We should be looking at the world as a temple and humans as its devotees, cleaning it, caring for it, changing the flowers. Every small gesture does something to contribute. (Emily Young)
The COP 26 UN climate meeting in Glasgow starts in a couple of weeks, and it’s not being overly cynical to predict that the best that can come out of it will be a tightening of rich nations’ non-binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with targets declared at COP 21 in Paris, 2015. In other words, another extension of the race among the wealthy and industrialized to be the slowest to feel the fear, slash emissions, and stare down business-as-usual.
The enemy (it truly is no friend to us) is business as usual – the institutional and psychological inertia that has us locked into a spiral of ruination. A semblance of stability amid accelerating volatility. But as the dissonance intensifies, something has to give. Earth systems are already cracking apart in pursuit of homeostasis, yet our human-made social, political and economic systems seem to be holding up, shakily. Granted, heat domes and wildfires. Granted, catastrophic rainfall and flooding events. Granted, crop failure and unprecedented South-North migration. But here at least, in the most prosperous and ‘developed’ areas of the world, that’s just background noise. Not yet enough to justify tearing up our whole way of life. Not yet enough for mainstream politicians, media and the corporate powers-that-be to brace populations for the truth, and not yet enough, sadly, for us-the-people to force politicians etc to face the truth and lead a radical overhaul of society.
Maybe it will happen, and maybe in time. Plenty of civilizations and societies have come and gone in the past, but there’s no precedent for this particular predicament. A situation where the de facto universal civilization, at the very height of its power and invulnerability, has to dismantle itself, its gods, its verities, and simultaneously construct another version of itself to have any hope of surviving. And has to do so in the tiniest blip of geological time. This is a first in the human story. Will we rise to the challenge?
It could yet happen. Not by hope, but by action. From small to big.
The Emily Young quote above is from this article about one of the small actions – an underwater gallery of statues and monoliths taking shape just off the coast of Tuscany. It’s an initiative of people in the local fishing community who’ve figured out they can deter illegal dragnet trawling by industrial fleets – the trawling bulldozes the seabed and kills all sea-life – by sinking weighty obstacles to snag and wreck the (very expensive) dragnets. God bless human ingenuity! So, here’s to us – or enough of us at least – switching en masse to become Earth devotees, sweeping the flagstones and changing the flowers in this extraordinary temple.
Image: Lethans I by Emily Young