A few months ago, we watched ‘What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire’. Like most documentaries in its genre, it assumes the watchers are not quite awake yet, and uses scare tactics to make its points, and by the end I felt battered and terrified and sick. We stopped half-way through to check-in, and I was nearly hysterical and totally hopeless and cried so hard I couldn’t breathe.
See, I live in an intentional news-free zone, so I literally had no idea how bad it’s getting out there. Sera and Pace knew, so the stuff in the movie didn’t hit them as hard, but I was in the dark. On purpose. I don’t regret that, but it’s no longer the way to go. My intention with living news-free was to keep out the political garbage that I don’t care about, to keep the media’s manipulation to a minimum, and to protect myself (as I’m very sensitive) from the dark and bloody depression in which news tends to wallow. However, as a consequence of that, I was also keeping out the state of the planet, which I care very much about. As such, this documentary, with it’s scare tactics and harsh wake-up call and no-holes-barred approach to the facts, beat me with a big metal stick.
We finished watching the documentary, and I cried for quite a long time. I felt sick. I felt like everything I’m doing right now is pointless and stupid. I felt clingy to my wives, my son, my friends – after all, if the world is going to end in a few days, I’d best spend what precious little time I have left with those I love. (I have a mild tendency for melodrama.) Seriously, I was super-freaked out by the facts of the movie, and had no idea whatsoever what to do. I nearly hyperventilated many times.
I spent the following 36 hours or so in that state; near panic, barely able to breathe, hopeless and scared. Pace and Sera and I talked it out a lot, and I managed to calm down enough to function, but I was tinged with panic, just below the surface. We discussed Pace and Sera being windows to the outside world for me, filtering in news they know I want to hear without bombarding me with the stuff I don’t want, and offering it to me in such a way as to not beat me with it. We discussed why we live the way we do, our plans for the future, our desires and hopes and our Life Purpose, and they promised me again and again that apocalypse is not just around the corner, and no matter what happens we’ll face it together and make our lives good and happy. All that helped, oh so very very much, but it didn’t completely ease the pounding fear in my heart.
Yesterday, Sera and I took a long drive. On the way home, I listened to my new CD and watched the rain river down my window. I watched the world speed by, watched the trees dance and the fences blur, lightening flash, sunflowers spin. I thought and thought and thought about the state of the planet, the humans, the other animals, the gods. I thought about how so many humans believe there’s One Right Way To Live, and how that way is so harmful and hurtful. I thought about the way we live, the unsustainable way of life we are accustomed to in Western Culture. I thought about how I, even for all my love of Gaia and my desire to help, don’t want to give up all the comforts of my life. I mean, who wants to become a hunter/gatherer when they’re used to internet, air conditioning, and food at their fingertips?
No one, that’s who. No one.
Then I understood, as lightening flashed inside my mind and outside in the rain. We cannot go backwards. If the only way out of this high-speed train of destruction we’re on is to become hunter/gatherers and eat berries and live in huts made of mud and straw, we’re destined to go down and take the earth with us. We’re too spoiled and too lazy to go back to that way of life.
But that isn’t the only way out!
The way out, as I see it, is to find ways to make our current way of life sustainable. Since we need air conditioning, let’s find ways to make it not poison the air. Since we need cars, let’s go solar or electric. Since we need farms, let’s stop poisoning the ground and the food we’re growing. I don’t see us giving up what we have, so let’s find ways to make what we have impact the earth far, far less.
I don’t have answers yet, I don’t know how to do it. I don’t even know all the problems we’re facing, I’m sure. But I love humans; we’re strong, we’re brilliant, we’re amazing. If we band together, build communities, and start talking, we can do this. We can find ways to make our footprints smaller, to stop hurting Gaia so badly with every move we make. We may not can undo a lot of what we’ve already done, but we can surely stop doing it. With a lot of ingenuity, which we’re famous for, we can make our lives better and cleaner and less harmful.
We have a tendency to think we own the earth. We act as gods. But in order to sustain life, to stop the rapid death of our planet, we must remember that we’re just another creature on her face. We must walk in the hands of the gods, and return to our rightful place in the circles of life. We can do that. We can.