“Preparing for the end of the world as we know it” by the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures Collective

This is an excerpt. You can read the complete article here.


Maria Jara has taught us that, in the lived practice of sumac kawsay, “dying well” is just as important as “living well,” as they are in fact part of the same cycle. Yet, this is never translated into texts promoting “buen vivir” to Western audiences because in Western societies, death and dying are generally understood as events to be avoided and feared.

Death doulas working in Western societies, who provide end-of-life support services for people in palliative care, face a recurrent problem. In a situation when someone receives the diagnosis of a terminal disease and a relative suggests that the family should contact a death doula, there is invariably resistance, sometimes aggressive resistance, to the suggestion. The relative who makes the suggestion is often perceived to be welcoming death by proposing that the family should accept death, rather than fight for a miracle that can save the diagnosed person’s life. When the event of death finally occurs, sometimes the relative is blamed for death’s arrival, as if by talking about death and dying or by preparing for death we necessarily speed up the process.

Talking about the potential or likelihood of social and ecological collapse in Western societies follows the same pattern. People generally avoid this topic or deny its relevance in order to maintain a sense of hope in the futurity and continuity of the existing system. Many assume that, once people accept the likelihood of collapse, they will stop fighting for climate action and indulge in fatalistic behaviour since there is no utility maximizing or teleological motivation to act. Accepting the potential or likelihood of social and/or ecological collapse, in this case, is equated with speeding it up.

However, many non-Western cultures, including many Indigenous cultures, do not approach death, dying or the potential or likelihood of collapse in this way. Societies that see death and life as integral to each other have processes and protocols of coordination and preparedness to deal with the inevitability of change, pain, loss and death that are unimaginable in Western societies. …

… we have come to see the violence and unsustainability of the world as we know it, which maintains the comforts and securities we enjoy, as something that we need to learn from and that needs to die with integrity. This needs to happen so that we can heal and open up the possibility for another, potentially wiser, world to come into being that exceeds what we can currently imagine.

In this sense, we can say not only that “another world is possible,” but also that “another end of the world is possible.” If we do not learn the lessons of our current system, nor learn to face its death in a generative way, then we might refuse to let it go when its time comes, holding on to it at any cost and possibly leading to further violence. What’s more, we might continue to repeat the mistakes of this system in the context of whatever comes after it.

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.

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