Ready Or Not

Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.

~ Jonathan Safran Foer


We all know we are going to die. We have all experienced pain. We have all suffered. Most people will experience pain again in their final hours. Most will suffer. Many will suffer more than needed.

I’ve provided a plausible description of the horrors to come in light of abrupt climate change, most notably in the form of a recent essay (“Your Magic Number“) and two short videos (“I’m an Optimist?” and “Circuses, No Bread“). Consistent with my adult life as a conservation biologist, I have peered into a future with few, and then zero, humans. I have explained the timing and mechanism underlying our demise, recently and briefly here.

I’ve co-created a workshop based on the evidence I’ve collated. The workshop enables each participant to identify a rational, reasonable approach to living fully in light of a truncated future.

What is missing? What remains to be done?

The Only Love Remains workshop has had great impact on the few participants involved. As a result, this essay describes three general paths for interested individuals unable or unwilling to participate in the workshop. For those who follow the path of service, I articulate relevant knowledge and skills, along with commenting briefly on their application.

This short essay is no substitute for the type of introspection inspired by the Only Love Remains workshop. Nor does it provide the knowledge and skills derived from years in hospice care, counseling, or psychotherapy. Caveats aside, this essay may prove fruitful for a few thoughtful readers. At the very least, it will provide yet another target for my detractors, who are frequently on the prowl for fresh material.

Based on the recent past and also the present, it seems there will be three general responses to the message of abrupt climate change leading to near-term human extinction. The most common response will continue to be indifference rooted in a combination of ignorance, self-interest, and sociopathy. As a second option, some will select an intentionally early exit via suicide. I suspect far fewer will pursue the third alternative, a path of service rooted in the notion of hospice.

I doubt indifference can be overcome with additional education. The abundant evidence indicating the near-term extinction of our favorite species is widely available. Yet very few people have responded in any way, suggesting that few are impacted by evidence. This is not surprising within a purposely dumbed-down culture dominated by a willfully ignorant populace, as I’ve indicated repeatedly in this space. My ineffectiveness at promulgating the most important message in history is one reason I’ll be greatly reducing my attempts to continue my educational efforts in the near future. I’ll be largely exiting the public stage by 1 September 2017, as I’ll explain in an essay in this space between now and then.

I’ve written and spoken frequently about suicide, most prominently with a short essay on this blog. I continue my agnostic stance toward suicide. I continue to promote thoughtfulness in life and in ending one’s life. Naturally, I continue to receive nonsensical animus in response.

Finally, after brief treatment of the two aforementioned topics in this essay — and extensive treatment elsewhere in this space — I will tackle, yet again, the idea of service in a society characterized by overwhelming self-interest. As with my prior educational attempts, I doubt my efforts move the proverbial needle.

If every person in our lives is experiencing the final weeks or months of their lives, if we are all in hospice, then how shall we act? What pragmatic, compassionate acts are relevant? How can we ease suffering for ourselves and others?

Certain knowledge and skills, largely unappreciated in a culture that downplays discussions about death and dying, are badly needed already. Their importance will increase as the great unraveling continues to unfold. Foremost among these will be “third-world” medical care. Diagnosis and treatment without access to a microscope, much less modern, high-tech equipment, will pose quite a challenge as the Age of Entitlement runs squarely into the Age of Consequences. I doubt it’ll prove pretty. It certainly won’t be as romantic as portrayed on television.

Acquiring knowledge and mastering skills will not necessary extend life. They may not even reduce pain, even for a short period of time. Why bother?

I’d like to know when the people near me are dying, even if I’m one of them. Especially if I’m one of them. I suspect suffering will be reduced with knowledge of what is happening. An example might be useful.

Where I live in the Central American country of Belize, a likely leading contributor to death will be exceeding the lethal wet-bulb temperature on the way to abrupt organ failure. One symptom is the appearance of drunkenness. When sober people in my vicinity appear drunk, I’d like to be able to diagnose the condition, alleviate the symptoms, and therefore reduce suffering.

Even when we are all dying, even as my own death draws near, I’d like to recognize what’s happening. Am I a control freak? Am I intellectually curious beyond relevance? Or am I seeking information that will alleviate anguish? Perhaps it’s a case of all of the above. I’m not sure it matters.

We are all going to die. In most cases, it’ll occur faster than expected. In many cases, it will come as a complete surprise.

I’d like to be ready, in every way, to reduce suffering. Will you join me?