August 30, 2017
Paradise Lost, or Active Redemption
As I write, hurricane Harvey is preparing for another onslaught on Houston and the surrounding areas. There has never before been a storm like it.
More than 50” of rain has fallen in 3 days, sea surges of 15ft are expected, displacement of humans and wildlife is such that if it was a war zone people would still be shocked.
This lonely blue planet is the nearest thing we have to paradise. We are hunting through the universe for similar life supporting zones, so far nothing even slightly resembling this blue dot has been found. We are sending out messages in the hope that somewhere, somehow, they will be picked up by other life forms. Maybe they should have been Mayday messages, for knowing, as we do, that this blue paradise is all we have, we cannot bring ourselves to respect it, enhance it, protect it.
The events in Houston were predictable – warming seas, more moisture in the atmosphere, a slowing jet stream, polar ice melt… the list is very long. We have known much of what we know now since the 1970’s. Many individuals have declared intellectual independence and fought the tide of consumerism and waste with great success. It is entirely possible to live as a one planet person. But these cherished individuals do not make up a world population – itself rising faster than the waters of Texas.
Instead of hearing the voices of science and reason, the inhabitants of this one habitable planet have chosen to block their ears. Seduced by the god of money they have chosen to pollute, spend, waste. They have turned flood land into concrete deserts, poisoned the air we breathe, turned the seas into plastic soup and built nuclear weapons to protect us from ourselves.
And the media reports the cost to the economy, the cost of insurance, the cost to GDP, that 2 million barrels of oil are lost a day… and so we fall.
The rains in Houston are so bad that the weather forecasting service had to invent new colours to describe the deluge. It will stop of course, for a while. And the desertification of other areas will inexorably march steadily onwards. And the nuclear waste from Fukushima will seep ever more poison into the ocean, and the cars will keep driving on fossil fuels…. and we fall further.
The tipping point has been a long time coming. Between the water and the desert there will be places to live safely, to grow crops and live a good life. But there will be a lot less room, and self-preservation will not bring out the best in humans.
After he had written Paradise Lost, Milton wrote Paradise Regained. It is an altogether more simple work, emphasising the possibility of reversal.
We have been bombarded with the ridiculousness of a debt-based money supply in order to keep the economy going, bewildered by political sleight-of-hand from short sighted careerists, muzzled by an explosion of conflicting information, and malnourished ourselves on a diet of GM crops, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones and antibiotics. We may need a spiritual redemption, but more than that, we need a practical redemption.
Humans are both God and Satan. The possibility of reversal is in our hands. The path of no change is clear, but the path of reversing our impoverished way of life has never been clearer. Complexity has led us to an existential crisis. The clarity of simplicity can lead to something richer.
Redemption is a revolution in thought. Our food supplies, our monetary system, our energy, building practices, our education, they can all be rethought and simplified. Collaborative human thought and action can rise above the tribulations of neo-liberal market capitalism and return us to the values we all share and the ways in which we would rather live our lives.
Blood does not have to be spilt in this revolution, sweat does. Tears are being shed daily, now. The shadow of Katrina is long. The shadow of Harvey will be longer. How long will the shadows have to be before we change to a healthier, more inclusive society.
Paradise can be regained. The possibility of reversal will always be with us, but the law of diminishing returns ensures that acting now is more fruitful than acting later. A telescope looking at us from another world would ask, ‘What is taking them so long?’