At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.
Abrupt climate change is under way. The resulting loss of habitat means the last human on Earth will die by 2026.
Remain calm. Nothing is under control.
The overwhelmingly adverse response I’ve received suggests many people are misinterpreting my message as calling for world peace with sociopaths at the helm. That’s not quite it. Allow me to explain, again, with simple language (again).
You are going to die. So is everybody else. Both will occur faster than expected. Surely this isn’t a surprise. Surely you didn’t believe our species could foul its own nest for thousands of years without adverse consequences.
Or maybe you bought into the infinite-growth paradigm. Bummer for you. Bummer for us.
Remain calm. Nothing is under control. Not by you. Not by me.
I’ve tried shouting from the rooftops. I’ve described the horrors of abrupt climate change since the earliest essays in this space nearly a decade ago. Shouting didn’t work for me. I doubt it’ll work for you. Everybody who wants to know about abrupt climate change surely knows by now. If somebody wants to know, and doesn’t know, more shouting isn’t likely to help.
Ergo, remain calm even as the ship takes on water. Death with dignity might even calm a few people around you as they reach the end.
There is an exception: We all influence, and perhaps even control, the emotions of a few people near us. You want to be an asshole with those people? Knock yourself out. You must be among the trolls who visit here, seeking my errors. This essay is not for you.
Pursue excellence. As I’ve indicated a few dozen times, I’ve no interest in defining this simple statement. I’ve pointed you to a dictionary. I’ve given examples.
I’ve indicated the lack of recognition, much less reward, of pursuing excellence in a culture of mediocrity. I’ve written and said there are only internal, personal rewards for pursuing excellence, notably the ability to look oneself in the mirror without remorse, shame, or guilt.
You want more? Of course you do. The culture demands more, and you’re afflicted with cultural norms. Even as I wonder why, I further articulate below the benefits of pursuing excellence.
Pursue love. As I’ve indicated a few dozen times, I’ve no interest in defining the pursuit of love. I’ve pointed you to a dictionary. I’ve given examples.
I’ve indicated the lack of recognition, much less reward, of pursuing love in a culture of indifference. I’ve written and said there are only internal, personal rewards for pursuing love and doing what you love, notably the ability to look oneself in the mirror without remorse, shame, or guilt.
You want more? Of course you do. The culture demands more, and you’re afflicted with cultural norms. Even as I wonder why, I further articulate below the benefits of pursuing love.
But what shall I do? This is the question to which I respond daily to people I barely know. I expand beyond the definitions of excellence and love. I invoke Buddhist-inspired right action rooted in the alleviation of suffering. I promote the lack of attachment to outcomes. And still the question persists: What shall I do?
Do what’s right. Do what you love. Do it well.
After all that, still the question persists. In the few paragraphs that follow, I take a turn for the pragmatic. Let the character assassination begin. Trust me: It’s nothing new.
I’m driven to a life of service. I don’t know why. Perhaps you are similarly motivated. If so, good for the world. And too bad for you.
To me, for me, a life of service is everything. I could no more pursue fiat currency for the sake of having more prestige, power, or position than I could weasel my way into a tenured faculty position at a major research university. Not with my calm and calming messages of the pursuit of excellence and love. Not within a culture of mediocrity and indifference.
Perhaps service beyond your own life is important to you. If so, you might be interested in providing the means by which people can be alleviated of their suffering. You might be interested in the notions of hospice or, as Stephen Jenkinson calls it, the “death trade.” You might be interested in dying wisely, to again quote Jenkinson. You might be interested in helping others do the same. If so, you have options.
You can become educated in hospice. Perhaps of more immediate concern, you can pursue knowledge about likely causes of death in your area. Here in the Maya Mountains of western Belize, I suspect dehydration, physiological breakdown of the body’s ability to cool itself, starvation, and suicide will be the leading causes of human mortality, in descending order. As a consequence, I am studying symptoms of those afflictions and encouraging others around me to do the same. I’ll use these causes of death as examples throughout the remainder of this essay.
I invoke American ecologist Garrett Hardin’s oft-asked question, “and then what?” Once my nearby acquaintances and I are sufficiently skilled to recognize symptoms, what’s next?
Obviously, alleviating suffering is key. Alleviating dehydration is relatively easy if water is accessible. If it’s not — and it won’t be for millions of city-dwellers in the near future — then alleviating mental and emotional suffering will be key as humans die before our eyes. I suspect the ability to remain calm will be important.
To alleviate the pain and potential mortality associated with the physiological breakdown of the body’s ability to cool itself is no small endeavor. Simply blowing air across a dying companion will not work when lethal wet-bulb temperature is reached. Rather, cool water must be applied. Although we are planning for this contingency, there is no guarantee such water will be available. At this point, and for millions of people around the globe in the near future, alleviating mental and emotional suffering will be key as humans die before our eyes. I suspect the ability to remain calm will be important.
Starvation is easy to deal with only when food is available. Those days are nearly behind all of us. As climate change accelerates into the future, food will be lacking for every person on Earth. We can store food, as I did for several years at the mud hut (it’s still there). But eventually stored food turns bad or becomes depleted. The near-term inability to grow food because habitat for complex life disappears from Earth indicates storage is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Nuclear submarines and the International Space Station are relevant models. Alleviating mental and emotional suffering for ourselves and others will be key as humans starve to death before our eyes. I suspect the ability to remain calm will be important as this ongoing, accelerating disaster plays out.
Finally, there is the issue of suicide. It’s one of many taboo topics in this culture. As I’ve indicated for a few years with a permalinked post near the top of the page at this blog, I’m not afraid to take on this particular “taboo” topic. Rather, I advocate for a reasoned approach. Every human has the right, albeit not legally in many places, to terminate his or her own life. And such an act can be thoughtful. I’m personally non-judgmental toward people who choose an early exit. And, to be clear, such an act can be thoughtful. I encourage thoughtful actions of all kinds. I’m generally ignored or insulted in response. If you’re taking the Hemingway out, please consider those you are leaving behind.