Not enough people are going to change their ways in time to avert environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. According to Thomas Berry, “the glory of the human has become the devastation of the earth.” The values of humankind are incompatible with the laws of nature. The cult of material consumerism has a different story to the trees, the birds and the bees – and it doesn’t include them. The next mass extinction has already begun.
Some of us realize this, but not enough to make any real difference. Even if everyone in the UK became carbon neutral overnight it would take China just a couple of months to make up the footprint size. This is regardless of the massive, global, radioactive pollution presently emanating from Fukushima. The impact of this is so horrific that people just don’t want to look at it. Humans carry an innate editing capability that makes it particularly easy to reach denial on subjects they find uncomfortable.
To compound the catastrophe, the effects of global warming are being temporarily hidden in the oceans, which seem to be acting as a great sponge, soaking up the heat for a short while. The complexity and interrelated nature of the issues is mostly too much for people who just want to get on with getting to work, earning a living, paying their mortgages, bringing up their children and watching telly.
Consensus seems to be that the ‘tipping point’ has already passed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 400 parts per million. The 400 ppm threshold has been an important marker in U.N. climate change negotiations, widely recognized as a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused global warming. The Scientific American claims that “sudden, irreversible changes in relatively stable conditions that have allowed civilization to flourish,” are increasingly likely. Human nature shows that most people won’t believe it even after it has happened.
There are plans for technical fixes of giant proportions, such as spraying the sky with a reflective layer to diminish the radiation from the sun to compensate. Conspiracy theorists assert that experiments have already begun, using military and commercial aircraft to spray barium, nano-aluminum-coated fiberglass, radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, desiccated blood, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, ethylene dibromide, and polymer fibres into the atmosphere. Some even attribute more sinister intentions to this airborne cocktail. Scientists and authorities deny that there is evidence for any of it.
Geo-engineering, cloud-seeding ships, space mirrors or even planting more trees are all possible techno fixes to an escalating problem. (Meanwhile we still continue to cut down 5.2 million hectares of forest globally per year). One solution to the problem seems obvious – use less energy – but this seems less and less compatible with economies based on ‘growth’, as they increasingly fail to meet energy reduction targets or ‘opt out’ of the agreements they have made.
Perhaps technical fixes will be helpful. But their effects are completely unpredictable and un-researched. There are new ways of doing things – as Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
For some of our future-seers, it is already too late to make a difference. Former deputy editor of the Ecologist, Paul Kingsnorth became disillusioned with a fragmented and ineffective green movement and sees: “the failure of humanity to respond to the crises it has created becomes increasingly obvious. Together we are able to say it loud and clear: we are not going to ‘save the planet’. The planet is not ours to save. The planet is not dying; but our civilisation might be, and neither green technology nor ethical shopping is going to prevent a serious crash.”
Many people have joined him and the other founders of the Dark Mountain project, to create more honest stories for a civilization in terminal decline. It seems that humans are chromosomally programmed to self-destruct. Once again, Thomas Berry writes: “the devastation of the earth appears to be our destiny.”
This puts a lot of pressure on us poor little humans who, having climbed-up from protozoic slime so quickly – seem to have landed on a snake and have to slide down to start again. But perhaps there are reasons for this. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a prominent Islamic philosopher, identifies: “The ecological crisis is only an externalization of an inner malaise and it cannot be solved without a spiritual rebirth…”
He sees a huge flaw at the heart of Western Civilisation – the dualism of heart and mind, physic and spirit, body and soul – brought about through the philosophies stemming from Cartesian dualism. These essentially separate us from nature and have created a basis for the illusions that the conditions of modern life are in any way desirable or durable.
But it seems to me that within this pressure barrel there are more and more people ‘evolving’, discovering a higher purpose beyond our mundane material existence on this earth. People are discovering for themselves a whole relationship with themselves, each other, wild nature and environment beyond a subsistence existence. Just now, right now, there is a window of about 10 years or so where those of us lucky enough to have our basic needs fulfilled might be on the ascendant to a completely new way of being.
So ignore revolution and anarchy and trying to mend or bring-down a system that is irretrievably stupid. It was made broken for a purpose – to serve just a few people materially. Connect with your spiritual heart and raise the vibration. Connect with each other and the nature around you and find the way through.