I grew up in the seventies and remember a public service announcement on television featuring Iron Eyes Cody as an iconic, crying Native American imploring us not to throw our trash on the ground. The threat of pollution felt different back then, like using a trash can was the right and responsible thing to do, though ultimately no big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Today, when I happen to look up from whatever the high-def screen of the moment is and notice the outside world, I can see how much has changed. Looking west, it’s the smoky air quality from a much longer wildfire season and earth-cracking drought, to the south and east, the rising water from ever increasing “500-year floods” and a fast-changing coastline. And even as far north as the Arctic Circle, it’s record-breaking heat waves and fast-melting permafrost.
The trajectory of our world feels darker now, more diseased than that old public service announcement had cautioned us against. Some days it feels like a looming shadow of cancerous inevitability is spreading over our planet. Some days I’m just too anxious to cry as old Iron Eyes Cody did.
The scientists, who we used to believe and respect more, inform us it’s because of our bad choices as a species that our world is in peril.
Many of us live as if the world is merely a resource, divinely put here by our Creator to be exploited by us. Because we believe it was made for us, we give no thought to the natural balance of our ecology, the homeostasis that ensures the continuity of life. The haze of our immediate desires obstructs any long-term implications thinking regarding our choices. It’s like we’re blinded by the arrogance of our human exceptionalism. We’re God’s chosen, after all!
Most scientists agree that our time on this lovely and generous world is being drastically reduced due to our bad choices. It’s really that simple. We are in the midst of an epidemic of thoughtless choice making—we are stricken with a merciless case of brain diarrhea that is keeping us from thinking clearly. Look at the state of the world and dare to say I’m wrong.
I believe that we’re actually too afraid to look at the state of the world. It’s terrifying to awaken the awareness of how we are corrupting the balance of our biosphere with our false exceptionalism. If we did look, it would force us to change our ways. That’s the last thing we want to do. We cling tight to our worldview of unending growth and an insatiable consumption far beyond our needs. Our good credit scores and mindless purchasing power are like a prayer of protection against the inevitable. “Buy one, get one free! Amen.”
The freedom to do as we please is revered in the West. But should we be free to be irresponsible schmucks? Should we be free to use up everything and leave only toxic scraps for our children and grandchildren because we don’t have the grit to honor the future generations?
We’ve reached the heights of irresponsible schmuck-hood, I’m afraid. Our fear blinds us, and we don’t question the insane belief system (BS for short) that sustains this modern, all-consuming technological age—the BS that nature is something separate from us; only an asset to be used up.
How is this for crazy: The Washington Post reported that buried within a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) environmental impact statement is the following conclusion: In 80 years the average temperature of our planet will have risen by seven degrees Fahrenheit due to climate change.
It goes on to say that this rise in temperatures is inevitable and that it would be pointless to reduce the emissions standards of vehicles today. It would do little to mitigate the warming trend, so might as well forget about it.
This devastating report didn’t make the headlines amidst the usual political reality show nonsense that engrosses so many of us. And that’s tragic, because this report demonstrates the insanity and nihilistic thinking so pervasive among the old white men in charge of things today. They don’t seem to care about the future of our young ones.
The spiritual teacher, G.I. Gurdjieff said that awakening begins when we realize we are going nowhere and don’t really know what we’re supposed to be doing or where we should be going. That can be a very frightening awakening indeed!
Maybe it’s time to admit that we have never been on solid footing in terms of our relationship to the rest of creation—we don’t know who we are, where we are going, or how to proceed. If we can be with the idea that we are basically clueless, just sit with it, slowly becoming familiar with the notion, things will settle and the fear will diminish.
We have a natural state of being within us that is inexorably linked with the living systems of our world. We are nature! And when we begin to awaken to that internal mechanism, we begin to naturally align with the great unfolding of life, instead of resisting it like we normally do. This seems to be the call of our times. To wake up and realize that we are nature!
There is a scary question demanding our attention: Why are we not moving heaven and earth to wake up, to bring conscious awareness to our choice making, to change this dark, ecological arc toward a point of no return? Why are we not thinking about our children’s future?
If we did decide to change, how would we begin? If we wanted to align with this wondrous creation what would be the first steps? We begin by bringing awareness to the implications of our choices. And we move towards making more life-affirming choices.
Let’s start with water. The average American uses about 100 gallons of fresh water every day. It’s been estimated that up to 40% of the world’s population will be facing some type of water scarcity in the next 15 years. And yet, we keep flushing huge amounts of fresh water, about 2 gallons for every 2 cups of pee, and watering our ridiculous green lawns and creating golf courses in the desert like we know what we are doing. Maybe we begin by not flushing our pee every time. Remember the old rule of thumb: if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.
And why not try some landscaping that doesn’t require huge amounts of fresh water. And don’t frequent golf courses built in the desert!
Next, food. Eat less meat and animal products. The cost to our world due to factory farmed meat and dairy production is devastating. So, for our children and grandchildren, eat fewer animal products.
And vote for people who aren’t trapped in nihilism, who give a crap about our world’s future and believe that science is real.
But really, what our children and our planet need most is for us to just awaken from the dream of being something separate from nature, some exceptional species. And when we begin to awaken, to inform ourselves of the cost of our bad choices and how simple it is to make different, more balanced ones, we will naturally do better.
We have the freedom to be irresponsible schmucks. And we also have the freedom to become skillful stewards who live in balance if we wish to. At our core, we all want harmony and will make life-affirming choices once we realize what is needed. At least, I truly hope this is the case.
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