Monday, July 25, 2011

We cannot fight it

We are living in an ever scarcer world, of that there are no doubts. Water is becoming scarcer, as are fuels, as are clean air and nutritious land. We know of the possibilities that climate change will present - flooded coasts, changing weather patterns, hotter summers, and destabilised communities. It should be no surprise to us that in the coming years, not in our grandchildren's lifetimes, not in our children's lifetimes, but in our lifetimes, things are going to get tougher. We cannot fight it.

So what does this mean for our daily lives, particularly of those of us living in the West, full of convenience? Increased expenditures reflective of scarcity? Absolutely. (If you think gasoline is "expensive" now, wait a while. If you think water is "expensive" now, wait a while.) But more importantly, it is now clearer than ever that we have a broken relationship with what sustains and nurtures us. And so we are faced with choices. We are faced with the choice of doing nothing (or continuing to do what we are doing, and continuing to degrade), or grabbing the bull by its horns and doing something. Just as with a broken relationship, we can do nothing, let it worsen, and then feel the emotional effects for longer, or we can mend the relationship, apply bandages where the wounds are open, and care for and nurture to make whole again. For this, we must be able to admit fault and guilt. We cannot fight it.

Of course each one of us individually cannot solve the multitude of crises that are before us. But what we can do is our part. I like to think thermodynamically in these cases. Thermodynamics is a description of large-scale averages. The temperature you are feeling on your skin right now not the temperature that is shared by all of the molecules constituting the air. Rather, it is an averaging of many different individual temperatures - some of the molecules that are hitting your skin have a higher temperature than others, and some have a lower temperature. But if we are to shift the bulk, the whole, the average, things need to shift individually. We cannot fight it.

It is clear to me that the changes in our lives will need to be significant in order to address the array of issues before us - poverty, injustice, climate change, biodiversity loss (all, of course, just different manifestations of the same ethical and moral problems). While "significant" may mean to some as driving less, the significance that I am talking about is a radical reconstruction of our societies, of our daily lives, of our ethics, of our morals. This will be needed, because a factory painted green still pollutes. There must be a peaceableness that we find with this new existence. If this for some of us means driving less, then so be it. But if this means for some of us thinking about how our individual lives affect our neighbours, down the street, and in India, the birds, the rocks, and the river, then so be it. We cannot fight it.


  1. I love your blog, each article is so insightful. It's a big pleasure to read it: thanks for writing and sharing!

    Re :"peaceableness"+"we cannot fight it"
    => isn't peace coming from accepting what is, instead of trying to fight it?
    someone wrote nicely about it:

  2. =) Wonderful to hear from you again, Paris!

    It is interesting you've pointed this out. It seems to me that the peaceableness that we live with on a day to day basis is one of acceptance of violence, as contradictory as that seems. I have written about this a few times previously ( and

    In response to your thought, I'll copy-paste what I have written previously, here ( I just re-read it and thought it might be a good response to the issue you raise. I hope that's okay! =)

    I believe that if we find peace within ourselves and where we are, we can radically redefine notions of "progress" and "community." When I say peace, I in no way mean complacency. When I say peace, I mean that we recognise, understand and internalise our place in the world, our place in our communities, our place within our families, and our place in our own minds and bodies. Being at peace doesn't necessarily mean being satisfied with where we are ethically and morally; clearly, given our increasingly complex world, much of the complexity of which is man-made, there are ways in which we need to be redefining what it means to interact with each other, what it means to be a good citizen and a good steward. As a society as a whole, we are far from the ethical, moral and spiritual heights we need to be at to fully understand our impact on other humans, as well as the environment. There is no way we can envision a sustainable future when we find peace in violence. But if we can find peace in where we are materially and in physical place, we will have reached some level of peaceableness with the environment.