My team and I at Sustainable Futures North have a new publication on energy security in the rural North. It offers an interesting discussion, I think, on how we think about the challenges that 'progress' have locked us into over time, and what potential there is for replacing vulnerabilities with strategies for resilience and sustainability.
My work has been inspired by Daniel Quinn in many ways. Today, I have a new essay at Ensia, in which I argue that it's time for a new story of humanity. This essay is my take on what I think is one of the most important messages in Quinn's various books.
In "The Story of B", the main protagonist, known for much of the novel as only "B", tells an audience to whom he is lecturing that he has good news: "We are not humanity," He says, "Can you feel the liberation in those words? Try them out. Go ahead. Just whisper them to yourselves: We . . . are not . . . humanity."
To me, this is the most powerful message in the book. It is his statement of why recognizing and rejecting the Great Forgetting is so important. B continues,
If we are humanity, then all the terrible things we say about ourselves are true of humanity itself — and that would be very bad news. If we are humanity, then all our destructiveness belongs not to one misguided culture but to humanity itself. And if we are humanity, then the fact that our culture is doomed means that humanity itself is doomed. And if we are humanity, then the fact that our culture is the enemy of life on this planet means that humanity itself is the enemy of life on this planet.
If you want to change what people do, Quinn often opines, you have to change how they think. Hopefully this essay nudges a few minds in a slightly different direction,.
“Remember when your father showed you how to make a blade? He showed you with the soft rock, because it is easier. Only later did you learn to make them with the hard stone from the hills to the north. If you had both to choose from, which would you choose? Surely the latter. But what if you had to walk a day for the harder stone, while the soft rock already lay at your feet?”
Whether there is anything 'good' about the Anthropocene, now or in the future, is a difficult question. A year ago I would have argued an unequivocal no, but six months ago my wife and I had a baby nearly 3 months premature. She's thriving, but without modern medicine she likely wouldn't have made it through the night. I think that's a good thing.