Visions of Climate Change

Spring BlossomsSometimes the everyday seems odd indeed. Today is a lovely, if chilly, brightly sunlit spring day. Folks are out shopping. Economists are debating the direction and future of the economy and stock market. The major political parties are bickering, all the while ignoring the needs of the vast majority of the world’s people, to say nothing of Her plants and animals.

All this is occurring against a background of climate change. In the past few days we passed the mythical milestone of 400 parts per million of CO2. Of course, nothing happened to mark the milestone. There is a marked delay in the rise of CO2 and the response of the atmosphere. Even so, there is every reason to believe a response is coming shortly, although how the climate system will adapt is uncertain.

Perhaps of greater concern is the release of enormous quantities of methane, and other greenhouse gasses from the permafrost and ocean floor in the Arctic. The capacity of CO2 to alter the Earth’s climate pales in comparison to the potency of these gasses. It appears the rate of release of methane is growing rapidly.

All this reminds me of the spring of 1975. I was living in California, and went to visit a Hupa friend who was living on the reservation. While there, I had a vision of the Earth covered in ice, save for the Amazon, upon which the ice was rapidly encroaching. That summer, I met several other young people who had received visions of coming cataclysmic climate change. We were a frightened lot.

Our visions did not necessarily agree. Rather, we seemed to represent a cross-section of the possible; the theme we shared was of dramatic, even cataclysmic change. The normalcy of the everyday world seemed to belie the impending chaos we had each witnessed. Most everyone was going about their routine, Northern California, business, which, I must admit, was a lot of fun. We vision bearers were left to compare notes and wonder.

Having had thirty years to ponder theses things, I have come to know we humans are animals, very like Beaver, engaged in monumental projects that change the face of the planet, effecting entire ecosystems, and establishing the conditions for the extinction of millions of species, perhaps even our own. As a human being, I find this immensely sad, as I imagine does Pachamama. I have also realized the Earth will recover in Her own time, will return to fecundity even though that might require the passing of a few hundred thousand years.

The challenging part of these visions for us humans is the realization that we are not very important in the grand scale of things. Organisms, and the niches we occupy, come and go over geological time. We are just not that significant, even though we would like to believe we are. The paradox is that if we can live with unimportance, we just might treat one another, and the innumerable organisms with which we share life on this planet, better.

Ceremony stands as a bridge between isolation and belonging, between self-focus and an awareness of deep embeddedness. When ceremony goes well we are reminded at the cellular level of our connection to all of creation. We are put in our places, insignificant as we may be, and blessed with the visceral experience of relational wealth.  We are taught to honor all our relations, for we are embodied in All That Is. We are reminded, unequivocally, that we are inseparable from Pachamama. Psychotherapy, at its very best, follows a similar trajectory from isolation to community.

Our experience (including our hubris, loneliness, joy, and fear) is inherently human. Our journey within the web of life that is Pachamama is rich and varied, and filtered through the neurobiology of the human body; we are souls embedded in the human condition. Perhaps the challenge is to embrace that, and Creation in all Her forms. We are invited to remember we are not very important,  and that we and Creation share a common fate.

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