On Sunday I preached what I think was my most important sermon. At least I think I said what was most heartfelt. The future (at least in the coming decades and perhaps the next couple of centuries) looks to be very rough for humanity. If you wonder why I say that, I refer you to a common theme on this blog, the problem with "growth".
Here is a film that captures in 34 minutes the basics of the problem. It is produced by Incubate Pictures in cooperation with The Post-Carbon Institute. It is your midnight movie.
The next couple of centuries will be rough. We are currently at the beginning but in the zone of this major change, which is overshoot due to exponential growth. Whatever happens to me is no big deal. I plan on dying. That is a darn good plan since I will die at some point regardless of my plans.
Given death, or to put a positive spin on it, given that one day I will enter The Great Peace, I would like to live this life in a way that matters. I would like to be, in the words of Nancy Abrams, an "honorable" ancestor.
I am not completely sure what "honorable" might mean. I have no idea what I should do or what I should say. I think at least I should care. The best epitaph I can think of for my tombstone is:
Well, at least he gave a shit.
I do care. I care about the twenty-somethings and younger who will inherit this mess in the immediate future and will have to roll with the crumbling of industrial civilization however that cookie happens to crumble. Their offspring will be born into a very different world than the one most of us know today.
I care that human beings will somehow manage to survive all the catastrophes ahead and preserve enough knowledge and hope to keep eating, breeding, and surviving, so that a remnant may start again in a few centuries and be the green shoot that will flourish for millions of years.
Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams who will be my guests on an upcoming radio program compare this burst of human growth in the last two centuries with cosmic inflation in the first second of the universe. It is an analogy of course. But the idea is that after the cosmic inflation, the universe grew steadily and slowly. In alike manner, after this industrial inflation in which the human population shot up from a billion to seven billion (and growing), it too, will settle into a long, slow period of growth.
I don't know. I find that interesting and hopeful.
What I think is my task, and perhaps you have thought along similar lines, is to encourage each other to talk about that which we don't talk about much, our future, our long-term future, our thousands of generations in the future future. Not only talk about it, but imagine it. And then, maybe get our politicians to imagine it.
Fossil-fuel powered growth is a dead end. A. literal. dead. literal. end. They talk incessantly about continuing it. Not one tells us the truth. Let us tell the truth they cannot yet tell.
It is time for everyone, the whole world, to care about our long-term future and to plan together for it. This past Sunday I used this passage from the book written by Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel Primack, The New Universe and the Human Future. I found it inspiring. Maybe you will as well.
Here is a hypothetical fragment of an origin story from the distant future.
“Everyone in the Galaxy came from one little planet called Earth. The cooperative genius of a small group of ancient earthlings made them rebel against the robotic march to death that the majority was on—to use up the planet with no plan for the future. It was the acquisition in the early twenty-first century of the ability to see into the cosmically distant past and thus project far into the future that allowed the rebels to grasp the meaning of their own evolution from the first available scientifically cosmic perspective. The rebels saw the implications of what a few scientists were already suggesting but had not yet fully appreciated: that intelligent beings on Planet Earth were cosmically central, living at a pivotal moment in time, and had a potential destiny as vast as the cosmic past if they would only protect it. This awakening led to the great conversion from short-term fragmented identities to the first serious long-term species identity. Those early rebels changed the course of history and led to the Galactic community of our time.”
Let’s keep that story possible.
Be a rebel.