The other day, I received an email from someone who has been invited to speak at a conference about the state of the ocean. To set the tone, it’s a political conference about “protecting our resources and fisheries for those who economically depend on the ocean for a sustainable future”. Note the separation-steeped language: resources, fisheries, economical dependence, sustainability. In other words, this conference is no more than an ego-stroking, conscience-appeasing, money-pit funded by taxpayers designed to ensure the ongoing rape of the ocean. Sure there will be prattle about pollution, climate change and marine protected areas, but only far as the bottom line is concerned.
This is “sustainability” as defined by the industrialized machine.
According to Climate Healers founder, Sailesh Rao, “Compassion for all creation is infinitely sustainable.” This makes sense to me. As far as I’m concerned, everything else is a lie. With the pillaging mindset of homo sapien, a “sustainable” ocean is a crock of shit.
A few pertinent words from the preliminary email are as follows: “I know that you feel the vital importance of the oceans, and sense their imminent collapse. I wondered if you have any more detail on what needs to be done first to save them, if we can? I want to be as spiritual as I dare in this speech. I feel I’ve got a real chance to be courageous, and thereby to set the tone of the conference by inviting others to be courageous too.”
Courage. A word I know well. A word I wear often—even when I’m soaked in the cold sweat of my own fear.
Activist Maggie Kuhn once said, “Dare to stand before those you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” This is the path of the warrior.
In my world, the greatest courage is the willingness to be authentically yourself and speak from the bloodiest depths of your truth. When you love the Earth as I do, you are the Earth and your willingness to speak out overrides your willingness to be nice, to conform, to make friends, or to look the other way.
Simply put, Gaea doesn’t want our culturally conditioned bullshit. She wants our essence. She doesn’t want us to play nice. She wants us to play by her rules. Gaea’s rules support life. They don’t support “sustainable” fishing, “humane” slaughter, “grass-fed” beef, “free-range” pigs, “cage-free” chickens, “responsible” forestry, “conscious” consumption, “eco” this, “green” that, or any of the other semantic lies we tell ourselves to appease the guilt-ridden conscience birthed from our separation psychosis.
My reply was as follows:
“The short answer to your “can we save the ocean” question: the ocean doesn’t need saving.
The ocean doesn’t need us and never has. The Earth doesn’t need us either for that matter. The ocean is doing what it needs to do to adapt to the destructive ways of homo sapien. Case in point, see the photos below. The photo with the blue ocean was taken in the summer of 2014. The photo with the green ocean was taken a few days ago. This is my front yard. It has been determined that this is an “unprecedented” (language being used a lot these days) phytoplankton/algae bloom caused by ocean acidification and deoxygenation. Since this photo was taken, the bloom has spread and is more vibrant in color. It can be seen from space. This is a deeply disturbing problem and the only conversations I hear are how “pretty” the water color is. My partner released a powerful post that is worth the read.
Sechelt Inlet, summer 2014
Sechelt Inlet, summer 2016
The problem with “saving” the ocean is that “saving” implies superiority and separation. And really, what would we be “saving” it for anyways? Continued plundering, pollution and exploitation?
Aside from my premonitions (which are playing out much faster than anticipated), there are too many markers indicating a runaway train of ocean/planetary collapse. With everything humanity has done to the ocean, the chemistry of the water has been altered beyond repair. In other words, the ocean is very, very sick. I’m bold enough to say terminally ill—certainly as far as life as we know it is concerned.
Sure we can blather on about heroic attempts to “save” the ocean, but do we have the collective will to stop the arrogance of cruise ship vacations, thus ending the entitlement, dirty emissions and ruthless dumping practices; to stop transporting cheap shit from Asia, thus drastically reducing consumption, planned obsolescence and tanker pollution; to stop using the crack cocaine of industrial civilization—oil, thus preventing future spills and the desecration of the Earth; to stop using nuclear power, thus ending the insane dumping of radioactive waste; to stop using plastic, thus preventing its eternal scourge from choking out life in the sea; to stop using indoor plumbing; thus preventing the ignorant dumping of billions of liters of raw sewage; to stop using fertilizers and pesticides, thus preventing the poisonous runoff that contributes to acidification; to stop mining, logging, fracking, mountain-top removal, and Earth rape, thus ending the chemical runoff from these dirty, destructive industries; to stop eating meat, eggs and dairy, thus ending the nutrient spills that create ocean dead zones, deoxygenation and untold suffering; to stop consuming aquatic life, thus ending the rapacious massacre and allowing life to recover from our arrogant plundering. This is only the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg. Unless the global addiction to industrial civilization comes to an abrupt halt, all attempts to “save” the ocean are guaranteed to fail. Sadly, I don’t see any indication of anyone with the will to forsake business-as-usual, and so we will continue to add to the problems exponentially faster than they can ever be remedied. As a result, we will pay dearly with a dead ocean, and therefore, a dead planet. As Sylvia Earle says, “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” So the question about “saving the ocean” is a moot point. It’s not about saving the ocean, it’s about waking up. And we’re so far from an awakening that it seems absurd to even mention.
Let’s also not forget the accelerated arctic sea ice melt that is exposing horrifying amounts of ocean methane from lack of albedo. This is a whole other problem that makes everything else look like child’s play.
I could go on, but the gloom gets monotonous.
James Lovelock said that we may have had a chance of turning this ship around if we acted collectively in the 1960’s. Instead, we’ve bred ourselves out of control with the same consciousness that is now more deeply entrenched in the collective psyche. This means more than twice the global population with no collective will to change. There’s also the 40 year lag-time between behavior and outcome to consider which means that we’re only now experiencing the repercussions of our collective behaviors and actions from the 1970’s. Nothing more to add there.
So the ocean doesn’t need saving. It never has. The Earth is adapting to the hallmark of our society: willful ignorance. We are the ones who will not be able to adapt however. The only entity that has ever required saving is homo sapien. If we were courageous enough to evolve beyond our cultural conditioning, the planet would never, ever be in the state of collapse we’re currently experiencing. Personally, I’m not worried about the Earth or the ocean. I’m heartbroken about what we’ve done to the many living beings who wanted no part of the human story of separation however. While the fires, flooding, droughts, heat waves, ice melt, permafrost melt, superstorms, ocean deoxygenation, acidification, warming, etc. are Gaea’s way of adapting to human ignorance, this new climate doesn’t bode well for animals, plants or humanity.
Again, I stress, Gaea doesn’t need us to save her. She never has. She has always needed us to save ourselves from the conditioning that removed us from the soul of who we are.
If I were invited to speak on that stage, I would say things that nobody would want to hear. I would firmly, yet kindly inform people that we are in a planetary hospice situation. I would be the compassionate nurse who would no longer lie to the dying patient or feed her false hope. I would liberate her so that she could live and love fully to the end. The only revision to this scenario is that the nurse (me) is also in hospice. This makes for a role that requires the greatest courage ever.
The one thing that few are willing to say is that it’s too late. By not speaking this truth, we carry on with business-as-usual and live in delusion and denial rather than love and grace.
Powerful questions empower the recipient to reach their own conclusion. By asking the question, “What if it’s simply too late?”, you leave it up to the audience to figure it out. I personally believe that everybody knows on a subconscious level anyways. We just need courageous people to give us permission to stop pretending otherwise.”
For the next week, there was nothing but silence. This is a typical response to my sharing of deep truth. Today however, a reply arrived.
A condensed version of the reply is as follows: “I really agree with what you’re saying, but at the same time, I’m not going to be able to say that. My speech is specifically to be energizing and bold to get the conference off on the right footing. Sure, I can say whatever I want to say once I actually get up there, but I don’t think anybody is going to thank me for demoralizing people right at the start of the conference. I totally get what James Lovelock is saying, and I agree. But I don’t want to totally squish morale when there are people in the room who could really do something to make a difference, even though you and I both know that anything is going to be too little, too late.”
First of all, nobody in that room really gives a damn—the talk is for the old boys club. One needs to simply look at the state of the world to see how well the old boys have managed things. Secondly, every time we bridge a sentence with the word, “but”, it negates everything that precedes it (notice how many “buts” were in this short paragraph). Thirdly, whatever happened to, “I feel I’ve got a real chance to be courageous, and thereby to set the tone of the conference by inviting others to be courageous too.” How is feeding false hope courageous? How is lying helping the Earth? Why is despair a bad thing?
In our deepest heartbreak we remember our connection to the Earth and we’re finally motivated to act in ways that serve rather than deplete. As author and sacred activist Andrew Harvey says, “If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”
Why is this so fucking hard to understand?
It may seem like I’m picking on the author of the fateful email that inspired this post, but I see it differently. I see it as a metaphor for how the bulk of humanity chooses to live in the world, that is, willing to go only so far before denial and fear close in on their hearts.
When I read between the lines, I see the email response from many angles. Most obvious is the need to please. Although my words were acknowledged, they were also negated in favor of the status quo. This implores me to then ask, what is this person’s truth?
Elizabeth Kubler Ross realized the 5-stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This email response is a typical example of bargaining peppered with a hefty dose of denial and fear. Bargaining is about negotiating one’s way out of painful or uncomfortable situations. In other words, if this person placates the boys club with false hope and inspirational drivel rather than “demoralize” them with truth, they may well be motivated to use their almighty powers to save the ocean so that all will be well again for life on Earth.
How deeply, deeply delusional and sad.
This person has the opportunity to make a difference—if not for the audience, for their own soul. Instead of stroking egos and conforming to the status quo, this person could actually inspire people to stop, take notice and choose a different course of action—a course of action that is authentic and that honors the ocean rather than placates the people responsible for ensuring that business-as-usual carries on. Rather than choosing the path of the warrior, the well-worn path of the wimp has been chosen and Gaea is once again negated. This is not courage, this is a wasted opportunity fueled by conformity, bargaining, denial and fear. As psychologist Rollo May says “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”
Sadly, this wimp-out is not uncommon. How often do we say or do things to not “rock the boat”, or to be “nice”, or to be popular or to be liked? How often do we compromise our truths at the expense of our souls?
Inside every one of us exists two heartbeats. The one that sustains us in the physicality of our everyday experience, and the one that pounds with the truth inside—from the essence of our soul—with the love that connects us to the web of life and each other. When we say yes to this heartbeat, we say yes to life, love, truth, and courage. We say yes to the courage to be fully alive right now in the face of impossible odds.
True courage takes every ounce of inner strength to cultivate and maintain. It’s the courage that inspires us to walk away from the rules imposed by our families, friends, authority figures, religion, and culture. It’s the courage that implores us to stand up, live out loud and follow our own internal cues. It’s the courage that exposes our vulnerabilities and brings our shadows into the light to be healed into wholeness. True courage allows grief to swallow us whole and spit us back out with a renewed passion for life.
True courage activates our love for the Earth in ways that say fuck you to culture, fuck you to playing nice, and fuck you if you don’t like my truth. True courage ignites a passion for Gaea that puts your soul on the line by speaking out boldly despite the comotose ignorance of the status quo. True courage energizes you to love, act, choose, and behave in ways that align with life even if it makes no difference…regardless of outcome. True courage is the path of the spirit-driven activist…the warrior of truth…the status quo crusher.
When I refer to courage, I speak of the courage at the very core of who we are—our deepest core essence. The pure essential courage that lives permanently in our hearts as a testament to who we authentically are. The courage that isn’t sustained by external validation or the ego gratification of culturally defined success, results, degrees, titles, fanfare, awards, or recognition.
I’m talking about the courage to be 100% authentically yourself.
This is the courage that connects us to the web of life and reminds us that we are not separate—that when we honor Gaea, we honor ourselves. It is the courage of a true leader whose fearless willingness to speak truth trumps all else.
When we claim the truth that lives in our hearts, we claim the courage to be our purest self in a culture that demands we conform to its dysfunctional standards. We demolish the status quo: we become mavericks, trailblazers, warriors for the human spirit…and for Gaea.
Courage emerges the moment we no longer choose to conform to what others expect from us and when we no longer choose to be a victim to the circumstances in our lives. When we claim this inner power, we can do anything.
I believe that the essence of courage is the capacity to fully trust ourselves without the need for external validation. It’s about trusting ourselves from the inside out so that we don’t need repetitive external recognition to validate who we are.
Courage is the external manifestation of an internal state that comes from a place of deep trust. The greatest courage is the courage to be authentically yourself by saying yes to yourself and then following through.
I feel there is no need to further engage with the email conversation that spawned this post. I spoke my truth. It fell on deaf ears and so be it. Gaea doesn’t want for us to fight to be right. She wants for us to trust ourselves, speak our truth, say yes to life and follow through—even when our voices shake.
Now more than ever, Gaea wants for us to cut the bullshit and speak out as if our lives depend on it. Because they do.