Secession is to separate. It is to withdraw from a whole, from a union, or from a federation. It means that you go your own way and reject the limitations inherent in oneness, wholeness, and responsibility. As climate change becomes increasingly insidious and established, people everywhere on all sides are seceding. People are leaving for gated communities, insulated jobs, and better climate locations. We are separating politically, socially, and economically. We are separating religiously and even militarily. States in the US have movements that want to secede, some of them backed by militias. We are retreating into our own little colonies as a defense against the impending climate disaster, which we rightly see — even if we don’t say it — as an existential threat.
This is a natural, if devastating, response. Psychologically, it is caving in. It is capitulation. We are giving up on any ability to solve climate change, and instead taking up defensive positions. People on the right have organized. They have their guns, they have their ideas. People on the left are just starting. They realize that if they have food, food may become a scarce commodity, and they may need to defend it. A commune or an oasis is not enough to keep one well.
People are seceding from public education through homeschooling and private schools. We are seceding from civic life, from school board service to election worker service to resisting paying any taxes at all. Indeed, we are separating into clusters of people “like us,” in a balkanization of society. “Keep the others out!” Or worse, “Get rid of the liberals.” Or, “Get rid of the conservatives!”
This is the stuff of civil breakdown. Society is cracking under the weight of the impending doom we all face. Rather than coming together the way we need to, society is fracturing. We are breaking down.
In the progressive climate change community, this breakdown is hidden behind “carbon footprint.” We focus on our own footprint as if that is enough, as if that is doing our part, and if we do that, we can go on with our lives. We separate ourselves from all the other responsibility to add to systemic change that can help everyone. Instead, we go along, do our part, and wash our hands. That too is a secession.
It is a secession because while the greater good needs carbon footprint reduction, it also needs much more from us. Each of us needs to put our best energy into creating solutions. It’s not enough to reduce your personal carbon footprint and still go to work as usual every day. To do so is to leave behind your responsibility to contribute. It is to separate from the needs of society, to pretend that you are somehow separate, and maybe better.
Survival moves are coming for many, and they will amount to secession as well. I have a new next-door neighbor who moved north “after 22 years of drought” in Utah. “Now, I know we’ll be fine,” he says. He leaves behind everyone and everything in Utah because he can. Just like a gated community.
Social media leads us to secede intellectually and ideationally. We find our friends. We listen to them. We listen to no one else. We secede.
Just at the time when we need to connect, we are separating. We are seceding from society, from connection, from wholeness. As we do, we learn disdain, we learn to distinguish, and eventually, we learn to hate. Anyone with a different view becomes the enemy in this dog-eat-dog world. If you seceded and you have yours, anyone who doesn’t secede becomes an enemy. They are a threat because they may want what you have, and when they become desperate to survive, they may know no limits. Desperate people do desperate things.
Let this be a lament for the world we are losing, the one in which many dreamed of a community of human beings working together to solve problems. We need each other, and we all need to step forward into solutions, in whatever way we can contribute. Separating is not an answer. Dropping out is not an answer. Self-sufficiency is not an answer. Rarified community is not an answer.
If we want to stop climate change, we have to stop navel-gazing. It is not enough to cover your carbon footprint. That won’t cut it. You need to break the isolation. You need to connect. We all need to contribute to part of the solution beyond ourselves. Look for it. See what you can find. Stay connected. Then go do it.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
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