When I began writing this article, a friend of mine had recently entered hospice. While I was finishing the article, my friend died. She was not in the same town as I, but during the past month, we had been able to speak by phone several times a week. Given my friend’s decline and death and its impact on me, I was not taken aback by Daniel Drumright’s essay “The Irreconcilable Acceptance Of Near-Term Extinction,” posted last week on Guy McPherson’s Nature Bats Last blog.
So in this time of catastrophe,
Perhaps we should turn to these lists.
And teach our children from them.
So that we may live.
Whether it be the rotting, gray carcasses of bleak, boarded up city blocks of abandoned store fronts; suburban cul de sacs consisting of vacant, foreclosed homes; countless crumbling bridges and pot-hole-pocked roads; tasteless, thoughtlessly-constructed high rises; irredeemably scarred mountaintops; or charred forests ravaged by the worst fire season in recent memory, the landscape of our planet is becoming increasingly dull, drab, and downright dismal.
What are the elements of non-attachment that might be applied to coping with the knowledge of the inevitable collapse of organized society amidst the chaos of economic collapse and runaway climate change? What makes sense to gaze at, and what should we, for our own sanity, leave unseen? How can we be, and act, in a fully engaged, joyful, curious, productive, useful-to-others way, without becoming either “detached” (emotionally disconnected or inured) or exhausted?
Conflict And Change In The Era Of Economic Decline, Part 2: War And Peace In A Shrinking Economy, By Richard Heinberg
Disaster per se need not lead to violence, as Rebecca Solnit argues in her book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster. She documents five disasters—the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; earthquakes in San Francisco and Mexico City; a giant ship explosion in Halifax, Canada; and 9/11—and shows that rioting, looting, rape, and murder were not automatic results. Instead, for the most part, people pulled together, shared what resources they had, cared for the victims, and in many instances found new sources of joy in everyday life. However, the kinds of social stresses we are discussing now may differ from the disasters Solnit surveys, in that they comprise a “long emergency,” to borrow James Kunstler’s durable phrase. For every heartwarming anecdote about the convergence of rescuers and caregivers on a disaster site, there is a grim historic tale of resource competition turning normal people into monsters.
We are in the early stages of a great unraveling, an epic collapse of the largest human civilization this planet will ever know. How are we to make sense of it? Maybe this little diagram can help.
“We have a national mythology that limits are always bad. In fact, we have a national phobia of limits,” wryly observes John Michael Greer: author, historian, conservationist, and proprietor of the popular weblog The Archdruid Report. “We need to get past that.”—Includes podcast interview by Chris Martenson
When it comes to our understanding of the unfolding global crisis, each of us seems to fit somewhere along a continuum of awareness that can be roughly divided into five stages:
What in the paradigm of industrial civilization causes not only such grizzly violence of epic and epidemic proportions, but what in that paradigm causes us to so blatantly and blithely ignore the global warming-generated drought that is shriveling at least one third of this country? Are the two issues related?
And here is the dilemma we face as a civilization. We march collectively toward self-annihilation. Corporate capitalism, if left unchecked, will kill us. Yet we refuse, because we cannot think and no longer listen to those who do think, to see what is about to happen to us. We have created entertaining mechanisms to obscure and silence the harsh truths, from climate change to the collapse of globalization to our enslavement to corporate power, that will mean our self-destruction. If we can do nothing else we must, even as individuals, nurture the private dialogue and the solitude that make thought possible. It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.