AYCC SA has been re-creating community ties, involving people in local action groups that make action on climate change accessible to all people. I’m utterly convinced that knocking on every door, engaging people on every street, and mobilising every neighbourhood is what it’s going to take to solve the climate crisis, and it’s humbling to see it being undertaken by selfless individuals that, until very recently, I worked hand in hand with.

Ultimately, there are more people making this movement great than I could possibly recognise. If I had all the words in the world, I would still lack the ability to give voice to the beauty of this movement. Even if I had that ability, I’d still lack the mentality just to conceive of the breadth, and the majesty, of what is going on, now, all over the place, in so many regions of Australia.

So I think the fairest thing is to pay tribute not only to these individuals, but to what drives them and all of us. That is, love. This is an odd emotion to talk about in connection with a lifestyle that will have me at times strategising over what is the best way to ensure that, by 2013, politicians will experience palpable fear at the thought of the AYCC opposing them. But it’s the only possible explanation for what the AYCC has been able to achieve so far, and what it will achieve yet.

It isn’t fear that motivates thousands of young people – who are constantly told that they are apathetic, cynical and powerless – to run events in schools, at local shopping centres, at concerts, to give other people a chance to have a say on what sort of world they’d like to inherit. Nor is it hope alone that can motivate hundreds of young people to sign up to meet with politicians, to join with strangers they’ve never met, to learn how they can make their voice heard, and to go through the unfamiliar and intimidating process of meeting their member.

It’s love.

I’ve heard love described as ‘absolute positive regard’ – an internal commitment to feeling positively towards others. I like that sentiment, but feel that in the case of the AYCC it goes further. In my experience, the love that makes the AYCC possible is an identity that includes hundreds of other volunteers, across the country, who have shared your trials and shared your dreams. It’s an identity that stretches to include tens of thousands of members of the AYCC, many of whom perhaps have little conception of the part they are playing, but who are part of a movement, part of a building story, that is changing Australia and the world. It’s an identity that, at its most beautiful, includes not just young people the world over, but all those disadvantaged and marginalised who, through the greed and excesses of a powerful few, have had their future put at risk.

At one level, this is a love for Australia. It’s an almost parochial wish that our beloved country won’t be one of the villains in this story, and that our nation will provide others with a fair go.

At another level, this is a love for the Earth, our home. It’s a love for the diversity and beauty of creation, from glaciers, to parrots, from meerkats to the African savannah. It’s a love for the intricacy and miraculousness of the natural world. It’s a love for that which sustains us.

At its most significant though, this is a love for humanity. This is a love not just for humans, but for humanity, for our species. It’s a refusal to accept that our species will be so selfish and shortsighted as to end life on Earth as we know it.

It is also a vision. It’s a vision that the species which was capable of such achievements as painting the Sistine Chapel, oversaw such fantastic collaborations as the Human Genome project, and pioneered such revolutions as the Internet, will rise to the challenges of the climate crisis and conquer them. It’s a love for humanity that has made possible the wondrous efforts I have described here. And it’s a love for humanity that is going to make sure that these efforts are not in vain.


One Response to “Loving Humanity, or, How We Win”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this J, thanks!

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