Transcript: Podship Earth Episode 002: MEGA ADVENTURE
JARED BLUMENFELD: Welcome back to Podship Earth. I appreciate your encouragement and support. It's scary to create a narrative from scratch and then make it public. After hitting the launch button on episode one, I felt vulnerable, which tells me I must be on the right track. Last week I didn't get to delve into the headlines because I wanted to give some context to Podship Earth’s mission, so let's make up for lost time. It's not news that corporate polluters are waging an orchestrated war on science and climate change, but what is surprising is how much their propaganda has gained traction. Here's Pat Buchanan.
PAT BUCHANAN: Well, because the science is suggesting that maybe all of this isn't really happening or it's not really dangerous or it's not really man made…
JARED BLUMENFELD: So there you have it. The three basic legs of the climate deniers stool. It isn't happening. It isn't dangerous and it isn't caused by humans. This stool stinks. Before we get behind the headlines and see what's going on with the environment and what we can do about it, I'd like for us to get on the same page this week. We'll look at the facts showing how humans are affecting the climate. The historical record shows that between the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1750 and the end of 2017, human activity added 560 billion metric tons of co2 to the atmosphere. So without industrial pollution, there would be 560 million less tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So humans have added 46 percent more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere than existed before the industrial revolution. Why should we care? Well, because we are engaging in a massive chemistry experiment that we're cooking up royally.
JARED BLUMENFELD: The additional carbon is trapping heat that used to radiate back into space. This is leading to large scale changes in the climate and an overall warming of the planet. Each person in the US, contributes about 17 tons of carbon dioxide per year to the atmosphere. In the UK, that number it’s at six tons. And in India it's at one point five tons. England has a great standard of living. Minus plumbing and dental hygiene, and if they can get to six tons per person per year, so can America. Eventually, that number will have to get closer to two tons per person. There is not a shadow of a doubt that humans are responsible for the current state of our climate. The psychological ramifications of that conclusion are not not easy to digest because for millennia, we believed that our actions could never impact nature. It's not an arrogant conclusion, rather it's human arrogance that has led us to believe that there'll be no consequences for my actions. We can turn this around one conversation at a time, so when you next encounter someone who doesn't believe in climate change, drop some Podship Earth science on them. So now onto this week's news.
NEWS: A new mode of ice loss has been detected in Greenland and enormous chunk of it, roughly 97 square miles in size, broke off the Peterman glacier along the northwestern coast of Greenland. Our planet's climate follows a seesaw pattern of warming and cooling, but a new study says that pattern is being disrupted.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Greenland is cracking up. It's melting much quicker than we previously thought. After the Antarctic, Greenland is the second largest mass of ice in the world, and when it melts, sea levels will go up by 20 feet. We used to think about climate change as a future crisis that might be avoided, but according to a 25-year study just released by the National Academy of Sciences, sea levels aren't steadily rising. They're accelerating. In the most modest scenario, sea levels surge 26 inches by 2100. Greenland lost 1 trillion tons of ice in just four years. Around the planet, the impacts of sea level rise will vary.
NEWS: America's coasts are on the frontline of climate change, rising sea levels and worsening storm surges are taking a toll on us. Shorelines changes are expected to continue and even accelerate.
JARED BLUMENFELD: in the US, seventy percent of those likely to be displaced will be in the South Eastern states, which include Florida and North Carolina, where it's currently illegal for policy makers to design coastal management plans based on predictions of accelerated sea level rise. It's clear that the more we fear what is happening to us, the more we revert into a state of denial and ignorance to help shield us from painful realities. I can empathize with that response, but it will not change the physical realities of climate change. We need to be prepared for the scale of the challenge that we face. And here's an example of such a challenge from a recent addition of the Atlantic, which wrote that “once the ice melts, it could awaken earth’s forgotten pathogens which may be able to survive a gentle thor, and if they do researchers warn, they could re-infect humanity.” Our planet it is turning into a bad sci-fi thriller right in front of our eyes. Actually, the film’s already been made. Here's a clip from the end of “The Day After Tomorrow” where everyone's trying to escape to Mexico. The movie, which was released 14 years ago, is still a must watch.
FILM: The scene that's unfolding here behind me is one of desperation and frustration. People have abandoned their cars, grabbed their belongings, and they are wading across the river illegally.
JARED BLUMENFELD: In climate change discussions, when people talk about adaptation, they mean, how are we going to change infrastructure so that it will survive sea level rise. But in reality, the biggest adaptation is going to involve how we view change itself and how we see our own survival. Environmental groups and government agencies are focusing on how to save the assets of the one percent - airports, billion dollar residential and office towers and financial centers like Wall Street, but let me be very clear. The one percent don't need looking after, they're going to be just fine. No one is looking at how average people will deal with sea level rise. We saw with Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Sandy, and Katrina, that people who needed the help most, received it last or in many cases, never received it at all. In the Podship Earth episodes ahead, we'll hear how people view their lives differently after dealing with the devastation of losing their homes to climate-related disasters like flooding and wild fires. On a slightly sunnier note, I want to share with you the journey that led me to talking with you right now. It began by leaving the noise of the office and the cacophony of the city streets behind me and embarking on a 2600 mile walk in the wilderness. Brenna Sheldon and I met on the Pacific Crest Trail and she is with me today.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Brenna, what was it like on your first day of the PCT, leaving Mexico and the real world behind?
BRENNA: I remember so clearly walking down the trail at 6:00 AM in really bright sunshine the first day and just being totally excited. Just the anticipation and like, I don't know what's coming and I love that I have no idea and it's going to be great. That's all I knew. I think I was so excited at the beginning..
JARED BLUMENFELD: I know I was excited too. I remember that first day really vividly because at camper on the Mexican border, it was super cold that first morning and there was like dewy mist everywhere and beautiful desert flowers and it was stunning, and I just remember thinking, oh my God, I'm doing it.
BRENNA: You know, in society, at least American society, often you meet someone new and like the third thing you ask is what do you do? And on the trail you don't talk about that. Okay, maybe we get sick of talking about gear or food, but those are the things that you talk about. You don't talk about status, where someone comes from, I mean in terms of like work or socioeconomic class, which is really refreshing.
JARED BLUMENFELD: So Brenna, one of the toughest parts for me of suddenly being on the trail was I came… literally three days before I'd been in an office building with the corner office. I was the boss. I had all this ego and stuff invested in who I thought I was. And you get out on the trail, it's like, dude, you're fucking no one. Like it's an incredible equalizer. Actually, it wasn't an equalizer. I was worse in many respects than a lot of people. I didn't have the stamina to begin with. I hadn't hiked 200 miles in the last month. I was coming from an office desk job, but I felt completely like all these things, all these attributes that I held so dearly were no longer part of who I was, and it was really, really shocking.
BRENNA: You're hiking out there and you know, you have tons in common with most people you're around and you have some similar things to talk about and you don't need to know where their last job was or if they had a last job or if they're in school or…
JARED BLUMENFELD: I mean all those artifices of society that we think of as important, like mainly status, power, money, all those things that we're told we should achieve that they are so important to have, mean absolutely nothing on the trail.
BRENNA: Grit and resilience and a good attitude mean a lot on the trail. I've definitely changed my perspective, shifted since I've come back and entered reality again. Because I think that connection with nature, I mean starting with kids, that's when I think about my coworkers or former coworkers or people in my life who really care about the environment. Like they studied it in college, they're working somehow in that field. Yeah, it's their connections with nature in whatever sense, whether it was an urban setting or suburban hiking. That's what makes you passionate about preserving what we have. Grit and resilience.
JARED BLUMENFELD: The other thing just for, for everyone who's listening or how to spread the word about hiking, you don't need a lot of equipment. Most people, I think everyone that I met on the Pacific crest trail, hiked with some kind of sneaker. It wasn't like a $300 leather hiking boot. You don't need special equipment. Actually, the less you have, the better for most hiking. And there's lots of places like Goodwill that you can get really good sleeping bags and REI has a lot of sales. People think, oh, it's gonna be expensive and that's a barrier. I don't want to go and spend more money on equipment that I'm only going to use once a year, but you can do it with a lot less than you think. In future episodes, we'll continue our discussion on the adventures of walking from Mexico to Canada. Thanks Brenda.
JARED BLUMENFELD: After word about our sponsor Thrive Market, I'll introduce you to Johanna Macy, who is an author of more than 18 books on our relationship with nature. Her book titles include “Spiritual Ecology, The Cry of the Earth,” which she wrote with Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Take Not Han, “Greening of the Self, five stories that can change the world,” and her amazing memoir “Widening Circles.”
JARED BLUMENFELD: Joanna Macy has been a radiant beacon of hope and inspiration for decades. She's been on the front lines of the anti-nuclear peace, environment and Justice Movement since the beginning of the 1960s. Joanna has a PHD in comparative religions and is one of the world's leading thinkers on the intersection between psychology, Buddhism, and science. She's lived in India and Africa and was married to the late Fran Macy, a leading force in US Soviet environmental diplomacy. Joanna looks at personal and societal transformation with a view to creating a more sustainable civilization. I just finished her excellent memoir, “Widening Circles,” and would thoroughly recommend you read it. Joanna's Berkeley home is full of light, books, and a deep sense of belonging. Walking through the door, I immediately felt peaceful. Thank you so much for having me today.
JOANNA MACY: Lovely to have you here, Jared.
JARED BLUMENFELD: A lot of people right now, wake up in the mornings, turn on the television, look at their iPhones, and they just have dread. They have fear. They have paralysis. It's difficult for them to even seize the day because they just feel like, what's the point? Trump and his henchmen are doing everything that they can to destroy mother earth. What can I do?
JOANNA MACY: Yes, that's true. It's probably one of the hardest times I can imagine, to open your eyes, open the mind, open the heart to what is happening in and with our species and our planet. So, we walk around numbing ourselves as perfectly natural. You know, we have lives to live and we feel. We're tempted to think that, if I let myself really feel the grief, the disgust, the dismay and the outrage that is there in me, and the fear, well, I wouldn't be able to live my life. I'd be stuck in it forever.
JARED BLUMENFELD: You're right. I mean, being stuck in grief forever is something we can all relate to. It's a coping mechanism we use to avoid confronting our fears. Do you think we need to let ourselves feel in order to move past our fear, anger and despair?
JOANNA MACY: Everything is impermanent and so are our feelings. And if we can speak what we feel, then we're freed from it. Then it makes room for other things. We're not stopping it anymore. Our throats aren’t closed and there's vitality in that. Boy, it’s beautiful to get into, even stomping and shouting, how disgusting and obscene this is, what is happening to our earth and how people are being bought and people are being automated. But then once you're able to do this with folks that you trust, pretty soon you find yourself with love and hilarity because it's pure energy and we've been afraid to let life in.
JARED BLUMENFELD: What would you recommend as a first step on this journey of healing? Can you do this by yourself?
JOANNA MACY: Not by myself. So, it's in community, but you have to have community. Just start maybe start with one or two other people where you can share what you're really feeling. And there are practices for that that we've developed. Let's sit down and talk about how grim we feel. These are just feelings. It's okay to feel that and we watch for what comes with that- the sense of freedom and personal energy and dignity and bonding. We use open sentences. You can take that free sample in open sentences where I say something, and you take it and keep on talking, like when I see what's happening to the natural world, what breaks my heart is…. And then the group or the other person will repeat that and then keep on talking. When I see what's happening to the natural world, what breaks my heart is…
JARED BLUMENFELD: We don't realize that we are part of nature and that nature is part of us.
JOANNA MACY: Yeah. We have to go through our grief for our world because it holds a great treasure, a jewel for us. It's just energy. It's just a feeling. You're only stuck with what you refuse to experience.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Once you're able to move through the despair and grief, what do you encounter on the other side?
JOANNA MACY: Our grief for the world is just one side of the coin and that the other side is, well, I'll have to say the word. It's love. You mourn what you love and by speaking it, I believe that we're in a moment that I sort of imagine around the galaxy or other solar systems that those exoplanets with life and maybe they're evolved enough in order to know what's happening on earth and they're lining up to be here. Please let me just incarnate on earth now. Wow, what a scene. You've got the most terrible institutionalized rapacious forces and then you have bodhisattvas being wakened up. What a time to realize that your planet is alive and intelligent. That's the secret that's been kept, but oh, if I could just be on earth in the early 21st century, oh, wouldn't that be great?
JARED BLUMENFELD: I love the idea that people are lining up to reincarnate on earth to experience this amazing moment, that from our narrow perspective, gives us so much fear for our survival. You've been on an amazing journey, Joanna. You've been a champion of causes from the anti-nuclear movement to battles to protect the environment. You seem to be fighting the dominant culture itself.
JOANNA MACY: I just know that the path that I have walked since the late seventies with this ever evolving work, and it's been a tremendous blessing in my life and fascination, is that we're learning that we need each other and that we are sick and tired of this yoke, this blinders, this gang by the hyper individualism fostered by our culture, the dominant culture for the last 500 years. We've been misshapen and deformed by this competitive individualism and so isolated, so lonely, what James Hellman caused the lonely cowboy ego. We've had it with that deep in our souls. We've had it and we deserve better than that. We ’re made to be alive in Earth, we were made by the earth, we’re a living part of a living earth, and so it opens us up to a whole new experience of being alive.
JARED BLUMENFELD: What does it mean for you right now to be alive on earth?
JOANNA MACY: It means, first of all, gratitude. Even grateful for the uncertainty. There's no way to persuade yourself that it's going to turn out okay. That's just a wish and if it turns out fine and that we can save complex lifeforms on planet earth, wow, that'd be great. Let's try. Let's really try. The yearning for that is in us, but if we don't, it's too bad, but the thing is we're already home. We can't do it by ourselves and we can't even do it with other humans, but with the great intelligence shaped by millennia of evolution, of life, and ever growing exquisite patterns of complexity and beauty, we can do it.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Why do you think we spend so much time and energy trying to distinguish ourselves from the rest of nature to show that we are superior to the natural world? When we know deep down that this is not true. Maybe we worry that by being equal to nature, we will lose our uniqueness, our exceptionalism. You helped me open my eyes to the fact that we are special because we are part of the earth. You described two separate rivers of science and spirituality converging into one great body of water. Tell us what you mean by this.
JOANNA MACY: They're flowing together just as we are here. Each of those rivers is telling us the science and the spirituality that our planet is alive. She is the whole. She is our larger body. We are living members in her and the adventure we have now is learning to experience that, learning to trust that. Gratitude opens the gates very wide to experience that and also being unafraid to be drowned in tears too or scared shitless. You experienced hard times in those hard moments, in the craziness of the human mind on your Pacific Crest trail. I bless that. It must have shaken centuries of habits out of you.
JARED BLUMENFELD: It did. Centuries. I mean, it felt like centuries of calcified craziness that wasn't really me. That was a terrifying part, discovering that these attributes that were so attached to me like barnacles, that they'd become me, that I wasn't able to differentiate my true nature from these add-ons, this conditioning. Whether it was neurotic, or you know, what society thinks I should do or what people at work thought I should do. So yeah, getting rid of those was very powerful. What's been the secret to the fullness, joy and vitality of your amazing life?
JOANNA MACY: “I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one, but I give myself to it.” When I encountered that poem of Rainer Maria Rilke, wow. Sixty years ago, on a snow packed street in Munich, on a book display at a book-sellers, I thought, oh that's me. I guess I'm on a spiritual journey. The second verse goes “I circle around God.” I've been circling for thousands of years and I still don't know – am I a falcon or a storm or a great song? And what humanity is doing right now, the journey it’s on, on planet earth right now, is one mega adventure. I wouldn't miss it for the world. We can't get lost if we're part of her.
JARED BLUMENFELD: Joanna, thank you.
JOANNA MACY: Thank you.
JARED BLUMENFELD: I'm grateful that Joanna and Brenna were able to join us today. Thank you. What I took away from what Joanna shared with us is that we need to confront the pain we feel for the distraction of earth. She wisely counseled that we go through that process of grieving with a supportive group of people rather than alone. I challenge each of you to follow Joanna's advice and answer her open-ended question, “when I see what's happening to the natural world, what breaks my heart is…” Please record your responses to this question and send them to Jared@podshipearth.com. I felt much better off spending an hour with Joanna. Seeing an 88-year-old with so much insight, energy and tenacity was inspiring. As Brenna and I discussed, hiking for a few days or even a few hours, can recharge your batteries and provide a different perspective on life. There are great websites where you can join a group of local hikers to explore walks near you.
A few that I'd recommend are Meetup.com, Latinooutdoors.org, and Thesierraclub.org. If you use camping gear, I'd recommend geartrade.com, gofer. com and gearex.com. You can find all the links at podshipearth.com. Next week we'll talk to the astronomer, Royal Lord Martin Reese about extraterrestrial life, black holes, multiverse theory, whether we are living in a simulation, and how we fit into the universe. Thank you so much for being part of the Podship Earth journey. From the entire Podship Earth crew - editor Rob Spake, producer Nancy Ferranti, executive producer David Kahn, and me, Jared Blumenfeld. Have an excellent week.