3:1 Post 2 of 3: Post-crisis and poetry

Dichotomies can be helpful, and Peter Bratsis in his 3:1 on Monday put forth a productive one: Should we think of crisis as a repetition or an exception? I want to take this and riff in a slightly different, but complementary way. For me, thinking about crisis—the ecological one facing the planet—is especially important. The Guardian has recently launched a front-page campaign to bring climate change to the fore in mainstream news coverage.

They are following Naomi Klein’s lead and trying to turn a crisis into an opportunity. This includes calling the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest in fossil fuels and using the recent dip in oil prices to invest in alternative energy. At this point, we are blowing past a 2° C temperature rise (4° C seems likely) and even a 2° C rise will lead to CATASTROPHIC changes in our environment. Prepare for the worst, homo sapiens and all the species we are taking with us. Keeping the coal in the ground and investing in alternative energy is a step to mitigating the damage this economic system has wrought, but the hurt is going to come down. So the question becomes more about how we respond to crisis rather than argue about how we define a crisis, or how we might trace the word back to its true roots, or whether this crisis is quotidian or exceptional.

In this, I believe that thinking in terms of crisis is still crucial, but this means coming to terms with what we have done. We do need a break in the old way of thinking, to move in a different direction because there is no going back now now—complex systems don’t go back, they go different—but we also need to resign ourselves. To settle in for a long fight and it’s at this place that we could have two responses: deep anger or a dull edge. This dichotomy is best expressed through poetry.

Dylan Thomas gives us rage:

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And T.S. Elliot gives us that tragic, dull ache

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper 

Now that dull, tragic edge doesn’t mean we give up. We just need to understand that the world we know now won’t be the one of the future. We will lose precious things that are needed and loved. Things like species diversity, entire islands, cities, countless human and non-human animals. If we can accept these losses as a dull ache, how does this help to plot a future? A future where we can make different decisions and not be broken by such terrible loss…dark ecologists are good place to find guidance here.

Or we can rage at the ecocide we see around us and use that anger to fight back. Fight for future where something besides profit and greed can hold sway. For justice, love, and a home for all the species on earth… here we find Idle No More as accomplices in the battle.

Like Peter, I see this as a time to make judgments about what is worth keeping and what should perish, but we must keep in our hearts that this will mean death and despair for many, both human and nonhuman—more than ideologies and beliefs will die.

sea lion pup

“It’s very difficult to see so much death.”

4 thoughts on “3:1 Post 2 of 3: Post-crisis and poetry

  1. Pingback: 3:1 — Post-Crisis (and back again) — 3 of 3 | Installing (Social) Order

  2. I wish that Klein had been able to face up to the fact that dismantling the economics would mean a drastic change in our standards of living ( need one of those “live simply so others can simply live” bumperstickers) , so I’m more for hacking (even monkey-wrenching as need) than green-party organizing, would welcome any and all interested parties to:


  3. This is exactly it. I do feel as though dark ecology and Idle No More provide the best ways to respond. We can’t get governments to respond (for the most part) and asking scientists to understand and engage with complex social and political realities would be a disaster. I do think Klein has hit the nail on the head–we have a capitalism problem, not a carbon one. This means dismantling an economic system that holds sway. Tough job.

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  4. I’m raging and resigned, better to go down fighting but no available ways to organize and sustain the kinds of broad and deep resistances needed to meaningfully counter the destructive/extractive/expulsionary forces already at work undermining the biosphere.
    Does leave open questions/possibilities of how to try and weather (pun intended we just started tornado season here in flyover country) the developing collapses without losing everything that we value, to avoid being reduced to mere/bare life if possible.

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