Note: ooops! Somehow I managed to publish Part 2 of this series before Part 1, which is not the traditional way of doing things. Here is Part 1. Apologies!!
We are doing the final edits on my Pacific book pending my Feb 1st deadline, and as the writers’ saying goes, I am having to kill some of my darlings – those sections that I was particularly fond of, but for whatever reason don’t fit with the narrative arc of the book.
This hurts me. Rather than see my poor darlings lying dead on the cutting room floor, I would prefer to see them reincarnated as blog posts, where they can at least live on in the ether. So over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing some excerpts from the forthcoming book, “Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific”, to be published on October 15th this year by Hay House. If you’d like to make sure you are notified as soon as the book is available for pre-order, please send me an email via the contact form on this website and I will add you to a mailing list.
Here we go with Part 1….
Although I have spent cumulatively nearly a year of my life alone at sea, taken around three and a half million oarstrokes, and rowed over eleven thousand miles, rowing across oceans has not conferred on me any mystical revelations regarding the human condition. So what gives me the right to deliver my opinions on how to save the world?
Good question, and of course you are free to heed or ignore what I have to say. I am not a scientist, or an economist, or a politician, nor any kind of expert or guru. My only source of authority is that during all that time at sea, I have had more time than most to contemplate our predicament and ponder what we can do about it. I have had a number of moments of insight, and believe that some of them are relevant to our environmental challenges. As Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Concern over our future is what got me into ocean rowing in the first place, and remains my driving motivation. I am a passionately concerned individual who wants to do what she can to issue a loud and clear wake-up call to anybody who does not realize how high the stakes are, or, if they do recognize it, imagines that there is nothing they can do about it. We can all do something about it. In fact, we have to.
Anybody who has ears to hear and eyes to see, a mind that thinks and a heart that feels – and maybe a television or an internet connection – knows that we are facing unprecedented challenges. We need no more than the evidence of our own senses to see that our current way of life is unsustainable, and the testimony of our own hearts to know that we, all of us, need to take responsibility for our future.
The way I see it, we are privileged to live at this exciting stage in human history. Many different possible versions of our future lie before us. At one end of the spectrum we have a sustainable future living in harmony with our planet, while at the other end we have a slash-and-burn future in which we gorge ourselves on earth’s natural resources until they are all used up – and, of course, a huge range of options in between. In the slash-and-burn version of our future, not only will the Earth’s resources be exhausted, but the rate at which we have consumed them will have inflicted long-term damage on the fragile ecosphere on which we depend for life. If the scientists are right, this damage could be so severe that our continued existence may be at best uncomfortable, and at worst impossible. We are faced with the very real possibility of extinction at our own hands.
For me personally – and I take the state of the planet very personally – I fully expect to see significant changes within my lifetime. I already have. I was born just before the end of 1967. In that year we had 322 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. There were 3.5 billion people on the planet. As I write this, at the age of 45 in 2013, we have close to 390 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, and there are nearly 7 billion people on the planet. By the time I am nearing the end of my life, aged 82 in 2050, who knows? 43 years ago scientists would not have predicted our current situation. From where we are now, we cannot accurately predict what we will face in 2050. We can only hope that our present rate of exponential growth does not continue. That would mean the kind of world that I would not be happy to live in. Overcrowded, hot, with intense competition for increasingly scarce resources.
There have been times when I have despaired, when I have felt that human beings are a plague upon the earth, and the sooner we make ourselves extinct and allow Mother Nature to heal herself, the better. But I cannot maintain that position for long. I love humanity. We have so much to offer. As far as we know we are unique, and although very fallible, I firmly believe that we have the potential to rise to be our better selves, and to do the right thing.
But we have to wake up and become conscious of what we are doing. The first step in ensuring our survival is to recognize that we are threatened. Like an alcoholic, we need to acknowledge our problem if we are to seek help and overcome our addiction. We need to accept the facts and confront the truth of our situation before we can start to take positive steps towards a better future.
We have a choice to make. We can recognize the seriousness of our situation, accept responsibility for our past mistakes, and take the tough, even humiliating, but essential decisions needed to ensure our continued existence. Or we can continue to be distracted by the very same man-made artifices that got us into this mess in the first place – the all-conquering supremacy of high finance, rampant consumerism, and the myth of infinite economic growth – until we have dithered and procrastinated so long that we end up doing too little, too late. It is time we became our better selves; the mature, wise, evolved beings who understand it is worth sacrificing immediate gain for long-term survival.
Next blog post: Release the Fear – It’s Killing Us