Wow. Is Mama Gaia pissed off this week or what? The U.S. has been pounded by a monster snowstorm that stretched from Texas to Maine; meanwhile, our friends down under dodged the proverbial bullet from massive category five Cyclone Yasi. It feels like extreme weather events are becoming the norm. Are you feeling it too?
That intuition is spot-on. 2010, nearly the hottest year on record globally, saw a plethora of extreme events: Russian heat waves, Pakistani flooding, Brazilian drought, new minimums of sea ice in the Arctic, and changes in ocean oscillations to name a few. Of course, as I tell my students, one can’t claim any individual event is absolutely 100% caused by climate change, but when you start to total it all up, the overall picture that emerges is startling. Even our most aggressive climate models and predictions are being found to be too cautious. The extremes that are emerging appear more extreme than we had thought.
At this point, most climatologists will say that the best we can do is adapt. It’s too late to ward off all changes, but perhaps possible to avert the worst-case scenarios if we act decisively and quickly. I’m not holding my breath for that one.
So, we will adapt.
What do these new normal extreme events mean for those of us who look to the natural world as our inspiration? What happens when Nature is not just pretty sunsets, starry nights and fuzzy bunnies? What does natural, ecological spirituality look like if we include category five cyclones and continent-sized blizzards?
If nothing else, it helps us to develop a more realistic picture of ourselves as a species. We like to think that we are the center of the universe, the pinnacle of creation, and that the whole world revolves around us. Umm…no. Thomas Berry said that the Earth is primary, and the human is derivative. The Earth can survive quite nicely without us (and did for 99+% of its existence) but we cannot survive without the Earth. The sooner we realize this, the better. Like it or not, we’re just along for the ride.
The famous serenity prayer speaks of accepting what we cannot change, courage to change what we can, and wisdom to know the difference. It is becoming increasingly clear that the new normal of extreme climate and weather events is something we cannot change, at least in the short run. Realizing this is not only an aspect of wisdom, but also can bring some measure of inner peace as we face an uncertain future.
Of course, the future has always been uncertain, and our control over our lives illusory. We just didn’t want to admit it.
The Earth is primary; the human, derivative.
Cherish the land and water that support you. Reconnect. Cultivate a soul-level intimacy with the plants, animals and systems of your bioregion. Do what you can. Let go of the rest. Live mindfully and as sustainably as possible. Every breath is a gift. Every moment, a miracle.
One more thing: buckle up brothers and sisters. Like it or not, it’s going to be a wild ride.
Photo Credit: flickr user neurmadic aesthetic on www.creativecommons.org