I updated recently to believe that things are extremely bad. Global social collapse is underway. Significant breakdown of civilization is likely to occur within the next five to ten years. This means mass starvation, mass migration, war, and possibly even the extinction of humanity. No one will be safe, this collapse endangers and threatens everyone.
I’m embarrassed that I came to accept this realization so late. I’ve been hearing this message for a while now from multiple sources. My meditation teacher, Soryu Forall, for years has been talking about the 6th Mass Extinction and the dangers of humanity via nuclear warfare, global warming, artificial AI, and so on. For the longest time, I brushed it aside as hyperbole.
All of this changed recently through a conversation with my friend, Daniel, host of the Emerge podcast and former resident here. He sent me this academic article: Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. It’s a bit dry at 21 pages and ~1.5 hours to read but well worth the time. I’ve read through it twice and had a reading session with everyone at the Monastic Academy. If it’s too difficult, an easier article is New UN Report Warns of Impending Catastrophe as World Warms, Glaciers Melt.
The basic view is that we, as a species, have passed the point of no-return. Unless every major country in the world suddenly takes drastic and immediate actions such as increasing wild lands for carbon sequestration, eliminating (not merely reducing) carbon pollution, and reshaping our agriculture, we won’t prevent global warming. We won’t make it through the next ten years and still have the same quality of lifestyle. Even with those changes, our world’s oceans are already screwed. The meltdown of the Arctic Shelf, the acidification of the world’s oceans, and significant methane release into the atmosphere will cause extreme climate changes. These changes will make coastal cities inhabitable (think Hurricane Katrina), lead to significant food shortages (think Dust Bowl), and likely lead to starvation, drought, and war. The already significant death and extinction of animals and insects across the past few decades means our very ecosystem for survival is being threatened. This is not a prophesy. It’s already happening. People are talking about it increasingly more and more. And no major government or corporation are doing anything close to enough about it.
So, at this point, it’s not realistic to believe we can prevent disaster but but rather we will need a significant deep adaption to respond to the disaster. We need a different approach to our lifestyle, culture, and values going forward. Our cultural fixation on technological solutions to solve the next crisis or separating into small bunkers is not a feasible step.
Reading the Deep Adaptation article completely re-oriented my life. While I knew many dangers faced us including global warming, nuclear war, and dangerous AI. I didn’t realize we were already in the danger zone and perhaps even past it. Any naive fantasy of leaving the monastery to live a “normal” life and hoping others would handle the problem was taken from me. The question now is how would I feel if in 5-10 years, I see the results of this disaster unfolding for billions of people including my loved ones, and I did not dedicate enough of my life to proactively doing something about it?
The planet is in danger. Everyone on the planet including the animals, insects, waters, and yes, humans are at the risk of extinction.
Perhaps, I’m wrong. And, if so, that would be a blessing. But, the scientists and politicians are increasingly saying otherwise.
If there’s any solace it’s that I hope this catalysts people to wake up to what’s happening. Social media, consumerism, and so much of daily life has become an opiate of the masses. So many of us continue living unsatisfying lives seeking meaning in all the wrong places. Now, we have a truly real and tangible threat to all of us. Perhaps, this will ignite a new age of heroes. I hope people dedicate their lives to this cause so that the next generation of children have a hope to live in an even more beautiful world than our’s today. It’s clear that our existing society is already sick anyway. I like to believe that this challenge while filled with sadness and grief, it can also be a new source of connection, joy, and purpose.
I’m not sure what to do next. I do think our monastic training and culture is more important than ever. In many ways, I would say the monastery already embodies a major piece of what’s needed next. We are a strong community based in truth and compassion for all things. We carry a very small footprint in consumption, waste, or pollution. We live a life of relinquishment to rediscover unconditional joy and fulfillment. We live a life of service. We strive for a life of continual growth and ethical development. We learn to let go of fixed beliefs and perspectives so we can update from the world and see other people’s perspectives. We train on how to work with those we disagree with. We are able to face physical discomfort, mental confusion, and feelings of overwhelm without burning out. We face our own death so that we can truly live for others and ourselves. We find a source of life happiness beyond materialism, beyond our beliefs, beyond our lives.
I’m not sure what’s next. But I’ve radically shifted my view since reading this article. More than ever, I’m dedicated as a metamodern bodhisattva monk to awakening and service for the sake of all beings and life.
I made a vow to myself in our solo retreat earlier this year. It seems more relevant than ever. Until evidence says otherwise, I vow to live a life of awakening and service. I shall not take permanent housing, comfortable career, or create a biological family as my goals. I choose homelessness, choose service, choose everyone.
State of the Collapse on Emerge podcast
Anything by Daniel Schmachtenberger or Jordan Greenhall
Anything by Professor Jem Bendell
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
The End of the World Podcast
Image taken from History.com, Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images.