As the conversation about Near-Term Human Extinction (NTHE) grows increasingly deafening, I notice many people behaving as if they are already dead—and in fact they may be. Do we have 15 years, 20 years, 50 years? Should I move to another location? What’s the point of doing the job I now have? Why even have health insurance if I’m not going to be here anyway? And on it goes…I have no problem with preparing for the future. I’ve been writing books on that topic for about six years. The future has come to meet us and smack us upside the head on just about every level imaginable. And…living primarily in the future takes a terrible toll on us in current time. In fact, it strip-mines our lives in the here and now and guarantees that we become “extinct” long before NTHE does its dirty deed.
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.
By popular request, Parts 1-5 of the recent “What Collapse Feels Like Series” have been condensed and reprinted here.
On page 53 of Guy McPherson’s new book Going Dark, he asks: “Is it possible for a scientist to die from a broken heart?” I can’t answer that question, but I do know that it is possible for a scientist, or any of us, to live wholeheartedly and to discover an unprecedented depth of meaning and connectedness as a result of allowing our hearts to be broken—over and over again. My friend Andrew Harvey says that the only heart worth having is a broken one.
In the light of David Whyte’s poem and the information overload that many of us felt at this conference, I was intrigued by the use of the word “hungry” and “craving” which many participants expressed when they described their longing for spiritual and emotional processes that would facilitate their holding megadoses of new and disturbing information. The attendees at the conference represent only one segment of the collapse-aware population, but as a result of my experience at the conference and traveling throughout the country and working with individuals nationally and around the world, I hear the exact same longing expressed repeatedly and almost verbatim wherever I go. If anyone has any doubt that this aspect of confronting collapse is crucial, they are not listening.
Today is Memorial Day, created many years ago with the intention of honoring the fallen in battle. While we hold them in our hearts alongside the horrors of war, what must also be remembered and cherished on this day is the earth community in which we are innately and organically embedded. Whatever you believe about NTE, which is really of little importance in the larger scheme of things, we are losing this planet by way of the actions of our very immature, uninitiated, unwizened species. If you can, go out in nature today and reconnect with some aspect of it. Hold it close to your heart as you would your child or a beloved. These are the good ole days, and this is as good as it is likely to get.
Attendance this year is about the same as last year with a number of new faces as well as a few individuals returning from 2012. This conference, which Orren Whiddon hopes to put in place as an annual event, offers not only the opportunity to “take the temperature” of the collapse-aware community, it provides the opportunity to dialog in depth with many of the notable shapers of our thinking about collapse and our responses to it. Equally rewarding is our dialog with each other, the formation of meaningful friendships, and a taste of what it might be like to journey together through the unraveling.
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.
Community Grounded In Grief In The Age Of Limits, By Carolyn Baker With Introduction By Orren Whiddon
With The Age of Limits our purpose was twofold, to speak the words… Decline, Collapse, and Die Off. Words that are truly devastating in their scope—and to create a conversational format based on face to face human interaction, without the deceptive anonymity of pixels on a screen. In these ways The Age of Limits was a great first year success as attendees stepped into the conversational space to share their own experiences and understanding of the emergent collapse, stepping outside of the emotional refuge of quantitative analysis, blog posts and comment streams to engage one another on a human and personal level. As this engagement progressed, as our temporary weekend community matured, people began to take risks and reveal their private emotional processing of collapse…and their own part in it. And this process of risk taking, of emotional self revelation, became itself one of the powerful currents of the event; a point well illustrated by our video of attendee interactions, and an outcome that was not anticipated by myself as the organizer. Lesson learned.