Commencement: a Cultural Climate Change of Consciousness

Sheathed in coolness or sunshine, gowns flowing, caps bobbing, smiles glowing, June’s Commencement season blossoms with enthralling personalities and invigorating commitments as some of our brightest, most inspiring young environmental leaders are celebrating their graduation from Santa Monica High School or Santa Monica College.  Charlotte, Jenna, James, Luis, Joshua, like millions of students across the planet, are set to advance to the next level of their academic studies, but the truth is these young scholar-activists are already advanced, far advanced.  For they see beyond mainstream culture and are energized to help lead a cultural climate change of consciousness that we urgently need, starting with ending fossil fuels being our main means of powering our lives.  This is the gift of the class of 2012.

Cognizant that how we, as the human species, inhabit the biosphere impacts others and Nature’s communities and ecosystem, these young spirits take seriously the fact that their lives matter to the Seventh Generation, 140 to 175 years in the future.  They understand that posterity’s well-being and the quality of long-term life on Mother Earth depends on who we are now, who we are becoming and how we choose in our daily lives to provide for ourselves and our communities.  Sustainability is no slogan, no branding to these young leaders.  It is the commitment to press to make renewable energy generation a commonplace and to shift the impact of our lives and our economy to be primarily restorative and regenerative not singularly extractive or exploitative. This is the profound and powerful challenge for the class of 2012 in the Anthropocene Age.

As reported in May by the Christian Science Monitor, current CO2 levels at the Artic, a precursor for other regions, have been recorded to be at 400 pmm, accelerating climate change and further jeopardizing the conditions amenable to life and ironically, to the material conveniences and physical comforts that define progress in the industrial world.  Convenience and comfort are now costing us too much.  This obsolete version of progress is costing us too much of Nature and too much of our own human potential, especially in terms of a truly innovative economy that conserves as it produces.

Mother Earth is tipping into uninhabitable conditions.  Truly, the climate change that we need is a cultural one that values our humanity being a part of Nature and relishes in caring for our natural habitats and ecosystems, oceans, watersheds and forests, etc.

Listening and learning from the young and young-in-spirit leaders will help show us the way.  Three come to mind: Brittany Trilford from New Zealand, Severn Cullis-Suzuki from Canada, and Bill McKibben from the United States.

“Are You Here to Save Face — or Save Us?”: Brittany Trilford, 17, Addresses World Leaders at Rio+20”

“At Rio+20, Severn Cullis-Suzuki Revisits Historic ’92 Speech, Fights for Next Generation’s Survival”

“Bill McKibben, environmentalist and author. Co-founder of, an environmental group working to help solve the climate crisis.

Will we re-imagine our lives and meet the challenge that what we know requires us to power our lives on renewable energy?  School’s out.  Mother Earth and humanity are not—not yet.  As Mark Twain admonishes us, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”