John Halstead very eloquently and thoroughly puts the question to us in his post “’Everything is Going According to Plan’”: Being an Activist in the Anthropocene”.
Take time to read the whole thing. It’s well worth it.
So really: what if it’s simply too late for any kind of peaceful transition to a sustainable post-disastrous civilization, and a messy and bloody collapse of industrial capitalism and Earth biodiversity in the context of skyrocketing global warming is now firmly set on course?
It could be true. It may very well be true.
What does this mean to us as Atheopagans, when we state explicitly that it is a part of our ethos to be advocates for a better future?
As someone who has devoted his career to public interest work, and particularly in the environmental field, I have wrestled with this question a lot. And I find that my Atheopaganism is both a motivator and a comfort to me in the context of what appears to be gathering doom.
If we ARE completely screwed, there are some things we can probably anticipate. And the primary one—the critically important one—is this:
There will be survivors.
Humans are unbelievably adaptable. We are the species which can live far above the Arctic Circle, in equatorial jungles, wandering as nomads in the Sahara, high in the Andes and Himalayas. We have managed to build a quite reliable global network of resource extraction, food production, manufacturing and distribution, and as destructive as that system is, it is a monument to the sheer ingenuity and logistical capability of our species.
Even with sea levels rising dozens of feet, billions of deaths due to disasters, starvation and unlivable conditions, mass migrations of climate refugees, and crashing biodiversity, there will be survivors. Many of them may be the privileged, but many of the privileged aren’t actually very well cut out for survival. They are pampered, and soft.
There will be ordinary people who survive, too. And it is for them that our efforts can make a difference.
At best, our work to develop and render visible our path is work towards culture creation—establishing principles, values and practices that are consistent with a world kinder and more sustainable than that in which we live now.
Meanwhile, these present a way for us to be happier, and to live better lives.
Finally. let me say this.
If humanity is doomed and billions of living creatures must die off, I would much rather be one of the ones who stayed at the pumps and worked to keep the ship afloat than to ignore the crisis and fool around just indulging myself and having fun.
In that case, I can go to my death feeling I did what was right to do. I stood where it was right and just to stand, when the time came that a stand was required. I lived, overall, a righteous life.
There is so much I grieve. My wife has been known to call me “the man who knows too much” because I can look at a landscape others find beautiful and see only erosion, invasive species, the growing damage wrought by humanity. And as I look at the world of humans, of course, I see the bigotry, the cruelty, the sheer destructiveness for the most petty and greedy of reasons.
But we are here. We are alive. We value life.
We are Homo capabilis, the Human Who Can.
We’re not done yet. Just looking down the barrel of a new chapter.
And we have something to offer. Our path is worthy, even now.
Even if we’re screwed.