The terrible and terrifying conditions of wind and fire devastating parts of California are showing us what happens when Earth Trauma approaches critical mass. We are not yet at global critical mass, but we do continue to move ever closer. Critical mass relative to environmental trauma or environmental catastrophe would be when either one of two major developments occur, both of which result in cataclysm. One would be so many environmental disasters happen at or near the same time in approximate geography that the emergencies exceed social capacity to respond or recover. Two would be a convergence of catastrophic conditions resulting in a mega catastrophe, or global cataclysm, also a condition exceeding human capacity to adequately respond, if even to respond at all. Think of the California fire-storm condition or the hurricane in Haiti taking place in multiple locations simultaneously, overwhelming not only impoverished communities and nations but the wealthy and deeply resourced as well.I speak here of structures deteriorating beyond recovery and systems collapsing.
Nobody cares for such thoughts, but we keep driving toward the event horizon of ultimate trauma and must wake up and stand up to the oncoming reality. Ominous events accelerate and the time for people empowerment and unified action is now. And now is a late hour on the world clock.
I do not mean to be an alarmist here. Those who know me know I am not. But the alarms are sounding all around us and this is no time to play at being deaf or to refuse to connect the dots, foolishly thinking that one thing after another will pass, be forgotten and not be revisited in kind upon us. Being forgetful about what is true is dangerous and a society that encourages diversion and forgetfulness is endangering to its citizens, international relationships and down to the eco and biotic intricacies fundamental to planetary stability. It has taken billions of evolutionary years to arrive at levels favorable to mammalian life, including human life, and while our species collectively causes havoc and is forcing large scale extinctions, we barely understand the dynamic processes and structures that made and maintain the condition with which we are familiar.
I find myself growingly convinced that we cannot assume that maintaining any form of status quo will suffice. I believe we are already moving rapidly beyond that and even the phrase “addressing climate change” will shortly prove seriously inadequate. Rather we need to bring ourselves to recognizing the fullest possible realities and necessities of this earth-humanity crisis syndrome of life on a trauma planet and ask ourselves within this most serious confrontation two questions: how much human impact becomes too much and what needs to be done to avoid reaching the terrestrial blackhole that crushes every possibility? This is a point of no return or more correctly points of no return down the labyrinth to endgame of confusion, suffering, chaos, and ultimately omnicide.
What point of no return have we already passed, what point are we currently passing, what is just ahead and nearly upon us? Perhaps it is past due to treat such questions with seriousness and to provide a partial while yet cumulative answer each time we drive a car, waste food, trivialize existence, uselessly consume, adding to the world of junk, or cast a vote? A decision to turn in the right direction—the direction of affirmation, enrichment and evolutionary enlightenment, opposed to the direction of reduction, negation and destruction—is deciding to live within what Duane Elgin has identified as Voluntary Simplicity, which is marked similar if not the same as my own advocacy for a Prosperity of Appreciation.
There is much in the human condition and within human identity that deserves to be changed. High speed inner or spiritual evolution is one possible answer. An answer paradoxically that we might only be able to reach within a small population, and that by slowing down and stepping back or even away from the frantic, death-wish culture of capitalistic consumer civilization. But let us assume that human beings in terms of who we are cannot become a higher, more enlightened species of humanity within the limited time frame that is in play. Then we are left with changing how we are as life forms on an endangered planet, with a steady view (focusing on intergenerational education) to a radicalization of bringing about sustainable alternatives in the who of an Earth-humanity future, where Earth is Living Earth and Living Earth is a life place of good habitation, sustainable within the healing and flourishing of atmospheric stability and bio-diversity.
Greta Thunberg and all who live by her example and even add content are in process of demanding new standards of right living and living that is not a furthering destruction of life. There is much to be encouraged in this, for the young are not yet fossilized in the sediment of corruption, indifference and inertia. They possess flexibility and their personalities, naturally keyed into growth, have not yet become neurosis.
The raging, wind powered fires currently uncontrolled in both the north and south of California are adjacent disasters in and of themselves. But they are also only singular examples among many.
These two statements, the youth movement which Greta gives a face to and the present or “just next” natural disaster; as the planet warms, ocean levels rise with plastic toxicity, planetary wind currents shift, weather patterns alter, the magnitude of storms increases in intensity and frequency, world economy depends on fossil fuel and world power on war, etc. etc.; are at the two ends of the reality spectrum. The world’s people, the vast majority, the 99% of us, are between these poles, as at a crossroads, and in dire need of facing and forging the right direction. The pioneering adventure that begins with thinking outside of the box.
After all, choices made at pivot points, before crucial challenges, throughout a life, accumulate and bring introspective and interpersonal changes to the person making the choices. I recall Nikos Kazantzakis writing that we should each examine and decide what from the past continues to live into the future and what is laid to rest.
David Sparenberg is a world citizen, environmental & peace advocate & activist, actor, poet-playwright, storyteller, teacher and author.