We are in the early stages of immense changes to natural systems all over the world, few of them good. We may yet collectively wake up in time to lessen the destruction humans are causing, but can no longer prevent many tragic consequences. It will be hard for many to hold onto hope in the decades and centuries ahead. One of my goals is to help people find hope and live in hope. Hope can only come when we face reality, however, otherwise it is simply denial phrased in happy talk: “Oh, they’ll think of something.”
But facing the reality is hard. It is painful. It can be scary. And it is deeply sad. It can lead to genuine hope only through the process of grief, which allows us to let go of what we can’t control. We must mourn the losses to find the hope. And hope helps us to recognize that with every ending, there is a new beginning.
I’ll come back to this over time in a variety of ways. But for now, here’s anthropologist Wade Davis writing in The Narwhal about what happens when we force what we have done to nature out of our memories. What happens when we prevent the possibility of hope by silently trying to adapt to life without wild things? After describing the extinction of the passenger pigeon and wholesale slaughter of the buffalo, in particular, he continues:
In three generations, a mere moment in the history of our species, we have throughout the world contaminated the water, air and soil, driven countless species to extinction, dammed the rivers, poisoned the rain and torn down the ancient forests. As Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson reminds us, this era will not be remembered for its wars or technological advances but as the time when men and women stood by and either passively endorsed or actively supported the massive destruction of biological diversity on the planet.
Given the dire consequences, how might we explain this peculiar and ultimately self-destructive capacity to shed memory and shift our expectations as we adapt to an increasingly impoverished world? Were this to be a fundamental adaptive trait of our species, we would surely find evidence scattered throughout the ethnographic record. But most assuredly we do not.
Photo: Penguin on rock. Source: Joel Herzog via Unsplash.
This post focuses on truth, which belongs to the gold portion of the singing wilderness spiritual map.