This is exactly the kind of brilliantly rendered language emerging from deeply resonant awareness that is needed to map a transformation in human collective intent NOW. So grateful!
P.S. Make sure to read both parts, 1 and 2.
Planetary Hospice, part 1 of 2
by Zhiwa Woodbury
ecobuddhism, via Jay
This brilliant and beautifully researched paper by Zhiwa Woodbury frames our work in a way that can release fresh understandings and energy.
– Joanna Macy
Introduction, part 1
There have been five great extinctions in the history of planet Earth during the 540 million years since complex life emerged. According to the National Geographic Society, “we are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction, an event characterized by the loss of between 17,000 and 100,000 species each year” The worst of the five extinctions, often referred to as the Great Dying, resulted in the loss of 95% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial species.The severity of the Great Dying, which required ten million years to recover from, is largely attributed to mass releases of methane from the oceans and tundras triggered by (and quickly doubling) a spike in global temperatures of only about six degrees (from volcanic activity). Because of escalating releases of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the course of the industrial age, we are now starting to see a similar triggering of terrestrial and sea-bed methane, such that some scientists fear that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible—even in the course of just the next few decades.
From an eco-psychological viewpoint, climate change is like the tip of the iceberg visible to the human eye, while just beneath the surface of our collective consciousness a far greater crisis is playing out. In fact, it is helpful to think of the oceans themselves as symbolic of our unconscious depths. Viewed from atop the Earth’s surface, climate change has the appearance of dramatic changes in weather patterns that are wreaking ever greater havoc on concentrated human populations – especially those on islands or along coastal areas. But look just beneath the surface and one sees a watery graveyard with ominous portents of our own collective, great dying. While we are mostly being inconvenienced by extreme weather events, the oceans from which all life emerged on this planet are in far worse shape.
The final paragraphs, part 2:
Beyond the necessary end of “endless” growth and expansion at the expense of nature, it becomes difficult to speculate just what the end of life as we know it might mean…The beginning, perhaps, of reconciliation, atonement, and sharing — living once again according to natural laws, the ‘golden rule,’ and not arbitrary man-made laws driven by corporate agendas. True crisis has always tended to bring out the best in humanity, and there is no good reason to presume our worst crisis of all will not call forth our very highest potential.
This kind of holistic view of the Great Dying as a death/rebirth process is something that must be organically cultivated through facilitated dialogue and the interpersonal, society-wide exchange of ideas – while we still have the communication infrastructure in place to conduct such dialogue. It is difficult to imagine that people will look to government institutions for this kind of leadership – the very same institutions that have failed us so miserably. Instead, we can be expected to turn to religious and spiritual leaders, mental health experts, and social media, and this is why a planetary hospice movement is needed sooner rather than later.