I heard two interviews in the last few days with Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. While listening to the Fresh Air interview I was making pizza. And I must have decided—or the part of my brain that can’t process too much scary information decided—that making pizza required all my faculties, because I kept zoning out.
But I did hear that 25 percent of all mammals on the earth are endangered, and 40 percent of amphibians.I did hear that the Great Barrier Reef is on track for full-scale collapse, and that we can expect the oceans to eventually look like “the underwater equivalent of a vacant lot.”
No asteroid is to blame this time. The driver for this extinction wave is humankind.
That’s a heavy load to bear, even if I knew it already. With our tailpipe emissions and our moving from continent to continent and our wildly inventive minds, we are rapidly bringing about the demise of millions of species.
The author makes the point that our impact on other species isn’t (always) intentionally malevolent. It’s the very nature of our speedy brains and dextrous hands. It’s the fact that, as Kolbert says, we don’t have to wait for evolution to create change. We just make a tool. Which makes life difficult for creatures that change at the pace of evolution.
What does this mean? I don’t know. It feels bleak. I like to take the long view, the esoteric/spiritual/energetic view that focuses on evolution of souls, a realm beyond the physical. Still, here on the physical plane, it’s a devastating trajectory.
Self-preservation requires that this knowledge fade in and out of my consciousness. I go about my days, doing what I do, worrying about small things. Then it’s like the moment my dad was diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer. Suddenly all that trivia fades in importance. I’m pierced by pain. A loved one, a loved world, is in jeopardy.
I don’t know what to do or say in the face of such hideous information. Just the fact of the dwindling numbers of monarch butterflies alone makes me want to weep.
I find myself wanting to check email, check Facebook, call a friend, watch the Olympics. To do anything but stay with this knowledge.
I can say that all things happen for a reason and everything is unfolding exactly as it should and we are holding the light whether we know it or not and we were always meant to get to this point—but is all that just a bandaid for unendurable grief and fear?
I wrote the words above last night. Today, I feel different, grateful, open. I took time to sit in love and awareness this morning. It seems the metaphor of a terminal diagnosis fits better than I first realized.
In the face of horrifying news, sometimes there is an opening to the sacred. Suddenly you savor life more than ever. You don’t take anything for granted. You give what you can. You do what you must. Your love expands.