by Pauline Schneider
What is acceptance?
Relinquishing of one’s will?
The cessation of struggling?
The great pause at the moment of silent realization that nothing you do will change the outcome?
Perhaps the most frequent first question Guy gets after talking about human extinction, besides being asked if becoming vegan will help, is this: “If there is nothing we can do, why do you bother telling people? What’s the point of upsetting them?”
“Upsetting people” with the truth has never been a problem before. Do you really think people would have been upset at Paul Revere for announcing that the red coats were coming? However, as ludicrous as it sounds, some people accuse Guy McPherson not only of being upsetting, but of even causing our demise from his travels to spread the truth. Riiiight. Because the carbon footprint of the US military isn’t doing that already … The military that is larger than the next 15 largest the militaries of the world combined. No, it’s one little guy in New Mexico taking planes that were already scheduled to fly that’s ending the world. Will the stupid never end? That’s easy to answer: Yes, it will.
But first you have to forget that the aerosols and sulfates sprayed by planes are, ironically, actually putting off the inevitable warming by reflecting solar energy back into space.
So, fly baby, fly. Extend the misery a little longer.
Let me propose a metaphor for those struggling with the idea of acceptance of near-term human extinction, and there are a bunch of you out there. You know who you are.
Would a person with stage 4 cancer be upset at the doctor who informed her that she had a limited time left in this life? Or would the cancer victim be upset at the cancer?
I would wager that the person would be upset with the many potential causes of the said cancer, and either have regrets (e.g., smoking, red meat) or anger (e.g., 9/11 first responders, Fukushima).
Would the cancer victim then, upon realizing there’s limited time left, work really hard to earn as much money before dying, or would he/she try to spend those last precious days with loved ones (please remember that Breaking Bad is a work of fiction)? Doing incredible things? Visiting magical places? Getting in touch with one’s deeper self?
Would he forgive the trespasses of others and ask for forgiveness? Would this cancer victim struggle to find acceptance of the quickly coming end? Or fight for life to the bitter end?
That is a personal journey we may all have to take someday, maybe sooner than we anticipate. Those end-of-life choices are personal decisions that no one can make for us.
However, we have all seen at least one person or more that we care about face that predictable end and make that difficult choice. Some fought hard, inevitably failing, having wasted precious energy and time (and money) on treatments that have as much effect as doing nothing and leave a person sicker and more miserable. Others instead, embraced the fast-coming outcome and dove head first into life, loving more deeply, experiencing relationships more profoundly and having the time and energy to be present, to be available, to be here now. They relinquished the will to fight, but not the will to live and were the richer for it. Regardless of which path one chooses, the option of a choice must, at the very least, be given. It would be wrong of a doctor not to tell a patient that their days are numbered.
To deny anyone the truth of their impending demise is, as Dr Guy McPherson pointed out, nothing short of malpractice. Of course it’s upsetting to know you are going to die. We all realized that upsetting truth at the age of five years or so. Of course it’s upsetting to know your death is coming sooner than anticipated, or that retirement will not be the “golden years” you thought you were going to have with your lover.
But maybe you can use this knowledge as an opportunity and find instead that acceptance of your impending doom might result in a richer experience not only for you, but for those who love you. We are not, after all, islands, although our experience of the world is unique to each of us, as we look out from our personal lenses and perspectives. No two people will have the exact same experience, though it can be close. Ultimately, we each die alone. We each walk into the Abyss alone. Or we each run from it alone.
Acceptance is looking the Abyss in the face and recognizing her for who she is, albeit with fear in our hearts. The idea of dying is scary. However, going permanently extinct is downright terrifying. There are no do-overs with extinction, no lessons learned, no history to ignore and repeat ad nauseam. No one will remember us fondly when we are gone. (Nor should they, if there were anyone left.)
Acceptance is recognizing that nothing we do now can stop the Abyss from embracing us, not solar panels, not recycling, not riding bikes, not going vegan, not protesting, not apps on your phone, nothing.
Nothing will save our sorry skins now. We are 40 years too late responding to the crisis. It’s a terrible truth, but it is the truth. If you still have doubts, read through the “Climate change summary and update” on this website. He didn’t invent those facts. When you’re done reading the list, remember what’s not on it: 90% death rate of honey bees, 50% death of phytoplankton, 90% loss of ocean sea life due to over-fishing, 400+ nuclear power plants that require grid-tied power to prevent them from melting down, and so on. Do you see where I’m going?
The equivalent of this kind of acceptance is similar to being in stage 4 cancer that is rarely if ever cured by the allopathic treatments that may or may not extend the misery, but certainly line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. A dear friend recently passed of cancer and instead of fighting it, she chose to celebrate her life and go out like the glorious star she always was. She surrounded herself with friends, music and art and touched people’s hearts from across the world.
We can choose to continue to act like whiny fools, pointing fingers and avoiding responsibility, and looking away from the scary truth. Or we can act like the stars we are, gloriously embracing our well-earned fate and our coming return to star dust. We have the chance to say “goodbye, I love you,” to each other before we go. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?
Pauline Schneider, MA Edu, BA Sociology and Anthropology, AAS in Radio and TV Production, is certified as a Landscape Designer by the New York Botanical Gardens and she specializes in edible forest gardening as developed by permaculturists Eric Toensemeier and David Jacke. A core team member of a Transition Town movement hub in New York’s Westchester County, she has been involved in environmental activism for over two decades. Since hearing Dr McPherson’s lecture on collapse and climate change a year ago, she has been documenting his journeys and interviewing people who have been touched and inspired by his message to “do what you love,” and “be here now”. Both she and Dr McPherson were recently certified as Grief Recovery Method facilitators and held their first workshop in Manglaralto, Ecuador at Catherine Campion’s educational retreat, Tera Nova de Corazon.