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Hope, Despair and the Climate Crisis

This is about how we respond to the Climate Crisis and the relentless bad news about it-with despair, or with hope.  I’ll tip my hand and say it is really about how to fight off despair and find hope for the future.

It’s not easy to find hope.  For thanks to the climate crisis, the prospects for a livable future just keep getting worse.

I’ve written many times about the Climate Crisis over the past several years on various community blogs, and I notice several repeated reactions in comments.  Some offer their favorite solutions, or write about what they are doing personally to limit their carbon footprint.  But many responses are more emotional.

 There is fear, partly the product of quite natural denial-not denying the reality of global heating, but staying in denial about it as much as possible, while obsessing on much smaller issues.  There is anger, about how we allowed this to happen, etc. And there is despair: the world is coming to an end, and there’s really nothing we can do about it.

Despair, like anger, is another expression of fear.  But it is not entirely irrational.  How can it be, when we do face the real possibility of catastrophe?  

People have basically two reasons for despair: they believe that in its present state, humanity won’t meet this challenge.  There are too many political, economic and cultural barriers.  Humanity isn’t smart enough yet, mature enough, enlightened enough. And then there’s human nature: greed and fear will overcome.  

The second reason for despair is that resistance is futile: that the tipping points have all been passed, and there’s nothing humanity can do anyway to prevent catastrophe.  

It’s hard to argue with either of these reasons.  They may prove to be true.  But there are also counterarguments to each of them.


An article called “Gratitude” by Joanna Macy was published in the November issue of Shambhala Sun, appropriately for Thanksgiving in the U.S., and also for the post-gifted holiday season.  

But Macy’s concept of gratitude is especially interesting in that it doesn’t change as circumstances do: whether or not you got what you wanted for Christmas, or everyone in your family is healthy, or any of the other good things we are of course grateful for.

Macy is writing about a deeper gratitude, with spiritual and political ramifications.

The article begins:

“We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe–to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it–it is a wonder beyond words. It is an extraordinary privilege to be accorded a human life, with self-reflexive consciousness that brings awareness of our own actions and the ability to make choices. It lets us choose to take part in the healing of our world.”

“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.

That our world is in crisis–to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question—in no way diminishes the value of this gift; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom and courage, so that life itself can continue.

There is so much to be done, and the time is so short. We can proceed, of course, out of grim and angry desperation. But the tasks proceed more easily and productively with a measure of thankfulness for life; it links us to our deeper powers and lets us rest in them….”


Climate Crisis Future: Danger for Democrats

In a previous Kos post as well as on my Dreaming Up Daily, I speculated on the emerging Republican plan for the Climate Crisis. Basically it is to mix denial with assertions of doing something, in order to essentially do nothing (or not enough) to stop greenhouse gas pollution, while waiting to use the opportunity of a climate-related disaster in the U.S. to shift attention to their version of crisis management, which is disaster capitalism.

The Democrats are much different, yet there are also two sets of problems I foresee for them–one of which has pretty much the same result for the future as the Republican plan, and the other involves a lack of preparation for near-term crisis, and how the Republicans are likely to try to take advantage of that.

Crucial to this analysis is my insistence that the Climate Crisis has two very different parts: the threat of truly catastrophic changes in the future if we don’t stop greenhouse pollution now (the “Stop It” component) and the need to address serious problems and disasters that are going to happen in the relatively near future because of climate change–problems it is too late to stop (the “Fix It” component.) Follow for the analysis.