After being generally aware for some 20 years that our fossil-fueled growth-oriented consumer-culture has been barreling headlong and headstrong straight towards calamity, un-sustainability, and the extreme degradation of our planet, events propelled me a couple of months ago to take a long hard look at where exactly we are in this greater progression. This has been the mother of all rabbit holes, and far more sobering than anything Alice plunged into. I’d take any of Alice’s remedies any day over the red pill that face-on climate awareness is.
Climate consciousness is perilous territory for so many reasons. Climate threats are almost impossible to truly digest because of the enormity of the thing and how ridiculously complex all of the relevant factors are. Digesting even portions of it, like Alice’s red and white mushroom, can be toxic to your mental health, and certainly clouds your awareness of almost everything else. And yet… I’ve come to process, through lots of grief, angst, anger, anxiety, and bouts of flat out depression, that though the threat is ominous on par with an asteroid hurtling directly towards us, there is a deep grace and profound clarity in surrendering to the immensity of it all.
Surrendering. Does this mean I’ve given up? Fuck no. My family has embraced as many facets of action as we can imagine might be relevant, from building a lifeboat (metaphorically) to nurturing local community to creating activist art and engaging in eye-opening conversations wherever and whenever we can. Surrendering has been simply accepting that this thing is too big to get a handle on and too unpredictable to even begin to guess as to how it will all unfold.
Surrendering has taken the form of accepting that when all information is taken into account, we’ve come to recognize that there is a significant probability that most if not all of the forms of convenience and abundance that we have blissfully benefitted from as North Americans will likely not last, though that timeframe is completely unknowable as well. It might be years or decades, there’s just no telling at this point. What we do know is that things are accelerating faster than anyone predicted even a couple of years ago, and that’s alarming in its own right.
I would rather face that unknown eyes wide open than be surprised by it, though coming to terms with it has easily been the most stressful activity I have ever engaged in. What does resiliency in the face of the unknown mean? How can we adapt to inherently unpredictable conditions? What are the core competencies that will be relevant moving forward in a disfigured world? How can we prepare to be resilient in the face of societal stressors unlike any our society has ever encountered? How will privileged societies that have high expectations and low resiliency beyond money be able to handle food shortages and diminished lifestyles? How will population-dense areas cope compared with more rural areas? There are just so many questions and most of the questions are full of unknowables.
In the spirit of eyes wide open, and after months of exhaustive research, scaling the heights and plumbing the depths of climate and ecological related material, I’ve chosen a relative handful of sources and materials that I’ve found to be the most straight forward assessments and clear-eyed interpretations of the available data. These are the pieces that have given me the most comprehensive perspectives on the threats we face, have provided the best talking points to initiate conversations with family and community members, and have offered action points that feel the most relevant. These pieces have also demonstrated to me that so much of the climate literature is cherry-picked with relevant factors left out for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes even people who want to address the topic just can’t face the full brunt of it and I get that.
These materials are not for the faint of heart, but neither are the times we live in. We are living in a time of standing face to face with Morpheus with the offered pills right at our fingertips ~ the blue pill being continued pretension that everything is ok, look the sun is shining out my window, the government has my back, food will always be on the store’s shelves, and I have endless entertainments and distractions at my fingertips, while the red pill is simply… deep awareness, and informed engagement.
We’ve been preparing for the worst, and nurturing courage for the best. The challenge we’re facing is that best-case scenarios at this point are still pretty grim. I hope these red pills are as helpful to you and they have been for me in choosing to live eyes wide open.
Addendum ~ I fully recognize that I’ve basically made the same post twice over the past two weeks, talking about my climate familiarity project and pointing to the collection of source material I’ve curated. I think this is partly due to my continued processing of this immense topic, and partly really wanting to make sure that this gets shared within my community and for whoever may stumble upon it. It also is starting to really challenge me that the majority of people I encounter on a regular basis don’t seem engaged with this topic at all, and I recognize the bubble of North American entitlement and comfort to be an ultimate pacifier. What’s it going to take?