Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
The opening verse of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times they are a-Changin’’, released on the 1964 album of the same name, is hugely prophetic. While the verse alludes to both the Biblical flood and the 1960s civil rights movement, it literally describes the world of climate change we live in today.
As I write this, Greta Thunberg has just spoken at the Davos 2020 summit, lambasting world leaders in general—and American politicians in particular—for their paralysis in the face of climate change.
Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call
Don’t stand in the hallway, don’t block up the hall
For he who gets hurt will be he who has stalled
Dylan’s song even predicts the rise of young rebels like Thunberg:
Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
Don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters beyond your command
The fact that a 16-year-old has addressed world leaders and that the President of the United States replied with a “thinly veiled attack” shows the times are indeed a-changin’ and confirms every prophetic line of Dylan’s astounding song.
The line it is drawn
As Dylan predicted, a line is rapidly being drawn between those who are on board with Thunberg’s message and those who resist it.
The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
What, precisely, is this line?
One side of the line is the patriarchal paradigm, based on power, competition, accumulation, environmental destruction, profit-based economics, distrust and fear. The other side of the line is a new paradigm based on sharing, co-operation, minimalism, environmental stewardship, purpose-based economics, trust and love. That may sound trite but our fear-based psychology is literally killing us.
Younger generations, from Millennials onwards, are very heavily on the new side of this equation. For Baby Boomers (post-World War 2) and Generation X (early 1960s to late 1970s) the situation is much more divided. While many are deeply committed to environmental sustainability, many of those in positions of power, whether political, economic or military, are loath to surrender their gains.
Dylan warns that their position is untenable:
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times, they are a-changin’
Change or be changed
For those of us older than Millennials, the message is stark: change or be changed. We are dinosaurs heading for extinction—unless we can rewire ourselves to “lend your hand” to the environmental movement.
Born in 1961, I’m Generation X—just. My own healing journey began with porn addiction and led through unravelling my unconscious shame down to the deep, ancestral wounds at the core of the collective unconscious—the exact wounds that led to the emergence of the patriarchal paradigm in the first place.
There, I found that those wounds were ultimately caused by climate change around 6,000 years ago. Drought, desertification and famine caused a shift to violent patriarchy from which we have never fully recovered.
We are faced once again by climate change. If we react the same way we did 6,000 years ago, except with nuclear weapons instead of clubs, we won’t get another chance.
A few months ago I attended a grassroots environmental meeting. An avid eco-warrior listed things we should be doing to help the planet. Someone replied that few would take any steps that were inconvenient. The meeting degenerated into a slinging match between the two.
Who was right? They both were. What I noticed was that no one was asking the deeper questions: why won’t we take steps that are necessary but inconvenient? Why has humanity failed in its stewardship in the first place?
As a result, I’ve decided to focus my work on communicating why humans are capable of environmental destruction and how to counteract the psychological paradigm that both underlies and enables that destruction. The times, for all of us, are a-changin’.
To end, here is Bryan Ferry’s sumptuous rendition of Dylan’s great prophecy: