I have arrived now in Athens, and I preparing for a week-long symposium convened by His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholemew, on climate change and refugees. HAH has convened 150 people from all over the world for this symposium – including Bill McKibbon (of 350.org), some clergy, many leading scientists and politicians, and a number of leading business people. We have received endorsements and video messages of support from Jane
‘The World is Charged with the grandeur of God… the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.’ These are the first and last lines from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. They contain, I think, an exact summary of Orthodox Church teaching about creation and perhaps a good approach to climate change. We hold that everything, from atoms to galaxies, is created by, reveals, is filled with and ‘charged’ with the ‘grandeur’ and glory of the
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a young ecologist in the Anthropocene—how my job will be different from ecologists who came before. Perhaps my generation will be defined by our capacity to handle death and dying.
In 2004, I submitted an application that was to be my first step toward being a fourth-generation funeral director. My college sophomore self presented an audacious vision for applying sustainability sciences in an effort to “green” the toxic practices employed by most Catholic-serving funeral homes, including my family’s in Newark, New Jersey. The application statement was inspiring but, admittedly, sloppily compiled. Understandably, the business-mentoring-for-liberal-arts scholars program declined my submission. Then, in that very same week, a very different door opened: Dr. Janet Mann, renowned biologist and dolphin behaviorist, emailed to offer me a semester-long undergraduate position in her lab. The familiar gave way to the exciting, exotic unfamiliar.
That will be too much for most. Indeed, it’s a mistake to assume that in order to have a mind one has to have a mind that is like human minds. So let’s just say that, according to the evidence, it’s not obviously ridiculous to invite you, the human, to imagine yourself as an elephant. There’s some biological justification for what sounds like a whimsical, sentimental literary device. You and the elephant both have minds, wrought from the same stuff. And your minds engage with the world using the same devices. Your neurological hardware differs only in sensitivity: sodium and potassium surge in the same way through the same molecular gates when you and the elephant step on a nail; the same ancient hormones mediate pleasure, anger and stress. “If you prick us,” ask the elephants (using a chromatic orchestra of sounds, and well over 100 distinct body movements), “do we not bleed?” Indeed they do.
We can be cautiously Beatrix-Pottery with elephants. When the temporal glands near their eyes stream in circumstances that, for us, would be emotional, they’re crying. When a bereaved elephant mother carries her dead baby round on her tusks, or trails miserably behind the herd for weeks, her head hanging down, she’s grieving. When other elephants sit for hours around the body of a dead elephant, they’re mourning. When they cover an elephant corpse with soil or vegetation, or move elephant bones, they’re being reverential. When they cover a dead human, or build a protective wall of sticks around a wounded human, they’re showing an empathic acknowledgment of our shared destiny that we’d do well to learn. These, dear reductionists, are, as you would put it, the most parsimonious hypotheses.
Full disclosure first: I am an ebook developer. I run a small company that makes ebooks and book trailers. We also do a lot of consulting for publishers and organizations, helping them build custom digital publishing systems. We are still learning, struggling, and trying to do things right. I love what we do. I love the people I work with and the clients we work for. The ebook developer community is full of people who are professionals trying to make the most beautiful and innovative ebooks possible given the restraints, obfuscations, variability, and voodoo-code of the device world we make them for. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an industry display more professionalism than this one. Ebook makers basically rock. However, I am also an author (An Altar in the Wilderness), an Eastern Orthodox priest, and single full-time dad of three kids. Additionally, I am a lecturer on spiritual ecology, the climate and the environment, and a backcountry enthusiast. It’s important for me to disclose this outright because I am speaking from all these frames in what follows.
All that said, I have a simple proposition to make.
I think that we must stop making ebooks for devices - now. Not later, and certainly not at some indefinite future point. Instead, I think we should channel all our energy, hard work, and collective intelligence into solving, developing, and standardizing the Portable Web Publishing model. I believe we should do this for the following three reasons, in order of importance. I can think of more, but these three will do for now.
In as much as the assembly of Indigenous Nations in Standing Rock, North Dakota, in union with those that have gathered to support them, are calling for the protection of our valuable and God-bearing water and earth, and in as much as they do so as Protectors in prayer for the whole world, Orthodox Christians like me will stand in solidarity with their efforts and lend our prayers to their own.
Since the invention of the printing press, every new revolution in information technology has prompted apocalyptic fears. From the panic that easy access to the vernacular English Bible would destroy Christian orthodoxy all the way to the revulsion, in the 1950s, at the barbaric young medium of television, cultural critics have moaned and wailed at every turn. Each shift represented a further fracturing of attention — continuing up to the previously unimaginable kaleidoscope of cable TV in the late-20th century and the now infinite, infinitely multiplying spaces of the web. And yet society has always managed to adapt and adjust, without obvious damage, and with some more-than-obvious progress. So it’s perhaps too easy to view this new era of mass distraction as something newly dystopian.
But it sure does represent a huge leap from even the very recent past. The data bewilder. Every single minute on the planet, YouTube users upload 400 hours of video and Tinder users swipe profiles over a million times. Each day, there are literally billions of Facebook “likes.” Online outlets now publish exponentially more material than they once did, churning out articles at a rapid-fire pace, adding new details to the news every few minutes. Blogs, Facebook feeds, Tumblr accounts, tweets, and propaganda outlets repurpose, borrow, and add topspin to the same output.
“I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth … This is the economy that the most public and influential economists never talk about, the economy that is the primary vocation and responsibility of every one of us. “Even so, land and people have suffered together, as invariably they must. Under the rule of industrial economics, the land, our country, has been pillaged for the enrichment, supposedly, of those humans who have claimed the right to own or exploit it without limit. Of the land-community much has been consumed, much has been wasted, almost nothing has flourished. But this has not been inevitable. We do not have to live as if we are alone.”
In brief, the Global War on Terror sledgehammer strategy has spread jihadi terror from a tiny corner of Afghanistan to much of the world, from Africa through the Levant and South Asia to Southeast Asia. It has also incited attacks in Europe and the United States. The invasion of Iraq made a substantial contribution to this process, much as intelligence agencies had predicted. Terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimate that the Iraq War “generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third.” Other exercises have been similarly productive.
When we ask “Who rules the world?” we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.
States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the “masters of mankind,” as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the “vile maxim” to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people” -- a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.
In the contemporary global order, the institutions of the masters hold enormous power, not only in the international arena but also within their home states, on which they rely to protect their power and to provide economic support by a wide variety of means. When we consider the role of the masters of mankind, we turn to such state policy priorities of the moment as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled “free-trade agreements” in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. The intention is to have them adopted in good Stalinist style with “fast track” procedures designed to block discussion and allow only the choice of yes or no (hence yes). The designers regularly do quite well, not surprisingly. People are incidental, with the consequences one might anticipate.
Sea-level rise, erosion and coastal flooding are some of the greatest challenges facing humanity from climate change.
Recently at least five reef islands in the remote Solomon Islands have been lost completely to sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and a further six islands have been severely eroded.
These islands lost to the sea range in size from one to five hectares. They supported dense tropical vegetation that was at least 300 years old. Nuatambu Island, home to 25 families, has lost more than half of its habitable area, with 11 houses washed into the sea since 2011.
This is the first scientific evidence, published in Environmental Research Letters, that confirms the numerous anecdotal accounts from across the Pacific of the dramatic impacts of climate change on coastlines and people.
But in those humans and non-humans who survive, there is another feeling, emerging from below and beyond and around and through this sorrow. In the time after, those still alive begin to feel something almost none have felt before, something that everyone felt long, long ago. What those who come in the time after feel is a sense of realistic optimism, a sense that things will turn out all right, a sense that life, which so desperately wants to continue, will endure, will thrive.
In the same way, since, for each member of the Church, the friend of a brother must be the friend of a brother, but only the friend of this particular brother, not the friend of everyone, there must necessarily be a force that orders and maintains the individuality of the union of friends. Together with a uniting force that takes one outside individual existence, there must be an isolating force, which sets a limit to diffuseness and in personality. Together with a centrifugal force, there must be a centripetal one, This force is jealousy, and its function is to isolate, separate, delimit, differentiate. If this force did not exist, there would be no concrete church life with its specific order. Instead, we would have protestant, anarchistic, communistic, Tolstoyan, etc. mixing of all with all. We would have total formlessness and chaos. The force of jealousy is alive in both friendship and marriage, in an eparchy as well as in a local parish or a monastery. It is alive everywhere. 8 Everywhere it is necessary to have definiteness of connections and constancy of unions, be it with a friend, a wife, a starets, a pastor, a bishop, a metropolitan, or a patriarch. In other words, everywhere there must be not only love but also jealousy. There must be jealousy toward friend, wife, congregation, brothers, eparchy, or local church. We must now get a deeper insight into this concept, which is so important but usually so little explored.
During the peak of the attack, all across western North America there were so many pine beetles that they began attacking other species like fir and spruce. The total of 89 million acres of mortality, at a conservative 80 trees per acre, amounts to 7 billion red conifers. And all this is due to only 0.74 degrees Celsius of warming by 2014, on average across the globe. Young trees are sprouting up in the oldest kills because the young are very vigorous. But their ecosystem has changed. These forests are no longer located in the climate where they evolved. In our current and exponentially warming climate, young lodgepole in these impacted forests will inevitably succumb to beetles, disease or fire before they mature. What remains will be ecosystem chaos. We are undergoing the beginning of a grand reordering of ecological systems. This is more than simply a harbinger of things to come. An extinction bomb has gone off and it will not stop going off until we stabilize our climate.
Just over a billion years ago, many millions of galaxies from here, a pair of black holes collided. They had been circling each other for aeons, in a sort of mating dance, gathering pace with each orbit, hurtling closer and closer. By the time they were a few hundred miles apart, they were whipping around at nearly the speed of light, releasing great shudders of gravitational energy. Space and time became distorted, like water at a rolling boil. In the fraction of a second that it took for the black holes to finally merge, they radiated a hundred times more energy than all the stars in the universe combined. They formed a new black hole, sixty-two times as heavy as our sun and almost as wide across as the state of Maine. As it smoothed itself out, assuming the shape of a slightly flattened sphere, a few last quivers of energy escaped. Then space and time became silent again.
Those eloquent Welsh folks have a word for something we vagabond Americans can’t seem to name: hiraeth. It means something like homesickness for a home you cannot return to, or even a home that never existed at all; an intense longing for one’s motherland; a grief-tinged nostalgia for the lost places in the world where one’s heart once fit.
There are a plethora of diseases out there. Diseases we don’t know about. Diseases locked away in far-off, rarefied corners of the world. Diseases that operate in small niche jungle environments. Diseases that live in only cave systems or within a single species. Diseases that were locked away millions of years ago in the now-thawing ice. Diseases that, if given a vector — or a means to travel outside of their little rarefied organic or environmental niches — can wreak untold harm across wide spans of the globe.
By Paul Kingsnorth
These are the things that make sense to me right now, when I think about what is coming and what I can do, still, with some joy and determination. If you don’t feel despair, in times like these, you are not fully alive. But there has to be something beyond despair too; or rather, something that accompanies it, like a companion on the road. This is my approach, right now. It is, I suppose, the development of a personal philosophy for a dark time; a dark ecology. None of it is going to save the world – but then there is no saving the world, and the ones who say there is are the ones you need to save it from.
Kaleeg Hainsworth, drawing upon his experiences in the Canadian wilderness, grounds his book in the literary, philosophical, mystical and historical teachings of the spiritual masters of both East and West, outlining the human experience of the sacred in nature. He offers a vision of life in which a human being stands in the world of nature as at an altar built in the wilderness, a sacred offering in a holy place.
By Abbie Simmonds
Robert Macfarlane recently reminded us of how many words we are losing in the UK on a daily basis and the danger that poses to the future of our countryside: ‘[We are in] an age when a junior dictionary finds room for “broadband” but has no place for “bluebell'”. What will happen when children can no longer name Oak or Beech, Sparrow or Robin? Will they wish to protect an area of nameless land inhabited by nameless creatures?
To take away a person’s name is to ‘de-humanise’, making it easier to avoid any sort of messy emotional attachment and opening the ‘thing’ up to exploitation, abuse or extermination. If we are losing the lexicon of the natural world, is it any wonder that rainforests full of trees, insects and animals are being destroyed by CEOs of foreign companies who have reduced the entire, living ecosystem of the Amazon to a ‘commodity’?
Enlightenment thinking is coming to an end. The "Anthropocene" claims to step beyond the dualism of man–nature opposition. Culture is everywhere. This might be an opportunity for sustainable action: saving nature becomes a cultural endeavour. However, the salute to anthropocene stewardship masks the silent enclosure of life within technoculture and bioeconomy. Civilization still operates as if reality is about organizing inert, dead matter in efficient ways.
An old professor and mentor during my seminary days used to say, ‘listening is love in action.’ I have returned to this phrase many times over the years, but never more than now. We humans are facing what Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, called ‘multiple global emergencies’ during his speech to the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations. Several decades of successive wars in the Middle East have resulted in a refugee crisis which is unprecedented in history and on a scale which is unimaginable with no end in sight. The world order itself is also unravelling, as was evident to anyone following the UN Assembly this year, and there are massive demographic and economic shifts occurring right now around the world. What is more, Pope Francis claimed recently that we are fully engaged in a ‘piecemeal third world war.’ However, what every country in the world acknowledged, both in the recent UN Assembly, and in their collective commitments to the Paris Climate Summit, our greatest global emergency is that of climate change. If we are to engage properly with these global emergencies, and do so with love, then there has never been a time more important than this one for us to listen.
Well, as my twelve year old daughter sometimes tells me, ‘haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate.’ The rest of us, however, welcome the Pope’s Encyclical like the charge of the Rohirrim. So, on behalf of the millions around the world already suffering the effects of climate change (like the residents of Sao Paulo running out of water and the millions more watching their lakes, rivers, food, and wildlife disappear or are trying to survive extreme heat waves), I want to say thank you to the Pope for two important reasons.
Local governments in Canada are on the front lines of climate change impacts, but the cost of adapting infrastructure to flooding and other climate-driven challenges is a barrier to implementation. This report, developed by ACT through a project supported by Natural Resources Canada under the program of the Economics Working Group of Canada’s Adaptation Platform and the Cowichan Valley Regional District, identifies and analyzes the applications and suitability of funding sources available to Canadian local governments that can be used to pay for urban climate change adaptation, as well as innovative measures that may be implemented in the future under certain conditions.
Rocky Mountain streams usually peak with spring melt late in June, but some hit the high-water mark two weeks ago and are rapidly dwindling.
Dr. Pomeroy said some areas are already extremely dry and reduced river flows will hit them hardest.
“There was record dry in Saskatchewan in May, and so that’s quite bad,” he said. “It doesn’t take that long for [the soil to dry out] and then the prairies start to call it a drought and … I’m sure some farmers are already in trouble.”