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Deep Adaptation

Climate Breakdown is without a doubt the biggest challenge we will face in the coming decades, and what we do here at Feun Foo is always to some extend influenced and informed by the difficulties yet to come. Our generation will see the face of this world change drastically, we will experience a crisis unlike anything our species has gone through in all of our 3-million-year history, and the world our children will inherit will be nothing like the world we grew up in. Adapting to Climate Breakdown is a topic that recently gained immense traction, due to report after report, analysis after analysis, forecast after forecast, and study after study painting an ever more dire picture. A growing number of alarmed people ask themselves: What should we do in the face of the apocalypse?

Well, since we obviously can’t stop it (to do that we should have listened to the environmentalists decades ago), the next best thing is to adapt.

Deep Adaptation is a term coined by Professor Jem Bendell in his paper “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” which he wrote after an extensive review of the latest research on anthropogenic Climate Breakdown.

The basic premises of the paper are that Climate Breakdown is already out of control (if we ever really had any “control” over the climate) and therefore unstoppable, and that the best thing we can do now is not to waste our time talking about alleged “solutions”, but to try to adapt as good as possible to the uncertain times coming at us at breakneck speed. This is a similar point of view as the one expressed by Jonathan Franzen in his phenomenal New Yorker opinion piece “What if we stopped pretending?”.

Bendell thinks that the complete collapse of civilization and the lifestyle we know is likely within only 10 years time (an estimate we agree with) and that human extinction in the longer term is a possibility (which we think likely, too).

Although the average scientific paper is read by only about three people, Bendell’s paper was downloaded over half a million times, breaking records as more and more people from all over the world become interested in and start understanding the dire situation we’re in.

The key points of Deep Adaptation, the Deep Adaptation Agenda, are what Bendell has called the three R’s: Resilience, Relinquishment, and Restoration. In the paper he sums their goals up as follows: Resilience asks us “how do we keep what we really want to keep?” Relinquishment asks us “what do we need to let go of in order to not make matters worse?” Restoration asks us “what can we bring back to help us with the coming difficulties and tragedies?” In an essay on his website Bendell added a fourth R that he calls Reconciliation (which asks us “with what and whom can we make peace with to lessen suffering?”), which can be summarized as going through a personal process where one arrives at a state of hope and vision despite imminent societal collapse.

Even before we heard about Deep Adaptation’s 4 R’s (which we of course happily add to our own agenda), we had our own “9 R’s” as a response to the crisis we’re facing, which we explained here on our website as follows:

“’Re-wilding’ for us modern humans means re-connecting, re-learning, re-membering, re-versing, re-viving, re-storing, re-habilitating, and re-turning.”

We here at Feun Foo have thought about the imminence of the collapse of global civilization for quite some time, and talked and wrote about it long before Bendell’s paper was published. For years, all our actions have been motivated at least to some extend by the thought of what we will go through in the following decades. We prepare as good as we can, and we try to learn how to adapt to a world that has been thrown out of balance.

Since we started this project partly as a response to imminent societal collapse and widespread ecological devastation, and because of the lack of attractive alternative responses apart from empty talk of so-called “Sustainable” Development and greenwashed techno-fixes, we’ll go through the four R’s and describe how we approach each one.

But before, we need to make clear that we don’t pretend to hold “the solution to all our problems”. We are young, relatively unexperienced, and often proceed by trial and error. Of course we know that all our efforts might turn out to be futile, and we even try to prepare for that. It might be that an antibiotic-resistant disease wipes us out before we harvest the first durian we planted ourselves. Maybe a drought kills most of our trees before we acquire the necessary skills to live a nomadic life, and maybe a forest fire consumes our life’s work. Or perhaps angry mobs of armed and hungry city people ransack the countryside and someone reveals our remote location.  But in any of those worst-case scenarios, we can comfort us by saying that at the very least we really tried – and we had an amazing time while doing that!

 

Resilience

‘Resilience’ of human societies [is] the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances so as to survive with valued norms and behaviours.

This is perhaps the most important point for us, and one of our main focuses here. Our responses are very diverse, and range from studying stable ecosystems and imitating them using permacultural methods, over primitive skills, to more controversial things like basic firearm safety. While resilience in the concept of Deep Adaptation has a larger focus on the individual (“norms and behaviors”), we approach resilience from a material and environmental perspective as well (defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or disruptions”), since without a resilient environment and food supply, norms and behaviors will cease to exist together with the people who hold and exhibit them. Food systems resilience, for instance, is crucial to survival during and after severe disruptions. If your food and water supply is resilient enough, you have the basic necessities to continue thinking about social resilience. From our perspective, we think that the process of creating a resilient environment pretty much automatically leads to good and resilient norms (like Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and Permaculture Principles) and behaviors (respect and reverence for all manifestations and essentials of Life, and a focus on egalitarianism and cooperation), since we consider the healing of the land and the healing of the spirit one and the same process.

One of the first things to fall victim to an increasingly unstable climate will be industrial-scale, grain-based monoculture farming. First in rain-fed areas, and soon after in irrigated fields as well, as we squeeze the last bit out of the aquifers below us and retreating continental glaciers lead to decreased water flow in major rivers. Then other domesticated crops will follow, and as resource scarcity increasingly disrupts bisuness-as-usual in the agricultural sector (think of phosphorus) and fossil fuels either become too expensive (due to depletion) or get outlawed (due to concerns about environmental impacts – which is arguably a lot less likely), how we will obtain food is going to be a major challenge. This will perhaps even affect people who depend on supermarkets (who usually don’t produce anything essential to human survival) more than small-scale subsistence farmers (who know how to take care of themselves). We at Feun Foo prepare by increasing our knowledge of wild edible plants, selecting drought-tolerant varieties of cultivated plants (cassava instead of rice, cucamelons instead of cucumbers, wild mangoes instead of grafted cultivars) and practicing foraging in more stable and less drought-prone ecosystems such as the forest next to our garden, which we try to imitate.

This leads us to the next point: Imitating resilient ecosystems. During the El Niño of 2016, when we ran out of water at our last project and for the first time felt the existential fear that will become common all over the world in the years to come, many of our rare banana cultivars died of thirst (a terrifying sight and a devastating feeling, watching them die and knowing that there is nothing you can do), and fruit trees in the village died by the hundreds.

Our pond (or what was left of it) during the dry season of 2016

Yet when we took a walk through the forest we didn’t find a single tree that died or even severely suffered. This shows that the places that will be ravaged first are the artificial ones, neat rows of grafted trees and golf-course-lawn, irrigated daily by sprinkler systems and gasoline-powered pumps, and fertilized with nitrogen salts made from fossil gas. The natural systems are, although still prone to forest fires, generally more resilient. It is obvious that this is the best direction to aim at. We are creating a “Food Jungle” that includes wild and native species that benefit the entire ecosystem, not only us, and the greatest mixture of species possible, since forests with high biodiversity are more resilient.

The next point is to learn how to trap and hunt – when plant foods become scarce during a long drought, even hardliner vegetarians will have no other choice lest they starve. This includes insects, which already make up a good part of seasonal protein in our diet and will without a doubt be a common dietary constituent in the future. We practice archery – as opposed to hunting with guns, since bullets will be impossible to manufacture yourself, hard to find, expensive to trade for, and usually in the possession of people you don’t want to have anything to do with once the system crashes. Traps for catching small or large game are not difficult to build yourself, with materials readily available in most environments.

Learning how to start a fire without matches or lighter is another existential thing that people who don’t learn it in time will hate themselves for having missed out on. Homo “sapiens” is the only animal species that depends on fire, which can easily be seen as a pathetic weakness instead of a strength – what does a bird or a bear think about our constant need to stay warm and prepare food by gathering and burning dead parts of vegetation? It sure seems crazy to an outsider! While open fires are to be handled with the utmost care in an increasingly dry environment, there are many methods to start a fire that will come in handy once the store shelves are empty. Further, we have to remember that hoarding of lighters and other gadgets will only help for so long, and all you do is buy time before having to face the underlying problem anyway. Because of this, learning the technique of flint knapping, sewing, tanning, and weaving, might be useful too, if not for us (there will be plenty of scrap metal and old clothes for a few centuries) then for our distant descendants – skills to be passed down through the generations.

The last and arguably most controversial aspect that we consider essential for resilience is to learn how to use a firearm. Not that we necessarily like guns, or think they are particularly useful or even essential. But the chances that one is better off when knowing how to load, aim and fire a gun increase drastically once “law and order” break down during a major societal disruption. It doesn’t matter if we “like” guns or not when there’s scores of people out there who do. They will not give up on using guns voluntarily, so it might come in handy to have one (or at least know how to use one), too. Dogmatic pacifism is a self-defeating ideology in a world littered with guns and crazy people.

It might be that Bendell’s formulation and his focus on “valued norms and behaviors” hints at rather distressing practices that have been observed during and immediately after the collapse of larger societies, such as rape, murder, and cannibalism. If those can be avoided conpletely remains highly questionable, but we can prepare for us and our communities so that we can respond to such threats accordingly. Cannibalism is a natural response of larger groups to starvation (not only of humans, but of some other animal species as well), and has happened after the collapse of many past societies, such as the Anasazi or the Easter Islanders. To avoid cannibalism, food systems resilience is crucial.

As for rape and murder, it might come in handy to know how to defend yourself against violent outsiders. Contrary to the common pacifist argument that “if you kill a murderer you’re not better than him”, stopping a violent person by any means necessary is crucial to the security of the community and is a practice relatively common among indigenous people. The Lisu of Southeast Asia’s mountains are known to kill headmen and village leaders who become too aggressive, oppressive, or are otherwise considered a danger to the group (without becoming oppressive and violent chiefs themselves in the process).

While after the cataclysm there will definitely be less violence than Hollywood wants us to believe (to convince us do anything to continue with business as usual) – after all, we are a species that survived and thrived because of cooperation – there are those who deny this basic feat of human Nature, and violence will happen until they have killed each other off or are otherwise stopped.

Basic self-defense is another thing that is as useful to know as basic first aid in the uncertain times after a severe disruption to the system. Knowing that you can protect yourself and your community reduces anxiety a lot, and practicing with friends and family can even be a good deal of fun. There are very effective ways to fend off an attacker much larger than yourself, and to deal with people armed with knives or other weapons. There is no shortage of instruction videos and guide books on the internet.

All in all, resilience takes many forms for us, and each one is equally important and potentiates synergistically with all others. It’s better to be prepared for the worst than to hope that things will not turn out too bad.

 

Relinquishment

‘Relinquishment’ […] involves people and communities letting go of certain assets, behaviours and beliefs where retaining them could make matters worse.

The most obvious thing that we collectively need to get rid of as soon as possible is the underlying fundamental mindset that eventually caused the mess we’re in right now: Anthropocentrism (more precisely called “human supremacism”).  Ever since people started planting all the crops they eat and domesticating animals they used to hunt, all other animals and plants became silent – meaning that agricultural people mostly stopped communicating with their fellow living beings (what animistic indigenous societies still do) and started to talk instead to (a) sky god(s) that act as an intermediary between people and their environment. Daniel Quinn compared anthropocentrism to Hitler’s idea of the superiority of the “Aryan race” in his phenomenal and eye-opening book ‘Ishmael’:

“The people of your culture cling with fanatical tenacity to the specialness of man. They want desperately to perceive a vast gulf between man and the rest of creation. This mythology of human superiority justifies their doing whatever they please with the world, just the way Hitler’s mythology of Aryan superiority justified his doing whatever he pleased with Europe. But in the end this mythology is not deeply satisfying. The Takers [civilized people] are a profoundly lonely people. The world for them is enemy territory, and they live in it like an army of occupation, alienated and isolated by their extraordinary specialness.”

As long as we are under the illusion that humans are the “apex of creation”, have a special status and are “better” than other animals, nothing will change. We have to re-discover that we are just one species among many in a vast interconnected network of living beings, and that we are subject to the same universal laws governing all life.

The harmful reductionist worldview that started to take over with the so-called “enlightenment” and the “scientific” “revolution”, which cursed us with the persistent myth of “Nature as a Machine” (the human supremacists’ favorite explanation of the world), and, eventually, humanism – the religion that worships the human – are just symptoms of the (artificial and imaginary) division between humans and Nature that started when people settled down and started building cities.

The rise of agriculture as a subsistence mode enabled (through surplus) the rise of larger settlements (and larger population densities), elites (and concomitantly hierarchies) and eventually civilization itself. What most people don’t realize is that, to have a chance in the future, we will have to get rid of cities and, in fact, civilization itself, too.

Civilizations emerge from and are characterized by the emergence and expansion of cities (from the Latin word “civis“; inhabitant of a city) and can therefore under no circumstances ever be sustainable, since cities require large imports of resources (with force, if necessary) and deplete their environments in the process. Civilizations wage wars against each other (before civilization there was no organized warfare), and every civilization (including our own) is based on and would be impossible to maintain without slavery. Taxes an tithes (formerly paid in grain, now in – mostly digital – money) are mandatory to sustain the parasitic elites and upper classes who do non-essential work. Large scale agriculture is essential to feed all those who don’t produce their own food.

Especially when a wildly fluctuating climate makes agriculture increasingly difficult, it will be utterly impossible to sustain cities.

A city is a permanent settlement of humans where more humans live than their immediate environment can support. Cities are inherently and by definition unsustainable and destructive – they require massive external inputs just to keep going and to fuel their (inevitable) endless expansion. It is absolutely impossible to design a “sustainable city”, and even more so to convert an existing city into one. To achieve this, all materials the city requires would need to be locally sourced and processed. Since not all cities have many natural deposits (of iron, aluminum, copper, silicon and a number of REM’s needed to build the technology required to keep such an unnaturally large settlement running) in their immediate environment, talking about sustainability of cities is laughable – no city was ever sustainable, and none will ever be. Even more ridiculous is to think about how those cities would obtain food in a “sustainable” fashion (without utilizing technology that can’t be produced without inflicting severe damage to several ecosystems). The acreage of organic farms needed to sustain city dwellers would automatically convert any urban area into a rural area.

Relinquishment in the social sense means to oppose cities (and concomitantly civilizations) and the destructive and wasteful urban lifestyle they make possible and encourage.

Relinquishment has a meaning in the material sense as well. What we need to get rid of are machines, especially those requiring fossil fuels and other non-sustainable forms of energy, no matter how “green”(-washed). We always say that the only truly sustainable form of energy for humans comes in form of calories, and that’s what we should utilize.

The extraction and processing of metal ore was what razed the forests of Greece and Italy, and (together with irrigated agriculture) what turned the (formerly) Fertile Crescent from a vast and dense cedar forest into a desert. As Derrick Jensen succinctly put it, “the only sustainable level of technology is the Stone Age”. Any effort to build more machines and acquire the energy to fuel them will exacerbate our already grim situation. If anything, we will have to learn how to do without machines, since the ones we might still be able to use after the cataclysm are likely to break after a few years and can’t be repaired without mines, smelters, factories, and global infrastructure (which in turn is virtually impossible without fossil energy) to produce replacement parts or the tools needed to repair them.

The future will be silent, without the last screams of agony of fossilized ancient trees being burned in combustion engines.

 

 

Restoration

‘Restoration’ […] involves people and communities rediscovering attitudes and approaches to life and organisation that our hydrocarbon-fuelled civilisation eroded.

This is another one of our main focuses. We like to think that the best teachers for this step are trees: they responded immediately to increased carbon levels in the atmosphere and did whatever is in their power to slow down the warming of the planet. It has been known for years that trees respond to an increase in CO2 concentration by growing more vigorously and therefore sequestering more carbon (pulling it out of the atmosphere and storing it in their bodies). Reductionist science views this as a purely technical, automated response: atmospheric CO2 increases, plant growth speeds up.

We here at Feun Foo practice a more holistic and wholesome view, one inspired by animistic indigenous societies, and therefore we think that the trees sensed the increase in atmospheric carbon, and actively, knowingly, and intentionally responded by speeding up the process of photosynthesis.

Darwin already knew that a plants’ senses are sophisticated enough to grow towards a light source imperceptible to the human eye in complete darkness. The emerging field of Plant Neurology produced convincing evidence that trees and other plants continually and consciously scan their environment for a variety of factors (light intensity and direction, time of the day, water and nutrient availability, wind direction and strength, possible obstructions above- and underground, danger through herbivores and insects, sounds and other forms of vibration, gravity, other plants around them, etc.) and respond accordingly. Trees are known to communicate over considerable distances using a network of mycorrhizal fungi dubbed the “Plant Internet”, and it has been shown in several experiments that plants have a memory. Further research has shown that mother trees can differentiate between kin and non-kin, and they nurture their own offspring.

If we would go one step further (which we do, even without “scientific evidence”), we might assume that they even have a collective memory and that memory is passed down through generations of trees – just as it is the case with primitive societies who transmit stories orally over many millennia. Since trees live their lives on much slower timescales, that memory could reach back to times when the atmospheric composition was different, maybe with similar levels of CO2 as today. If trees remember this, and also remember what those elevated levels of CO2 did to the biosphere, they would consider it in their own best interest to try everything to keep the climate stable, since they can’t be sure if they would survive in an increasingly hot and dry world.

But animistic speculation aside – fact is, trees responded immediately and tried their best to mitigate and balance out, which is something that we can’t say of modern, civilized humans. Their response has been, overall, sobering. Most people just continued to do what they did before, and the few who tried to make a difference (like us here) had no chance against the advertising-fuelled temptations of techno-industrial consumer capitalism.

Anyway, if trees work so diligently to mitigate the damage we have caused, it should be our sole duty to cater to their every need and make sure that there are legions of new trees doing what we can’t: stabilizing the climate. This is where we come into play. We are developing a way of natural living we have termed Primitive Permaculture, a horticultural technique based on permaculture ethics and inspired by indigenous societies all over the planet, whose aim is to recreate the forests lost to agriculture and concomitantly civilization, and to re-learn to live in, with, and from them. We have concrete plans to restore parts of the Nature Reserve next to our land, which was devastated by a forest fire 15 years ago that left only the largest trees standing, and has been overgrown by running bamboo ever since.

Rewilding (of landscapes) was one of the examples given in the original Deep Adaptation paper, and we consider the rewilding of ourselves one and the same process – two sides of the same coin, both of equal importance. While our garden slowly turns into a jungle, we have enough time to adapt to it, learn from it, and become a functioning part of it.

 

 

Reconciliation

Reconciliation is a deeply spiritual aspect of our personal interpretation of Deep Adaptation. We know that whatever we humans do, we will not be able to eliminate Life. Something, someone will continue, and it will likely be much more than we think. Professor of Quaternary Science Simon Lewis, who studied how severe disruptions to the ecosystem play out on geological timescales, wrote in ‘The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene’ that natural processes will remove the excess carbon from the atmosphere, “probably in around 100,000 years”. This is bad news for humans, since it is highly questionable if we will be around for that long (the chances are slim) – but good news for Life.

We have good reason to think optimistically: there are two examples from (relatively) recent history that hint at what needs to be done.

One is the so-called Orbis Spike, a short but noticeable dip in atmospheric carbon dioxide captured in the Antarctic ice core around the year 1610. The Orbis Spike (from the Latin ‘orbis’: world) can be contributed to one of the most famous destroyer of a world (and consequently the creator of a new one): Christopher Columbus. When he and his men arrived in the “New” World, they carried smallpox and other diseases that quickly spread over the whole continent, killing over 50 million people in a matter of a few years (an probably millions more got killed by the Spanish invaders). Many of the societies affected were horticultural or even agricultural ones, and the following gradual conversion of farmland back to forest was what caused this spike. The newly emerging trees sucked up so much carbon from the atmosphere that this led to a temporary cooling of the planet. This was the last time the climate cooled down before the anthropogenic exponential warming period began whose consequences we now start feeling in our everyday lives. Of course, carbon levels quickly went up again as new settlers arrived, clearcut the forests, and started farming themselves, but the lesson the Orbis Spike holds is important. Luckily for us, we could achieve something similar without epidemic disease and the death of 90 percent of the population. All we have to do is convert monoculture farmlands to forests and learn to live with and in them, on an unprecedented scale.

The other reason to be optimistic is what happened after the collapse of the USSR: about 110 million acres of farmland were abandoned, and started to rewild. Forest succession slowly converted the barren land, which started to fix more and more carbon. New estimates show that this abandoned farmland soaks up about 50 million tons (!) of carbon every year (that’s 0.05 Gt C — almost equal to the amount of the combined biomass of all humans on Earth), ever since it first fell fallow in 1990. To put this number into a broader context: that’s about 10 per cent of Russia’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions. This is remarkable, Jonathan Sanderman, soil chemist at CSIRO Land and Water in Australia, points out, since “most nations are only committed to 5 per cent reduction targets. So by doing absolutely nothing — by having depressed their economy — they’ve achieved quite a bit [emphasis added].” He also considers abandoned farmland the largest human-made carbon sink (!).

What’s holding Nature back from unleashing her full healing power is techno-industrial civilization, and the sooner this abomination goes down, the better. Once the engines stop and the lights go out for the last time, our Great Mother will breathe a deep sigh of relief (literally – CO2 in, and O2 out), and do what she does best. As long as the system that is destroying the planet doesn’t continue for much longer, there are even good chances for humanity to survive for a little longer – although definitely not all 7.5 billion of us. But the few people who remember what humans did when the climate was unstable in the deep past of our species, together with the remaining primitive societies living a natural life in more or less intact ecosystems, will have the best chances. In the distant past, bands of humans survived through strictly enforced egalitarianism to avoid senseless violence and infighting, a nomadic lifestyle as foragers to adapt to climatic fluctuations and move where the food is, and a small-to-nonexistent material culture without any concept of ownership and private property beyond a few basic tools one carries around at all times. This lifestyle worked for 3 million years (for us humans), and continues to work where the dominant culture hasn’t yet gotten around to exterminate the dangerous “savages” that show that there’s an attractive alternative to life-devouring mass society and exemplify that a lifestyle in harmony with one’s surroundings is not only a way to survive, but much better, freer, healthier and more sustainable than anything our civilization has come up with so far.

We at Feun Foo try to reconstruct and revive this ancient lifestyle, in a way ideally suited for people without much experience in primitive skills and outdoor living (“children of civilization” like ourselves) – the natural social organization, mode of subsistence and way of life for humans (like whales live in pods, wolves in packs, bees in hives, ants in colonies, birds in flocks, fish in schools, and elephants in herds, humans naturally live in tribes), and likely our only chance if we want to continue as a species on this planet.

After all, it is not humanity that’s the problem – it is merely one single culture, one that started in ancient Mesopotamia and spread to almost (!) every corner of the planet. Call it globalization, consumerism, capitalism, industrialism, civilization, whatever you like. Fact is, no matter where you go, you find that the people agree on certain fundamental assumptions. Sure, what we call “different cultures” do exhibit some differences – but those are merely superficial: the language, food, style of clothing, or the music they listen to (although even those things become increasingly standardized due to globalization). Whether Germany, Thailand, the US, China, India, Pakistan, North- or South Korea, Somalia, Sudan or Rwanda, virtually all people unanimously agree that there is a fundamental difference between “humans” and “Nature”, they are all trying to get money to pay for things they don’t produce themselves or they think they need, they all fell victim to false promises of progress and development, they all exhibit the same faith in technology, and they all treat the world as if it is their property and their god-given right to exploit it. Some more and others less, of course, but the underlying trend is the same.

Yet there are still a few fundamentally different cultures, who have not lost their ‘humanimality’ yet: indigenous societies that still continue to thrive where our culture hasn’t yet gotten around to exterminate them. The lands they inhabit harbor some 80 percent (!!!) of global biodiversity (although they make up less than 5 percent of the world population). They did not commit the absolute and ultimate self-defeating stupidity that overshaodws all our culture’s so-called “achievements”: they did not pollute the air they breathe, they did not foul the water they drink, and they did not poison the food they eat.

We always have to remember that all this is not humanity’s fault. There is nothing wrong with us as a species. It is one single culture that (surprisingly) took off, spun completely out of control, and is about to learn a hard lesson from this long series of mistakes. Primitive societies on the other hand show not only that humans can live lives in harmony with their environment, but that this life is what let’s us humans thrive – it is what we were made for, through three million years of evolution.

And, last but not least, Reconciliation means coming to terms with Death. It means contemplating mortality and the impermanence of the Universe – and seeing beauty and purpose in it. Death is an ineluctable part of – and a prerequisite for – Life, and without it the would be no such thing as Life. Death and Life surround us at all times, and we as gardeners experience both firsthand on every single day of our lives. Other beings give their lives so that we may live, so when it is our turn we shall give our life so that other beings may live. Plants and animals nurture us, and we nurture them, grasses die to feed the trees that we mulch it with, plants feed plants, plants feed animals, animals feed animals, and animals feed plants – everything eats and is eaten at one point or another.

Daniel Quinn, in his awe-inspiring book ‘The Story of B’, told a heartwarming story about how the Ihalmiut, an Inuit tribe that lives almost exclusively of deer meat, would explain Life to their children:

“We know you look at us and call us men and women, but this is only our appearance, for we’re not men and women, we’re deer. The flesh that grows on our bones is the flesh of deer, for it’s made from the flesh of the deer we’ve eaten. The eyes that move in our heads are the eyes of deer, and we look at the world in their stead and see what they might have seen. The fire of life that once burned in the deer now burns in us, and we live their lives and walk in their tracks across the hand of god. This is why we’re the People of the Deer. The deer aren’t our prey or our possessions – they’re us. They’re us at one point in the cycle of life and we’re them at another point in the cycle. The deer are twice your parents, for your mother and father are deer, and the deer that gave you  its life today was mother and father to you as well, since you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that deer.”

This Fire of Life can never be extinguished. If humanity, one wick that carries this light among millions of others, flickers and goes out one day, it will enable myriad other creatures to carry it on.

The Fire of Life – energy – is with in us and every other living being we share this wonderful planet-wide ecosystem with. It was here long before us and it will be here long after we’re gone. Even without life, energy will prevail, and will in time make new life possible, somewhen, somewhere. The atoms and molecules that make up our bodies are the same atoms and molecules that travelled through the Universe since the dawn of time, and they will be a part of this Universe for infinity, forming new expressions of the Universe’s creativity.

The entire Universe is nothing but the constant recycling of energy, and life on our planet is but a miniscule part of it. Wherever this journey will lead we don’t know, and it is not up to us to figure it out.

Reconciliation means accepting our fate, even if that fate means that all of humanity goes extinct. Every species has their time, their one chance, and every species has to make way for something else in time. We can’t escape this fate, so it does no good – and doesn’t change anything – to feel bad about it.

It means accepting smallness and insignificance, and finding solace in the bigger picture, seeing a higher purpose. It means letting go, acknowledging that we are not in control, and never were. It means living in the moment, and realizing that our entire lives, those of all generations, of all species, are but one fleeting moment in the eyes of the Universe. There is something much bigger and much more important going on than our absurd little human dasein that we ascribe so much importance to.

Once we open our hearts to this truth, we will see that there is no reason to be afraid.

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