Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
Chapter 12
The God of the Whirlwind
Taking our current situation seriously requires us to reexamine our politi-
cal and ethical understanding of our ordinary practices, our life decisions,
our relationship to others and to all earthly life. It asks us to reimagine
what we do and who we are across the entire range of our experience. As I
have suggested, it even requires us to own disaster—to put the enormous
environmental crisis to our own account, take responsibility for what is
unfolding, and to begin the endless task of making reparation.
But as I have suggested, in taking this last, most difficult step, we must
also affirm our place within the planetary and biological history that pro-
duced us. To assume responsibility for the disaster we are causing, we
must also affirm much else: the debt we owe to the forces that created us,
to the web of life of which we are a part.
As a result, the ethical stance I outlined above speaks also of an unre-
served affirmation of those forces that ultimately reach far beyond our-
selves—those aspects of the natural world that are so vast, wild, and
violent that we can only submit to them in genuine humility. That affirma-
tion, however, stretches well beyond a discussion of ethics per se; it raises
questions that deserve their own treatment, challenging us with dilem-
mas we can understand only if we pause to consider them in their own
right. If we are to absorb the full impact of climate change on our human-
ity, then, we need to move beyond the framework of political and ethical
action and contemplate another set of questions, traditionally addressed
through mythology, theology, and philosophy: What forces ultimately
constitute our world, and how should we respond to them? Now that we
live in a world without guarantees, possibly without a future that is liv-
able to us, what stories should we tell about our condition? What is our
place in the cosmos?
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