Alongside an announcement by The Guardian's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger on Friday in which he said climate change stands out as perhaps the single most important issue now facing humanity—one he says his outlet could have done a more aggressive job of covering in recent years—the newspaper has kicked off a new series of special coverage on global warming by publishing an excerpt from author and activist Naomi Klein's latest book,
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“This is the Big One” - Andy Fraser - Catastrophic Climate Change
We need to take it to the polls …
I think one of the first things we need to do is break down the not-very-useful term “fatalism” into its components: fear, for example–fear of consequences including guilt if we admit what we’ve done; fear of disappointment if we hope; fear of having to examine our lives and psyches; fear of having to change the comfortable… There’s unexamined shame and rage, grief we don’t want to feel for what we’ve lost in the world and are about to.
People who are called apathetic are usually anything but; they often care so much they’re afraid to allow themselves to feel hope or connection to beings and things they might (or will) lose. Fatalism might be thought of as the absence of hope, as despair taking over, but hope and despair are just 2 sides of the same coin.
Despair is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the comfort that the well-off can afford to indulge in–oh well, we’re all screwed, might as well go back to my beer, couch and screens what’s for dinner? while hope is aka wishing someone would do something. People tend to reach for one or the other when the anxiety of not knowing what will happen is too uncomfortable. But we never know what will happen. We’re only fooling ourselves, and when hope or despair don’t work out–when we reach some milestone we associate with the one we didn’t rely on for our resting place, we can easily flip to the other. Congress didn’t pass a carbon tax? We’re screwed, we tell ourselves so we can stop thinking and feeling. We might as well give up. But we needn’t give up. There’s almost always more we can do. Until the last shred of possibility of succeeding is gone, we can win by carrying on–as long as we don’t get stuck in the hope/despair flipping of that coin, over and over. As long as we can stand not knowing, we can continue.
People able to tolerate uncertainty don’t need either hope or despair. Buddhists call it Beginner’s Mind–the lack of attachment to outcome, the lack of expectation or stuckness in one idea or plan. From a place of being able to tolerate uncertainty you can simply do what’s required. You can do what’s right and not worry about what happens if you fail. This isn’t taking random acts or not caring about strategy; in fact it frees people to think more strategically, without fear or rage or other unconscious emotions getting in the way of seeing clearly what’s needed.
There’s really very little fatalism around; we have to see what people are really feeling, even those who don’t know themselves what they’re feeling (actually, especially those people), and help them through it so they can help all of us get through this crisis. To do that we need to do our own emotional work, uncover our own unconscious secrets and make ourselves better instruments of change by helping others do the same.
Anyone who was a fan of the old TV show “Stargate” should recognize an eerie similarity of many of their plot lines and how we are collectively handing global warming. In quite a few episodes, the humans were faced with being annihilated by a ruthless advanced alien race, only to find some miracle weapon at the last possible second and vanquish the enemy. That is how humans are treating climate change. We know it’s bad. But most don’t care, and besides, we will find some miracle cure for the planet at the last second.
We are, after all, just dumb beasts.
J4Zonian: You are precisely, unequivocally on the mark. Thank you.
“One way or another, everything is going to change. And for a brief time, the nature of that change, is still up to us.”
If its left up to conservatives and politicians, nothing will change.
Definitely. We need to do our own polling too. Can’t trust the MSM polls.
Uncertainty isn’t merely something to be tolerated. It is the rational default, given our limitations and fallibilities. Anyone who feels certainty has simply embraced an unwarranted level of confidence by disregarding the possibility of error.
To say we should do what is required and do what is right presumes there is no ambiguity about what those are. But people can agree that we need to get off fossil fuels and yet can still have strongly divergent and even contradictory prescriptions for how to accomplish that. Naomi Klein and James Hansen, for example, have radically different views of what we need to do. He doesn’t see the necessity of the social revolution she craves and she opposes technologies which he views as being highly useful and even vital to the task.
So embracing uncertainty should indeed be the first step, but it is still incumbent upon us to use reason and critical thinking in working out the most sensible ways to proceed before we act. We know from past experience that people with mistaken views can have the best of intentions and yet wind up doing more harm than good towards their own goals.
I meant the electoral polls …
Critical thinking and reason are of course how we tell what’s right–sort of. They don’t even exist without emotions, and for clear thinking those emotions have to be clear. That means we’ve either been raised by wise and loving parents in a wise and loving society (yeah, good one) or we’ve done the emotional work on ourselves to make up for missing that. If we don’t do the work the critical thinking is twisted into destructive forms. Witness those who don’t agree that we need to stop using fossil fuels. Witness, as you say, those who do feel unwarranted confidence–or lack of, as in despair. Falling into hope and despair are mostly unconscious reactions to personal history and have little to do with any accurate assessment of the state of the world. Yes, embracing uncertainty is the first step. It has to be the first step or every step after that goes wrong.
ah… the art and joy of beginner’s mind. I’m also reminded of how conventional society marginalizes the joy inherent in the the creatures around us. As theologian Leonardo Boff recently reminded, when there is crises the creation offers flowers.
and then there are snow surfing crows https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUBMSnHH7hc
we’re good at exercising the creatural capacity of comprehension and delight in communicating to make them do things we want, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6Fxclwdfxc
but the journey gets really interesting when you slow down and engage enough to learn from them.
horses have a sense of humor that will knock your socks off
Meanwhile, everybody who wants to stop the extinction event continues to 1) blame others, and 2) continue to use widgets and doohickies made from plastics, metal, rubber, and a myriad of other interesting synthetic concoctions. We humans are a funny species, we want our cake and to eat it too. The truth is, take away the fossil fuels and our world culture will all but immediately collapse. Am I a fatalist?? Nooo, I wouldn’t be studying for a doctorate if I was, instead I’d be out hiding in the woods subsisting on lizards and crickets. I am entertained and fascinated by the psychology of our pending demise though. I encourage everybody to keep on attempting to put off the inevitable. Work work work, little grom, work work work…
I’m not sure I understand. You realize it will be disastrous when we pass 1 C, but you think we should wait to do anything serious about climate catastrophe?
We have about 15 years to reduce GHGs by 90%; how long should we wait to start? What exactly will the motivation be to reduce emissions after an agreement is forged that doesn’t exist now? We’ll be on top when the biosphere crumbles? At the end of the world we’ll have beaten the Chinese? In other words the people in charge are so utterly insane they’ll play chicken with complete global destruction? (Well, it’s not like we didn’t already know that…)
I understand that they feel and think that way. But I also understand that that’s insane. The situation is getting and will get worse. The goal is to make it stop. Isn’t it?
You are thinking on my same wave length… I just do not get some of what is discussed… about working about jobs… why aren’t we coming up with all new jobs… not just making renewables… that’s not enough and that’s another whole story… we not only keep using ridiculous products… like make up and stupid plastic stuff… and going to sports events in huge stadiums… going to casinos and making more of them…
We could create a huge jobs program of giving people tracts of land and or forgiving mortgage debt… so people can stay home to grow food… yes, stay home to grow food and make a sustainably efficient home… instead of one based on consumer convenience…
none of this will get done however… we’ll keep running off to jobs that are all part of the problem…
You might fit the old conservative definition, traditional, careful, frugal, better than the new definition:
“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
― John Kenneth Galbraith
We’ll see just how long The Guardian stays focused on climate change, and beyond that, just how it frames the issues involved.
What is certain is that our future will depend on the understanding that there can be no justice
When there is no peace for this planet.
Humanity’s exacerbation of climate change has and is going to result in mass death of humans and other lifeforms, no matter what we do.
Climate change has already caused hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to die.
Those who non-violently or violently try to counter this are going to die at the hands of the deniers and those non-deniers who think “jobs”, etc. are more important than doing something to lessen the impact of climate change.
Those who do nothing are going to die from the effects of climate change.
Perhaps, if enough finally die, climate change itself will lessen as a consequence of less pollutants because there are less humans.
Another hopie changie article. Got it. If you’re not stopping traffic in Times Square with a sociopath cop beating the shit out of you and others, you’re just not paying attention. Right? Well, there is a reality and it’s all around us. Nature is cooking up a future hostile to our species and it better come fast because our global damage could very well turn Earth into Venus.
Reality in a nutshell: Political institutions around the world, particularly those boasting democratic principles, have nullified the processes of citizen influence on government. Our ignorance of governmental processes leaves us powerless to focus on a strategy to force government to restore democracy, otherwise, we’re just along for the ride.
There really isn’t much more to say.
I’ll go with Klein’s vision thanks.