Tom Atlee: Considering End-Times Possibilities

Cultural Intelligence, Earth Intelligence
Tom Atlee
Tom Atlee

Tom Atlee’s Co-Intelligence Journal

What this message is about: Concerns about civilizational collapse and human extinction in the foreseeable future are rising and moving from the fringes into the mainstream. Many who share these concerns are understandably prone to despair and cynicism. What are the various life-serving ways to confront and respond to these daunting realities?
Acknowledging real end-times possibilities

Co-evolution of Life and Death

Dear friends:

An increasing number of people are coming to the conclusion that there’s a non-trivial chance that civilization will collapse – or, more terminally, that the human species will die off – within the next few hundred years, thanks to climate chaos and/or many variously related threats.[1]

These extreme but no longer “crazy” views are drifting towards the mainstream. Quite in addition to the many apocalyptic movies, novels, and music – the R.E.M. anthem “it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine” being exemplary – former Vice President Al Gore recently suggested that civilization might not survive the next 100 years – and two separate New York Times op eds by Roy Scranton and Samuel Scheffler (below) recently explored the philosophical and psychological implications of human extinction.

These cultural phenomena are the tip of an iceberg of disturbed collective consciousness increasingly haunting the minds, hearts, and spirits of ordinary citizens who really don’t want to think about it or talk about it.

For years writers seriously concerned about climate change and peak oil have been pioneering ways to address these emerging realities head-on, with varying degrees of pessimism, practicality, positive vision, and spiritual inspiration. Some of the many voices I know of in this choir include:

Culture Change
Transition Towns network
John Michael Greer
Post-Carbon Institute
Oil Empire
Collapse of Industrial Civilization blog

A quick look at any of them will tell you whether they speak to your own needs and perspectives. In addition, below I’ve excerpted some specific recent articles that will give you a taste of what I’ve been reading lately that led to this post.

But I want to make clear: In this post I’m not wishing to promote or counter any of these views or responses. What I want to do here is help bring the issue out of the closet so it can be talked about more freely.

As hard as collapse and extinction are to think and talk about, I do not believe that doing so makes them more likely. On the contrary, I believe exploring them may free up energy to take more creative, wholesome action together, regardless of how things turn out. I’m being guided here by an understanding that what can’t be spoken erodes our spirits and empowers the darker, less free parts of our nature.

I believe that it is time to look more courageously at the full vista of what we face in our and our children’s future. And then make of it what we can, fully connected with our love of life.

Furthermore, given the reality that we don’t actually know what will happen, systems science and evolutionary ecology suggest that diversity of responses will increase our chances for collective resilience.

In my next post I’ll discuss some of my own strategies for affirming life in the strange circumstances in which we find ourselves – indeed, that we have collectively made for ourselves – even in the face of the possible end of civilization or the human race itself.


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