“Something inside me broke somehow,” he said. “I thought, ‘This isn’t working. We’re totally fucked. The machine will go on until it’s killed everything or collapses or both. But the wild world, justice — I still believe in that. What can I do with that?’ ”
Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters — even while they’re playing out in real time — isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines. In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims
This culture tells us that humans are selfish and greedy. It says that we are nothing more than individual islands of ego floating in a sea of chaos. It is the Great Myth of Separation that takes many forms. We’ve seen it as humans apart from nature, reason divided against emotion, body separate from mind, one tribe distinct from another. This mental tendency to categorize the world according to its separations is the root cause of illness in the world today.
I went to Tillerson’s ranch in Bartonville [Texas]. I pulled up in front of his ranch, a big, big horse ranch. In front of the gate to his ranch, there was this big sculpted metal globe. It looked like someone took a carving knife to it and the whole upper part of the globe, along these uneven serrated edges, opened up into this gaping void, and I thought, Wow, that is symbolic. Here is Tillerson’s globe and it’s a world whose apex has been systematically shredded. It was quite a metaphor.
In other words, failing to halt the advance of climate change—to the extent that halting it, at this point, remains within our power—means complicity with mass human annihilation. We know, or at this point should know, that such scenarios are already on the horizon. We still retain the power, if not to stop them, then to radically ameliorate what they will look like, so our failure to do all we can means that we become complicitin what—not to mince words— is clearly going to be a process of climate genocide. How can those of us in countries responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions escape such a verdict?
We are close to the point where the Earth will tip over and start rolling by itself, ending the short Anthropocene. After which humanity will be turned back into an observer of changes in Earth Systems, rather than a remaker of those systems. The need for rapid changes in the way that we run our societies, and the acceptance that the old geographical and climatic certainties may rapidly change, is needed. The thought that we can simply geo-engineer our way out of trouble may be proven to be the naiveté of a still young civilization.
Imagine a future in which humanity’s accumulated wisdom about Earth — our vast experience with weather trends, fish spawning and migration patterns, plant pollination and much more — turns increasingly obsolete. As each decade passes, knowledge of Earth’s past becomes progressively less effective as a guide to the future. Civilization enters a dark age in its practical understanding of our planet.
What we are looking at is a human-triggered extinction episode that will certainly be beyond anything in human experience, and which may rival the great Permian-Triassic extinction event of 252 million years ago. There is even the possibility of Earth becoming completely sterilized, with an atmosphere as overheated and toxic as that of Venus. That these changes are happening does not require prediction, just observation.
Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific evidence-based predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of activism and energy that we are seeing now in Flint. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. And that requires experiencing grief. There is no other way.