Taking the Second Path

I’ve been studying an article that is labeled a Cultural Comment, written by Jonathan Franzen that was just published in The New Yorker. The title and subtext is “What if We Stopped Pretending the Climate Apocalypse Can Be Stopped? The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it”.

“To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it” is the point of the article. We are at a crossroads now.

If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.

What if We Stopped Pretending the Climate Apocalypse Can Be Stopped? by Jonathan Franzen

We have to choose between two paths. One is to keep hoping we can prevent catastrophe from happening. The second path is to explore what can be done if we start with the assumption that catastrophe is unavoidable. That frees us to work on how we can respond to the chaos we are beginning to see, and that will become worse and more widespread.

As I wrote after hurricane Harvey in 2017, “if we don’t talk about the climate context of Harvey, we won’t be able to prevent future disasters and get to work on that better future. Those of us who know this need to say it loudly. As long as our leaders, in words, and the rest of us, in actions, are OK with incremental solutions to a civilization-defining, global-scale problem, we will continue to stumble toward future catastrophes.” https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/harvey-and-the-near-future/

Our resources aren’t infinite. Even if we invest much of them in a longest-shot gamble, reducing carbon emissions in the hope that it will save us, it’s unwise to invest all of them. Every billion dollars spent on high-speed trains, which may or may not be suitable for North America, is a billion not banked for disaster preparedness, reparations to inundated countries, or future humanitarian relief.

All-out war on climate change made sense only as long as it was winnable. Once you accept that we’ve lost it, other kinds of action take on greater meaning. Preparing for fires and floods and refugees is a directly pertinent example. But the impending catastrophe heightens the urgency of almost any world-improving action. In times of increasing chaos, people seek protection in tribalism and armed force, rather than in the rule of law, and our best defense against this kind of dystopia is to maintain functioning democracies, functioning legal systems, functioning communities. In this respect, any movement toward a more just and civil society can now be considered a meaningful climate action. Securing fair elections is a climate action. Combatting extreme wealth inequality is a climate action. Shutting down the hate machines on social media is a climate action. Instituting humane immigration policy, advocating for racial and gender equality, promoting respect for laws and their enforcement, supporting a free and independent press, ridding the country of assault weapons—these are all meaningful climate actions. To survive rising temperatures, every system, whether of the natural world or of the human world, will need to be as strong and healthy as we can make it.

What if We Stopped Pretending the Climate Apocalypse Can Be Stopped? by Jonathan Franzen

In thinking about the future, the most common, fundamental error one can make is to start from the assumption that our daily lives will continue basically as they are today, and nothing could be further from the truth. Once one begins to understand that, the other fundamental error is to believe there is time to prepare for the coming changes. Instead, once you begin to understand the changes that are coming, you realize much of that is already happening, but most people haven’t yet put what appear to be independent events into the correct context of the whole picture.

One of the reasons Friends MUST engage with communities currently experiencing racial, economic and environmental injustice is because these communities have been struggling with the deteriorating conditions that are quickly spreading to all communities, TO ALL OF US. It is not (only) because we have always been called to help those who experience injustice, but because these communities understand the changes that are already, quickly, coming to us, and they are already creating solutions. We need the knowledge that they have to teach us.

Preparing for the Future, Jeff Kisling, 7/5/2016

“The direction and harmony of these global changes depend on upon the values that are inspiring the change. When these values are life- preserving and life-enhancing, we will move forward to a new, just global civilization. If these values continue to be about short-term, materialistic gains solely, we will continue to experience a deepening cycle of death and destruction.

It is becoming clearer and clearer, with every passing day, that walking a prayerful, peaceful spiritual path is the only way forward to a just, sustainable, and harmonious world.”

Prophecies, Unprecedented Change and the Emergence of a New Global Civilization, 2017-2020, Walking the Red Road, 12/20/2016

This entry was posted in climate change, climate refugees, peace, Quaker, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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