Sunday, April 30, 2023

Quiet Comprehending

A pretty song for our times form Bo Burnham

Female Colonel Sanders, easy answer, civil war
The whole world is at your fingertips, the ocean at your door
The live-action Lion King, the Pepsi Halftime Show
Twenty-thousand years of this, seven more to go . . . 
That unapparent summer air in early fall
The quiet comprehending of the ending of it all . . .
Hey, what can you say? We were overdue.
But it will be over soon. You wait. 
A blogger buddy, "Mound" told me about Deep Adaptation and Dark Mountain ten years ago, and I thought it was all a little extreme. But now I'm at a weird place in which the people I once thought were completely off the wall, I now understand as prescient. Alternatively, it's entirely possible I have merely joined them in their lunacy. One or the other, and I'm not always confident of which. The fact that I still think Covid is enough of a concern that I'm provoked to wear a mask everywhere and refuse dinner invites puts me pretty squarely in the latter camp by many people's estimation. Most of my friends, definitely, but luckily not my children. Yet. 

Four years ago I wrote that all that Dark Mountain doomer stuff was a bit much because, "what if it's not all over, and there's still time to do something?!"

But then last Friday, the CO2 on our little planet hit 425 ppm for the first time in human history. That's considered a vital sign by NASA. It was just 420 last month. Previously, it was in the 200 range for thousands of years, and hit 300 in the 1950s. Keeping it below 350 ppm was a goal for a long time. MIT says that we need to stay below 430 ppm if we hope to avoid overshooting the 1.5° rise in temperature.

This should be front page news, but it's not.  

Check out how the food shortage will happen. We need farmers to use no-till methods.
It's more expensive in the short term, but it will give us a few more years of food.

And now Jem Bendell suddenly looks like a genius to me for arguing years ago that we're about to face an inevitable collapse. GQ even had an article on him last week, ahead of his new book Breaking Together, explaining Deep Adaptation as,

"An agenda and framework for responding to the potential, probable or inevitable collapse of industrial consumer societies due to the direct and indirect impacts of human-caused climate change and environmental degradation. . . . It was time to consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global environmental catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today."

Now we're seeing the feedback loops in real time: "forest fires in Siberia; permafrost melting; an area of ice the size of India missing from the Arctic." The GQ article reports,

"In the 1970s, the infamous Club of Rome report "The Limits to Growth" predicted society would collapse in 2040 (one study recently looked at the report again and suggested we are on track). . . . As President Orlean says in Don't Look Up, 'You cannot go around saying to people that there's a 100% chance they're going to die."

Deep Adaptation is about being "collapse-aware" enough to prepare by becoming as self-sufficient or community-sufficient as we can. Bendell takes a very present-oriented approach, commenting on watching some neighbourhood children playing joyfully: "If they don't live till 40, it doesn't change this moment right now." We can't waste time grieving the impending loss; deep adapting is about focusing on bigger actions, not just self-soothing. We need to recognize we're living in a revolutionary moment or else we'll "be manipulated and coerced to behave during collapse in ways that won't help, because we have so much evidence of elites forcing population to do things 'for their own good' that make things a lot worse." The framework necessary to contemplate and embrace is these four Rs: 

  • Resilience: what do we most value that we want to keep, and how?
  • Relinquishment: what do we need to let go of so as to not make matters worse?
  • Restoration: what could we bring back to help us with these difficult times?
  • Reconciliation: with what and whom shall we make peace as we awaken to our mutual mortality?

"When people come to the conclusion I've come to, which many are, it pulls that rug from under us--that humans are always progressing. That really is the secular religion of our times, and then people like me are taken as heretics... I have to be seen as an evil person rather than someone with an interesting idea you disagree with. It's an indicator that something quasi-religious is going on here."

Bendell drummed up the courage to look at it closely in 2017. The rest of us won't be able to ignore it for much longer because our Premier is acting like an addict, reminiscent of Vonnegut's line in my sidebar:

Ford appears to be scrambling to amass a wealth necessary to somehow buy himself out of the end of the world as he escalates the situation by building highways and spas and paving over the greenbelt. 

Trudeau isn't much better. He's like an addict hooked on pharmaceuticals, with lots of connections, so he he's better able to keep up appearances. 

Here's a bit of "optimism" from James Lovelock, written 15 years ago,

"Humanity is in a period exactly like 1938-9 when we all knew something terrible was going to happen, but didn't know what to do about it. But once the second world war was under way, everyone got excited, they loved the things they could do; it was one long holiday. So when I think of the impending crisis now, I think in those terms. A sense of purpose - that's what people want. . . . Enjoy life while you can. Because if you're lucky, it's going to be 20 years before it hits the fan."

Five years left!

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