Some would say the future of our blue planet is uncertain. I disagree. The planet - in several millennia - will be just fine. The future of our species however, is a totally different matter. Regardless of whether you sit on the more conservative or more apocalyptic end of the global warming spectrum, it is without doubt that the future of our civilisation as it stands (with its addiction on fossil fuels, it’s out of control emissions on carbon, and the increasing prevalence of human caused climate disasters) is going to radically change.
How effectively society will reorganise itself is up for debate, but in the short term future things are going to become more challenging. For sure you’ve heard of the risk of food shortage (European crop yields dropped drastically in 2018 due to drought and diminishing soil quality), the destruction of vast coastal cities due to sea level rise, and the high likelihood of increased political and military tensions against this backdrop. But how do we as yoga practitioners move forward?
As temperatures rise, both literally and in terms of opinion and personality, we need to draw closer together now more than ever before. From a global political view it appears we are more divided than ever. How then can yoga, as a technology of union and connection, be used for greater social and political good? This is a question I have been asking myself daily for a long, long time now. The solutions to the biggest problems are uncertain - geo-engineering coupled with austerity measures and levels of social-mobilisation not seen since WWII- appear improbable (at least for now). In addition, the effectiveness of their impacts fall across an unpredictable spectrum. It’s hard to know what to do and if it will work. But what we can change and influence positively are the immediate circle of people around us.
If we want to live in a world of peace and safety, where our fundamental needs are met then we have got to pull together. It starts with you. Every interaction, every conversation, every phone call, every email (yes even the ones to your boss) have to be offered from a place of inclusion, empathy and patience. Why? It’s simple: if we can’t hold ourselves together and support each other now, then we have absolutely no chance as the impacts of climate change intensify over coming years.
Imagine a time when food becomes increasingly expensive due to rapidly diminishing crop yields, where the number of people living below the poverty line increases, and where intensifying anger and frustration by a widening sphere of a politically divided public results in a destabilised government that is unable to respond or protect its citizens effectively. It’s easy to paint a picture of reverting to a sort of medieval feudalism. Tensions will increase, communities will fracture. We have to start thinking about these things now and preparing ourselves for lives of increasing discomfort and challenge. We are a social species, our success (and over-success) has depended on our ability to remain cohesive as groups. We need to use our yoga and meditation practice to cultivate awareness, mindfulness and compassion in order to prepare us for the increasing challenges ahead.
If this all sounds a bit doomsday and apocalyptic - then good. That, to my understanding is the reality. In his influential paper “This civilisation is finished: So what is to be done?”, academic and Green campaigner Dr Rupert Read writes, “If you're not heart-sad about what's happening, and if you're not afraid in the context of the kind of things I'm saying and reminding us of, then you're not paying attention”.
We must pay attention, and we must start drawing closer together in all our interactions. They are the training ground to ensure we maintain cohesiveness, union, and ultimately the higher outcomes of yoga as we move forward in this rapidly escalating crisis.
We would like to thank the fantastic James Rafael for scribing this brilliant and important article for us. For more about James, click here
We would like to give credit to the New Scientist and Green Monday for the images used in this article