We are the top of Niagara Falls…in a canoe. In her latest novel, Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver’s main character, scientist Ovid Byron, is telling a climate change-denying t.v. reporter where he thinks the state of the environment is at: “We are on the top of Niagara Falls, in a canoe…” He tells her. “We got here by drifting but we cannot turn around for a lazy paddle back… We have,” he says, “arrived at the point of an audible roar.”
I started hearing that roar thirty years ago when I had a vision of American refugees– well heeled, educated with terrified faces– fleeing a flooded New York City. At the time, I wondered if the vision had just been a metaphor for people facing the end of an era. Now I think that vision was literal as well. Today the roar of Kingsolver’s falls is deafening.
This past May, while on a two-week silent retreat, a flood of images occupied my mind. I was trying to focus on mindfulness, but the cry of the natural world dominated my psyche. If mindfulness equals awareness, I’d become hyper-aware of our planet’s failing health. Like a patient with a slow rising fever, the earth felt like it was about to enter into an acceleration of climate events. Was the fever on the verge of a spike, and along with it, some severe consequences for us, it’s inhabitants? Were we going over Niagara Falls, I wondered?
I kept asking myself, when will the surge begin? When it does, how quickly will the oceans rise and to what level?
As I am writing this post, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today that last month was the hottest June on record. May was also the hottest May on record. They also announced that the oceans were the hottest ever, no matter what month. To answer my question about when the surge will happen, the surge that’s been pounding in my head for the past two months – it’s starting to feel like it’s already here.
But I don’t think it’s the big one. I feel there will be another more dramatic surge starting around 2037.
One more point that’s important to understand before I relay our visions: It’s been well established that sea level rise will not be equal all over the planet. Where I live, on the upper Atlantic Seaboard of the United States, we are expected to see four times the sea level rise of the global average. So when the International Panel on Climate Change predicts three feet worst case scenario sea level rise by the end of the century, this means twelve feet in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
The IPCC estimate, however, is much too low, I feel. And I’m not alone. The IPCC estimate is a process-oriented compilation of thousands of studies. A big machine adding up pieces, it lacks the subjective human element and thus can fall short when coming up with a bottom line. I’m much more interested in what a bunch of climate scientists say when asked for their gut estimate. It turns out that someone has already asked this question. A survey of 90 climatologists estimated sea level would be at least double the IPCC’s estimate, or 6 feet by century’s end (worst case scenario), which is 24 feet on the Atlantic seaboard. On the extreme end, a dozen of the scientists thought it might be 10 to 20 feet, which would mean 40 to 80 feet where I live. These more subjective estimates contain a level of intuition that I believe is likely to be more accurate than the IPCC estimate.
How do they compare with my own visions? For now, I’m holding off on giving exact sea level figures, other than sharing that vision of the refugees permanently fleeing a flooded New York City. I admit that last week I posted predictions of 80 feet by 2100. But I took it down because I want to feel more sure before scaring people even more than they already are. That figure came from a vision I’d had of Florida in which all I could see of the state was a vast lake filled with sailboating enthusiasts. But I couldn’t be sure I was seeing all of Florida. Perhaps it was just the Everglades turned into one big lake, in which case, the sea level rise is much lower. I decided to do more meditation and get back to you in another post.
For now, these are the visions: Our planet is in the early stages of an acceleration. The earth will reach a tipping point around 2037 when climate events will surge. I feel that surge coming and feel the panic and confusion that will ensue when it happens. The public, especially on the eastern seaboard of the U.S., will feel the way I feel now – like we are about to go over Niagara Falls.
This is not meant to create panic, but raise blinders and move us all deliberately and confidently towards action. There is much we can do to prepare. We can even slow down these changes if more people wake up and take action now. Participating in the People’s Climate March on September 21 in New York City is a good step forward. Learning to live sustainably now will also give people a head start in preparing for change. Check out some action items and sources at the end of this post. In the end, once we see the power and gift of nature, and learn to live in harmony with it, humans will move towards a beautiful, sustainable world.
SUMMARY OF THE VISIONS:
Our visions fit eco-philosopher Joanna Macy’s characterization of a “great unraveling” followed by a “great turning” to a more sustainable world.
- A severe drought in the American heartland beginning in the 2030′s may require food rationing.
- Heat, polar melt, drought and sea level rise begin to surge around 2037.
- Parts of the American southwest run dry, prompting migrations.
- The financial markets become unstable from 2017 to 2019, then crash in 2020. They rally in 2029.
- Floods in Boston, New York and the upper eastern seaboard of the U.S. as early as 2050.
- Unity in leadership not based on greed.
- In the mid to latter part of the century, the Great Lakes region becomes a sparkling jewel center of commerce and prosperity.
- Railroads see a revival.
- There is a power shift from male to female, from central power to grass roots.
- Small family farms are revived, especially in cooler, northern latitudes.
- By 2100 large parts of Florida flooded; in a vision, I saw it as a playground for sailboat enthusiasts.
- There are large-scale mass migrations all over the world.
These visions come from the vantage point of people living in the American Northeast. They do not reveal the unimaginable suffering of those innocent people in other parts of the world who are already living on the edge of survival — such as those in Bangladesh and the Sudan. I will attempt to focus more on them in a future reading.
DETAILED YEAR BY YEAR VISIONS:
Each line is by a different person. While my students wish to remain anonymous, I’ve tagged my own visions. We are located in the Northeastern U.S., hence our perspective is from this geographic viewpoint. I will attempt to post visions of other parts of the world at a later date.
2014 (as of June 10):
- Elephant is in charge (Republican party) (Jeanne)
- Year of the Tiger, starting strong but getting a bit tired towards the end.
- Air pollution, smog
- War that does not end.
- Stock market volatility (Jeanne)
- Reflective year, angry mobs at the beginning
- “No escape from reality” – Queen song
- Bad drought in the American southwest; huge cyclone Texas panhandle; Great Lakes region gets attention. (Jeanne)
- Sideways landscape with trees (means trees are in trouble) (Jeanne)
- Sunshine, optimism, the star, belief in new ideals
- Light – sunrise
- Boat fire
- An epic storm, thousands dead; palm trees blowing sideways. (Jeanne)
- The frog (in trouble?); stock market volatility (Jeanne)
- Reality sets in, unemployment lines, hunger, mass destruction, Detroit fires.
- Guns, shooting
- Stars and lights over the Great Lakes region– a promising part of the U.S. for the future. (Jeanne)
- Hunger, poverty
- War, genocide.
- Many storms in the U.S.
- People living on the streets, stray dogs, people looking for food in trash
- Serious market volatility (Jeanne)
- “I told you so,” repetition of history, not learning from our mistakes.
- Financial markets crashing (Jeanne)
- People selling objects for cash, gold, diamonds not meaning much, fires, drought.
- Tsunami, hurricane, natural disaster
- More market upset, boys walking along road – war?
- State of Texas in crisis
- Heavy rains, mudslides, floods, tornadoes
- Barbed wire fences, borders, jail.
- Cars that drive themselves
- War? Soldiers, guns.
- 2022-24 market volatility across all sectors. (Jeanne)
- Silence, flooding has ceased, people in awe of devastation
- People breaking down borders.
- Europe upset
- Airplanes flying up above, looking for people to rescue
- Survival, disparities more extreme than ever.
- Crying, hungry babies, food rations
- Wind gusts, rain, eruptions, Mother Nature rebelling.
- Railroads important (Jeanne)
- Government controlling masses, no way out.
- No electricity, finding light.
- Lazy in the yard, rakes, rural scene — probably due to migration to more rural farming areas (Jeanne)
- Drought more severe
- Refugees all over the place, no safe haven.
- People coming together out of necessity to survive.
- Market extremes
- Peace pigeon
- Mustaches in fashion. (Jeanne)
- Awakening from bad dream
- Men in life vests (Jeanne) Is this due to so much flooding?
- Power shifts flip
- Two women running for president
- Women in power.
- Stock market goes up, up, up (Jeanne)
- War breaks out.
- Arguing about new structures, people resistant to new way
- Women continue to dominate.
- Roller coaster economy; righteous men in robes preaching. (Jeanne)
- Crimes, military governments fall, few are safe, Dali Lama dies.
- Leader emerges, unity, not centered on greed.
- Success of round-table discussion.
- People migrating, like a biblical exodus, (Jeanne)
- Tibet – Dalai Lama
- World leaders come together to step up, make decisions
- Barren land; Afghanistan
- Right wing powers lose control
- Positive changes, growth and light.
- Man and dog by big river.
- Purple flags swaying, Tibet
- New generation- technology
- Women recaps from 2029
- Pacific Rim
- Tom Sawyer images
- Chance to recover.
- Women in lead.
- Problem with trees, need for trees that can survive (Jeanne)
- Chance to recover.
2050: Greenland turning green (Jeanne)
2051: Black cloud around the U.S. Capitol, as if the U.S. central government is separated from the rest of the country. (Jeanne)
2058: Small boats filled with armed people crossing bodies of water (Jeanne)
2068: Mushroom shaped cloud – (nuclear explosion to block heat from sun?) (Jeanne)
2070-80: Peaceful scene of village in forested mountain region – looks like ancient Japan (Jeanne)
2100: Large parts of Florida are flooded, becoming a popular place for sailboating. (Jeanne)
A LIST OF POSITIVE ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW (Check 350.org for political action and check out Joannamacy.net for ways to emotionally and spiritually move forward in the climate emergency).
- Join in the People’s Climate March on New York City September 21. Show the nations of the world who will be meeting on climate at the U.N. that you want action now. Bring your friends. Check out www.350.org for more information. Also sponsored by Sierra Club.
- Read Joanna Macy’s Active Hope: How to survive the climate emergency without going crazy.
- Tell your elected leaders that you want action now.
- Divest from all petroleum industry stock holdings and tell others, especially pension funds and universities, to do the same.
- Stop eating non local foods that travel long distances to get to you. The average American meal travels 1500 miles. Eat local. Support local farms. It’s healthier and tastier anyway. Grow a vegetable garden. Gain skills in growing food. You will need them.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. If you are buying a car, buy the highest gas mileage you can. Carpool. Use public transport. Change your electric source to hydro or solar. Many electric companies offer this choice.
- Visualize a sustainable world.
- Think of five things you are grateful for about our natural world every day. Have gratitude for running water, plants, all of life, and cultivate an appreciation for the interconnectivity of all of life. Your elevated consciousness will spread to others and help bring on the Great Turning.
- Attend a workshop on “The Work that Connects,” developed by Joanna Macy, or read her work.
- Join 350.org to become more active in creating political change.