“What it means to be alive in a time like this” (by Patrick Farnsworth)

This is an excerpt from “Wilderness of Mine Afflictions”, Patrick Farnsworth’s introduction to his newly released book, We Live in the Orbit of Beings Greater Than Us, available for sale at Gods & Radicals Press.

The questions that Patrick raises here are at the center of this this project, Another End of the World of Possible.

Patrick notes that the natural systems upon which we depend for life are being disrupted and human extinction has become a very real possibility. But …


… But to understand it on an intellectual level is really just the first step in the process of radically accepting this information.

It’s one thing to come to that conclusion objectively and to see the information as it is, and it’s another thing entirely to accept it on an emotional, spiritual, and animal level, to really know what it means to be alive in a time like this.

I come to this work with a sense of empathy and compassion for those I am living with on this planet, for my fellow brothers and sisters that were born in this time. When I first started this work, I felt I had to present this information aggressively, that I would have to shout this truth from the mountaintop, to say unabashedly: “We’re going to go extinct, so straighten the fuck up and act accordingly (whatever that means).”

But I realized that just as much as this is a time to speak the truth, this is also a time to be very gentle and humble, to understand that people are now seeing the writing on the wall in one way or the other—whether they consciously acknowledge it or not. It’s very important to understand the feelings that come up when the truth of our collective predicament is faced, and that our reactions can lead us in very different directions.

How you, how we, choose to proceed with this knowledge is the most important question for us right now.

So much of what we’re hearing right now in climate and environmental activism is framed within the imperative to act. Action, action, action! We have to do something right now, now, now! As it is often framed, we only have twelve, or ten, or five years left before the climate system hits some arbitrary, politically agreeable threshold of no return, a Rubicon that once crossed, we’ll never be able to come back from.

The truth is, we’ve already crossed the Rubicon. Regardless of what we do right now, global climate change is happening, with enough heat baked into the system to guarantee several degrees of warming just from the heat trapped in the oceans alone. That heat is irrevocable, and the level and rate of change currently underway is likely beyond our capacity to survive.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t do something, that there aren’t actions that are meaningful, important, or necessary right now. The point here is to ask the question: what kind of actions are we supposed to engage in now, within the proper context and understanding that I and so many others have outlined?

If you want to engage in political action and social change, what kind of action is worthy of our love, dedication, and rage in a time like this? Whatever it may be, how you treat your fellow human beings and nonhuman life on this planet has to be within the understanding that we may not have much time left. And so how do you want to be? What is the most sacred and beautiful way that you can be in this time, with the full awareness that we don’t really have a lot of time to fuck around?

This is by no means meant to disempower you. There is a delusional view going around that hope itself is a facilitator for action. In my view, hope—especially hope grounded in the logic of this system—occludes us from engaging in the actions that are required of us right now. As my friend Barbara Cecil has said, “Hope is fundamentally an avoidance of an essential risk that needs to be taken.”

When I talk about action, I’m coming from a radical perspective. When I interview people about what we can do, I’m not looking at it from this sort of institutionalized perspective that we often hear in mainstream activism, this nonviolent, defanged thing where we appeal to authorities and governments to do the work for us. They’re not going to do it for us. It doesn’t actually benefit them to do it, whatever “it” may be.

Whatever proposals, agreements, or legislation they present will never get to the root of the matter. They want to keep the system going as long as possible, even if that means further plundering the earth, exploiting and extracting as much as they possibly can before the big game is up. They’re going to continue to do that unabated, except they are going to call it “green,” “sustainable,” or even “compassionate” and “conscious,” when it’s really just more of the same. As my friend Dahr Jamail would say it, it’s just “capitalism with a green leaf on it.”

The kind of actions I suggest we engage in may seem a bit radical and extreme, but considering where we’re at right now, that’s really the only meaningful type of action that I can see worth engaging in. I really just want to provide a space for people to comprehend, understand, and learn to be present, to not be in denial, to recognize that it is your sacred duty right now to be as present as possible, and every action that you take must come from that place of knowing.


To read the complete introduction, click here. And to order the book, click here.

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: