Love In The Age of Ecological Apocalypse: Cultivating The Relationships We Need To Thrive, North Atlantic Books, 2015. Order here
The book in your hands poses and responds to a deceptively simple question: How are we to love in an apocalyptic time?
The public tends to associate “apocalypse” with right-wing End of Times zealotry, but the word bears deeper implications. Derived from the Greek word apokaluptein, it means “to reveal” in the sense of uncovering what has been hidden. In the mythologies of many cultures, a time of decadence and alienation ends in universal collapse. Hindu lore calls this the Kali Yuga, Sami legends the end of the Great Celestial Hunt. Aztec stories describe the fall of the Fifth Sun, and the Norse tell of Ragnarok, the Doom of the Gods, heralded by stormy weather and altered patterns of animal migration.
We move within ancient precedents, then, by seeing around us the imminent fall of so much of what we took as permanent. Virtually every sector of contemporary “civilized” life—government, finance, education, healthcare, philosophy, psychology, religion—finds itself in a state of crisis compounded by vast ecological damage to our earthly home. As the planet’s sixth mass extinction accelerates, as polar icecaps melt, skies darken, and computers calculate soaring temperatures and rising oceans, thoughtful people unafraid to look apocalypse in the face plan for an uncertain future in a changing world.
For the most part, however, these plans of adaptation have been limited to hard fixes and technological inventions. Dr. Baker’s timely book focuses on a neglected but crucial fact: that surviving and flourishing are not possible unless we tend the relationships that bind us to each other and hold our communities together. “No one grows alone,” wrote CG Jung. No one survives alone either.
For it should be clear that we will either live together or perish together. No Road Warrior future awaits us because nobody would survive it for long. Fighting bands of survivalists would merely kill each other off. No, what human future is possible depends on how skillfully we craft our relations with each other, how deeply we can hear one another, how richly we can weave the fabric of inclusion. As the author asks in her Introduction,
The real question is: How will humans in a world unraveling relate not only to partners, children, neighbors, and the community, but to resources, food, their bodies, whatever manner of work they do in the world, animals, creativity, beauty, aging, their emotions, and death—to name only a few of the myriad relationships in which they may find themselves?
And, beyond grim images of bare-knuckle survival, what possibilities will we cultivate for meaning, joy, beauty, creativity, kindness, and love in an altered climate?
Dr. Baker brings a unique background and skill set to these vital issues. A former professor of psychology and history, she worked for 17 years as a psychotherapist in private practice. She has conducted workshops, interviews (including radio), and speaking engagements around the world. Participants in her workshops and coaching practice receive valuable resources for facing a darkening time with renewed courage and gusto. Her book titles reflect her passion for this work: Extinction Dialogs (2014, with Guy McPherson), Collapsing Consciously (2013), Navigating the Coming Chaos (2011), Sacred Demise (2009).
You will find these and other urgent questions explored in these pages:
How do I act with a relationship partner who sees no collapse unfolding?
How might widespread collapse signal a personal and collective rite of passage?
What do we tell our children about the times we now face in an ailing world?
How should I be with friends and neighbors during such a Long Emergency as this?
What are the psychological qualities I should cultivate to help me navigate through?
What is my real work, and how does it relate to what I do for a living?
Why won’t it work to just think positive thoughts and try to carry on?
How do I love my body as systems and structures I took for granted fall apart all around me?
How can eating be a mindful spiritual practice?
What about getting older with grace and vitality?
How can I learn to appreciate the beauty still present?
How do I work meaningfully toward a brighter future?
When we consider the size of the task of re-imagining how every (failing) structure of society should operate in the just and Earth-honoring civilization still waiting for us in the future, we start to appreciate the daring and vision Dr. Baker brings to her work, as this book amply reflects.
Beyond offering blueprints and practical examples for crafting and strengthening relationships, every page carries the author’s belief in what Abraham Lincoln referred to as “the better angels of our nature.” Perhaps we would not be in such a dismal state of planetary destabilization if we had figured out how to stop influential cynics from infecting collective consciousness with their pathological lack of faith in human nature. For centuries views of people as inherently greedy, stupid, passive, or warlike have proved most convenient to bullies and racketeers who pass themselves off as world leaders. A more realistic appraisal of human possibilities calls for new kinds of mentoring and leadership charged with creating community at the edge, wherever possible.
Times of apocalypse generally unfold in two phases: a steep descent as ruling institutions collapse, and a renewal of vision and community for those who live through the initiation hard times always bring. We who live today must make our way through the passage in between. Perhaps we will not live to see the eventual onset of renewal. But we plant the seeds for it by learning to relate to ourselves, our bodies, each other, more-than-human nature, and our precious home-world with discernment, responsibility, and love. Thanks to Dr. Baker there’s a manual now for that.
Craig Chalquist, Ph.D.
Department Chair, East-West Psychology
California Institute of Integral Studies