Daily Archives: March 14, 2010

“Primary Concerns Must Become Primary, Or Else”


Gaia, Goddess of the Earth, Mother of the Gods

Thanks to extensively funded and aggressively concentrated efforts on the political right, there is still a high degree of global warming denialism going on out there.  In fact, recent polls in the U.S. indicate that the sudden sharp rise in denial is almost exclusively on the right side of the spectrum, which confirms that for such people the issue is not scientific but political.  It’s a familiar enough phenomenon, and it’s the M.O. most conspicuously of Fox News: if the “libruls” are for it, then it is hippy-dippy bullshit that must be shouted down.

The best case scenario (at least for those who understand that science is not a political brickbat to advance the interests of Exxon Mobil) is that we have very little time — measurable in just a handful of years — to reverse trends before the ecosystem tips and the warming process becomes fatally self-sustaining.  The only “debate” here is generated  by the sophistry of shills for the fossil fuel industry who between them cannot produce one piece of scholarship that passes peer review.  This is worth emphasizing: for all of the “debate” as it is characterized by a feckless and complacent mainstream news media (as it may be fairly characterized in the U.S.), there is not one piece of peer reviewed scholarship that denies the fact of anthropogenic climate change.

Again, that’s the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is provided by James Lovelock, author of the Gaia hypothesis.  An outline of his doomsday vision can be found here.  Here’s a brief sample:

This article is the most difficult I have written. . . . My Gaia theory sees the Earth behaving as if it were alive, and clearly anything alive can enjoy good health, or suffer disease. Gaia has made me a planetary physician and I take my profession seriously, and now I, too, have to bring bad news.

The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth’s physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth’s family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

By Lovelock’s estimation, billions may be dead by the end of this century.  But even if he is wrong, the best case scenario confirms what ought to be our worst fears.  We are all Romanovs now.  Everyone is culpable and everyone is vulnerable.

As anyone who knows Frye’s Words with Power is aware, one of the primary concerns Frye identifies is sex and love, and the prophetic manifestation of that concern in literature is represented by the Garden where the generative power of nature and the recreative power of the human imagination are identified.  Its social vision is pastoral rather than competitive, and it is evocative of the Christian apocalyptic vision of the Book of Revelation in which nature in its present state falls away to reveal a city-garden at the end of time where God and humanity are one.  The point of course is that this is not an “event” that will “occur in the future.”  The apocalypse, according to Frye (following Blake), is potential in every moment in every one of us.  As that nice Jewish rabbi Yeshua once observed, “the kingdom of heaven is within you.”  In our current fallen state, our power to act in the name of love is the first power we deny, and our loveless rape of an “objective” nature from which we somehow consider ourselves distinct and independent is a delusion that will soon overtake us if we cannot push aside the veil of denial and see where we really are.

As Frye rather ominously put it, “primary concerns must become primary, or else.”

This is not a “partisan” issue — except insofar as partisans make it one with greed, cowardice, and lies.  Canada’s failure to live up to its legally binding commitments to the Kyoto Protocol, for example, falls into that category.