Guest Post: On Climate Change

Prof. Dan Cziczo discusses Climate Change - Belmont Public ...Dear Greta,

I admire your fire and passion, and your courage to take on so much of the world’s attention. Whether this attention be loving, ambivalent, or hostile, the sheer weight of it is no doubt burdensome, in a way you may not yet even realise.

I am writing to suggest that you are missing something profound about life in the modern Western world. You admonished adults, both those of us alive now and our collective ancestors, for stealing your dreams. And indeed this is so. But with respect, the true theft has only peripherally to do with climate change. (Image from here). Here is a quote from Aboriginal Australian scholar Dr. Tyson Yunkaporta:

Every human child is born the same. We are born with innate structures. And those structures all steer us towards living and loving and learning in cooperative groups, and in being profoundly connected to a habitat, and being very curious about that habitat…I believe that every child is born as what we now call indigenous. It just takes quite a rigorous program of indoctrination to twist somebody and turn them into a civilized person.

It is your indigeneity that has been stolen. A life of profound connection with fellow human beings, with spirit, and with the earth. In the world both you and I grew up in “civilised” is seen as an unambiguous virtue. It has given us much in the form of transcendence of material challenges, but destroyed so much more. It has blocked our growth as beings. I see the civilising force of Western modernity as turning the children we were at birth into beings that are unbalanced in the mental, floating above the rest of existence in a state of separation. It has turned us into beings who know only one way to cope with suffering, which is to fix it with our minds. But this idea of “fixing it” is a myth that fails us, born of hard and false boundaries like “self” and “other”, “right” and “wrong”, and “good” and “evil”. As Dr. Yunkaporta says:

The war between good and evil is in reality an imposition of stupidity and simplicity over wisdom and complexity.

And so I put it to you that this applies to the scientific orthodoxy on anthropogenic climate change as much as anything else. To say that it is an unambiguous cataclysm or “evil” requiring our “fix it mind” to go into full swing is potentially just living in the same delusions, and repeating the same fundamental errors of our recent ancestors. The reality requires a deeper wisdom than just the capacity to power the world from renewable energy. Renewable energy in and of itself will not fill the hole inside us, nor reconnect us to the sacred, and to the Earth. For this we need tools that Western science does not know about, but indigenous scientists and mystics of many faiths and traditions around the world have known about for thousands of years. (Image from here)

I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems ...We don’t need to fix the world, rather we need to learn to flow in it, and be in deep relationship with it. I have no doubt that from such a stance we’ll look at open pit coal mines and the internal combustion engine, not to mention countless other inventions and lifestyle choices, as being fundamentally out of flow, a desecration of something sacred that severs us from the Earth. Western science will play a role in helping us work out what to do next, but the truth of our modern desecration of the Earth does not need facts and figures, and positivist experimentation for us to experience. If you don’t believe me, go and sit on a chair in a forest near where you were born for a few minutes and watch your mind. If you are anything like me, you will experience a lot of discomfort and dis-ease from being with the craziness of your undistracted modern mind. Can you “fix” that with your mind alone? Can Western science offer you any help? There is as much to learn about why we face climate disasters from that one simple activity as there is from any number of bore holes dug into the Antarctic ice.

Carbon as a building block of life (video) | Khan AcademyWe need to question more than our use of carbon. We need a new and bigger dreaming.  We need a dreaming of lived interconnection to immortal oneness. Such a dreaming is bigger than our daily struggles, and even our comprehension of existence itself. Certainly much bigger than our worries about three degrees of global mean temperature rise. You might say, “Well that is easy for you to say, it is not your daily sustenance under threat, or your island about to be swallowed by the sea”, and this may be true. But my reply is that these ideas I am telling you are not mine. They come from the wisdom of people who did indeed face and transcend such hardships. Islands have disappeared before, and life went on. Regardless of what we do and don’t do, life will go on this time around too. The only real question is what kind of life it will be. (Image from here)

Yours sincerely,

Luke Ringland

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: On Climate Change

  1. 1. Deeper issues
    I agree that there are many deep human factors behind climate change, and the issues are more complex than Greta had time to deal with. I agree we can all reflect on deeper themes, of which there are probably several.

    However I want to defend Greta for focusing outrage on lack of countries’ collective action. Evil does exist, anger is the right response, shame and guilt are human emotions, and they serve a purpose. Her point of view will assist in advocating reductions in greenhouse gases. Big polluters would love to instead turn attention away from concrete actions, and point to the fact that the earth will, even at 3 degrees hotter, continue to live, even with indigenous beings on it.

    2. Indigeneity

    “There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself” as the Pope stated recently.

    Indigeneity might be one of those renewals. However I do not understand a clear description of the actual values to which it subscribes, and the extent anyone (apart from certain historic ethnic and biological descendants) gets to speak for them.

    3. the Sacred

    The bigger moral question I believe is how we are all complicit in continuing to support consumption and production patterns which follow their own deified rule (profits, modern lifetstyles, etc…) , whilst wrecking defenceless ecosystems, and future generations. I believe one of the underlying reasons is lack of sacredness in life.

    There is apathy and disrespect present in our world that simply does not care, for environmental values, yes, but more troubling for other humans too. Couldn’t give a toss for the plants, animals, or next generation. The only matter worth caring about is me and my lifestyle.

    Why has the sacred in life grown so weak in the modern world?  Firstly because materialism has grown so strong.  The thinking arising from the Enlightenment has stuck down too many sacred traditions, irrational as some may have been.  Secondly, as a society we are fearful, uninformed and suspicious of institutionalised religion, and theology and sacredness from a God-centred is another of those irrational and seemingly unnecessary beliefs. Thirdly, we resist the sacred and the good because it is painful to admit it into our hearts.  If we even sense of sacred, we often have a sense of inadequacy & deficiency, rather than abundance. 

    So without God we look elsewhere for ‘sacred’. We seem to look everywhere.  sacred dance, sacred rituals, sacred earth, ‘indigenous’ values are sacred, sacred time with the kids, sacred football grand final… But whether this kind of sacred impacts on people’s choices on the environment depends on those individuals. An individual’s privatised quest for ‘sacredness’ might lead to individual happiness, but what can change society is when those individuals come together to form a culture of sacredness.

    To help reconnect with the sacred as a society, and not just as individual random choices whenever it suits us, there must be a strong foundation, teachings, loyalty, discipline, adherence, accountability. We need communities to foster a culture around it, and world-wide movements to create political opportunities. I am skeptical this can happen without cultural institutions, so the ongoing antipathy, bias, and hatred against historic religious institutions (one of the strongest cultural institutions) is not helping.

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    1. Read more of the blog to learn about indigenous thinking, ways of being, and rediscover your earth ethos, your indigeneity. We all have earth culture in our lineages, our bones and DNA. We can learn how to honour it, how to identify with it, and we can find the courage to grieve what we’ve lost touch with through industrialisation, colonisation, and other distractions and confusions in our lives.

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