Either you do this, or you die
It’s an election year, so it feels even worse right now.
Reading articles in the news each day, you would think we have to choose sides, and fast, choose: jobs or planet? Social justice or restrictions? traditional values or chaos? Religion or immorality? Social media or disconnection? Left or right? Black or white?
We are faced with almost every issue as if it is binary.
Most events and situations in life are not either/or, in reality, they are some of this and some of that.
We put ourselves into boxes that we have to cognitively leap out of when we hear the words “either/or.” When you are told “either we do…” followed by some directive to choose a herd, “or we die due to…” Remember the box you are in.
Zoom and doom
When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived, we quite quickly switched from in-person office jobs to zoom meetings.
Remarkably, this set the stage for the possibility of less CO2 due to commuting cars. Yet, it also slowed down our supply chains, and we learned we are overly dependent on big, polluting trucks. This can help us plan for better railways, and public transport, but also local growth.
Pandemics can show us many truths.
There certainly was more than a fair share of doom, but there was also international cooperation and the whole history of Gay activism around public policy and epidemiology that saw to it we were able to quickly get Coronavirus vaccinations out faster, worldwide, than we could have done when HIV first broke.
It has never been true that our worst mistakes give us no insights. There is never a moment when we don’t have any chance at all to gain lessons.
We also learned from the last three years that politics can hijack health policy and put everyone from school children to nurses at risk. We learned that essential workers are indeed, essential, and we need to care for each other.
We can create suffering, but also solutions
We are given examples that say we must stop the age of oil before it stops us.
Stop driving or flying before we pollute everything, kill biodiversity, or we all die in an overheated climate crash of cataclysms. We read that after the crash, Earth will be fine without us.
Very often, I read that if we kill ourselves, Earth will be fine.
Suffering is never “fine.” Our billions of tons of wires, walls, plastic, ocean nets, mining debris, wreckage, and toxins don’t magically disappear when we do.
Nor is our human suffering total, or as inevitable as we hear that it is. That is, even if the next zoonotic plague wiped out five billion of us, there are still several billion people left. Even if the Cascadia earthquake and the Mega fires come in the same year there will still likely be people wandering about, sifting through the black and white and trying not to see everything is dusted with gray.
We desperately want to see black and white — to simplify — because it’s a shortcut. But it is also a lie.
Think small, think big, think outside the box, but never think in just black and white
It feels as though we are being asked to sacrifice our comforts for the sake of energy to drive a rapacious economy. But all these ways to frame our perspective on the world are skewed by our need to see black and white and never nuance.
Why is the green movement met with almost pure negativity, and called doom-saying? There are ways to find value, not just sacrifice, in giving up dirty energy and coopering together to find clean energy.
There is something to gain, too, in pushing all our survivors together to innovate for greener, water-saving cities, and to convert old office buildings and parking garages into plazas and gardens.
There is spiritual gain in finding a belonging to the creation rather than declaring that a select few are chosen, and the remainder of creation is damned and destroyed.
There is great beauty in holding on to rituals that connect and heal while letting go of those that exclude and judge.
There is social gain in finding the humanity of one another. You do not have to be Black, homosexual, or Trans to love someone who is. You do not have to be an atheist, or a priest, to recognize people have love in their hearts, and thoughts in their minds.
Knowledge and technology: go to Mars or save the Earth?
Right now our algorithms work twenty-four hours a day to mine us for data. They look for extremes, controversy, for polarizing ideas.
A few people say technology will destroy us. A few others (especially vested billionaires) say it will save us.
Technology, always, will both kill us and save us.
You can look at the first sharpened stick that stabbed another, or you can look at the star-fading 3,000+ satellites put up by Musk alone. You can look at how we learned to conserve seeds, and how we learned to control fires.
That is, like any other of the aforementioned tools, religion, money, economy, borders, identity, and so forth, technology has the power that we give to it.
We can all choose tech that helps. We can choose trends that contribute rather than consume. We can choose durable over disposable. We can choose small things that personally empower us, like avoiding waste and trash. We can choose big things like community composting and gardening. We can choose in-between things that we feel give us power, and even delight. Technology that is innovative can help heal human suffering. We can devise efficiency in retrofitting, heating, cooling, soil and farming preservation, and more. We can conserve.
Do not lose sight of the fact that all of these things are happening, albeit slowly, today. Do not give up, because our psychology and belonging demand that we see a bigger picture.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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