For the very best introduction to the spirit and intent of Our Gallant Ship, read 1) the About page on this site, 2) the lengthy but impeccably rendered essay by Catherine Ingram entitled “Facing Extinction,” 3) the succinct but powerful TED talk by Greta Thunberg, 4) the 50 minute YouTube talk by Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Branbrook entitled “Heading for extinction and what we can do about it,” and, 5) George Monbiot’s (April 3, 2019) letter on the Natural Climate Solutions web site.
Of all the essays I’ve read on the present climate chaos, Catherine Ingram’s Facing Extinction is one of the best, and perhaps most consistent with my own point of view. This is partly because it addresses the related issues of population growth and human frailty in conjunction with climate change. Though it is a long read, around 15,000 words, it is worth all the time you can to give it.
The essay is divided into ten sections: Dark Knowledge, Courage, Distraction and Denial, Social Unrest, Over-Population and Co-Extinctions, Techno Fixes and Escape to Mars, The End of Legacy, No Blame, Grief, and Love. As well, she ends the essay with a number of ways of dealing with all this: Find your community (or create one); find your calm; release dark visions of the future, and pace your intake of climate news; be of service; be grateful, and give up the fight with evolution. I offer one quote from each section:
“Because the subject is so tragic and because it can scare or anger people, this is not an essay I ever wanted to write; it is one I would have wanted to read along the way. But the words on these pages are meant only for those who are ready for them. I offer no hope or solutions for our continuation, only companionship and empathy to you, the reader, who either knows or suspects that there is no hope or solutions to be found. What we now need to find is courage.”
“Courage is often confused with stoicism, the stiff upper lip, bravado that masks fear. There is another kind of courage. It is the courage to live with a broken heart, to face fear and allow vulnerability, and it is the courage to keep loving what you love “even though the world is gone.”
Distraction and Denial
“You may find yourself in the company of people who seem to have no awareness of the consequences we face or who don’t want to know or who might have a momentary inkling but cannot bear to face it. You may find that people become angry if you steer the conversation in the direction of planetary crisis. You may sense that you are becoming a social pariah due to what you see, even when you don’t mention it, and you may feel lonely in the company of most people you know. For you, it’s not just the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant on fire in the room, and yet you feel you can rarely say its name.”
“We now see large regions of the world that are no-go zones. Failed states, where life is cheap and barbarism reigns. Huge swaths of Africa are now lawless and controlled by armed and violent men and boys roaming the countryside in gangs, engaged in despicable acts too sickening to write. The Middle East is much the same as are parts of South America. All of these areas are enduring severe drought. As professor and journalist Christian Parenti said in an interview with Chris Hedges, “How do people adapt to climate change? How do they adapt to the drought, to the floods? Very often, the way is you pick up the surplus weaponry and you go after your neighbor’s cattle or you blame it on your neighbor’s ideology or ethnicity.”
“It is a mark of immaturity to be unable to delay personal satisfaction for the chance at greater wellbeing for all at a later date. And it is yet another wearisome example of why we humans are in the mess in which we find ourselves. We see it throughout human history. Greed is not new to modern times. We can easily understand the greedy impulse as most of us are afflicted with it. Perhaps the evolutionary imperatives from ancient times would have had no use for delayed gratification since servicing immediate needs often meant the difference between life and death. However, we can now see that being enslaved to our base desires and impulses is contraindicated to our survival. Seeing disintegrations occur in the developed countries gives a glimpse as to what societal and economic breakdown will look like when there are widespread food shortages everywhere and when the infrastructures, including the electric grids, become spotty, too costly to maintain, or are no longer working.”
Over-Population and Co-Extinctions
“According to many scientific studies, some of the inevitable outcomes of overpopulation are severely polluted water, increased air pollution and lung diseases, proliferation of infectious diseases, overwhelmed hospitals, rising crime rates, deforestation, loss of wildlife leading to mass extinctions, widespread food shortages, vanishing fish in the oceans, superbugs and airborne diseases along with diminished capacity to treat them, proliferation of AIDS, less access to safe drinking water, new parasites, desertification, rising regional conflicts, and war. As astrobiology professor Peter Ward explained in a story on the BBC, “If you look at any biological system, when it overpopulates it begins to poison its home.”
Techno Fixes and Escape to Mars
“Energy and industrial technologies have destabilized and poisoned our atmosphere and waterways. Our cyber technology has created a global industry of online financial theft, child pornography and predation, identity theft, illegal drugs, and many other criminal endeavors made possible through the internet. War technologies have made us the most effective killing species ever in history. In the 20th century, the deadliest in history thus far, an estimated 231 million people –most of them non-combatants–died in war and conflicts. High tech weaponry in the 21st century is even more capable of large scale death and destruction at the push of a button from thousands of miles away.”
As Joanna Macy told me in an interview more than thirty years ago, “We think technology will save us. Technology got us into this mess.”
The End of Legacy
“There is a cognitive dissonance that takes getting used to when you realize there is no need to consider how you or your name will be remembered in the future. Not only that, your interest in future projections about life begins to fall away. You may marvel at how many personal conversations with people you know or news items from around the world assume that human life carries on indefinitely. You may find it difficult to hold interest in these conversations and stories, as though you chanced upon a madman on a street corner earnestly proclaiming his grand plans for the future when it is clear he is hallucinating. You don’t hang on his every word.”
“In a recent blog post, writer James Kunstler proposed a pithy theory of why humans chose each step of our path in history: “It just seemed a good idea at the time.” We plunged forward with each new way of doing things, each new invention, because it made life easier at the time. There was no intention to destroy ourselves. On the contrary, for most of the time since the Industrial Revolution, it seemed that life was getting better for greater numbers of people. With medical advances, we wiped out most of the contagious deadly diseases, controlled infections, and greatly extended life expectancy. We built transportation capabilities that allowed us to travel to the far ends of the earth in a day and thereby learn of other cultures while on their own turf. And then we hooked ourselves up to each other in a world of instantaneous communication, which has been a whole lot of fun. But we didn’t factor in the cost of all this bounty as we built modern civilization.”
“Many of us are also in anticipatory grief; that is, in the period leading to full extinction, we are aware of how hard it will be for those who are already living marginally, such as the nearly one billion people who are now under nourished and who must search for food each day. These numbers will increase and food and fresh water will become impossible to find. Even here in a rich country, I know many people who live month to month, barely making the rent, foregoing all but the most basic necessities. They are considered the poor in our First World countries, and they are also growing in number. In the United States alone, many of those who were formerly middle class now live in their cars or in homeless shelters or on the streets. Even those in situations of abundance are often relying on jobs that are destined to disappear or on bank accounts and investments that will likely disappear as well. After all, much of the so-called wealth of the privileged is simply numerical digits floating on cyber screens.“
“Left to its own conditioned patterns, our minds get into all kinds of trouble (unless one was very lucky in one’s conditioning, which is rare). Developing the habit of re-directing your awareness when your mind is lost in fear or troubling stories induces confidence along the way. Your attention starts to incline toward ease more frequently. You find that you can choose calm. You can choose gratitude. You can choose love.”
They are as children, playing with their toys in a house on fire.
—Gautama Buddha, as found in Catherine Ingram, Facing Extinction.
For Immediate Release
April 12, 2019
Ruby Bristol, (541) 499-2522, email@example.com
Bea Ruiz, (510) 859-4540, firstname.lastname@example.org
ExtinctionRebellion.US | Twitter: @extinctionrebel #XRUS Facebook.com/ExtinctionRebellionUS/
Call to Action: https://extinctionrebellion.us/rebellion-week
Climate Rebels Take 30+ Actions Across the US – April 15 – 22
Groups declare non-violent rebellion to force government action on climate change
USA – Beginning Monday, April 15, Extinction Rebellion (XR US) will take action in large and small cities in the United States as one strand in an emerging, worldwide revolt to build the people power necessary to force governments to take action on climate change. In the U.S., actions may include lockdowns, road blockades, shutdowns, “die-ins”, and other forms of disruption — while advocating for a justice-based, healing vision for the future.
Extinction Rebellion’s International Rebellion will break out across every continent on Earth April 15 through 22, barring Antarctica. Rebels in 49 countries are demanding their governments take decisive action to implement systemic changes to stop global warming while there’s still time left.
“Governments have failed us. Those who are most vulnerable and least responsible for this crisis are the ones who are suffering the most. People are dying. Species are disappearing. Everything is at stake,” said Bea Ruiz, a national coordinator for XR U.S. “We are living through a time like no other and we won’t allow this destruction to continue.”
Ruiz continued, “It’s time to do what’s never been done before in the fight against climate change – a collective and coordinated international rebellion that will continue to escalate until our demands are met. Nothing can stop us, because together, nothing can.”
The wildly popular movement has grown exponentially since their initial Declaration of Rebellion in the United Kingdom in October, 2018. A month later, six thousand Rebels converged and peacefully blocked five major bridges across the Thames in London. They planted trees in Parliament Square and dug a hole there to bury a coffin representing the future, and then super-glued themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace as they read a letter to the Queen.
The movement has spread to include hundreds of thousands of people around the world in six months in part because Extinction Rebellion doesn’t rely on false positivity or hope. XR communicates precisely about the climate emergency we face and then asks people to act accordingly. It’s working.
“People from all walks of life in the US are joining Extinction Rebellion,” said Christina See, a theatrical lighting designer and a New York City Coordinator for XR US. “I have never been involved in activism before. I came with feelings of grief, fear, and anger that have been building for years and I’ve transformed those feelings into action.”
One newcomer to XR and the fight for climate justice includes Mike Selmer, a 62 year-old cancer survivor and blue collar construction worker from Wyoming who has vowed to take action for his grandchildren.
“My generation has not come to grips with the climate crisis,” said Selmer. “It is our moral responsibility to create the circumstances that will allow those who follow us to succeed where we failed. That success will only come if all of us, young and old, take action to make it happen.”
Actions are planned in major cities from coast to coast, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, and smaller cities including Portland, Denver, and Austin.
Extinction Rebellion U.S. is one of 49 countries that form Extinction Rebellion International. XR US has four demands. They include not only the necessary target for reducing carbon emissions and expanding democracy to counteract the hold fossil fuel industries have over the US government, but also environmental reparations for disproportionately impacted communities, rights for Mother Nature, and respect for Indigenous sovereignty.
Expressions of support for the international call to do whatever is necessary to non-violently persuade politicians to end their complacency and inaction have come from many hundreds of notables from all spheres. A portion of those include:
Greta Thunberg (Climate Activist), Dame Emma Thompson (Actor, Writer, and Activist), Radiohead (Musicians), Stephen Fry (Comedian, Writer, Actor), Rowan Williams (Former Archbishop of Canterbury), Ellie Goulding (Singer-songwriter), Simon Amstell (Comedian, Writer, Film-maker), Lily Cole (Model, Actor, Entrepreneur), George Monbiot (Journalist), Noam Chomsky (Linguist, Philosopher, Academic), Bill McKibben (Educator and Author), Vandana Shiva (Environmental activist, Author), Naomi Klein (Author, Activist) The YES MEN (Culture Jamming Activists), Gavin Turk (Artist), Nan Goldin (Artist), John Aitchison (Bafta and Emmy Winning Wildlife Cameraman).
“Everything is changing about the natural world and everything must change about the way we conduct our lives. It is easy to complain that the problem is too vast, and each of us is too small. But there is one thing that each of us can do ourselves, in our own homes, at our own pace—something easier than taking out the recycling or turning down the thermostat, and something more valuable. We can call the threats to our future what they are. We can call the villains villains, the heroes heroes, the victims victims, and ourselves complicit. We can realize that all this talk about the fate of Earth has nothing to do with the planet’s tolerance for higher temperatures and everything to do with our species’ tolerance for self-delusion. And we can understand that when we speak about things like fuel-efficiency standards or gasoline taxes or methane flaring, we are speaking about nothing less than all we love and all we are.” from Losing Earth by Nathaniel Rich
Writing in The New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben reviews two recent papers on climate change. The first is by Kingsmill Bond, a UK financial analyst. It is titled: “2020 Vision: Why You Should See the Fossil Fuel Peak Coming.”
The central question Bond asks in his paper is this: “At what point does a new technology cause an existing industry to start losing significant value?”
McKibben says that “this may turn out to be the most important economic and political question of the first half of this century, and the answer might tell us much about our chances of getting through the climate crisis without completely destroying the planet. Based on earlier technological transitions—horses to cars, sails to steam, land lines to cell phones—it seems possible that the fossil fuel industry may begin to weaken much sooner than you’d think.”
He goes on to say: “Major technological transitions often take a while. . . . But the economic effect of those transitions can happen much earlier . . . as soon as it becomes clear to investors that a new technology is accounting for all the growth in a particular sector.”
As I consider the implications of this paper, I see the possibility that investors will be alert to all of this, and will bail out very quickly once the precipitous downward slope of the graph is definitive: they will cut their losses and run. This, along with other climate-related indicators will undermine the confidence of the super-wealthy, prompting them to protect their wealth in ways that create a destructive feedback-loop leading to unprecedented economic disruption and societal collapse. Read more . . .
In the Guardian today: “Now, younger Republicans are breaking with Trump in an attempt to haul their party towards scientific reality.”
“There’s disagreement there with Donald Trump,” said Tex Fischer, a 22-year-old conservative Ohioan with a head of unruly hair. “I don’t personally know anyone involved in young, right-of-center politics that doesn’t believe climate change is an issue. Read more . . .
No, this is not a list of criminals and rapists; these are suffering people, and they are members of my own family. It’s easy to forget that the terms listed below are abstract descriptions of real human lives, lives filled with disruption, chaos, grief, pain, separation and loss. Lives as valuable as my own.
Even the term “planned relocation” is a term filled with pain and suffering. Imagine yourself as part of a planned relocation project – with no insurance and no moving company!
Each of the terms in the following list can serve as an object of meditation, for each term implies an immense amount of human suffering. If nothing else, it may help us understand the complexity of human dislocation and mobility, and better appreciate what the future holds for the planet – a future that predicts, over the next 30 years, as many as 250 million people will be displaced by climate related factors. The list is derived from Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration.
Climate migrant/migration: Climate migrants are people who move within countries because of climate change-induced migration.
Displacement: Forced removal of people or people obliged to flee from their places of habitual residence.
Distress migration: Movements from the usual place of residence, undertaken when an individual and/or their family perceive that there are no options open to them to survive with dignity, except to migrate. This may be a result of a rapid-onset climate event, other disasters, or conflict event, or a succession of such events, that result in the loss of assets and coping capacities.
Environmental mobility: Temporary or permanent mobility as a result of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect living conditions, either within countries or across borders.
Forced migration: Migratory movement in which an element of coercion exists, including threats to life and livelihood, whether arising from natural or man-made causes (for example, movements of refugees and internally displaced persons as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects). Forced migration generally implies a lack of volition concerning the decision to move, though in reality motives may be mixed, and the decision to move may include some degree of personal agency or volition.
Immobility: Inability to move from a place of risk or not moving away from a place of risk due to choice.
Internal migration (migrant): Internal migration is migration that occurs within national borders.
International migration (migrant): Migration that occurs across national borders.
Labor mobility: The geographical and occupational movement of workers.
Migration: Movement that requires a change in the place of usual residence and that is longer term. In demographic research and official statistics, it involves crossing a recognized political/administrative border.
Mobility: Movement of people, including temporary or long-term, short- or long-distance, voluntary or forced, and seasonal or permanent movement as well as planned relocation (see also environmental mobility, labor mobility).
Planned relocation: People moved or assisted to move permanently away from areas of environmental risks.