I’ve been deeply researching the climate and eco-crises for some time now, as well as experiencing the physical changes, extreme weather events and frightening mass extinction events happening in my own personal world. Alarmed, I even helped found an Extinction Rebellion chapter in my hometown on the California coast.
Sometimes, I have hope. Sometimes, I don’t. A lot of the time, I feel like this …
Well, folks: Here we are on the Titanic! All of the most rational, smart, compassionate and educated crew members (who I personally like, know and trust) are telling me that the Titanic is heading for an iceberg.
And actually I have peered over the side of the ship and seen the iceberg myself! I feel the coldness of it coming closer. I see other ships out ahead that are already sinking, their passengers terrified, resigned or already grieving …
I have children on this boat with me and I think: Perhaps there is a way to avert further disaster, or the worst of it.
So I run around to the other people on the boat and say: “Look! The captain of the ship does not understand that he is going in the wrong direction. I think he’s drunk! Or else, he doesn’t care! Shall we go and storm the bridge? … How about it?”
“Or perhaps we should get out the lifeboats and lifejackets? … Or, how about if we just get in a lifeboat and fill it up as much as possible and start taking off? … Or, something? Anything?
Even: “Shall we get ready to comfort people as we go down?” is something.
And here are the responses I receive. The first is:
“Oh no, the ship’s not heading for an iceberg! That is a global conspiracy organized by Stalinist UN henchmen, Al Gore and Al Jazeera. It’s called Agenda 21, and it’s meant to collar and bind us all and make us wear gray pajamas unto our deaths.”
And then: “Oh, you know, maybe the ship is heading for an iceberg, but ships have gone down before in the past. And people survived! Perhaps it will not go down. Perhaps a strong wind will arise in the future and push us in a different direction. Why worry?”
Or, “I think those trustworthy crewmembers you so respect and who are risking their jobs and getting terribly criticized and abused by the captain are getting paid, actually, by bad actors. They’re in it for the money. It’s a terribly big industry — thinking we are heading for an iceberg.” (Of course the captain’s NOT getting paid — and a thousand times more than anyone else — but, whatever. He’s the good guy here.)
Or, “Well, we are having too much fun on the ship right now and don’t really wanna pay attention to the iceberg. It certainly can’t be that bad! What’s the worst that can happen? I’m sure we still have time.”
Or, “You know we have been heading for icebergs before in the past and it wasn’t that bad. In fact it might be good for the ship! Maybe we need an extra hole or two!”
Or: “You know, there are other bad things happening on the ship — for example the food is not so good and/or there is a sickness going round. The shuffleboard court is awfully dirty. People are fighting below deck!”
Or: “OK! Let’s meditate and pray and raise everyone’s level of consciousness and that will certainly do the trick!”
Or: “Well, I recycle! (am vegetarian/ride a bike/plant trees)”
Meanwhile, the iceberg is looming closer and closer.
And I am wondering how much consciousness one needs in order to care about the ship and all the passengers, the elderly, the disabled, the women and children in it, and do something to save them before it is far too late.
By now, though, quite a few of the other passengers are aware of the iceberg. They have heard from the rest of the honest crew and they have actually verified it for themselves by looking over the side of the boat. Indeed, we’ve already hit a few smaller icebergs and now the lower decks, steerage class, are filling up. People are drowning, down below, actually. So, new folks join with me and there is finally some comfort in numbers. We run about the ship now trying to alert the other passengers, together.
At the same time, we discover that the Captain and his loyalists have a huge insurance policy out on the ship and seem willing to risk everyone’s lives, oddly, including their own, for the sake of a shit ton of money. So they are spreading lies and rumors about the ship’s trajectory. They have access to the ship’s daily bulletin and are publishing all kinds of nonsense. (The ship is impervious to icebergs, “arsonists” are steering the ship, the ship needs its dry brush burned and raked, really.)
The rest of the passengers are telling me that my new, beloved and deeply caring and concerned friends are now in hysterics and being alarmists, are being misled or have some other terrible agenda that is meant to actually bring the ship down.
The iceberg is not the problem! It’s the people who are worried about the iceberg who are the problem! Let’s focus on attacking them and their motives.
And all along, I wonder sometimes, I truly wonder if we just cannot face the fact that the Titanic is heading for the iceberg, and what that actually means about and for each of us, and the rest of our lives.
In my mind, spirituality, meditation and prayer are not about just “raising levels of consciousness” now — in isolation. They are about helping people face this fear in denial so that they can be in courage, wisdom, love and right action when all of these are needed most.
I do not know what that right action is for each person. It is certainly appropriate to play the piano while the ship goes down, if that is one’s honest choice. It is totally OK to be OK with the ship going down. That is not what bothers me, actually.
It is this flood of denial I find so, so, so terribly, awfully, disastrously disheartening. This is what gets me most, especially when my activist friends are totally unpaid and truly put their hearts, souls and bodies on the line. The beautiful scientists, amazing authors, academics, researchers and journalists I’ve met now personally, who have become mournful now, who have become resigned. Who have been speaking for 30 or 40 years to no real effect because our governments are in bed with the fossil fuel industry.
We are all of us sacrificing so much more, of course, than anyone at executive levels in the fossil fuel industry — who make millions and billions of dollars in one of the biggest and most rapacious enterprises ever to exist on planet earth. An industry that fosters war upon war and now the death of an entire planet. (Or much/most of it … who knows?)
We can include all the major industries that are extracting and mining and producing and creating a voracious consumer culture across nearly 8 billion people that is now threatening Earths’ species at an acclerating rate. We can include all those who continue to believe we can have endless growth on a finite planet. We can include ourselves and our habits.
But to attack the activist, to keep the focus on any personal failing of theirs, to question their integrity or their intelligence or motives at this time when actually all of us would much rather this not be happening at all! This saddens me more than anything else.
Why not focus instead on removing the drunk captain and his belligerent, loyalist officers? Why not keep our eyes on the prize?
Every day, some new, twisted denialist narrative shows up in my social media feeds, some new angle of attack. And every day, I wonder: Why we are so resistant to simply trying to turn the ship around?
Certainly it wouldn’t hurt! Wouldn’t we all feel better if we were simply steering away from the iceberg — even if there are doubts about whether or not the ship would go down? Why wouldn’t we try to do this?
Why not buck up, and work shoulder to shoulder, to do what we can toward a new trajectory — one that did not include oil spills, pipeline spills, trampling over indigenous rights and sovereignty, air pollution, asthma, massive amounts of fresh water diversion and contamination (fracking), natural gas well-induced earthquakes, and wars and conflicts across the globe? Why would we not rise to the challenge? We would we lie and lie and lie and lie and lie and believe all those lies, until we are past tipping point to save species and even ourselves?
I wonder these things.