I’ve been reading Gregg Braden’s newest book, called The Turning Point: Creating Resilience in a Time of Extremes. Braden says that there are a lot of crises going on worldwide, any one of which would be hard to deal with on its own, but we are seeing a perfect storm of several crises all at once. He refers to the global economic crisis that started with the banking failure in October 2008 (and which may still lead to worldwide economic collapse) and the accelerating changes in global climate, which have brought astonishingly extreme weather in many parts of the world, including monster storms, extreme flooding, rare snowstorms in strange places, and multi-year drought. Braden also mentions the fact that the world’s population, which has hit seven billion and rising, is clamoring for more energy than the earth can produce from fossil fuels, not to mention more food.
Braden says most people are simply hunkering down and waiting for things to get back to normal, but many of the changes that are going on right now have taken us past the point of no return. In other words, we will never be able to go back to the way things were. Instead, we will have to adjust to a new normal, and we may have to continue to do this in order to survive and thrive.
The dictionary defines resilience as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens,” or “the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.” The problem is that there will be no returning to the “original” ever again, according to Braden. Fortunately, the dictionary gives one other meaning, “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” This is the kind of resilience that Braden is talking about: the ability to adapt well to continual change and to new conditions and situations. Braden says that in order to be successful, human beings will have to cultivate the quality of resilience, and he speaks of cultivating this quality at the personal, individual level, in communities, and in the world at large.
Braden clarifies the difference between a “turning point” and a “tipping point.” He says that a tipping point is a point past which there is no going back, and it is always a natural phenomenon. It may be cyclic or a unique event. A turning point, however, may be natural, but it may also be created. Like a tipping point, it is a point of crisis, but it involves conscious choice. We can ignore it, reject it, or embrace it. If we embrace it, we can make the decision to adjust to the new normal and become successful.
Braden gives some compelling examples of embracing change. A neighbor of his in the desert southwest used to build homes, but with the economic collapse, houses weren’t selling well. The man noticed that there was a drought going on and knew that it might last a long time. So he started building structures in which to grow food from raised-bed gardens. Those who have invested in these structures have been able to grow their own food, even in the drought. Another example Braden gives is a community in Ethiopia that converted gradually from an economy based on raising cattle to an agricultural community that grows vegetables.
In the next few days I’m going to write a bit more about this amazing book. Gotta finish it, first! 🙂