***This article contains difficult material, including references to sexual violence, Whiteness, and mass extinction. Please read slowly, take breaks if needed, and practice soothing techniques, such as grounding your feet to the floor.***
I rarely wave my collapse aware, near-term extinction flag because, well, it scares people and ultimately makes them run away, far away. In other words, I lose credibility and increase the feeling of isolation that often accompanies the work I do. People’s avoidance makes sense to me, the reality-based information about the planetary crisis is outside of most people’s window of tolerance (including mine some days), and so we live in a culture of deep denial and heroic fantasy.
Every once in a while, however, I can’t muster the temperance to stay closeted with the environmental and systemic truths I’ve vetted. Really, I get too lonely in my knowing of what’s coming down the pike for us as a generation, a species, and a planet. I want to question our predicaments together. I want to speak my fears, my griefs, my outrage, and witness yours.
So, this seems to be one of those times when my white flag of surrender and collapse is waving wildly. A thought, a question, keeps occupying my in-between times—between dreaming and wakefulness, work and play, presence and disassociation. It’s lurking around the un-contained corners of my consciousness, waiting for me to speak it into a communal conversation.
Here goes, come with me (imagine we’re holding hands, co-regulating, as we explore this terrain): I’ve so often heard people, including collapse-aware, environmental advocates, say, “Humans may go extinct but the planet, Earth, will be fine.” I understand this comment. The truth is, I’m not incredibly attached to the human species, though certain humans touch my heart and inhabit my soul-space to such a degree I would die for them. And, thinking about what future generations, the young-ones, will have to endure tightens my throat and pains my heart.
I’ve also heard the whole spiel about the warming and cooling periods Earth has experienced. How she* has made it through ice ages and extinctions before. Previously I, too, had dismissively claimed she would live, she would be okay, eventually, even if it took a few million years. After all, she’s on geologic time, and human-time can’t comprehend the tiny blip we inhabit on her storyline.
Lately, I’ve been wondering, what makes me so sure she’ll survive? What gives us the certainty to dismiss the possibility that we will take her out too? We’ve already denied, abused, exploited, and raped her, is it all that off-base to consider we might murder her too? Isn’t that what we do in this White-stricken, wealthy, “developed” civilization? Oppress, take, and cannibalize, until there’s nothing left to consume? Until the corpse is stripped and desecrated.
Here’s where some dear readers may say, “Don’t give humans so much credit, mother Earth is strong and enduring.” She is strong. She is beautiful. Yes, she is both breath-giving and breathtaking. She is beyond my full comprehension. Yet, she’s still a living being. A being that WILL die someday. A being that could become so damaged, her physical body cannot recover (this happens to individual humans and entire species every day).
Others may respond with, “Our experience on Earth is just an illusion,” or, “the Earth deities won’t let that happen,” or, “it’s okay because we are ascending to the fourth dimension.” We can insert any form of spiritual avoidance here. And, yes, I’ve heard people say versions of each of these. It’s hard for me to even entertain these at this point. While I’m a deeply spiritual person, I also know that it’s a denial of our human incarnation on this planet, at this time, to simply dismiss the Earth-reality we’ve created. Really, it’s spiritually and developmentally immature and irresponsible, and it indicates a shit-ton (that’s a technical term) of privilege and supremacy.
Back in the anthropocene, I believe so many of us can quickly say, “She’ll be fine in the long-run,” because we’re speaking from patriarchal, colonized minds. A diseased collective-consciousness that has taught us to minimize others’ pain. A sociopathic mindset that can’t grasp the depth of harm it causes. A juvenile way of being that craves immortality and denies death, whether our own, others’, or the planet’s.
Even if we are able to face death, extinction isn’t just about death. It’s about the end of birth. Let me repeat that—it’s about the end of all birth. I can’t fully comprehend that. It catches my breath and activates my nervous system. I have to consciously feel my body, the physical and emotional sensations that arise, when I say it.
Let me take a minute to come back into my pelvic-ground and grieve here…
Here’s what I know when I’m rooted in body and place, here’s what I want us to step into together: We’re deeply damaging her, drilling, slicing into, her interior arteries. Simultaneously, we’re traumatizing ourselves and each other. We’ve wreaked havoc on watersheds, ecosystems, and our relationships. We need to be preparing for the death of billions (yes, billions) of people and other species. We aren’t fine, and we don’t know that she’ll be fine. We don’t know if she’ll survive. We might kill her, like we do everyday to entire species and marginalized communities.
I’d like to fully enter shadowtime and embody this possibility. I wonder if you’ll join me? Let’s stop pretending she’s immortal and consider our Mother, our life-giver, our parent, will die. Not only that, we may be the species to prematurely choke out her last breath.
***I understand this material can be hard to integrate, or even consider (it certainly is for me). If reading this has you feeling overwhelmed, confused, or disassociated, please take a minute to ground yourself. You can squeeze different parts of your body, follow your breath, or look around the room and name what you see.***
Credit and Author Comments:
-I use female pronouns to refer to the Earth because my experience is that she often has more of a feminine quality, this is not always true, and does not have to be true for you. It’s the best way I can quickly articulate my relationship with Earth and Nature right now.