Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene
Been meaning to write about this article for a while. Finally finding time.
We are officially in the Holocene epoch that began after the last major ice age almost 12,000 years ago. Holocene means "entirely recent" and some experts argue that it no longer aptly describes the world we live in. They argue that we have entered a new epoch: Anthropocene - anthropo for “man,” and cene for “new”. Roy Scranton (ex-army) explains this as:
A new epoch in Earth’s geological history, one characterized by the arrival of the human species as a geological force
The start of anthropocene can be traced to the advent of the industry revolution in the early 1800s. From that point till today the human population has increased 7 fold. Human activity over the last 200 years has impacted all the "spheres" - atmoshphere (air - CO2 emissions), hydrosphere (water - increased water usage, over fishing), cryopshere (ice - melting) and biosphere (plants/animals - mass extinction of plant and animal species). Basically we have significantly altered all the spheres.
Roy's take is dire and he thinks that we have no choice but face the inevitable and "learn how to die". I think there are varying reactions to the impact of climate change from the very pessimistic "we are screwed" (like Roy's) to others more optimistic that there is hope and we can dig ourselves out of this whole.
I honestly oscillate. Not a comfortable feeling. Will leave you with a few more lines from Roy's article:
The human psyche naturally rebels against the idea of its end. Likewise, civilizations have throughout history marched blindly toward disaster, because humans are wired to believe that tomorrow will be much like today — it is unnatural for us to think that this way of life, this present moment, this order of things is not stable and permanent. Across the world today, our actions testify to our belief that we can go on like this forever, burning oil, poisoning the seas, killing off other species, pumping carbon into the air, ignoring the ominous silence of our coal mine canaries in favor of the unending robotic tweets of our new digital imaginarium. Yet the reality of global climate change is going to keep intruding on our fantasies of perpetual growth, permanent innovation and endless energy, just as the reality of mortality shocks our casual faith in permanence.
The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront this problem, and the sooner we realize there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.
The choice is a clear one. We can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster as it comes, and more and more desperately invested in a life we can’t sustain. Or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.