Growing up, Falling in Love

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The AP story on military maneuvers in the Arctic reads like the gleeful report of a mugging.

“To the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts.”

Wow, what fun — a new playground, with maybe 90 billion barrels waiting for corporate exploitation beneath the melting ice cap, 30 percent of the world’s untapped natural gas, and all sorts of minerals, diamonds, gold, copper, zinc and so much more. And the world’s armed forces get to play war games. Boys will be boys!

The first insanity here is that this is how major news is reported, as the sophomoric reduction of a terrifying global wound to a spectacle of pop culture, with military leaders portrayed as independent actors, taking it on themselves to prepare for inevitable war in or over the Arctic Circle, which is, thanks to global warming, now open for business.

There’s not the least pause in the breathless verbiage to reflect on the possible implications of climate change. There’s no attempt to widen the perspective of the story beyond the military-industrial competitive frenzy to exploit suddenly available resources. There’s no feint toward the future — just more of the same, nationalism and capitalism, flowing mindlessly to the Arctic like chemicals in a Petri dish. The message here seems to be: This is the final phase of human evolution, folks, so let’s make the most of it.

We haven’t developed a popular media yet that’s interested in or capable of reaching toward the bigger story in its global reportage. It’s stuck in the futility of zero-sum geopolitics. But it strikes me that now may be the time to expand our horizons.

For instance, a report issued two years ago by the Arctic Governance Project, notes: “Climate change is a reality rather than a future prospect in the Arctic. Serious impacts are occurring already; more are expected. These impacts take such diverse forms as the thinning and receding of sea ice; melting of glaciers, ice sheets and permafrost; altering of snow conditions; intensifying storm surges and coastal erosion; and declining populations of migratory animals.

“Some adaptive measures will take place entirely within the confines of national jurisdictions and be handled through domestic programs,” the report continues, then makes this small and obvious, yet stunning, observation: “But political and legal boundaries do not shape the impacts of climate change.”

What’s happening to our planet — to the womb and sustainer of all life, including our own — is bigger than the organizational structure we have thus far managed to achieve, and the first, if not the worst, mistake we can commit in response to the environmental crisis now unmistakably manifesting around us in so many ways is to stay trapped within our self-created boundaries. Enough small thought! “Political and legal boundaries do not shape the impacts of climate change.”

We have to begin thinking and organizing ourselves beyond the arbitrary constraints of nations and beyond our current, resource-devouring economic system. We have to imagine a global culture that doesn’t pit humanity against nature or itself and transcends the diminished goal of individual or national dominance, which sees success only as something measurable if there’s a loser.

You might say it’s time to grow up.

“So far, we humans have been children in relationship to earth,” writes Charles Eisenstein in his remarkable book Sacred Economics. He traces our growth process over the millennia, culminating in modern times:

“We had our adolescent growth spurt with industry, and on the mental plane entered through Cartesian science the extreme of separation, the fully developed ego and hyperrationality of the young teenager who, like humanity in the Age of Science, completes the stage of cognitive development known as ‘formal operations,’ consisting of the manipulation of abstractions. But as the extreme of yang contains the birth of yin, so does the extreme of separation contain the seed of what comes next: reunion.

“In adolescence,” Eisenstein writes, “we fall in love, and our world of perfect reason and perfect selfishness falls apart as the self expands to include the beloved within its bounds.”

The Associated Press is still writing about our perfect adolescent selfishness, but as the global systems in which we live change in utterly unpredictable ways, we have no choice but to expand our thinking to embrace the unfathomable . . . and this is what love is, though the word itself is inadequate to describe the opening in our psyches that must occur, and is occurring.

We must fall in love with the Earth — the living, sacred planet, this “dynamic system,” in the words of the Bolivian legislation acknowledging its rights, “made up of the undivided community of all living beings, who are all interconnected, interdependent and complementary, sharing a common destiny.”

This is the future — the only future we have.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at or visit his website at