Sneak Peek: Climate
We’re thrilled to give you an exclusive sneak peek at one of our most anticipated titles of the year: Charles Eisenstein’s Climate—A New Story. Flipping the script on climate change, Eisenstein makes a case for a wholesale reimagining of the framing, tactics, and goals we employ in our journey to heal from ecological destruction.
Climate details how the quantification of the natural world leads to a lack of integration and our “fight” mentality. The natural and the material world—the rivers, forests, and creatures—are sacred and valuable in their own right, not simply for carbon credits or preventing the extinction of one species versus another. Freeing ourselves from a war mentality and seeing the bigger picture of how everything from prison reform to saving the whales can contribute to our planetary ecological health, we resist reflexive postures of solution and blame and reach toward the deep place where commitment lives.
At bottom, carbon arithmetic, even when extended beyond fossil fuel combustion to value the sequestration contributions of fish, grass, and trees, values things for the numbers they generate and not for themselves. Whether we value something for the profits it will bring or for the carbon it will offset, we are still instrumentalizing and objectifying it. The next step is inevitably to exploit and degrade it. Whether we do it to nature or to human beings, the results are ultimately monstrous, even if the initial intention is benign.
I just looked up “biodiversity loss” on Google, and the number two result was, “How does biodiversity loss affect me and everyone else?” Essentially that webpage answered the question, “Why should I care?” with, “Because our health and livelihood are threatened.”
Herein lies a problem: that answer also implies that if your health and livelihood are not threatened, then you needn’t care. So, are they threatened? I think yes, but someone who subscribes to the story of technological utopia might say no. He might say that we will invent substitutes for everything the biosphere provides: synthetic food, artificially maintained atmosphere inside bubble cities, and so forth. Moreover, even if you intellectually accept that biodiversity loss threatens human wellbeing, there is little in our lived experience to confirm it, since modern life so thoroughly insulates us from nature. How is your health right now? How is your livelihood? If you are sick and broke, can you honestly say that the extinction of the Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat or the Rabb’s treefrog had anything to do with it?
Sure, the savvy systems theorist might be able to construct an argument in which biodiversity loss is connected to being sick and broke: the exploitation of nature and of human beings go hand in hand. Few of us, though, seriously think that saving the Yangtze finless porpoise is going to help with the next rent payment.
To be sure, there are environmental issues like fisheries collapse and climate change which bear direct, measurable costs to human welfare. But when we make those costs the centerpiece of environmental protection arguments, we validate the assumption, which I doubt anyone but an economist truly believes, that we do, can, and should make decisions according to some kind of rational cost-benefit analysis.
Because we do not, these arguments have little persuasive force.
Because we cannot, by thinking we can we enter a self-serving delusion that only counts what we choose to count, is visible to our measurements, and seems worthy of counting.
Because we should not, monstrous sacrifices result from those things left out.