How Do We Get There From Here?
By Lucas Land
How do we get there from here?
Not to spoil the rest of the article, but the answer is… together.
The two major party candidates for President have spent precious little time talking about the greatest threat faced by the United States, and the rest of humanity. It’s not ISIS, immigration, health care or the economy. Climate change and environmental degradation threaten the very existence of our species on this planet. The transition away from a fossil-fuel based economy involves rethinking many of the things we take for granted in modern society. There is so much work to do that it can often feel overwhelming and impossible.
That’s when I return to a favorite quote from Wendell Berry for solace:
“The question that must be addressed is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet’s millions of human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others.” 
This is why I love local politics. It’s easy to get distracted and become polarized by our national politics. It’s much harder to do that when the issues are local and the debate is with our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. When you have to see each other in the grocery store, there is a greater incentive to find common ground and build relationships across many of the lines that divide us. It’s also harder to care about polar bears than the plants and animals in our own backyard, not to mention we have more control over the latter.
So often we fall into the trap that change only happens by creating an “us versus them” narrative. One side has to be the evil corporation or corrupt government and the other are the righteous, do-gooders who are on the right side of history. This tickles our lizard brains and makes us feel better about ourselves, but in the end it creates and/or perpetuates as many problems as it solves.
I do believe that there are times and places that require us to stand up to injustice and even protest actions that are evil. We should never forget that Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and others believed non-violent civil disobedience worked, because of the inherent dignity and humanity of those they protested against.
I’ve discovered recently how much can be accomplished in our community by treating people on all sides like human beings that deserve respect, while also speaking up about what I think could make our community better. This is why we need better models and frameworks for making change in our community. One group doing this work in our community is Baylor’s Public Deliberation Initiative. They gather diverse groups of students and community members to discuss and dialogue around difficult issues (such as racial reconciliation, gun violence, and politics). Their approach to these conversations can help us listen better to each other and work towards solutions rather than deepening the divide. They will host a post-election forum November 14th at the Bobo Spiritual Life Center on “Getting American Politics Working Again.”
On November 9th, regardless of who is elected, we will still have a lot of work to do, and we will have to work with people who did not vote like us. Conversations and actions are already happening in our community about how to make our city more walkable and bike friendly . Groups in town (http://acecentex.org and http://friendsofpeacewaco.blogspot.com/ ) are tackling the challenge of a sustainable energy future for our community. Groups such as World Hunger Relief, HOT Urban Gardening Coalition, Baylor’s Campus Kitchen, and many others are working on issues related to local food, food insecurity, and health. You can find more opportunities to get involved in working on sustainability at sustainablewaco.org.
I love this “human and natural neighborhood” we call Waco, McLennan County and the Brazos watershed. Learning to love this place is the task we have been given and the only way to do it… is together.
Lucas Land is an eco-theologian, urban farmer, activist, aspiring master naturalist, facilitator, musician, and writer. He is avoiding growing up by constantly learning and trying new things. He also works in Grants Management for Waco ISD. He lives with his wife, three children, flock of chickens, dog, and cat in the Sanger Heights Neighborhood in North Waco.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.
 Berry, Wendell. What Are People For?: Essays. San Francisco: North Point, 1990. p. 200.