Of all the fairy tales that have blinded us to the realities of this new era, this is the most seductive — that the future ahead of us offers a simple, stark moral choice with a simple, stark outcome: we will rise to triumph and all will be well, or we will fall. Victory, or death!
In this just-so story, we get to cast ourselves as the heroes. Those of us fighting for climate action and ecological sanity are — against steep odds — the ones rescuing humanity (and all other living creatures). Our opponents are evil. The end of the story can only be our success, because for us to fail means the end of everything. (Man, there is no drug like self-righteousness.)
Central to the struggle, of course, is belief in continuity. That which was — or at least an idealized version of it, optimized perhaps to avoid some of history’s ubiquitous injustices — must be the future, as well. At the end of the fight, we come around, like T. S. Eliot, to “arrive where we started / and know the place for the first time.” After the struggle is won, there will be a homecoming.
But this is not a fairy tale. This is the world, and the world is not simple. The fight cannot be won and yet all is not lost. We are heroic only to the extent we mold ourselves into people who can succeed with purpose on a planet in permanent crisis. We live in discontinuity. We will live in discontinuity for the rest of our lives. It is our home now.
That discontinuity piece linked above is titled “We’re not yet ready for what’s already happened” and I couldn’t agree more:
The planetary crisis is a crisis because it has unleashed discontinuity throughout human systems, and because only a few of us can see it yet.