I had a flash of inspiration just now– I’ve been meditating on this term that I made up, “rot work”, for a long time now. Months. I had little conscious understanding of what my work entailed, a combination of following my gut and making conscious, rational decisions based on where I believed would be a good place to go/look next.
I got into a discussion with an environmentalist (or green anarchist, I don’t know) on Diaspora about the likelihood of humans going extinct or nearly extinct by 2100. He shared with me a number of articles citing scientific evidence, many of them revealing information that I knew, information that I sort of knew but didn’t pay attention to for some reason, and some information that I didn’t know.
Like, for instance, the Vice article that explains the wet-bulb effect, which is what happens when the temperature reaches 35 degrees celcius with about 100% humidity; that is the point at which the human body can no longer cool itself and apparently we can’t survive such conditions for more than a few hours at a time. This is predicted to become a wide-spread phenomenon over much, if not the entire globe, and the permanent climate of huge swathes around the equator, once global average temperatures rise more than 4 degrees celcius. It is now accepted scientific knowledge that we are headed for at least 2 degrees of warming at the rate we’re going. If we don’t halt everything right now, then 4 degrees of warming is soon inevitable.
I’ve been thinking about this since I read it an hour ago, turning it over in my mind, slowly, carefully.
If this isn’t looking death in the face, I don’t know what is.
And when faced with death, people go through the stages of grief. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.
Denial. Many people are still in complete denial about climate change and the anthropocene extinction happening around us. Or, if they’ve accepted that the warming is happening, then they are in denial about the effects.
Anger. I’ve seen anger, too. Though mostly in personal interactions. Folks getting inexplicably angry when talking about the effects of warming even though they’ve accepted its existence, getting mad at me, and wishing to end the conversation. On a more general level, liberals are very good at getting angry at the systems and institutions that are mostly responsible for the CO2 emissions, and it’s implied that if these systems and institutions go away, everything will be fine.
Bargaining. Bargaining happens on larger scales too, generally. Liberals and those who don’t deny the warming, those who are angry, seem to think that striking Faustian deals with green tech, reworking the systems and infrastructures that we already have in place, will solve the problem. Survivalist aficionados can also be said to be a sort of bargainer– instead of making deals with the system, they’re making deals outside of it. Stocking up on canned food and ammo, they’re trying to plan for negotiating the next stage of their lives.
Depression. I think very few people are at this stage; most don’t make it past Bargaining. Michael Ruppert, one of the leading voices trying to warn people of the collapse, didn’t survive this state. It’s important to not get stuck here. Thank gods I don’t– I sort of waffle between Bargaining and the next stage:
Acceptance. Even fewer people find themselves here. A tiny fraction of a percent of humans, and perhaps most of them are scientists themselves. Because it’s not that we try to pretend things are going to be okay– they’re not going to be okay, and that’s, well, okay. This stage is looking death in the face with quiet understanding.
And that sort of happened to me just now, and it was like being struck with lightning. It occurred to me that I felt acutely like I was terminally ill and I was making peace with that. After all, when I’m old, the world will likely be a hellish place to live. With depleted fish and game stocks, without healthy soil, we will have food shortages. Without oil, we will have energy shortages. Without energy, we will have water of questionable quality, and unreliable utilities, transportation, and medical intervention.
Without those things, there will be misery and death. What we’re seeing now is just the beginning.
I’m okay with this.
Is that what the gods want me to say? Is this the work I’m to do? Am I to help people work their way through the grieving process and accept death? I know now that we as a species, as a race, are terminally ill or nearly so. I can’t help but feel as though my work with compost, with Vulture and other symbols of decay, with these small, seemingly unrelated personal habits and actions are building toward something along these lines. Maybe there’s a reason I chose Ynepu as one of my two patron deities 14 years ago, and felt a faint connection with Him long before that, when I was just a gradeschooler.
This is all very overwhelming and I need to meditate on this more, as well as do more divining on the subject. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine what sort of real work I might be able to do given my current circumstances, and I don’t expect to move for another 10 years. I guess I’ll just have to see what the Gods have to say then…