Simon Fraser University biologist Arne Mooers, a co-author on that study who specializes in biodiversity, says the odds are very high that the next global state change will be extremely disruptive to our civilizations: “In a nutshell, humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst because the social structures for doing something just aren’t there. My colleagues who study climate-induced changes through the Earth’s history are more than pretty worried. In fact, some are terrified.” [Jeremy Hance, “Scientists: If We Don't Act Now We're Screwed,” Mongabay News, June 19, 2012.]
It would be easy to look at all this and conclude there is no hope. That would be easy because it’s the most rational assessment. If that seems harsh, well, life can be, and often is, harsh. As ecologists like to remind us, nature does not negotiate. Nature sets limits. For those who prefer sports metaphors, nature bats last.
To repeat one of those hard-to-bear
truths: Nature doesn’t negotiate. Nature sets limits. Nature bats last. If we don’t want to be accused of weakness or laziness, we have to face not only the truth we can bear, but all of the truth, which is too much to ask us to bear. Here’s how Berry describes the unbearable truth in that same Sabbath poem:
Because we have not made our lives to fit
our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
the streams polluted, the mountains overturned.
Our lives do not fit our places. We are out of place. Modern high-energy/high-technology industrial life not only has desecrated the world, it has left us out of place, out of touch with ourselves and each other. Berry reminds us that place and identity are connected: “You can’t know who you are if you don’t know where you are.” Modern high-energy/high-technology industrial life disconnects us from where we are.
As much as I would like to ignore all this, I can’t go very long without being reminded of these realities. One day last month, as I was reading the day’s news and feeling one step closer to despair, I summed up that feeling in a note written quickly to some of my closest friends (on Facebook):
We treat women’s bodies like objects to be f###ed and men’s bodies like machines to be worked. We treat the whole world like a mine or a garbage dump. The economic system assumes you care only about yourself. The political system gives the most to the people who have the most. We clamor for any amusement or chemical that takes our minds off the horror. And then we wonder why things aren’t going well.