January 15, 2021

What Could Possibly Go Right?* (Also Join a Virtual Tour of the Water Reclamation District)

I’ll get to the catchy title in a moment, but first I wanted to invite you to join a virtual tour of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s Deep Tunnel and other facilities on Tuesday, January 19, from 2 to 3:30p.m. CST. Admission is free, there’s no age limit, just BYOP (bring your own popcorn)!

Deep-Tunnel.jpgTravel back in time to early Chicago to see how the old sanitary district reversed the Chicago River and developed wastewater treatment technology. Go behind the scenes and under water to learn how the District transforms the water you use every day; descend 300 feet into the Deep Tunnel system and watch District biologists and scientists collecting fish samples from the Chicago River. Register here.

What Could Possibly Go Right?*

Recently I discovered a podcast series called “What Could Possibly Go Right?” sponsored by the Postcarbon Institute and hosted by Vicki Robin. She describes it as a series of interviews with “cultural scouts who see far and serve others so that they can help us see more clearly so we can act courageously in crazy times.”

In Episode #27, for instance, from December 15, 2020, Robin interviews public philosopher and author Kathleen Dean Moore who discusses “Building Anew on Moral Foundations.”

Moore lives in rural Oregon, about 50 miles west of the Cascade Range, and she described the devastation wrought by numerous wildfires last summer and “the soot [that] fell on the roses, and the shoes that were left by the front door filled up with ashes, and the air was black.” Once the fires were contained, Moore and her husband drove along the Mackenzie River and for miles and miles they saw not a single half-burned house, nor the charred framework of a house. “Every house had burned to the foundation,” Moore reported. After a summer of fires, political upheaval, a global pandemic, social unrest, species extinction, “sometimes it feels like the whole world is burning to its foundation,” she added.

Then, Moore recites a haiku by Mizuta Masahide:

Barns burned down.
Now I can see the moon.

What do we see when the barns burned down? Moore asks. What we see are the foundations. The foundations are still there and they’re holding a space for the future. “What are these foundations?” she says. “I want us to consider the possibility that we still have a shared foundation of understanding, of human decency deep in the earth. A lot can go right if we can hold on to our shared moral foundations.”

Moore asserts that nearly every major change in American history has been a result of a rising wave of moral affirmation, the exercise of moral courage. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal: that is a moral claim,” Moore notes, “and the great European monarchies fell like dominoes.” All persons held as slaves within any state shall be then henceforward and forever free. I have a dream, that one day this nation will rise up. Black Lives Matter. These, Moore points out, are moral affirmations of intrinsic value. Climate activist Greta Thunberg addressing representatives of fossil fuel industries says, “You say you didn't know. But if you knew, and you kept drilling, I would have to call you evil.” 

To return to the devastation of property and lives wrought by wildfires, to the rending of our social compact by stark income inequality and a criminal justice system that treats with embedded racial and class biases, to the poisoning of our only habitable planet with toxic wastes, Moore shares her grief and her belief that human decency and democratic ideals are still with us, our common foundation, waiting for us to do some serious clean-up and re-building.

I also recommend Episode #27, an interview with author Judith D. Schwartz on December 1, 2020, called “Tuning in to the Natural World” in which she explores restoring the world’s ecosystems, the work we can do to make things go right.

Go in peace, friends. Let us honor the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, Monday, and each day after that.