“Not everything needs to sound so goddamn clever or charming or likeable all the time. Sometimes we need to just be able to say things to one another. We need to hear things.” –Dr. Randall Mindy, Don’t Look Up movie
Have you watched the new climate disaster comedy film Don’t Look Up? I just saw it for the first time, and want to explain why I think you, and as many people as possible, ought to watch this exceptional movie. First of all, the film’s director, Adam McKay, wanted to make this film a comedy, instead of the usual climate disaster -horror films that are produced. The premise of the plot is that Professor Randall Mindy and his PhD student, Kate Dibiasky, discover a large comet which is almost certain to hit the earth in about six months, basically wiping out most life including humanity. They go to Washington D.C. and tell this news to the woman president (played by Meryl Streep), who along with her lacky son, is unimpressed, being much more concerned with the latest scandal her administration is dealing with. The rest of the film revolves around Dr. Mindy and Kate going through all the stages of grief, shock and finally acceptance of the comet’s approach, while continuing to attempt to warn everyone about what is coming.
This movie has a lot of social commentary woven through it, which makes it wickedly funny and also holds up a mirror to where human society is at in 2022. I think the film does a great job at showing our current political idiocy, highly controlled media scenarios (including a wicked personality played by Cate Blanchett), and even a character who seems to be a spin off of Bill Gates-Jeff Bezos insane multibillionaire. There’s also an appearance by Ariana Grande, who plays a weirdly comical version of herself as a mega superstar singer. If you pay close attention while watching it, you are sure to find all the archetypes of our time somewhere in the two hours plus that the movie runs.
Dr. Mindy, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, represents the Everyday Scientist who realizes that humanity is about to be destroyed, and when he and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) attempt to warn the people of Earth, are met with such disregard and disrespect that it’s darkly funny as well as tragically sad. Here is a clip from one of the best scenes in the movie, a heart wrenching monologue by Dr. Mindy.
Dear Readers, we know that the best films are the ones that show us to ourselves in the most accessible way for the most people to understand. I recommend Don’t Look Up as one of those films. As the new year of 2022 gets underway, the Earth changes and extreme climate events continue. While our supposed leaders spend their time navel gazing and concerned with their own political power and wealth, our world is spinning closer and closer to catastrophe on a scale no one alive has ever experienced. Don’t Look Up is based on real science by astronomers who spend years working out climate models and predictions for the foreseeable future. The years we’re living through are exhausting us all, and by now we’ve seen so many climate disaster films that we are at saturation level. The humor and spot-on characterizations in this movie help to be able to stomach watching Dr. Mindy and Kate as they shout out their warnings in vain.
I hope you will take the time to watch Don’t Look Up, and allow its message to percolate within your heart and mind. It’s still not too late for humanity as a whole to come together to change our trajectory towards extinction. As the movie depicts, it will certainly be a messy ride.
There is an ancient story from Jewish mysticism that tells of “36 humble righteous ones” known as the Lamedvavnik (Yiddish: לאַמעדוואָווניק). The story says that at any given moment on Earth there are, at a minimum, 36 holy souls who are (without being conscious of it), holding up the world and preventing it from total destruction. For the sake of these 36 hidden saints, God preserves the world even if the rest of humanity has degenerated to the level of total barbarism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tzadikim_Nistarim
In more recent times, many authors have woven this folklore into their own modern stories of humans wrestling with forces of darkness. There are those who have written of the numerological aspects of the number 36, fascinating in its own granular way. But I prefer to infer a larger meaning of the idea of a relative handful of souls who incarnate on Earth with the express purpose of keeping it aloft and intact. We all know of people in our lives and communities who seem to have a little extra goodness, patience, and compassion than most. They are the ones who offer a smile, a hand, a joke, or perhaps even a hug when life feels unbearable. Humanity has always experienced difficult days, periods of duress and suffering. Fortunately, the Lamedvavnik have always been there to help us push on through.
I just spent the past month reading The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson. It falls in the genre of Cli-Fi, and “hard science fiction” because Robinson did extensive research into both the very real and dire circumstances humanity is in related to climate disaster, as well as the many solutions being developed by scientists of all stripes across the globe. The result is a sweeping work of the imagination that offers a frighteningly possible world in the coming few decades.
This book took me a while to plow through because it is 563 pages and I’m not a fast reader. It is not a perfect book. After a shocking start and couple hundred pages of fascinating story, somewhere midway through comes a high point (not exactly a climax), after which the story tips dangerously into utopian fiction. I found I had trouble withholding disbelief from that point on, given the enormous scope of this work. However, it is definitely worth the time to read this expansive story of climate catastrophe and the What-If scenarios that Robinson eloquently devises in response.
There are a few main characters in this novel. One is Frank May, whose story of inconceivable trauma is the lynchpin upon which the rest of the story revolves. As he strives to deal with his PTSD life, his thoughts wander.
He pondered what he might do. One person had one-eight-billionth of the power that humanity had. One eight-billionth wasn’t a very big fraction, but then again there were poisons that worked in the parts-per-billion range, so it wasn’t entirely unprecedented for such a small agent to change things. (Robinson, pg. 65)
Frank is caught between his inherent desire to help, to be of service to humanity, and the intensity of the world’s horror. Robinson writes,
He could feel it burning him up: he wanted to kill. Well, he wanted to punish. People had caused the heat wave, and not all people…there were particular people, many still alive, who had worked all their lives to deny climate change, to keep burning carbon, to keep wrecking biomes, to keep driving other species extinct. That evil work had been their lives’ project, and while pursuing that project they had prospered and lived in luxury. They wrecked the world happily, thinking they were supermen, laughing at the weak, crushing them underfoot. (Robinson, pgs. 65-66)
The Ministry for the Future is a sweeping, long look at how climate catastrophe might unfold, while also the personal story of a small group of humans who, like the Lamedvavnik, work to alleviate the worst consequences, to turn the massive ship that is Climate Catastrophe from completely wrecking the planet, the animals, and the people of Earth. It is a story that is at once terrifying, fascinating, and idealistically possible, although admittedly a long shot. But clearly that is what Robinson was going for; offering a possible future for all of us where our planet does come back from the brink, where the majority of humans do wake up in time, and we are able to create a healthier future world for all life. Idealistic? Absolutely. And yet, reading this novel helped me to better imagine how it could all unfold in the coming decades. How we might still survive these extraordinarily painful times. How it cannot possibly be all sunshine and unicorns one fine day. I am not one to go in for dystopian future worldviews, because those scenarios paint such a bleak picture of Earth’s future that there is no hope in them. The future of Earth and of humanity are utterly intertwined. There are many Lamedvavnik, or world-savers, now alive on the planet. More are coming every day. It is an All-Hands-On-Deck moment for humanity. Will we wake up in time? Will we collectively do what must be done in order to move forward into the Light? To realize that the reality is we are all One Body, billions of grains of sand in the ocean of the Godhead, fractalized into uncountable bits?
Dear Readers, I wish you a blessed Winter Solstice and Holy Days of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Peace of the Void. Embrace the Light, Shine the Light, Be the Light.
Robinson, K. S. (2020). The Ministry for the Future. New York, NY. Orbit. Hachette Book Group, Inc.
This has been an unusual summer in lots of ways so far. Both on personal and planetary levels, change is in the very atmosphere. Things continue to heat up, burning away deep levels of accumulated dross on all levels for humanity and for dear Gaia. Are you also feeling the effects, Dear Readers?
Fires have been burning within and near the Arctic circle for much of this summer, while Alaska has seen its highest temperatures ever recorded during the past two months. More and more ice is melting in Greenland, in quantities difficult for the average human to wrap one’s head around. According to Rolling Stone, “Weather models indicate Tuesday’s temperature may have surpassed 75 degrees Fahrenheit in some regions of Greenland, and a weather balloon launched near the capital Nuuk measured all-time record warmth just above the surface. That heat wave is still intensifying, and is expected to peak on Thursday with the biggest single-day melt ever recorded in Greenland. On August 1 alone, more than 12 billion tons of water will permanently melt away from the ice sheet and find its way down to the ocean, irreversibly raising sea levels globally.”
On more refined levels, our world continues to be blasted with cosmic energy in the form of photonic light coming from distant areas of space. We are currently in the August gateway known as the Lion’s Gate, with energies pouring in from the star Sirius, which will peak on August 8 (known as the 8:8 Gateway). Apparently, there is no end in sight for the powerful light hitting Earth and everything upon it. (For more information on the Lion’s Gateway, read here.)
What this translates to can be summed up as intensity and transparency, transmutation and transition, and navigating the ever-changing terrain of our world now and in days, months and years to come. More people keep awakening to the earth changes, and some are realizing that the foundational starting point is within each person. Humanity is slowly becoming multidimensional, meaning we are tightroping between the third, fourth and fifth dimensions of consciousness. (For more explanations on these concepts, explore Sandra Walters’ excellent website here). Being in physical form, humanity is continually recalibrating its physical needs and wants. Given that there are upwards of seven and a half billion of us, the puzzle is mind-bogglingly complex.
Earlier this spring, I wrote about Professor Jem Bendell and his excellent paper on Deep Adaptation and its implications. He recently posted an interview on his website with climate scientist, Dr Wolfgang Knorr of Lund University in Sweden. I am sharing this link to Jem Bendell’s interview with Dr. Knorr here: https://jembendell.com/2019/07/31/climate-scientist-speaks-about-letting-down-humanity-and-what-to-do-about-it/ I highly recommend you take the time to read it in its entirety, and many other interesting posts Professor Bendell has on his blog. Dr. Knorr makes many excellent points in this interview about our predicament. Here are a few extracts from the blog post:
Jem Bendell: Do you think the IPCC reports tend to play down the risks of climate change?
Dr Knorr: It is not difficult to imagine why that should be so. They IPCC is after all an international agreement, and it answers to the interests of the governments of the countries it has signed up to, and it works largely by consensus. So special interests by fossil-fuel emitting countries can have a large impact. But I think there is a more fundamental problem, one that affects much of the larger science community and has to do with framing of the problem. When there is danger you have to confront, you go through essentially two stages. During the first, you need to establish that there really is a problem. During this stage, more uncertainty will lead to less perception of the problem, and less action. But once the existence of the problem has been firmly established in principle, the perspective changes. Now, you need to develop a risk coping strategy, and the less you know about the problem that can be used to assess level of risk, the more concerned you should be. In the first situation, we tend to avoid over-stating because we want to be sure the problem exists, during the second however, the normal reaction is to err on the side of caution. I believe that the IPCC is still stuck in phase 1 while we are now very clearly seeing climate change in action.
Jem Bendell: Are you worried?
Dr Knorr: I must admit that I am mostly worried for my children and their own children and grand-children if they one day choose to become parents themselves. This is absolutely my personal view, and might be to some degree the result of professional denial. My gut feeling says that it will take another 20-30 years until we see really massive impacts, but that these impacts will look very different from what we expect. The problem is that the image we have right now is so much influenced by modelling studies, at least in the scientific community. But with these climate and other simulation models it is just like the way it is with artificial intelligence. These are mere algorithms that lack any real understanding. The understanding is the work that needs to be done by the scientist. So what I worry about is that too much reliance on established scientific methods has led to a lack of imagination, and that there will be things that we have not considered. …There will be thousands of other subtle effects playing out in ways we won’t understand. This is what makes me worried most.
Jem Bendell: Given that I work on an agenda I call “deep adaptation” I am wondering what you see as the implications of your views for adaptation in general and preparing for a breakdown in our way of life?
Dr Knorr: I believe that adaptation really needs to start inside ourselves, with the realization that defence against pain is normal. I can see a lot of defensive mechanisms when it comes to climate change. Not only with the usual climate change deniers, many of whom simply feel an existential threat their way of life – and blame it on those who demand change, not climate change itself. I can also see it with the climate science community. One is a reluctance to admit that it is too late to control climate change, that there is no-one with political power who is really taking the problem seriously and suggesting in earnest measures who can make a real difference. And in the political realm, with politicians being supportive of the latest climate protesters, passing legislation to decarbonize the UK by 2050, but coming up with no specific measures except maybe the idea of phasing out petrol and diesel cars. I find that ridiculous. Once you get used to the idea of denial and defence, the public discourse in large parts looks like comedy. So the answer is – realize your own denial mode, get out of it, realize all the forces that will probably radically change the way most of us live in the coming years – rising inequality, surveillance, authoritarian regimes, media addiction, junk food, and a destabilized climate that will first-of-all create uncertainty. Then prepare to live in an age of uncertainty, remind yourself that our ancestors did just that, and find a new, deeper meaning in life.
Dr. Knorr recommends that we strive to find ways to prepare for living with constant uncertainty, and find new, deeper meaning in life. I observe and read about people working on these issues in all sorts of ways, everywhere on Earth now. No matter where you live, what you do for a living, or what your life circumstances may be, the work of finding out what matters most to you and how you wish to contribute to humanity and Gaia in times to come is what is being asked of us all. The Earth changes are here and will continue to come. Some days are nerve-wracking and highly uncomfortable. Others are quieter, allowing for more breathing space. I feel it’s very important to find friendship in community, others who have similar interests and are also working on themselves and doing what they can to prepare for deep adaptation. Bendell’s website is a great resource, and he’s created some Facebook groups also for supporting folks in this work.
Lastly, I want to remind you, Dear Readers, that everything you think, speak, write, feel and do is important to the whole. As the mission of this blog is about finding and remembering interrelations between us all, please remember that energy out=energy back. This translates to personal responsibility as being a major key for how our world operates and what happens in future days. Deeper understanding of how life works and our place within its fabric has never been more important than now.