David Orr: Moving Inside Out
By JJ Luceno
How can we turn our own individual worlds inside-out?
David Orr brought a different kind of language to the climate change movement than we are used to hearing. Facts and figures played a relatively little role in the stories he shared with us during his visit at Dickinson. He was brimming with colorful anecdotes told slowly with a hint of an accent carved out from some slower and smaller corner of our country.
After detailed descriptions of body systems- circulatory, nervous, pulmonary- one of my biology professors always says, “Now isn’t that an incredible story?!” Stories. How often are the lessons of biology, climate change and chemistry called stories? My professor’s use of the word caught my ear. It felt like a clashing of vocabulary and it appealed to me. The more I thought about it the more it felt like these lessons, whether physiology or climate change, are in fact stories. They are personal and they take on different evolutions as they are told and re-understood. After all, the most human thing we can be, to me, is a storyteller. We are all a collection of stories- some personal, some academic, part historical. What struck me about David Orr was the manner in which he embraces his inner storyteller.
In his book, Ecological Literacy, Orr writes:
The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.
Success as he puts it must come from within us. Success must come from our sense of place and interaction. Most of all, it comes from recognizing that we are deeply and intrinsically part of our communities. We need to redefine what it means to be a part of something both personal and communal in an age where despite enormous cyberconnectivity, we have forgotten about our next door neighbor.
At first I wasn’t sure if David Orr’s collective endeavour, the Oberlin Project, was hitting the right note. Upon further thinking, I’ve realized that if our communities are the closest and best things that we understand and we must start there.We must start with ourselves and how we see our role in this world, looking deep within ourselves and beginning to work outward from there. And, as we see these examples, we need to dig deeper into the wounds of power, inequity and socioeconomics that divide our towns. Movement forward isn’t a pain free self-reflection and needs to move beyond getting the “usuals” to the table.”Climate change will not be averted with one thousand or even one million Oberlin Projects, but that’s not the point. The point is we have to start by re imagining our own communities. Seeing the sources of solidarity as well as the many lines that dive us. From there, like a ripple, we will continue to move outward…one story at a time.