SUGGESTIONS FOR OUR GRANDCHILDREN

Earth is Not a Platform for Human Life

It Is a Living Being

We’re Not on it But Part of It

Its Health is Our Health.

Thomas Moore

 

In 2001, I was asked to write a letter to my grandkids to be posted on The Grandfather Chronicles website.

An excerpt:

Previous generations leave you the greatest responsibility any generation has inherited from those who came before them. The unintended consequences of the successes of previous generations are devastating to all of nature—including the people of our world. Your job is to save the planet for future generations.

We leave you with the population explosion, the greenhouse effect, and the extinction of species of animals and plants at a rate 1,000 times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years. We live a philosophy of life that pollutes the air and the water, destroys the rain forest at the rate of 1 1/2 acres a second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and floats homeless waste filled barges in the ocean.

The destruction of forests endangers almost half of the 235 species of primates. Another 20 percent approach threatened status. Our way of life produces spreading deserts, drying seas, and topsoil loss. Our beliefs alienate people from themselves, from each other, and from nature. Our mechanistic worldview destroyed and homogenized thousands of diverse cultures that lived in sustainable ways. Our thinking threatens the sustainability of the planet that you will try to save.

Fast forward to 2019:

Well, dear grandchildren: Over the past 18 years, we failed to face and confront our many existential threats. America (and many other countries) has regressed: lies, threats, corruption, incompetence, demonization, and blaming the powerless for our many problems dominate the news every day. Our democracy is threatened by an autocrat.

Climate change is here and has taken center stage among all of the threats to the environment. Climate change is settled science: 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and that we caused it (and here and here).

Our president denies climate change, or perhaps he just doesn’t care. Republicans in Congress don’t seem to care either. We should not vote for any candidate of either party that does not publically state that climate change is real, that we caused it, and offer a plan for actions to take.  We can argue about when the worst of climate change will be or how bad the loss of life and destruction will be. But anyone who wants to still argue about whether climate change is real or that humans cause it just isn’t thinking straight (See Twilight of American Sanity by Allan Frances, MD.) The attacks on nature accelerate. Everything on the planet is affected because everything is connected and interdependent (See Our Planet on Netflix).

We need new, diverse, and younger leaders at all levels of government in America. Leaders who can articulate an inspiring vision, have the courage to lead, get things done, and never go against America’s or their own deepest values. People outside of government do great work on climate change and other environmental issues that threaten us. But we need a functioning government to provide money and right legislation.

Each year we fail to answer the call to transform how we live on our planet, the more difficult change will be. Forget about climate change for a moment: the way we live on our planet cannot be sustained climate change or not. Every day, we consume more of the planet’s biomass. The longer we ignore the environment, the more people will suffer and die, the more destruction there will be, and the more nature will go to extremes to get our attention.

We feel sad, scared, and anxious as we see more clearly the realities of climate change. I recall reading a speech by a trusted author in 2001: I felt so shaken by his predictions for the environment that I had to jump in my car and go for a long ride to process my emotions of grief, fear, and anxiety. Not many people talked about how they felt about what was happening to our natural world back then. They are now.

I Googled “climate grief” and found 47,900,000 results. In 2017 the American Psychological Association found “gradual, long-term changes in climate can also surface a number of different emotions, including fear, anger, feelings of powerlessness, or exhaustion.” (See David Brooks, An Era Defined by Fear.)

Many who mourn our planet and dread the future have lost hope for a secure life. They are not crazy (See Yuval Harari’s, Homo Deus.)

Misery precedes a new transformative vision that gives people new hope and aliveness.

We’re sealed into climate change that we cannot stop, but we may have time to turn things around before the worst happens. Denying our emotions is the wrong thing to do. Trying to ignore what is happening or hoping for a hero or heroine to rescue us is the wrong thing to do. And, God won’t rescue us.

We need to see reality clearly, deepen and broaden our awareness, reconnect with science, and find our way to the truth in a world of lies. Once we “get it,” we can get engaged, connect to others, connect with nature, and connect with the vision that offers the best chance for a hopeful and secure life ( See Johann Hari: Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solution).

The inhabitants of Earth must join together and cooperate to confront our collective future. The United States cannot go it alone: it would be immoral and unsustainable.

Dealing with the massive issues before us requires a deep transformation in how we live on Earth. Our economics have to change dramatically. Our use of fossil fuels has to diminish significantly. We can no longer have unlimited growth, and we must simplify. Our values need to shift: we can no longer give status and respect to those who deny the need for action. They will be the pariahs of the near future. Political conflict is inevitable and will continue to threaten our democracy.

At the same time, the world of work will continue to change dramatically adding more grief, fear, and anxiety to your lives, You will need to see the future of work and learn to adapt to even faster change than before. You will need to learn 21st-century technologies: AI, robotics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology. You will have to redefine yourselves routinely to be relevant and have a place in the world of work.

John Gardner wrote in Self-Renewal:

If we indoctrinate the young person in an elaborate set of fixed beliefs, we are ensuring his early obsolescence. The alternative is to develop skills, attitudes, habits of mind, and the kinds of knowledge and understanding that will be the instruments of continuous change and growth on the part of the young person…this means more attention to basic principles…. In all subjects, it means teaching habits of mind that will be useful in new situations—curiosity, open-mindedness, objectivity, respect for evidence and the capacity to think critically.”

Chaos offers opportunities and danger. Prepare yourselves to be aware of the dangers but find the opportunities. I believe you can and will rise to the occasion. Other generations have throughout history. It is possible, however improbable, to create a new and better world from the ashes of the Industrial Revolution.

To guide you in life, identify your values, articulate your purpose in life, and create your vision for your lives and for the kind of world you want to live in. This spiritual journey is hard work; most don’t do it. Life will pass them by.

Do what you love in life. Let your values and purpose guide you when chaos surrounds you, when you feel lost, confused, bewildered, and disillusioned. Transform your grief and anxiety into a powerful motivation. Fight for the planet.

You will feel alive if you do.

OUR DENIAL AND DELUSIONS MAY KILL US

We’re not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter. And human activity is a major cause, period. We’re not going to give time to the climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not. Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, December 31, 2018

“One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers,” President Donald Trump’s reaction to the 1,600 page National Climate Assessment (issued by his administration).

The President isn’t thinking straight. First, I do not experience him as a person who has a very high level of intelligence. He more than overestimates his own skills and abilities as people with fewer talents often do, and he underestimates the talents of others. More competent people underestimate their skills and overestimate the skills of others (Dunning-Kruger effect).

Second, climate change is established science.

Denying climate change is like denying gravity or that cigarettes cause cancer. Or, could Trump and others really believe that climate change is real but deny it publically and fails to take action for other sinister motives? His failure to take strong action to save our planet is a presidential failure of the highest magnitude. He is not crazy; he is bad. The political system must stop him.

The experts and pseudo-experts can argue about when the worst of climate change will happen, how bad will the most horrible impacts be, and can civilization recover but the time for arguing about whether climate change is real or “fake news,” is over.

A delusion is: “…a fixed, false belief that is firmly believed and resists correction by overwhelming evidence and rational argument.” The delusions of Trump followers, inflamed by him, brought Trump the presidency. Those same delusions may kill us.

From Allan Frances, MD in Twilight of American Sanity:

Common delusions in people: Delusions of persecution that lead to blaming others for one’s failures; Delusions of grandiosity (I am highly intelligent); erotomanic delusions: the conviction that a person is loved by all when, in reality, they are ignored or hated.

Society has delusions too:

We don’t have to worry about global warming or environmental pollution because God or technology will save us;

World population can keep growing without causing drastic resource depletion, irreversible global warming, incessant wars, mass migrations; frequent pandemics, and recurring famines;

We don’t have to worry about running out of things because there is always a high-tech fix to get whatever more stuff we will eventually need;

If the rich get richer, the benefits will trickle down to everyone else and the world will be a better place;

The United States has the best health-care system in the world;

The United States can bully other countries into doing whatever we want;

Our country can only be great again if we build walls around it;

Since mankind has been given domination over the earth, our needs are paramount, the survival of other species need not concern us;

It is worth giving away almost all of our privacy in order to gain security, convenience, and valuable research data;

The more guns the better. Guns don’t kill people, people do. An armed population is a safe populace;

The technological revolution can do no wrong.

(Dr. Frances wrote about each delusion and provided evidence of how each is not true)

“Ignorance is not Bliss.” Millions of Americans have a delusional belief system (Thanks in large part to Fox News and conservative talk radio) that does not portray America or the world as it is. Charles Darwin wrote: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Trump and his followers want to transform America but try to take us backward and deeper into the world of delusions. That is destruction, not transformation. Believing in the these and other delusions are not sustainable and delusional thinking won’t solve the legitimate issues of Trump followers.

We must undo the societal delusions that made Trump our President.  The first step to healthy change is to see ourselves and our country and our world as it is. Allan Frances: “Rational mind must reassert itself over irrational impulse and wish-fulfilling fantasy.”

We need a spiritual awakening–a moment of metanoia–a shift of mind. Scientist Rupert Sheldrake said, “It is like waking up from a dream. It brings with it a spirit of repentance, seeing in a new way, a change of heart. This conversion is intensified by the sense that the end of an age is at hand.”

And we need to wake up fast. We are already late in attacking climate change and we will suffer from the damage already done. It seems like no one cares until they lose their homes or businesses or lives of loved ones. We need to be visionary and proactive.

We live in daunting times. People who see things clearly feel anger, sorrow, fear, and anxiety. Delusions lead us down the wrong paths. We live under real stress, the maturity of many regresses to earlier times. We fear the genuine transformative change that is required. But, just try to imagine how you will feel when the worst of climate change knocks on your door.

God will not rescue us. Nor will a hero or heroine save us—certainly not our President. We are responsible for our collective fate. The great threats of climate change, population growth, species extinction, resource depletion, and global poverty have called for change for a long time.

Are we ready to make real change? If we are ready, we will get behind a new vision for the renewal first of the United States and then of the world and we will do what is necessary to have a sustainable planet. We don’t need to make America great again; we need to make America good.

Whatever we do, something spectacular is going to happen soon. We will experience an evolutionary bounce or an evolutionary crash.

Our smallest moves may trigger small or vast changes in the world we make and remake together. Trilobites have come and gone; Tyrannosaurus has come and gone. Each tried; each strode uphill; each did its evolutionary best.

Consider that 99.9 percent of all species have come and gone. Be careful. Your own best footstep may unleash the very cascade that carries you away, and neither you nor anyone else can predict which grain will unleash the tiny or the cataclysmic alteration.

Be careful, but keep on walking; you have no choice. Be as wise as you can, yet have the wisdom to admit your global ignorance. We all do the best we can, only to bring forth the conditions of our ultimate extinction, making way for new forms of life and ways to be. If we must eventually fail, what an adventure to be players at all. Stuart Kauffman