Letter From An Apocalyptic Future Pt. 3

(Part 1, Part 2)

But then, at that tortuous point, a peculiar thing happened: something in me awoke.

There arose in me an overwhelming peace and a feeling of love larger than the earth-embracing sky. I found myself thrown open like I’d never been before and began to see the world with new eyes and a heart that could finally allow itself to be completely and entirely broken, utterly riven, and finally revealed to itself in its full tenderness.

For there was no longer anything to resist or to protect.

There was no longer a problem to be solved or a victory to be fought for. There was absolutely no space left for striving or for making anyone wrong. Finally, at the end of the day, at the end of time, all that remains is the crystalline knowledge that all we ever have is this one moment: rich, fragile, all-encompassing, infinitely precious.

And I experienced this moment as pure love.

Love as the ground and inner being of everything. Love as the space within which everything occurs. Love as the silence which contains every sound. Love as the womb of creation. Love as the enfolding void.

I felt love for this Earth as never before and for all beings without exception: insects, animals, plants and humans; viruses, billionaire frackers, terrorists and Trump — all fragile fleeting forms of tender life, vulnerable to all manner of ills, all living bravely beyond themselves into uncertainty and then death, all desiring only life and more and more life, existence infinitely precious and sweet.

I felt love for the sky above, its clouds floating along. I felt love for the birds so light who give us what is left of their song while they can. I felt love for the dawn, which will continue to spread splendour over the eastern horizon after we’re gone though there won’t be eyes to behold it or hearts to rejoice. I felt such love for the children of our world, my own son among them, some of whom will be playing and laughing until the very end takes them into silence. I felt only love for everyone, whatever their active or passive roles in bringing about this tragic end. Yes, it was clear to me that no-one is to blame. All things come to pass through the mysterious agency of ultimately impersonal forces. And yes, I believe these forces boil down only to love.

Over the last three years I have of course descended from this pure state of abiding love, spiralling again and again through grief and confusion, distraction, denial and the rest, but never for very long. I always return to what has become a baseline: the presiding pulse of sublime love and peace. The world increasingly conspires to return me to it. Every joy and every sorrow give way quite quickly to the awareness that all this, every cause of joy and sorrow, will soon be gone. And that makes even the sorrows poignantly beautiful. There is in this a deep relief, considering the multiplying causes of sorrow arising amidst this daily escalating crises.

Soon I will see my son die, or he will me, or we’ll be incinerated together along with millions of others. And soon after that our Earth, our beautiful, poisoned Earth will be without life upon her rocky surface.

Yes, the sun will still set in the West, but there will be none left to weep at its setting.

The worst that could happen is happening. It came slowly, then suddenly. And we brought it on through our own choices, our failures to choose better. And yet, around everything, somehow there is something untroubled, something vast, indestructible and whole. I call it love. Where it is felt, fear is absent.

*******

 

Author’s Note: This piece was written in the shocking summer of 2018, while unprecedented wildfires burned across the Northern hemisphere, the Great Barrier Reef died-off by a third and the Arctic sea-ice further melted and thinned. This year it became clear that previous models predicting climate change to become disruptive by 2050 and catastrophic by the end of the century seriously underestimated the rate of climate collapse due to the non-linear effects of positive feedback loops and tipping points. Increasing numbers of renowned scientists and analysts are now saying that the global climate may already have gone into an abrupt and irreversible breakdown, the effects of which will become catastrophic within the next decade. It may already be too late. But there might still be just a little time left to make radical changes to prevent anthropogenic global climate breakdown from cascading into apocalyptic proportions. But only if we act now and resolutely, individually and as a global civilisation. The future of life on our planet is in our hands. It is time to rise up and demand that our governments take the necessary steps to reduce carbon emissions, invest in clean energy technology, decommission and safely dismantle nuclear weapons stashes and nuclear power stations and legislating against irresponsible consumption while massively promoting and incentivising One-Planet living. They won’t do it unless we make them.

Rise up in the name of life on Earth!

extinctionrebellion.org

Letter From An Apocalyptic Future Pt. 2

(Part 1)

“If everyone does a little we’ll achieve a lot”, seemed to be the mainstream platitude of the time, promulgated by those seeking to sustain the consumer disaster to those too stuck in it to seriously consider an alternative. The reality is, of course, that if everybody does a little then little gets achieved. And that’s what happened.

It was an excruciating time. While living simply and radically reducing the negative impact of my life on our planet to almost zero, I’d come to realise that not only was this kind of step necessary for ecological survival, but it was also what we needed to do for the sake of our basic wellbeing. Living close to the earth in a small heart-centred community felt greatly more than anything that was going on in modern ‘civilisation’. But very few people could see far enough beyond their own personal dramas, glowing screens, sense of entitlement to luxury convenience, in order to perceive an alternative. Amidst the many sparkly distractions of the consumer circus and the status symbols of power and success, no one had time for the sacrifices of simplicity or its quiet beauty.

I think that most people were just too far gone to explore any remedy.

Opening to the real necessity and possibility of radical change would only have revealed the horrendous depth of the disaster that most people’s lives were embedded in. People just couldn’t look at how monstrous the world they were living in actually was, beneath its face-paint and bling. To do so would have been to see their lives and themselves laid bare in a hideous way. It was too much the collective psyche to bear.

So it was a complex time for us few radical earth-dwellers. On the one hand, we were experiencing deep nourishment from our community and the land, living in a way that wasn’t hurting anyone else or our planet. On the other hand, we were one of a handful of tiny islands in the midst of a great destructive ocean. I went through a lot of anger at the levels of blindness and apathy; contempt for my spineless fellow humans; grief for everything I saw was being lost or thrown away.

Such a priceless thing to exchange for baubles, this Earth.

It was almost too much, witnessing the wanton destruction of our blue-green jewel of a planet. And yet that seemed to be what I was asked to do: to endure this destruction with open eyes and heart unclouded by the opiates of distraction.

In the end, exhausted, I finally dropped through almost endless despair into a state of resignation and complete acceptance. Something in me died. It was all over. We just weren’t going to make the changes. The temperature would continue to rise. Species loss would accelerate. Ecosystems would continue to deteriorate. Natural disasters would become more frequent. Food and water shortages would intensify. Nuclear war would break out. Civilisation was going to kill itself, taking along with it the rest of life on this planet. No amount of positive action from a very minor segment of the population was going to have an impact on the rumbling juggernaut racing towards global destruction. There was no longer any point in hoping for a solution.

Such a strange thing to accept. So vast, the implications. So devastatingly sad. Grief isn’t really big enough to fully let in the scale of this loss.

We weren’t made for this.

I was breaking beyond endurance.

Letter From An Apocalyptic Future Pt. 1

It’s August 2021.

There’s no longer a question as to what will happen next: Life on Earth is coming to a close.

Global temperatures have risen half a degree in the last three years alone. Last winter there was no sea ice in the Arctic at all. This summer it seems as if half of the Northern hemisphere is ablaze with wildfires. The 250 species which were already exiting stage left each and every day a couple of years ago have now increased in number to over 600 per day, all of whom will soon be followed by the rest of the characters still in the play.

We don’t know if there’ll be some kind of denouement lasting several years or simply an abrupt end counted in weeks and months. What we do know is that the curtain is about to fall. No-one born today will live beyond the age of 10. Many will starve this winter. Many more in the coming summer.

Whatever chance there might have been for us to turn this thing around and evolve beyond the crisis point we reached over the past 30 years or so—we missed it. That window of possibility has firmly closed. Strangely, we knew it was closing. We knew we had to make some radical changes in order to squeeze through. But there simply wasn’t sufficient will to do so, not individually or collectively. The apathy was too strong. The marketing industry was too powerful. The corporate influence on government was too powerful. Forces both personal and systemic simply couldn’t accommodate themselves to the changes required in order to transition into a sustainable way of being. And now there’s no longer any hope of our planet’s biosphere surviving beyond the next decade. It will all soon be over.

Either catastrophic ecological collapse will trigger economic breakdown which will, in turn, trigger the catastrophic wars that our governments are currently poised for to fight over the remaining resources, or economic meltdown brought on by fear and panic at the worsening ecological situation will trigger wars which will then push the dying ecosystems into full demise. Either way, the outcome is the same. The crazy-train is rushing headlong off the cliff-edge. It doesn’t really matter which way we fall into the abyss. Life on this planet is finished.

Many people are still living in denial.

“Everything will be ok. We can still sort this out.”

But the vast majority of climate scientists, ecologists, and economists are in agreement that we have passed the point of no return. Abruptly escalating climate change is upon us. Every day this fact sinks a little bit further into reality. While broadcast media is paralysed, still engaging the mock debate of ‘is it really happening?’, the internet is awash with evidence of the incontrovertible reality.

Many of the super-rich have been preparing for “The Event” for some time now, buying up small islands or swathes of land in New Zealand, Hawaii, Tasmania, preparing bunkers, assembling private armies. What they hope to achieve by extending their time by a few years after the apocalypse I’m not sure even they know. A reflex of habit I guess, an isolationist hangover from lifetimes of sociopathic dissociation from the fate of every man. Not that I blame them for wanting a few extra years. It does feel good to live, and it is very hard to face the prospect of the void.

I remember it was three years ago, in August 2018, that I fully accepted for the first time that the crazy-train wasn’t going to slow down and turn around. I’d been living for two decades in the shadow of the knowledge of the potentially world-destroying activities of human beings, oscillating between desperate hope and bitter despair. For the last five of those years I’d been living very small and light in a conscious community of people focused on healing our connection to the Earth and each other, housed off-grid in mud huts, working the land, cooking on fire, gathering water from the stream, embracing the radical simplicity that some of us believed the whole world needed to adopt if our planet was going to make it. Elsewhere others were doing likewise. Elsewhere others were protesting the disaster, risking prison and in some cases their lives in order to halt some of the destruction. Elsewhere many brave souls were striving to transform their lives in radical ways in line with carbon neutrality and ecological protection.

But really, we were very few.

(To Be Continued)

Now or never – a short story

Louise Williams heard the results of the IPCC report on 1.5 degrees and was inspired to write a short story. It’s the conversation she doesn’t want to have with her grandchildren.


Caris sat cleaning the tools while I knitted. She reminded me a lot of her mum when she was ten. Back then I had always assumed I’d have grandchildren, but in recent decades I wasn’t so sure. Lennon was busy around us, packing things into boxes, unable to sit still as usual.

“Granny,” Caris said, as if asking a question.
“Yes love?”

“We were doing history in school today, and they were talking about the turn of the century. Did you really have computers that were too heavy to carry?”

I grinned. “Well, yes, at first, then as I grew up they got smaller and smaller – more like the pods you get now, except everyone had them.”

“Granny, you don’t talk a lot about the olden days, do you? Our teacher said it was really different, though she’s too young to really know. Can you tell me?”

I sucked in some air.

“Lennon, how’s that packing doing? We’ll be off in two days, before the snow sets in.”

Caris stopped working and looked up at me. I kept knitting but found some words.

“It’s hard to explain, Caris. Truthfully, I guess I feel bad talking about it. When I was your age, my grandparents sometimes talked about the war and how rough things got. More often they didn’t tell you the whole story, but you just knew it was terrible. But for us growing up in the nineties, it was the opposite. We had so much, too much really…”

Just then Rob came in with our son-in-law Ethan.

“Grandpa!” cried Caris, “Can YOU tell me about the olden days? I’ve never heard you say much either.”

Rob grunted as he took off his boots. “Those days are long gone.”

Ethan piled up some of Lennon’s boxes. “He doesn’t like to think about what we lost,” he commented, and half-hummed a line from an old song we used to sing in the car: “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.”

Rob bristled a little. “There’s some truth there, but you know that’s not why we won’t go over it.”

“Why then, Grandpa?”

Rob and I exchanged looks. We had talked about this before. How could we dazzle them with tales of luxury and secure living beyond their wildest hopes? How could we admit that…except now felt like the time to tell the story, before we moved inland for the winter storms. Perhaps it would be the last time we’d all make it together back to the lodge.

“What else did your history teacher say, Caris?” I asked.

“Um, she said that everything was a lot more connected and organised, and computers led to an age of information. But at the same time, people ignored all the warnings. Is it true, Grandma? Did people really know about the breakdown before it even happened?”

Everyone in the room paused, even Lennon, who was only six but wise enough to grasp the question. I answered.

“Yes, they did. We did. Well, we did and we didn’t. Things were clearly changing, but they also stayed the same and there was a lot of confusion.”

“There were a lot of folks intentionally confusing people too,” said Rob, and I could see his old anger rising up. Well, let him let it out.

“How do you mean?” asked Lennon.

“You can’t believe it, but there were people with a lot of money and power who wanted to carry on just as they were, selling their gas, running their airlines, and to hell with the consequences. So they deliberately confused the public: they’d query the science, skew statistics, put out fake facts…and instead of standing up to them and pointing out their private financial interests, the journalists kept inviting them onto the TV to give their case!”

He was pacing by now.

“Of course, some of these folks were actually in Government! There were politicians with big money in fossil fuels, so they strongly opposed renewable energy and gave the push for fracking.”

Caris’ eyes widened.

“You mean, the GOVERNMENT knew and they covered it up?”

“They didn’t need to cover it up,” I replied. “They just distracted us. Everyone knew. We learned about it at school. Every year there’d be a new report about record temperatures, rising sea levels. People didn’t put two and two together. There they were, rock stars raising money for an Ethiopian famine, not seeing that this was all part of climate breakdown, and one-in-a-hundred-year disasters would become one-in-every-ten, one-in-three…”

I broke off. The news footage started replaying back in my mind. The 2023 drought across East Africa. Images of emaciated mothers choosing which child to feed. The 2026 floods in South Asia. The third European heatwave. A succession of hurricanes battering central America while wildfires swept across Australia. One crisis appeal after another. The fall of Mont Blanc in 2031, which finally made Western governments sit up and take action, but by then the permafrost was melting, releasing vast quantities of methane, and it was too little, too late. The global food shortages, then climate refugees, firstly from Africa, then Spain, Greece, Italy. Boatload upon boatload. The riots, the protests, the collapse…

Lennon had sat on Ethan’s lap. “If everyone knew, why did no one do anything? Couldn’t people have stopped it?”

“It wasn’t that no one did anything,” said Rob. “Some went to prison for speaking up. Some Governments tried hard to change things. They were fighting a huge wave though. It’s not like our leaders now, who take decisions for the good of everyone, even if it’s unpopular. Lots of leaders back then just did what they thought the people – and the media – wanted. They didn’t splash out on public transport or a nationwide insulation programme, because it wouldn’t go down well. They didn’t dare tax our petrol. They could’ve had the balls to change things, and they didn’t.”

“But if everyone had gone on the streets and protested, like the big demo in 2040, they’d have had to listen, wouldn’t they? Why didn’t the people just rise up?”

Ethan chipped in.

“Some did – I remember our friends at school going on a march. But most people didn’t seem that bothered. Politicians would rarely be asked about climate change when they went out canvassing or appeared on TV. It’s as though the threat wasn’t immediate enough, rather like the image of a frog slowly boiling in a pan of water. And the American film was right – it was so inconvenient. It was the age of consumerism and convenience, and most people didn’t want to let go of even a tiny bit of that. I guess, deep down, they hoped it wasn’t as bad as the scientists said.”

Rob nodded. “I used to hear some folks say, ‘There’s no point me changing my life, because the governments can’t sort themselves out and China is building a new power station every month.’ They were right, in a way. We did all feel sort of helpless.”

“It’s crazy”, I said, “when you think about it. We had the highest rate of education in world history, greatest access to information, such a spread of wealth and resources, and the clearest evidence of the coming future possible. I mean, it wasn’t even the future – it was already happening in front of our eyes. And we could have transitioned quite painlessly into a greener way of doing things and probably been happier for it. But we failed. We hoped technology would magically suck all the carbon out without us lifting a finger, or we pointed at China and kept our own feet on the pedal, or we looked at Africa and the Maldives and thought, “it’s OK, I don’t live there.” In one way or another, the world allowed it to happen. It didn’t have to be like this.”

Caris lifted her head from my lap and looked up at us, her eyes sad.

“And what about you, Granny and Grandpa? What did you do?”

Original: https://joyinenough.org/2018/10/16/now-or-never-a-short-story/