The Philosophy Issue

How to Negotiate the End Times

Please send word. The playoffs are near.
How to Negotiate the End Times
Camille Seaman, Stranded Iceberg, Cape Bird, Antarctica 2006

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

This article is available in:

Every generation has its apocalypse. It may or may not be real, but if you are overcome with a sense that nothing can stop your society from sinking into the abyss of some type of destruction, you’re probably in one. Jesus of Nazareth claimed he lived in the end times and that the antichrist walked alongside him. Entire cities repented when the bubonic plague killed a third of Europe because people were convinced judgment day had arrived. World War I, the war to end all wars, succeeded in sowing the seeds of an even greater war. During the USSR and American squabbles from the next Great War onwards, the globe was gripped in fear that at any moment some unelected fool in a suit could start the megadeath. In 2011 there are even more apocalypses to choose from, an entire smorgasbord of end time scenarios, comets, ancient prophecies, solar winds, Mayan calendars, reverse Earth magnetism, climate change, species extinction and so on. Take your pick. To whittle some perspective out of all these options, you might ask yourself what do the antichrist, nuclear winter, the end of war and the end of the world have in common?

They never happened.

You might now be wondering why?

There are just as many reasons for this catastrophic buzz kill as there are ways to pass the point of no return, perhaps none greater than the idea that a front row ticket to Armageddon is the biggest ego trip going and that, well, human beings like to feel special. Not much can replace the singular importance one feels from living in the end times. Perhaps that’s why the end is always upon us.

Despite predictions otherwise, humans are more resilient than ever in the 21st century. In fact, humans haven’t slowed their pace since they left the Great Rift Valley and wiped out the Neanderthals. Today, just like our Cro-Magnon chums, almost everything non-human is dying. This is cause for reflection about the urgency of our epoch, maybe even reason to believe in the uniqueness of the 21st century scenario. In the past, the great fear sweeping humanity was the death of humanity. Today, however, it’s death by humanity – a slow death each time the heat is turned on, each time a disposable diaper is put on a child, each time the pump is placed in the nozzle, each time a crowd goes to see a show. Maybe all that Greek mythology about matricide and parricide is prophecy not allegory. Maybe the end is only in our heads.

Through the steam of a hot cup of organic shade grown–canopy blend–ethically traded–eco friendly–bird protecting–grass roots–community empowering–fair wage–co-op produced–gender equitable–pro union coffee I can see the new green residential towers in my neighborhood. I wonder how does a person tackle this? More people chasing fewer resources attempting to consume themselves out of the cycle? Each tower is branded with a slogan like nature valley, spring meadow, alpine view, community living and country in the city. My streets even have garbage cans that say, "Keep Vancouver Beautiful." The intention isn’t irony.

I spent weeks trying to find something inspiring to say about ecocide, but in the end wound up on an NHL hockey stats site, internalizing the storyline of a Canadian underdog team trying to make the playoffs. The results for the latter at least provided a degree of agency in individual hands.

When BP turns a profit less than a year after the largest environmental disaster in American history – and no one is in jail – you know the current environmental legal framework is not working. When traditional land tenure systems – the last vestiges of community – are being eroded around the world to encourage privatization and profit, the current paradigm is astray.

Is it possible for humanity to put ecocide and genocide on an even scale? Is it possible for the paradigm to shift and say this land is a part of me? Ecuador recently enshrined Wild Law rights in their constitution, laws that say a stream has the right to flow. Laws that could wrestle symbiosis back from the entitlement of parasitism – if that is even a word. From rights come enforcement and from enforcement comes criminality. At least that’s the big idea. What Ecuador has done in recognizing the rights of Pachamama, Mother Earth, is either the beginning of a new world rejecting anthropomorphism in law, or a progression down the spiral of old world green washing. That Ecuador can’t even protect its citizens from Chevron makes me lean towards the former.

But there is something that I can see beyond the community garden rooftops of the new towers in my neighborhood. It happened almost three years ago. In September 2008, six environmental protesters were found not guilty in a London court of property damage to a British coal-fired power plant. The jury accepted their defense, “lawful excuse.” It is the legal principle that a person can damage property if it is in defense of greater damage to other property. The protesters claimed the pollution from the smokestacks was doing greater damage to the environment than their graffiti did to the factory. The jury agreed.

The headlines read: Green light to Anarchy:

It has been three years and nothing since.

Please send word. The playoffs are near.

Darren Fleet has reported, volunteered, worked and traveled in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and central Russia. Once a Pentecostal missionary, Darren now lives out his days in East Vancouver, playing in a band, Tyranahorse, reflecting on the error of his ways.

20 comments on the article “How to Negotiate the End Times”

Displaying 11 - 20 of 20

Page 2 of 2

The Dude

This could have a been a decent article if perhaps the writer had been given another week to write it?

I liked the general direction it was going in, but then it just meanders and ends in reiterating clichés.

"Is it possible for humanity to put ecocide and genocide on an even scale?"

Was that meant to be ironic? We've yet to figure out a way to deal with genocide, and the word itself is bandied about more irresponsibly than "green" or "sustainability".

If our global polity were to take genocide seriously, than you'd see far more western intervention into developing countries. If we seriously wanted to stop it, in the sense that (I assume) the writer would like to avoid "ecocide" (whatever that means). Then we'd see preemptive strikes constantly. And we all know how much Adbusters hates that, yeah?

The Dude

This could have a been a decent article if perhaps the writer had been given another week to write it?

I liked the general direction it was going in, but then it just meanders and ends in reiterating clichés.

"Is it possible for humanity to put ecocide and genocide on an even scale?"

Was that meant to be ironic? We've yet to figure out a way to deal with genocide, and the word itself is bandied about more irresponsibly than "green" or "sustainability".

If our global polity were to take genocide seriously, than you'd see far more western intervention into developing countries. If we seriously wanted to stop it, in the sense that (I assume) the writer would like to avoid "ecocide" (whatever that means). Then we'd see preemptive strikes constantly. And we all know how much Adbusters hates that, yeah?

Alex Kuiper

Why do people use biblical examples when they have no idea what they are talking about.
Anyway, "the Dude" nailed the broader overarching issues with this article.

Alex Kuiper

Why do people use biblical examples when they have no idea what they are talking about.
Anyway, "the Dude" nailed the broader overarching issues with this article.

Anonymous411

the world is full of contradictions and hypocrisy. I often feel this way myself pulled between the lure of consumerism and the ethics of sustainability. I try to keep myself sane my focusing on the small things in my life that make my impact on the environment smaller.
I find the idea of extending the human rights model to environmental and animal rights troubling in several ways. First, i am uncomfortable with the idea of the rights of ecosystems superseding human rights violations. Secondly there is the issue of the rights of humans to interact in the environment (i.e the right to clean water, air etc.) or the rights of the environment itself, and how do you guarantee those rights?
The world stood back and watched as 800,000 fellow human beings were slaughtered in Rwanda, even when we have a framework in place to protect human rights therefore I have little hope that legal rights will be extended to the natural environment and enforced in a way that is ethical however, I believe we need to start somewhere and perhaps guaranteeing Indigenous rights is the best place to start considering 80% of yet to be exploited resources on the earth are in indigenous territory. Perhaps if Indigenous rights are protected then our exploitive culture will be curtailed to a certain extent. We can hope.

Anonymous411

the world is full of contradictions and hypocrisy. I often feel this way myself pulled between the lure of consumerism and the ethics of sustainability. I try to keep myself sane my focusing on the small things in my life that make my impact on the environment smaller.
I find the idea of extending the human rights model to environmental and animal rights troubling in several ways. First, i am uncomfortable with the idea of the rights of ecosystems superseding human rights violations. Secondly there is the issue of the rights of humans to interact in the environment (i.e the right to clean water, air etc.) or the rights of the environment itself, and how do you guarantee those rights?
The world stood back and watched as 800,000 fellow human beings were slaughtered in Rwanda, even when we have a framework in place to protect human rights therefore I have little hope that legal rights will be extended to the natural environment and enforced in a way that is ethical however, I believe we need to start somewhere and perhaps guaranteeing Indigenous rights is the best place to start considering 80% of yet to be exploited resources on the earth are in indigenous territory. Perhaps if Indigenous rights are protected then our exploitive culture will be curtailed to a certain extent. We can hope.

Rev Nemu

Great article - you're right, the times are a-changing, but the End is also Nigh, and not for the first time.

"The End of the World" is a mistranslation.
The Greek reads the "End of the AEON". The end of an Era, or an Age, or a Phase. (Matt. 13)

Apocalypse = removal of a veil.

Some of those people shouting about the End got it right, though the scale was more local.

Mid-17th century England saw:
The little ice-age (approx. 1600-1700)
The English civil war (1642-1651), ending in the birth of a completely new political system on this planet (parliamentary rather than despotic).
Wars all over Europe, killing between a third and two thirds in some areas.
The Plague hits London (1665)
The Great Fire of London (1666)

An apocalypse is when the hidden is revealed. The telescope (1630s) brought the very large into focus, along with Jupiter's moons, the nail in the coffin of the earth-centred universe.
The microscope opened up the very small scale (1665). England was discovering new lands both East and West. As London was burning in 1666, Newton discovered gravity, the first theory to work at every scale, and calculus, the application of maths to reality. This was part of the birth of a new Era, where the newly discovered scientific method (1605) began to win converts from more traditional faiths, and gradually create a completely new society.

And now we're doing it again, facing a huge body count and the promise of expanded consciousness.

More about 17th century apocalypse here:
http://wp.nemusend.co.uk/reading-room/chapter-17

Rev Nemu

Great article - you're right, the times are a-changing, but the End is also Nigh, and not for the first time.

"The End of the World" is a mistranslation.
The Greek reads the "End of the AEON". The end of an Era, or an Age, or a Phase. (Matt. 13)

Apocalypse = removal of a veil.

Some of those people shouting about the End got it right, though the scale was more local.

Mid-17th century England saw:
The little ice-age (approx. 1600-1700)
The English civil war (1642-1651), ending in the birth of a completely new political system on this planet (parliamentary rather than despotic).
Wars all over Europe, killing between a third and two thirds in some areas.
The Plague hits London (1665)
The Great Fire of London (1666)

An apocalypse is when the hidden is revealed. The telescope (1630s) brought the very large into focus, along with Jupiter's moons, the nail in the coffin of the earth-centred universe.
The microscope opened up the very small scale (1665). England was discovering new lands both East and West. As London was burning in 1666, Newton discovered gravity, the first theory to work at every scale, and calculus, the application of maths to reality. This was part of the birth of a new Era, where the newly discovered scientific method (1605) began to win converts from more traditional faiths, and gradually create a completely new society.

And now we're doing it again, facing a huge body count and the promise of expanded consciousness.

More about 17th century apocalypse here:
http://wp.nemusend.co.uk/reading-room/chapter-17

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.