I read Duane Elgin’s Choosing Earth a few months ago. This blog post is my extract from the book combined with some other ideas and thoughts.
The book’s message to me is a story where we, the citizens of Mother Earth, deal with the crisis of global warming and figure a way to come out of it wiser and more interconnected. There might be a steep price to pay in the short term and growing pain to reach there.
Synopsis: The Story in a Nutshell
Global warming is here.
What scientists worldwide have confirmed and predicted since the 1970s appear to have been unfolding. The window to deal with it gradually is past us: the enormity of what can happen over the next five decades hover over us now.
What does it mean in the big picture of Mother Earth? What does it mean to us as humanity?
When we compare with other species that have inhabited Mother Earth for millions of years, the modern human species is much younger. We, humanity, might have created the crisis of global warming from the youthful exuberance of adolescence that led to the material chase. Dealing with it can lead us to a new level of maturity and adulthood.
What would be the growing pain in the process? We are looking at extreme weather conditions and overwhelming impact: raging fires, drinking water crisis, drop in agricultural productivity, a severe drought that can result in up to 1.4 billion climate refugees, potentially 10% of the human population dying over the next 5 decades, and a close to million species going extinct by the end of the century. Coming generations might see several major seacoast cities going underwater in the 22nd century.
With challenges come the opportunities.
While dealing with the slow-moving calamity, people throughout the world forge bonds in local communities. Individuals become world citizens being part of an “earth voice” using the Internet and mobile phones to connect at the grassroots level. People learn to embrace all of humanity regardless of where they are on Earth and ALL living species.
The deep sorrow and wounds force us to look inside. Humanity experiences and restores harmony with the universe as a profoundly unified whole permeated by connected consciousness. Science and spirituality converge.
Humans learn again to be an integral part of the universe, going away from consumerism that led them to think of nature as a resource to consume. The earth citizens focus on the initiatives that may bring returns several generations later, indeed, way after their lifetime.
The human species mature into adulthood with a long-term outlook to survive and thrive.
The rest in this thread is a detailed version of the above story.
The description of what might transpire over the next 5 decades can be overwhelming and depressing. This story is a blend of insights & forecasts from the scientific research and imagination of how humanity can/may deal with a slow-moving and what appears now to be an inevitable change in our climate.
Humanity’s Place in the Story of our Planet Earth
The modern human life with settled agriculture is 12,000 or so years. How does it compare to planet Earth’s lifetime of 4+ billion years? If we scale Earth’s lifespan to a 24-hour day, the 12,000 years get approximately 0.2 seconds. If we think of the span of the industrial era of the past 500 years, it amounts to only 0.01 seconds.
We, humanity, are a mere blip on the radar in the life story of Mother Earth.
When we compare with other species that survived on the Planet for millions of years, we, the human species, are very young. The hunter-gatherer time was our childhood, and now we are reaching the end of adolescent age. The current crisis with global warming is an opportunity for us to mature into adulthood. Growing up isn’t without pain, and we are experiencing it right now. It is part of evolution: other species in the past have experienced it as well. We aren’t the only one: we aren’t the first one.
How open and vulnerable the future is at this moment!
We are at a choice point in humanity’s collective journey: the choices we make now will decide the path of generations ahead. Will we rise in our maturity as a viable species-civilization, aware of our responsibilities and profound independence, or fall back to the ruins?
We squandered the chance of gradual transition nearly 50 years ago in the 1970s when the scientists from different parts of the world collaborated and corroborated to explain/prove impending global warming: the vested interests to keep the status quo prevailed over adopting changes.
The upcoming five decades challenge humanity and life on the Planet.
The 2020s: Recognizing Crisis – the Great Unraveling
The temperature on the Earth has risen by 1.2 degrees Centigrade towards the beginning of the decade. There can be more fires, more water calamities, extreme weather conditions, scarcity of food and drinking water, more susceptibility to recurring pandemic from growing population getting in closer proximity with animals, etc. A UN report concludes that more than one million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction by the end of the century – many of which are predicted to be pushed into extinction within just a few decades.
If the greenhouse gases don’t start decreasing, the rise in global temperature can go up to 1.5 degrees Centigrade by the end of the decade.
A case for indifference: It is such a global issue. What can we do individually, or as a family, a local community, a city, or even a country?
A case for survival for a significant proportion of humanity: Can you afford to think about global warming when it is can be a challenge to meet more basic, immediate, pressing, short-term needs to survive?
A case for stupidity/myopia: Countries, regions, cultures, or people fight and bicker among themselves, sucked up in the pain body of the past, not willing or able to awaken to the much critical connected consciousness.
A case for worldwide social justice: The wealthiest 10% of the population produce almost 50% of global carbon emissions. In stark contrast, the poorest 50% of the population is responsible for less than 10% of the carbon emissions yet lives overwhelmingly in the countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change. Is that fair?
The case for consumer culture: Corporations ask what will produce ever-greater profits. Media giants ask what will generate the most advertising revenue. Governments ask what will promote economic growth. Educational institutions ask what skills students need to get jobs and serve a growing economy. Our major institutions are not oriented toward the regenerative needs of the Earth; instead, they cater to the short-term wants of consumer society.
The clock is ticking, and the storm of global warming and the slow process of nature impose reality that humanity can’t avoid.
Several movements start to take root. More people start opting for voluntary simplicity. There is higher awareness about the impact of the food cycle, and an increasing number of people opt for the vegetarian diet. Low carbon lifestyles that are materially simple and experimentally rich become more mainstream than just a fringe movement.
Local communities start becoming more close-knit, allowing the development of pocket neighborhoods and community gardens.
A small but significant number of people start adapting transformational practices such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and psychological self-help, supporting a shift in consciousness that humanity will need if Planet were to survive.
Communication movements start emerging, promoting more dialog and conversations and coordination – the Internet and social media play an essential role in this.
The 2030s: Collapsing Civilizations – The Great Fall
Global warming is racing past the ability of the aging institutions to keep up.
Massive indebtedness created by extravagant spending in earlier decades now prevents many institutions from finding resources for creative action. Bankruptcy spreads to many cities, roads and electric grids can’t be maintained, large corporations go bankrupt, major universities and colleges become insolvent and close the doors.
Global temperatures increase by 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 2030s, starting irreversible disintegration of ice sheets that will cause catastrophic sea-level rise, most dramatically in the next century.
The release of methane threatens to erase the anticipated gains of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Amazon rainforest loses the ability to absorb carbon dioxide, accelerating the climate breakdown.
A hundred million or more refugees migrate by the end of the 2030s. By the end of 2030, at least three billion people suffer from water shortages. With every degree centigrade of temperature rise, a 10% to 15% decrease in agriculture yield is expected. So, with a 2-degree increase, agricultural productivity is expected to go down by 20% to 30%. The famine conditions further mass migrations and civic breakdowns.
The global economy is in deep turmoil.
With deepening climate disruption, all kinds of divisions are growing – financial, political, generational, gender, racial and ethnic, religious, and more. There is so little room for rising to new humanity that is critical for the time.
Encouraging movements: around the world, creative entrepreneurs are experimenting with ways to recreate the economy to work for both People and Planet.
With breakdowns, local neighborhoods start tapping into developing rush of social, economic, and technical innovations. Communities start developing a fresh understanding of human character and maturity that seeks to serve the well-being of all.
The scale of challenges starts developing “earth voice” conversations encompassing the entire world made possible by widely available cell phones and the Internet. An avalanche of advertising over multiple generations caused the trance of consumerism, and eventually, this calamity. Now, the media institutions are held accountable and are being mobilized to awaken social imagination and visualize new pathways of progress towards a sustainable and meaningful future.
While governments and traditional institutions are losing relevance and control, the grassroots-level movements and communication have started new conversations for change, interconnecting globally as a local community network.
There are positive signs for change in the paradigm of living.
However, we lack the support to be able to move swiftly into the new world.
The 2040s: Into the Fire of Initiation – The Great Sorrow
The runaway climate disruption is no longer a looming possibility – it is a present reality. This decade, we move beyond 2 degrees of warming to approach 3 degrees Celsius – a critical climate tipping point.
The world is moving beyond breakdowns and towards collapse and climate catastrophe.
Large regions of the Earth are experiencing an unprecedented drought, causing extreme fires to scorch the drying Earth. The other areas are experiencing unprecedented storms, floods, and sea-level rise.
Food and water scarcity create devastating famine. The tragic estimate is that 10% of the Planet’s poorest and most vulnerable populations will be at significant risk of dying. With a global population projected to be roughly 9 billion people by then, this estimate translates to 900 million people perishing in this decade – an average of 90 million people per year. The entire world is witness to it because of the ubiquitous connectivity of the Internet and mobile phones.
Much of Amazon has dried out and is burning. Large swaths of California, western United States, Texas, and Colorado are burning. Considerable sections of Mexico are aflame. Much of Australia is being incinerated. A significant portion of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran is burning. Large areas in Africa are chronically ablaze.
The magnitude of the tragedy and suffering of the Great Dying transforms the heart and soul of humanity.
It has become abundantly clear now that the economic inequality between different parts of the world is an overwhelming source of stress, friction, and eventual teardown of humanity’s core fabric.
The people of the Earth awaken to the understanding of Ubuntu: I am who I am because of who we are. When the “we” is diminished, “I “is diminished in proportion to the richness of life that has been lost. When we are in contact with our essence, our soul, we are immersed in the larger ecology of aliveness. The sorrows of the wounded world penetrate the small self and awaken our soul.
Grief reveals the depths – life within life. In the encounter with death, we are ready to turn more fully to life.
The simplicity of living is regarded highly now. Low carbon lifestyles and accompanying values are bringing new regard for community, sufficiency, and kindness. The simplicity of living encourages strong communities of mutual support and survival. As people develop a range of skills that directly contribute to neighbors’ well-being, they feel their true gifts are being welcomed in everyday life.
Still, the path looking forward to reconciliation seems endless and fruitless.
The 2050s: A Conscious Species Civilization – The Great Awakening
Methane is pouring into the atmosphere, amplifying extreme weather patterns. Water stress is expected half of the world population (approaching the 10 billion mark.) The number of climate refugees is expected to exceed 300 million. The death of entire species of insects is producing a cascading collapse of the biosphere. The quantity and character of food supplies are dramatically altered. Agricultural productivity continues to drop because of global warming.
The Great Dying and the Great Burning leave no doubt that the world of the past is gone. The unyielding reality of an unfolding climate catastrophe and the dark future of humanity hits home. Can we transform how we collectively think (our species mind) and how we collectively experience our purpose in living on this Earth (our species soul)?
We are pushed back to our earliest roots and remember indigenous wisdom that describes an infusing universal life force. We are compelled to consider insights from science that regard the universe as a profoundly unified whole, almost entirely invisible, and permeated by an ecology of consciousness. We see how the views of the world’s wisdom traditions are in accord with the views of science – both regard the universe as a regenerative system that is co-arising freshly at every moment. We further recognize how the insights of science and wisdom traditions are in accord with the direct experiences of a majority of people who regularly feel our individual lives connect with larger aliveness.
The reconstruction of Earth as a habitable life system will take centuries to accomplish – and we recognize there will be centuries of great learning and deep humility to compensate for the previous arrogance of the adolescent mindset that has so terribly injured the Planet.
Driven forward by grief and pulled ahead by the promise of a healing journey, the global nervous system is awakening a new capacity for collective self-awareness. An “Earth Voice” movement is maturing, and as Earth Citizens, we are learning to move in concert toward a future of mutually supportive development.
A new human alloy is forged in the fires of Great Transition.
The 2060s: Preserving the Future – Choosing Earth
The water and food scarcities continue to grow. Cornell University estimates that by 2060, an astonishing 1.4 billion people could become climate refugees. The economic breakdown is widespread: A concern for economic growth has given way to struggles for sheer survival.
The Thwaites glacier, comparable in size to Great Britain or Florida, is melting from underneath. It will break away in the coming decades. When it slides into the ocean, it will produce a sea-level rise of 10 ft. or more, flooding several major seacoast cities around the world. A slow-moving disaster is playing out over decades: humanity faces a marathon of adaptation that will require sustained effort over generations.
A commitment to a sustainable and purposeful future is slowly becoming anchored – visibly, consciously, and deeply – in our collective psyche. Pushed by dire necessity and pulled by compelling opportunity, we are progressively awakening and developing a new level of maturity and compassion that rises above the past divides.
As the old world has unraveled and fallen apart, a new world is painstakingly being assembled from these fragments.
The 2070s and Centuries Beyond: An Open Future
Centuries of work lie ahead as we reconcile ourselves with living together and building a thriving future on a severely wounded earth. Rather than putting these challenging stages behind us, we are asked to accept and integrate them within us: acceptance is the source of foundational wisdom enabling us to endure into the distant future.
We can visualize and communicate a new journey ahead in electronic conversations, films, rituals, art, stories, books, music, dance poetry, and more. We can portray in detail the changes and actions that lead to a more mature and sustainable future.
A world divided against itself is a recipe for global collapse and humanity’s functional extinction.
Suppose all the people living on the Earth can pull together and collaborate for the well-being of all. In that case, a cascade of actions and innovations can follow quickly from the clarity of our unified, social will.
We will need to communicate with ourselves as a species. A rising level of global communication can lift the injustices in the light of awareness so that we can reconcile:
- Gender, racial, sexual, religious, and ethnic reconciliation – Discrimination profoundly divides humanity against itself. We move beyond limiting judgments of others and weave a new culture that is respectful, inclusive, and fair.
- Economic reconciliation – Look out for and reach out to any part of the world under economic distress.
- Generational reconciliation – Live in a way that preserves and nurtures the ecosystem so that future generations can survive and thrive on our Planet.
- Ecological reconciliation – Live in sacred harmony with the Earth’s biosphere. Protect, preserve, and nurture different species on the Earth.
When we look beyond our personal lives, we can ask, “What can we do to align our collective lives with the regenerative needs of the Earth?
Foundations of Transition
The journey of dealing with the world crisis prompts us to ask: “Is there an experience of life that is so widely shared that it can draw us together in a shared journey into a thriving future?”
The answer is yes: it is the everyday experience of simply being alive. “As we awaken to the aliveness at the core of our being, we are simultaneously connecting with the aliveness of the universe.”
The universe is an alive, breathing, evolving super-organism almost entirely non-physical, and each person is an expression of the universal energy. The life of the cosmos, the life of the Earth, and the life of humanity are the same and the primary ground of our consciousness.
As we open into the cosmic dimensions of our being, we feel more at home, less self-absorbed, more empathetic for others, and more willing to be of service to life. These shifts in perspective are immensely valuable for building a sustainable and purposeful future.
Awakening to our genuine identity as both unique and inseparably connected with a co-arising Universe transforms feelings of existential separation into experiences of subtle communion as bio-cosmic beings. We are way more enriched, deeper, more complex, and more alive than we ever thought.
We don’t need a miracle to save us – we already exist within the miracle of sustaining aliveness. Instead of being saved from death, our job is to bring mindful attention to the ever-emerging aliveness here and now.
Humans are blessed with the self-awareness to realize what we are thinking and what we are doing. We are pushed by the wounded Earth and welcoming universe to make a remarkable gift to humanity’s future: awakening together with equanimity and maturity to consciously realize our bio-cosmic potential and purpose of learning to live in a living universe.
The change will come from people doing whatever they can where they are: they become integral part of the change.
Local Communities: organically evolved new housing and shared spaces foster stronger communities as a social and physical architecture for sustainable living.
Technology expands and connects horizons: the global connectivity of the Internet and mobile phones bring individuals and communities a wealth of ideas, knowledge, awareness, and ripples of positive change.
Light at the end and along the journey: there is more profound wisdom from inside that restores harmony and balance.