I mention something I read about seaweed and eroding equatorial beaches because we used to live near the most stunning equatorial beaches for a while and he tells me about sea urchins' reaction to a warming ocean (not good) and somehow this exchange happens:
R: What causes population growth?
R: But population growth causes poverty. (Careful. He is testing me, ever the teacher.)
Me: No. People have many children to survive in hard times, not the other way around.
R: But wealthy people also have lots of kids.
Me: Not to that extent.
R: So what causes poverty?
R: What causes injustice? (Careful, he is testing me again.)
R: What causes capitalism? (Here we go.)
R: What causes greed? (That man knows not when to shut up.)
Me: A feeling of superiority, entitlement . . .
R: What is the cause of that?
R: (Big sigh.) You mean the institution that condemns birth control?
We leave it at that and wander off into the garden. I inspect the blueberries and note that they could be ripe by the time my grandchild will crawl on this lawn later in the summer. We pick raspberries and sweet peas until our hands are overflowing, stuffing them into tshirts and pockets, too lazy to go inside and get a bowl.
I busy myself with the tedious small tasks that keep me from thinking, briefly considering washing some murky looking tiles, but no. Instead, I diligently do my physio exercises and check my inbox and schedule a few assignments but oh heck, eventually I walk back outside and pick up the magazine R was reading, still open at the page where he was before he started his testing spiel.
The next 30 years are likely, instead, to resemble the slow disaster of the present: we will get used to each new shock, each new brutality, each “new normal,” until one day we look up from our screens to find ourselves in a new dark age—unless, of course, we’re already there.
Consider everything we take for granted: perpetual economic growth; endless technological and moral progress; a global marketplace capable of swiftly satisfying a plethora of human desires; easy travel over vast distances; regular trips to foreign countries; year-round agricultural plenty; an abundance of synthetic materials for making cheap, high-quality consumer goods; air-conditioned environments; wilderness preserved for human appreciation; vacations at the beach; vacations in the mountains; skiing; morning coffee; a glass of wine at night; better lives for our children; safety from natural disasters; abundant clean water; private ownership of houses and cars and land; a self that acquires meaning through the accumulation of varied experiences, objects, and feelings; human freedom understood as being able to choose where to live, whom to love, who you are, and what you believe; the belief in a stable climate backdrop against which to play out our human dramas. None of this is sustainable the way we do it now.
Nevertheless, the fact that our situation offers no good prospects does not absolve us of the obligation to find a way forward. Our apocalypse is happening day by day, and our greatest challenge is learning to live with this truth while remaining committed to some as-yet-unimaginable form of future human flourishing—to live with radical hope. Despite decades of failure, a disheartening track record, ongoing paralysis, a social order geared toward consumption and distraction, and the strong possibility that our great-grandchildren may be the last generation of humans ever to live on planet Earth, we must go on. We have no choice.Roy Scranton in: MIT Technology Review, May/June 2019
(I urge you to read this essay, free online, it is not all hopeless. Don't be afraid. We need to face reality. We owe it our children. And if you don't have children, think of your best friends' children and if your best friends don't have children, just do it anyway.)
I sit there for a while, catching my breath. For a long long while. Sweat is running down my back, my joints ache. To hell with it, I mutter. This is only the beginning. I am in.
Things I avoid thinking about come back to mind in flashes in my dreams. It's as if the universe won't let me completely ignore their status by my own myopic denials. Thus I awoke with a discomfort at seeing a crematorium right downtown, in a regular 2 story old storefront building...and my realization that yes, death does remain right in the center of our lives no matter how much we try to deny it.ReplyDelete
It's all such a mess.
Radical hope. Even as we despair.
well, hope is the only thing we have since action is definitely not happening. empires, cultures rise and fall. one day future archeologists will be excavating our culture, assuming of course that humans manage to survive the imminent disaster. I'm not so optimistic.ReplyDelete
"One historical analogy stands out with particular force: the European conquest and genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Here, truly, a world ended. Many worlds, in fact. Each civilization, each tribe, lived within its own sense of reality—yet all these peoples saw their lifeworlds destroyed and were forced to struggle for cultural continuity beyond mere survival, a struggle that the Anishinaabe poet Gerald Vizenor calls “survivance.”ReplyDelete
"Nevertheless, the fact that our situation offers no good prospects does not absolve us of the obligation to find a way forward. Our apocalypse is happening day by day, and our greatest challenge is learning to live with this truth while remaining committed to some as-yet-unimaginable form of future human flourishing—to live with radical hope. Despite decades of failure, a disheartening track record, ongoing paralysis, a social order geared toward consumption and distraction, and the strong possibility that our great-grandchildren may be the last generation of humans ever to live on planet Earth, we must go on. We have no choice."
I rely on your links and your blog, Sabine, for insight and information I might not otherwise find in a timely way.
I am in.
Isn't greed a natural instinct, born out of the time when, for instance, we over-ate because we could not know what the morrow would bring. In financial terms we would tell ourselves we could never have enough money. Self-protection in both cases. Somewhere along the line the impulse took over and became distorted. Visibly conspicuous greed became an end in itself even though its origins (ensuring the continuance of our species) remain understandable. Arguably we are all subject to greed but the majority of us control it, at which point perhaps it ceases to be greed. More speculatively, must greed - to be greed - be perceived by others?ReplyDelete
Love this:"To hell with it, I mutter. This is only the beginning. I am in."ReplyDelete
This article took me awhile to read. I like the idea of radical hope but I have a low opinion of humanity. I think that human beings are inclined to ignore rather than face difficult times if they can. I know that will become impossible. The thought fills me with dread and a sense of helplessness.ReplyDelete
Thank you for that profound article. I have intimations of this hope, periodically -- when I'm not filled with dread.ReplyDelete
My hope - that thing with feathers - is a tattered item faced by the vile & the venal who rule us already or who would rule us. But there is indeed 'no choice' but to move forwards. Never has there been a time when more acutely there has been the need for necessity to be the mother of invention. I turn still to the anarchist mentors of my youth - to Kropotkin, Paul Goodman, Malatesta, Tolstoy, A.S. Neill - & I wonder do we have the capacity for movement towards a new kind of social architecture.ReplyDelete