California Severe Winter Storms Feb-Mar 2023, Climate Chaos, Climate emergency, Jem Bendell’s E-S-C-A-P-E Ideology, Los Angeles/California/USA, Nature’s Web of Life, Shifts of Being
Forgive me, Mother Gaia. I come before you with my head bent in shame. How could I ever believe that it was okay for humanity to destroy so much life and treat Earth’s oceans and atmosphere as dumping grounds? I have pondered our beliefs that have brought our species to a global climate and ecological catastrophe: entitlement, surety or certainty, control, autonomy, progress, and exceptionalism. Jem Bendell refers to these assumptions as humanity’s e-s-c-a-p-e ideology. Our great human enterprise stands on pillars of The Dead. I share in the plunder. I must also share the guilt.
I hear you, Mother Gaia. Your signs of distress are everywhere, even in my home state of California. I admit that my way of being is detrimental to the preservation of our planet’s web of life. I know that a shift of being is essential. Am I up to the task? Destructive practices and attitudes have become second nature to me. Beliefs have become sacrosanct.
I have begun the work of letting go of my sense of entitlement and exceptionalism. I acknowledge that I hold no divine right of dominion over the non-human lives with whom I share this planet. As you have made clear, Mother Gaia, my well-being depends upon their well-being. When I harm the condor, the Monarch butterfly, and the great forests, I harm myself.
Through my succulent and vegetable garden, I work at reconnecting with other threads in nature’s web of life. In our chaotic world of conflicting interests and desires, the flowering trees and plants, birds, and butterflies bring joy to each new day. Not so, the caterpillars that gorged on the leaves of my young cucumber plants. My inner conflict got intense: This year, I will not be planting cucumbers. Then, there is a wild cat that roams our apartment complex at night, leaving unwelcome mounds of poop in my garden beds. I know, Mother Gaia, you never promised it would be easy.
When it comes to my consumption of durable and disposal goods, I adhere to a simple and frugal lifestyle. With adult children, I no longer contend with pressure to buy the latest stuff that kids and teenagers crave. Plastic products remain a challenge. They are everywhere, cajoling me with their convenience, durability, and usefulness. I struggle, in vain, for control, Mother Gaia.
Our mistaken belief that humankind could control Nature and carve it into our own image has led us to existential crises. Extreme weather has become my new reality. Beginning on February 23rd, record-breaking severe winter storms struck our state. That afternoon shortly after 4:00 p.m., I was seated at my desk when I heard a strange pounding on the windowpane. Outside, hailstones the size of green peas littered the ground. I rushed outdoors to witness and record the rare event (see my photo below). Is this yet another sign of more extreme weather to come, Mother Gaia?
The storm brought destructive winds, much-needed rainfall, blizzards, and heavy snowfall, including low-elevation snow to areas unaccustomed to snow, like the Hollywood Sign on Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the City of Los Angeles. I give thanks that my garden suffered minor damage. The wind knocked over the potted Red Cactus and partly uprooted the Petra Croton plant from the ground. With warnings of another storm on the way, I secured both plants as best as I could (see photo below). Our apartment complex got off easy with just a little flooding. For how much longer will we escape Nature’s wrath, Mother Gaia?
Towns in the mountain regions have been hit hardest with record levels of up to ten feet deep of snowfall, trapping people in their homes. On March 1st, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in thirteen counties, including Los Angeles County. As temperatures have dropped by ten to twenty degrees Fahrenheit below normal for our area, I must be diligent in staying warm while still conserving on energy and gas usage. We have only ourselves to blame, Mother Gaia. We ignored your early warning signs of distress. We thought that we could keep on pumping our carbon waste into the atmosphere without adverse consequences.
Our destructive e-s-c-a-p-e narrative no longer works in favor of humankind, except for a tiny minority who profit from disaster and chaos. Until the day that they, too, will perish. We need a new narrative that recognizes our oneness with Nature’s web of life and with each other. Jem Bendell has proposed the c-o-s-m-o-s remedy: compassion, openness, serenity, mutuality, oneness, and solidarity. I will explore his proposed remedy over the next six months. I invite you to join me.