On August 28, 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his iconic “I have a dream” speech, he invoked the phrase, “the fierce urgency of now.” He was saying that the time had come for the human family to intervene in the complacency of the status quo and take action to address the wrongs of social injustice.
We too are living in a moment that calls for our own “fierce urgency.” But this time it is not just to protect the rights of a people to have a livable future, but to preserve the rights of all people to have any future at all. We daily hear increasingly dire reports on the negative impact human activities are having on the living systems of our planet. For example, just last month the Journal of Science reported that we have already crossed four of the nine planetary boundaries: species extinction, deforestation, carbon levels in our atmosphere, and the flow of chemicals into our oceans. According to the world’s experts, humanity is on a trajectory that will only lead to increasing planetary imbalance and ultimately total collapse.
Why is this happening? How is it that we can know these things and not respond concertedly? Because at some point in the recent past, the rules for living successfully on Planet Earth shifted and we are just now starting to realize it. We went from living in a you OR me world, where one person, group or nation could survive and flourish while others floundered, to living in a you AND me world, where the success of one is now tied inextricably to the success of all. Dr. King said it best: “Either we will learn to live together as brothers, or we will surely die together as fools.”
The good news is humanity is responding to this unprecedented threat/opportunity. Millions of leaders in corporations, social venture enterprises, governments and civil society are taking aggressive action toward a thriving future. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of organizations, initiatives, and collectives are now emerging all over the globe to address local, national and global challenges of environmental, economic and social issues.
The question is, what will it take for these crucial but distinct and separate initiatives to have the kind of collective impact that will alter our direction and move us toward a thriving, just and sustainable future? In other words, what is missing that if provided would allow us literally to change the course of history?
What’s missing is a relationshift, a transformation in the way we interact, a true breakthrough to a “you and me” consciousness. We have already demonstrated that we know how to do this. It happens when an emergency strikes a community, say a little girl falls into a well. Everyone in town drops everything in order to help. Differences fade into the background, petty allegiances don’t matter. All that matters is that we cooperate to meet a common crisis together. It is in those moments that many become one, and a bunch of individual people discover themselves to be of one kind, one community.
It has happened too on a global scale. The Live Aid Concert of 1985 comes to mind. A groundbreaking 17-hour global broadcast, reaching 1.5 billion people for Ethiopian Famine relief. All before Facebook, Instagram and texting. We call it the day the world worked. And it galvanized all who participated with a direct experience of our common humanity, as we looked into each other’s eyes and saw ourselves. What made it all possible? Music. And its ineffable power to connect, to dissolve boundaries, to unify.
Today that same sense of urgency elicited by Live Aid is fostering a new response for our time. Initiatives like Live Earth, the Al Gore and Pharrell Williams production for climate action this coming summer. Or, one of the most innovative and promising new ideas to come along in decades: EARTH’S CALL founded by world-class cellist Michael Fitzpatrick who brings a two-decade collaboration with both His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Muhammad Ali to EARTH’S CALL.
A global simulcast musical event originating from an undisclosed location in the high mountains, EARTH’S CALL will be surrounded by multiple regional concerts and embedded with music-filled global action workshops. It will bring together the best minds and hearts, strategies and practices, insights and wisdom from around the world, and embraced by the profound and ineffable power of great music, taking on what geologian Thomas Berry called the Great Work of our time: to transform the human presence on this planet from a destructive force to one that is mutually beneficial to the entire community of life.
Groucho Marx once famously asked, “Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” That sentiment was meant to be funny, but it may turn out to be truer than we think.
As 16-year old Elys Olmstead, said about generations yet to be born: “We don’t know them, but they will know us”. They will know us either as the generation who saw that a change needed to be made and we had the courage to make it, or as the generation who knew everything but did nothing. What we do — or don’t do — in responding to the “fierce urgency of now” will determine whether the children of our children’s children will look back at our response to Earth’s Call and say either “Thank you” or “How could you?”
By Vince DiBianca and Neal Rogin