Where, Extinction, thy glory?
From remembrance and Easter services over the years, I’m used to the line about there being no victory for death. We all die and, however that happens, be it through war, plague or a very long (blameless?) lifetime, life in whatever form, goes on. Blessed are both the dead and those who mourn them,
Last night I heard these sentiments performed very expertly, powerfully and inspiringly; by the Bristol University Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra in performances of Rubbra’s Symphony No.8 (Hommage à Teilhard de Chardin) and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem.
This time I experienced the music and ideas having been hearing, over recent weeks, Extinction Rebellion’s take on what’s happening to planet Earth, the impact it will have on the human species and how we might respond to it.
My feelings are perhaps summed up by thoughts I had on my way back from a day trip to my nearest seaside resort: Weston-super-Mare. From the window of the train I could see the sun setting. A stark reminder that the whole of humanity, on our 3rd rock from the sun, is but a speck of cosmic matter. Within the space of my 40 minutes journey the sky went from sun-lit light to orange fringed dark.
Maybe, in the space of 200,000 to 300,000 years, which just happens to come to an end within the next century or so, the days of humanity itself could come, equally colourfully to an end. (See here for some details on how and why).
Why should our era of the human species fare any better than the Mayans or Atlanteans? We never seem able to learn the bigger, deeper, lessons of life.
I can’t help thinking that it may well be too late to learn our lessons this time. Global warming and climate change have already past the tipping point. We had our warnings. Some of us were aware of the risks and were working to effect change in the 1990’s (if not before): but our message fell on death ears. (Mis-spelling initially accidental but left as being appropriate!).
That’s it. Our species is doomed. A few may survive somehow, somewhere. And the whole experiment will start again. If not on this planet, then on another. The evolutionary imperative will continue to give life the chance to grow and prosper. And life being what it so often is, it’s likely to make a mess of things a few times before it figures things out.
So I, for one, accept the reality of humanity’s extinction. I’ve done a bit of grieving over it but, personally, taking into account all the resentment I’ve been working to dissolve over the last few decades (on how the education system has been ignoring so many important facets of personal growth, for example), what’s happening is probably fair enough. Cause and Effect at the global and cosmic levels.
Whether we have a few centuries, decades or only a few years left is perhaps impossible to say. Trying to predict time-frames is often a waste of time.
Given such perspectives, the question of how to respond to the threat of near-time human extinction becomes rather different. It’s not a question of how can we stop it, but of how can we prepare ourselves for it; how can we manage during the process?
As the weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable, more and more of us, globally and in our own part of the world, will be affected by it, directly (e.g. flooding meaning intended journeys can’t be made) or indirectly (e.g. climate/weather related crop failures meaning a reduced range, quantity and quality of things to eat). As such pressures mount it become even more vital that we become more tolerant, more caring, more supporting of those we life amongst and work with.
This is one amongst many reasons why personal, inner growth is not just imperative, but why it is become ever more urgent and timely.