Does It Matter That the Amazon is on Fire?
A philosophical perspective on what might (or might not) be the beginning of our end
This is a terrifying topic to approach, as it is so emotionally entangled for so many people, that I wonder if it’s possible to have an objective, philosophical, and theoretical discussion about it. But I’m going to try, as I believe it’s a crucial part of the discussion that is currently missing, exactly because it’s such a touchy subject. Being able to discuss the very things about the current state of the globe that scare us, among them our potential demise as a celestial planet, reduces the fear of the unknown that is currently blocking us from being able to make any real change.
The Amazon is on Fire — that’s what social and conventional media has been reporting. People are grieving, people are terrified about the repercussions, funds are being raised, alarm bells are being rung. But there are a few questions that have come up for me that felt inappropriate to ask. So much so, that I avoided the topic altogether, including self-reflection. I believe these questions attempt to observe the phenomenon (both the actual fires and our reaction to it) from a general theory of consciousness, and they are important to consider because they point out the very things we tend to be blind to, that hinder us from being to see reality as it is.
What is actually happening?
Is the Amazon more on fire than it usually is? This is a really hard question to answer, and I’ve been making decent effort to do so. The internet has evolved to a place where it’s almost impossible to easily find reliable, unbiased fact about the situation at hand. Even reliable sources and experts on the matter disagree on exactly what is going on and how much worse it actually is when statistically compared to previous years.
So instead let’s break it down and consider the two possible answers to this question, and see where they lead us.
Let’s assume for a second that it’s not as bad as it looks. If it’s a relatively average, within normal range thing to be occurring — then what’s happening on a consciousness level is that the only drastic change is our globally emotional reaction to the fires. And that in and of itself is a fascinating thing to consider. Some theories of consciousness argue that in order to awaken to our suffering, we need to have “suffered enough”. The theory explains that we are the sources of our own suffering, and that if we can awaken to the suffering we are causing ourselves, we can let go and stop the cycle. It’s not the only theory of consciousness and awakening, but it might be relevant to this scenario. Have we “had enough”? Has our existential grief over the state of our planet surpassed in severity what is actually happening to our planet? And if that is the case — if we are “overreacting” — does that mean it’s possible to stop what has felt like inevitable extinction? Have we “suffered enough” to wake up to the suffering we ourselves are causing (both in being directly responsible for the state of the planet, and in being directly responsible for our emotional reaction to the state of our planet)? And the reason that this direction of thinking is interesting, is because it raises the question — is there time to make a difference? If our grief is disproportionate to the actual state of the planet, then maybe the state of the planet is salvageable. And that direction of thinking should then be directed towards environmental researchers who can tell us what to do in order to save the planet.
But now let’s assume for a second that it is as bad as it looks, and here’s where the uncomfortable questions really start to surface. The question that arises is very simply — is there anything we should be doing about it? There’s another theory of consciousness that explains that everything around us (people, animals, plants, and non-living things) are all individual expressions of consciousness. And that all that is happening in the universe, is that consciousness is learning about itself, or experiencing itself, through us. When each of us learns something new, or heals from something, the level of universal consciousness is being raised. Now, let’s apply this theory to the idea that the Amazon really is experiencing irreversible damage that could lead to global catastrophe. We would be nearing the most profound death that our planet (and maybe our universe) has ever experienced. This world will cease to exist as we know it (that’s not to say the planet will inevitably die, nature knows how to regenerate, but it won’t be recognizable to the earth we live on now). Then you could also argue that that’s simply the next step in raising the universal level of consciousness (not to be confused with the global level of human awareness). Consciousness experiences death in order to be reborn. We let go of the old in order to welcome in the new. Not only do we see this happening repeatedly in our personal lives, but also on a global level (see also: dinosaur extinction and the Ice Age). So trying to prolong that death isn’t only counterproductive, it’s impossible. The universe (or earth, or humanity), will reach a point when we have suffered enough to wake up from our suffering. Collectively, singularly, and at once. According to this theory of consciousness, that awakening will first inevitably require a very profound and all-encompassing death of everything, that will eventually lead to a rebirth that has most likely left us humans behind. And there are two reasons that thought scares us so much. Firstly, because we think we’re so important that if we humans aren’t around, it’s not worth being around. And secondly because we’re so unsure of what the other side of that death looks like that it’s too terrifying for us to imagine. So we do everything in our power to prolong it.
But what’s interesting to see about this whole line of thinking, is how hard it is to admit to ourselves that we can’t surrender to that possible outcome. We can’t even consider it as an option. Humanity can’t handle being alright with the fact that life as we know it might be nearing its end. We won’t even consider it as a possibility. Not the idea itself of demise, but of surrendering to it. Why is that? Why is it that we are so attached to our own importance, that we can’t fathom sitting back and letting it all happen? We throw countless resources (energetic/emotional and/or physical/financial) into either saving the planet or finding a new rock in space to occupy, when we forget that there’s a third option — just go extinct. Or more accurately — “roll with the punches”, whether we end up going extinct in our lifetimes or not. Because if we are capable of feeling that acceptance, would that mean we can be free from the fear itself of global death? The thing that incites our current emotional state isn’t the fact that the planet is nearing its end, but rather our fear over that potential outcome. That’s an important distinction to make. The reality is that our planet is still at a place right now where the majority of those reading this piece know where their next meal is coming from, and have a safe warm place to lay their heads tonight. The thing that is fueling the panic, is the fear itself of demise. Now facing that possibility of demise wouldn’t mean we want to die right now, it would just mean we live in peace and acceptance of the fact that it is a possible outcome. It’s important to note that the grief we feel over the abysmal diagnosis of our planet is attached to the idea that we matter, that the world as we know it matters, and even that the universe matters. But what if none of it matters? What would that mean? What would that look and feel like? Can we handle that level of freedom? Letting go of the fear of our own demise would create a completely new and mystifying freedom in our lives. We would be free to imagine all possibilities, and act in their favor. The freedom would be so radical, that it just might be the very thing that does end up saving the planet.