Thursday, August 22, 2019

We Don't Need a Scientist; We Need a Priest

PhilosophyTube is one of my favourite channels for in-depth analysis of issues in a philosophical and comedic yet profoundly heartfelt manner. Today Ollie tackled "Climate Grief" by working through the stages of grief. It's curious how similar it is to my previous post: "Seven Shades of Green."

In brief:

1. Despair (Non-Green and Light Green) - We run an increased risk of anxiety and depression when we hear there's nothing being done about climate change. We can't get our heads around climate change because of the "Non-Identity Problem." In a nutshell, climate change is a bad thing for future people, many of whom don't exist yet. Timothy Morton says climate change is an example of a hyperobject: it's real, but we can't see the whole thing at one - like five blind men describing an elephant, or like grief. It's like asking where the university is while being shown around each building. It's hard to grasp something so all encompassing. We're in the mess we're in due to thinking of the environment as separate from ourselves. Instead we have to think of climate change as an object we're inside of.

2. Denial (Shiny Green) - This is the tech fix. We expected to have all our problems solved by technology by now, or at least be on our way to Mars. Moore's Law, the idea that tech doubles in capacity at half the price every two years, isn't a law at all. It's a myth that help tech companies profit. The reality is that there is no solution to climate change that doesn't also include solving labour rights issues. The solution must turn over the entire capitalist system because it's colonialism and profit motives that got us here in the first place.

3. Bargaining (Emerald Green) - Ollie does a great job of summarizing the Standing Rock event. In January 2018, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) route was going to be close to Bismarck, so it was rerouted to avoid it due to concerns with 200 leaks in the previous six years. Instead they decided to send it through unceded indigenous land. This led to a huge occupied protest. At Standing Rock, protesters tried a new way of sustainable living where everyone got free shelter and food with minimal impact to the land. It was an attempt to create a brand new world. Obama said we need to wait a bit to figure it all out, but the military, which was hired by the oil company, responded with violence - chemical weapons and dog attacks.

The military, gun control, overfishing, and climate change, is all one big problem. Indigenous authors have talked about this already. Nick Estes says that indigenous peoples are already living in a post-apocalyptic world. We have different attitudes to the land that has to be addressed: Abrahamic tribes mark sacred land that was involved in a specific event, like Mecca. But indigenous groups see land as sacred because "there's a piece of me in that land and a piece of that land in me." The land and people are enmeshed, and they're already living this philosophy. Extinction Rebellion has been cagey about linking climate change and police brutality, but the indigenous at Standing Rock are clear that the police enforced a set of values that aligned themselves with the oil company. They didn't wait for Obama to figure it all out.

4. Acceptance (Muted Deep Green, Deep Green, and Dark Green) - The idea of climate despair speaks to the notion that there's nothing we can do anymore. The apocalypse is coming. Jem Bendell's Deep Adaptation starts with the assumption that society is going to collapse. The controversy around this idea is whether or not it helps the cause to spread despair. Ollie appreciates that it allows us to experience grief over what's happening in the world - that leaders at Exxon, BP, and the North Dakota government should face justice, but won't.

We need to acknowledge the tragedy of the way things are right now, acknowledge that things suck. One advantage of facing grief is that once we recognize that everything is part and parcel of one big problem, then we have a lot more allies to work with. Another benefit is that confronting the possibility of the world ending, as we know it, offers us a chance to ask what were the good bits. We need to dwell in gratitude for what we've had as we take our leave from it.

But "apocalypse" doesn't mean end of the world. It means, literally, a revealing of knowledge. Can we learn from this before it's too late?

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