Sunday, August 21, 2016

Another Bout of Doomsaying: A Transformative Exercise

Whatever I feel or you feel or think, we're not alone in that and it's probably in accord with the age we have reached. The evidence comes by reading and sometimes remembering, vaguely, conversations with friends or with strangers who at the time felt like friends. And there are risks faced in every age and position in life.

What happens to single people who follow their own inclinations however kindly or unkindly disposed to their fellow human beings, and drift apart from their friends in the recognition that all friendships are makeshift and incomplete, and that we've reached a place in life where we're completely on our own, irreplaceable in few if any others' estimation? We can best please ourselves now, because our beloved have died or all live elsewhere, and whatever we have done for any of them is at best walled up in the private memories of no one we momentarily want the pain of naming to ourselves. So we make our way back to one or more close friends as time allows, and they help to restore us.

And if the world itself, meanwhile, appears on the fringes of collapse and implosion? We hadn't thought our private inspirations would fail us and maybe they haven't, it's just that giving expression to them won't save that part of the world we cherish. We are one of a destructive horde--people--who will pay on a sweeping scale for the burden we don't stop ourselves from increasing, on the earth and seas and atmosphere. We can at best imagine what might be left after the worst has happened to all of us.

I'm again--yep--talking about climate change, about which any science-driven mitigation seems it will be too little, too late because the unaddressed part of the picture is the ill-considered, perpetual growth of us, all of us, it keeps being said but hardly admitted--a civilization that's gotten too big for its resource base, who are crowding out more and more of the wild life forms that have made this earth an inspiring and supportive place to live. A wide variety of human beings find it their right, or believe it a societal duty to multiply till there is little but ourselves and our leavings any more look at, till we've shot way too far beyond the earth's turnover of abundance necessary to maintain the life-nurturing chemistry and temperature of the atmosphere. People recognize at different rates the harm done to the earth by too much waste released through farming, lumber production, minerals processing, energy consumption and the expansion of pavement, and too many prefer to ignore it till it's painfully past ignoring. We can each do what we find we're able to do in the face of it. Most, I would guess, ignore it or pretend it isn't happening.

One friend has said he looks forward to the upheaval, particularly of the comfortable who have gained by their own and others' greed, hoping he lives long enough to take in enough of the grand spectacle. I find I'm wishing I could stay back at a great enough removal from it not to feel sorrow day in and day out or be at personal risk, and could watch the great leveling and transformation culminate in some new era, that I could trace what might have survived from my own heyday. Is it easier to be morbid out loud, with a companion, or alone, or won't we end up doing both...

It's the loss of a cold-weather homeland, the prospect of watching it burn in extreme summer droughts and convert to something else, an over-layering of regions partly imported from lands southward and westward or eastward, as if in dream fantasies of blended places, that haunts me daily now. That National Audubon study of climate and the birds of North America found that of 588 species of birds observed, 314 are likely to find themselves in serious decline by 2080, with change in precipitation, year-round temperatures and vegetative zones so rapid that these species won't be able to adapt and will likely disappear toward extinction. Most of them appear to be our northern U.S and Canadian migratory birds. The report from the study admitted to the further immeasurable risk to present-day bird breeding habitat taken up by future cities--our population expansion that we seem to have to take for granted. I feel as though I and others have been biding our time through all our prior years waiting for this huge combined threat to the wild homeland out of doors to loom, less and less collectively to be ignored. Peril to wild nature connects to our own sense of doom. We each have to take up things that we're suited to do, that may serve to save some piece of nature against the background of a widespread natural collapse.

The grim recognition of our collective future by scientists who are researching and publishing in domains dealing with climate and the biosphere is addressed in a Daily Dose article by Meghan Walsh. Lab researchers who are disciplined to keep emotional reactions out of the documentaries about their study are finding common emotional ground where climate research is concerned. Loss of life around us, even in prospect, can lead anyone to a state of grief, leading to the term 'pre-traumatic stress' in one allusion by Ms. Walsh. (The term looks to have been coined by a forensic psychiatrist, Lise Van Susteren, who co-wrote a report for the National Wildlife Federation titled The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared.)  Not very many of us wish to confront a world of ongoing rubble and destruction. Meanwhile we live now in a society of doubters and deniers, especially the power-hungry who connive their way into corporate leadership and then seats in government. Moreover everyone speaking on the subject of end times, in religious or other frameworks, risks being lampooned, sanctioned or silenced in some way.

As an artist embedded in the cycles of nature right through my windows I sometimes have to consciously add up the attitudes, coping methods and beliefs that serve me, a middle-aged non-scientist. One favorite I recall from a conversation with an old supervisor outside of the workplace in the late 1980s--we were confronting climate change then, too, calling it the greenhouse effect--was that 'the earth will always be beautiful'--in some ways, in some lights, in some zones where there will have been an outcome that then, at that time, will distinguish the particular place. Another (2) is the assumption of broad kinship with aboriginal peoples from all places who taught themselves how to make like an antelope, a predator, a sapling, etc. in order to achieve: repletion, ecstasy, heroism, favored status or maybe all these things. Make like a tortoise who will outlive this hot rainless eternity of days. (3) Garden with a mixture of native plants, (to preserve what can be kept of their genetic stock and to nourish the local contingent of birds, reptiles and insects especially as they migrate, are hungry and vulnerable) and with your home area's most wondrous cobbles and boulders: the garden border and ornamentation may be here straight through all the rumblings of doom, whatever it shall look like. A beleaguered human descendant may make a home or place of worship there. (4) As bioregions die out around earth, something different will fill in. Atmospheric phenomena we may never have heard of will manifest themselves due to a kind of chemistry found locally or all over; there will still be worlds within the world, however hostile to water-dependent beings of any kind. Fantasize worlds and sub-worlds in times to come. Nobody can prove that there's no romance within an Armageddon, especially depending on who's having the experience. (5) Embrace your mortality; you are born of Earth where everything that lives dies. Carry it off from one stage to the next with the utmost grace, observant of who you are, where you are and who is with you, all creatures. How we live may well carry over to how our essence endures in the dimension we enter after death. (6) Show and tell the sorrow, the awe, the desperation, and also the horror of what's to come and what's already upon us, the best you can figure out how to do, and to better that as your energies allow. Some few others may be taking it in as a part of their own important process of adjustment.

The art piece below, completed in 2015, conveys a spectacle of wildlife--red-throated loons most noticeably-- within the meltdown of subarctic peatlands like those of northern Minnesota way up through Canada. A wolf, camouflaged the color of  bleached tree stumps, stands back watching.

               Freshet from a Ghost-marsh 

             a 15 x 22.5" mixed-media watercolor on Arches heavyweight cotton paper

New 12x16" work in progress - watercolor/mixed media on a mass urbanization theme