I have just started reading “Extinction Dialogues: How to Live With Death In Mind.” It’s co-written by educators Carolyn Baker and Guy McPherson, and is about abrupt climate change and our prospects for the future — the prospects of our species’ survival (not good), and how we might emotionally and psychologically prepare for such an eventuality as our own extinction.
Extinction??? What the hell? I’ve not put my attention too strongly on this whole climate change thing. I believe it is happening, but I don’t really want to know the details. Abrupt climate change is what many scientists are seeing now in the actual changes happening all over the planet (Arctic ice melt, methane gas release, rising sea levels, rising average global temperatures). The changes are happening much faster than the original scientific models suggested. Some are saying the planet could become inhospitable to human and animal life in 20-30 years. I would be only 74 years old, twenty years from now. I was planning on living into my 90's.
If I were to actually let the possibility of human extinction in my lifetime sink in, I could perhaps flip out, go crazy. No more history? Seriously? No more progress or human creativity, the chance for an evolved and united human family that I see beginning to happen? What about all the mind-boggling technology, the ability to connect, the maturation of the Internet? Or Beethoven, Picasso and Einstein? All of that beauty and brilliance gone?
Extinction? Are you kidding? There is no way.
But if the planetary systems that sustain life start fully breaking down (as they already have several times on earth before there were any humans around), our fundamental needs for physical sustenance will not be met. We have to eat— seven billion of us and counting. There would be no doubt unimaginable suffering — human and more-than-human — as a result of sudden environmental collapse. This means my own very real death (which likely means starvation or something terrible, unless I take things into my own hands).
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As you read this, can you feel the wall of intellect keeping it all at a distance? Wondering what my deal is and why I decided to post this kind of thing? Rolling your eyes? Thinking ‘she’s drunk the Coolaid, man.’
Believe me, it’s a very normal, very sane response. I have exactly the same reaction.
But here is what happened to me a couple of nights ago.
I let the idea of the possibility of human extinction in my lifetime into my psyche. All the way in. Finally.
I had only read the 'Forward' by Andrew Harvey, and the 'Introduction' by Carolyn and Guy when I could feel a loud ‘slap’ in my brain and the subsequent frenzy and re-ordering of the psychic thought molecules that create the pattern of my reality. I was stunned into silence. Exactly as if I’d personally been given the diagnosis of terminal cancer. I was simultaneously very much amazed that my own intuitive, groping path for the past decade has been exactly along the lines of the healing and opening and service that Carolyn talks about as being the essential healthy human response to such a situation.
Undoubtedly at some point there will be a re-birth of some kind. Death and re-birth are intertwined. And maybe there will be some radical leap forward in human consciousness and we suddenly change our industrial systems (too late already, they say), or maybe some unforeseen event or circumstance knocks us off the path toward environmental collapse.
But I’m not going to hang my hopes on maybes. Even if the near future doesn’t turn out as dire as it feels to me right now (yeah, that happens a lot in my life — my fears of what might happen don’t generally match what actually does happen), I would rather be prepared. And since the systemic collapse is so huge, there is nothing I can really do to prepare physically. Running or insulating myself won't work. I intuit that my best preparation is to be emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually mature enough to handle and deal with whatever arises. And that serves anyway, no matter the actual outcome.
Today, because as a human I am an organism of making meaning, I am galvanized into greater, more focused action. My action, my place, is to connect up with others who sense the cataclysmic and perhaps amazing changes that are coming. It is to devote this one small, short life I have to being as conscious and aware as possible during this change. It is to embody, teach, communicate about and help people develop these key human capacities:
• Deep connection to Nature as Self, an essential relationship.
• An expanded sense of identity that includes all of the Cosmos.
• An ability to hold paradox, to embrace everything, excluding nothing, ‘othering’ nothing (Trump, terrorists, corporations, you name it).
• Being here NOW. Appreciating the beauty, the vitality, the creative bursting forth of life everywhere right NOW.
• Engaging in the co-creative process of bringing a higher order consciousness to the planet — by connecting with others, reading and learning, listening deeply to my inner knowing (which is Earth’s inner knowing) and acting from that wild place.
And perhaps I need to visit Alaska again, and other wild places on the planet. Soon.(Using fossil fuels and creating CO2 emmisions to do so—sigh!)
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At some point, all these things that I and others are saying will no longer be ‘woo woo’ or abstract. Each passing year will see more radical change, more break down . . . and more evolution.
What is your part in this wild ride we’re going on? You have a place. Find it. Wake up to it. We need you.