It’s halfway into January 2019, and we have one year to go. We are collectively reaching the deadline to fulfil the promise to cut Co2 emissions to Zero by 2020. The hope is that this will prevent catastrophic climate change on planet earth. International scientists warned us decades ago that unless we completely cut emissions by 2020, we were set for certain doom. The Paris Treaty was signed in 2015 and 196 Nations agreed to comply. Despite all this, not much has changed except the climate. (Even though some still deny it.)
On my journey to the Karoo for Christmas, I saw the barren starving effects of the devastating drought taking place in the Karoo. The landscape had become a series of dustbowls swept with spinning dust devils and there was hardly any livestock in sight. One wonders how the farmers are surviving. On the family farm, my sister and brother in law drive daily to drop off feed for the cattle, because there is not enough food left in the natural vegetation due to the drought. This is very costly.
Weather patterns are spinning into the extreme all around the world due to an obvious imbalance. Each day, more and more species of beautiful creatures and plants are sent into extinction. Every year summer fires rage, but each year they seem bigger and more destructive.
In the Western Cape, one of the worst fires of 2019 so far (two weeks in) was caused by someone who shot a flare into the air to celebrate the new year! The flare landed on the mountain above Pringle bay setting tinder-dry Fynbos alight. The fire has raged over the Overberg ever since, destroying homes and threatening lives. The smoke from the fire was visible from space. Firefighters were in demand as many more fires ignited simultaneously in the region. (Fingers pointed, arsonists were blamed.) Pylons burned down throwing the town of Hermanus into darkness. The seaside town was evacuated as the fire came over the mountain at breakneck speed and very close to a school, where the children were smoked out and had to leave in a hurry, traumatized.
When my husband Jamie drove into Hermanus that night after performing his music nearby, he entered an eery post-apocalyptic scene. Only security companies patrolled the darkened streets, with their closed up oversized holiday homes. Hermanus has been at the mercy of protest action for months as the townships are bursting and there is a demand for land for more housing. This is the result of the migration trends taking place in Africa: people seeking a better life after oppression from dictatorships and wars, in places like Zimbabwe, poverty became unbearable. One Zimbabwean woman I met in Hermanus told me she walked to South Africa with only her handbag and a bottle of water. They are forced to build tin shacks half way up sand dunes in their desperation for shelter.
Shooting a flare into the air without a care to celebrate the new year, comes from the idea that one is living in a vacuum. It ignores the possibility that everything is connected. Every action has a consequence. It is the ancient divine law of cause and effect. (It is common sense. ) Everything is connected to a larger network. Strange that we have to learn this again.
The earth’s first peoples were very switched on to this, they who live close to the earth, know the signs by watching the weather, watching the behaviour of animals, a sudden change in the bird calls alerted them to a change in their environment. All around the world, the ancient tribal peoples of the earth live in accordance with nature- in reverence for it as a powerful force which holds them accountable for their actions. They respect it and by showing respect to nature, they were able to survive by its fruits. At night they use their intuition to go into the ancestral realm or the field of dreaming when seeking guidance. Too many of the earth’s first peoples around the world have been forced into near extinction. We can learn so much from them. (In Brazil now, the first peoples are in grave danger, due to their environment being destroyed by a greedy government.) . Yet, as Gandhi once said, “There is enough in this world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” It is true that there is much we can do without. A lot of stuff that we own, that we buy, material goods- we possess which end up possessing us, this is greed, not need. This materialistic greed has become a mental illness in Western society, yet it is aspired to as an acceptable cultural norm.
Perhaps too many of us are living convenient lives in convenient boxes, eating from convenient packages, bought in convenience stores on our way back from our convenient workstations in our convenient vehicles, to realize that there is a very inconvenient truth. And that all of this comfort food, paraphernalia and escapism is never going to hit the spot if we don’t face that truth. We have to face the reality we have created.
Shooting a flare into the air and thinking it will just disappear is a similar mentality to tossing a plastic wrapper out of the car window. The trouble with a fiery flare in a hot dry summer is that it may turn into a raging blaze and turn around and bite you. (On the other hand, a plastic wrapper may end up in the food chain and you might find yourself unconsciously biting into it one day in the belly of a fish.)
2019 is high time to realize that we cannot afford not to be living consciously in awareness of our environment. It is not sustainable to be living in a bubble or a virtual reality. There is no screen of separation between us. The separation is an illusion. The screen’s we are hooked on along with our children are keeping us in the illusion. The first peoples watching us living our lives lost in our screens would think we are all mad and dangerously deluded.
Perhaps understanding that there is no separation will help those who make the decisions realize, that if one corrupt government minister signs a deal with China to allow them to fish out every last fish from the sea with their oversized trawlers, there will be no fish left, and the local people will have to find something else to eat, if they can.
Perhaps the realization that there is no separation will help some people understand that new mines in poverty-stricken countries, where people have no voices to protest, will leave no riches, just worse poverty. And when it is done, the only land they had to grow food will be left polluted, and the only physical strength and energy they had to till the soil, will be gone, due to the illness caused by the pollution and the unhealthy mining work, and the earth’s riches, extracted by the mining will be exported somewhere else, leaving the place barren and scarred. This is the tragedy of the commons.
Zimbabwe is one place that is again becoming a victim of such crimes, but they are happening all over Africa, in the jungles of the Congo and the deserts of Namibia, just as the once golden Savanah of Gauteng (Joburg) is now just an urban wasteland. There is even a proposal to extract oil from Lake Malawi. Heaven forbid!
*Heaven knows what it will take for the critical mass of people to realize the catastrophic consequences of these large -scale decisions. Perhaps we are getting closer to the understanding that we are all in it together. Your creed, your colour and your name won’t matter when a raging fire comes down the hill and takes your house, or a landslide, or a tornado. When the sea levels rise, we can’t buy back what was lost, no matter how much financial wealth you have accumulated.
Despite all this, doom and gloom -it does not help to live in fear. ( We are all going to die in the end anyway one way or another and dying might not be such a bad thing after all.) We are up against the wall. We have nothing left to lose. This is our last shot at turning things around for the sake of our children and our grandchildren. So going within and facing our fears and finding the voice of truth and speaking it clearly allows us to walk in beauty. It requires us to become courageous warriors of the light and not to be overwhelmed, we do what we can to live the best lives we can, while we can.
I will always remember the words of my friend Susan (who was known affectionately as Pigeon) as she faced death at the age of 26 due to having full-blown AIDs. “Only when I fully accepted my death, did I really start living.” So let’s face it. There is no time left to remain trapped in fear, anxiety, overwhelm and complacency. It is time to live fearlessly and make each moment count.
( By the way, *Heaven Knows is a song written and performed by my husband Jamie Jupiter on this subject. The music video was shot on the slopes of Houtbay mountain after another devastating Cape fire) . I thought some musical interludes might help lighten the seriousness of the subject matter!