We are warned now that we may have only a dozen years before global climate change reaches the 2 degree C. tipping point that will render Earth’s climate so unstable as to create ongoing crises in health, agriculture and, fundamentally, human survival.
Our population continues to climb, ocean fisheries are crashing, extinction mounts worldwide.
Something is going to shift. It is shifting, and fast. The question is how quickly, and how it will happen.
To start with, let’s be clear: however big a tragic gouge we cause to be scraped from the biodiversity of Planet Earth, life will survive and go on to evolve for billions of additional years. The Earth has about 5 billion years left; it’s only 4.5 billion years old now. Plenty of time to evolve lots of new species.
So this is about us: about how—and whether—humanity will survive.
This question goes to the future vision of Atheopaganism. Our anticipated future.
Obviously, the worst-case scenario is that we blow on past that benchmark, and billions starve and die of heat stroke or freezing or drowning in extreme weather events.
And some fraction of that impact is unavoidable, sorry to say.
But I think that those who suggest that we will therefore either go extinct entirely—or who cheer for a reversion to pre-industrialization—severely underestimate the ingenuity, adaptability and sheer cussedness of humanity. We will continue to use electrical technology of various kinds, even if its powered by solar panels, generators (which can be kept in running order for centuries with knowledgeable maintenance, and can run on alcohol, the technology for creating which will NEVER be lost, knowing humans) and other non-grid power sources. We will continue to use communication technology, even if it’s just radio. We will smelt iron and make it into steel, and that means we will build machines.
Industry, at some scale, will continue. Not in the form of the rapacious global monster of modern industrial capitalism, presumably, but still.
And we will continue, as best we can, to practice agriculture. Because it is impossible to feed the number of people who will still be left through hunting and gathering, especially in the midst of an extinction event. That probably means more in the way of high-yield agricultural practices such as hydroponics.
Finally, the concepts of the value of the individual and of individual rights, a product of the Enlightenment and modernism, will continue. Once out of the box, such concepts cannot and will not be abandoned in favor of such oppressive models as the medieval “Great Chain of Being”, the “divinely-ordained” order of hierarchy setting peasant below nobility, or other such hidebound and inflexible definitions of some people as more deserving of liberty and rights than others.
Has modernity fulfilled that vision for every person? No, it has not. But its critics do not posit a credible alternative that would be likely to do better.
Particularly, the affluent of the world will not let their technological toys go willingly, and the rest will aspire towards affluence even though it drives us towards the brink. To the degree we can reduce the impacts of energy generation with greener technologies, we will reduce the eventual depth of the crisis, but it will come, one way or another.
So what, for Atheopagans, is the longer-term scenario?
First, the idea that this is some kind of choose-your-own-ending adventure is silly. We don’t know what is going to happen, and we’re going to have to apply an all-approaches mentality to our strategies going forward.
And what does that mean?
First, it means pushing to give carbon-minimal technologies and environmental regulation every opportunity to succeed so we can have a “soft landing” rather than a crash. Cheering for the world’s economic systems to collapse—even though capitalism is immoral and destructive in nearly every way—is both morally suspect (given that it is the poor and oppressed who suffer disproportionately under such circumstances) and a longshot bet, since no one can really predict what would arise after current systems crash, and odds are good it would involve strongarm warlordism, vigilantism, more bigotry and xenophobia and a far uglier world than we have now. If we have a soft letdown from industrial capitalism, we are less likely to end up in that world.
Yet abrupt collapse may come anyway.
In either case, we hedge our bets through culture creation: through building lifeways and practices and ethics and community consistent with a healthy and life-affirming world. And that’s where Atheopaganism comes in.
Our world is currently screwed up because most people in it are NOT that. They are superstitious, credulous, bigoted and misogynistic. They celebrate greed and acquisition rather than happiness and love and beauty and creativity, and excuse it in the name of imaginary gods. They promulgate guilt and shame and contempt for our own bodies. They are phobic and obsessive about sex and death.
That’s not the world we want to live in, and it’s not what we’re about.
It’s not who we are.
Ours is a set of values and Principles that are the natural underpinning of a sane and moral society: a reasoning, inclusive, heartfelt, environmentally responsible, individual-affirming, world-revering approach to governance, economy and culture.
Be that in the world. Be it with one another. Live the Principles. Carry that vision in your heart.
Do that, and you are making a better future already.