Yes, we must continue to rebel against the structures of power which have brought us to the brink of near-term extinction. At the same time, we must prepare for “inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction”. We can prepare by practicing Resilience, Relinquishment, Restoration, and–above all–Reconciliation.
All enduring human cultures have been shaped by the need to be worthy of what we take. Either we make our lives a part of a cycle of gift, or we become an engine of depletion, bringing about a desolation from which we will not escape. The fossil economy breaks the possibility of such a cycle. How many million years of dying in the forests and seas of the ancient world goes into one generation of living the way we have been doing around here lately?
We’re deniers every time we say “80 percent by 2050,” or even “80 percent by 2020”; every time we refer to tipping points in the future tense; every time we advocate substituting “clean” energy for “dirty” energy; every time we buy a squiggly light bulb or a hybrid vehicle; every time we advocate for cap-and-trade, or even a carbon tax; every time we countenance the mention of loopy geoengineering schemes; every time we invoke the future of our children and grandchildren and ignore the widespread suffering from global climate disruption today.
“It was kind of crushing to discover that the things I believed in weren’t real, first of all, and then to discover not only are the solar panels and wind turbines not going to save us … but (also) that there is this whole dark side of the corporate money … It dawned on me that these technologies were just another profit center.”
Human civilization is a fire. It’s been burning since we’ve been human. And the human story is not a straight line, but a circle, a great ring of fire.
On a scale not seen before, people are having an encounter with climate change not as a problem that can be solved or managed, made to go away, or reconciled with some existing arc of progress, but as a dark knowledge that calls our path into question, that starts to burn away the stories we were told and the trajectories our lives were meant to follow, the entitlements we were brought up to believe we had, our assumptions about the shape of history, the kind of world we were born into and our place within it.