THE NEW LINEAGE: How Climate Change is Creating a New Epigenetic Transmission
By conference convener, Stephanie Mines, Ph.D.
I was born into an immigrant household that insisted I honor my lineage by associating only with people who looked, behaved and believed as we did. I was repeatedly drilled in my responsibility to ‘my people.’ My job was to memorialize our history, maintain our practices and pass all this on to my own children when I became a parent. There was no possibility to marry outside of my faith; this was the only way, I was told, that ‘our people’ would survive. My teachers had direct knowledge of genocide, poverty, violence and deprivation, which buttressed fear of ‘the other’ and a perceived, ever-present threat of loss, starvation and tragedy. We lived in cramped quarters with other family members. Aunts, uncles and cousins were close by in our urban ghetto, intensifying the attitudes that became my foundation for meeting the world. Even when I moved out to be more independent, become educated and expand my awareness to form new ways of thinking, I carried these early teachings with me and adapted them to my new lifestyle.
That is, until full comprehension of climate change and what it means for the world dawned on me last year. This awakening has completely shifted my internalized definition of ‘my people.’ I had long since moved on from believing that it referred only to a certain group, but I had not yet replaced it with the notion of a ‘global family.’ This awakening to being a global citizen, a global parent and grandparent, and someone who is responsive to the events occurring everywhere on this planet was ignited by looming catastrophic climate change. Climate change has globalized my lineage and, in so doing, has altered my brain. I am infused with a new neurochemistry that hormonally displaces the rigidity of an older, entrenched paradigm of separation. Does this mean I have altered my DNA? I think the answer is yes.
Neuroendocrinologist Bruce McEwen has been one of my neuroscience heroes since I first began to inquire into how the human nervous system responds to trauma. McEwen still conducts cutting edge research demonstrating our endless capacity for resilience and neuroplasticity. As a holistic investigator I was tantalized by McEwen’s articulation of human responsiveness to stress. It illuminated what we can do to maximize creative buoyancy in all aspects of human function, including movement, expression, health, social engagement and creativity. He emphasizes the potency of education, outreach and access to resources to dramatically enhance our human capacity to meet challenge. We do this with brilliant innovation, which changes old patterns by writing a completely new blueprint of possibility. McEwen’s research helps me understand from a scientific standpoint how it is possible for me to change so profoundly. Family lineage informed me of the threat of having everything stolen from me. By contrast, the threat of omni-present climate change, is now evoking expansion, evolution, intelligence and a sense of belonging that has always eluded me. Stewardship is not only about saving the Earth’s resources, protecting its creatures and developing technologies for low-carbon energy generation. It also embraces inclusion and cooperation, collective problem solving and community sustainability, thus resourcing our children and our children’s children. This will alter the neurochemistry of brain development so that future generations will continually be more creative in rising to the challenges of civilization, culture and climate.
The concept of the evolutionary epigenome was developed collaboratively by geneticist Moshe Szyf and neurobiologist Michael Meaney. It somehow seems fitting that an Irishman and a Jew together proposed that one’s environment can serve not only to deepen molecular brain scars but also to obfuscate them. The human blueprint is not etched in stone; it is more like a sand painting. If mentoring and mirroring are encouraging, the brain can endlessly shift, rendering human evolution a tabula rasa.
During the Climate Change & Consciousness conference, we will collectively build the vibrational field that is our legacy for the Earth – a diverse, representative microcosm of the macrocosm that serves all humanity by combining hearts with intelligence to sustain human civilization. Thus we offer our children the chance to respond to the threat of climate change with joy and excitement; to grasp the opportunity to meet the greatest challenge humanity has known. Those of us raised in lineages of limitation that engraved the terror of imminent threat onto our cellular structure can offer future generations an entirely different option. If you are willing to allow your own personal story to morph into something entirely new and perhaps unknown, you can be a force for the emergence of a new lineage. The possibility for neuronal vibrancy is endless and indifferent to age. We are all instrumental in rewriting the script for civilization.
2019 is the perfect time for us to join for this purpose and Findhorn is the perfect place. Subsequent posts will explain why.