A few months ago, reflecting on the confrontation between the US/NATO and Russia in Ukraine I concluded that there was a high probability of escalation to an intercontinental nuclear war, which via would mean the horrible unravelling of civilization as we know it.
Having come to a clear conclusion, I noticed that I put it in a separate compartment of my mind and sealed it off. This enabled me to get on with daily life.
So, I was in a state of both knowing and not knowing simultaneously. I call this state mind-blank.
I suspect that going into a state of mind-blank is quite common with regard to climate change as well. For example, I asked a young friend of mine how concerned she was about climate change. She thought for a moment, and gave me two answers:
Part of me is really freaked. 10 +.
And for part of me it is about 7.
Ah – the same phenomenon I noticed in myself around nuclear war. Knowing and not knowing; getting on with her life.
Here is another example. I met the coordinator of coalition of CEOs that are concerned about climate change. They were especially concerned during the lead up to the recent Australian federal election. Now they are less fired up about climate because a large number of politicians who are concerned about climate were elected.
And, frankly, he himself did not seem too fired up about climate. Concerned? Yes. Fired up? No. Perhaps his concern is about 7. Perhaps he too has sealed off his understanding of the devastating impacts of climate change.
And for good reason. First, the catastrophic enormity of coming climate disasters is overwhelming. In 2009 the Black Saturday bushfires didn’t just burn trees, they vaporized them into roiling gas clouds. Two new fire categories were added beyond severe: Extreme and Catastrophic.
A decade later, fires perhaps 100-fold worse or more were across much of Australia, followed by catastrophic floods. And there is have been similar massive events in many parts of the world. If there has been this much increase in destruction over one decade, what will the next decade bring?
It is difficult to imagine, and no one is in charge. Worse yet, government policies around the world still support fossil fuels in order to avoid economic collapse. This system is so entrenched in thinking and policy that, again, the prospect of affecting it seems overwhelming. This is a good reason to go into mind-blank. Except for one thing: by doing so we unconsciously collude in our own destruction, and that of coming generations.
Musing on this, I let myself feel the bleakness of our collective situation; we are in for a rough ride. That’s all I did for a while: just feeling, no intellectualising.
This was useful. Something shifted. By simply allowing myself to feel I ended up centred and in touch with my fighting spirit. I’m committed, with others, to inspiring thoughtful mainstream commitment to doing everything required to pull out of our ecological nosedive, and transition to a life-affirming culture. No doubt much pain is built in; we should do our best.
Our task, for those of us who care about a positive future, is not only to help people come to terms with the growing consequences of environmental trends, but to also help people get past their state of mind-blank, and get in touch with their survival instinct, caring, and fighting spirit.
I don’t know how do this yet, although I have ideas.
I host a drop-in conversation Tuesday mornings at 9 AM Sydney time. The link is https://zoom.us/j/4338939903.
If you want to join an online discussion thread about this post and about catalysing transformational change in general, give me a ping! We have great work to do together!
Greta Thunberg will have reason to hope when she sees that mainstream society is committed to turning things around.