IT’S CHRYSALIS TIME

Lee Camp crystalized the nature of our predicament with one tweet:

“If you don’t like change, — You’re going to hate extinction!”

We are now in a phase of extreme pressure to evolve into a radically different society. If this were the lifecycle of a butterfly, we must now enter the chrysalis. This will only seem impossible to those who have not grasped the severity of our crisis. Failure amounts to an act of collective suicide. There is no guarantee of success, so everyone needs to engage. Evolve or die. #extinctionrebellion

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We need an Apollo programme for climate change

By Bill McGuire

      A recent visit to the cinema to see the excellent First Man, which follows astronaut Neil Armstrong on his path to immortality, reminded me of the big anniversary coming up next year. I find it hard to believe, but 2019 will see the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, way back in July 1969. I was a schoolboy at the time and remember it vividly. In many ways, this seminal event was the beginning of the end for the hugely ambitious US space programme. Despite another five landings following, and all the drama of the Apollo 13 emergency, the final two moon missions were scrapped, along with plans for a moon base and manned mission to Mars in the 1980s. There has been no return to the Moon and – notwithstanding wildly optimistic ravings from Elon Musk and other internet billionaires with more money than sense – a human presence on the red planet seems as far away as ever.

      It is probably not entirely a coincidence that interest in space and reaching out to other worlds began to fade at a time when concerns over our own was growing. Today, few in their right mind would prioritise space exploration over putting our house in order down here on Earth. A house that is in severe danger of being trashed beyond repair by a conspiracy of climate breakdown, environmental degradation and mass extinction. Notwithstanding this, space still has a major role to play down here on the surface. Specialist satellites play a key part in observing and tracking many of the features that flag up how quickly our world is falling apart, including ice cover, sea-surface temperatures and land use. The Apollo programme, in particular, also taught us a vital lesson; just how quickly something can be accomplished if it is wanted badly enough. This is encapsulated in a short clip from the now famous speech President Kennedy made in 1962, during which he announced the intention to put a man on the Moon. 

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.

      Swap ‘stop climate breakdown’  for ‘go to the Moon’ and these few sentences describe perfectly the can-do thinking that a war on climate change requires. It may be Kismet, but Kennedy’s speech was made seven years before the first moon landing; the same length of time over which Extinction Rebellion demands that UK carbon emissions reach net zero. So, it seems obvious. What we need is an Apollo Programme for climate change. An all-embracing crusade that strives to cut emissions to the bone within seven years. To do this will require retooling the economy and rebooting our wasteful lifestyles to make falling carbon output the measure of the success of our society; not rising GDP, the number of families with two cars, or how many fighter jets we have sold to Saudi Arabia.

      The driver for the Apollo programme was simple and straightforward – get to the Moon before the ‘Russkies’ do. When the alternative is global catastrophe, an Apollo Programme for climate change shouldn’t really need to be incentivised. Knowing that we will bequeath to our children and their children a world that is not desecrated beyond redemption should be sufficient. Nonetheless, there are welcome incentives too. A zero carbon world will be a cleaner, safer and – almost certainly – a happier one. So what’s not to like. The sooner we start the better.

Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at UCL and author of Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanic Eruptions. He was a contributor to the IPCC 2012 report on Climate Change & Extreme Events and Disasters.

Non-violent civil disobedience? Really?

I’ve always been skeptical toward the idea of non-violent social change. Don’t the people who resort to violence always come out on top? Anyway, this short essay is about me realizing it’s not about coming out on top.

I read an article by Douglas Rushkoff describing a conversation he had with a group of super rich hedge fund managers. Faced with a shrinking global human habitat, these high flying individuals were only concerned with finding the best methods to continue dominating their fellow humans. At this point in history, dominated by this mentality, it looks like our future will be a brutal hellscape dominated by strongmen and war lords.

Then it occurred to me. This won’t be a very good outcome for them either. The whole reason we are in our current crisis is because of our failure as humans to support each other. Domination creates conflicts and divisions, which in turn creates renewed struggle for supremacy. Anyone fortunate enough to survive the current ecological impass will not survive long if they still fail to realize this is the problem. If humans go through the now unfolding climate chaos without learning that we are all in this together, all the cleverness and ingenuity in the world will only further doom them. When you use half your energy and resources competing, dominating and fighting each other, there is never enough to go around. The result is a habitat turned battlefield. Climate change is only a by product of the real force that is driving us to extinction: each other.

It’s time for the poor to stand up to the rich, and for the rich to step down. We’ve always known that community is vital and important. Now we see that species survival depends on implementing real community as quickly as possible. Our chances for long-term species survival start to rise as soon as we commit to this. We may end up having to drag the rich down from their pedestals kicking and screaming, like the spoiled adult/children they have become.  But it will be a huge mistake to seek revenge against them, or threaten to kill them. That will only make them more determined to keep fighting us, while simultaneously seeking delusional escape routes, like replacing all workers with machines, colonizing Mars, or downloading their personal brains into computers.

They are searching for freedom in a place it can never be found: outside reality. They are literally trying to escape their own human nature. Humans are fundamentally social beings. We have deep feelings of interdependence, sometimes we call it spirituality. Believe it or not, the rich share our common feelings of separation anxiety, or alienation from each other. They are the ones who invented consumer society, after all –filling the emptiness in your soul with stuff.

It seems likely that the rich and their descendants will be the only human survivors left on planet earth. Ironically, the people most responsible for the current mayhem and destruction, will be the ones left to carry forward our legacy, assuming we have one. It may be that we have to set our aspirations even lower than this. Maybe all we can hope for now is to slow down the freight train of mass extinction to where a few simple organisms can make it through the bottle neck and begin the process of regenerating life on earth. It’s still a worthy fight.

We have to get through to the rich, that even if they succeed with their current plan of leaving us all behind, the game is not over. If they manage to shed themselves of the rest of us, they will not only be poorer for it, they will decrease their overall chances for survival. Our enemy is not the rich any more than it is the poor –it’s the fact that we have rich and poor. Our lack of community (democracy and equality) is tearing us apart, physically, mentally and spiritually. We are now literally locked in mortal combat as we drive ourselves over a cliff. Half measures are no longer possible. Until we fully realize and implement the foundational wisdom of community our course is set for doomsday.

Our message to the rich should be this. You’ve done a great job taking us this far. Thank you very much for your service, but we’ll take it from here. Unfortunately, we’ve spoiled you, and your manipulative behavior and violent tantrums have gotten way out of hand. We are not here to destroy you. So please just relax and let it go. We are here to welcome you back into the warm embrace of your family.

A final quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “I’ve been to the mountaintop…I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!” This optimistic vision of the future is dependent on our human faith in each other. If we fail now, there will be no one coming to save us.

 

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)

EXTINCTION OR SURVIVAL? Imagining a Future for our Scorched Planet.

TJFL_GIF

In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a lot of batshit crazy. I suppose I should feel privileged to live in a time of such unprecedented global challenges.

We were taught about global warming in school. It was all a bit flakey back then because the fossil fuel corporations had just started distorting and disputing the climate science. A school of science which incidentally they had pioneered. The basic principles were understood long before I was born. #ExxonKnew

When I started primary school, we were being taught that the apocalyptic climate collapse we’re witnessing now might happen in a few hundred years but if we recycled more and changed our light bulbs and used catalytic converters and stopped using CFCs everything would  probably be OK.

By the time I started secondary school, they were saying this cataclysmic tragedy might unfold in about a hundred years and we should probably all recycle more to be on the safe side. By the time I finished, they were saying maybe 50 years, if we didn’t take more meaningful action.

As I got older, they  revised it down further, saying probably within our lifetimes. Then the IPCC report. The World Scientists’ Warnings to Humanity. TWENTY THREE years of annual international climate conferences (COP24 will be in December this year). All too little too late and still held back by an industry determined to protect it’s short term shareholder interest.

Now, everything’s collapsing around our ears and it has become difficult to imagine a future in which organised human life on planet Earth is viable. Or life at all for that matter.  It turns out most of the recycling we’ve been diligently doing has been going to landfill and incinerators all these years. Increasing numbers of people believe that we’ve already passed the tipping point. An uninhabitable planet is now baked in to the mix.

Corporate media have starting to make the most monumental U-turn in history: We should now accept that an increasingly chaotic climate is the ‘new normal’. We should be preparing for more heatwaves and sea level rise of 60m. (normally I wouldn’t link to sky news but it’s interesting that even they are now starting to accept the stark reality). It has become undeniable. Much of humanity’s minds are being blown. Like frogs in boiling water, slowly realising our shared fate too late.

The Global heatwave is symptom of early stage cycle of civilisational collapse

Extinction_RebellionThe world’s ‘leaders’ (such as they are) have procrastinated and lied and squabbled and squandered decades that could have made a difference. The farcical folly of the greenwashing industry; recyling going to landfill and incinerators,  ‘catalytic converters’,  ‘carbon trading schemes’ and so on tell us all we need to know about their ‘leadership’ on the issue.

You need only look at the brutal corporate policing of protests from Standing Rock to Preston New Rd to understand how intractable the problem is.

The fact that at least FIVE pacific islands have already been lost to rising sea levels is not yet commonly known or understood. I had hoped that this news might have woken up more people when it happened. Two years ago.

Imagining Hope

I’m suppose I’m lucky to have been engaged with the problem of catastrophic climate collapse and human extinction for quite a long time. I’m not as panicked by it as people who are just coming round to the concept now, so I can at least offer a relatively calm perspective.

An aside: Jaron Lanier tells a great story about how the difficulty we have in imagining a decent future is actually the responsibility of silicon valley tech engineers, who couldn’t draw heads properly with basic polygons back in the 90s. Long story short, they settled on a formula for 3D VR that relied heavily on lone survivor, post apocalyptic scenarios, so they’d have less heads to render. The gaming industry became massively influential on mainstream culture, thus most imagined futures in contemporary culture became post-apocalyptic. It’s a bit of a stretch, given the collapsing everything but a funny story regardless…

Besides sharing funny stories, it seems the most useful thing I can do now is signpost to the best advice; coping strategies and solutions that have been shared with me in my few years on this earth.

  1. Don’t isolate yourself. Choose love and hope over fear and hate. Be kind and respect yourself and everybody else. Remember there are good people. Be one of them. Look out for each other. Be as patient, understanding and forgiving as you can possibly be.
  2. Knowledge is power. Don’t be misled by false hope. Train yourself to think clearly and critically. Challenge yourself to properly inform yourself. Speak and act out against lies and injustice. Focus more on the solutions not just the problems.
  3. Schedule your time effectively. Monumental changes are developing ever faster. Keep your ear to the ground but be wary of the hypnotic, paralysing power of the spectacle. Be as adaptable and fluid as you can be. Remember to make time to rest, practise self care, enjoy and share any lulz that come your way. Lulz are increasingly few and far between.
  4. Engage your friends, family, politicians, businesses and communities on the challenges we’re facing.
  5. Get active. Organise or join existing survival networks. Develop and maintain low-tech futureproofed communications systems, within and beyond your networks. Plan. Prepare.
  6. Expand class consciousness, unity consciousness and the practice of empathy. Be autonomous and take leadership from the most impacted. Don’t fall into the Tyranny of Structurelessness.
  7. Engage in peaceful, non-violent acts of civil disobedience to lobby for meaningful reform of corporate power. Occupy, strike, resist. Join the Extinction Rebellion.
  8. Consume less and as ethically as you can. Vote with your money. Spend less. Reuse, repair and recycle more. Buy local. Boycott the fossil fuel industry and other unethical corporations, starve them of capital. It’s only one plastic straw, bag. bottle. etc but it all adds up. Reject the fossil fuel lifestyle. If you take unnecessary journeys by fossil fuelled cars, buses or planes, stop now.
  9. Go vegetarian, or vegan if you can. Most people can do the former quite easily already. The latter is becoming easier and more accessible over time.
  10. Get off-grid, or switch to a green energy supplier. Grow your own food. Set up independent systems to harvest and filter rainwater.
  11. Go WWOOFING. There are world wide opportunities on organic farms all over the world. Small scale organic agriculture is one of the best solutions to a great many of the problems we are facing. I found WWOOFING to be a great way to relax and rebalance, peacefully cultivating nature while learning and being radically r3VOLutionary!
  12. Be urgent, but calm. Consider what is the most helpful thing you can do in the here and now. Do what you can. Don’t give yourself a hard time about the things you can’t do, or the things you can’t do yet.
  13. Share feasible solutions, love and hope with as many people as you can. Let it out if you need to but remember everybody’s struggling to cope with it all, consciously or subconsciously. Be sensitive.
  14. NETWORK NETWORK NETWORK
  15. Keep it lit, no matter how hopeless it looks.