We Are All Refugees Now

Disruptions are all around us. Humanity is now in transition — torn from the past and drifting toward an unknown future.

In this time of unprecedented global change, everyone is a refugee.

As the city of Houston goes underwater and Seattle experiences a record-breaking heat wave — let us remember that many things in this world have changed dramatically in our lifetimes. These are not the weather patterns of our youth.

The future will not be like the past. And we must become skilled at navigating turbulence of all kinds for the rest of our lives. As I read about the shame of living in a broken economy and the sadness of a city once-loved that has become unrecognizably changed, I realize that one does not need to be forcefully removed from a war-torn country to be a refugee.

Humanity is a migratory species. We have a long history of nomadic traditions. Yet nothing in our past can prepare us for what we are going through in this period of unprecedented global change. We are seeing the end of a 10,000 year period of stable climate (known as the Holocene). And we are now entering the uncharted territory of the Human-Shaped Earth (tentatively called the “Anthropocene”).

The rise of complex civilizations was possible thanks to 10,000 years of stable planetary climate.

The explosive growth of speculative finance has completely redefined the meaning of “market economy” — benefiting only the already-rich and leaving everyone else behind. Similarly, the ascendance of money-driven politics has left most of us in a moral wasteland without a compass to guide us. How now shall we govern ourselves when our governments are so profoundly compromised?

This is why it feels so unsettling every day in our lives. The pace and scale of change is undaunted, disorienting, and beyond compare. If you feel like the carpet has been pulled from beneath your feet, it is because the world of yesterday went quietly in the night. Today is a new world. Tomorrow will be another one. From now on, it will be turbulence and rapid change.

Prepare yourself for wave upon crashing wave of social and ecological change for the rest of your life.

You are a refugee if your life plans were destroyed by the financial collapse.
You are a refugee if your hometown has become unrecognizable.
You are a refugee if no political party represents your love of living things.
You are a refugee if the weather of your youth has gone the way of history.
You are a refugee if your capacity to dream of a positive future has dimmed.

In this newly emerging 21st Century world, it will be our task to rediscover who we are as we scrape out existence in unfamiliar lands. Our minds will have to adjust to new categories for political labels, economic philosophies, and personal ethics. We’ll need to update our religious stories, befriend new neighbors, and find our humanity anew in this strange land.

But we will not feel comfortable or at ease for much of this century. We must learn to navigate and manage the complexities of living in a rapidly changing, turbulent world. Because we are in the crucible now and the changes our ancestors (and we) have wrought are going to play out for the rest of our lives.

I remain hopeful that the transition is already underway. I see the importance of healing as we go through this violent change process. And I declare openly and publicly that I too have become a refugee on a changed planet.

Onward, fellow humans.


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