Folks are getting tired of hearing me prophesy climate doom at Friends Meeting. Even in my last message, back during Advent, when I was trying to be positive, I framed my statement about the Mystery that undergirds the world with so much dread reality that folks afterwards said, “Very dark, very dark.” The takeaway for my friend Jerry was, “Why even try if we are doomed?”
But I do try. I am an activist, and receive tremendous joy from well-planned, imaginative actions like the magnificent People’s Climate March in NYC this past September. But even more, I try to be large enough to take in the death of global civilization. To be that large, to stretch that much, requires us to be more than human. Maybe it would be better to be simply human, not the “God species.” Rather than trying like superapes to outsmart the earth’s cycles which we have overstretched, to pull back and “cultivate our gardens” – leaving plenty of contemplative space. Our comforts, provided by the 200 slaves apiece that we in the developed world have subdued by harvesting ancient sunlight, have led us to the delusional dream of infinite progress on a finite planet, cut off from the biospheric ties that bind and nourish us. We need to slow down and notice both the devastation we have wrought, and the threatened beauty of what remains. Like all higher mammals, we have the ability to empathize with other creatures, opening the heart in a natural gesture which E.O. Wilson calls biophilia. And beyond our mammalian cousins, this power is multiplied infinitely in humans as the moral imagination. If that fails,
when we can do no more, just be humble and let God hold it.
Meanwhile, we see the people of the island nations rising up with anger and determination to stem the tide. But the tide is coming in, and they are on the front line. Bigger and bigger storms will hit coastal people. Right now they are concentrated in the South Pacific. There are still 2 million refugees from Typhoon Haiyan. The Atlantic is quiet this year, but superstorms will return; it’s only a matter of time. So we go on with our lives with as much care about our choices as we can muster, push our leaders to the strongest possible treaties, show truth to power, and cultivate love, forbearance,and forgiveness as it plays itself out.
I try to have faith in a global climate accord in Paris this coming Advent. There will probably be one, a true miracle if it is effective enough to turn the tide. Furthermore, it won’t go into effect until 2020, which even the IEA says is too late. Too late is when we have committed atmospheric forcing to 1.5 degrees C. We may already be there. That is the looming fear.
If so, then it’s a matter of how much care and love and discipline we can show on our way out. Having missed the opportunity for structural changes in our lifestyles, governance, and economic system, this will be expressed mostly through individual acts of love and heroism, brought out everywhere as the climate tsunami breaks. But they won’t make a difference to the implacable laws of physics and chemistry. By enslaving the earth, we have cooked our goose.
Our fate gathers around us. Some cry out in warning, but the mass resolutely go about their business, ignoring the gathering shroud. We are sleepwalkers, blankly marching across a threshold of unimaginable suffering to what? Either oblivion, or another world, also unimaginable. I choose to believe the latter. But I trust experience more than belief, and belief in the capitalist utopian dream has led us to this dead-end. It helps to remember that the highest form of experience is to experience our form, not as homo sapiens, but our inner nature, our very Self. That is both the challenge and solace if we can’t halt the destructive momentum we have unleashed as an errant planetary power.