To what do I devote my life?

by Becker1999 Flickr, cc

By Dahr Jamail, excerpted from a piece from

By way of the corporate capitalist industrial growth culture within which most of us have been raised and immersed, we have become disconnected from the planet we are so deeply part of. This, I believe, is the root cause of the climate crisis we now find ourselves in. Hence, the first step toward answering the question of “how to be” during this time, which must be answered before any of us can decide “what to do,” is to connect ourselves back to the planet. For we cannot begin to walk until our feet are on the ground.

Each day I wake and begin to process the daily news of the climate catastrophe and the global political tilt into overt fascism. The associated trauma, grief, rage and despair that come from all of this draws me back to the work of Stan Rushworth, Cherokee elder, activist and scholar, who has guided much of my own thinking about how to move forward. Rushworth has reminded me that while Western colonialist culture believes in “rights,” many Indigenous cultures teach of “obligations” that we are born into: obligations to those who came before, to those who will come after, and to the Earth itself.

Hence, when the grief and rage threaten to consume me, I now orient myself around the question, “What are my obligations?” In other words, “From this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life?

Each of us must ask ourselves this question every day, as we face down catastrophe.

One thought on “To what do I devote my life?

  1. Ken Sehested

    Mahatma Gandhi identified what he called the “7 Deadly Social Evils”:
    1. Wealth without work.
    2. Pleasure without conscience.
    3. Knowledge without character.
    4. Commerce without morality.
    5. Science without humanity.
    6. Religion without sacrifice.
    7. Politics without principle.

    Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, added an eighth: rights without responsibilities.

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