Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dancing with Extinction

By Quincy Saul, August 2016

Based on, in response, and with thanks to the book: “Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind,” by Carolyn Baker and Guy McPherson, 2015

It's after the end of the world, don't you know that yet?”
-The Sun Ra Arkestra

We are living in the midst of a great dying,
Living with death every breath,
Growing up with extinction,
“Living with death in mind.”
But death is not only in mind,
Also in heart and hand and nose and mouth too,
Burning in our imagination and stomach,
An electric black cloud of death
Which covers the dreamscape.

It seems scientific reports
Which always begin “Abstract”
are rarely read or reflected upon.
Perhaps a poem
Can move feelings
Where mere facts have not.

Up against the climate apartheid wall, motherfucker!
You've got a clathrate gun cocked at your planetary temple.
The rape of Mother Earth culminates here,
The bloody and poisonous climax has arrived.
12 Hiroshimas a second, as methane seeps and spurts to the skies,
3 watts per square meter per hour of hot smoke, soaking in,
Somewhere between 400,000 and 5 million people a year, killed by climate chaos,
And 200+ species go extinct every day.

How many heartbeats to a life?
How many feathers to a bird?
Don't be fooled by the dryness of numbers, the grayness of theory,
Feel yourself caught in their sensuous and grotesque gravity.

Industrial civilization has become meteor, destroyer of worlds!
We face now a greater danger than the dinosaurs.
As some of them saw a giant burning streak hurdling through the sky,
We see methane plumes,
Melting ice, growing deserts,
Earthquakes, fires, floods,
Hurricanes and tsunamis,
Fracking and blasting and
Drilling and killing.

The X factor,
Our wild card in the wager between extinction and evolution:
What we call our intelligence.
How much smarter are we than the dinosaurs?
As deserts grow we organize elections and build detention centers,
As glaciers melt we perfect targeted assassination and particle accelerators...
Science is slow, conservative, often soporific, sometimes cold-blooded.
Plenty prediction, little conviction, less prophecy.
Yet these are prophetic times, even on the time scale of geology, writes Scribbler in 2014:
“The time of dangerous and explosive reawakening increasingly seems to be now,”
A vast microbial universe surging to life after thousands of years of hibernation,
Steaming their hot celebration from the sea and soil to the sky.
We may be smarter than dinosaurs,
But can we evolve any faster?
Catastrophic climate change doesn't really select for vertebrates...

The Greenland ice sheet is a firing squad sliding at attention,
The Gulf Stream and then the whole hemisphere is the firing line.
Try to get a feeling for the feedback,
The cumulative comeuppance, the hatching eggs of roosting chickens:
The warming that awakens more warming,
The melting that means more melting,
The burning which brings more burning,
The earthquakes whose ripple effects trigger more earthquakes,
The deserts which drive more desert,
The storms that spawn stronger storms,
The dying which sets off greater chains of dying,
This is the feedback which is slowly but surely
Burning off the clouds.
A distant relative of the feedback which boiled off the oceans on Venus.
The symbolic deadliness of the dark ice and the dark snow,
Forming and falling and faster as the temperature rises
Signals the scale of the changes upon us.
Hotter and steamier the cycles go, until it's
Up against the wet bulb effect wall, motherfucker!
Try metabolizing at 95 degrees and 100% humidity.
Heat waves already wash away thousands of lives every year,
The gases released by retreating glaciers reinforce their retreats,
And with every catastrophe the stock market soars;
Shipping and drilling in the Arctic,
Big growth rates in guns and oil and drugs,
Soaring surveillance states,
Mass extinction and mass incarceration.

Up there in the vast reaches of the atmosphere
The future is forged, on molecular timescales.
The smoke works its silent way into the fabric of the sky,
The warmth from the fire you burn today will return as temperature in 20-40 year's time.
Today's joy ride, your children's Mad Max.
Climate apocalypse, prime-pumped in the pipeline.
If the causes are complex, the effects are dead simple.
What methyl isocyanate did for Bhopal, perfluorotributylamine may do for the biosphere.

Make no mistake, they're planning for it,
The same ones who got us into this mess,
First the masked gods and disguised kings,
Now the unmasked gods and naked kings, as Abdullah Öccalan tells it.
The emperors with no clothes
And their more-or-less loyal 20% of the world who generate 80% of the emissions.
They are planning in secret and supremacy,
They are planning more madness, more feedback;
Blasting off to Mars, engineering the seas and skies,
Creating higher walls and deeper prisons, smarter phones and dumber people.
The big conservative corporations,
BP, the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the United Nations,
Are predicting weather that humans cannot survive
In their end of century forecasts.
Some say sooner.
No surprise perhaps that the politics based on positivist science
Culminates in nihilism at the planetary level.
(I think therefore I die, says the last Enlightened Man.)
Don't ask a climate scientist or a policy person to unite or defend or lead a community.

Nothing of what we call politics today is ready for this,
What we call politics can't even think or speak rationally about this.
“What we have come to think about as politics is,” says Amitav Ghosh,
“In a sense, actually a great distraction from all that is really important in the world.”
Hence endless painted chains of mind and heart-numbing conferences and summits
Chanting incantations to exorcise the collapse and the abyss.
Forget 1999!
Party like it's the End of Time!

In 2012 enough ice to cover Canada and Alaska melted,
This summer for the first time we glimpse the ice-free Arctic, folks.
Methane plumes in the Antarctic too;
Picture 150 kilometers cubed,
Melting each year off the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
And how! 2 times faster from 2010-2013 than from 2005-2010.
When you shiver into the polar vortex, it shivers back.
“One result... is boreal peat drying and catching fire like a coal seam,” writes McPherson in 2015.
This much forest hasn't caught fire for over 10,000 years.
The ocean hasn't been so acidic in 300 million.

And the color source of the blue planet,
The oceans we know less about than the Moon or Mars,
There the fabric of the life web is fraying.
The specter of the jellyfish haunts the currents,
Messengers of a planetary restart,
Re-preparing the pre-Cambrian.
The age of coral is ending and the reign of the jellyfish begins.
And plankton, to whom we owe about two of every three breaths,
Locked in epic struggles for survival from shore to acid shore;
Our entwined fate is playing out from the molecule to the mesosphere.

Yeah, “it's time for a jailbreak,” write Baker and McPherson in 2015,
No coincidence that this book was recommended to me in a prison,
By a man named Maroon, who knows what time it is,
Time for psycho-historical-spiritual breakout/break-in,
A planetary proof by diagonalization.

But it's after the end of the world. Don't you know that yet?
Time to build arks, not tombs,
Time to mourn, but also time to manifest,
Time to organize the exodus from the coastlines,
Time to save seeds and tend soils,
Time to rally to the watersheds;
The end can be predicted, but the beginning must be prophesied.
It's time for the Evolution Dialogs!
It's time for the Emergence Analogues!
Not a dialog of finding deliverance in defeat,
But a manifesto of revelation amidst apocalypse.
To live with LIFE in mind!
Live without death time!
Time to be free of both illusion and despair,
Time for the vision we will perish without,
Free of hopium and hopelessness,
Free of the empire outside and the ego within,
Time to think and work in timescales that span generations,
Time for a prefigurative path to free life
Through the gauntlet of mass extinction.
Time for Pachakuti consciousness,
Time for a 5,000 year peace plan
To follow the long arc of the rainbow
Whose warriors gather on the horizon.
There is a hinge between prediction and prophecy
On which the revolving door of history spins.
Time to decide what we value most.
Time to fight. Time to fly.

"I just want to ask a question
Who really cares?
To save a world in despair
There'll come a time, when the world won't be singin'
Flowers won't grow, bells won't be ringin'
Who really cares?
Who's willing to try to save a world
That's destined to die
When I look at the world it fills me with sorrow
Little children today are really gonna suffer tomorrow
Oh what a shame, such a bad way to live
All who is to blame, we can't stop livin'
Live, live for life
But let live everybody
Live life for the children
Oh, for the children
You see, let's save the children
Let's save all the children
Save the babies, save the babies
If you wanna love, you got to save the babies
All of the children
But who really cares
Who's willing to try
Yes, to save a world
Yea, save our sweet world
Save a world that is destined to die
Oh, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Oh, oh dig it everybody"

(Save the Children
by Marvin Gaye)

Also referenced/related:
Space is the Place, directed by John Coney, 1974
Manifesto for a Democratic Civilization: The Age of Masked Gods and Disguised Kings, by Abdullah Öccalan, 2015
We are living our lives as though we are mad,” Amitav Ghosh, 2016
Maroon the Implacable, by Russell Maroon Shoatz, 2014
Manifesto of the Island of the Sun,” Evo Morales, 2012
The 500 Year Peace Plan,” Vinya Ariyaratne, 2000

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