The pace of climate change continues to accelerate, and it now appears inevitable that the Great Anthropocentric Extinction currently unfolding will include the end of life as we know it. Characterizing this ‘Great Dying’ as equivalent to a terminal diagnosis for the human race, and assuming an ecopsychological perspective that sees a close relationship between planetary health and mental health, the author applies the stages of grief to this Great Dying, exploring connections retroactively and prospectively between societal mental health trends in the U.S., our awareness of the severity of the threat we pose to the planet, and the stages of grieving the loss of life, and questions the role mental health professionals should play in this context. Looking ahead from this same perspective, the author asks if it is possible to alleviate the pain and suffering that will be associated with the widespread extinctions, mass mortality, and forced migrations that are anticipated by scientific experts as a result of climate disruptions, beginning with the idea of what a “good death” would look like in relation to the end of life as we know it, applying principles from hospice and palliative care. Finally, he offers a hopeful vision that, with an expanding planetary hospice movement and appropriate containing myths, it might be possible to re-cast this Great Dying as a difficult, but spiritually progressive, death/rebirth experience for homo sapiens.
Edge-Dwelling: A Social Ecology For Our Time: Part 5: Shamans, Midwives, And Hospice Workers, By Dianne Monroe
Beyond the edge where what we know and don’t know meets lies the Unknown (with a capital U). It’s a wild place that stretches the capacity of our human consciousness. This edge space is inhabited by a very particular kind of Edge-Dweller – those willing to hold the hugeness of even our ability to know, the horizon of human consciousness.
Grief is subversive, undermining the quiet agreement to behave and be in control of our emotions. It is an act of protest that declares our refusal to live numb and small. There is something feral about grief, something essentially outside the ordained and sanctioned behaviors of our culture. Because of that, grief is necessary to the vitality of the soul. Contrary to our fears, grief is suffused with life force.
Whenever the topic of near-term human extinction arises, I invariably hear comments like, “Well, if it’s true, I might as well lay down and die then.” I never fail to respond with my perspective that if there is anything we must not do, it is to “lay down and die.” Die we will, but it’s the laying down part that I cannot abide for the simple reason that we have a choice: to die lying on our butts under the influence of some recreational substance that keeps us in a state of mental and emotional oblivion (which does not arise from the same motivation as using medication to relieve pain) or to embrace our dying consciously and with intention. Why reject the former and choose the latter?
Perhaps you’ve noticed that staying on the train is a full-time job and that in doing so, there is little chance of maintaining business as usual. Sometimes the speed of the train feels painfully slow, as if one is riding on the little engine that could. At other times, one feels hurled through time and space on a bullet train. In either situation, whether consciously or unconsciously, all passengers on this train have signed up for a spiritual, as well as historical, intellectual, and physical journey, and it is no longer possible to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.
This year as we in the Northern Hemisphere approach the annual winter solstice on December 21, we abide not only in seasonal darkness but in what appears to be a permanent psychic darkness resulting from catastrophic climate change and near-term extinction. In our despair, we may ask ourselves if there is any point in seeking to find any light in this terminal darkness. Why don’t we just mimic our bear brethren who willingly descend into the darkness for the winter and hibernate? Why not eat, drink, sate ourselves, sleep in, check out, and die? After all, glimpses of light are only poignant reminders of our inescapable predicament.
The Future Of Planet Earth: Are We The Last Surviving Generations? Radioactivity And The Gradual Extinction Of Life, By Dr. Rosalie Bertell
How grateful we must be for this magnificent gift of life and all we have needed to sustain it over the last hundreds of thousands of years! Yet, today it is under threats never felt before in its entire unfolding journey!“ Rosalie Bertell (Slowly Wrecking Our Planet, 2010) We are presented with the chance of an awakening from the deceptive dream of a righteous way how things are working. We have the opportunity to recognize that in the end what counts are only the recognition and practice of the joy of living and the love of life! However, this life as it is possible on this earth – unique in our cosmos – is incredibly endangered today. If we manage to recognize this, then paradoxically we can grow toward the ability of perceiving and experiencing this joy and this love anew or maybe for the first time in its full dimension – and this time without any naivety, but rather as an answer to the question about what we can actually really do in face of this fear provoking threat towards life and the earth: Namely to stand up for them – beyond feelings of fear and anxiety – what else!?“ Claudia von Werlhof (Two Years Of Planetary Movement for Mother Earth: The Fear and – What to do?“, 6th Letter of Information of the PMME, June 2012)
With catastrophic climate change we do know two things: We know that it is progressing with unimaginable speed, and we know that if it continues to do so, there will be few habitable places on earth by mid-century. Yet what else are we not being told? Does the silence matter? Will it make a difference ultimately? With Fukushima, however, we know so much less. How much radiation has already been released? How much is being released every day? How much radiated water is actually being dumped into the Pacific Ocean every day? What is the actual size of the radiation plumes that are moving eastward in the Pacific toward the West Coast of North America? Specifically how are these affecting sea life and human life? What is the relationship between environmental illnesses or the incidence of cancer and Fukushima? And the questions exacerbate and spin and swirl in our minds.