Tomorrow, 22 April, we celebrate Earth Day across the globe. Reverberating from the shocks of the latest IPCC report, as well as the NASA scientists’ report we shared recently, I am faced with a moral dilemma.
What is now the best course of action? Try to push back the floods of destruction that seem daily more inevitable, or accept that our modern civilisation is not sustainable? Clearly, if 10% of the world uses 90% of her resources, something has to give. And rightly so. A rebalancing is sorely needed.
We recently joined the Charter for Compassion started by Karen Armstrong, the spiritual scholar and theologian. We shared in the initiation of a new programme for the environment. Of course the core of environmental work is compassion. Why else would we devote our lives to this cause?
In our first international conference for the environment we explored this very dilemma – to keep trying to mitigate climate change, or to accept that it’s inevitable. Some of us agreed that we need to hold both realities in our hands and embrace the paradox. Yes, our work might be wasted, but still, we need to do what we can. In the end you need to do what feels right for you. Holding this question in the heart, each person will be lead on the right journey.
The story of Noah is the story of our current dilemma
We went along to see the new movie Noah. This old Biblical tale, retold with imagination and creativity and interesting twists, spoke deeply to my personal sense of responsibility to respond to the human race as a destructive force on this planet. Many of us can hear the call of the earth and sense the urgency to make profound changes inside and out.
Sometimes caring deeply comes with almost unbearable pain. It is an initiation that calls for the courage to face and embrace the truth of our current reality. Avoiding is not an option. Denial is the very disease which got us into this pickle in the first place.
Then I come across the work of the UK environmentalist Paul Kingsnorth, the Uncivilisation movement and the Dark Mountain Project. After a lifetime of devoted activism, he started questioning the validity of denying the inevitable. He came to realise that “ wow, we are really screwed here” and we may be spreading false hope.
“You look at every trend that environmentalists have been trying to stop for 50 years and every single thing had gotten worse.” What if, as the carbon load speeds past the safe level of 350ppm, there is a new reality to embrace? “Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis.”
That is NOT tantamount to nihilism. It simply means there is a grieving process that needs to be entered into. Perhaps we have entered this process already when we became aware that we’re losing something so precious, something upon which our reality was built? So what are the stages of grief?
1. Denial and isolation – what portion of the world is still denying this?
2. Anger – do you feel the rage sometimes? “Where is your outrage?” asked Muna Lakhani recently. Environmentalists are often accused of being too angry.
3. Bargaining. Is it possible that we are trying to bargain for our civilisation here? If we do this, can we stop it… if we do that, can we change this?
4. Depression. Reacting to the practical implications related to the loss and preparing to separate and say goodbye.
5. Acceptance. What if our personal call is to accept that our race must burn so that we can be reborn into a new civilisation that honours and respects Earth. What if our Genesis verse of ‘dominion’ over the rest of the world is what doomed the way we saw ourselves as superior to the habitat that sustains us?
So I feel my way into this possibility. Can you go there? Take up pen and paper with this question. What happens for you?
What are we left with?
What comes up for me in the eye of this storm is that the only important thing left is to love. That is the inspiration that presents itself when I face the loss and therefore the preciousness of this creation. To live to love is essentially the highest order – not just every human, but every animal, insect and plant, all self-contained in their majesty, every stone, every wind and ball of hail. And myself as worthy creature in this sacred cosmic dance. To live deeply into this creation and to receive this blessing. In this surrender, we also melt the sense of being outside, or alone.
Then I pick up the newly published work, Seize the Day – a guidebook for changing times, by one of my teachers, Natalia Baker. Now we are shifting into energy and quantum physics. Isn’t the big battle that for energy? Is it not our means of generating energy and using it that’s at the core of our dilemma? I am reminded of the emptiness of atoms. That there’s nothing between the nucleus and the electron, yet the fabric of the universe is mass energy.
“Our potential as human beings, the fulfilment of our dreams, the healing of our earth and the solution to every collective and individual problem lie in this depth of energy. This mass energy is, of course, love. Love is the divine container of infinite proportions in which all exists: suns, stars, solar systems and galaxies.”
So to refocus on our internal energy source, to open the heart to that unlimited supply, to increasingly receive more and to share from that fullness, that seems to me now a viable way forward.
By Elma Pollard