A once and future self: “… some readers might understandably demur when I say nothing at all about burning issues like climate change. I can only respond that, as you will see, it is not my purpose, in what I hope will become a dispassionate Man and Nature conversation, to distract our minds with reflexive fears of inconveniencing human self-interest; but it is my hope rather to broaden our focus, both positively and deliberately, so it might accommodate deeper causes and higher consequences. For is it possible even, to respond as we must, ‘as a species’, to climate change, without knowing who, or what, we are? — from the Introduction to ‘Darwin, Dogen, … etc.’
I haven’t written anything for this blog in over five months, and in fact, for the last entry I asked Jeremy Lent if he would allow me to post a piece from his page https://patternsofmeaning.com. His words were so much more relevant than anything I was able to say at the time. I‘ve been too involved as part of a small group of seniors who are bothering passers-by on the streets of my home town with signs, petitions, and arguments calling for serious action to mitigate Climate Change. So then… I guess I’d better revisit the above statement now, hadn’t I?
I’ve learned a lot about the mental obstacles, and the political and economic forces, ranged against Climate Activism over the last year or two from the feedback I’ve been getting, both on the street and on my Facebook blog, https://www.facebook.com/extremophilepub/ ; so let me bring you up to date on the many trains of thought I’ve come on board with during this “distraction”. Don’t worry, I’m only going to talk about the three that point in the most promising directions for me.
The arguments I’ve been hearing against human caused global warming have been so very narrowly focused, and outright misinformed, that you can just feel the hand of corporate interests at work pulling on the powerful, yet conveniently irresponsible, threads of social media. And given the lack of effort to engage with obvious counterarguments in these climate denial memes, I can only assume the propagators are malicious, and are therefore open to prosecution under the law—just as soon, that is, as our parliament can make changes to the outdated, pre-social-media, criminal code. In fact, our laws already prohibit the counselling of suicide; is this not effectively what fossil fuel lobbyists are doing now? I have hope that even the threat of prosecution down the road might have a cooling effect on these malicious disinformation campaigns. That’s direction number one.
I’ve also been thinking about the mild dis-ease, and the too-easy dismissals and distractions, that passers-by have demonstrated. (We have a petition set out on our little collapsible table, and those who know enough not to dismiss the science can nevertheless get a small sense of relief by just signing it and walking away—feeling they’ve done their part perhaps?) It’s hard not to feel that our tiny swarm of elder gadflies is pestering a very fat and reluctant donkey in a race against time passing like a fiery but blinkered thoroughbred. In fact it didn’t take the smoldering firebrands among us very long at all to see that our quiet pleading, and easy “thank-you”s, must somehow break into a proper blaze too! A fierce war cry, with a girding of loins, that is to say of expectations, firm enough to withstand at the very least the shock of paying one’s fair share of taxes—a sacrifice which is obviously going to be needed to support a wartime shift of economy and industry. This war-cry attitude is a second direction that climate activism must take. And from what I’ve been hearing, this effort to go beyond “climate emergency” may be getting some traction. Here is our Parry Sound war-cry in the form of a petition addressed to the Canadian House of Commons:
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TO The House of Commons: –
WHEREAS the Government of Canada has signed the 2015 Paris agreement to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2° above preindustrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°; and WHEREAS the Government has since declared a national climate emergency upon becoming aware of the dire consequences in wildfires, flooding and permafrost-melting even at the present increase of only 1°; and WHEREAS climate change is being caused by the accumulated emissions of developed countries for two centuries, yet it disproportionately impacts the poorest people and poorest countries with the least responsibility and fewest resources to mitigate or adapt;
WE the undersigned petition the Government of Canada as follows: –
WE ASK the Government of Canada to immediately focus all its actions through the lens of the declared climate emergency so as to assure that we do more than our strictly numerical share to avoid reaching a 1.5° global temperature increase; and WE ASK the Government to proactively communicate the urgency and fairness of this responsibility to its citizens as it would in a state of war, considering the stakes are as high, or higher.
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But has history, or even prehistory for that matter, really programmed us to make war on Climate Change? This is the problem in a nutshell isn’t it? We seem to be evolved to fight an ‘enemy’ over ‘territory’—either geographical or ideological—but neither of these apply here do they? The Climate Change enemy is uncharacteristically Global, and it comports itself like an unstoppable ‘fact’ before which we can only retreat—the young into a present of fatalist self-indulgence and the old into a past of “American Dream”. And then again, supposing even that we could identify climate change as an enemy we can relate to on our preferred level of ‘us and them’, who is ‘us’? It’s not enough to fight against something; you can’t really mobilize a human cohort unless it knows what it is fighting for. A real soldier wants to win!
But win what? We must fight as a ‘species’, but we can’t agree on the endgame. I’m going to give my own experience here, and say the dichotomy that many in the activist business want to set up is this: an “indigenous mindset” of rediscovering our connectedness with one another and with Nature, vs a “capitalist mindset” of willy-nilly acquisition of power in an each-against-all world. This sounds pretty convincing, right? The makings of a good brawl? We’ve got ideology in the mix for sure, and certainly the accumulation of property, wealth and power represent various forms of ‘territoriality’. But what if we take a minute to stand back from our ‘programming’ a little.
We might begin by observing that it is now abundantly clear to everyone, everyone that is with a passing knowledge of natural history, or even of human history, that Nature does not need us. But what about the other half of this meme as it’s currently being propagated? What does it mean to say, “but we need Nature”? A student of natural and human history can just as easily argue (as I’ve done on this website) that we do not need, or at present even want, Nature in its authentic form (i.e. a richness of predators and other species taking up space we presently ‘farm’ for human consumables). Since at least the invention of the plow, the human population has far outstripped the carrying capacity of any Natural ecosystem. Think about this. If this was true in the distant past, what should we expect for the future of Humans and Nature? The real “indigenous mindset” is only possible for widely dispersed bands of hunter-gatherers, not hinterland farmers—like the Inca and the Pueblo “civilizations”.
And then, what about those “capitalists”? If we agree that humankind must become more restrictive in our encroachment on Natural habitats, then we do need, if not capitalism in its acquisitive form, then certainly a very high degree of ‘freedom’ in our ‘enterprise’—especially if we are going to fight Climate Change in a globally transformative way! Of course, only the most privileged few among us seem to feel entitled to un-governed freedom, and I will be arguing later that we, or the corporate powers that be, seem to have conveniently forgotten what democratic government is for when we globalized trade before we globalized its social governance. So, yes, we need to draw some such social/economic distinctions for the sake of neighbourly argument and eventual coordination, but we do not need to draw them so boldly, that is in such polarizing terms, that human beings trip over them when the real enemy, Global Warming, comes scorching the commons, blowing down the doors, and flooding the cellars! We will need all these traditional human ‘enemies’ to fight together in the coming Global War.
So here is the question I personally think we must answer now: how do we, as a ‘species’, agree on what it is we’re fighting for when it seems to be in our very natures to fight only one another? This search for an unarguable human identity, especially in respect to the Natural World, is what the https://www.extremophilechoice.com/ blog has been all about from the beginning. And this is why, the non-conformist part of me at least, still wants to find a way to reach beyond the legal arguments, and the climate change war-cries, and return to the Extremophile Choice message. This is my attempt at a third direction.