Bringing Soul Awareness to the Coming Changes

 

These are notes from a work in progress on the deeper meaning of the climate emergency and the ongoing destruction of the natural world:

By treating the environment as a limitless resource existing solely for exploitation, humanity has arrived at ecosystem collapse.  As it is very difficult to predict when and how this will take place and on what scale, there are different models for what kind of event it will be, what actions can be made to prevent it, to survive it, or whether humanity should prepare for extinction.  Ecosystem and economic collapse are inevitable, but how humanity acts now will determine whether there is a hard or a soft landing on the other side.

Humanity has always exploited the planet for its own development, but having captured the energy stored in fossil fuels and even in the atom, humanity as homo faber, 'man the maker', has increased in numbers and abilities to the extent that the living systems of the earth have begun to remove the aggressive human presence that is busy destroying ecosystems through its unsustainable technologies, its hyperactivity and voracious energy usage.  In the decades that have passed since the first warnings humanity has failed to respond to the multiple threats of climate change and so the time of its hegemony on earth is coming to an end.  Humanity has nowhere else to go with this type of behaviour, for other planets that might support it are well beyond the reach of a hominin entirely dependent on organic carbon compounds.

In the opening episode of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 acclaimed film '2001: A Space Odyssey', a group of early hominins are shown using bones as tools, in fact, as weapons.  The following episodes imply that the logical conclusion of this evolutionary step was, four-million years later, a space-age civilisation whose supreme achievement was to create a generation of computers that possessed their own intelligence and even awareness.  However, despite lauding technological advances and giving little hint of ecological or political problems on the Earth, the film, perhaps most significantly, depicts the need to undo the tool-making technology by disabling the computer, HAL – that, like the early hominins, had become malevolent – before humanity could take its next crucial evolutionary step.  The implication is that the technology of homo faber has to be left behind, as, while it may have been an essential step, it facilitated a materialism, a hyperactivity and a violence which meant it was opposed to the potential higher consciousness and being of homo sapiens, 'man the wise'.

 

Thinking Globally

A central dimension of the climate crisis and loss of Nature is that it is asking people to think of something bigger, something other than what they now think and feel themselves to be.  Humans have always bedded down in groups, and the tighter their social bonds, that is, the more implicit and taken for granted those bonds are, the more comfortable and secure they feel.  Customarily defining themselves against the ‘other’, they are who they are because they are not like ‘them’ over there.  They are the ‘heroes’ assertively taking on and defeating the ‘enemy.’  This distinguishes identity, affirms social ties and makes groups and nations feel secure.  Their greatest aversion is often directed at those who are actually most like themselves.  This is not only true of tribes and countries but also of science, religion and institutions.  Some of the most acrimonious and violent conflicts in history have been between identical groups expounding minute differences.

While this behaviour is understandable – it is, after all, an issue of relationship, of whom one can trust, co-operate and unite with in self-defence – the climate does not accept it.  The climate does not recognise national boundaries.  The oceans and atmosphere do not bow to nationalistic, right- or left-wing agendas, to theological divisions, to sectarian, linguistic, ethnic or tribal identities.  The global climate crisis and Nature loss is asking humans to think of themselves ecocentrically, universally, as one people of earth, without boundaries.  Accustomed to uniting because of the threat, real or imaginary, posed by other humans, such a transformational leap will be extremely challenging.  The call to co-operate in the face of the climate crisis provides no adversary onto whom to project fears and blame when things go wrong.  It provides no ‘enemy’, no ‘other’ against whom humans can affirm their identity and social values, and it goes so far outside customary human self-definition that it may be beyond them.

Yet the climate crisis is, potentially, the opportunity for a species with a consciousness rationally capable of comprehending and finding solutions to complex problems to overcome old behavioural patterns.  Realising and addressing its problems asks humanity to scrutinise and abandon long-developed, narrow self-definitions and aggressive, adversarial and partisan behaviours.  Attempts to introduce international unity were, of course, attempted with the foundation of the League of Nations in 1920, the United Nations in 1945, and the writing of ethical directives such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Earth Charter in 2000.  But these institutions remain anthropocentric and subject to the caprices of the nations that form them and who often do not endorse their charters.  Many nations and individuals, caught in old, aggressive ‘heroic’ identities, see no need to pursue any course of unified action, even though pressures from the changing climate will inevitably force them to make enormous changes.  In this instance, the impending changes will be so great that many alive today who define themselves as a person from a country with an ancient tradition, language and religion, will find that not only would the generation or two back not recognise what they have become, but also that their children – if they are able to have any – will not recognise their self-definition either.

In an ideal world, the climate crisis and the loss of Nature would provide the unifying cause that compelled human beings into the awareness that celebrated both local variation and diversity and the greater set of common interests, alliances and relationships.  Responding to the pressures of climate change may feel unpleasant as it threatens old behavioural patterns, lifestyles and identities.  The only reason why the earth is giving people no choice in the 21st Century but to change, is because they are not responding to those pressures willingly and remain bound to the old, myopic and fearful narratives of self-definition.

Based on this entirely theoretical global thinking, the foremost solution to end humanity’s destruction of the environment and ensure a post-collapse soft landing, would be to shrink its population, end the growth economy and develop appropriate technology.  But, given the powerful human sex drive, the problems of implementing one child policies, the false sense of entitlement and limitlessness after centuries of exploitation of resources, the delusions of the ego, the challenges of completely rebuilding the techno-industrial infrastructure, the inability of governments to regulate international corporations, the centripetal rather than universal tendencies of modern nation states, the dominance of a pyramidal economic system based solely upon growth and confidence, the dependency of its civilisation upon extremely fragile beliefs and, perhaps above all, the fact that climate driven ecosystem collapse will overwhelm humanity before it is able to make any of the necessary changes to its dominant self-defining narrative and unite as one people, such measures, however obvious they may sound in theory, are so unlikely in practice they appear impossible.

Could the external forces of wild Nature bearing down upon humanity incentivize it sufficiently to prepare for near-term ecosystem collapse rather than wait on humanity to develop its own internal systems of checks and balances such as population, energy and consumption control through international laws?  If, for example, a sudden increase in sea temperatures caused them to become acidic, or if polar ice melt dramatically raised sea levels, coastal cities were inundated and the global economy collapsed, would humanity be able to unite around a plan of profound behavioural adaptation capable of guiding it through the subsequent chain of environmental events and so avoid a post-collapse hard landing that would spell out mass extinction?  Sadly, even though that may represent its final hope, it is unlikely that humanity would be capable of systematically following any universal plan, however credible, as climate change is happening at too fast a rate for it to be able to reframe its self-definition and make the necessary economic, technological, reproductive and innate behavioural changes.  By the time the new universal, social narrative became normative and new strategies of international co-operation became innate behaviour, catastrophes on the scale of coastal city inundation, Nature loss and radioactive outflows will be too far advanced for humanity to adapt, and, like the empires that preceded them, their fragile global techno-industrial civilisation will have failed.

 

The Leopard & its Spots

Asking humanity to change its instinctive survival behaviour, think globally and end its destruction of its host, is like asking the leopard to change its spots.  As homo faber, man the maker, the doer, the shaper of matter, humanity has developed to deploy whatever technology it can to advance itself, to satisfy its desires, to open up new resources to increase environmental carrying capacity, even or especially at the expense of other humans and other species.  Stone tools gave it the edge over animals, plants and other hominins.  Urban settlement gave it the capacity to develop culturally, but outside of and at the expense of Nature, the forests - and the leopards.  The horse and new weaponry enabled it to sweep across Europe and Central Asia, replacing whole populations.  The locomotive enabled it to open up North America, killing native peoples and brutally exploiting vast but rapidly utilised resources.  Ocean going ships and the capitalist economy allowed ruthless colonisation and appropriation of every part of the planet.  Hydrocarbon and nuclear fuels generated incredible wealth and toxins at the expense of future generations and the biosphere.  Today, electronic technology is colonising the human mind and even the body.  All in service of what the dominant prevailing human narrative believes it needs to survive: food, housing, clothing, security, economic growth, profit, prestige, sex, pleasure and power.

Like all plants and animals, humans are genetically moulded to seek energy with the least effort – it is not worth spending more energy than the result obtains.  Surplus energy once survival needs are met equals growth, negative energy over survival needs equals decline.  Historically, hydrocarbon fossil fuels presented humanity with the most energy gained for the least effort expended.  Extracting coal, gas and oil conformed entirely with its instinctive survival behaviour, allowing humans to pursue their desires and goals in the creation of a global civilisation.  Now asking them to reduce energy use, that is, eat lower on the food chain, travel less, stop flying, turn down the thermostat, consume less, down-size, reduce economic growth and lower their reproductive rate, goes against human survival behaviour on every level – behaviour that is absolutely central to its self-defining narrative and has become naturalised in the operation of all its economic systems since the first tool use began.  In essence, individualistic, desire-driven, innate human behaviour, including its antagonistic, low-level, binary, language-based mentality, developed over hundreds of thousands of years and enabled by its technology, is entirely at odds with the behaviour necessary to avoid climate change induced catastrophe.  There is insufficient time for humanity to change its self-narrative in order to frame a new set of behaviours that will enable it to address the challenges posed by the climate crisis.

But now, precisely because of its technological extraction of mineral resources and its overpopulation, humanity has come up against the action taken by Nature to eradicate it.  Wild Nature is removing what humanity in its current form needs to exist.  In the same way as the trees of a forest produce toxins when attacked by a parasite such as a caterpillar, and signal to each other to do so, so Nature is producing toxins to remove the human parasite.  Because of human exploitation of the cheap energy source provided by hydrocarbon fuels, Nature is flooding the atmosphere with water vapour and lethal greenhouse gasses that will further increase global temperatures, melt the polar ice, raise sea levels, acidify oceans, increase humidity and flooding in some areas and create desertification in others.  This is happening too quickly for humanity to produce an adequate behavioural response, whether economic, social, political or technological.  Like the toxin-poisoned caterpillar, humanity cannot change its self-destructive behaviour in time to respond to the measures taken by Nature to remove it as these behaviours and narratives are too deeply ingrained, and perceived as fundamental to its existence.  If it is to emerge on the other side of the imminent and unpredictable pattern of multiple catastrophes, humanity will somehow have to change itself completely and extremely quickly.  If humanity fails to flag up the emergency and remains mired in old social, political and technological behaviours then its civilisation will fall and it may even be driven to extinction by natural forces uninterested in the survival of its species.

 

The End of the Old World

There are risks in trying to predict the future – especially one as unpredictable as climate change – and speculation like the above can be unhelpful; but as an intelligent species who understand cause and effect, humans are constantly making assessments in their attempts to safeguard and determine their future and there are some things that simply cannot be ignored.

The scientific consensus is that the greenhouse effect will change the climate, the biosphere and thus human life dramatically.  This is the unequivocal bottom line.  The climate has always changed, but in this instance the human contribution makes modelling the change problematic.  The current speed of the greenhouse effect and rate of species loss is more like a change brought about by a massive volcanic eruption or meteor strike than one of normal climate variability.  Humanity survived such evolutionary ‘bottlenecks’ in the past because its nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle enabled movement and flexibility.  Even so, the eruption of Toba in Indonesia about 75,000 years ago, is thought to have reduced human population to a few tens of thousands.

Higher temperatures will affect different places in different ways, but the overall prognosis is that sea level rise on low lying land, especially on the many coastal cities, will force the evacuation of tens of millions of people.  Monsoon failure, flooding, intolerable heat and desertification will push millions more from their land.  Economies will fail, forcing even more people to seek refuge wherever they can.  Contending with such huge movements of people will exceed the capabilities of global food, water and medical supplies, leading to famine and pandemics.  If, as is already happening, nations fall into dispute over these issues, close borders and go to war, the situation will be made far worse.

There is nowhere for people to go, even the wealthiest, to avoid the climate crisis and its consequences: Nature loss, species extinction, the collapse of human civilisation and even human annihilation.  Humans have colonised everywhere, exploited every resource – indeed, this deliberate but careless exploitation is their undoing – and they are behaviourally conditioned to be unable to unite in pursuit of common interests on a large scale.  But of course, the question is, and what science does not have the ability to foresee, is whether humans can take the step, perhaps greater than the previous agricultural, industrial and technological revolutions, into a sustainable future on the other side of civilisation and ecosystem collapse.  Can humans deal with their imperilling innate propensities, the legacy of millennia of insistent environmental exploitation, grow up and live peacefully together in harmony with life on earth in a post-collapse world?  Does humanity have the ability to work out and apply what this would take, or is this beyond a species that got to where it is today through socially habituated and ancient instincts of aggression, impulsiveness, desire, division, inequality and appropriation?

What will happen in the post-collapse world appears to be a question of which narrative of human self-identification will prevail.  Will the identification with its instinctive, self-centred, desire-led nature prevail or the identification with its intelligent, universal, ethically-guided nature?  Will humanity abandon its animal-like behaviours and listen to its soul?  As this divide between the higher and lower nature is a mere abstraction for those who are desperate, hungry, impoverished, homeless, unemployed, uneducated, misinformed, young, aged, incapacitated and unwell – a huge number of people – it probably means the scales will come down in favour of the lower.  This side is, after all, supported by the prevailing divisive, secular, materialist worldview as well as the genetic, evolutionary trajectory, and is not hampered by the need of those who recognise individual responsibility, universal justice and spirituality to make constant effort to achieve those ends.

Confronted by the grim conclusion that human nature is at odds with dealing with the challenges of the future, as:

  • the evolution of the prehistoric hominin hunter-gatherer led to the predominance of aggressive, impulsive, ruthless, risk-taking genes from the time of the agricultural revolution whose societies normalised behaviours that then drove migration, inequality, invasion, resource exploitation and the growth economy;
  • the human instinctive, behavioural, survival and desire nature is too deeply embedded to respond and adapt to the pace of climate change, and the identification with it is too strong to be guided by science, the intellect or spirituality;
  • the human fascination with and seduction by technology has allowed industrial scale exploitation of the global environment to go beyond its control;
  • in the face of climate crisis and ecosystems collapse, people and nations are reverting to habitual ‘us and them’ behaviour: election of nationalist and populist leaders, the polarization of opinion, purging of dissenters, closure of borders, dismissal of facts, conflict, etc;
  • the reliance upon simple binary classification in thought has led to adversarial politics, a dualistic view of nature as being there for humans and not for itself, that entities are objects for human exploitation, and this commodification now includes the human;
  • the sociocultural elevation of the individual and the reification of desire, especially sexual desire, supports a narrative of false identity, excessive consumerism and self-entitlement, success- and celebrity-seeking egotism, resentment of experts, and unprecedented irresponsible, aggressive, amoral and obscene acquisition of wealth, status and power;
  • those who are starving, in conflict zones, displaced, desperate, under stress, incapacitated, too young, too old, uneducated or misinformed are unable to act according to environmental constraints;
  • climate crisis and ecosystem collapse are simply too big, too unprecedented, too shocking to register, comprehend and deal with, and that scientific, governmental and social institutions are embedded in systems of non-communication of problematic issues;
  • and as many are already impacted by the climate crisis and Nature loss and are paralysed by trauma, grief and despair because of it –

humanity either will be forced into metanoia, a ‘change of mind’ so radical it will completely transform them, or into an equally extreme but utterly terrible catastrophe that spells out the end of its world and possibly the end of its existence as a species.

 

Positive Futures

Today, humanity is in an extraordinary situation.  Their world is about to be deluged by catastrophic events: natural, political and economic disasters, and they cannot register it. Things seem OK: the stores are still full of food, there is petrol at the pumps. If they do register it, they either feel helpless, inextricably locked into a system that democratic governments can do nothing about, or they look for short-term, self-centred solutions. 

Why is it so difficult for humans to respond to the challenge presented by the anthropogenic climate crisis and Nature loss? It may be helpful to review where someone might be located on a scale of possible responses:

  • Those who have never heard of climate change and Nature loss.
  • Those who have heard of it but are unable to understand it.
  • Those who have heard of and are capable of understanding it but are too wounded, traumatised, detached, or otherwise disassociated, to register it.
  • Those so heavily invested in not believing it they resist registering it, or actively deny and distort it as it is contrary to their beliefs.
  • Those who have registered it but don’t care about it, or think someone else is to blame for it.
  • Those who have registered it, but do not know how to respond, or feel it is beyond their ability to respond, or that it is not their problem.
  • Those who have registered it and think science, government, industry or a miraculous intervention will produce a solution.
  • Those who have registered it and think the solution is to be positive, deflect the issues, make jokes about it, and take no action.
  • Those who have partially understood it, but are unwilling to think through its implications as it is too challenging, too big a change to their lives and livelihood, and take no action.
  • Those who have partially understood it, but feel too afraid or powerless about it to take on its implications, or engage in acts of temporary disassociation or self-delusion to protect themselves from it.
  • Those who have understood it, but take no action, or are preparing for personal survival, or are even deliberately contributing toward its catastrophic outcome.
  • Those who have understood it and are in a state of trauma, fear, shock, grief, shame, anger, despair, hopelessness, burn-out etc.
  • Those who have understood it, are willing to gather more information about it, learn from it and engage in acts of emotional healing and self-transformation.
  • Those who have understood it, are willing to absorb its full implications, seek transitional practises, change their lifestyles and pursue political action.

There probably are other gradations, orders and mixtures of responses, but generally, most people can be located at some point upon such a scale of responses.

 

Grief

Although many people already feel the brutal effects of climate crisis and Nature loss, could those who have registered it but are yet to really feel its impact be in some kind of ongoing pre-traumatic stress disorder?  Are they afraid that if they let into their hearts and minds the reasons for and the consequences of ecosystem collapse, they would feel inconsolable grief for the loss of everything they hold most dear?  Do they feel that the paralysis and helplessness that would arise from registering they are guilty of causing harm to the future of their children as well as the loss of so much life on earth, would be so damaging to their well-being that they can’t possibly acknowledge it, let alone act upon it?  They may feel, with good reason, that climate crisis and Nature loss is asking too much of them; that it would change their lifestyle, employment, homes, incomes, pleasures and entire worldview; that it would push them too far out of their comfort zones; that it is a problem just “too big to think.”  This isn’t so much denial as it is the wish not to be plunged into disabling upheaval and shock.  So, they fend it off.

Grief and loss present a terrible and numbing trial that can go on and on, seemingly without an end in sight.  But fear of feeling grief or anticipating loss can be more prolonged and disabling than the trauma of grief itself.  Once grief is admitted it is possible to go through the stages of healing: get help, cry, release anger, find forgiveness, build resilience, get information, develop good habits and so on.  The problem of grief is that while in it, it is enough just coping with daily life; it isn’t possible to take on the troubles of anyone or anything else, let alone deal with the ongoing human assault on the environment.  It isn’t that people stop caring about others or the environment during the stages of grief, it is that they aren’t in a position to do anything about it.

Whether it is grief or shame or simply the failure to register climate crisis at all, it is by holding away the problem that people do not, indeed cannot act.  They become detached, just getting on with their busy lives, and so as individuals and as a collective, lose the opportunity to identify and resolve the issues.  They share a great silence, born of helplessness, suppression and fear, because they dread losing all they love most, whether it is a person, a family, an animal, a forest, a nation, the earth, or their whole way of life.  They may hope it will be OK, that solutions will be found, that science will come up with the answers – but for the most part they do not let their thoughts about the climate crisis become fully conscious as they cannot see how they can adapt to something so huge and catastrophic without completely changing the deeply embedded, innate, structural and systemic order of their lives.

While it is not the case that the whole of humanity is engaged in disassociating from the shock, grief and despair they fear they would feel if they let in the truth about the threat they pose to their future on this world, it is the case that only by facing its fears and taking on board the truth will humanity be able to overcome its obviously disabling present paralysis and work as one people of earth to take the life-changing steps necessary if it is to survive the coming calamity and even thrive in the post-collapse world.

The problem is extremely complex, but many have already gone through the stages of grief, trauma, despair and recovery from the shock of discovering their world is about to end and many people are rising up in protest and acting together to create the necessary change.  It is widely accepted by therapists that grief once felt has a cathartic cleansing effect.  It is likely that only by facing grief, as well as the anger, despair and other feelings associated with great loss, and by going through them, will humanity be able to face the causes and thus find solutions to the devastating consequences of anthropogenic climate change and environmental destruction.

 

The Journey of Consciousness

Humanity is on the verge of setting out on a journey that is at once a recovery, a remembering of the perennial truths of existence, and also an exploration of somewhere new, for there is no going back – it must learn to live with the consequences of its misguided historical actions – but now, at the moment of calamity, there is only going deeper into the new spaces of the universe within.  Consciousness can reach places unobtainable by any spacecraft.  This is a journey of consciousness into the living body of the cosmos: the emerging, generative, spontaneous, infinite, ever-changing universe, that leaves in its wake the patterns, discarded shells and bones, the order, chaos and constantly solidifying matter of the world without.

Yet consciousness itself is quiescent, dormant.  On its own, it is at home in the darkness of the cave, the silence of deep meditation, or the vast, apparently empty expanse of the cosmos.  But it is not on its own.  Consciousness, beyond duality, is also being, and empowered by vital energy, force and motion, it moves through the cosmos and the result is manifestation, embodiment.

The actions produced by humanity to pass through this time of crisis may be only the outer expression of the inner encounter of consciousness and energy, the appearance after the cause, but nonetheless the actions made by each and every individual provide the means for the necessary transformation of the self, if not of its current world.  Conscious ritual acts orchestrate grief and joy.  They transcend the pit of emotion, the whirlpool of thought.  They allow exploration of new thresholds of the divine, the meeting place of perception and life-force, the discovery of new spaces of light, colour, sound and ways of being.  Music, dance, play, direct action, transform the brain faster than any lesson in a classroom.  Conscious action under divine guidance provides release from attachment, from the body, language and mind.  As civilisation collapses, as its edifices fall, the terror, grief and sorrow that accompanies them may provide the cathartic effect necessary for humanity to step outside its old way of being, enter the cave of consciousness, and find a new way of being in the world.  The liberation of the individual is the making of a new world in whatever dimension it inhabits.

There are many models for the exploration of consciousness, many different maps are available from the psychological to the spiritual.  They serve as heuristic devices to enable each person to find the way that works best for themselves.  Some are not what they purport to be, elevating themselves and usually their creator to a position they do not have.  Institutionalised religion, for example, functions primarily as a means of self-identity, secondarily as a moral teaching, but generally fails to deliver any integral experience of higher consciousness and of enlightened being in the world.  Nonetheless, some spiritual models are tried and tested and when properly practiced can deliver soul awakening and consequent human development and transformation.  Traditional, shamanistic, animistic beliefs and practices through their insistence on spirit in all things, appear to offer much of value to the modern world, but those native traditions that remain, however, are grounded in cultural contexts that do not bear appropriation.

The key is to accept nothing as dogma, for spiritual truth is beyond the expressions of the world.  It is to keep searching in the darkness of the cave, to keep reverence in the heart for the Mother, until illumination appears.

 

Gelassenheit & Wu Wei

Many traditions support the simple way of life.  In the mid-19th Century Thoreau eulogised it in Walden.  Tang Dynasty poets and Taoist sages inclined to no more.  To receive what Nature provides, to build with what she freely offers, to not upset her balance by trying to take more, seems to be the essence of what the German theologian Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) called Gelassenheit, ‘releasement’ or ‘letting-go-ness.’  Eckhart called detachment the highest virtue, and his insights inspired Martin Heidegger in the 20th Century to adopt Gelassenheit as a central principle of his innovative philosophy.

Heidegger’s Gelassenheit, ‘letting things be,’ has close affinities with the Taoist concept of Wu wei.  Heidegger was deeply interested in Taoism, engaging with a Chinese scholar in 1946 to translate eight chapters of the Tao Te Ching into German.  Literally meaning ‘doing nothing’ or non-action, Wu wei is letting the world be in its own natural way, letting things find their own course and aligning all human action to that course.  The gardener understands they can open the space in which the plant grows and provide it with what it needs, but they do not provide the vital life force that makes it grow.  Heidegger wrote about ‘openness’ and making a ‘clearing’ into which new things, ideas, entities can come; not ideas, plans and schedules driven by human agendas, but those things which emerge from the natural patterns of time and being.

Many scientific voices have been raised in the Western World warning about climate change, but Martin Heidegger stands out, not as a scientific voice but as a philosophical one, as he formulated his key concepts long before anthropogenic climate crisis ever became a topic of concern.  He saw the origins of human self-destruction reaching back through history to the ancient Greek establishment of the Western mode of thought.  Heidegger (1889-1976) spent much of his time living simply in his wooden cabin at Todtnauberg in the Black Forest, which he called ‘The Hut’.  He saw this as his home, and he attached immense philosophical significance to ‘being at home’ as this meant being connected to the environment, to Nature and the sacred.  More than that, it meant being the environment, Nature and the sacred.  Like indigenous peoples, Heidegger saw his home, the forest and mountain, as who he was, and he was not averse to issuing warnings as to how close humanity was coming to destroying itself by separating itself from its only home, Nature and the Earth.  In many ways, Heidegger provided the philosophical basis for ecology, and many environmentalists acknowledge him implicitly, if not explicitly because of his Nazi associations, as their inspiration.

Heidegger said in a lecture in 1929 that a crucial, and potentially fatal, difference between humans and animals was that humans had the power not just to encounter an entity as an entity but also to transform that encounter into one where the entity, for example a blade of grass, is not just a blade of grass, but “possibly destined to become part of the bundle of hay with which the peasant will feed his cow.”  Only humans can transform their encounters with the world into one where woods become lumber, rivers become power stations, mountains become quarries and Nature itself becomes a “gigantic gasoline station”.  After the Second World War, he described how humanity, with the aid of modern technology, was turning the whole of Nature into a bestand, a “standing-reserve”, where everything is seen, not as existing on its own for its own purposes, but as a set of mere resources quantified for human use and exploitation.  Humanity, Heidegger felt, bore an immense responsibility not to treat the earth in this manner and had to be resolute in its determination to develop a conscience.  Humanity had to choose to act responsibly and learn to dwell, to be once more at home upon the earth if it was to avoid self-inflicted environmental catastrophe.

 

The New Paradigm:

The Declaration of the Universal Consciousness of All Being

There would be initial errors, mistakes, but already past the final hour as human population and global temperature steadily but exponentially rise on every graph, humanity has to somehow move together through total system collapse into a new paradigm of sustainability, a new world view, a new way not only of seeing but also of being if it is to pass through the impending environmental catastrophe and thrive in its aftermath.

Humanity has made the error of identifying with the body, of subordinating the self to the physical being, of seeing mind and consciousness as somehow emerging from it.  This central tenet of the modern paradigm ignores the fact that the self, the ‘I’ or consciousness, cannot be identified or located, that humanity has a capacity for extraordinary reflection, whether artistic, philosophical or metaphysical, and has a soul.  And it is as a soul, with its remarkable qualities of love, wisdom and compassion, that humanity has the means to end its attachment to the old materialistic, technological, divisive, industrial paradigm and extend its identification of the self beyond the body, not out of duty or morality but out of generosity and joyfulness, to all life – into a much deeper, dynamic and wider consciousness of self as Nature and Spirit.

Arne Naess, the first to use the term 'Deep Ecology', saw the need to extend the identification of the self from out of the body, out of mental and metaphysical categories, into an identification with the body of life on earth, the entire ecosystem or biosphere.  He thought such an identification would lead to an understanding of the interconnectedness of all life, and so bring about the realization of the value of all things in their own right, not just for their value to humans.  Deep Ecology, “thinking like the forest”, meant empathising with Nature on such a profound scale, being conscious of Nature as the basis of all life, that humanity would naturally want to do it no harm, see itself as part of its community, and find ways, based upon ecological principles to live sustainably in harmony within it. 

To maintain natural climate systems in a post-ecosystem collapse world, local peoples, businesses, especially industry, would require co-ordinated teams of scientists to design resilient and sustainable systems of production, construction and supply.  In some places this is already happening.  The principles of the Earth Charter are already being applied. Agriculture and the resourcing of water, timber and minerals are being conducted on the basis, not of what is cheapest, but on what is best for the overall environment.  Energy efficient, long-lasting houses, built from wood and other organic materials could produce near zero carbon emissions.  Education in some places, is already integrating ecological principles into its curriculum – getting children out of classrooms into Nature – promoting environmental responsibility.  Education also helps stabilise population by bringing people out of poverty and increasing sexual equality.  Such a shift in worldview is initially very challenging, but as it would mean the difference between dying in a dead environment or living in a renewed one, it is possible that many people – once their old way of looking at the world had collapsed and they were properly informed – would choose the latter.  Could humanity as a whole be persuaded, or educated, to endorse the principles of the Law of Ecocide or the Earth Charter and make this transition even before the impending ecosystem collapse?

Even with inevitable environmental collapse and its grim consequences looming over humanity and despite its obstinate resistance to new knowledge and change, something extraordinary happens when the heart opens to embrace Nature as the supreme object of being and Spirit as the supreme subject of self and consciousness.  A set of joy-filled relationships emerge when a natural environment is restored, when animals are returned to the wild, when life, plants, animals and humans are set free.

When a landscape is allowed to be itself, something takes place that most people appreciate and intuitively feel is of benefit to all: animals return, insects increase, flowers are brighter, trees healthier, the water is good to bathe in, even the climate is modified – the winds gentler, woods cooler, the air smells sweeter.  It is one of the things people love most, something they feel they once had, perhaps in their childhood, but have now lost: a beautiful, vibrant, vital experience of Wild Nature.  And there is something more, the most subtle, irrational and difficult thing to describe of all.  It is a special moment, perhaps at a certain time or in a certain place, possibly at dawn or at sunset, perhaps after rain with birds stirring or water flowing somewhere nearby, that an animal appears, an insect buzzes by or a shaft of sunlight dances in a way that whispers in the ear of the soul:  “Here, being is.  Life emerges and you are one with it.  You are its witness.”

 

The Future Revisited

While it is difficult to know the exact nature and timing of the challenges that lie ahead, it is clear that the longer the issues of energy use and environmental destruction are not dealt with the worse those challenges will be.  Humanity is not dealing with the issues, and remains wedded to its growth economy and present destructive, ecocidal course.  An extremely dangerous government, dominated by a wealthy, white, racist, male elite, controls the United States, and, in the face of all the evidence, is aggressively pushing back environmental regulation and seeking ever more wealth and power.  This pattern is in evidence elsewhere, pointing to the rise of authoritarian, nationalistic states that are likely to pursue their own interests in the event of ecosystem and economic collapse.  Even if humanity were to change its behaviour, come together, declare a climate emergency and implement an ‘International Green New Deal’, the lag time built into natural systems means that serious global temperature rise and environmental collapse remain inevitable.  The crucial question which remains is, how soft or hard the landing will be on the other side.

A soft landing requires not only an entirely transformed mature human being but also radically new systems of government, society and economics.  Adversarial leaders, aggressive cultures, materialistic ontologies and partisan governments have taken humanity into inequality, war, exploitation and now catastrophic environmental breakdown.  If there is to be a positive next chapter in human history, and it is a big if, then a completely different social order is needed, especially of leadership, springing from a completely different ontological paradigm if humanity is not to repeat the same mistakes.  A leadership is required that is at once bipartisan, cooperative, communicative, consultative and able to address the needs of each individual, that is, function from the “bottom-up” while simultaneously being capable of directing the necessary solutions to humanity’s common problems.  These problems are on an enormous scale and humanity is entirely unprepared to meet them.

There is the need to relocate hundreds of millions of climate refugees, to decommission radioactive facilities, to switch to carbon-neutral, zero-emission economies and sustainable agricultural practices, to revision and build green global industries, to end global inequality, and to prepare for pandemics and psychological trauma.  If these and other measures are not carried out swiftly with present and remaining capabilities, they will be beyond the ability of post-collapse peoples.  It is likely that only coalition or unity governments operating on an emergency basis will be able to perform these tasks and provide all other essential services.  The distribution of food, water and medical supplies, provision of shelter, fuel and power, the maintenance of order and so on, will need to be carried out by coalition governments employing soundly negotiated bilateral and international principles to avoid panic, chaos and breakdown of law and order.

Failing the advent and rapid development of effective citizen assemblies and coalition governments, it is likely that only military forces will be able to take command of essential activities from the coastguard, to emergency services, policing, engineering, travel and the systems of supply and law.  In the event of sudden catastrophes such as monsoon failure or coastal city inundation, military organisation will be essential to enable the movement to and provision for the tens of millions of people in evacuee camps.  Wartime organisation will also be needed for the construction of new roads, bridges, levees, railways tracks and homes in the aftermath of any such breakdown as well as in any major agricultural works that will be required.  There will obviously be immense hardships and trauma, but well thought out preparation for and execution of emergency plans in the event of a soft landing will help ameliorate some of the minor catastrophes, avoid despotism, and even stimulate and begin to put into place the basis for a future sustainable society.

In the event of a major collapse most likely caused by the obtaining of one of a number of tipping points in the climate system such as forest dieback, the irreversible melting of ice sheets, or accelerating methane gas release leading to a global heating increase of over 4°C, then a hard landing will become inevitable.  Thousands of millions of people will be displaced and the mobilisation of emergency forces, whether under the command of a totalitarian or democratic state, would ameliorate only the worst-case scenarios.  Less concerned with individual survival but that of Life on Earth, military forces would have to deal with engineering projects such as the securing of all radioactive materials if there was to be any chance of avoiding permanent toxic contamination of the environment.  (As of 2019 there are approximately 450 nuclear reactors in the world and hundreds more planned, 150 nuclear powered vessels, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in various stages of commission, and various radioactive processing facilities and contaminated sites.  The cost of decommissioning just one of these sites, Sellafield in the UK, is estimated at 2 billion pounds a year for over 120 years.)  Should this be beyond the ability of even the most well organised national or international corps, and currently there is every indication this is the case, then humanity will be faced by the end of its world as radioactive pollution compounds agricultural failure, and poisoned waters and air-sea temperatures reach too high a level to support life.

If humanity immediately began to prepare for the obviously more desirable soft landing then it might be able to avoid the hard landing.  But it is not doing this and would have to transform itself completely if it were to achieve this goal.  Humanity knows what it must do, the knowledge is there, the sustainable technology exists, but it lacks the vision, consciousness and will to implement it.  Humanity needs a wholly new human being, particularly in roles of leadership, with a universal vision, unattached to any investment or position, seeking no power, wealth or status for itself, committed to the common cause, and guided by a strong connection to higher consciousness, compassion and morality, free even of attachment to the body, if there is to be any human presence on earth after the collapse of the current civilisation.

 

A Wholly New Leadership

Humanity needs a wholly new and enlightened leadership.  It needs men and women, practicing what they say, based upon an uncompromised and uncompromising moral stance, to speak on the pressing and crucial issues of the time.  It needs women and men, young and old, of great character, eloquence and authority, thoroughly committed to their cause, to declare a planetary emergency and speak on the dangers that threaten human civilisation.

These leaders must speak against the excessive consumerism, the unsustainable industrialisation, the chemical agriculture, the toxic waste, that is destroying the environment.  They must speak against the division, racism, aggression and inequality that is destroying society.  They must speak against the armaments industry that is fuelling violence and destroying people’s lives.  They must speak in support of non-violent solutions to every conflict, the path to peace.

These leaders must speak against the mistreatment of animals, the factory and stockyard farming, the slaughter of whales, overfishing, the thoughtless uncaring behaviour that is bringing whole species to extinction and making the lives of many animals one of unbearable suffering.  They must speak for the right of animals; for the right of all sentient and non-sentient entities, including forests, rivers and oceans, to exist for their own purposes and not just for the purpose humanity imposes upon them.

They must speak against the excesses of wealth, the pursuit of economic growth at all cost, the harm done to people and the earth by investment capitalism, the waste of conspicuous consumption, the dangers of selfish acquisition and ownership, the arrogant, exploitative and dispossessing behaviour of the haves over the have-nots.

These leaders must insist on the equality of all people, on the proper sharing of resources: education, medicine, food, water, employment and opportunity.  They must speak for the poor, the homeless, the repressed, the migrant, for those driven from their homes by the pressures of climate trauma, by conflict and the lack of economic opportunity and education.  These leaders must find their voice, and without compromise, insist on what is just and right for all people.

Humanity needs a leadership that calls upon its higher nature.  That calls upon the ability of people everywhere to rise above entrenched attitudes and prejudices, above selfishness and the irresponsible pursuit of desires, to draw upon the tolerance, openness, forgiveness, inclusivity, wisdom, compassion, love and consciousness of the higher self. Humanity is the thinking animal.  Sharing in the evolution of life on earth, humans, like all creatures, have a basic, instinctive, desire nature, but humanity, homo sapiens sapiens, the ‘twice wise’, does not have to be driven by that nature.  Human reflective self-consciousness is capable of being much more than merely pursuing the gratification of short-term desires.  Humanity has reached out and understood the movement of the planets and stars, the structure of the body, the cell, the atom, and of subatomic particles.  It is able to make long-term considerations and organise itself to overcome challenges.

Humanity has overcome the effects of two devastating world wars.  It has ended the international slave trade, enfranchised women, brought medical advances to many, built hospitals, schools, colleges, regulated the use of many toxins, protected threatened species, established many peaceful societies and institutions.  Why should it fall at the hurdles it faces now?

Humanity needs a leadership that serves all peoples, beliefs, races, ages, classes and individuals; that can speak to the heart of everyone; that can inspire the best skills, the greatest responsibility and the truth of conscience; a leadership that can awaken the higher consciousness enabling people everywhere to be and act in harmony with all beings on this beautiful planet that they call home.  Such a leadership can take humanity home to itself; it can help it remember the great gifts of the soul: consciousness and being, tranquility and energy.  It can place humanity firmly on the source of all being, inspire humanity to live at one with all life, to allow things to be as they are meant to be – one and many, many and one – and humanity as its consciousness.

The leadership that will inspire humanity to stop poisoning the air, the land, the rivers and the oceans; that will inspire it to stop felling the forests, damning the rivers, trawling the oceans and close its animal enslaving farms and factories; that will persuade humanity to take only what is needed and what the earth can afford to give; that will convince humanity to have smaller families and less lavish lifestyles, to put down its guns and take up its responsibilities; that will teach humanity that it and all beings come from one source of life itself, share in one, single and fundamental origin of being, and exist as one community upon the earth; that will teach humanity to listen and act, not according to its whims, attachments and desires, but according to the one great voice of being; will be the wholly new leadership with an indefatigable voice that will fill humanity with the courage to rise up and take the path that will give itself and all life on earth a future.

Let a leadership rise with the courage to end the privilege of age, wealth, inherited property and power, so all have equal opportunity on the commons of the earth.  Let leadership belong to those with nothing to defend, who represent no interests, who see all beings as equals, living free, in peace, determined by no-one but themselves.  Let leadership belong to those who hold onto nothing but friendship, equality, joy and forgiveness. Let a leadership rise that is of and empowers the young.

 

A Perfect World

The world is perfect in the broadest sense, the Earth’s gift of life is truly magnificent, and humanity has learnt to live well upon it.  Humanity has developed the circumstances in which it has thrived.  But in so doing, it has also consistently over-reached itself, its hubris repeatedly bringing calamity to many.  In the past, when the economy was within the carrying capacity of the earth, this did not matter so much; humanity received the lessons it needed and continued on its way.  But now, in the industrial age, human actions have not been tempered by the necessary restraint and wisdom, humanity has fallen out of balance with the total global environment upon which it entirely depends and will be unable to continue.  However, there is a deeper sense in which even this devastating falling out of balance with life on earth is perfect; for as humanity destroys itself through its desires and ambitions – and above all by its failure to awaken the moral conscience and care for each other, the earth and its creatures – so each human will receive the lesson it needs from this tragic experience for the soul to awaken and grow.

Those who understand what humanity is doing to life on earth and are doing what they can to stop that harm, are not in a position to judge those who do not yet understand the consequences of their actions and continue to do it harm.  Everyone is where they need to be to receive the prerequisite lessons.  It may be that those souls who understand what humanity is doing no longer need that lesson, but they are still in need other lessons before being ready to move on to another state of being.  While those souls who have not yet understood the consequences of their actions will take the lesson of the destruction of their world with them into their next physical incarnation, whether on this planet or another, where its teaching may emerge in their mythologies.

The coming climate crisis presents humanity with the opportunity to awaken and come together to preserve the perfection of the world.  If humanity can pour all its efforts into protecting the earth environment, Nature will be their guide, and she will show them that soul awakening is entirely compatible with scientific knowledge.  If humanity opens its heart to Nature, it will find its compassion and the means to live in peace with one another.  If humanity abandons its polluting technologies and superfluous luxuries and learns to conserve and support the earth’s natural systems it will come to understand itself.  In the coming titanic struggle to ensure all its actions are in harmony with Nature, success will mean that humanity continues to be supported by Nature, that it will be restored to good health and that it has risen above desire-driven ego consciousness into soul consciousness.  Humanity is in a struggle to awaken the soul and preserve the perfection of the world.  Each mirrors the other.  Success will mean living at a higher level of civilisation, at peace within, in peace and co-operation with each other, in harmony with life on earth.  Failure to awaken to soul consciousness will be mirrored without, for ultimately the climate crisis is a crisis of the soul.

 

Things to do now

To help create a ‘soft landing’ in the aftermath of ecosystem and economic collapse, here are some practical objectives that can begin now:

  • Go into Nature.  Slow down.  Give yourself time to think.  Do not be distracted.
  • Examine your consumption. Stop flying. Down shift and down size.
  • Prepare for sudden change.  Have at least a month’s supply of food, fuel, water, cash and essential supplies in secure storage.
  • Get to know the neighbours.  Share resources and information.
  • Study and develop resilient, sustainable, self-sufficient skills:  Develop allotments, permaculture methods, animal husbandry, renewables, woodland resources, seed and plant exchanges, off-grid energy supplies, stock up on tools, learn how to preserve foods, etc.
  • Future-proof housing.  Build super-insulated, low energy homes with kitchens and utilities suited for processing and storage of locally produced foods.
  • Form local support groups and promote the idea of citizen assemblies.
  • Become familiar with ‘Rules of Order’ for local self-organisation, meetings etc.
  • Form Truth and Reconciliation groups.  Provide ecopsychology counselling and workshops.  Develop therapeutic skills for dealing with trauma, loss, hopelessness, grief etc.  Build psychological resilience.
  • Develop medical skills.
  • Build spiritual strength.  Meditate.  Promote inter-faith dialogue, universalist and humanitarian principles.
  • Take direct political action.  Join a protest.
  • Have local councils declare the climate emergency and help them develop contingency plans in the event of food, water, fuel, medicine etc., shortages. 
  • Ensure government initiatives for environmental collapse are in place.  Pressure government to plan for all possibilities: sea level rise, global temperature rise, drought, flood, financial meltdown, etc.
  • Ensure governments have effective contingency plans for national provision of food, fuel, water, medicine, law, order, decommissioning of nuclear facilities and safe storage of nuclear waste etc. in the event of economic/ecosystem collapse.
  • Find ways to invest outside of capitalism: local supply of water, food, carbon neutral energy sources, etc.  Plant trees and promote rare breeds.  Purchase locally produced goods.  Support locally financed and taught education.  Develop local currencies.  Barter.
  • Campaign for education, representation, enfranchisement, tolerance, diversity, equality, wilderness, ethical banking, disinvestment from hydro-carbon economy etc.
  • Call for Emergency Environmental Cooperation, the creation of an 'International Green Deal', a transformation of the global economy that recognizes the true value of resources.
  • Start planning self-sufficient societies and infrastructure with no provision for war, that are designed for the long-term sustainability, resilience and flexibility of the environment – its organisms, plants, animals and people – where all outputs meet inputs, where every resource utilized means that an equivalent or greater resource remains unutilized.