Leighton Buzzard recently had a series of earthquakes; they were all minor, but they certainly made an impact on the community. I found myself reflecting on earthquakes as a metaphor for emotional, political and ecological upheavals. 

There are times, sometimes long periods, when things seem to be stable. But we know that the tectonic plates which support the continents are constantly moving. On some parts of the earth’s surface mountains are being pushed up by forces driving the plates together. In other places volcanoes erupt as plates are pulled apart. Those earthquakes that affect us on land produce jagged tears in the earth’s crust, or sudden uplifts on one side of a rift. Those that occur under water can produce tsunamis. 

Thinking about our emotional states, there may be years when life seems relatively calm, only to be disrupted by a crisis. It may be a bereavement, or serious illness, a break-up of a relationship or a memory from the past that suddenly returns to haunt us. There is not only the initial quake that can be overwhelming but the aftershocks which can cause the shaking of the foundations of our identity. The confidence we had can be rocked and we are left trembling and afraid. It takes time and a lot of tender loving care to help us find our feet again and move on.

The political scene too can seem relatively stable for a while; it may not be to our liking, but things continue to work. Then the trends that have been growing quietly in the background suddenly change the political landscape. There is a lurch to the left or to the right. Or social cohesion breaks down and there is mayhem, rioting and chaos. Or there is a general awakening to the crisis that some have been foretelling for some time. The climate emergency might be one example or the systemic discrimination against groups in society, or the gulf between rich and poor/powerful and powerless. Working to create a society in which we all are given respect, where we can cooperate for the benefit of all people and make changes to our lifestyle to heal the earth itself takes a huge effort and is not achieved quickly, if at all.

The earth is giving a variety of signs that all is not well; there are indicators of human induced catastrophes alongside the natural phenomena of earthquakes. Ice shelves and glaciers are melting at a faster rate, the air and sea air temperatures are rising, changing patterns of weather are producing more extremes of drought and flood, storms and disease. 

We cannot control the fundamental movements of the earth’s interior, or our orbit around the sun, but we can contribute to conditions that affect life on Earth. And we have been doing so with an adverse result. Now we need to change and perhaps the earthquakes can jolt us into action.

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