Now it is too late. We cannot solve these global issues globally… Now it is up to us… Let us use whatever power and influence we have, working with whatever resources are already available, mobilizing the people who are with us to work for what we care about. As Teddy Roosevelt enjoined us: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
~ Margaret J. Wheatley
Do you see some contradiction in the title and subtitle of this blog? I answered the question “Why Ecopsychology Now!” in a previous post, and now I will address why it is already too late.
Of course it is too late – as a matter of science. Scientists issued strident warnings to humanity in 2009 that the window was closing, that drastic actions were required in the next five years to avoid “mass mortality” and “mass migration.” (International Energy Agency report, hardly a more staid group of scientists commissioned by world leaders to monitor global energy markets). That call was issued on the eve of the first State of the Union Address from the false prophet, Barrack Obama, who had promised to turn back the tide of climate change. That window has closed. Anyone who doesn’t understand why that was a limited time offer doesn’t understand the 40-year time-lag between fossil fuel emissions and climate impacts.
If we stop emitting today, it’s not the end of the story for global warming. There’s a delay in temperature increase as the climate catches up with all the carbon that’s in the atmosphere. After maybe 40 more years, the climate will stabilize at a temperature higher than what was normal for previous generations.
This decades-long lag between cause and effect is due to the long time it takes to heat the ocean’s huge mass. The energy that is held at the Earth by the increased carbon dioxide does more than heat the air. It melts ice; it heats the ocean. Compared to air, it’s harder to raise the temperature of water – it takes time, decades. However, once the ocean temperature is elevated, it adds to the warming of the Earth’s surface.
As the NY Times reported 5 years after that 2009 warning from the International Energy Agency:
[I]t now may be impossible to prevent the temperature of the planet’s atmosphere from rising by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. According to a large body of scientific research, that is the tipping point at which the world will be locked into a near-term future of drought, food and water shortages, melting ice sheets, shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels and widespread flooding — events that could harm the world’s population and economy.
Recent reports show that there may be no way to prevent the planet’s temperature from rising, given the current level of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere and the projected rate of emissions expected to continue before any new deal is carried out.
Unlike our corporate and criminal politicos, scientists do not lie. The mass migration and mass mortality they spoke to was subsequently triggered by chronic drought in Syria, on the front-burner of the climate ovens, which forced rural farmers off their lands and flocking into the already over-crowded cities in search of water, where Assad’s troops fired on them sinking their unauthorized wells, which led to protests, which were in turn fired upon by soldiers, which lit the fuse of civil war. It is fitting, I suppose, that the end of the civilized world, of life as we have always known it, begins in the cradles of civilization – first over oil at the confluence of the Tigris & Euphrates, in Iraq, and then over water in the world’s oldest continuous city, Damascus.
But, of course, this is all just the tip of the iceberg, and most still are viewing it through their old prescription lenses that see everything in socio-political terms, not through the ecopsychological lens that sees everything in terms of the natural world we happen to inhabit – the very forces that made civilization possible in the first place. What will the world look like in 30-40 years? How about oceans with no fish?! Again, that’s according to scientific studies, not some kook walking up and down a sidewalk in NYC with a sign about the end-times. We are racing past all the invisible tipping points, with clear evidence at the poles of a world off the rails, and in spite of empty gestures like the Paris Accords, we are only increasing our rates of fossil fuel emissions.
Because Obama refused to heed the warnings, and proceeded instead to turn America into the #1 producer of fossil fuels, we ended up with Donald Trump and the morally bankrupt Republican Party. Do not believe for a minute that they don’t understand the reality of climate chaos. They are just the greedy bastards who are most determined to leverage capitalism in order to concentrate as much wealth as quickly as possible into the hands of what they hope will be the few survivors of the climate Apocalypse – in their terminally warped minds, they are the chosen ones. It would be political suicide for them to ever admit this, but their actions speak much louder than their empty denials. They are even willing to criminalize the whole venture, working hand-in-hand with the world’s great wealthy criminals – Putin, the Saud family, and the Likkuds with their own criminal leader, the warmonger Netanyahu.
Nothing can be done about this, really – though certainly some are placing great hope in the FBI and Mueller to bring them down. But believe it or not, this is not really our concern at this late juncture. As one of the early prophet’s of the Industrial Age put it:
Turning and turning in the widening gyreThe falcon cannot hear the falconer;Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhereThe ceremony of innocence is drowned;The best lack all conviction, while the worstAre full of passionate intensity…(from “The Second Coming,” by W.B. Yeats)
Things fall apart… the center cannot hold. The global economy is a house of cards, and we can count on the banksters to bring it to ruin. They are playing out their own version of this end game, which is but a foreshadowing and reflection of what is happening in the natural world – because we are not separate from the planet we live on.
Scientists are now beginning to prefer the term climate chaos to the tepid term climate change. We don’t have to play the capitalist’s game of global monopoly and infinite war. When facing chaos, there is always a choice that presents itself. The most precious commodity is not money or property, it is perspective. As Margaret Wheatley puts it:
Chaos can be a generative force for change, or a cause for disintegration and death. Either way, it requires a descent into chaos, when everything falls apart. It is this part of the cycle that we need to prepare for.
It is too late for the American Dream. For the myth of endless progress and non-cancerous growth. It is too late to anticipate happy endings in our own lifetime. There are simply too many people in the world – we know this, with the population doubling in the last 50 years, resulting in more than half of all wildlife being wiped out. The birds and the bees themselves are disappearing, along with 75% of all insects. Those still in denial will project human populations at 10 billion by 2050, but I tell you that will not come to pass. Not with ocean graveyards by 2048! Where do you think our oxygen comes from? More than half of it is produced by the oceanic food chain, which is now breaking.
Despair? What is the point of despairing? Grieve these losses, take them into your heart and feel them, as with the news that the last northern African black rhino has died, but under no circumstances should we give into the temptations of despair. Survival is the point. All this madness should trigger our instincts of survival. And you know who survives, according to Darwin? No, NOT the fittest, the meanest, the greediest – that is a myth of capitalist propaganda. Darwin noted that those who cooperate are the ones with the advantage. We are social animals, so with society breaking down all around us, and gun-nuts forming circular firing squads in the woods, our true survival instincts will prompt us to form simple, resilient, nurturing communities of human nature.
This is something to EMBRACE, not fear! And there is no time like the present. Do not wait till it is already too late for this, too. We must dream a new dream into existence, a dream that is resonant enough to supplant the zombie American Dream so many spiritually numb among us still cling to.
We must dream a natural dream.
We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
~ Howard Zinn, historian
Remember “family values” – the elevation of the selfish interest that gave us George W. Bush, the draft dodger over the war hero? Which led to endless war and the poisonous doctrine of American Exceptionalism on steroids?
Now is the time for community values. For valuing community of spirit and like minds and nurturing friendship over all the polarization, poisoned politics, and heartlessness that feeds the 24-hour news cycle while paving the road to perdition.
We can awaken right here, in the midst of affliction and strife. In fact, we have no choice. We can build communities of human nature where we live – we don’t need to build communes (just yet). And please, don’t ever forget: suffering brings out the best in humans, and humans have a way of overcoming insurmountable odds.
Why is that? Because darkness is merely the absence of light. And even in the darkest age, the forces of darkness have never succeeded in snuffing out the light.
Persevere. Become an Earth protector. A water bearer. A light-keeper.
Become a spiritual midwife for Mother Earth.
Keep it simple. And then build on that.
Everyone dies. But make no mistake, we will survive. And somehow, someway, by some miracle… it will be beautiful.