Something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot of late is how we’re all dealing with the current state of our planet. [In case you haven’t noticed, ever since the IPCC report came out in October, 2018, the world news has filled with daily reports of climate catastrophe, civil disobedience speaking out against governments that are not acting with enough urgency, and studies on various aspects of weather, insect population, and causes of conflict.]
Stress is felt by everyone in the mix. People are finding themselves overwhelmed by the power of nature: flood and drought; a lack of pollinators and changing pests in garden and field; rising sea levels; unexpected tornados and storms; temperatures that confuse; and resulting psychological unrest, including societal collapse. Animals to insects are feeling the pressures of habitat destruction and ecosystem modifications that change food and shelter availability, temperatures that confuse and kill, and climate that conflicts with expectations. Plants, water, and air too are overwhelmed with pollution and changes to temperature, humidity, and pressures that make unclear how their ecosystems will continue to change.
I’ve been wondering if all the stress being felt in nature isn’t bleeding into what we’re feeling as humans. Everything is interconnected so why wouldn’t the energy of chaos and change in nature result in stress for humans? Of course, as we cannot isolate humans from nature in controlled experiments, we’ll likely never know. But whether we realize it or not, I do believe we’re all feeling repercussions of the stresses being felt in nature and in the other creatures and humans all around us.
Dan and I were recently talking about this and there is much being written on the topic , whether from the perspective of accepting the emerging reality of climate catastrophe or dealing with its aftermath. I get concerned when I see him seeming despondent or sleeping longer in a way that feels like avoidance of life in general. He said to me the other day, “It’s not depression. It’s more like…” “Apathy?” I suggested. While he agreed that sounded better, it took another day for someone else to suggest a better word. Resigned.
The changing environment is a legitimate source of distress already affecting many people, the report emphasized, and it has the potential to be psychologically destabilizing. “To compound the issue, the psychological responses to climate change, such as conflict avoidance, fatalism, fear, helplessness, and resignation are growing,” the APA wrote at the time. “These responses are keeping us, and our nation, from properly addressing the core causes of and solutions for our changing climate, and from building and supporting psychological resiliency.”Psychologists Declaration to Address Climate Change
There is a level of resignation as we realize that there is so little over which we have control and so much that is becoming chaotic and unfamiliar in the world around us. But for most of us, we’re oblivious to even this. There has been a lot more talk about climate change in the last 420 and some days since the IPCC report was issued. Here’s some interesting tidbits.
A large and growing empirical literature is exploring what drives denial. Personality is a factor: people are more likely to deny climate change if they’re inclined toward hierarchy and against changes to the status quo.
Demographic factors also show an effect. Internationally, people who are less educated, older and more religious tend to discount climate change, with sex and income having a smaller effect.
But the strongest predictor is one’s politics. An international synthesis of existing studies found that values, ideologies and political allegiances overshadowed other factors.
“…climate anxiety – like climate depression or climate rage – isn’t a pathology. It’s a reasonable and healthy response to an existential threat.”The sanity of climate anxiety – Christine Ro
One reason we can remain so oblivious to the pending existential crisis is that our minds cannot comprehend our own pending extinction – there is a mechanism in the brain that prevents it.
“the disintegrated nature of the human mind… now prevents virtually everyone from thinking, feeling, planning and behaving functionally in response to the multifaceted threats to humanity and the biosphere. …various parts of the human mind are no longer capable of working as an integrated unit. That is, each part of the mind – such as memory, thoughts, feelings, sensing capacities (sight, hearing…), ‘truth register’, conscience – function largely independently of each other, rather than as an integrated whole. The immediate outcome of this dysfunction is that human behavior lacks consideration, conviction, courage, and strategy, and is simply driven compulsively by the predominant fear in each context. … I observed individuals (ranging from people I knew, to politicians) behaving in ways that seemed outrageous but it was also immediately apparent that the individual was completely unaware of the outrageous nature of their behavior. On the contrary, it seemed perfectly appropriate to them. With the passage of time, however, I have observed this dysfunctionality in an enormously wide variety of more subtle and common forms, making me realize just how widespread it is even if it goes largely unrecognized.”Robert J. Burrowes July, 2019
While we are often unable to discern the dangers to humanity because of this mental disintegration and cognitive dissonance, there is also a new occurrence I’m noticing in my life and I found a term for it recently:
Blissonance is the state when a blissful experience in nature is concurrently recognized as a sign of impending doom.
It is my recognition of the cognitive dissonance of our climate catastrophe reality where a spectrum of perspectives arises. Some can see the beautiful 70-degree sunny day in mid-winter Minnesota as a blessed opportunity for some vitamin-D. So they get the gas-burning machines out and ride around in them to “enjoy nature”. [Yep. I’ve done that.] Some can see the beautiful rays of sunshine and bask in their warmth and simply enjoy the moment that is. [Done that too…] But many of us enjoy the loveliness but cringe at the realization that this is a new world that is no longer familiar.
I had this realization as I was outside peeing and looking at the grass peeking from the snow and feeling the warm day. It was lovely, yes. But I realized it was an early winter day that felt like spring. You could almost hear all the trees yawning as if this short nap had been winter and now spring was coming. It should be colder and snowier by this time of year, based on the last couple winters. But the weather is so wacky some days it’s hard to know what time of year it is. And the intensity of our weather is getting scary: 2”+ rainfalls, 70 MPH winds, 50-degree+ temperature swings in a single day. It’s almost as if Gaia IS INDEED kicking us to the curb. The environment is rapidly changing to the point that we may not be able to evolve to live within the changing parameters.
And mankind will work to change or mitigate – at least for the wealthy few. We make fertilizers at plants in poor neighborhoods so rich people’s lawn’s can be coaxed to a lush green. We extract in poor areas – or are areas poor because we extract there? – and then leave behind the polluted mess once all the resources have been stripped. We care little for those who live in these extractive economy areas. Or we must because so little is done to change our ways of being with each other. And we care little for those neighborhoods where we site our refineries, bringing a legacy of health concerns and cancers to the air, land and water nearby. And we grow food for all these people in pesticide and herbicide drenched fields – so sure the poisons on the fields won’t have an impact on the poor souls who survive on the produce. Meanwhile the wealthy shop at Whole Foods and Costco and Trader Joe’s to obtain health-inducing foods.
Because we live in a closed system, we’re generating waste and carcinogens in a closed-loop system in which we live. What we do to our environment, we do to ourselves. And we can think we’re doing it in neighborhoods far, far away but the ecosystem is all connected. Sooner or later we all will pay the piper for the impacts.
Humans have become like a cancerous growth on the face of the planet. We consume and extract at rates that are not sustainable as we careen toward our doom. Many are already experiencing the doom, some have been for quite some time. But now that white colonizer world is feeling the stings… perhaps we’ll see some real action.
I look around and feel little hope for it. Most of us are too comfortable living our air-conditioned lives, driving here and there, flying around the world, eating food from across the continent. We cannot be bothered to engage any change that might bring discomfort to our status quo, no matter how happy it might make us if we do…
Some argue that we’ll find refuge in space. But even if we go to space, we will still be living in closed loop systems. And in space, all of it will be man-made. Perhaps a few will find a way but most of us are resigned to remaining here on our home planet, our Mother Earth.
The wonderful thing about Earth is that She and humans have co-evolved and thus we have the power to exist quite cooperatively. But mankind has removed himself so much from nature that today many children have no notion of the source of their food. They do not see carrots as growing in the garden but instead as coming in a plastic bag from the grocery store. They do not comprehend that macadamia nuts come from so far away (for us here in the Midwest, anyway) or that the meat we eat requires a whole system of slaughter and preparation. They have no connection to the lives that give them life. Some are horrified as the lion captures the gazelle on TV but how different is that from our own eating? Our methods may differ but it is still a life taking a life whether carrots or cattle. We just tend to use a lot more middlemen.
Everything is interconnected. Here at the Harn, we try to work within the system for simplicity and synergy. We are FAR from sustainable and still rely on the outside world food system for much of our food. But we work each year to increase the amount we can produce for ourselves. This past few weeks we’ve spent several days processing deer (and one goat). We’ve helped our friends and we’ve secured some new meat for our larder. In addition to feeling responsible and accountable for our food, we have the added benefit to know exactly WHAT our food is. We don’t have to eat the thousand cow hamburger. And that is a step toward saner eating.
And all this is a big circle back to being more in touch with the land upon which you live. This circle is like so much of life in that it can bring bigger and bigger returns. Nature doesn’t need all the tilling and fertilizers to grow food – why don’t we learn from Her? We are doing that at the Harn and finding that solutions beget solutions, we see better and more circular systems that feed each other. I think maybe we’re learning to live like Nature. When we have abundance, we share. When we need, we ask, and others share with us. More often than not, we don’t even have to ask! I’m learning to walk in some new way where life leads me a bit more than the other way around (although I do plenty of that too). And I am learning to trust. This discovery that each solution brings others and this realization gives some level of hope.
I heard someone say they are longing for the collapse of industry as it will bring a new green future when we are forced to stop our current ways. A friend who loves word play (actually I love that she plays in ALL aspects of life) who shared this with me today:
A-pa-collapse, our-ma-get-in (the end of the world as we know it)Liz LaFlur & White Wolf
Meanwhile, more of us are thinking and talking about HOW we’re all dealing with whatever comes next. And we’re talking about what we can do to improve our systems. This article on Alaska makes pretty clear what many climate activists are feeling – utter sadness and grief.
I’ve begun to live quite a bit more daily of late and am finding it brings an interesting peace and abundance. I am finding the most magical of paths as I move through each day, gifts of fellowship and storytelling, music and food, happiness and peace. I find new ideas, hugs, smiles, songs, friends, and new friends!! And this joy and beauty makes the hopelessness of the planetary situation a bit more palatable.
If we’re in the end game, perhaps we can at least enjoy each other’s company while we have time. And share joy and abundance wherever and whenever we can. I’m personally finding that the best thing I can do is provide kindness to all my fellow travelers. I hope you find some kindness today. Sharing some will surely bring it your way.