Some years ago, I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Gazing out in awe at one of the great wonders of the natural world, I remembered learning that the canyon had been formed over millions of years by the Colorado River slowly, persistently, eroding ancient layers of rock. On this trip, though, I learned something new. In addition to the steady process of erosion, geologists also believe there were dramatic events, particularly floods, that brought rapid and sudden changes in the canyon’s formation.
This combination of gradual and rapid change is mirrored in our human reality, reflecting the ways that social, political, technological, and certainly climate change move at both speeds. As Octavia Butler reminds us, “The only lasting truth is Change.” Change is the one constant—always shaping and re-shaping things. Then there are moments when, because of the coalescing of circumstances or people, a long, slow, steady current opens into a powerful movement that creates more dramatic change quickly.
Over these last few years, we have all experienced this increasing pace of change. We witness the exponential impacts of climate change. After many years of slow warming, we now have regular climate disasters—record-breaking heat, multiple hundred-year floods and storms, fire seasons unlike those seen in recorded memory. Relatedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous change to our lives and the ways we gather almost instantly.
These realities create profound suffering and devastation. They expose the undeniable consequences of ideologies of supremacy and domination that have long fed our systems and exploited lives and the resources of the earth.
There are those who argue fundamental change comes slowly, but slow change is not sufficient. We need a sea change to dismantle the deeply ingrained structures of white supremacy, exploitative capitalism, and patriarchy.
I know the discouragement and feeling of despair that comes when we look honestly at the challenges before us. And then I remember profound changes we have fostered in our Association, the vital leadership we have shown in centering community care and saving lives in the pandemic, and our powerful and effective actions in defense of democracy.
In 2002, ordinary people in Texas witnessed a flood create Lake Canyon Gorge in a matter of three days. We are living in a moment when dynamic change is happening all around us. The way we meet this moment involves moving in broader concert and braver action for policy changes that center life and its thriving.
Spiritually, we need a sea change as well. Turning our lives away from the ideologies of individualism and exceptionalism to orient ourselves toward practices of interdependence, compassion, joy, and community care—practices that make our lives worth saving.