A Message to Environmentalists
by Erik Sutter-Kaye
Until you understand the nature of the unfolding environmental situation, your efforts to reverse its process will be in vain. There is no chance of undoing the damage to the environment perpetrated in the Industrial Age. It is too late for that; it has been too late for some time now. Which is not to say that things cannot get better; they can and will, but not before they get worse. But turning the clock back to the way the Earth was before the Industrial Revolution, that is not going to happen. Restoring the Earth isn’t about utilizing breaking science and technology.
It isn’t about engaging in a Global New Deal. It’s not about trading Carbon Credits. It’s not about replacing gasoline-fueled, tarmac- riding automobiles with ethanol- or electric– or hydrogen-fueled tarmac-riding automobiles. It’s not about reversing global warming. It’s not about being a White Knight in dazzling White Armor and riding in to untie Mother Nature tied on the train track.
It’s not possible to do these things. It’s too big for us. It’s too late. Some of us saw this destiny of planetary desertification coming thirty, forty years ago, perhaps longer. But we didn’t listen
to us; we didn’t think clearly or well about how to warn ourselves. (Spiking trees? Tossing acid in whaling boats? What were we thinking?!) We might have stopped these self-destructive
trends then if we understood the true nature of it; but we didn’t then and for the most part we still don’t.
It’s about admitting the mistakes of the past. Of History. And yes, I just used the word self-destructive. It’s our nature we have an opportunity, and responsibility, to correct, and not anything else. It’s about opening up our hearts to the grief. It’s about discovering that the grief– our personal grief, grief of lost species, lost habitats, grief of lost opportunities– although finite, appears to be infinite. It’s about deciding as a global society to stop escaping from the grief, and turning around to embrace it, without being consumed by it.
Above all, its about memory. We are on the verge, as a 7 billion-person-strong Global Village, of remembering the last Planetary Crisis, roughly 6 to 8 thousand years ago. When the vast grasslands from Morocco, in Africa, all the way to the great savanna in Mongolia in Central Asia, all wilted and died and turned against humanity, against all life, in a sandy inferno that still burns today.
Recorded history began in the aftermath of this great Old World famine that consumed the center of the populations in the Eastern Hemisphere. The record shows us a steady trend of migration, for 5 or more thousands of years, out of the bitter lands. Throughout the Old World (excluding Australia) the essential experience of epidemic starvation has been transmitted to every corner of the vast human expansion that began in Africa 7 million years ago.
Through war and scorched earth, through socialized traditions of violence to women and children, human slavery, and the apprehension of the reproductive process as a weapon of war to out-populate the enemy, the essential emotional conditions of the Great Old World Famine have been exported at present to the 7 continents and the Seven Seas.
Like the woman who was raped as a young girl, and maintains in her adult life a consistent pattern of self-destructive sexual relationships (with men who resemble her rapist) 20th and 21st Century human societies have been slowly and steadily replicating the moral values and conditions of desert survival into the abundance of the wooded, forested vastness of Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.
We who carried this pain into Paradise are the walking wounded, surviving descendants of the Great Saharan-Asian Inferno circa 6000 BC -4000 BC. (“BCE” is for wussies!- E.S-K) Sworn to survive no matter how, we carry within our broken psyches a distorted sense of identity, like an Operating System in a software package that is riddled with glitches and bugs. Like a bad OS, we are neither straight nor true, yet we know how to boogie– we carry within us memories of our condition before the Saharan-Asian Inferno f___d us up.
How can anything good come of a technological fix, when we environmentalists who would do the fixing are carrying the same inherited distortions of history as any corporate robber baron or Warlord? I see a clear pattern in so-called Post-Modern society, of modern institutions from the United Nations down to privately-run think tanks, attempting to solve far-reaching problems with plans that don’t include a consideration of the planners’ own completely human predilection for self-deception.
Modern history is rife with examples of big fixes that created bigger problems that generated a quantum of large fixes that just keep on expanding exponentially, until the whole system collapses. (I think, for example, of the whole history of the CIA, who has a history of arming rebels against a mutual enemy until the enemy is defeated and the rebels become the new enemy. And what does the CIA do? They go find a new group to arm!)
Our human survival at any level depends upon the emergence of a critical mass of women and men of all cultures who can reverse the societal trends of escapism and emotional suppression that keep buried the old racial memories. Then we can fully remember the buried memory of the Great Saharan-Asian Inferno. We must then all link up, all of us who remember, in order to maximize the practice of collective emotional support. This will be necessary since the emerging memories of our buried past will be devastating to us without a collective structure to anchor our healthy spirits onto. Then finally can we emerge simultaneously from the Two Deserts: the Desert of our buried past, and the Desert of our present unfolding on every continent before us.
For those of you who read this, you need never again fault or blame yourselves or your own species’ capacity for stupidity and greed. That would burden you unnecessarily with self-loathing. Rather, take pride on yourself for emerging, however incompletely, from the past infernos, and have compassion for the great wounds and trials you and your ancestors have incurred. Each and every one of us , scientist and terrorist, visionary and prostitute, are all a piece in the puzzle of getting over the current evolutionary challenge. For there is nothing we have ever done, or can do, that Nature hasn’t provided for. We are not separate from Nature; we are not separate from God. The coming crisis of Global Warming is exactly necessary to recalibrate the Gaiain Computer.
Note: Erik invites comments on this essay. He would like nothing better than to be either agreed or disagreed with. Given the current goings on with Gustav reminding us of the killing torrents of Katrina on the eve of the RNC, this article as well as discussion of the environment in general seems more important now more than ever.
—–Bea Garth, editor
Categories: social and political commentary by Erik Kaye