“The world is on fire, and you are here to stay and burn with me” – Ghost, Deus In Absentia.
You can’t fail to notice the devastating effects of climate change are here. Extreme weather, floods, wildfires, droughts. The world, it seems, is not the same as the world we knew.
It seems likely that we have reached, or are past, a critical climate tipping point. It may be too late to stop climate change, or even reduce it to manageable levels.
I refuse to believe that we are living in some apocalyptic Last Days. I have more confidence in the ability, resourcefulness and sheer bloody stubbornness of my species to simply accept our extinction or the total death of all life on Earth as inevitable.
Despair in the face of something far more powerful than ourselves, something that looks set to irrevocably destroy much of what we are and what we love, is a natural response. But it cannot be our only response.
Despair is part of the problem, not the solution.
Despair leads to cynicism which leads to nihilism. We’re doomed, right, so why fight for a better world? Who cares? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
Here’s a spoiler: we’re all going to die anyway.
That’s what it means to be human, to be mortal. So, should we not still try to live? This is the philosophical problem of suicide posed by Camus. We live, in spite of the inevitability of our death. We love, in spite of the inevitability of the deaths of those we love.
Being human means facing this existential dread head on, and deciding to carry on anyway; to walk into the darkness and hold a light aloft. We create hope in spite of hopelessness. In so doing, we are the universe experiencing hope for itself.
We can dream of a better tomorrow even if tomorrow never comes.
“A man has made a start at least on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit”. – D. Elton Trueblood.
Nothing we do will fix all the world’s problems, and nothing we do will last forever. That doesn’t make it not worth doing.
There’s a story I remember about a storm that washed thousands of starfish ashore, gasping and writhing on the sand. A child was walking on the beach, picking up one starfish at a time and gently taking them back down to the sea, lowering them into the water. A man watching this asked the child, “why are you doing that? There are thousands of starfish dying here, yet it takes you so long to save one, you’ll never save them all. What you’re doing won’t make a difference”. The child picks up another starfish and returns it to the sea, looks at the man and says “it made a difference to that one”.
We are here.
And the Earth is here.
The Earth is still the Earth. It was here long before us and will be here long after. When people talk about saving the Earth, what they really mean is saving ourselves. Druid writer Stuart Jeffrey asks:
Are there any circumstances under which we should not act in reverence? Are there any circumstances when we should stop trying to protect [the Earth] by changing the way human animals act?
Even on fire, the Earth is still sacred.
Even under floods, the Earth is still sacred.
Even dug up, cut down, fracked, mined, concreted over and turned into an office block, the Earth is still sacred.
As a Pagan, honouring the Earth still matters. Perhaps it matters more now than ever. If we are doomed, let us still live our lives in meaningful relationship with the Land, the Sea, and the Sky. Let us hold to the Sacred, whatever you perceive it to be. And when (not if) we die, let us do so knowing that we lived well.
“If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do”. – Angel, Epiphany (written by Tim Minear).