How much climate change trouble are we in?

14 Sep 2014

The theme of this summer's meetings of Transition Perth could have been called, "How much trouble are we in?" Several meetings outlined in depth the prognosis for our future, according to a 10-step catalogue of descending disaster written by Doug Barr. Number one could be called, "All's well" and number 10 could have been dubbed, "all's hell . . . or is going to be." (Number 10 included such merriments as long-term loss of power, food shortages, governmental collapse . . . the Mad Max scenario.) Members spoke to which number they imagined we'd descend to in the next 20 years.

Most were in the higher numbers, six or more on the scale. Few thought the shorter term future would be easy or anything like rosy. And we noticed and talked about the discrepancy between this alarming prognosis and the state of our current efforts, which are geared to a one or two on the scale of horrors.

Climate change lurked in the back of most prognoses, the strong likelihood of devastating climate reversals.

Here are a few thoughts on the murky gap between the perceived problem and the response. I'll go far afield from Transition and climate change . . . but I'll be back!

The climate change gap is a symptom of a much wider problem, one that we've fed into over a long time, even over most of western civilization's history. It's our ability to make re-presentations of reality, to abstract, at the expense of actual embodied experience. Our right brain "gets" the world as a whole, present, complete, embodied, now; but the left brain specializes, grasps, sees one discrete thing at a time. The left brain creates and lives in a world of abstract concepts. The history of our civilization is the history of left brain's ascendancy.

The right brain presences; the left brain re-presents, deals only with what it has made, its own creations. The two can and "should" work together, with the right brain as the natural organizer, the master. But left brain thinking, the abstracted machine, rules! We're lost in representations so we don't actually see or feel anything in its contextual fullness. We're lost in a forest of abstraction that make us oblivious to particularized truth, to what lies in the whole-system thinking of the right brain. And we don't know that we're doing this either.

For example, we're lost in our big-time politics with a ludicrous set of abstractions that pass for discussion of issues. At this point, voting and what we call democracy happen entirely in the realm of abstraction and have almost no connection to reality at all. There is a real mass of caring people and profound problems but the descriptors we have for them are so removed as to be more illusion than illustration. They distract rather than reveal.

Our media deals almost entirely in trivia or abstractions so that a million words discuss the Middle East in terms of helping the disadvantaged and getting rid of bad guys (who we're free to kill no permission needed) . . .  while leaving out the three letter "o"-word that underwrites it all. Nothing challenges the rule of the powerbrokers abstraction. And we all too often play into the drama, the powerless among us as well as the powerful. We resist them and offer our preferred abstraction in its place. Our own thinking is a resistance not a response with something new in it. But nowhere can be found a language or an way to bring our depths, our response, to the conversation.

We have no language for a problem like the one we're in. So the transition movement (and Transition Perth as a part of it) arises in this context of our tendency to be deeply lost to abstraction. We approach the problem of transition befuddled and lost about what to do in the midst of the descriptors we have, concerned but struggling to get any real traction on the problem.

We see that climate change is there, but we lack a way to contextualize it. We can't really "get down" with it, at least not with in real time with others.


Your feedback is welcomed on this. Where are you at with any part of the transition to a future that's mostly free of fossil fuels?


Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.