Starting simply to acknowledge changing world

By ANGELA HABR-PARANJAPE

We are living in a changing world. But are we willing to change with it?

“The sky is falling!” We heard the pre-apocalypse cries. Then the apocalypse came and went and we’re still here, facing the same overwhelming predicaments we had hoped the apocalypse would wipe away: a contracting economy, environmental crises beyond what our species has ever known, nuclear insecurity, community violence and an educational system that ignores it all.

As a parent, I am not one to indulge in apocalyptic fears. I have a family to feed, a kid to raise and hefty student loans to pay. There is no time for fear.

Meanwhile, I look at the world around me and realize that the game has changed, yet we’re still playing by the old rules.

Individualist impulse and infinite growth have long been valued as economic drivers.

Through the first half of the 20th century, our predecessors thought they were doing us a favor. Little did they know. But some time during the second half of the 20th century, the picture became clear and a decision was made as conscious inaction: carry on as before and our accumulating externalities will simply be passed down to future generations whose superior technology and brains will surely fix it.

Guess what, folks … that’s us. Thanks for the confidence, Latter-Century Predecessors. This is gonna be fun.

So what the heck will it take?

We can start with a sober view of things and maturity to match.

This can be hard to grasp. New parents will tell you about the moment they first held their baby, and thrust upon them in its full weight was: “Whoa, you’re my responsibility forever. Now what?”

Only in accepting responsibility — relying on our own “ability to respond” — do we get to the now what. The now what comes as actions.

But first, the sober view. We do so much harm to others by simply not knowing that what we do causes harm. It’s the whole ignorance-is-bliss cliché, like the early 20th century folks. As we examine our lives, our words and actions, our diets and other consumer choices and all of their externalities and excesses, we begin to see our individual effects on everybody else. Here we have the power to make conscious choices toward non-harm. This is a step in the right direction.

Of course, we aren’t all going to solve every worldly problem, but if we get ourselves out of the way, we have already begun to make an impact. In Anne Ryan’s book “Enough is Plenty,” she writes, “If we apply ‘enough’ to our health, finances and personal energy, we automatically restrict the kinds of damage we might be unwittingly doing in the wider world.”

Awareness, consideration, creativity and participation are essential to move us forward together. The bigwigs in business and politics have not, will not — in fact, cannot — get the job done without us.

The world is changing. Let’s make it for the better.