by Alton C. Thompson
“. . . is love,” continues the 1965 song originally sung by Jackie DeShannon (and numerous others since 1965), the music having been composed by Burt Bacharach, with lyrics being written by Hal David. The song raises an important question, however: What is love?
At least two types of love can be identified.  On the one hand there is that infatuation and attachment that arises between two members of the opposite sex which directly results in sexual intercourse (before, after, or apart from, marriage) and indirectly has the function of perpetuating the species. That is, there is that sort of love which exists because it has a biological function. (This is not to say, of course, that there cannot be a similar process that occurs with members of the same sex—that particular process, however, contributing nothing to a species’ continuation.)
On the other hand, there is that type of love—also likely having a biological basis—that results in behaviors of a rather different sort: Behaviors motivated by a feeling of empathy for another in conjunction with the perception that the one for whom one is feeling empathy is lacking in well-being for one reason or another. The behavior engaged in, consequently, is of a “helping” variety, its specific nature depending on the nature of the decision-making engaged in, and acted upon, by the “helpee” in question.
Given the following lyrics of the song (and the reference to “everyone,” specifically):
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone
It seems clear that the song is referring to the second sort of love. But our reaching that conclusion is not very helpful because, although it strongly suggests that “loving” involves not just a mental state, but consequent behavior(s):
- The “loving” behaviors of a given person will likely vary in their specifics over time, in different situations.
- The “loving” behaviors of one person over time are likely to vary from the comparable behaviors of any other person during a given period of time.
- The behaviors that constitute “loving” behaviors during one historical period are likely to differ from the comparable behaviors for a different historical period.
It is this third possibility that I wish to focus on in the present essay. And the assumption that underlies the discussion that follows is that our species is on the road to extinction —by about 2040 CE per John B. Davies, by 2030 CE per Guy McPherson. And that strong possibility causes me to quote the second and fourth stanzas of the song, because both refer to Nature:
Lord, we don’t need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last until the end of time
Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are corn fields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh, listen Lord, if You want to know
The references here to mountains, hillsides, oceans, rivers, meadows, sunbeams, and moonbeams (and even the human creations, corn fields and wheat fields) reminds one that Earth is filled with beauty, and simply being in Nature brings joy to one—because we became “designed,” through evolutionary mechanisms, for life on Earth, that life to be enjoyed while living our “threescore and ten.”
However, we humans have, especially since the Agricultural Revolution of 10,000 years ago, tended to treat Earth as our enemy. In effect, we have made the “invisible hand” said to be in operation during the beginning phases of the Industrial Revolution into an invisible middle finger! And in doing so, Nature is now taking its revenge.
How should those of us aware of the (presumed) fact of our imminent demise as a species respond to that (likely) fact? Guy McPherson has answered this question by using “Our days are numbered. [Therefore,] Passionately pursue a life of excellence” as the subtitle of his web site (the site itself being appropriately named “Nature Bats Last”!); and titling one of his essays “Only Love Remains.” 
I have no basic quarrel with either the message contained in McPherson’s website subtitle or his “only love remains” essay, but am bothered by the fact that as global warming “progresses,” it’s inevitable that increasingly will deaths be attributable to (a) starvation, (b) disease, and (c) violence—both that inflicted upon others, and upon oneself (i.e., suicides). If McPherson’s “love” advice is followed by many, the death rate may be lower than it otherwise would be. However, (a) that advice is unlikely to be followed by many; and (b) even those who do follow it (i.e., the “helpees”) will in time fall victim to the tragic events occurring around them.
Given the circumstances that are likely to arise in the near future, a question that arises is: Are there other ways of loving others, ones especially fitting given the circumstances likely to arise?
In answering this question, one possibility that comes to my mind is the assisted non-living facility in which “Sol” Roth (played by Edward G. Robinson) “goes home” in the movie Soylent Green, listening to some wonderful music—parts of Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony (No. 6), Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony (No. 6), and two selections from Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.” What a way to go!
Given that suicides are likely to become increasingly more common as global warming proceeds, despite the moral strictures that we have been taught about “taking one’s own life, why not make it a pleasant experience? By doing so, not only would those inclined toward suicide take advantage of this opportunity, but those not so inclined might see suicide as a far better option than continuing to live in pain, whatever the cause of that pain.
I am fully aware of the fact that one of the essays on McPherson’s web site has the title “Contemplating Suicide? Please Read This.” But surely McPherson is aware of (a) the fact that a great deal of pain and suffering will be associated with the future, and that (b) what love of the second type involves is engaging in behaviors having the purpose of alleviating the pain of others, so that (c) assisted non-living facilities would be covered under that “love” umbrella—in thinking about the future, that is.
We already have assisted living facilities (ALFs)—which tend to be warehouses for the storage of people on the road to passing. Wouldn’t assisted non-living facilities (ANLFs) be a far more humane sort of institution for “treating” those in pain? Especially given that in the near future no one will have a future?!
Were such facilities to be established (unlikely, given the utter backwardness of our society—in areas where it matters!), it would be inadviseable, of course, to use the dead bodies as food sources, à la the movie. Nor would it be necessary to prevent people from listening to music of their own choice. After all, not everyone has the good taste to appreciate the music of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Grieg: The sophistication of one’s tastes should neither qualify nor disqualify one from use of an ANLF for one’s termination. In fact, if one’s preference is to eschew any music at all, that preference should be honored, of course.
- I assume here that the use of “love” in a phrase such as “love of country” is a misuse of the word. If one is under the illusion that one “loves” the country within which one lives, one is likely either insane, “possessed” by an ideology, or both!
- This is not the place to defend that proposition, but for a thorough review of relevant literate see this by Guy Mcpherson.
- “Love” in that essay is given the second of the two meanings for “love” discussed at the beginning of this essay.
A recent presentation by McPherson is embedded below. It’s quite long, and includes extensive Q&A. If memory serves, it’s from Edinburgh, Scotland on 8 April 2013.
If you’re interested in funding an assistant to travel with me in Europe, a crowd-funding campaign is under way. Check it out here.
I was one of four panelists in this panel at the Earth at Risk conference in November 2014. Click the link to see a trailer and also to view the 90-minute result on the following dates and times (Mountain time zone in the United States):
Thursday, April 16th 7:00 am
Saturday, April 18th 7:30 pm
Saturday, April 18th 10:30 pm
Wednesday, April 22nd 10:00 am
Catch Nature Bats Last on the radio with Mike Sliwa and Guy McPherson. Tune in every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, or catch up in the archives here. If you prefer the iTunes version, including the option to subscribe, you can click here.
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McPherson’s latest book is co-authored by Carolyn Baker. Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind is available. Electronic copy is available here from Amazon.
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