Will we survive the Anthropocene? If we do, what comes next? At Firebird Journal, we explore the questions and answers…
One of the many names I considered for this blog, before settling on FIREBIRD JOURNAL: Survival and Renewal in the Anthropocene was The Planet and the Future. Thus, the general topic explored here is whether the human race can survive what it’s doing to the planet and/or to itself (by proliferating weapons of mass destruction), and what principles and practices are needed to create a peaceful, sustainable, global society… either before of after an “apocalypse.”
Along with many other observers, I believe we have entered an epoch in the earth’s history best described as the “Anthropocene” — a geologic period when human activity is
reshaping the planet. Humans are rapidly changing (1) the global climate, (2) the nature
of the oceans including their chemical composition, their size (by melting landlocked ice masses and thermal expansion) and the geography of their shorelines, and, (3) significant aspects of the terrestrial ecosystem through deforestation, desertification and the elimination of biodiversity.
Most observers agree that these changes are not positive, either for the health of the biosphere or for the continuity of human progress. We are, in fact, entering an era of “climate chaos” in which superstorms, region-wide droughts (sudden-onset and long term), unsurpassed flooding, sea level rise and other manifestations of climate change will continually and unpredictably disrupt human economies and societies, as well as raise havoc with biospheric systems that underpin and support human civilization.
The connections between climate change, economic hardship and conflict are already manifesting. The degradation of the biosphere from global warming, deforestation, despeciation and pollution — all interconnected — has begun to drive economic and political crises that can devolve into regional or even global conflicts with the potential to escalate beyond “conventional weapons” warfare. The ongoing Syrian civil war is an example of the interaction between climate-change-induced drought, the collapse of an agricultural system and the exacerbation of tensions that ultimately lead to armed conflict.
Similarly, drought and resource depletion in much of East Africa and the Sahel underlies both regional conflicts and mass migration toward Europe — which in turn sparks reaction in host countries that can destabilize economic and political systems. Also, conflicts are likely to erupt at the extensive border of India and Bangladesh, where Bangladeshi climate migrants try to escape into India to flee flooding caused by sea level rise and supercharged monsoons. North America, too, is no longer immune to the effects of climate change: up to 250,000 Puerto Rican islanders are expect to migrate to the mainland in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Many of them, although formerly employed, now have no means of employment, either on the island or the mainland, and will have to rely on already-overburdened social services networks. As these crises worsen, similar situations are developing in other regions and, ultimately, will develop in all parts of the world.
Where are these trends leading us? How fast will “things fall apart” as climate chaos worsens and accelerates? Are there policies and practices can we adopt to direct or slow the process of devolution? What will the world look like when the current trends have reached their climax? And, ultimately, what’s on the other side of the divide: what sort of global system might arise from the collapse of the present world order?
The firebird, or phoenix, is the magnificent mythological creature that arises cyclically from the ashes of its own destruction. After living for 1,000 years, the firebird builds a special nest for itself, dies there in a burst of flame, and, after a time, is reborn from its own remains. After the new firebird lives out its life, the cycle is repeated, with death and rebirth following each other in perpetuity. Thus, the firebird is a symbol of renewal, or, if you prefer, of resurrection.
Assuming that there is anything left at the end our current cycle of destruction, and that any positive order can be established — that is, assuming that in the future humans aren’t subsisting in small, scattered, devolved and fascistic societies — what will that new order look like? By what principles can we live, prosperously, in harmony with Gaia and in peace with one another? This is the Firebird question, to be explored in its many aspects in this publication.