I’m not advising that you should do any of these five things listed below. It would probably be illegal for me to do so. I’m merely indicating some radical options in order to highlight the severity of the global situation and to point out the level of individual response that seems to be needed from each one of us if the catastrophe that the latest data on climate collapse indicates will soon be upon us is to be in any way averted.
5 unspeakable options
1.) Make your way peacefully to the open space outside your local or national political headquarters. Douse yourself from head to foot with a gallon of gasoline (yes, that very same precious substance the over-use of which has caused so much deadly harm to our beautiful planet), and set a flame to the vapours. Try not to cause harm to others or to set fire to anything by crashing into people or things once you’re in flames. Know that the excruciating pain will only last a short while. Be sure to leave a note somewhere the press can find it, stating that your act of self-immolation was a radical protest against the criminal negligence of your government in allowing big business to destroy our planet’s self-regulating systems and bring about runaway climate change, thereby jeopardising not only human civilisation but the existence of most forms of life on Earth. In your note make specific reference to the latest scientific data on climate collapse detailed here, in order to bring this data into view of the public. Also urge others to undertake similar protests until both the government and the population as a whole mobilise collectively to respond appropriately to the grave and indeed existential threats that we face as a consequence of human-created climate collapse. Point out the basic steps required to reduce the already inevitable collapse to the smallest possible catastrophe, as detailed here, and affirm the maxim that ecocide is genocide—to destroy the living environment is to murder those who live there.
2.) Get hold of some land and start a radical eco-community. Don’t try to replicate modern luxury convenience in a ‘sustainable’, ‘off-grid’ way—it’s fundamentally impossible—but instead willingly embrace the relative hardships and discomforts of raw, unmediated existence on the living Earth. Divest entirely or as much as you possibly can from all use of fossil fuels and consumer products. Plunge yourself into a neolithic lifestyle of radical simplicity, small-scale farming, wild-food foraging and elemental living. Re-wild yourself, body and mind, along with as much of your land as possible. Encourage biodiversity and cultivate a reverential relationship with nature. Get used to being cold—or hot, as conditions dictate—and discipline yourself to regulate your environment only so much as is essential to the most basic level of comfort and wellbeing. Forge strong relationships of collaboration with your fellow earth-dwellers based on the commonwealth of human dignity and solidarity in the face of existential threat to life on Earth. Make friends with the dark and with death. Sing to the stars. Choose to value love, peace, non-violence, natural beauty and wisdom above all else. Weep for the children being born and brought up into the culture of destruction. Grieve for the many thousands of species that have already become extinct through human greed and addiction to a utopian vision of unrestrained material luxury and convenience for all. Show others that it is possible to live in radical simplicity while endeavouring to cultivate the highest human ideals. Teach by example that a more beautiful way to live is possible and that genuinely sustainable simplicity is in every significant way preferable to the consumer nightmare that is destroying our planetary home.
3.) Rebel. Tear down the walls of denial around climate collapse and break the silence of complicity in the everyday destruction of our Earth by mass consumer culture. Make it your full-time job to engage in non-violent acts of civil disobedience and creative contraventions of normality. Make love in the streets in the name of life on Earth. Go to work naked in the name of averting global catastrophe. Write lists and litanies on the walls of banks and the outlets of multinational corporations of the species that are now extinct as a direct consequence of unnecessary environmental destruction in service to corporate greed. Create lavish ceremonies to honour the trees and perform them publicly with as many people as possible in the middle of busy roads. Do likewise for the rivers and perform them on busy bridges. Do likewise for the sea on coastal highways. Create deep and somber mourning rituals for the lives of the billions of children that will end in tremendous unnecessary suffering and horrible death if human-created climate collapse is allowed to escalate at the rates predicted by the latest climate data if carbon emissions continue for even a few more years at levels anything like they are at present, and perform them with as many people as possible outside supermarkets and shopping centres. Spend days, weeks, months bowing down to touch your forehead to the ground before strangers and then handing them a brief document containing the latest scientific data on climate collapse and an urgent request for them to act fully upon this data and to demand that their government do likewise. The reality of climate collapse and the pressing need for a full governmental and public response to it needs to be the main headline of every newspaper and television news broadcast. A mere five thousand people resolutely rebelling in the name of life on Earth, performing acts of civil disobedience similar to those just outlined, would soon achieve this.
4.) Simply be happy and loving and experience absolutely everything that happens with a sense of gratitude and wonder. (Oh, this might seem absurdly pink and fluffy after the other three options just listed, but actually this one thing is the most difficult and radically subversive revolutionary act anyone could make. For the global crisis we face today is nothing but the result of the accumulated failures of hundreds of generations of human beings to recognise and abide in the sacred truth of our primordial nature, which is that we are essentially divine beings here on Earth to share love and to bear witness to the incredible beauty of the miracle that is life on this exquisite jewel of a planet. This failure has led to the attempt to squeeze happiness out of the Earth by means of force and to manipulate love out of each other by means of fear. The consequences of all this are now rising to meet us as if our own horrible ancestral shadows had taken global form. To be happy and loving and to experience everything that happens in a state of gratitude and wonder requires surrendering the fragile, dysfunctional and yet strangely precious identities that have grown up over millennia around the delusion that we are sinful beings exiled in a hostile world. But nothing could be further from the truth than this hideous inversion. We are divine beings at home in the magic of our primordial creation, here to bestow the gift of our witnessing presence upon this fundamentally paradise Earth, not to plunder its wondrous abundance. By addressing ourselves to this basic error at the root of the current world crisis we cut the Gordian Knot with one blow and in the most graceful way possible we open up a path into a beautiful future.)
5.) Do nothing. Literally noting at all. Remain as still and as silent as a stone.
Much of the above will appear extreme and abhorrent to many readers, but only those in denial about the seriousness of the global situation today. It’s that situation itself which is truly extreme and abominably horrendous. The fact that billions of us are going along with and adding to the seriousness of that situation with almost every choice we make about how to live and what to value is a horrendous form of systemic extremism. That it is made to feel normal and even necessary by the media and particularly the villainous advertising industry as well as by sheer numbers of people going along with the extremism is no excuse.
I would like to be strong enough to choose the first possibility listed, as I do actually believe that the situation we face is dire enough to warrant such radical acts of sacrifice. Something needs to be done to cut through the heavy veils of denial, dissimulation, distraction and inertia that are holding the nightmare of global destruction in place. I have not yet, however, reached the level of fierce, desperate hopelessness which would make such an action available to me. Yet it remains a possibility. One day it might feel like a necessity. I would not advocate it to anyone, though I sense that others unknown to me are close to the point of making this sacrifice. Time will tell.
For now, of the four possibilities above I choose to embrace a combination of the last four, as fully as I possibly can, to the degree that the texture of my life allows and the clarity of my conscience demands, while trying to embody the spirit of the first.
Imagine that you and all the people you most dearly love in this world had just boarded a plane destined for a faraway land, and in the last moments before take-off you learned of clear evidence showing that the plane had a very high chance of exploding along the way. Would it be unreasonable of you to do everything in your power to alert the flight crew and everyone on board to the danger you were in and to urge everyone to do whatever was required in order to stop the plane from taking off? If no-one was listening to your warnings would you consider sacrificing your life to ground the plane and save those you love? Personally, without causing injury to anyone, I would do everything I could.
Please refer to the latest scientific data on climate collapse and consider deeply the implications of what you read. We may still have a little bit of time left in which to avert the worst of the catastrophe, if enough of us act swiftly and fully.