Did you ever wonder what it would be like to live through a transition of enormous significance?
Would you be aware every day that radical transformation is taking place?
Logic tells me that we would notice changes all around us. Yet, my experience is telling me this is not true. Right now, the earth we inhabit is undergoing rapid climate change and, although, we hear the term everyday, most of us do not notice much of a difference. But a few people are taking notice and trying to get the rest of us to pay attention.
Roy Scranton is one of these people. Those who scoff at climate change as something that only hippy-dippy tree-huggers care about might be surprised to learn that Scranton is a veteran who served a tour in Iraq during the early years of the Invasion. In his recent opinion piece for The Stone, he tries to wake us up to what is happening right before our eyes.
He does not quote spokespersons for environmental organizations. Instead, he repeats the dire warnings of military and civilian leaders who are concerned about how national security is compromised by climate change and the resulting extreme weather events.
“This chorus of Jeremiahs predicts a radically transformed global climate forcing widespread upheaval — not possibly, not potentially, but inevitably. We have passed the point of no return. From the point of view of policy experts, climate scientists and national security officials, the question is no longer whether global warming exists or how we might stop it, but how we are going to deal with it.”
In other words, it is happening now. We are already living through a transition of enormous significance whether we choose to pay attention or not. So significant, in fact, that geologists are considering the addition of an new epoch to the Geological Time Scale. It would be called the Anthropocene and it is NOW. As the name suggests, this epoch is characterized by the effect the human species has on the earth’s geology.
So what does all this mean for us right now? Scranton suggests that we have to learn how to die “as a civilization.” In other words, during this epoch, the big philosophical questions about the meaning of individual lives and individual deaths will be overshadowed by the death of our civilization as we know it.
Sounds extreme, doesn’t it? Sounds like something that would pretty hard to ignore, right?
Apparently not, because most of us are pretty good at ignoring what is happening to our only real home, the earth. It is as if we have all agreed upon an unspoken pact of ignorance; believing somehow that if we don’t pay attention to it, it won’t really happen. Sure the climate is getting warmer, droughts are more severe and longer lasting, storms of all types are more extreme, but if we pretend it doesn’t matter, it won’t matter.
Why have so many of us decided to just ignore what is happening?
Maybe it is because noticing it and thinking about it means we have to do something. If we don’t want the world – not just the earth itself, but also civilization- to be radically different within 100 years, then we have to find solutions. Those solutions require extensive shifts in the way we live, the way we grow and produce food, the way we raise animals and crops, the way we travel, the homes we live in, even the clothes we wear.
How can we make those radical shifts if we don’t first have a massive shift of consciousness? A shift that starts with recognizing that we are all now, at this very minute, living through a transition of enormous significance. Yes, you and I and the little kid down the street and the old lady next door, all of us are living at a time of great consequence. We have been chosen by God, or the universe, the spirit world or random chance to guide ourselves and this planet on which we live through a period of vast change. How we live through that change and what kind of future we pass on to the generations that follow after us depends on how we respond now.
Roy Scranton article
Some books to read on the topic
Tropic of Chaos by Christian Parenti – a description of the chaos caused by climate change, serious and bleak, but not without hope that humans can change the path we are now on.
Cows Save the Planet by Judith D. Schwartz – this book is a call to action with actual things we can do to heal the earth. This book gives me hope. I urge everyone to read it.
I Call Myself Earth Girl by Jan Krause Greene – visionary fiction with an environmental and spiritual message about the times we live in and the future that we create. (Yes, it is my novel.)