Relax, It’s Just the End of the World.
I became fully and painfully aware that we were living inside of a human-caused mass extinction event about this time last year.
The evidence was clear for decades, but I was skilled at evading it, or at the very least, believing it was the eleventh hour and not a minute to midnight.
When the truth hit, it was a hurricane. Climate change became front of mind, all the time. I could not turn away. I couldn’t unsee that our activity had altered Earth to such an extent that my children inherited a different world than the one I’d been given.
I’d hold myself steady on the cart as I pushed it through package-filled aisles at the local grocery store.
I’d see past the pretty packaging to the cruel devastation required to deliver it to me, so I could eat it distractedly and throw half of it away. I thought about the millions of shops all over the world just like mine, the traffic jams in every city, the dollar stores, jet planes, garbage, and cruise ships… everything extracted from and polluting Earth.
I’d always known our way of life wasn’t sustainable, but was habituated to the mental and emotional gymnastics needed to be okay with it. Suddenly, those coping mechanisms failed. A new reality took over and the okay façade was ripped away.
I was creeping on 50 when I really got that we were in a crisis beyond any we had ever faced. 50 years of being indoctrinated to believe that the greatest contribution I could make was to be a pretty, happy and successful consumer. My frequent misgivings were buried away because I was conditioned to believe that if I was anything but happy, the mistake lay squarely with me. I should be grateful. Period.
I got angry. Primarily with myself, but also with everyone else for not doing enough, for being asleep, and not having the courage to make the kind of changes we need.
Last year, we still had a Christmas tree and I cried when its corpse was brought in to decorate. I had a season of clenching my fists while being worried that I would be exiled if I gave voice to my ambivalence about the season’s festivities while over-consumption threatened the very children we were trying to impress with our generosity.
I had reason to worry. It is customary among my people that we don’t discuss societal ills unless:
a) we are armed to the teeth with all the facts,
b) are ready to fight,
c) have a squeaky clean track record, and
d) don’t say anything that might upset the apple cart. (Double down on all of this if you’re a woman.)
I’m a university dropout who’d spent years celebrating extravagance and convenience. Now I was considering going vegan (okay, vegetarian) and discontinuing flying for tourism. I was also making the links between patriarchy, white supremacy, and environmental degradation. I started using words like intersectionality, and saw my life through an entirely different lens.
When my awakening hit, it was distressing, lonely, shameful and terribly inconvenient, especially because it came so close to Christmas.
I haven’t even mentioned the grief. It was no wonder I was avoiding this reality. Several times a week, I was on my knees taking in the suffering of what I’d been complicit in creating but had been bypassing for decades. It was like I had finally stopped hitting the Snooze button only to discover I’d burned the house down while I’d been sleeping.
For me, there was a strong urge to do something — a desire so deep that the undirected strength of it was paralyzing. There are a million things to do, but only a few assignments carry our vibration. Most of us can’t recognize our gifts because we’ve been acculturated away from our personal authority for generations. We second-guess everything that lights up under our skin.
As we’ve destroyed nature on the planet, we’ve destroyed our own as well. It’s no surprise that it would happen this way. We’re all in it together. As above, so below, and all of that. Besides sleep, little we do is in sync with our natural rhythms.
Case in point: Christmas in the northern hemisphere. Just as nature has depleted herself and gone quietly into the dark night for rest and regeneration, we demand more from her and rev ourselves up to PART-AY!
But you know that already. If you’ve read this far, you know we’re crazy. The cat is well and truly out of the bag.
Since I awoke with the alarm bell ringing, the IPCC report came out and warned us that we have a decade at best to get off of fossil fuels or we will face runaway climate change. Hot on the heels was the WWF report confirming that we have killed 60% of the wild animal population since 1970, and now Extinction Rebellion groups have popped up everywhere.
The tide is turning, and soon those complicit in denial will be the odd ones out, while those complicity awake wrestle with an unimaginable future coming our way. Climate change is finally front page news, and the future depends on me and you.
Maybe it’s too late for the human race.
Or maybe we are going to participate in a miraculous evolution.
I don’t know.
Hopefully, neither do you.
This is something new.
It’s a grand-scale adventure.
The stuff of myth, the property of legends.
This is the point where the heroine relinquishes control, where the hero lays down his illusions. This is the departure, the point of descent. Where humility is our greatest strength. Where the question isn’t what one can do, but what needs to be undone. What needs sacrificing before new knowledge can be gained. And as importantly, from whom.
Like the leaves on the trees who return to our Mother, I am shedding the skin I wear that solves problems. I am sidestepping the gate labeled solutions and control for a better status quo, and walking towards the abyss. I am taking the invitation to free fall. To say with proud conviction, “I don’t know anything.” I invite you to join me, even just for a minute.
C’mon, get stupid with me. Let’s get into trouble. Let’s pretend that the world will carry on without our knowledge and clever explanations. Let’s pretend that She is inviting (insisting?) that we weave ourselves into the mystery of existence and give up the illusion of our separation.
Let’s carry our questions into the dark.
This article goes out to TreeSisters, where they “make it normal for every single one of us to start giving funds towards trees to help restore our world.” Please consider gifting trees this year.
Sandy Ibrahim is a Canadian of Egyptian and German descent. She does not know if her grandmothers are cheering her on or rolling over in their graves. After leaving her childhood home at 17, she has been pursuing sovereignty while maintaining a state of reverent bewilderment. She’s spent the last two decades raising two sons, and has worked as a systems analyst, a boxing coach, and a book-marketer. You can currently find her practicing Yoga, freaking out, writing, and volunteering for TreeSisters. You could contact her via her website.