Kata or streiphen?
Does the ecological emergency, and the catastrophes that it imagines, portend kata or streiphen—collapse or transformation, an end or a radically new beginning? The answers to these questions depend in part on how we imagine the emergency, how we tell the story, and to whom.
Fragmentation is like shattered ice: conditions dictate what happens next
Ecological emergency: extinction, collapse, pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss – the most apocalyptic of these is generally climate change, but they all involve the fragmentation of systems. That the existential threat faced by our species, a threat to civilisational structures, is real. Yet attempts to ‘wake up’ the general populace face a number of problems, from fear mongering accusations, to apathy and fatalism on the part of the auditors. Gloom and doom does little to lift the spirits, and tends to bring on anxiety, general malaise, or even anger, rather than the positive actions required to shift trajectory.
Crisis, urgency and emergency are seen as points of drastic and necessary change. Whether that change is positive or negative really depends on who is telling the story. And for whom. Revolutions are simply, originally, cycles, which run from one end of the spectrum to the other, from peace to war, from order to chaos, and back again. These include natural and human activity, from the revolutions of the stars, to political overthrowing of regimes and orders.
The future is hard to predict
The future is hard to predict. There are so many variables. Imagining the emergency as something that is critical and urgent, that we must pay attention to at all costs, and yet not knowing the consequences, gives us a difficulty. We simply do not know what the outcome will be. Does this sound familiar? If you know The Bhagavad Gita, you might notice similarities with Arjuna’s plight: facing into battle, and not knowing what the outcome will be. Knowing only that there will be pain, and, loss, and death.
Stress causes illness
Fear of imminent doom can cause people to act in highly irrational ways, not only because the mental stress causes illnesses, but because the mentality of the species as a whole can become embroiled in cultures of fear. Attempts to treat the problems we are encountering with more technology are like fighting fire with fire: ultimately we continue to exacerbate the issue of our sense of disconnectedness from all other natural systems when in fact, what needs to happen is the development of a sense of integration with, dependence upon, and cooperation within other systems.
Self transformation changes everything
We need to learn to link our own fragmentations, our grief, anxiety, rage and fear, with what we need in terms of personal and social transformation. Rather than a retreat into our own solipsism, and a refusal to engage in political or social discourse, we need to understand that transformation that takes place within ourselves holds the potential to change how we speak and act, and that this has social and political implications. Instead of holing ourselves up, and forgetting the world, we are here to explore ourselves so that out of our own transformation, we can create the power to transform both our experience, and our manner of relating.