“The purpose of Prophecy is to see danger and avert it.” —Rev. Rosalyn L. Bruyere
Like Cassandra, the Prophetess of ancient Troy, we who have been speaking, writing, and researching about climate change—many for decades—have been cursed to be always right and never believed.
I can’t help wondering if the parallels have occurred to prominent scientists, writers, and futurists on the frontlines of scientific research and social warning? Did NASA scientist Dr. James E. Hansen, think of Cassandra as he testified to the US Congress in 1988 that global warming had already begun?
There are so many voices that have been crying in the proverbial warming wilderness for years. Just to name a few that come to my mind: climatologist Dr. Michael E Mann; former Vice President Al Gore, who wrote Earth in the Balance way back in 1992, long before the film An Inconvenient Truth and the founding of Climate Reality; Bill McKibben and colleagues of 350.org; and Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
At the very least they, like the plot of Weather Menders, are eerily prescient. I watch by turns in horror and wild hope as fiction becomes prophecy in 2018, and the grim dystopian scenario of the Weather Menders timeline leading up to 2050—when Time Travelers from 2350 arrive to attempt to heal it—plays out in frightening detail.
I suppose that my writing a cli-fi novel was on some level inevitable destiny. I’ve been concerned about climate change since long before the term came into general use. I distinctly remember writing a high school paper on the Greenhouse Effect in 1970, no doubt inspired by the first Earth Day on April 22nd that year. A few years ago, a PBS retrospective of the history of Earth Day showed earnest scientists seriously concerned that if humans didn’t stop putting carbon into the atmosphere, the earth’s atmospheric blanket would in effect become thicker and less able to release heat, and in a mere 200 years (!) we would start to see the dangerous effects of a warming planet.
A mere 48 years later, we are already in serious trouble. Dreading the summer, I sought escape (see my previous blog Trapped by Climate Change) by going to Arroyo Seco, a village near Taos a thousand feet higher and almost a hundred miles north of my home outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.
My dread was well-founded. The “exceptional drought” plaguing the whole Four Corners region combined with unprecedented hot temperatures to create extreme fire conditions. The week after I got to Arroyo Seco, authorities closed all the national forests in New Mexico, a wise and necessary move. A fire started near Durango, Colorado. In late June the huge Spring Fire started near the town of La Veta, just over the border from New Mexico, resulting in the loss of over 145 human homes and vast acreage of animal and plant habitat.
The smoke hung thick throughout the region, but not as thick, as it turned out, as it would in August in British Columbia, where day was literally turned to night at noon in beautiful sanctuaries like Prince George and Kelowna, and throughout much of the U.S. Northwest. For a few days, the air in Seattle was seven times worse than the legendary pollution of Beijing.
And if we thought our drought was bad, how about Australia, where it’s WINTER for God’s sake? The entire state of New South Wales was declared a drought emergency. People say it is the worst in living memory. Hundreds of cows mobbed a water truck like desperate humans, emus were seen in suburbs, koalas who used to get moisture from eucalyptus leaves learned to drink actual water, and then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently declared that Australia was now “a land of drought.” It is cheaper for ranchers to shoot their cattle than to feed and water them.
In Europe, Portugal and Spain were hotter than Cairo on some days, a prolonged drought accompanied by a lengthy heat wave hit England and Ireland, and fires broke out in Sweden north of the Arctic circle, where the temperatures hit a balmy 32 degrees C (90 degrees F). At the same time, Japan oscillated between deadly floods and extreme heat, a devastating fire in Greece swept to the shore, killing 91 humans who could not outrun it, parts of the Rhine River dried up, and crops failed in Switzerland as the green alpine meadows withered and cows went hungry.
I can no longer even remember the timeline of horrific, relentless news without reading through the 25 or so articles that I bookmarked. Which came first, the European drought or the California “firenadoes?” This newly coined word describes apocalyptic whirlwinds of fire that reached six miles into the sky and had such force that the 143 mph winds picked up trucks and shipping containers like a fiery funnel conjured by the Wicked Witch of the West.
In the brutal Northern hemisphere summer of 2018, coinciding with Australia’s winter of discontented drought, climate change is in our faces, isn’t it?
“Now do you believe me?” I want to scream, but I’m too weary, too hot, too scared. I speculate that the grim scientists and writers must be thinking, as I am, “Damn, I would give anything to be wrong.”
After 127 stories of “extreme” and “record-breaking” weather events in the US mainstream media—only one of which mentions climate change—the dam of denial begins to show a few cracks. The New York Times publishes a novella-length piece by Nathaniel Rich provocatively titled Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, which is supremely depressing in its conclusion that the collective “we,” not the scheming cynical corporate obstructionists, “blew it.” Naomi Klein writes an incisive rebuttal in The Intercept offering a bit more hope: Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature.” Her view at least offers us something to resist and reform.
The online media I read, mostly The Guardian and BBC News, now have daily stories on climate change. I no longer have to ferret out the stories on the Science and Environment pages, a practice that has caused hundreds of sleepless nights. Of course Democracy Now! has been covering the story for two decades, and one of my favorite radio commentators, progressive writer Thom Hartmann, mentions it almost daily.
Which is how I know. In the words of my friend and colleague, anthropologist Tara Waters Lumpkin, founder of the award-winning online environmental magazine Voices for Biodiversity, “how can you un-know what you know?”
So as Hurricane Lane scored a near-miss on the Hawaiian islands, bringing severe flooding and, oddly, a huge brush fire in Maui, I wearily reflected on how long we collectively have known of the dangers. On Facebook I came across a PBS Hot Mess short video concisely outlining the development of the human knowledge that unrestrained continuous consumption of carbon would lead to an intensifying of the Greenhouse effect. Even I didn’t know that this knowledge goes back to the 1850’s, when scientists Eunice Foote and George Tyndall posited that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere would make it retrain trapped heat. In the 1890’s, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius did mathematical calculations that turned out to be chillingly accurate.
And yet, incredibly, denial of the process continues to exist. Comments on Senator Bernie Sander’s Facebook page and Climate Reality’s page beat a relentless drumbeat of sneering and jeering denial—to the point where I’m pretty sure these are not actual humans. I’m sure they are either programmed rightwing robots or, if they are humans, underpaid teenage trolls in Eastern Europe sitting in some hot basement denying their own experience for the price of survival.
Will we look back and say, “This is the summer when it all changed. This was the turning point?” Will the crop failures in Europe and Australia be the harbingers of worse to rapidly come—or will this be remembered as the Summer of Awakening?
No one ever mentions the role of the billowing clouds of wildfire smoke rolling relentlessly across North America in creating yet more Greenhouse effect. Nor do most stories mention the millions of lives—from mosquitoes to moose, snakes to squirrels— killed by the advancing fires. Fires are measured in strictly human loss, from the incredibly brave and selfless firefighters to the humans who have lost their homes, their companion animals, and their livelihoods.
Stories finally begin to appear connecting the dots that have long been obvious to me and other Climate Cassandras. Stories in The Guardian and Rolling Stone precisely explain how weather is getting stuck due to the jet stream slowing down. The cause is warming in the Arctic, a region that is warming more than twice as fast as temperate regions. It is simple: because there is now less temperature difference between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes than there used to be for thousands of years, the high altitude winds of the jet stream that guide weather systems have slowed down. Instead of the gently undulating pattern that we’d see on weather maps in my childhood and youth, the jet stream now splits, loops, and even turns back on itself like the Ancient Egyptian snake Apopyhis, the embodiment of chaos and the enemy of Light, opposing both the sun god Ra, and Ma’at, the Neter, or principle, of order, justice, balance, and truth.
Because of the jet stream slowing, weather patterns get stuck. Friends on the East Coast complain of endless days of rain, as sogginess and mold invade their foundations and walls. In the Southwest, our yearly summer monsoon has been…weird. It didn’t begin in early July as it used to. Instead, a thousand year flood hit the city of Santa Fe in late July. Arroyos raged, cars floated, houses and stores flooded, and a friend’s horse was swept away. But the rains have been spotty since then. My neighborhood got a bit of rain, and the grasses turned green, then crunchy again. Arroyo Seco, at the base of the Sangre de Cristos, has continued to get only short showers.
Finally, bursts of rain this past two weeks (I’m almost afraid to talk about it, for fear of jinxing the possibility of further storms) turned the land around my home green overnight. The wildflowers are at last in bloom, but oddly stunted, asters inches tall instead of two-feet tall. Still, we are grateful, though we have gotten barely over six inches since January, and little more than that since the water year began last October 1st. It was as if someone shut off a faucet after the rain last October 6th.
It’s enough to make both prophets and scientists despair.
And yet I, and so many others, stubbornly refuse to give up hope. But don’t talk to me about adaptation—which is impossible on the track we are currently on—or mitigation, which is pretty much a joke. We collectively have to bet everything on actually reversing climate change and rebalancing the atmosphere and the climatic system. If we don’t, if we bargain by setting our initial asking price too low, we are in effect bartering away our children’s future, and the future of all children of all life forms on the planet with it.
My own solace lies in my longtime studies of the role of consciousness in creating change in the physical world around us. Since beginning my energy healing and metaphysical studies at the California-based Healing Light Center Church in 1986, I have participated in several scientific studies on the effects of Distant Healing, a form of focused intentionality, on patients with advanced AIDS. I’ve read extensively, books by Lynn McTaggert, Larry Dossey, and others chronicling numerous scientific studies into remote viewing and distant intentionality. If we can heal an individual long distance, can’t we heal a community, and even a planet?
I remember our healing teacher, Rev. Rosalyn L. Bruyere, reminding us over and over that “the purpose of Prophecy is to see danger and avert it.” Otherwise it is not a gift, but as it was for Cassandra, a curse. It’s up to us to “see” the possibilities, and use that information to change the probabilities.
In the midst of my intuitive procrastination in finishing this blog, a channeled piece with a different view of Cassandra, comes to me from my friend, spiritual teacher Maia Kyi’Ra Nartoomid. Her explanation that Cassandra was a priestess and oracle of the Serpent Mother—in effect, the Divine Feminine—suddenly brought my own embryonic intuitions into focus. Cassandra was a gifted clairvoyant in service of her matriarchal culture, but was disbelieved and vilified by the victorious patriarchy of the time. And yet she remained true to herself, staunchly refusing to say the false words that the patriarchy wanted to hear, and continuing to speak the truths that, it seemed, no one wanted to hear.
Thus, the theme returns, again and again, that it is only by re-embracing the Divine Feminine alongside a balanced Divine Masculine that we Earth-inhabitants will find our way to healing what has been broken for thousands of years.
It’s going to take a lot of us, but maybe not as many as we think. Many TM (Transcendental Meditation) studies have showed the “Maharishi effect”—if 1% of the population of a given area meditates, rates of violent crime go down. Instead of focusing on the 1% who own the most transitory wealth, let’s focus on bringing together the 1% of the world’s current population—only about 75 million people—willing to commit to raising personal consciousness and awareness, to altruism, to planetary healing and spiritual evolution—to striving to bring the vision of a New Earth into reality.
Who knows what the necessary mechanisms will be? Writer and philosopher Charles Eisenstein has pointed out that even IF climate change is partly cyclical, as some believe, even IF it’s not only human activity causing climate change, even IF we actually end up moving into a reaction of global cooling—the fact remains that the root cause of these problems is alienation from Mother Earth. It is indeed in healing that relationship, whether it be through transforming capitalism and/or through spiritual evolution, that the way forward through thickets of intricately entwined issues will be made clear. Climate justice is justice for all living beings on the planet, without exception.
I’ll be marching in Anchorage, Alaska, where I’ll be working, on September 8th as part of the international Rise for Climate marches. Where will you be?