The Options That Lie Ahead

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This is an existentially stressful day. It’s Monday, July 16th, and as of last week, fresh evidence has been revealed that suggests a massive, cohesive effort to subvert democracy in the United States in 2016. The perpetrators of this effort are now meeting behind closed doors in a presumably friendly session with the political leader that the efforts successfully installed.

Meanwhile, the planet is warming in ways that will not likely be stopped or reversed, even in the event of globally unified, beautifully coordinated campaign, the odds of which are vanishingly slim. Capitalist pressures and disruptions to democratic systems are powerful forces that push back against this effort at every turn, by both deregulating industry and by breaking down a harmonious coordination between nations that might represent our last chance at salvation. The prospects for human health and prosperity during the second half of the 21st century are increasingly cloudy, and as resources diminish, desperation and its attendant scapegoating, panic and violence are likely to follow.

For reasons that may or may not be scientifically linked to this predictable set of events, birthrates are slowing, but no rate of reduction will likely be enough to forestall a spike in measurable human suffering that seems to lie on the horizon.

We are a product of the things that happen around us. No person is born into a world free of influences, and no person lives a life untouched and unshaped by their culture and circumstances. In other words, not a single one of us can opt out of whatever lies ahead. There is no exit from this ride; our only responses, reactions and choices will come from a menu of options, a menu which will become easier to read as time goes by.

Humanity will survive, of course: Humans have seen worse and have endured worse than what we are experiencing right now, and on every occasion so far we have emerged on the other side of change and hardship intact, if damaged by the experience. This will happen again. But on the path ahead, every one of us will be forced to adapt in one way or another. Here are some of the options and adaptations that seem to be appearing in front of us. Do any of them look familiar?

Selective consumption

Temperature increases around the globe appear linked to human activity, which seems to take one primary form above all others: consumption. “Activity” seems to be synonymous with making stuff, buying stuff, transporting stuff, using stuff, and throwing stuff away. Between food, plastic, travel, amusement, and personal comfort, stuff lies at the heart of the fossil fuel blaze that keeps us in motion, and pushing back against reckless consumption seems like a wise and promising personal choice. Saving our money and limiting plane flights, meat consumption, and plastic use seem like easy decisions with a measurable impact. Are they? Only time will tell, but many of us are leaning toward this option as a way of stemming the tide.  

Adoption

The choice to have children isn’t always considered a choice; for many of us, bringing children into the world is a biological drive as natural and urgent as preserving our own lives. But as birthrates drop, what becomes of this drive? There are still millions of children around the planet who need parents and don’t have them. And “adoption” can be considered a kind of metaphor. It’s a way of redirecting our energy toward protecting, preserving, and finding personal meaning in devotion to that which is already here.

Degrees of activism

It’s one thing to make a choice that protects the planet and the people around us. But it’s another thing altogether to take a leadership role in this process and extend our influence beyond ourselves. Activism means doing wise things, and then to encouraging and helping others to do those things as well. The only hurdle: activism requires effort, energy, and lots of typically uncompensated labor. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a rewarding option for some.

Adjustments of consciousness

Not doing anything at all appears to be one of our options, and it’s an option that most of us will appear to take until the day we are forced into action by the circumstances of our own lives. But this is an illusion. When we tune out, we aren’t really tuning out. We aren’t really turning off the radio when we do this, we’re just changing the station, and frequent station changes may actually be healthy and wise. Turning our attention toward art, communication, spirituality, and connection with others in any form can widen a shrinking perspective, ward off desperation and fear, and help us remember that there are thousands of ways to feel and many sides to every story. It’s never a bad idea to remember this. Turning away often just means looking at the same world from different angles.

Adjustments of environment

Here’s a common scenario: A person wants to lose weight, but every night he finds himself opening the fridge and eating cookies and cake. One day, he accepts that willpower and self-determination cannot solve this problem. These things have not worked, and they never will. So he throws away the cookies. Every night he stares into the fridge longing for cookies, but they aren’t there. So he can’t eat them, and he loses weight. Sometimes we change ourselves by changing the things around us. We move, shift jobs, adjust our friends, or alter the landscape we see when our eyes open each morning. We will adapt to whatever we place in front of ourselves; we just have to get past the first and hardest step.

Do you see your own course of action on this list? Do you see a course of action that you’d like to take, but you aren’t sure how? We’re here to help. Contact our team and join our mission. Together, we’re going to face whatever lies ahead. The only way out is forward.