The loss of human life will probably reveal itself next week, when the weekly mortality figures are released. The loss of human potential will take a bit longer. Young children exposed to extreme heat suffer subtle brain damage that can be measured through reduced personal income at age 30. Children playing at a summer camp had to be hospitalized, because their brains reached temperatures of up to 42 degree. Compared to us humans, many other lifeforms are even more sensitive. Male insects exposed to extreme heat have their fertility damaged and insects exposed to consecutive heatwaves are practically sterilized. This is our second heatwave in a short period. Insects around the country have been decimated, by two consecutive droughts during the summer and now an extreme heatwave that is unprecedented in the historical record.
This is heady stuff, well written with care and concern. Yesterday’s record temps in Holland, as the author writes about, are not merely hot days to be endured, but have serious consequences in the long term that are not readily apparent.
What struck me the most about the author wrote was the need to understand that the beauty we see today as well as the animals and the insects, are not guaranteed to be there tomorrow so we must pay attention. We must, in order to appreciate what is leaving us, take mental pictures of what exists now. In other words – notice life around you.
The post ends on a wistful note, one that resonates with me. I know the insects are going away – so many less that what I remember from my youth. I thought it would be wonderful to be outside without the bugs. Now it just seems weird.
But it reminded me of one of my favorite songs that has been on my mind from time to time and always leaves me feeling sad.
Before the breathin’ air is gone Before the sun is just a bright spot in the night-time Out where the rivers like to run I stand alone and take back somethin’ worth rememberin’
As a person with mental illness, you would be correct to
wonder how I respond to all the increasingly dire climate news. After all,
although you wouldn’t know this, I’ve my periods of suicidal ideation.
I’ve found that I no longer have any periods of suicidal
How can that be?
To understand why that is, remember that each person with a
mental illness will see and react to things just a little bit differently that
someone who even has the same diagnosis.
Also remember, that the external motivations of those of us
so afflicted work in unexpected ways.
I no longer have suicidal ideation since the endgame of
abrupt climate change has placed an event horizon on my life anyway. I merely
have to give in to every sybaritic pleasure I’ve ever wanted to indulge in and
wait for the inevitable.
Having a 10-year (or less) event horizon on societal
collapse, renders quite a bit of the things that deeply worry me, well, moot.
In a way it’s like the tagline of my all-time favorite movie ‘Dr. Strangelove,’
or, how I learned to stop worrying and
love the bomb.
The fuel that runs my conditions and all their attendant symptoms are the things
ordinary people worry about all the time but get blown out of proportion by
myself. Things like: worrying about keeping my job, whether everyone can be
made to like me, will I ever find my purpose in life, am I going to die of
cancer, whether I have enough to retire on, etc. etc.
The likelihood of social collapse due to global climate
change has freed me from all that.
The one thing I have learned is not to worry about things
that are out of my control and climate change and societal collapse are WAY out
of my control.
And to add something else that must be admitted: the
medications I am on make it very easy for me not to worry about things I can’t
control. The downside is that I’m unable to experience joy.
It’s a necessary tradeoff, unfortunately. Me unmedicated is
not good for myself or anyone else.
I’ve spent a lifetime vainly trying to find a mission.
Climate change and societal collapse has given me one: you’re reading it. And
my podcast as well.
Why do I do it?
Because I can and do feel terrible for the people mentioned
in this article because I used to worry as they do – to the point of being all
but dysfunctional. It’s not their fault – worrying about having your future cut
short is very legitimate.
Being something of an empath, I don’t have to personally
know the people in the article to image the pain they are in. Everything I do
now is an attempt, in some small way, to help them.
I believe we must not lie about what is coming. My greatest
fear, one I still possess, is being blindsided by bad news. Setting people up
to be blindsided by the sudden realization that climate change and its
attendant societal collapse was not a Socialist plot by evil scientists is
going to hit people very hard.
Not that people shouldn’t protest or do what they can on a
local level to help the earth, but we need to be realistic: for every tree we
plant, Brazil cuts down 30 and the industrialized nations pump untold millions
of cubic tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the threat of a giant
methane threat looms. And with Trump and Johnson in charge of the US and the
UK, things will just get worse.
Physically, most people can bear a surprising amount of pain
and stress. Mentally, things are a different story nowadays. Western societies,
especially the US, have given their people the expectations that each
succeeding generation will have it better than the one before, technology will
free us from our mundane existence and provide us with so many wonderful toys,
and human progress is measured in an ever-increasing GDP which will one day
make everyone rich.
The whole idea that everything in that preceding paragraph
set us up for this disaster is something people are not handling well. They
shouldn’t be expected to.
This is not license for people like me to run around
pointing at people and screaming ‘you’re all gonna die and you deserve it you
Most people simply believed what they were told. And why
would the government and corporations lie to us? In the absence of other
competing information, what were people to think? Surely a climate Armageddon
seems so far-fetched!
Although I consider myself an agnostic now, I was raised
Catholic. In Catholic school, while my eyes glazed over during most classes, it
seems that Catholic social teaching, derided as it was at the time by many of
my classmates, stuck. And the whole ethos of Catholic social teaching can be
summed up thusly: ‘we are made for service to care for all men.’
The masses of people are going to have a hard time imagining
their hopes, dreams and aspirations being cut cruelly short. They deserve our
care and sympathy, not derision. The denialists, well, OK, they deserve
derision, but ordinary people need care.
I’m 56 years of age. It’s easy for me to say I’ve had a good
run. But for my sons, for your children, for those embarking on their adult
lives, for lives of those being born now, this is a monstrous thing.
Even if we can hold civilization together for 10 years or
more, our children will remember these times of relative plenty as they live on
a globe radically different than the one they knew just a scant decade ago.
What will we tell them? How will we prepare people for this?
How do we ease the pain of knowing, of realizing? How can we nurse humankind
into their fate?
There’s an oft-quoted line from the movie Braveheart: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
And there’s another, just as important: “I’m so afraid. Give me the strength to die well.”
Regarding the first quote it is imperative that we assist
people, not to stand in frozen terror, but to go out and live as they have
never lived before; to try everything they’ve ever wanted to do; go everywhere
they’ve wanted to go. If you feel called to devote the remainder of your life
to the Earth through Extinction Rebellion or another group – great! Bucket
lists must be honored. Enemies must be forgiven. We must reconcile ourselves to
whatever spirituality we seek. For the love of all that’s holy – live with
reckless abandon. The future truly is now.
As to the second one, if what I have suggested people do in
the paragraph above is done well, then dying well, whenever and however it
comes, will come with satisfaction of a life, perhaps shorted than we envisioned,
but just as well lived as any longer.
When I was in Catholic elementary school, we had a nun who
taught math to the junior high grades. In our intentions said at the beginning
of class, she would make us all pray for a happy death.
As you can imagine, this was quite a shock to 13-year-olds.
But as she explained it, the concept was very important. In her mind, when the
time came, we should look with favor upon our lives as servants to God and God
would look favorably upon us and, thus, we had nothing to fear from death but
only the grand expectation of an eternal afterlife.
For those of us not Catholic or Christian, a ‘happy death’
can mean being reconciled to all that is good in your life, forgiving
yourselves and others of transgressions, and having a minimum of regrets to how
one has spent their time on Earth. Or it can mean whatever the bloody Hell you
want it to mean.
I know one day that I will face the fear that my medication
and psychology has buried. Until that time, I must do what I can to help people
with the transition.
So, I dedicate this to all of healers of the Earth, of humanity, the people in the helping professions, all those who believe they are their brothers’ keeper. We all have work to do.