3 Reasons For Right Action In The Face Of Mass Extinction | William Thomas Online | William Thomas

3 Reasons For Right Action In The Face Of Mass Extinction

William Thomas at the helm of his solar-electric outrigger sailing canoe, Electra -Don Peterson photo



In The Face Of Mass Extinction


by William Thomas


1.          Contrary to the contrarians, who moan that freeing ourselves from our own

          shackles is too scary or hard or unpleasant… Speaking from personal 

          experience, standing up for rainforests and salmon streams, estuaries and gulfs,

          trekking solo in the Rockies, trading in the Toyota for an electric bike, sailing a 

          solar-electric outrigger canoe is liberating and fun! (see above)


          Individual and collective action is empowering in ways that frighten powerful 

          elites who understand that nothing can defeat the truth and those willing to

          speak it. Drawing also from my experience, sit-ins against illegal slaughters of 

          wild and human lives, blockades to protect the voiceless ones, and day-to-day

          community organizing engenders powerful solidarity between people sharing the

          same fight, the same fears, the same exultation. 


2.          We have a moral imperative to act on behalf of all life. This directive comes from

          Creation itself – the sacred energy animating all things (strikingly visible in its

          immediate absence). This is not an “obligation”. It’s a natural reaction to defend

          ourselves. Once we realize that rainforests and waterways, the finned, furred

          and feathered, whatever we find at our feet – are us. There is no separation. 

          The first imperative is to act on this internal knowing. As Chris Hedges writes, 

          “Resistance, however futile, insignificant and even self-defeating it may appear, 

          can set in motion moral and spiritual forces that radiate outward to inspire 

          others, including those who come after us. It is, in essence, an act of faith. 

          Nothing less than this faith will sustain us. We resist not because we will 

          succeed, but because it is right. Resistance is the supreme act of faith."


Julia “Butterfly” Hill in old-growth redwood tree where she lived for two years. -Shaun Walker/AP

3.          In the face of mass extinction, we must continue to organize and non-violently

          defend urban, rural and wilderness sanctuaries because in the aftermath of

          climate and civilizational collapse the survivors of all species will need places to




                                           Lwir mawayang tahen gati

                                           nikang wukir kineliran

                                           humarang anipis


                                      Hence the trees change into shadows

                                      and the spirit of the ancestors

                                      animates the living world




It’s never too later for spiritual growth. Given current emissions, climate, extinction and political trends, the outcome appears “hopeless” – a word even more debilitating than “hope”. Regardless of that likely outcome, it does not matter if it’s “too late”. Because we have the choice to act, we must act on behalf of Creation. On the side of life. No matter how practiced our Sunday pretensions, only by reaffirming the sacred in all things can we honour the sacred in ourselves.


Though passionately involved in the struggle for climate justice, which takes in all other human rights, we are not attached to outcomes. The environmental activists I’ve known who were fixed upon a goal did not remain long on this planet when that objective was lost. Many more people of conscience will continue to be lost to the forces of commodification arrayed against life until we understand that the moral imperative to act overrides all agendas.


This moral imperative springs from the compassion that leads to right action.



Yesterday tomorrow


"‘Right Action’ means being accurate or skillful,” writes Barbara O'Brien. “It is ‘right’ in the sense of being ‘upright’, the way a ship rights itself when battered by a wave.


Our resulting ethical conduct “is about harmony, which points to the concept of morality as living harmoniously with others.”


Right action also involves maintaining our composure in the face of intense emotional provocations.


Right action respects life and acts to protect lives against the suffering caused by their destruction.


Right action expresses generosity. “We give freely of our time and resources where they are needed, without hoarding things we don't need. We do not exploit other people or resources for our own gain. We act to promote social justice and well-being for everyone,” O’Brien continues.


Right action avoids “language that causes enmity and discord. Through deep listening to others, we tear down the barriers that separate us,” she reminds us. “Our ‘right actions’ want to flow spontaneously from the compassion we feel for the lives around us, which, in turn inform our understanding of what we’re here to do.”


Genuine compassion arises spontaneously from the realization that the “self” separate from all other lives is the most destructive illusion.




Right Action means we can’t duck it, can’t slide away from our responsibility to act ethically once we become aware of the likely consequences of inaction.


Imagine how the world would look if the president of the United States and every lawmaker in Congress exercised the kind of leadership that inspires other countries by refraining from


·      taking life


·      taking what is not freely given


·      inappropriate sexual conduct


·      lying


·      divisive speech


·      harsh words


·      gossip


·      coveting other’s possessions and positions


·      resenting the good fortune of others


·      a mind closed to things not fully understand



“Right Action means truly an ethical approach to anything that you are intending to take action upon,” suggests Marilyn Harper.


Talking about doing something to clean up our energy and consumption waste-stream, addressing an injustice, lending a hand to someone in our community – and then not following through – is doubly dishonesty because we get the feel-good gratification without taking any risks or doing the work. Marilyn Harper calls this, “an unethical approach.”


“An ethical action that is full of integrity is about approaching any task, anything that is laid before you, with an honoring of connection, an honoring of integrity,” Harper writes. “Are you doing your task in a loving way? That would be right action.


Every choice we make in thought, word and deed is an opportunity for right action.

And each life-affirming choice we undertake strengthens honesty and integrity in ourselves, while conferring the same to all beings on whose behalf we are compelled to act out of profound gratitude and respect.


William Thomas

Dec. 24-25, 2018

Dewdrops on flower pistil -photo by Luna

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