I will be at Battery Park in Manhattan starting at 3 p.m. tomorrow, live streaming on my Facebook page (made public).
Greta Thunberg scheduled to address the crowd at 5 p.m.
With commentary by me – join me!
Last night in the opening National Football League bore-fest, the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 10-3 in front of a standing room only crowd of 62,435 at Soldier Field in Chicago, who were, no doubt, very tired when the game ended.
What does this have to do with climate anything?
I suppose we could add up all the carbon expended by the cars that drove, the lights that shone and the hot dogs consumed but everyone gets that. Putting a number on it engenders a yawn.
No, for me, the NFL season-opener, with a packed house and a national TV audience is indicative to me that ordinary life will, of course, continue until it can’t.
The Amazon, Central Africa and the Arctic are still burning. Just because the news editors got bored with the story doesn’t mean the disaster stopped. It’s just that here in the US, we have a sexier disaster occupying our screens – Hurricane Dorian (Dorian? What’s next, Hurricane Hortense?) which was most likely turbocharged by climate warming although if you missed CNN’s 60 seconds with Dr. Michael Mann you probably didn’t know that.
India and Africa continue to run out of water. The permafrost continues to melt, and methane continues to reach Heavenward to hasten our demise.
But the NFL Will Go On. (yes, go ahead and sing it in your best Celine Dion accent)
I’ve been a football (US version) fan all my life. The present-day NFL only dimly resembles the game I remember as a kid in the 70s, but I still watch, out of habit (and rooting for the Steelers) more than anything. I used to live and die with the results, especially of my hometown Cleveland Browns when I was growing up, but when my adopted Pittsburgh Steelers lose, I feel about five minutes of disappointment, shrug, and see whose on Twitter.
That’s a good thing I guess. I would chalk it up to maturity, but I think it’s more likely the dulling of the senses from anti-deps that have done the job. I stare at the TV when Trump is on. In my head things happen (very bad things) but I don’t move. I look at my laptop screen – same thing. I stare at things, I disassociate, I have that dumb thousand-mile stare so many Americans have.
I know what is happening with the Sixth Mass Extinction. I know what is happening right now all over the world. And yet, there it is: football on TV just like last year and the year before and the decade before and so on. In fact, the NFL celebrates 100 years of existence this year. I know it won’t go another 100 years, but it’s here again.
It’s reassuring. To me, to millions of Americans. The NFL only cancelled two weekends of football ever – 9-11 and JFK’s assassination. And Commissioner Pete Rozelle always regretted his decision of 1963 – the nation needed football to heal, he said.
What might be the first sign in NFL-land and in fandom, that something was amiss?
Well, flooding could halt games at the stadiums close to the water. The perfect candidate would be TIAA Bank Field, the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The stadium sits about 500 feet from the St. Johns River which runs to the Atlantic. However, being Jacksonville, the rest of the league may not notice it. Levi’s Stadium, home of the ‘Santa Clara’ 49ers, sits one foot above sea level.
Perhaps, and just as likely, it might get so hot at the University of Phoenix stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play, that, despite the roof, electrical circuits could fry, and one might risk heat stroke just walking from the blazing parking lot.
It might get too hot to play in many open-air stadiums – Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City, many others.
But I would say that unless and until fans start routinely seeing games rescheduled because of weather-related events, most Americans will sit comfortably in their chairs and dream of Super Bowls. Baseball won’t count since it’s played in the summer. But the NFL, the acknowledged number one sport in the USA, start turning out the lights there (power outages would do it too) and people will finally sit up and take notice.
They’ll be mad as Hell, but they’ll take notice. Of course, it will be way too late at that point to do anything about it.
Of course, it’s sad. Sad that until the entertainment is interrupted most Americans won’t care. But as long as all of the usual distractions go on while the rest of the world burns and floods, this is the way it will be.
And when we reach that point in time in America, all Hell will break loose.
If you’ve been following the entirety of abrupt climate change, you’ve probably been unable to turn on your computer without being hit with a story about how the issue is starting to affect people’s mental health.
I had to pause and think about it myself – how am I dealing?
I recently had a Facebook friend lecture me in a long text about how I was probably too hip deep in all the gloom and it was affecting my general disposition on the Internet. She also seemed to imply that I was bringing everyone down.
Well, no doubt my climate change FB page (Approaching Oblivion – FB won’t let me change it to Last Dance because they’re stupid) has light readership – and very few comments or reactions. I ‘reacted’ to that criticism (since I’m Borderline, I tend to take it as a personal attack) by loading up the site that night with at least six pertinent bad news stories within an hour.
Well, it hit me – I could practically have done that all night.
And then of course, after I have my ‘reaction,’ I thought – is this true?
Well, it’s not. Actually, her reaction was exactly what I am aiming at. I want people to get upset. I’ve been an expert at pissing people off all my life and now I have this moment to shine. You can’t ignore me . . . and what’s more, I’m right.
But enough about me. I’ve done some diving into the issue and it seems like climate angst is growing and, speaking just for the US, I think part of it is our culture: we don’t know how to handle terminal bad news.
In America, our privilege of wealth and, God I hate this term, ‘exceptionalism,’ has saddled our people with the expectation that things should always get better and that we will ultimately be protected from long term harm.
But America isn’t alone. The latest polling from the UK shows 85% of its’ citizens now worried about climate change as well.
And psychiatry is marshalling all it’s resources to
a lot of money off help those in need of comfort by prescribing a
billion more pills suggesting philosophies that my help people deal with
their impending doom.
Like this one from the Society for Humanistic Psychology Newsletter.
Now, for God’s sakes, DON’T READ IT, unless you want to know what Wittgenstein and Heidegger said about similar issues. If you want to know about the ‘great philosophers’ all you need is the same education I got, from Monty Python.
There are only two paragraphs that get to the heart of the matter and, as usual, psychologists, being great at burying their ledes (yes, that is how it is spelled in journalism, a far more reputable profession), finally got round to the point at the end:
It also announces, I now add, the shattering of metaphysical illusions of earth’s permanence and indestructability. The human way of being cannot survive the impending homelessness with which climate change threatens us, a prospect so horrifying that people turn away from it altogether, thereby evading the threat and abandoning the search for solutions. (Such apocalyptic homelessness is foreshadowed concretely in the destruction of individual homes and other buildings by massive storms, floods, wildfires and other manifestations of global warming.)
Well, yes. A better translation for those of us who didn’t major in psychology in university is: ‘obvious weather anomalies show us we are ultimately fucked.’ (I like big words too, but brevity, man, brevity!)
(all emphasis mine) What can help us face up to the horrors with which climate change threatens us? I suggest a form of dwelling with one another that I call emotional dwelling (Stolorow & Atwood, 2018), an active, engaged, participatory comportment that I have recommended for the therapeutic approach to emotional trauma. In dwelling, one leans into the other’s emotional pain and participates in it. The language that one uses to address another’s experience of trauma meets the trauma head-on, articulating the unbearable and the unendurable, saying the unsayable, unmitigated by any efforts to soothe, comfort, encourage or reassure — such efforts invariably being experienced by the other as a turning away from the experience of trauma. In order to tackle the overwhelming perils of climate change we must include in our dwelling on earth an emotional dwelling with one another that renders shared apocalyptic anxiety more tolerable.
This is the kind of nonsense you can expect if you seek psychiatric attention for your climate angst.
The translation into common language is: misery loves company.
There now, wasn’t that simple?
Perhaps, then, the healthiest response to the end of human life on earth as we know it, is to invite your best friends over for an end of the world party and reminisce about past glories while getting absolutely shitfaced on the alcohol of your choice until your ‘dwelling’ is swept away by a flood or destroyed by a tornado see: Luxembourg.
So, there’s the plan. Don’t we all feel better now?
If not, remember the following:
I find I have less time or patience with the nonsense (celebrity news) being peddled by mainstream news sources. I am spending more time in climate groups on Facebook (and less time on other parts of Facebook) and Reddit.
My main area of research is the psychological effects of climate change. There’s a lot of nonsense surrounding that subject as well.
I fear that Big Psych is looking at this as a new practice field, or, if you will, a new (short-lived as it may be) revenue stream as if they need one in a nation overtaken by neurosis of all kinds.
This will lead toward a kind of exploitation where therapists will go looking for climate news explanations for symptoms that may have nothing to do with the problem presenting. Suggesting, however, could make it so. That is why I have, as of yet, held back on talking to this with my therapist. I think for now, I will deal with it by myself.
Despite the Gallup poll numbers given in the story above, I do not think that climate psychosis is a major problem in this country yet. There are too many competing neurosis and conditions right now and most people in the US just don’t see it yet. I think in many cases; the poll questions can lead the subject: ‘should I be worried about this? Oh yes, I guess I should; being a good and smart person and all.’
When the realization hits, the sudden 20% spike in grocery prices, the overnight shortages of vegetables and grains, regional power failures lasting days, etc., there will be an anxiety-fueled rush to the shrinks, to the liquor cabinets, the opiate stash, whatever. It’s what Americans do, and I expect nothing less.
It is imperative for those of us who are on the climate sites on FB and Reddit to be there for these people when the time comes. I have made the statement on these groups not to shame these people now or make them feel ignorant – because when they need a shoulder to cry on they won’t come to you.
The second imperative, and perhaps harder when the time comes, is to resist the temptation to wrap one’s arms around these poor folks and say ‘there, there, we’re all doomed together.’ One part of me says ‘what do they expect to be told – take out a 30-year mortgage, happy days are here again?’ Are we supposed to offer some form of ‘hopium?’
Perhaps the best thing is to treat the coming shattered societal walking wounded with hugs and silence. If they have anything to say, let them say it. If they have questions, be honest, but not cruel. The urge will be to say, ‘I told you so,’ but at that point, it will solve little.
And what will psychology say to these people that would help in any way? ‘Here’s a pill?’ ‘Practice mindfulness? Yoga? Dialectical Behavioral Therapy? Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise, etc.’
There will probably be a stage for all of this soul searching to go down. How long the desperate search for a mental ‘fix’ will last, I do not know – probably until the water shortages hit. Then I suppose most people will leave the psychologists to their DSM V’s and head for the gun stores.
To paraphrase Marley’s ghost, when asked by Scrooge to speak comfort to him, I must give his same reply “I have none to give.”
For now, we live in a twilight world; still filled with the modern conveniences and electronic toys. A hologram of fading civility and civilization even now fraying at the edges. The best advice I can give anyone right now is find your community, enjoy every day, and keep looking at the skies.
Where to find climate support and conversation groups online. Why agriculture won’t change it’s methods. Climate change to cause bumpier flights. Germany losing forests and the Rhine is drying up affecting shipping. Florida invasive species – don’t shoot those iguanas. Iguanas falling from trees!
Last man standing gets all the Moon Pies
If anyone was wondering how Trumpanistan would look like, here’s an example. pic.twitter.com/lzpOP1gvq1— Max Howroute▫️ (@howroute) August 9, 2019
Your AR-15 – don’t leave home without it!
Seriously, this shit is symptomatic of the US turning into a Banana Republic once societal collapse takes hold.
Won’t shopping at Wal-Mart be fun? Like the Yakuza on the street of Tokyo, just don’t look them in the eye. And leave your Bernie shirts at home. All it takes is one nut job to bust a cap and the crossfire in the toy aisle will resemble a John Woo movie.
This is Trump’s Unofficial Militia. When food gets scare the neckbeards with scary rifles are gonna come for their Twinkies and you better not get in their way.
How good is your imagination?
When I was a kid, between the abuse I got from my family and the abuse I endured from the nuns at Catholic school, I developed a rich inner world.
Translation: I lived in a vivid fantasy world.
It was my number one coping mechanism. All day long I would ‘daydream’ where I was the hero of the world inside my mind. At night, the wonderful ruminations would continue until I fell asleep, perchance to dream.
What did I dream about? Mostly I’d create scenarios in which girls would like me but also that I would someday be a football hero or a super soldier in some war movie.
As I got older and my mental illnesses coalesced, I would literally tune out. I would begin to disassociate, if the situation I was in was too unbearable.
But of all the scenarios I would construct for myself, daydreams would combine with disassociation and my life would become a movie. Being the star of my own movie was the longest lasting and most popular of all my fantasies. It would get so serious that I would literally be watching my own movie through my eyes.
I would add opening credits, opening music, a soundtrack, etc.
One of my favorite movie genres is apocalyptic or disaster movies. I have watched quite a few of them. Name one and chances are I’ve seen it. My favorite movie of all time is Dr. Strangelove which mixes humor with global thermonuclear war. And copulating like rabbit in mine shafts.
I realize I’ve gone a long way in this essay to get to the point. It’s coming.
So. I always wondered how I would react (or act) in such a movie.
So now, I’ve gotten my perverse wish – I’m a player in a disaster movie; a live action dystopian cinema with a cast of millions. But the movie we’re a part of contains a script that is written solely for us.
I’m in a movie. I’m well aware of the scenario and script. I’m watching it through my own eyes. Every news report, every conversation, every movie I make, I find that I’m reacting as if this all leads to a crisis.
Well, I don’t do this every waking moment (thank goodness), but enough. Surround yourself in climate crisis news long enough and your mind will start playing tricks on you as well.
Many people are looking for coping mechanisms to handle the whole idea of rapid climate change and the end of the world as we know it. This is serious stuff. Immersing oneself in the increasingly depressing realm of climate news are now sending people to psychologists. Some people are having a hard time functioning if they think too much about it.
It’s customary to quote Shakespeare here, so I will.
All the world’s a stage,— The Bard
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
This, of course, it literally true. So why not go with it?
In my quest to help people with this issue, I offer this coping action. Into climate activism? You’re playing a part. Into hedonism? You’re playing a part too. You can be the classic ‘method actor.’
Changing your kid’s diaper? Making the bed? Yep – you’re performing ordinary actions in an increasingly disorderly world. You write the script, you play your part, you do your best with your role. Drama is the spice of human existence.
Is this healthy? In the long run, probably not. But as a stopgap measure when things get too much to bear, putting yourself in a state of slightly altered reality will keep your mind occupied. It costs a whole lot less than therapy.