Escaping from Escapism

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I have finally figured out why people actually want climate calescence (the great warming) to happen. There is an urge within many of us to want a form of Armageddon to purge all our failings and for everything to start all over again. Our lives have become so full of difficulty that incremental change for the good seems impossibly hard to achieve. To understand our predicament, we need to dig deep into our psyches and past ways of dealing with trauma. We also need to understand what is happening in our lives … right now.

In the past, periods of social upheaval and unrest lead people to yearn for relief and release from that which oppressed them. For example, various religious movements craved for an end of time where all evil and oppression would perish in a glorious moment of change. Even a President of the USA once proclaimed that the end of times would deliver us from evils such as nuclear war. The ‘rapture’ at the end of human time would take us into the promised land. Ronald Reagan, famously declared in 1983:

”I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if – if we’re the generation that’s going to see that come about, I don’t know if you’ve noted any of these prophecies lately, but believe me, they certainly describe the times we’re going through.” (http://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/08/books/the-rapture-and-the-bomb.html?pagewanted=all )

We are going through similar times right now. Not only has the threat of nuclear annihilation returned with the taunts from North Korea, but environmental and social collapse seems imminent and pervasive.

With respect to the environment, a dark global dread hangs over the future and the present is full of tierratrauma and ecoanxiety. The great warming, plastic in the guts of fish and smothering once pristine islands in paradise, sea level rise relentlessly pushing people and land away, violent storms smashing records and houses … we are now living in an age of solastalgia.

The societal aspects of this build up to Armageddon are not even subtle anymore. Millions worldwide suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness, new generations being born with life chances such as good health, jobs and home ownership significantly below those of their parents. Material inequality exists now that has never before seen on Earth with the top eight wealthiest people (men) having more wealth than 50% of the population of the whole world (http://fortune.com/2017/01/16/world-richest-men-income-equality/ ).

Social dysfunction arising from drug addiction is now rampant all over the world where the forces of loneliness, unemployment, homelessness, and powerlessness all combine to create an oppressive social climate that can only be countered by the taking of ‘opium’ by the masses. Included in the quest for ‘opium’ is a self-destructive consumerism that the addicts always know is at the rotten core of the problem.

Many more not so subtle signs and signals of mass social dysfunction are now manifesting themselves. Schools and schooling have become places of intense oppression due to the pressures to conform to a competitive model of academic success. Kids are crumbling under the weight of conformity to an impossibly standardised ‘excellence’. Universities pump out pre-stressed corporate replicants for a world that no longer exists for their ‘skill set’.

Corporate models of ‘success’ are also crippling workers within bureaucracies that have perfected control and surveillance to such a degree that creativity and work satisfaction are snuffed out. Bullying and oppression rule the competitive models of corporate ‘success’. Corrumpalism corrupts. Binge drinking seems like a quick way out of the iron cage only to have the worker put back behind bars every Monday with a cumulative hangover that never ends. Workers in the industrialising world just hope to endure intolerable working conditions and hours at the bench. Many don’t survive the fires and toxic pollution of maximum productivity.

There is much more, but you get my drift, we have created a world that is destroying us as we are destroying it. What a surprise! Many want out and are grasping at anything that makes the journey either smoother or faster. Such escapist thoughts combine to make climate change denial, avoidance and anti-environmentalism integral parts of a neo-millenarian movement that wants the current state of the world to end.

We secretly celebrate record temperatures and climate-related disasters. We actually want the world to fundamentally change. It is no wonder that Christian fundamentalists are so prominent in denial circles. They have read and understood the blueprint for such an apocalypse. It may not, any longer, be a thousand years, but the thinking is the same. When life becomes intolerable and there seems no way out, prayer, salve-ation and desperate hope for a final end so that we might start all over become the easy way out.

The response to oppression just might be a desire to see the oppression come to a grinding or blinding halt. Being involuntarily locked into a complex system they cannot change forces people into escapism. They will want climate calescence because they want a change that fundamentally alters a state of affairs they crave to be out of. Despite the risks of future disaster with the great warming, any big change will be a good one. This changes everything!

Some of the ‘lucky’ people like Elon Musk and Richard Branson might think that have their extra-terrestrial escape plans already in place, yet if they enact them, they will never be able to come home. Their escape will be permanent. As for the rest of us, our Earth is still a place where it is possible for us to create a home worth living in. We need to create and enter the Symbiocene, not desire escape from a suffocating Anthropocene by hoping for the coming disaster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About glennaalbrecht

Farmosopher at The Wallaby Farm, NSW: Glenn Albrecht retired as professor of sustainability at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia in June 2014. He is now an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney. He was at the University of Newcastle as Associate Professor of Environmental Studies until December 2008. He is an environmental philosopher with both theoretical and applied interests in the relationship between ecosystem and human health, broadly defined. He pioneered the research domain of 'psychoterratic' or earth related mental health and emotional conditions with his concept of 'solastalgia' or the lived experience of negative environmental change. Solastalgia has become accepted worldwide as a key concept in understanding the impact of environmental change in academic, creative arts, social impact assessment and legal contexts. Glenn Albrecht’s work is now being used extensively in course readings, new research theses and academic research in many disciplines including geography and environmental studies. His work is also being published in languages other than English. He has publications in the field of animal ethics and has published on the ethics of relocating endangered species in the face of climate change pressures and the ethics of the thoroughbred horse industry worldwide. With Professor Phillip McManus (Sydney University) he has completed a book which was published in 2012 by Routledge on the thoroughbred industry. He also published with Professor McManus on the newly emerging domain of ‘psychoterratic geographies’ (McManus and Albrecht 2013). With colleagues, Nick Higginbotham (University of Newcastle) and Linda Connor (Sydney University) under Australian Research Council Discovery Project grants, he has researched the impact of mining in the Upper Hunter Region of NSW, Australia and the impact of climate change on communities, again in the Hunter Region. He has researched the impact of gas fracking and coal mining on people and communities in the Gloucester region of NSW. Glenn has also been involved as a Chief Investigator in an ARC Discovery Grant Project on the social and ethical aspects of the thoroughbred horse industry worldwide and was a partner investigator on ARC Linkage Grant funded research on the ethics of feral buffalo control in Arnhem Land. He has held an NCCARF grant at Murdoch University to study the likely impact of climate change on water provision in two inland cities (Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie). Glenn Albrecht is also a pioneer of transdisciplinary thinking and, with Higginbotham and Connor, produced a major book on this topic, Health Social Science: A Transdisciplinary and Complexity Perspective with Oxford University Press in 2001. His current major transdisciplinary research interest, the positive and negative psychological, emotional and cultural relationships people have to place and its transformation is one that sees him having a national and international research profile in an emergent field of academic inquiry where he has been recognised as a global pioneer. International citations to his academic works are now increasing annually and reference to his concept of solastalgia in global art and culture is now too extensive to fully document. Glenn now works as an independent academic based in the Hunter Region of NSW. He continues to research and publish in his chosen fields. He is a current grant assessor for Commonwealth Ministry of Arts grant applications and an Honorary Associate in the School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney.
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One Response to Escaping from Escapism

  1. Stevie says:

    This essay reminds me of one I read by Vonnegut in the Nation magazine. I’ll try to find which essay; I have a collection on my Kindle. Anyhow, in the essay, Vonnegut concludes that humans have a death wish. There is no other explanation for our behavior.

    I love reading your work. Thank you!

    Like

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