What council is and why it matters

Members of the national Council on the Uncertain Human Future share their perspectives:
 

As the conversation moves around the circle and each woman in turn offers a perspective, a wisdom that I have never encountered before, the measured spiraling of ideas and emotions becomes spine-tingling. Like nothing else in my life, it lifts my spirits, charges my imagination, and fills my work as a writer and climate activist. In times marked by bewildered silence and impotent fear, the Council offers the space to speak and the moral courage to act. Testimony to my belief in the power of the Council practice? – the brand new Corvallis, Oregon Council for an Uncertain Future will meet for the first time in my living room next month.
Kathleen Dean Moore

What kind of world could we humans create together on this Earth if we were able to speak to and hear one other from our deepest yearnings and our most heartfelt concerns and dreams? What if we could reveal our fears and our forebodings about the escalating violence in the world today and the rapid destruction of the ecosystem on which all of our lives, and the future of our children depend? … And what if we could sit together in circles of honesty and trust, sit in stillness, welcome silence, discover wonder and mutual gratitude, bring our patience, learn together, and gradually build new confidence in our ability as fellow humans to create spaces in which to hear and speak our unique stories and find our common truths? What if we could learn to listen, and let our hearts speak?
Diana Chapman Walsh

The UHF Council provides a space for pause, stillness and openness as a conscious way of being, something desperately needed in today’s fast-paced world. At a time when the quietest voices in the room are often unheard, the UHF Council provides a space where deep listening to all voices is a valued mode of action. The circle invites wise communication to emerge – not as a performance – but as a natural outflow of connectedness and relationality. The Council is interdependence in action, an embodiment of the power of true human bonding to enact change.
Lama Willa Miller

NYTCREDIT: Trent Bell for The New York Times

We have learned to focus on individual teachers and look at problems separately.  It is time to see that all the problems are connected and we as humans must act together, just as the women sitting around the council circle, each one unique, can combine their efforts and dreams into a whole, reflecting the globe. When we act and think together, we tend toward brokenness; when we act and think together we may save the world.
Mary Catherine Bateson

For me, council, in particular THIS council, is a place that reflects back to me and us where we’ve been and what has brought us here; where we are now – and where not yet; and thus, critically, where I must go, and – hopefully – we, we in the circle, and we humans at this time, may go.
Susi Moser

In a time of hyper-individualism, the council models the value of community. How else can we sustain the much-needed transformations in our time toward the flourishing of our Earth community? The council moves us forward in solidarity and joy.
Mary Evelyn Tucker

Joanie Kleypas with students on a research trip.

For me, the circle has opened my own sphere of understanding, to be more inclusive of others’ thoughts and concerns. Each of the other women is a touchstone to me. Their words often emerge out of nowhere as warnings not to be complacent (when I’m feeling defeated), as comfort not to feel alone (when I feel no one is listening), and as inspiration to think beyond the boundaries of my own brain. I have a better sense of myself when I’m with these women. It is humbling, yes, but it stiffens the spine, too. What sticks with me is how strength emerges from the collective honesty of these amazing women.
Joanie Kleypas

Our Council has put twelve strangers together, face to face, mind to mind, to contemplate and discuss climate change and an uncertain future. Uncertainty, and all that goes with it floods our many hours together each time we meet. Tears, fury, confusion, silence, wise thoughts, solace… the intimacy of sitting in a circle allows us to engage with full hearts and ever curious minds. To listen and talk in deep ways unavailable in most settings. This is the charnal ground and we sit in its ashes, speak from that familiar and terrifying place. Uncommon and extraordinary communication occurs, with which we can keep inquiring of the world, How do we behave? What can we do? How do we help all sentient beings survive?
Gretel Ehrlich

Sarah (far left) with Edinburgh Council.

Council members agree to approach and see into the growing threats constellated around climate change with partners who then become trusted companions. Doing the work of being with what is makes it possible to become more free, insightful and capable of collective action in the face of it. The act of sitting in Council is radical and disrupts the status quo – our systemic ways of thinking and behaving, social habit patterns that are proving increasingly dysfunctional – and makes way for transformation. The work and companionship of these circles allows me to live into this uncertain human future with more courage, energy, heart and insight. And I find a mounting eagerness from others for this level of engagement, momentum growing from a deeply felt need.
Sarah Buie