I’m dealing with massive cognitive dissonance right now. Multiple, contradictory beliefs and perceptions inhabit my mind, each compelling on its own terms. How do I choose?
I’ll share two of the most contradictory. Last weekend I spoke at a wonderful music festival near Asheville called Kinnection Campout. I’ve not yet been to a festival with such a positive, friendly, gentle atmosphere. The entrance booth staff were jovial; the security personnel solicitous, and I didn’t see any of the aggression, bad drug trips, or drinking that is often an undercurrent (though usually not dominant) at such festivals. It occurred to me that this event was a field generator for a “new normal” of compassion and sharing on earth. What fed my optimism the most, however, were the astonishing conversations I had with young people there about topics like subtle activism, social permaculture, regenerative politics, indigeneity, and so forth – conversations that basically did not exist when I was in my 20s. They embodied understandings that took me decades to develop and that I still inhabit most tenuously. What will they accomplish from this place that they are seemingly born into, or reach with just a single activating experience? Nor, to address the skeptics among you, were these people weekend philosophers who play with these ideas in between workweeks. They had little buy-in to the rewards and promises of the system, little ambition in the conventional sense. For them, the old story is finished. Even if they are yet a minority among their age cohort, they provide ample proof that the consciousness behind ecocide and injustice is changing.
My second input has come in the days since the festival as I’ve immersed myself in my book research. I’m looking at some of the most dire predictions of climate change which, in case you weren’t aware, basically entail the near-term extinction of most species on earth, humanity with them. Of course I’ve been aware of this narrative for a long time, but actually engaging the data about the various positive feedback loops is driving it deeper into me. Earth has already passed the tipping point into catastrophic climate change. Even if we eliminated all fossil fuels right now, that wouldn’t be enough to arrest runaway warming. The IPCC’s position is extremely conservative, and even its recommendations are politically infeasible. In the face of the facts, any optimism I might feel from the festival is a delusion.