This is the strangest book on global warming ever written. It starts off subtly, though dully, by recounting the evidence for and against, but all tedium is dispatched once solutions are offered. It is then the book builds momentum using beams of colored lights and otherworldly demons, ending in a place that is dimensions removed from ordinary human existence. I do not jest.
Good news first: Earth Fever won the 2011 Silver Nautilus Book Award in the “environment and green values” category. Huzzah and congratulations!
Now the bad. The fever analogy is clear enough: earth is hotting up and we land-dwellers will have to sweat it out. But don’t fail to notice that fevers are the body’s reaction to a foreign invasion; fevers are protective measures and though they can cause harm, they can also cure. That, say our authors, is the benefit we can realize. Embrace the fever and we can “emerge from this crisis purified” from which we can “create a new world in which care, harmony, and beauty are the dominant characteristics.”
This will come about through a “Umwertung aller Werte.” This is Nietzsche, whose slogan sounds compelling in German, but somewhat banal in English (“revaluation of all values”, a near daily call heard on your better websites). How this is done we learn later.
First, just what is this global warming? There is uncertainty that it has occurred: “Continuity of data is lacking, and different countries gather data according to different protocols.” If we cannot know the past with certainty, how can we predict the future with confidence? It is all-too-human scientists who build models to forecast what will be. There must be, say the authors, uncertainty in what these models tell us. It is not wrong to doubt them.
The authors warmly2 embrace uncertainty, spending nearly a chapter delineating all the possible ways things are not what they seem. But just after proclaiming eternal friendship to the concept, they shoot it right between the eyes. In the very next chapter, they drop all ambiguity and announce, “It is certain that on average the Earth is warming, and that warming has been accelerating over the last 100 years.”
It is worse than we thought, and growing still more harrowing. The end is nigh. “30 percent of all known species are on the edge of disappearing.” Drought, famine, and what-have-you are just around the corner. Switching out light bulbs, car pooling or even walking, staying at home instead of flying, are all noble efforts—your heart is in the right place—but none of these will be good enough to stop the wave of heat that slouches towards Bethlehem.
Unless the world as a whole accepts a hard cap or upper limit for the emissions of greenhouse gases, climate change will not stay within manageable boundaries.
Now, if this were all the book said, then it would be indistinguishable from any other environmentalist text. But the solutions offered by the authors are shockingly sui generis.
They begin by advocating various management theories, of the kind that make their way to business-books-of-the-month, all which involve making up trademarkable terms, and promise the way to solutions. For example, what, according to modern change theory, are the stages of change? They are “being lost, being in denial, being in the pit, and letting go of the past” which lead to “testing boundaries, searching for meaning,” and finally “integration.” If these stages were embraced, vis-à-vis global warming, then no more heat.
It is at this point we meet the experts interviewed for the book. Peter Senge, “visionary academic” and creator of “learning organizations” theory from MIT, informs:
Many people, and I am one among them, feel that the first fundamental split was the agricultural revolution, because it was based on the premise that the human being is somehow superior. I call that totalitarian agriculture, that we are entitled to do whatever we want to do in order to grow our food supply. And what came with that was private property rights, the separation and fragmentation of wealth, and the concentration of personal wealth.
Senge is not the first to tell us that non-government-owned property is the cause of global warming. Jeroen van de Veer, “energy executive,” admits, “I’m not an expert on climate.” But he does not allow his lack of expertise bar him from saying “that fast and coordinated action is necessary.”
No less than Princess Irene van Lippe-Biesterfeld, “social reformer,” confesses, “I have personally experienced very consciously the pain of separation between myself and nature, between me and the other.” Her observations are simpatico with those of Marieke de Vrij, “spiritual teacher,” who relates that she recently
“read” the fields of consciousness in Holland. One of the greatest collective fields that I saw was the field of indifference. It is a slow, ponderous field full of passive energy. That is what we have in Holland, in the sense that this field overpowers many things that call for greater consciousness. I also saw a field of great satiety. That means that the capacity to take something in that causes you pleasure or that gives you an experience of deep connection is very difficult.
This is the first time global warming was blamed on spiritual constipation. But not the last. Because Maarten Verkerk, “theology professor,” tells us of one White, whose “conclusion is that Christianity is responsible for the changing perspective on physical reality: from a god to be worshiped to a material to use for ones own purposes. This new vision paved the way for the exploitation of nature.” Go forth and warm the planet.
Peter Senge jumps back in and whispers that “Many of the most knowledgeable people are in a state of despair because they don’t see how things can be changed.” Herman Wijffels, “international financier,” gently disagrees and tells us that to affect change he is “eating a vegetarian and organic diet.” But sadly, he could not give up on his second car because two are “necessary in America.” (Well, Herman, old boy, I live in the USA and have not owned a car in a baker’s dozen years: so it can be done.)
Enter the tantric. Not sex, but tantra the spiritual path, whose sole objective is “staying in the moment, and in so doing surrendering to the life force itself.”
For example, even though you are at home, you can be at your work in your thoughts…so you are not really at home at all. A particular aspect of presence on this second level is your awareness of your centre: the centre of gravity or core, which is called ki, chi, or hara in various traditions. This is located physically in a point or area in your belly, about three or four fingers below your navel and a little bit inside, and is considered to be the source of your life force or vitality. [ellipsis original]
If only a “a considerable proportion of humanity would” fiddle with their chi in just the right way, “we could come to live if not in paradise then at least in a much better world.” Since many are unfamiliar with this region of their bellies, our authors provide four useful affirmations, to be used as chants: “I believe in myself. I create my own reality. I trust life. Life gives me what I need.”
What is an affirmation? It is “a statement that expresses what you want to believe
as if it is already true, even if you donâ€™t quite believe it yet.” It is The Secret meets An Inconvenient Truth. More affirmations that should be tried are raw assertions (“no longer than six words”) such as, “‘I am Love,’ ‘I am a Seer’ ‘I am a radiant cosmic miracle,’ ‘I am free-flowing life force.'” These are equivalent to me saying, “I am the nuclear strong force.”
But never mind, because we still have the Mayans and their end-times calendar which predicts Game Over on 12 December 2012. “Many find it an interesting coincidence that in 2012 the present Kyoto protocol, a set of agreements about climate policy, will also come to an end.”
The whole of this strange web of ideas is sorted out by Jim Garrison, “cultural creative,” with his theology of the “Over-God”, which is “a contribution from a previous axial period,” and which “is going to melt away into the circularity of Gaia.” Garrison is echoed by Dorothy Maclean, “spiritual teacher,” who explains about “devas.”
The devas are streams of consciousness, great planetary beings that hold the energetic patterning for all the physical forms of life. Each species of plant or animal or insect has its own deva. They are willing to cooperate with us, to cocreate new ways forward. They have an immediacy of knowledge that they can make available to us if it is useful to us for the greater good. Not long after encountering a deva for the first time, I became aware of another presence, which I called the Landscape Angel.
Even more interesting is that these devas “want to cooperate with us.” They tell Maclean (via trance?) “that it is still possible to bring about a new balance, if we cooperate consciously. But we have to do our part. We have to ask for help and then be willing to act on what we receive as answers. That means giving up the idea that ‘we know best’ and that our minds will find solutions.”
We cannot but agree with Maclean and only wish that more people would give up the idea that they know best.
1Katherine Mason from Cosimo Books kindly provided me with a copy of the book for review.
For those readers who would like a book in Dutch on climate change that has a less spiritual focus, I can do no better than to recommend that by Marcel Crok: De Staat Van Het Kilmaat.