PREAMBLE: We have reached the point in the climate crisis when we can no longer postpone a transformation of everyday life to sometime other than now. This is the only life-affirmative choice we have. We either embrace and take responsibility for ourselves, for life, and for our fellow beings with our inherent heart values. Or we submit to the catastrophe that is increasingly and rapidly unfolding all around us, with its threat of near-term collapse
• “anything above 1.5 degrees Celsius will see the advent of a world plagued by intense summer heat, extreme drought, devastating floods, reduced crop yields, rapidly melting ice sheets and surging sea levels. A rise of 2 degrees Celsius and above will seriously threaten the stability of global society.”
• “as of April 2022, none of the world’s biggest economies — which together generate 80 per cent of carbon emissions — are on target to keep the promises they made in Paris (in 2015) to stop the global average temperature rise topping 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
• “the global average temperature rise is slated to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius within a decade.”
• “a rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is already ‘baked-in’ or in plain language, certain.”
• “our climate is changing for the worse far quicker than predicted.”
• “the most worrying thing about the frequency and intensity of unprecedented weather events” (this past summer from hell, for example, included extreme heat and wildfires, flooding and drought, famine and storms in places from Pakistan to southern Florida, France to East Africa, the Pacific Northwest to Central America) “is that this is being driven by a relatively small temperature rise.”
• “there is now no chance of dodging a grim future of perilous, all-pervasive climate breakdown.”
(Gratitude to Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards, Bill McGuire, for his book, “Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide” whose conclusions are quoted above, and are totally consistent with those of the world’s recognized authority on climate science, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)
A slew of recent major reports have laid bare how, as one scientist expressed it, “we are very, very close to irreversible changes.” The New York Times recently wrote, “keeping warming to 1.5 degrees would require drastic steps that would be costly, politically difficult and disruptive, and would require leaders of nearly all countries to act in concert. They would need to slash their collective fossil fuel emissions roughly in half by 2030, and then quit adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by 2050. That would require a complete overhaul of all electricity and transportation systems at an unprecedented pace.” For this reason, the UN’s climate agency concluded that only a “rapid transformation of societies will limit the worst impact of the climate crisis.”
Bill McKibben has written, “It’s too late to stop global warming, that’s no longer on the menu ... even if we do everything right at this point, the temperature will go up. The main question is whether we’ll be able to hold the rise in temperature to a point where we can, at great expense and suffering, deal with those crises coherently, or whether they will overwhelm the coping abilities of our civilization. The latter is a distinct possibility.”
THEREFORE: As a longtime climate activist, I support the continuing efforts of those working to bring about the political change necessary to avoid the worst calamities, but for myself, I no longer see the value of focusing my efforts on trying to convince the petroleum industry and its political allies to do the right thing when the evidence, repeatedly and overwhelmingly, has demonstrated that this is not in their interests. At best, anything short of transformative change will only result in a green washing of the power relationships that are at the heart of our present dilemma.
In the interests of being relevant, therefore, I choose to act upon the unmistakable reality that we live in a rapidly collapsing world, where nothing less than a practice of selfless service that responds to the suffering people will increasingly experience as the unraveling intensifies will suffice. At the same time, this will serve as an everyday example of the righteous behavior that prefigures in the present living moment the restorative and wholesome future we seek. Rather than trying to change people to politically correct behaviors, activism would render non-judgmental service to all in need, providing a spiritual approach to what is essentially a spiritual crisis, demonstrating through a hands-on practice the practical love required in the face of the pending apocalypse.
In order for such a practice to be effective, it must be delivered not only in what we do, but equally on how we perform what we do. Heart-inspired, life-sustaining values are the basis of this practice, where our acts of love are done for their own sake, and because they are the right thing to do, without expectation about future outcomes. A practice of our inherent goodness is an end in itself, nourishing and sustaining for all concerned.
There is no guarantee, of course that this will translate into a transformation of our collapsing society. But this is not to suggest either that an act of heart is inconsequential. Quite the contrary, consistent selfless behaviors of kindness and compassion, acceptance and generosity is what a transformed society is all about.
In fact, such a practice of life-affirmative integrity in the moment of now is precisely what is needed for our times.