Dave Pollard's chronicle of civilization's collapse, creative works and essays on our culture.
A trail of crumbs, runes and exclamations along my path in search of a better way to live and make a living, and a better understanding of how the world really works.



December 20, 2012

Preparing for Collapse: Non-Attachment, NOT Detachment

Filed under: Preparing for Civilization's End — Dave Pollard @ 11:15

normal curve left half

There is something seemingly unfathomable to the human mind about exponential curves. As I wrote last fall:

There is an old story about the invention of the chessboard, in which the inventor as his reward asks for one grain of wheat on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and doubling until all 64 squares are full. The seemingly modest request adds up to many times more than all the wheat the world has ever produced. The purpose of the story is to teach about our inability to grasp the impact and unsustainability of accelerating increases in anything, particularly in the final stages. Even when more than half of the squares have been filled the inventor’s request still seems manageable. It is only when it is too late that its impossibility is realized.

 Even when almost all the squares have been filled, the request still seems manageable. We are now living in a world where almost all the squares have been filled. We have used up the easy-to-get half of the Earth’s resources, which accumulated over billions of years. We have used most of that in the last two centuries, and most of that in the last two decades. In the process we have destabilized the planet’s climate systems. We are nearing what is now being called “peak everything”.

normal curve

And there is certainly nothing “normal” to human eyes in what mathematicians call a “normal curve”, at least when time is the independent variable. We always seem to perceive the future as much like the present, only more so, and our favourite works of utopian and dystopian fiction turn out to be mostly somewhat hyperbolized reflections on the best or worst of the world as it was when the authors wrote them.

Even when we try to conceive of the downside of the normal curve — sharp at first and then tailing off slowly — we can only see everything going backwards, back to the way it was when the curve was at that height before. A simple, rapid decline, like those that befell previous civilizations and unsustainable cultures, is unimaginable. We can’t picture it because it’s never been that way for us. Even the current set of collapsnik writers, like James Kunstler, portray a post-collapse future that is almost nostalgically like the old American West.

In recent months, we have seen the news from climate scientists become exponentially worse. A decade ago we were hand-wringing about a 1C rise in average global temperature by 2100. A year ago it was a 2C rise by 2050 and a 4C rise by 2100. Now it appears all but certain that our failure to consider the “positive feedback loops” inherent in our astonishingly delicately-balanced climate systems made us absurdly optimistic, and a 6C rise by 2050 is quite possible. I can’t blame you if you haven’t been keeping up — neither had I. Two recent videos, one by Grist’s David Roberts and a second, even more recent one by fellow collapsnik Guy McPherson, will bring you up to speed.

The message of these videos, and the data underlying them, is simple, but it’s a lot like hearing news of a terrible and sudden loss in the family, the death of someone you knew was at risk but somehow believed would get through it, or at least last a while longer. It’s too soon. It can’t be that fast. We cannot accept it, as the trickster piles a mountain of grain onto the third-to-last square of the chessboard.

The message is two-fold:

  1. Not only are we fucked, but it’s coming much sooner than we expected. It’s coming in the first half of this century, not the second. By 2050 life for all but the simplest and most well-protected species on this planet will almost certainly be impossible, except for small numbers in a few marginal areas.
  2. The whole issue of mitigation and the need for activism is now more-or-less moot. Even if we were to collectively and massively change our behaviour starting tomorrow, it would only delay collapse by a few years, and quite possible make the collapse even more catastrophic. Until recently there was at least a chance that perhaps a combination of behaviour change and the reduced availability of cheap fossil fuels might combine to pull us back from the brink, or at least make a much-changed and simpler life possible for a much smaller population of humans and other creatures. That chance is gone.

The climate scientists, abetted by the ecological economists, have pronounced the certain and imminent (i.e. within most of our lifetimes) death of the vast majority of life on our planet, including the human species. Now, we can mourn. Most of our human family will continue to fall into one of the three categories of non-acceptance of this pronouncement that I wrote about in my If We Had a Better Story post:

  1. The incredulous: Those who either know so little or haven’t had the opportunity to think about what they know, that they find the idea of collapse preposterous, unimaginable, and/or unthinkable.
  2. The hopeful: Those who believe that collapse is not inevitable or can be significantly mitigated, or believe that even if it is inevitable and can’t be significantly mitigated, we should try anyway.
  3. The deniers: Those who are intimidated or offended by, or overwhelmed with anger and/or guilt at, the very idea of collapse.

None of these are unusual reactions to horrific news, but they’re likely to be crazy-making to those of us who are past this stage, and trying to get on with preparing ourselves and those we love for what is to come.

The most intriguing reaction is from collapsniks like Derrick Jensen and John Duffy who, against hope, want us to work (as they do, indefatigably and to their great credit) to kill the economy. John starts out his essay by saying “We are going to go extinct.” and near the end says:

If we want to not die, then we need to stop doing the things that are going to kill us… We need deindustrialization, and we need to wring the bloody neck of capitalism, before hanging it, drawing it, quartering it, and setting the remaining bits of its corpse on fire to make sure it can’t rise from the dead like the unholy zombie that it is… This is all to say, I can’t fight my enemies and my allies at the same time. Liberals, lefties, environmentalists and everyone else who purports to give a damn has to give up on being capitalism apologists who somehow think we can keep this gravy train of mass consumption going.

It’s a great rant, but he’s like the lover of the recently-declared-dead patient who insists on trying CPR interminably and punching the people trying to take the defibrillators away from him. Or, perhaps, he’s like the angry griever trying to assemble a posse to kill the ones he believes caused the death of the one he loves. It’s understandable, but it’s futile. It’s too late.

In the comments to John’s post, Paul Chefurka writes:

I’m not particularly angry or outraged any more. Once I was, but now I’m just fascinated, amazed, amused, bemused, curious. I attach no moral dimension to this unfolding any more, though once I did. Now there is no blame, no more agonized wishes to rewrite the past, no more fearful visions of a shattered future.

We are what we are, we did what we did, we ended up here.

I’m very curious to see what comes next. Aren’t you?

Paul didn’t get a terribly sympathetic response, so I wrote to Paul and asked him how he had managed to reach this stage of acceptance. I also asked him about a gorgeously-written and deeply-moving recent article in Orion, Gaze Even Here, about “evoking a consciousness of brokenness”, in which the author, Trebbe Johnson, says that she and her companions found solace in spending time “gazing” at clearcuts and videos of animals dying in oil-slicks until their grief and anger and revulsion turned to curiosity, acceptance, compassion and even love. I mentioned that some people in my circles had seen my attempts at non-attachment, at letting go of what I know I cannot change, as detachment, as an emotional shutting down or turning away. Paul replied:

I’ve faced the same accusations about detachment. They generally come from activists for whom action is the inner imperative, and who have no exposure to Buddhist principles. Also, they haven’t hit bottom yet, which is why the still think that action is an answer. Only once someone hits the bottom and bounces off the rocks do they usually start looking for truly radical responses like non-attachment.

As a first thought – perhaps what Ms. Johnson is suggesting isn’t really that radical at all. What she’s suggesting is a starting point for someone who wants to wake up in this new world. It’s where Joanna Macy begins as well. The bigger question may be, where do you go once you’ve taken the grief on board – how do you find the will to move, and how do you pick your direction?  This is where doing deep inner work around grief, shame and the Shadow come in.

Out of that work comes the beginning of non-attachment. To people who conflate it with detachment, I explain that non-attachment is what allows me to confront the big issues directly, to engage fully but not be paralyzed by emotion. It’s not an abdication of feeling, but a way of seeing the world around me with complete clarity and doing what the world needs, rather than being selfish and getting mired in my own suffering.

Sometimes that helps people understand, but for a lot of activists it’s still a step too far. They are still focused on their own suffering, and in order to validate their response they have defined that suffering as a virtue. It’s not, it’s a trap. Non-attachment is the most functional way out that I’ve discovered so far.

What are the elements of non-attachment that might be applied to coping with the knowledge of the inevitable collapse of organized society amidst the chaos of economic collapse and runaway climate change? What makes sense to gaze at, and what should we, for our own sanity, leave unseen? How can we be, and act, in a fully engaged, joyful, curious, productive, useful-to-others way, without becoming either “detached” (emotionally disconnected or inured) or exhausted? Here are some of my early thoughts on this:

1. We cannot, must not, prescribe one “right” behaviour or approach for everyone. We are all different, and the best way for each of us to cope will be different. What’s important is to patiently wait for those we care about to realize what is ahead, and then support them to find their own way to cope with it productively.

2. I think it could help to develop, working with climate scientists and enlightened (non-classical) economists and energy analysts and artists and musicians and film-makers, a set of nuanced, candid, non-idealized, non-sensationalized visions or stories of what our world in collapse will look like, by 2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050, and then, as Trebbe might put it, to “gaze” at them. These stories would be based on data, and on an appreciation of history of how people behave in an accelerating (but not relentless) series of cascading crises where there is no scapegoat, no one to blame, where everyone is largely in the same boat. These stories would be focused on what collapse will mean for the day-to-day lives of people living in cities, towns, the country, in nations at different levels of “development”. My guess is that for most of the world, in the already-struggling nations and places, life will not be much different, except that the death rate (mostly from disease and malnutrition) will be somewhat higher and the birth rate much lower. We have a lot to learn, I think, from people in the third world, in impoverished cities, and in the streets, who are already living with collapse. The image below shows in red/purple/white areas that, due to climate change-induced chronic drought, will be largely ununhabitable within a few decades, so our stories for them, billions of people, would likely be stories of migration. The stories would be varied, and stark, and, perhaps to our surprise, inspiring and astonishing.

Map of serious chronic drought areas, per research simulations by UCAR/NCAR, an agency of the National Science Foundation. This map is forecasts for the 2060s, but is based on outdated climate change data, so it is likely to come true considerably earlier. Thanks to resilience.org for the link.

3. Perhaps most importantly, we will all be better off, I think, if we were to learn non-attachment, empathy, presence, resilience, relocalization, community building, and a host of other skills and capacities, technical and ‘soft’, so that we can tolerate the changes we will face to our way of living and the very foolish actions many (with the most to lose, in wealth or power) will inevitably try to do, unsuccessfully, to “control” the situation. We must expect the emergence of charismatic dictators, genocides, civil wars, geo-engineering, the burning of almost everything flammable for fuel and electricity, and cults, and deal with them the best we can without letting them unhinge us. We may be fortunate enough that as our centralized systems collapse, the resources for possible authoritarian atrocities will rapidly diminish, so the decline could be relatively peaceful, if not free of suffering or misery. We may well discover that crisis brings out the best in us, but should be prepared in case it brings out, in some, the worst. We may find that, with a sufficient voluntary decrease in birth rates (not an unlikely scenario), over the coming decades we might reach a human population level well below one billion without a dramatic increase in death rates, though we should be prepared for a rising death toll and what it may do to our collective psyches. In all of this, non-attachment and presence can enable us to live, even through these crises, lives of love and joy and appreciation for the miracle of life.

A final thought, and one that perhaps is the most unimaginable of all for those of us brought up to believe the way we live now is the only way to live. What’s on the right side of the normal curve, after collapse, isn’t another growth cycle. It’s the proverbial long tail. We may become an endangered species by century’s end, but we’re unlikely to become extinct for several millennia after that — just increasingly few in numbers and increasingly irrelevant to the ecosystems and recovery of the planet from yet another great extinction. Without vast amounts of cheap energy to power technology, we’re just not going to be very well adapted to post 21st-century Earth. Just as we don’t notice the 200 species going extinct every day, I doubt that the species that thrive after the great extinction will notice the death of the last of the species that once believed it could rule the Earth forever.

Thanks to Tree for the link to the Orion article, to the authors of the articles/videos cited above, to Sue Bullock for the link to Kill the Economy, to John Duffy for the link to the Grist video, and to Paul Chefurka for the ideas prompting this article.

21 Comments

  1. This is superb, Dave – a pitch-perfect reading of the situation. It absolutely nails the overarching issue of our times. Congratulations on fostering such clarity of vision.

    Paul

    Comment by Paul Chefurka — December 20, 2012 @ 12:42

  2. Check out the Dark Mountain Project (http://www.darkmountain.net).

    And read, as a starter, Paul Kingsnorths “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist” (http://dark-mountain.net/other-media/audio/confessions-of-a-recovering-environmentalist%E2%80%A8/) and “Hope in the Age of Collapse” (http://dark-mountain.net/blog/hope-in-the-age-of-collapse/)

    Similar themes…

    Comment by Phil — December 20, 2012 @ 13:26

  3. Thanks Phil — I’m a ‘member’ of Dark Mountain and have written about this particular article in a previous post. Welcome!

    Comment by Dave Pollard — December 20, 2012 @ 13:51

  4. Thank you for this. I think I’m still hovering uncomfortably between hope and a despairing confusion. I’m encouraging support of tree planting and rewilding, and a whole host of other resilience projects, which I guess is not a position of non-attachment. In the second part of your two-fold message, could you say a bit more about why massive behaviour change could possibly make the collapse more catastrophic?

    Comment by Bridget McKenzie — December 20, 2012 @ 15:40

  5. 40 years ago, at 15, living in Monterey, California, I made an assessment of the world and knew there was no point in bringing a child onto this planet due to a species – ours – that couldn’t live a simple, self-sustaining life.
    I had to go in front of 3 shrinks and plead my case to be “given” permission to have a tubal ligation. I got it after I gave a three hour lecture on why we humans could not be self-sustaining due to our inability to live within a natural environment.
    Now, 40 years later, I see I am not alone in this assessment. I do think there is one shred of a possibility though. I do believe an event will occur that will wipe out most of our species, and, that will be a good thing as I think our remains may cause another event that can drastically slow down this catastrophic course.
    I don’t think anything in writing, music or film will prepare the masses as they will never believe what is coming, especially in first world countries like ours.
    I find it odd that even though so many of you scientists know what is coming, you still want to take on an almost God like responsibility to “Prepare” the people. Forget it. There is no way to be a good messenger.

    Comment by Leilani Jones — December 20, 2012 @ 15:47

  6. [...] This essay was originally published at http://howtosavetheworld.ca/2012/12/20/preparing-for-collapse-non-attachment-not-detachment/ [...]

    Pingback by Preparing for Collapse: Non-Attachment, NOT Detachment « Damn the Matrix — December 20, 2012 @ 16:06

  7. [...] From DAVE POLLARD How To Save The World [...]

    Pingback by Preparing for Collapse: Non-Attachment, NOT Detachment… « UKIAH BLOG — December 21, 2012 @ 09:21

  8. Good on you Dave. Your words provide resilance for the soul. I have been oscillating between detachment and non attachment for some time. Have been finding/taking in Paul’s work lately. This journey is hard for us all. I need the strength of non attachment so I can be in the moment for my childrens sake but also deal with the reality of this crazy world. For fifteen years I have been getting ready to survive the collaspe but now just want to find non attachment. I find in my working life so much swinging between attachment and detachment. The people at the other stages you mention cause this feeling for me. There are so many people in the world who cannot entertain your messages for their clutter of mind. It is a good purpose to life… to just think of the purpose as to see.

    Comment by Philip — December 21, 2012 @ 11:01

  9. Hi Dave. Once again, you have articulated in writing thoughts and ideas, very deep and complex, of which I thank you for sharing. Your writing prompted some ideas of which I wish to share.

    1. I have become much more aware of perspectives, scale, and space (or emptiness)

    A. As a caregiver of adults and children with special needs and a lifetime with animals, I am continuously challenged to accept and be sensitive to the perspectives of other life. This often means moving through the “I feel sorry for you” stage, to one of acceptance of their unique view and empowerment when appropriate.
    B. As a lover of science, I have gained perspectives of scale-time, size, gradualism, catastrophism, evolution,electromagnetic spectrum, universe development- and use these perspectives as overlays to human lifetimes.
    C. A few years ago I was forced into the fire of divorce, as I emotionally struggled through a free fall of idealogical crash, I began to understand the need for space. Once again, my perspective changed radically. This space is not just a pause, not just when one word ends and another begins, it is like a womb, out of nothing which gives birth to being-this space defines heart beats and stars, thoughts and steps, this space which allows music and death…and new life. Why did I so focus on the stars in the sky and not appreciate the vastness of space? How am I limited in my perspectives? Is it OK to not connect the dots into constellations? Does my brain draw lines, not just to complete my “wholeness of vision” but my wholeness of perspective? Can I accept the limitations of the pursuit of whole awareness (that picture which my awareness tries to make complete) not only can not be complete, but by its very nature, must be mere pin pricks of knowledge in a tapestry of darkness? That this darkness is not only something to accept, but gives rise to the universal structures of our existence?

    2. My ability, and the ability of all others to vision the future, is limited, and not only limited by are own perspectives, but unable to integrate fully the future movement of people collectives. What is dreamtime? Stories verbally, mythically passed down generation by generation, helping to connect us with the past, prepare us for the future, connect the dots when we cannot explain or answer questions we pose. As our cells become organs, organs become us, what do collections of human awareness become? A flock of birds from a distance, behave as a super organism, each individual bird reacts by some innate programming to the birds around it. But what of those birds on the front, or the end of the flock? Who makes the decisions to move where? What makes that first bird go left around the obstruction and another go right? How do we humans, extreme social creatures, flock? Behave collectively? Looking at the exponential growth and decay of our population, looking at the wanderings and seeming lostness of contemporary aboriginal peoples from the Midwest US or central Australia (where I have lived or visited) perhaps they are temporarily disconnected from this dreamtime, they have lost there cultural identity. Maybe that is what we need to rediscover, that the space after this globally destructive population blip will allow us to reconnect with a more integrated earth culture.

    These past few weeks I have spent with my adult children and my grandson. On Assateague Island, my horse loving daughter and I found ourselves surrounded by wild ponies. Around eastern Oregon, my son took me to rain forests and a clothing optional hot springs. In our mutual nakedness, a young man confided with me personal relationship issues he was struggling with, no clothing of our words was needed. We were able to share are bareness, our vulnerable naked issues. These precious moments are…bliss. The pain we see or feel is allowed, perhaps precipitated by space. The patterns we see perhaps are simply artifacts of our own awareness, of which is OK, as it is what we see, but it is not what is.

    Perhaps what is most real is the emptiness or space which allows for structure to form. Perhaps I have been spending too much time shoveling horse shit and sawdust from the horse farm I have been helping to manage. But it gives me space to place my thoughts…and as I find more joy out of simple things like bowel movements, careful placement of the horse waste on top of the bin has its own rewards.

    Comment by Shawn Tisdell — December 21, 2012 @ 12:53

  10. Wow. Thank you for this. I have been thinking about those precise comments of Paul Chefurka’s ever since he wrote them on Nature Bats Last. I find the prospect of reaching a state of non-attachment to be appealing, but can’t quite imagine getting there, seeing as I’m entangled in my own suffering and selfishness. Maybe that’s just a necessary route to “hitting bottom.” Meanwhile I’m still thrashing around and focusing on “what to do” even though I should probably just sit down, shut up, and do nothing for a while. Also, I haven’t reconciled the idea of non-attachment as separate from detachment; I can see that a distinction is being made, but my radical heart insists that resistance is still necessary even in the midst of certain failure.

    Comment by Jennifer Hartley — December 22, 2012 @ 08:09

  11. Developing deep non-attachment is a serious endeavor. I say this not because I have done it (yet) but because I know people who have worked on it through Buddhist practice and/or psychotherapy. If you want to explore the Buddhist route there are a thousand options but please don’t pick one without exploring the Thai Forest Tradition which is a very meditation oriented branch of the Theravada tradition. It’s not “the one true Buddhism” but it is historically and philosophically close to the source and provides a sound basis for comparison. For an intro into the combination of Buddhism/meditation and psychotherapy I recommend the writings of Mark Epstein especially “Thoughts Without a Thinker” and “Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart”.

    I have also found the work of Byron Katie as articulated in her book “Loving What Is” to be helpful. She claims it is a complete answer and maybe it is for some people but I have found it mostly helpful for letting go of an “us v. them” mindset and getting over my own self concept of me as the good, progressive and wise one v. “them”. (No non-attachment without lots of progress on that one.)

    I am sure that for many people the above would be overkill or otherwise the wrong choice. For some, the serenity prayer, family, literature and/or moderate indulgence in a nice single malt may be the ticket. I just wanted to flag the existence of at least one well developed hardcore path.

    Comment by George Lyon — December 22, 2012 @ 10:52

  12. [...] [...]

    Pingback by Non-attachment. Unconditional love. « Scintillating Speck — December 23, 2012 @ 17:49

  13. Both attraction and aversion are unavoidable features of awareness in the material world. They whipsaw anyone holding onto them. That is attachment. Pushing away from them, detachment, is an attempt to deny experiences that are undeniable. Non-attachment is to let the experiences of attraction and aversion passage without let or hindrance.

    Comment by Robin Datta — December 23, 2012 @ 19:48

  14. I’m one of the hopefuls and I don’t think there is a need to stop being hopeful. I maybe wrong but I believe life would be better as an hopeful. I have faith. It might be a word that is despised here but that’s what I have. I used to be a hard core rationalist and just couldn’t understand faith. But I’ve changed and I believe that life and even humanity will continue to live and evolve. Even if our population is reduced drastically, humanity shall survive. What is important is to make sure that the survivors don’t make the same mistakes we have been making for so many centuries. I think we can help in this by working on our spiritual growth and those of people around us. The more people evolve spiritually before the ‘end of the world’ the more chance that there will be an understanding of what went wrong among the survivors. I am going to live my life with this purpose. If on some day I am swept away by a tsunami then so be it but before that time I’m going to work towards not my and my family’s survival but the survival of humanity.
    I have written a short very hopeful ebook; how to save the world. You will certainly find it childish and cute and amusing. If you are interested you can download it for free here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/267300

    I believe that life’s purpose and humanity’s purpose is to allow the universe to observe itself. We are the universe and through us the universe is aware of itself. We need to grow or evolve spiritually so that we can understand the futility of greed and materialism and acquiring more and more. Then we can learn to live in a sustainable manner. This is just my point of view. It’s important that people with different points of view can discuss about them with each other without killing each other. That’s the only way to grow.

    Comment by Aditya Thakur — December 23, 2012 @ 20:24

  15. The surprising thing is that all the middle of Australia which I had assumed was pretty much desert is not all red, there are even green bits. Can we have a more detailed map please?

    Comment by Frances Winters — December 24, 2012 @ 00:06

  16. Attraction and aversion are unavoidable features of awareness in the material world. They whipsaw anyone holding onto them. That is attachment. Pushing away from them, detachment, is an attempt to deny experiences that are undeniable. Non-attachment is to let the experiences of attraction and aversion passage without let or hindrance.

    Comment by R. Datta — December 24, 2012 @ 01:02

  17. It would seem non-attachment would preclude writing these missive. It would be letting go of the high on the hog life style that allows connecting to the internet. And the lifestyle that is implied by this connecting.
    The Buddha spoke to the pain of living. And he would have accepted responsibility for any that he was creating. However, living high on the energy hog creates disasters – climate change, peaks, misuse of other humans, rapacious use of natural resources, devastation of other life forms – from this so-called non-attachment.
    I believe we are in serious trouble as a species and it is coming fast. I have believed this for 40 years. These “we are fucked” people actively contributing to the “fucked” situation and getting money from it are very interesting in their “honesty”.
    I picture a person with an oxygen bottle, with the tubes in the nose, smoking a cigarette and carry a sign that says, “Look what we’ve done.” Or for the real dishonest – “Look what they have done.”

    Comment by sunweb — December 29, 2012 @ 14:16

  18. I understand non-attachment to be understanding reality without interpreting it in terms of “me”. As Robin says above, it’s avoiding holding onto my preferences, ideas, feelings, etc., it’s letting experiences come and go without using them to define who I am (that is, without identifying with them). One can work against climate change without attachment, for example, if one doesn’t fight as “us” vs. “them”, and accepts the outcomes without credit or blame towards oneself or others. Attachment enhances our egos but leads to all sorts of disappointment (and ultimately despair), violence (dominating others to protect “our” survival or comfort), and separation and confusion (such as judging “good” and “bad” in terms of “my interests”, unable to appreciate a larger perspective).

    Just the other day a friend of mine took me to task for appreciating non-attachment, for consorting with narcissistic Buddhists who would look the other way as civilization falls apart. He’s worried that I have turned into a traitor to the good people of the world who have not yet given up on making everything right. There’s always hope of improvement, he says, as I look on feeling helpless in the face of “a reality too big to change” (as Trebbe Johnson put it in the article referenced above).

    Part of me still hopes that I’m wrong, that somehow enough people will pull together in the same direction to remake our future. “We need a [new] Story of the People … that doesn’t feel like a fantasy”–but we don’t have one yet, reminds Charles Eisenstein (http://charleseisenstein.net/2013-the-space-between-stories/).

    So I’m no longer an activist (although on a personal level I still try to reduce my contribution to the earth-devouring machine). But I don’t want to denigrate those who continue in their activism, in their hope. And while some of them may, like my friend, identify so much with their activism that they look down on my position and feel betrayed, I hope others will respect my opinions and continue our conversations.

    Comment by Paul Heft — December 29, 2012 @ 16:47

  19. 1. to Paul Heft-you may be on to something regarding how we put the “me” in the equation. Isn’t it accepting reality and realizing the “me” is really not a big part of it. The universe will go on, the Earth will not evaporate, not just yet, other life forms will continue to express God’s ineffable spirit on this planet. Maybe our sadness is just another expression of our self-absorbed myopia that got us into the situation we are in. Seeing ourselves in the context of God’s universe, God’s planet, God’s plan may give us a better perspective to accept our collective fate. I would reference Joanna Macy’s perspective and also the corollary work of redefining our collective mind-set as in “The Great Turning” by David Korten. We always live in a mind-set, a social contract, a myth, but if the myth that brought us to where we are is wrong, don’t we need to redefine how we see things?
    2. to Jennifer hartley, thank you for your comments, maybe shit has been under-rated. A friend of mine used to say that shit was holy and maybe if we could see it’s value, we would realize how little we value the perfection of God’s Creation.
    3. to Dave, I love you,man. I have been reading you for some time, sorry I have not commented more. You are a soulful and brilliant individual and I applaud your large effort and the focus you have brought to bear on our “human” equation. Obviously you have touched a nerve and many folks of deep feeling and keen perception concur with your conclusions. A more thorough analysis is difficult to imagine. And it is hard to argue with the hard truths you put on the collective table. I would venture to say that as fubar as everything seems to be, and more or less has been, since man developed “civilization”, man has the capacity to change course if his heart and mind and spirit allows it. Spirit being the operable term. Be careful that we not confuse the fate of humans with the fate of the world. The world will go on after our brief and tortured time on
    this venue. God’s spirit will still move and animate the universe. And man, “homo sapiens”, will take his place on the great madala, and be a brief blip in the geological and comoslogical time frame of God that we never had the heart to really respect and embrace.
    4. to all, it’s not about us, shit is holy, our minds are not the arbiter, only our spirits matter, accept everything. No resistence. Go with God and may His peace be upon you.

    Comment by bart raguso — January 7, 2013 @ 00:32

  20. Wow. Celebrating this sense of shared reality and community.

    And also, inspiration, meaning, purpose.

    Just saw the film “Chasing Ice,” and the only disappointment was the inevitable message of “hope” at the end.

    This article, and so many of the comments after it, trigger a sense of peace and calm in me. For me, there is peace in releasing “hope” for a “solution.” I do see what is mine to do: to show up with Love, always.

    What I am “doing” is cultivating non-judgment and empathy through practicing Nonviolent Communication. It’s given me a way to mourn and celebrate that brings equanimity and compassion into my being, and this is what I want to share with others as this roller-coaster, which seems to me to be suspended in that moment of inertia at the top of the big hill, is about to drop.

    When it does, do I want to go down screaming, or go down singing?

    My only question is this one: what do I tell my children? They are all grade-school age right now. I want to support honesty, I want to have integrity. I don’t want the story of “everything is all right” to be one more Santa-Claus story that they find out is one big lie, but a lie for their fun, their benefit. Can I go beyond simply conditioning them, training them in the building of “empathy muscle” and “love coordination” that I see as the only really important gifts I could help give them, or is that all I can offer? Would hearing a different story, the story of “This is what I actually see happening right now, and I want you to know that I know it is happening,” be of benefit to young children?

    As one poster here mentioned, just posting on the internet belies a kind of complicity. And yet, what would it serve for me to discontinue communication? My denying myself the energy consumption and the technology won’t bring back what I sense was the moment things might have gone differently. My gut tells me it was about 33 years ago. The Titanic has hit the iceberg, the boat is not reparable, it’s all going down, and fast. I feel a great compassion in my heart for all that conspired to bring us to this moment. I feel no sense of rage or blame anymore. It is acceptance.

    It is wonderful to have some company in that. Thank you.

    Comment by Mollie — January 10, 2013 @ 22:32

  21. Mollie, I would tell my children stories, both of joy and struggle, and tell them your truth and how to find their own. My kids are grown and have chosen not to believe what I do about the future and that’s fine. They behave responsibly now and they’ll come around in time. The hardest part for kids is trying to hold a worldview that is radically different from their peers’ so I think we have to be sensitive to that and let them work through it in their own time.

    Comment by Dave Pollard — January 11, 2013 @ 11:46

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