The flood

An article in the New York Times yesterday, based on a new study reported in Nature Communications, says that previous estimates of the effects of sea level rise due to climate change have been far too optimistic. ‘The new research shows that some 150 million people are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by midcentury’ – many of them in large cities such as Bangkok and Shanghai. This is not a worst-case scenario but a most-likely scenario based on the current rate of carbon emissions.

For those of us relatively unaffected by flood, drought, hurricanes, wildfires, extinctions and other effects of global heating, news about them has become a virtual flood of information, and sometimes we feel as if we’re drowning in it. How are we supposed to respond?

With anxiety about our children’s future?

With guilt, because we’ve played our part in the consumptive economic system that is causing it all, and we haven’t done enough to curb our emissions, and we know that the worst effects of this accelerating catastrophe are suffered by those least responsible for causing it?

With rage against the wealthy oligarchs who buy off politicians and flood the media with toxic progaganda so they can continue to profit from their ownership of the economic engine?

With despair because there’s nothing we can do about all this?

By “changing the channel,” distracting ourselves from a painful reality?

With commitment to the cause of changing the system into something more just and ecologically sensible? That seems to me what a good citizen of the world would do – perhaps motivated by some combination of anxiety, guilt and rage. But i doubt whether such a commitment can be sustained by those feelings. Rather, the sustenance of commitment has to be something more like love. Hope helps too, if it’s something deeper than optimism. But the core of it, i feel, is not the fear of losing what we love, but the inconceivable joy of its presence to us and with us now.

Can that kind of joy be invoked or evoked or expressed with words? I don’t know. It depends on what kind of practice follows from the words. Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

3 thoughts on “The flood”

  1. Too often I feel that thinking I can do anything of significance toward “changing the system into something more just and ecologically sensible” IS simply ‘changing the channel’ to a more hopeful station.

    For decades now I’ve been doing my recycling. I started in the late 80’s, when I had to cart the materials to a recycling depot. Now Greta tells me that the very, very few airline trips I’ve taken invalidate all that recycling. And then there’s the news of all the Canadian plastic being shipped, and often dumped, overseas.

    At least the election spared us from a Conservative government.

    There is that, “the inconceivable joy of its presence .”
    I don’t know about you, but I do not slip into that presence, or that joy, simply when I roll out of the covers. It’s not as easy as pulling on a warm pair of socks.
    But fall just happened. A trip around Central Manitoulin gave countless moments of bliss over vistas of autumn glory.
    I try to remain open to those moments as often as possible.
    I try to remember to put myself into the path of them more often.

    Helping someone else even in small ways is tangible. Easing anothers’ load is tangible.
    Hope, on its own, strikes me as useless, passive and a willful sidestepping of responsibility. “Oh, I’ll just sit here holding the talisman and hope that tomorrow 1) it’ll be spring 2) the Rothschild’s commit their assets to climate change 3) Trump will have just been a bad dream.

    Give someone a ride to the store.
    Call an old friend.
    Buy them some food.

    Smile more.

    1. OK, Gerry, I guess that\s one vote for despair, as far as systemic change is concerned. For me despair is just a mood that comes and goes, and I don’t pay it any heed, because I just don’t know what effect (if any) my actions and choices will have on planet Earth. I just take my best guess on a case-by-case basis and leave the results up to Mother Nature.
      As for coping mechanisms, I think your advice is as good as any!

  2. There is a sense of joy in that these climate forces are creating a need for world unity and a compelling way to draw us away from self interest towards concern for our fellow humans. It is sad that catastrophic events are needed to force us to act in immediate unison rather than out of love for one another and our planetary womb.

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