[NOTE: On November 11, 2022, I was honored to speak at the closing reception for MPOWERDANCE Project's year long year long exhibition of MOTHERpeaceMOTHERwar at the Theosophical Society of San Francisco. It was a powerful event featuring dance p, art, music and spoken word. Here are a video recording and transcript of my remarks. - Richard Power]
I was asked to speak about Climate Action and our Planetary Emergency. I have spoken and written a lot on this subject, and we have all been living through it in our own ways.
The first two deadlines are the U.S. federal elections in 2022 and 2024, but we’re not going to go into any of that here tonight. The third of the three is kind of an arbitrary one that I set for the Climate Crisis, for the Climate Emergency, for the threat we face as a species, along with all of the other species that we have endangered with our genius and our foolishness. And that deadline is ten years after the publication of “Secret Engine,” so 2031.
I spent over 20 years trying to scare people about Climate Change, because that was the appropriate thing to do, to try to scare people in power so that they might come to understand what we were trying to tell them. Cassandra. Those with reasons not to listen do not listen. Of course, I was right, we were right, whatever. Now I find myself trying to calm people down. Not to reassure them at all, but to make people feel that there is hope. I am not talking about people in power now, I am talking about people in general, my friends and allies. I am trying to show There is some way forward. We’re talking about thirty or forty years here. It happened. It’s already underway. It’s no longer about trying to stop Climate Change, we are in its throes now, we can see the floods that are more than floods, the droughts that are more than droughts, the fires that are more than fires, the storms that are more than storms. The death of the soil. The places in which the temperature is becoming uninhabitable. The melting poles. The glaciers that feed the Ganges. We can see it all around us. So It’s happening. But there is still a narrow window in which humankind can make some course corrections and mitigate the worst impacts, the worst consequences, of what we have unleashed. So there are in this moment, in the month, in this week, there are encouraging trends in the world, and there haven’t been many times when we could say this. One encouraging development is that the Congress of the United States passed the Biden administration’s massive climate action as part of an even larger piece of legislation that is now law. Hundreds of billions. Desperately needed. Designated for truly meaningful climate action. Now is it enough? Of course it’s not enough. But it’s the most that’s ever been passed, it will be the most that’s ever been spent in the history of the world. It’s a turning point. We’ve gone from “Is Climate Change real?” and “Yes, it is!” to “Are we doing enough?” and “No, we’re not doing enough.” That’s a different conversation. That’s a healthier conversation to have. So that’s a big shift for this country. And at the same time, in the Brazilian elections, Bolisnaro, a huge climate denier and enabler of predatory capitalism in terms of deforesting the Amazon, LOST, and the incoming Lula administration is committed to climate action, and in fact the incoming President Lula is working with the leaders of Indonesia and the Congo, and they’re going to form a “Rainforest OPEC” to leverage their power – because they control most of the rainforest in the world, and those are the lungs of Gaia. They’re going to try to dictate terms rather than the other way around. This is a big shift. These are not insignificant steps forward. And right now in Cairo, COP27 is meeting. Don’t look necessarily for anything much more to come out of all the talking and the speechifying, but just know there is a shift going on in the world, and we are part of that shift. Well, actually, there was one bold, significant stride forward at COP27: “Deal on compensation for climate impacts represents major milestone for climate justice. The 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) has ended with an historic deal to create a new fund, in which countries responsible for high carbon emissions will compensate vulnerable countries suffering from climate impacts” (The Lancet, 12/8/22)
I am laughing because the President stopped by COP27 on his way to the G20, and he said in his speech: “The science is devastatingly clear; we have to make vital progress by the end of this decade. That's why the United States is rallying the world around climate game changers."
So I just want to say that President Biden and I are on the same page, and that the page is from this book, “Secret Engine of the World.”
Because in that speech, he said “by the end of this decade.”
That’s the first time in these DECADES, where I could say any POTUS and I were on the same page literally in terms of the dwindling number of years we have left to make sufficient impact.
Now we’re going to jump to Aristotle. S-Q-U-A-R-E. Both Aristotle and Plato were pretty square. The Pre-Platonic Philosophers (e.g., Heraclitus) and the Neo-Platonists (e.g., Plotinus) were/are much more interesting to me and relevant to our circumstances.
But in Aristotle wrote Poetics in 335 BC and Politics in 350 BC. And they sit there in all of the university libraries. Everyone bows to them. Hardly anyone reads them, of course, or references them, because, well, Aristotle is so square. But they are foundational to the story that western civilization tells about itself, as it goes forward from ancient Greece.
So these two tomes are there at the beginning of the long arc that brought so much - from the Sistine chapel to the Hubble telescope, from Illuminated manuscripts in Irish monasteries to global communications through social media on your iPhone, from Beethoven’s 5th to the life-saving science of vaccines, but this is life, there is both evolution and devolution, so of course the story of these two thousand years also includes pathologies – oligarchy, patriarchy, misogyny, racism, predatory capitalism, authoritarianism, weapons of mass destruction and yes, overshadowing all of them Anthropogenic Climate Disruption. Have you ever heard that term? That’s actually a more accurate, technically precise term than Climate Change or Global Warming. In the sense that humans have done this. Not a volcano, not a comet, not some nonsense about “natural cycles of cooling and warming.” No, no, this was us! We did this. And we didn’t just do this with the burning of fossil fuels, although that’s a huge piece of it – we also did it with deforestation, with overpopulation, and with our appetite for meat mass produced through industrialized agriculture, I would say those are the big four contributing factors.
So here we are. The genius that was unleashed across that long arc has so far outdistanced our sanity and our conscience that we are destroying the very balance, the global climate, that this civilization is predicated upon, by punching holes in it and jacking up the heat. Here we are in this moment. At this crossroads..
In the midst of this must-win ten year stretch.
This is how, in the course of writing the first of these three books, “Wyrds of Power” (actually five books all together in one volume), I coined the phrases “Gaian Poetics” and “Gaian Politics.” OK, Aristotle, step aside, we need new ways to think about our languaging and our governance.
By Gaian Poetics I don't mean writing about the beauty of "Nature" although of course that's wonderful, and a part of it, and always to be done.
By Gaian Politics, I don't mean activism or environmentalism, although of course that's a vital, critical, absolutely essential aspect.
I’m talking about something else. Most important, by Gaian Poetics and Gaian Politics, I mean an internal shift within us, within each of us.
Gaia isn't a goddess whose world this is, She isn’t a statue, She isn’t something we pray to, She isn’t some anthropomorphized “Divine Being” who has rulership over this planet, Gaia IS this planet we are not Gaia’s children, we are Gaia’s cells, we’re not Gaia’s “stewards,” I know they mean well but whenever people start talking about being “stewards” of Nature I get very uncomfortable, because that’s this madness, the human pathologies got started, you are not the “stewards” of anything, you are the cells of one vast planetary being.
The true Oneness is our life within Her, science and shamanism are seeing the same reality now. We are not Gaia’s children, we are not Her stewards, we are a part of her. The planet, Gaia, is alive, sentient, a self-organizing intelligence, we all exist within that being, we are all cells of Her body, every creature, every plant, every stone, every river, the seas, the atmosphere.
Sentience is in some ways the mystery of mysteriesGaia dreams her world-dream. And within her world-dream, she dreams the whales dreaming their world-dreams, and the humans dreaming their world-dreams. Yes, our world-dreams are utterly dependent upon hers, they arise within hers, and they are re-absorbed into hers. Likewise the world-dreams of the tree frogs, the world-dreams of the salmon, the world-dreams of the madrones, the world-dreams of the emeralds. Gaia herself is a sentient being and ALL life on the planet has its existence within her, all life here is composed of her, sustained by her, and reabsorbed into her.This isn’t only a shamanic truth, this is a scientific truth.
“At some future time and place, we'll have grown to a stature where our bodies can be an entire planet and all the humanity the same as the particles within our physical bodies now. We'll know about all that when the life itself is love. Love and life are one.” (Joe Miller, Great Song, p. 53)
He's saying on this arc of human evolution, assuming we don’t go the other way, we can evolve into celestial beings. Meaning not some anthropomorphic goddess or god, no, the actual intelligence of a planet or a star, a different order of intelligence, completely inhuman, incomprehensible to the human mind. We can only project what we know. We evolve into these different realms of intelligence.
I see this view of Joe’s as very relevant to the science of Gaia that is coming out from brilliant thinkers like Stephen Jay Buhner and James Lovelock (as problematic as he can be).
In Plant Intelligence, Buhner writes, “… that the world is alive, intelligent, aware, communicative and filled with soul; that we are not alone; that we are part of something much larger than ourselves; that we are companioned by millions and millions of related life-forms; and that the dead mechanical world we have been taught about in school does not exist and never has.”
Gaia is a divine intelligence, a self-organizing being of divine intelligence. And we are all part of that. This is why the Japanese talk about “forest-bathing.” This is why we feel so renewed when we enter into a true forest. This is like a sorceress stirring a tonic for you to drink, that’s what a forest is. So that’s on the arc for each of us if we go deeper and deeper into the nature of reality.
To deal with our current planetary and national emergencies, we have to tap into our Gaian Poetics and our Gaian Politics. Gaian Poetics is when the words are informed by Her from the inside out, Gaian Politics is when our governance philosophy is informed by Her from the inside out.
What do I mean by Gaian Politics? Well, the “Founding Fathers” modeled the U.S. Constitution selectively on the Iroquois federation’s “Great Law of Peace.” They took a few very good ideas from it, but conveniently left out other very good ideas. It’s time now, way past time really, to embrace more of that wisdom medicine.
For example, it was a matriarchy. Their Senate was composed of the Grandmothers. They could remove the Chief if they didn’t approve of his actions. And in the process of making important governance decisions, they pondered the impacts and consequences seven generations into the future.
Can the governing principles be grounded in altruism? Can our governing principles be grounded in sustainability? Can we be guided by those two overarching imperatives, altruism and sustainability?
I will close with one more reading, this one from “Secret Engine” –
Gaia is a Mistress of Disguises. She has a safe deposit box in the Central Bank of the Cosmos. She has stashed many passports under fabricated identities, from “Tara” to “Zeus” to “Isis” to “Thor.” She has stashed bundles of cash in all the world’s currencies. She has stashed pouches of brilliant diamonds and fat bricks of gold and platinum. This treasure allows her to cross any border and do business in any country. Her true identity is the Earth itself. She is the Divine Intelligence of the planet.All life thriving within the thin sheath of atmosphere she has spun around this globe is hers. We not only “live and move and have our being” in her, our “being” itself is hers, we are her at the cellular level, we are the strands of her hair, the drops of her blood, we are her very embodiment, every tree, ever mountain, every human, every whale, every insect, every mushroom, every cloud, every mongoose, every body of water, every forest, everything and at every order of magnitude, from microcosm to macrocosm, all of this. Hers. Our sentience. The Chi that animates us. All of this is literally her.For those of us in human incarnation, there are many paths. In one sense, there are as many paths as there are beings. The pathless path is the truest, and all of the other paths empty out into it before the end.Life. Not beyond life. Not life after death. Life. This world. Not some other world. Not the next world. This world. But not a dream of this life, not a dream of this world, no, the reality of it all. Here and now. From before and beyond. And always on, ON, and ON …Gaia, Sakti, Lilith, Dark Goddess, Durga Ma, Madonna, Isis, so many names for the Divine Intelligence, revealing herself ceaselessly.To celebrate her, to serve her, embodied as she is in life and the world, this is our true purpose. To feast on her, and be fed to her.This is the pathless path. To alleviate or at least mitigate sufferingTo see clearly what is, to discern the reality of what is, and so live and move FREELY. This is true story of it all. To know her, we must know ourselves. To know ourselves, we must know her …Each atom is a temple of her celebration. Each strand of hair. Each cell. Each leaf. Each drop of rain. Each blossom. Each pool of molten lava. East wasp nest. Each coconut. Each tortoise. Each hunk of amethyst. Each heap of yak dung. Each glacier. Each of the five bodies that constitute every single human incarnation. All are temples in which she is celebrated ceaselessly, simply by being fully and truly ourselves. She is the Divine Intelligence within all of this. And there is a unique architecture for each class of these seemingly infinite temples. To know ourselves is to know her.