Haunted by the Future: Part 2

Bison Skulls, circa 1870s, stock-piled for fertilizer

I turned on the TV Saturday morning for a little while before going to work and found a program airing on Discovery about the American Indian. In it the image above was used as emphasis for the way the white man had treated the Native American. Once they had forced them into a small tract of land in the middle of the United States, far from their homes, they then proceeded to lay waste to their food supply in the form of the Bison, from which they not only fed themselves, but also clothed and used the skins as shelter.  A haunting image from our past. What is it within the white man, and I include myself in this, that needs to control that which is free, and to feel power over something through the ability to destroy it?

On the Friday morning before going to work I managed to see a copy of the Christchurch Press and to see on the front page a banner telling of all the interesting news in the other sections. In the world section I was directed to an article on The Vanishing Face of Gaia by James Lovelock.

According to the article the prognosis for humanity and its co-habitants isn’t that flash. And apparently we’re too late to avert the catastrophe. Not only do we have the future haunting us on a personal level, we also have it haunting us collectively.  And how is this haunting represented?

  • Climate change wiping out most of the life on earth by the end of this century.
  • Population may shrink from 7 billion to 1 billion.
  • Parts of the world turning into desert.
  • Sea levels rising.
  • Crop failure, drought, death.
  • Attempts to cut emissions of greehouse gases probably doomed to failure.
  • Destruction of natural ecosystems for farmland, deforestation, and the rapid growth of the human race is exacerbating the problem.

Lovelock has a belief that recycling and the use of renewable energy sources (wind and solar power) are now a waste of time and he’s advocating the use of nuclear power. He’s also “struck by the public’s lack of urgency about the problem”. He says that “we have to stop pretending that there is any possible way of returning to that lush comfortable and beautiful Earth we left behind sometime in the 20th century”.

For me while there are many green spaces in our cities we spend 90% of our time detached from the natural world. We live in contrived surroundings, eat mostly contrived food. We’re not living in a state of connectedness to nature.

A few pages over in the newspaper was an article by Margot Roosevelt, the environmental journalist with the Los Angeles Times. She follows the story of Katey Walter, an aquatic ecologist and biogeochemist, as she studies the effects of Global warming in Alaska.

Her studies have brought to light:

  • Warmer temperatures are relaeasing methane from beneath Arctic waters
  • Melting permafrost could accelerate pace of Global Climate Change
  • These releases of methane are a wild card that could lead to abrupt changes that may be irreversible.
  • Polar regions have warmed twice as fast as the rest of the globe.
  • Polar bears and Emperor penguins are threatened with extinction.

Are we simply oblivious to this information that is becoming more insistent as the days pass? Are we apathetic? Or just pathetic?

I return to the metaphor of movie making that I alluded to in the last post. The editing process and leaving scenes on the “cutting room floor” seems relevant. And life isn’t at all like that. We live life moment to moment. We can’t pick and choose the scenes we want to include in the movie of our life. We can create intentions and allow them to colour our experience of the moments we live within. Our story flows from one instant to the next and what we are able to choose is how to be within that instant. We can change how we experience them emotionally. We can change fear to love. We can choose to experience emotions that serve us, our sadness, our grief, our frustrations without feeling as though we have to put on a brave face. Or our joy and excitement more deeply without feeling as though we must restrain them.

Many of the emails that come through my inbox from the so-called Internet Marketing Gurus focus on finding this passion, joy and excitement in life and that money can be made if we follow their advice and their processes. I’m finding these increasingly difficult to read and have taken to unsubscribing from most of them. The feeling I get is that while they may have the best of intentions in assisting people to become wealthy in the different aspects of their lives, PLANET EARTH isn’t considered as part of this equation. What sense will there be in having lots of money if we allow our home in the Solar System to become a desolate waste land. These IM Gurus seem to be perpetuating consumerism through their attention on money. I’ve witnessed the graphs produced regarding Climate Change, National Debt, and Oil production and supply. Each seems to describe a similar arc. A sharp rise before a fall.

I’m reminded of watching aerobatics when I was a chef in the RNZAF. The plane would fly a similar arc to this until it eventually stalled and then dropped earthward. On its downward arc there was time to start the engine and have it operational again. Is this what is happening to us on a planetary scale? Are we reaching a Terrestial stall? How will we reorganize ourselves during that downward passage? Will the values that drove us to that tipping point be relevant as we are brought back to Earth. Are we able to reach that stall consciously or will we be ambushed by our seeming rampant unconscious or tunnelled vision behaviours?