Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
ship I mentioned above, we live in a society that is already dead with-
out knowing it.
This bizarre possibility extends well beyond the framework of our
own lives. We live in cultures that have long and storied histories, that
have produced and been shaped by the deeds of monarchs and rebels,
the achievements of statesmen and engineers, the thoughts of theolo-
gians and philosophers, the works of poets, playwrights, and intellectu-
als, and the discoveries of scientists. But without a future, these heritages,
while still crucial and precious, subtly change, as if they endure after
their foundations have disappeared. Suddenly, all these legacies belong
to a planetary era that is passing away, for they were built on the security
of ecological foundations that have collapsed. When the future goes, so
do the present and the past. The entire framework of human time tilts,
decays, disappears.
Does our situation leave us without hope? On one level, it does: we
can no longer hope that the civilization we inherited will thrive or that
future political changes will give all human beings a chance to partici-
pate in the abundance we have known. If that hope came true, the Earth
would perish very quickly. As Robert Jensen says, hope of that kind is
lazy, and the traditions it relies on are dead. 107 As long as we stick within
the framework of what we have known, we will no longer envision great
things, only the prevention of the worst. We will imagine no utopia, only
the best dystopia we can get.
But if we change our perspective and abandon the premises of fossil-
fuel culture, another kind of hope may be given to us: we could hope for
a post-carbon culture that could thrive even on a greatly wounded Earth.
hat kind of hope, however, is far more than the bare emotion, for it
can arise only out of the activity of reinventing who we are and becom-
ing uncharacteristically honest about the difficulty we face. Yet even that
hope cannot come without its shadow: as I argued earlier, converting
to renewable energy sources for everyone on this overpopulated planet
would still do great harm. The hope we now have, it seems, will always be
mixed with a certain dread. Rebecca Solnit, writing about the challenges
that will always face political activism, calls this “hope in the dark.” In our
moment, that darkness is darker yet. 108 In our broken present, however,
this may be the best we can do.
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