The winds are rising as well as the waters. We can welcome and embrace them in the same way.
Let windmills rise too, for one thing. There are designs for wind generators on the sides of high-rises, integrated into the structures in new ways. Windmills can be designed to fold up in high winds, too, and/or shed potentially damaging wind the way palm trees do — a good example of biomimicry.
They can be beautiful, as well. Think of Holland, where windmills are worldwide tourist attractions, and then ask what new and truly delightful forms of wind power today's engineers and artists might devise. We do not need to grudgingly accept the apparently problematic aesthetics of today's wind farms; we need to create vastly more attractive ones. More artists and even historians (and yes, biomimics) on staff, working with the aerodynamic engineers.
Greensburg, Kansas: Wholeheartedly Receiving and Celebrating the Winds
Building back from the rare overpowering storm is also a worthy project, as well as an occasion for a new kind of sass.
Greensburg, Kansas, an archetypal little town on the prairie, was almost totally destroyed by an unusually strong tornado in 2008. But Greensburg's response has been a model for radical green possibility. It has rebuilt itself in a way that wholeheartedly receives and celebrates the winds. The new town hall sports, of all things, a vortex-(tornado)-shaped wind turbine to generate power — big, bright and right out front.
Students from the University of Kansas built Greensburg a flamboyant community art center wholly powered by wind, sun and geothermal energy. The mayor calls the new town "a state-of-the-art, living laboratory" for new green technologies, and business owners, rebuilding to the highest possible green standard — LEED Platinum — frame their attempt to build back as ecologically as they can as their way of paying the country back for the aid that made rebuilding possible.
This too is a form of exuberance, not to mention refreshingly civic-minded. A spirited response. Where we are going to rebuild anyway, as sometimes we will surely have to, let us do it with inventiveness and heart. A chance, however poignant, to start over.
Into the Whirlwind of Life
Probably it should be acknowledged again, though, that no matter how much inventiveness and heart we muster in response, the climate changes now upon us can be deeply dispiriting and in some ways heartbreaking. I have no wish to deny the pain. The point is only that the pain is not the end of the story. We are not condemned to just dully bear it. Profound sweetness also remains, and new kinds of sweetness can be found.
We can add one more piece to this picture — a piece that will be, if anything, still more unexpected, maybe barely even imaginable, but nonetheless represents a natural completion of the embrace we might aspire to, this time on the spiritual level. It is this: there is also sweetness even in the forces that threaten us.
In the book of Job, when God finally speaks to Job directly, the Bible says that he speaks “out of the whirlwind.” Indeed, if you read between the lines, God really is the whirlwind. He attacks with the same kind of all-out fury, and his theme is simply the spectacular, surging natural world itself.
Embracing the Whirlwind-World
Job, in the end, is asked not to understand but to simply embrace the whirlwind-world. It is beyond all accounting in human terms. Yet the vision is sublime, too. Job's consolation is that he has after all looked, so to speak, upon the face of God.
Likewise, the overwhelming forces that now threaten us ecologically might also be an occasion for — yes — a kind of embrace. There are people, right now, who head into the great storms even as everyone else flees the other way. "Extreme surfers”, for one, drawn to the biggest waves they can find. Out on the prairies there are people who "chase" tornadoes — storms that are much more concentrated and hence more deadly, though strange to say, with the right skill and knowledge and some luck one can actually get right up next to them, sometimes mere feet away.
Ordinary mortals may wonder why. I think the only answer is that here too we look on the face of God. It is a way not of fear but, strangely enough, right in the middle of the storm, of equanimity and even joy.
Seeking Extreme Spiritual Experiences?
Even hurricanes might be occasions for "extreme" spiritual experiences — a kind of analogy, maybe, to "extreme" surfing. People might, once in their lives, wish to experience hurricanes — the rain, the wind, the stillness of the eye—in the raw. Not most of us, I assume, but surely a few. Not necessarily the hardiest, either, but surely the most susceptible.
It is therefore an invitation to designers too. Certain kinds of buildings would help: structures that could allow one to feel the full force of the storm, the winds and the rains on one's body, the drastically low air pressure, the passing of the eye. A new kind of sacred space.
Our job in the end is not to bemoan or blame or even resist all of this, but to embrace the Great Flow — with all our skill and creativity and also, surely, all our hearts.
©2012 by Anthony Weston. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Society Publishers. http://newsociety.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Mobilizing the Green Imagination: An Exuberant Manifesto
by Anthony Weston.
Nothing less than a complete reinvention of contemporary environmentalism, Mobilizing the Green Imagination belongs in the back pocket of anyone who dares to dream of a brighter future and a better world. Philosophical provocateur Anthony Weston urges us to move beyond ever more desperate attempts to “green” the status quo toward entirely different and far more inviting ecological visions — the perfect antidote to the despair brought on by too many “doom and gloom” scenarios.
About the Author
Anthony Weston is professor of philosophy and environmental studies at Elon University in North Carolina, where he teaches ethics, environmental studies, and "Millennial Imagination." He is the author of twelve other books, including How to Re-Imagine the World and Back to Earth, as well as many articles on ethics, critical thinking, education, and contemporary culture. At Elon, Weston has been named both Teacher of the Year and Scholar of the Year. Find out more about him at his Elon University profile page.