“Yes, it looks bleak. But you are still alive now. You are alive with all the others, in this present moment. And because the truth is speaking in the work, it unlocks the heart. And there’s such a feeling and experience of adventure. It’s like a trumpet call to a great adventure. How do we begin to deal with the plastic in the ocean that covers areas the size of countries? What are cell phones and microwaves doing to our biological rhythms? What exactly is in our food? How do we address genetic modification of crops? We are so hooked on all of this, on every level. How do we begin to contain it?
Carrying capacity is the level most people talk about. It’s a defining aspect of the climate crisis. How will we grow the food we need given huge variations and extremities of weather? How will we handle the natural disasters and famines that will result from a chaotic climate? The deeper level is that consequences will extend far beyond the collapse of this civilization. The third level of crisis is the enormous increase in the rate of extinctions – creating a loss of biodiversity so extreme that we can glimpse the doom of complex life forms. It takes highly differentiated, integrated and diverse systems to produce life forms complex enough for consciousness. The fourth level of crisis would be the destruction of everything more complex than anaeorobic life forms, because of the loss of our oxygen production in the oceans and on land.
Our little minds think it must be over, but the very fact that we are seeing it is enlivening. We know we can’t possibly see the whole thing, because we are just one part of a vast interdependent whole–one cell in a larger body. So we don’t take our own perceptions as the ultimate. My world view has been so interwoven between the Buddhist teachings and living systems theory. They inform each other so powerfully. But even in Buddhism, where impermanence is a matter of course, there are no obvious concepts to deal with super-impermanence, in the sense that humans are now bringing an end to the Cenozoic era. In the best case, there may be an Ecozoic era to follow it. Continuing on our “business-as-usual” trajectory will acidify the oceans and trigger runaway global heating, epic mass extinction and a completely new cycle of geological time. A few climate scientists consider we may have already entered into runaway climate change.
So the choice is how to live now. With the little time left, we could wake up more. We could allow this whole experience of the planet, which is intrinsically rewarding, to manifest through our heart-minds—so that the planet may see itself, so that life may see itself. Unfortunately the dominant institution of our time has been created in the image of a psychopath, and it is legally mandated to behave as such. The American broadcast media is thoroughly controlled by corporate ownership or advertising revenue. They have reduced the population to a state of such stupidity. The experiential work, is to help people make friends with uncertainty, and reframe it as a way of coming alive. Because there are never any guarantees at any point in life.
And as far as Buddhism is concerned, I find that Western Buddhists tend to privatize their practice, and look for what I call premature equanimity. They go for peace of mind and that is such an inadequate response. A major change is the relevance people are now finding in Native American teachings. There’s a deep respect for the wisdom that is there, and for the nobility of character that it fostered. I think that it is a precious addition to our triple gem—this fourth gem of our time—that the native peoples are speaking out.”
Our World is Burning is an inspiring and informative read. Ian Prattis offers us valuable insight, wisdom and perspective in finding our way to a healthier world, one based on compassion and commitment, mindful of how everything we do impacts the whole.
- Laurence Overmire, Author of “The One Idea That Saves The World”