My new calendar has a picture of an ice-covered Alaskan wilderness preserve. My throat catches every time I glance at its breathtaking beauty, and I make a mental note to go see this beautiful place soon, before the ice melts.
It is no longer possible to relegate global warming to a theoretical possibility. It is reality. It is 60-degree days in January when it should be six degrees above (in the city where I live, temperatures are running more than ten degrees above normal this month). It is the slowing Gulf Stream, the melting ice. It is the droughts in Africa and Oklahoma, in the Himalayas and the Amazon. It is the rising seas and hurricanes and tsunamis that decimate cities and villages in Indonesia and Louisiana. It is the highest carbon dioxide levels in 650,000 years and the fish and plankton that are dying in the warming seas.
There is no real doubt that this is occurring, only the political impossibility of admitting that not only is it happening, but it is not within our power to stop it, the changes that we are seeing have taken on a life force of their own. It is the life force that our earth has always had, which for a few brief years in the history of the universe, we delusionally thought we had the power to overcome. But the truth that we are faced with now is that it was never ours to control, and our biosphere, our planet, our world has once again taken the reigns in what is to be. Climate change has accelerated to the unstoppable point of no return. The snowball is now an avalanche.
Weather events like last year's Tsunami and the hurricanes of last fall are surely just a preview of what is to come. Yet we stupidly declare that we can rebuild New Orleans from the ruins of a bayou covered with toxic sludge without more than a cursory examination of the damage done or whether it will every truly be safe to live there again. We rebuild, stubbornly clinging to the notion that we are the masters of our environment. It does not yet occur to us that it has been a mortal mistake to think that it was ever ours to command.
Environmental scientist James Lovelock frames the issue in terms of the Gaia theory, which offers a holistic view of the world where the health of the planet is a question of how all the parts of the system interact, how they work as a whole and how they work under stress,
By failing to see that the Earth regulates its climate and composition, we have blundered into trying to do it ourselves, acting as if we were in charge. By doing this, we condemn ourselves to the worst form of slavery. If we chose to be the stewards of the Earth, then we are responsible for keeping the atmosphere, the ocean and the land surface right for life. A task we would soon find impossible -- and something before we treated Gaia so badly, she had freely done for us.
In Lovelock's view, the earth has always possessed its own system of control that has allowed life to flourish by regulating the chemical makeup of our air, the temperature, etc. with a system of positive feedback loops. But our cumulative attempts to "civilize" the planet by exerting control over our environment have placed the biosphere under extreme stress. Now as temperatures rise, a process triggered in good part by industrialization, the feedback is changing, with dire consequences.
Even if we gave up all attempts to control our biosphere, a being that has always been quite capable of regulating itself, we can no longer stop global warming and therefore what we must do is start addressing how we will adapt to the changes that are inevitable.
It is time to make peace with our planet, to apologize for the damage done and to humbly ask for a chance to tend our hearth with mercy, even if we can no longer make amends.
Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Awakened Woman, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder, Z Magazine, Common Dreams and Information Clearinghouse.
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